A Case Study
Last night on Facebook I found a post about Pvt
Ralph B. Devaney who was killed in Normandy. A
museum in Gettysburg had shown a Helmet associated
with Pvt Devany. Normally I go right by something
like that because that isn’t what I find
For some reason this one did catch my eye though.
I started reading the post and added my own two
cents as it were;
“This is an interesting Case Study. The picture
of Pvt Devaney is flipped around. The enlisted wear
the patch on the left side of the cap. The paperwork
attached shows the date of death at 29 June 1944 but
that is wrong as St. Mere Eglise Cemetery closed
before that date.
On the Weekly Burial Reports it shows him buried
on 20 June 1944 which makes more sense. Pvt
Devaney's Medial Report shows that he was Killed in
Action not Died of Wounds. The key to sorting this
out would be to look at his IDPF. The odds are also
that the Helmet was not his. They would enter D-8478
for ID not his name and full ASN.”
I am the first to admit a mistake and I was wrong
stating it couldn’t have been his. I spoke with
another researcher about this helmet and he actually
had taken the photos for this post. He said the
other side was rusted and in very bad shape. He was
then nice enough to forward ahead Pvt Devaney’s
IDPF to match up with the three items I’d posted,
Weekly Burial Report, SGO and a Morning Report.
When looked at the IDPF and Graves Registration
Form #1 I saw something I had never seen in an IDPF.
On the top right hand corner it leaves a spot for
the Army Serial Number. This time it had this D-8478
not his ASN. I then looked for his Dog Tag
information and if he had any personal effects. Pvt
Devaney had neither when found. Pvt Devaney was
buried on 20 June 1944 and listed as Killed in
Action that day as well.
That is very unusually to be buried the same day
you die. Even men who died at the Hospital at that
time period took days because of the backlog. Not
having either Dog Tags or Personal effects means the
Germans had gone through his pockets at some point.
I then looked at Disinterment Directive Form.
This was another very unusual description for
Nature of Burial. Pvt Devaney was still wearing his
Parachute Harness when disinterred in December of
1947. The first thing a Parachutist does is to shuck
his Harness. I then looked at the next line over on
the Disinterment Directive and say this under
Condition of Remains; Fractured Skull.
Looking at the SGO form was a revelation as well.
Pvt Devaney was listed as Killed in Action, not Died
of Wounds. He was also listed as not in a medical
installation prior to death. He is listed as being
at an Aid Station but after death. There were
exceptions to the rules for having someone buried
quickly. Two of them are an obvious death such as
severe head wounds and a body that was found weeks
after death. It was very hot in Normandy in the
middle to late of June. Most likely between the
Fractured Skull and that he had been above ground
for 2 weeks played into his quick burial.
That was the last piece of the puzzle for what
had happened to Pvt Devaney. He died on impact on
June 6, 1944 not June 20, 1944. Tying the three
things together, the damaged helmet, that he was
still wearing his harness when found and that he
died of a Fractured Skull makes it 99% that he
either had a streamer or jumped to low for the
parachute to deploy.
Now I am on my quest to find a family member in
Saginaw, Michigan to let then know that he died on
June 6, 1944. In a way he was one of the luck ones,
he never knew what hit him. When he jumped out of
that door it was the last thing he ever thought
about. There are worse ways to go than jumping into
I’m not denigrating the research done for Pvt
Devaney. This is how we learn by making mistakes. We
shouldn’t post something unless sure or at least
have a good idea of what happened and back it up
with documentation but say not 100% sure..
November 30, 2015