US Graves Registration in Italy; a special ring

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Kathy in WI, Jun 7, 2021.

  1. Kathy in WI

    Kathy in WI Relative Unknown

    I am very new to this and if I'm posting it in the wrong place, I beg forgiveness. I looked at all the forums and descriptions and could not find a definite fit.

    My father, Wilbur A. Dodd, served in the Graves Registration Service in Italy immediately postwar (1946-47 per his resume). His description: "Identification of unknown American dead for Repatriation Program -- mainland Italy, south from Firenze (Florence) and all of Sicily." The Army called him a "Grave Registration Tech 980."

    Not surprisingly, it was so awful he never talked about it. I have heard, anecdotally, that soldiers in Graves Registration had the highest levels of alcoholism and what we would today call PTSD of any other detail.

    Black humor: he had a ring which I remember seeing in my childhood -- a hand-carved cameo of a skull. I understood it to be a souvenir or insignia that he and his unit fellows had commissioned. He never wore it, just kept it in a dresser drawer. He told us that the metal had been melted down from an American silver dollar.

    I don't know what happened to the ring. Probably my mother got rid of it after he died in 1984. Has anyone else seen or heard of something like this?

    FYI I tried to get more detail of his service from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, but his records were among those damaged by fire in 1973 and all I got was a very bad copy of an honorable discharge document with many blackened, unreadable areas. If I am reading his serial number correctly it was 31522411 and he was inducted on 20 Sept 1946 in West Hartford, CT.

    At one time I located, and printed, an article called "The Last Detail" by David Colley about those who served in graves registration. That link does not seem to work any more.

    I would appreciate any information or shared stories. Thank you.
  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

  3. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member


    The Last Detail

    Don't know what the photograph was that took up so much space.


  4. Kathy in WI

    Kathy in WI Relative Unknown

  5. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
    vitellino likes this.
  6. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Given the part of Italy that your father worked in, he would have been involved with the US Rome-Sicily cemetery in Nettuno. It is a quite wonderful place. Whilst it was being built and the remains of the US casualties interred, the men played baseball during their time off. This led to the establishment of the Nettuno Baseball Club by the local Italians and the construction of a baseball stadium - very unusual for Italy.


    Kathy in WI likes this.
  7. Kathy in WI

    Kathy in WI Relative Unknown

    Frank, belated thanks for this. It is nice to know a location where he likely served. I do know that despite the grimness of his work, it sounded like he became acquainted in a positive way with some Italian people. He definitely picked up some of the language. (Swear words in particular.)

    Thanks also to Temujin for the document links. I’m probably going to wonder about that cameo ring for the rest of my life. There might be half a dozen people, somewhere in the world, who have some answers. Likely all the soldiers who wore them are no longer living.

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