The remains of a World War II soldier discovered in Europe returned to Tennessee nearly 70 years after his disappearance.
A French hiker discovered the remains of Pfc. Cecil Harris of Shelbyville last year near the French/German border. The hiker noticed a "H" crudely engraved into a large rock. U.S. officials excavated the shallow grave where they uncovered Harris's dog tags. Officials then confirmed they were Harris's remains through DNA samples and dental records.
On Jan. 2, 1945, Harris's platoon came under attack in Dambach, France and had to quickly withdrawal. When the platoon was able to regroup, his fellow soldiers realized Harris was missing. The Shelbyville native was just 19 years old.
The remains arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport on Wednesday, Aug. 27 shortly after 11 a.m. Harris's funeral service is scheduled for Friday at Red Bank Baptist Church at 4000 Dayton Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 29 at 11:30 a.m. in Chattanooga. Harris will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. On the day of his burial, flags will fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in Harris's honor.
"Cecil Harris is a Tennessee and American hero and it is fitting that he finally be laid to rest with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery," Gov. Haslam said in a release. "We join the Harris family in recognizing the loss of a young Tennessean who gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War II and hope they feel pride and a measure of peace."
Harris is survived by his former wife Helen Cooke of Chattanooga, son William Edwin Harris of Mountain City, and sister Janice Carlton of Shelbyville.
He posthumously received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.