Press Release

The American Battle Monuments Commission lays to rest unknown U.S. WWI soldier in France more than a century after death



Press release


The American Battle Monuments Commission lays to rest unknown U.S. WWI soldier in France more than a century after death


Soldier likely killed in action in battle along the Ourcq River in July 1918

is first Great War American unknown discovered in 35 years


Arlington, Va. (June 7, 2023) — The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) today laid to rest at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery (OAAC) in France the remains of an unknown American soldier who perished during World War I.

The full military honors burial follows a year-long process to exhume the remains and artifacts and identify the soldier’s nationality to provide a place of final rest. This is the first burial of an American unknown from WWI since 1988, and the first burial at OAAC since 1932. The ceremony included remarks by Chief of Staff of the Army James C. McConville and ABMC Commissioner and retired U.S. Navy Fleet Master Chief Raymond Kemp, as well as a WWI-era 75mm artillery salute, historic WWI biplane flyover, honor guard procession and burial.

“Today, we honor this unknown soldier with the utmost respect and gratitude,” said McConville. “We honor him for his contribution and in shaping the world we live in today. And as we pay our respects, we also remember all of the soldiers who fought and died in World War I.”

In February 2022, remains presumed to be those of a WWI-era soldier were discovered while excavating a new grave in a village cemetery of Villers-sur-Fère, France. Local and national French officials—including the Office National des Anciens Combattants (ONAC), the government agency charged with identifying and interring French war dead—were immediately notified and began working with ABMC Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Superintendent Bert Caloud and renowned Great War archaeology expert Yves Desfossés to conduct an excavation and analysis.

Mr. Desfossés was able to locate a partial skeleton and several bone fragments along with various artifacts. Among the inventory of artifacts were the remains of a 1917 steel helmet used by American troops; U.S. uniform insignia buttons; a model 1917 U.S. trench knife; a metal cross arm of a U.S.-issue stretcher; remnants of a round U.S. identity tag; and U.S.-issue 30.06 ammunition dated 1917 and still in ammunition pouches.

After his analysis, Mr. Desfossés declared that the remains were most likely an American service member. Historians with the ABMC concurred with the findings, as did the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the ABMC counterpart for the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the remnants of the identification tag are illegible, and no other identifying artifacts have been discovered that could positively identify the individual.

“We don’t know the story of the soldier we honor today—as with many of his comrades, he could not be identified,” said Kemp. “But we know this. He answered when his nation called. He crossed an ocean to a land he likely did not know, to fight for a cause he might not have fully understood, yet his devotion to duty ultimately brought him to this day.”

Following consultation with several U.S. agencies, the ABMC requested the Secretary of the Army declare this service member as an American Unknown, killed during the First World War, and to authorize the interment at an ABMC cemetery. The ABMC received official notification on Jan. 11, 2023, from the Secretary of the Army declaring this individual an American Unknown, and authorizing interment at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery.

Caloud and the cemetery staff wanted to ensure that the burial appropriately reflected the bravery, courage and sacrifice of the unknown soldier and worked diligently to provide a full military honors ceremony that also highlighted the continued connection between France and the U.S.

“It’s very meaningful to the local community,” said Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Superintendent Bert Caloud. “He was killed liberating this area from oppression and that means something to the locals. It means something to me personally, and to his legacy, the service men and women who have and continue to serve our nation. And today, he is finally at peace, resting amongst his comrades at an American cemetery in France where his story will continue to be told.”

Oise-Aisne American Cemetery is located roughly 4 kilometers from Villers-sur-Fère, France, where the remains were discovered, and contains the graves of more than 6,000 American service members who died in the vicinity during World War I. This unknown soldier is now one of nearly 600 other unknowns buried at Oise-Aisne.

The soldier was interred with the Purple Heart, which is presented to those who have been wounded or killed in service to the U.S. military. The artifacts found with the remains remain in the possession of ABMC, preserved at the nearby Chateau-Thierry Monument.

Photos, along with other digital media can be found here, and the full event recording can be viewed at ABMC’s YouTube channel.

For more information about ABMC, please visit our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


Media Contact, ABMC’s U.S. Headquarters

Ashleigh Byrnes (U.S.)                                                                                                        



Media Contact, ABMC’s Overseas Operations (France)

Hélène Chaulin (France)                                                                                                     

 +33 (0)6 38 13 56 25


About American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC):

The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) operates and maintains 26 cemeteries and 31 federal memorials, monuments, and commemorative plaques in 17 countries throughout the world, including the United States. The four memorials in the United States are: the World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.; the Honolulu memorial located within the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii; the West Coast Memorial located within the Presidio National Park in San Francisco, Calif; and the East Coast Memorial located within Battery City Park in New York, N.Y. Since March 4, 1923, ABMC’s sacred mission remains to honor the service, achievements, and sacrifice of more than 200,000 U.S. service members buried and memorialized at our sites. For more information about ABMC, visit