Jonah Edward “Eddie” Kelley died on January 30, 1945 in Kesternich, Germany during the Second Battle of Kesternich, World War II. After his death in the city, his body laid for a day until his body could be picked up. During this time, items from his body had be taken by other soldiers, one of them being his wrist watch that was later recovered and given to our family.
Eddie was then transported 65km away to Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands. The bodies arrived in a procession of trucks and trailers, everyone in Margraten could smell the death. It was February 1945, five months after the village’s 1,500 residents had been freed from Nazi occupation.
Now, the U.S. military needed a place to bury the fallen. The Americans ultimately picked a fruit orchard just outside Margraten. On the first day of digging, the sight of so many bodies made the men in the 611th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company very ill.
Initially, many soldiers were buried overseas because that’s where they were killed, and in such large numbers that repatriating their remains would have been a logistical impossibility at the time. Here are a few pictures of his grave in Holland.
Ed’s body was not brought back to America until December, 1948.
Letter to the War Department
On March 26, 1946, his mother, Rebecca Kelley, wrote a letter to the Quartermaster’s General Office, the War Department, requesting that they bring her son Eddie home to be properly buried. Here is the transcript of her letter as well as a digital copy of it.
“Quartermaster’s General Office War Department Washington, 25, D. C.
I would appreciate being advised on the procedure to follow in having the remains of my son, S/Sgt. Jonah E. Kelley, who was killed 31 January 1945 in Germany and now buried in Margraten Cemetery, Holland, returned to this country for burial.
Any information you can give me would be appreciated.
Sincerely yours, Mrs. Rebecca Kelley”
News Announcement for Return
Return Of Body Of Another Of Keyser’s War Dead Announced
The body of another Keyser soldier is being returned to the United States for burial, besides the four announced yesterday, it was learned by the News Tribune this morning. He is Pfc. Walter Byford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Byford, now of Sa/Antonia, Texas. Byford’s widow, the , former Miss Virginia May Blamer, and their five-year-old daughter, Barbara; reside with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Blamer, Orchard Street. Byford will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, it was announced this morning. The bodies of the other four local soldiers being returned on the u. s. Army Transport Carroll Victory, as announced in yesterday’s, paper are:
• Pfc. Robert E. Barrick, son of Mr. and Mrs. Monroe S. Barrick. 351 W. Piedmont St.
• Sgt. Jonah Edward Kelley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jonah E. Kelley, 15 ‘ Sharpless St.
• Pfc. Walter I. Naedele, son of Mr. and Mrs. G. B. Naedele, 59 Orchard St., and husband of Mrs.
• Mary E. Naedele, near Burlington. Sgt. Rex Wertman, husband of Mrs. Dorothy Wertman, 333 Virginia St.
Arrival is not expected in Keyser for approximately three weeks.
Repatriation – transitive verb
: to restore or return to the country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship <repatriate prisoners of war>
After three years of frustrating correspondence with the American Graves Registration division, the Kelley family finally received permission to repatriate Ed’s body through the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot.
In December, 1948, the body of S/Sgt. Jonah Kelley was returned to the United States to his hometown of Keyser, West Virginia. The ceremony was held in Keyser, with great pomp and circumstance, with a military parade down Main Street, a funeral service at the local Methodist Church, and burial at Queen’s Point Cemetery.
The Honor Guards proved a 21 Gun Salute over the grave.
Queen’s Point Cemetery
Eddie’s final resting place, his grave at Queen’s Point Cemetery. He is buried next to his parents, Jonah & Rebecca, and sister Georgianna.
Fading light dims the sight, And a star gems the sky, Gleaming bright. From afar drawing nigh, Falls the night.
Day is done, gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Then good night, Peaceful night, Till the light of the dawn Shineth bright, God is near, do not fear, Friend, good night.