World War II items returned to family

| September 18, 2018

David McElhaney recently received his brother George’s Purple Heart and the Western Union telegram with the news that his brother had died in World War II. The items were found in Missouri and returned to McElhaney after the family who located them searched the Internet for relatives. Pictured is David’s wife Charlotte holding a shadow box featuring George’s picture and medals and David with the Purple Heart and telegram, which he had laminated. David plans to put the original Purple Heart in place of the replacement one that is in the shadow box. Josie Sellers | Beacon

COSHOCTON – One evening out of the blue David McElhaney received a call regarding his brother who died 74 years ago in World War II.

A gentleman in Broseley, Mo. had found his brother’s Purple Heart and the telegram announcing his death that was sent home.

David said the war department had forwarded the personal effects of his brother PFC George McElhaney to his widow, Grace McElhaney.

“We eventually got word that he was killed,” David said. “She was the next of kin so all the information was sent to her.”

Grace remarried within a few years of George’s death and the family lost touch with her. She died in 1997 in Summersville, Mo.

The family had lived in Ohio so David is not sure how Grace ended up in Missouri, where the memorabilia were found by a man who was going through items left behind by his father-in-law who recently passed away.

David wrote in a story he filed away with paper work on his brother’s military career that, “This gentleman, years ago, had purchased an automobile and found a box in the rear compartment. He stored it in his garage where it laid for many years.”

When the box was finally opened after the man’s death it contained a Western Union telegraph to Grace with the news that her husband had been killed in action in the European Theater and his Purple Heart. The family searched the Internet for relatives and found two of George’s nephews. They then passed on that George had a brother and sister who were still living in Ohio. The family treasures were sent to David and he received them on Sept. 12.

“I feel very fortunate to get these,” David said.

George was a member of the 437th Troop Carrier Group which was assigned to the 84th Troop Carrier Squadron. On June 6, 1944, the 437th Troop Carrier Group was involved in the Normandy Invasion, specifically transporting troops, munitions and supplies onto the Cherbourg Peninsula. On June 25, 1944, the aircraft George was assigned to was on its way to France on a resupply and slider pickup mission when it crashed in Southern England. The pilot and George both died in the crash. George is interred in the United States Military Cemetery in Cambridge, England. He was one of five of the 15 McElhaney children to serve in the military. David was in the Navy during the Korean War.

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