SSGT Raymond 'Carlyle' Blanton
60th Inf. Reg., 9th Inf. Div. Co "C."
MIA 14 October 1944, Huertgen Forest, Vossenack Germany
Memorialized on Tablets of Missing
Margraten Cemetery, The Netherlands
The Uncle of Nancy Fraker
-- Nancy Fraker --
Parents: George & Ruby Hall Blanton
Beloved Sister - Shirley (Blanton) Chimento Apperson - Age 78
Deceased siblings: George (Jr.), Marion, Louise, Dot, Janet and Mil
Grew up in Richmond, VA
Engaged before leaving Richmond- fiance name unknown- never married
Converted to the Roman Catholic religion on the ship while being deployed overseas
Joined Army from Richmond, VA Aug. 1943
Trained at Ft. Gruber, OK - Earned Sharpshooter Badge
Deployed overseas Aug. '44 - Promoted to Staff Sergeant
MIA - 14 Oct. '44 - mission to capture pillboxes near Rafflesbrand Crossing, Vossenack Germany
Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medals
Remains not recovered - Existing open case with JPAC
My Uncle Carlyle had a mischievous smile, a warm heart and a generous spirit. He gave the little money he earned changing oil in military vehicles to his parents before being drafted at age 18 saving some change for his little sister, Shirley-my mother. She was the youngest of the 8 Blanton children and they were very close. His death was the most devastating event in her life. His mother taught him to play piano. During his Army physical, some men put soap under their arms to elevate blood pressure, hoping to fail their physicals, but Carlyle refused, telling his family that he was proud to serve his country. During his training at Ft. Gruber, OK he earned a sharpshooter badge and was soon shipped overseas. Although raised Baptist, he'd been attending St. Benedict's Catholic Church with a girl who became his fiance, and converted on the way across the ocean. He never got the chance to marry. He and his older brother George, Jr. were the only males in the family, and both were drafted, trained and shipped overseas within weeks of each other. They planned to meet when Carlyle arrived in England, but missed connections - a story George repeated along with his deep "survivor guilt" until his death.
My mother said Carlyle visited the Eiffel tower in France, so he must have fought there, but no one knew the details of the end of his short 19 year life until very recently. He was only in Europe 6 weeks before he died, and somewhere in this period he was promoted to Staff Sergeant, serving under Lt. Col. Lee Chatfield and Sgt. Driskoll. A first person interview with them quotes an event just before his death which describes capturing and holding a pillbox several days, then being forced out, with all guns blazing. We suspect that's when he died, 14 Oct. 1944, near Vossenack Germany, Battle of Huertgen Forest.
Before the MIA telegram arrived, two of his sisters had premonitions of his loss. There was no body found, no explanation of how or exactly when he died, no funeral, no place to go to mourn. His father died within a year. His mother wrote dozens of fruitless letters to the Army, to no avail. His widowed mother lived with several of her adult children (including my mother) for the remainder of her life, always hanging Carlyle's Army photo over her bed and wearing her Gold Star Mother pin. We "dozens of cousins" grew up looking at that Army photo. Although my family lived in New York then, we still knew all about him. When I was a young child, my father converted her Gold Star Mother pin into a ring so she wouldn't loose it. She never took it off, and we buried her in it. Summer family reunions in Virginia always included multiple family trips to the VA War Memorial mixed with many tears and stories of Uncle Carlyle.
By 2003 all but one of his siblings had passed - my mother, Shirley. She inherited his 'now famous' Army photo. When I saw it hanging in her living room, I knew I had to research what really happened. The family lore was that his entire unit died in an explosion and that there were no remains - though this turned out not to be true. Thus began an ongoing quest to write his story, and if possible, find his remains and bring them home. In the last 6 years with voluminous research we've learned that among his company, there were 4 MIAs who were listed on the same Morning Report with Carlyle: Pvts. Walter H. Reuter, Leslie E. Shankles, and Clarence Y. Brotherton. We suspect they died together, and there is some evidence to support that theory.
In 2008, coincidentally, (or not) I was sent to Berlin for a month on a business trip. I knew I'd also have to try and walk in his last steps. 1 week before my trip JPAC sent me a GPS map of the place where recent dog tags had been found for Pvt. Walter Reuter. Over email, while I was in Berlin, AWON member, Gail Eisenhauer, introduced me to the Museum Curator at the Huertgen Forest Museum who along with 2 other researchers from The Netherlands agreed to meet me. Using his GPS to take me to the spot, we hiked about a mile into the battlefield. It was heavily wooded, filled with foxholes, metal shards and chunks of cement, largely unchanged since the war. When we arrived at the GPS coordinates we were greeted by a makeshift monument which was built by a local German man who had found Pvt. Reuter's dog tags in '04. He'd built this monument from rocks, metal shards and pieces of cement from an exploded pillbox. There aren't words to describe this event. It still seems surreal. We were able to use my cell phone to call my 78 year old mother (Carlyles little sister) from the spot to tell her what we had found. Even though this wasn't his remains, we believe this is the area where he died. (It should be noted here that this event would not have happened without Gail's AWON connections!)
The next day, I made a visit to Ardennes cemetery, said a prayer and left flowers on 'unidentifiable' X-5391, a grave that my research has convinced me may be one of the 4 men missing from Company "C", though JPAC says there isn't enough evidence for exhumation.
Carlyle may have passed in 1944, but is still deeply loved and not forgotten by his family. Dozens of his siblings, children and grandchildren who never met him grew up hearing about him. Several named their children after him. This year, his 1st generation namesake's son delivered Carlyle's 3rd generation namesake. Coincidentally (or not) he was born on Carlyle's birthday - a fact unknown by the parents or grandparents for several weeks.
I keep a copy of his Army photo in a small shrine, with a chunk of that pillbox and continue to seek his remains. If found I will see that he gets a full military funeral and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, which he earned.
His spirit lives on!