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How did soldiers handle bodies?

Discussion in 'Information Requests' started by SMFRENZ, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. Maddog71

    Maddog71 Member

    Oct 28, 2022
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    There is no one answer to the question.

    There is one common theme from battlefields through the ages, you could smell them for miles. You will rarely read a memoir of a combat soldier who does not mention that. It was said that after Gettysburg, the battlefield could be smelled twenty miles away, so some troops didn't get a quick burial.

    A lot of the handling of dead bodies depended on which side controlled the battlefield after the shooting stopped. I have seen photos of Americans bulldozing dead Japanese troops into pits like so much garbage. (which reflects how they felt about them) Russians in WWII buried troops, many times in mass graves, when they could, but a lot of them were left to decay where they fell. Americans did a good job of policing up their dead and giving them a formal burying. (we eventually controlled all of our battlefields) Germans on the Russian front, buried most of their dead, unless on retreat, but the Soviets would destroy the cemeteries when they took their land back. (Who could blame them?) If you don't control the battlefield after the battle ends, your dead are at the mercy of your enemy. I have heard it told that there are places on the steps around Stalingrad, where you could go and pick up bones today. I don't know, I have never been there.

    Armies tend to address the issue as soon as possible for not only health reasons, but also because it is hell on morale to see your friends and neighbors being eaten by wild pigs or stray dogs. It makes a soldier think, "Oh crap, this could happen to me!" Out of sight, out of mind works best, and the quicker the better.
  2. harolds

    harolds Member

    Aug 9, 2011
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    In WW2 the USA often used Black troops to police up the dead.
    In the 1st WW on one section of the line, the French buried the dead in their parapets. Later, some Commonwealth troops took over that sector, just in time for the Spring rains to erode the dirt, exposing the rotting corpses. Pieces of dead bodies kept falling into the trench. Talk about macabre!
  3. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

    Jun 5, 2008
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    There's a story about a hand sticking out of the side of a trench. The troops would shake hands for luck.
  4. Riter

    Riter Active Member

    Feb 12, 2020
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    I've heard that story too.

    I was unaware that black troops were used to collect cadavers. I'd rather be AA or Red Ball than have to pick up cadavers.

    Post war treatment of black troops at the holding camps wasn't very good either. They had fewer points and thus waited longer to return. Even the ones who served as the Fourth Platoon were shorn of their division patches and never properly recognized for their contributions. Now, thrown in White MP from the South who treated them like sh*t and there a fecal storm brewing. Read about one white (99th Div) GI and his unit that had their run ins with those same MPs. The 99th guys found that out and the MPs were the ones who looted the duffel bags. The combat vets of the 99th tenderly loved them for that.

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