Local World War II casualty identified


NEW MADISON — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recently announced that Navy Coxswain (Cox) Harley E. Alexander, 22, of New Madison, killed during World War II, was accounted for on March 22, 2024.

Cox Alexander enlisted in the Navy in Indianapolis, Ind. on Aug. 4, 1942. He served as a Coxswain on the USS Glennon. A Coxswain is a petty officer grade which handles small boats ferrying ship crews between ship and shore, steering larger vessels in and out of harbors and through canals, and piloting assault craft during landing operations. Also supervises small groups of seamen on deck. Would promote to Boatswains Mate 2nd Class. Coxswain means “boat servant.”

During his service he earned a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal (Fleet Clasp), American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.

On the morning of 8 June 1944, Glennon was located at approximately two miles offshore from Quinéville. The ship tried to maintain its position in a channel that had been swept for mines, while providing fire support to the landing force. At 8:03 a.m., a mine exploded near the stern of Glennon with great force, sending 16 sailors into the water, some thrown as high as 40 feet. Depth charges, gun mounts, and cement buoy anchors were also tossed into the air. Very quickly, the stern began to separate from the aft section and settle, anchoring the ship to the seafloor. General quarters sounded, and a boat was lowered to rescue the 16.

After an initial inspection, it appeared Glennon was not in danger of sinking and the crew was told to remain aboard. Glennon’s damage control officer determined the mine exploded near the port propeller shaft.

The stern had settled downward at a 30º angle, and the starboard propeller had anchored the ship to the channel bottom. Several compartments had flooded, but pumping was already in progress.

By 9 a.m., a tug was called to try to move the ship. Nearly 200 sailors, including all the wounded and 12 officers, evacuated the ship. The remaining crew, approximately half the ship’s complement, continued salvage operations.

An attempt was made to tow the ship at high tide. When that failed, leadership considered using divers to dislodge the stern and attach pontoons to raise it, but the danger of exploding mines was deemed too great, and by 4 p.m. orders were issued to abandon all efforts. All but 10 crew members, left to guard the ship, were removed from Glennon, along with classified and personal records. The following day, a team returned to continue preparing the ship for salvage. As day progressed, concern rose that German shore batteries would fire upon the ship, but the night passed without incident.

That peace was short-lived. At 6:55 a.m. on 10 June, a salvo of artillery rounds from the German guns near Quinéville landed approximately 200 yards from Glennon. One salvo landed on the forecastle deck, injuring two men, and the order was given to abandon ship as another salvo hit the vessel’s bridge.

After the attacks and rescue of the crew, Glennon’s executive officer returned with a small detail to inspect the damage and determined the attacks resulted in at least 11 direct hits. A final order was given to abandon all salvaging efforts and proceed to England with the survivors. At 9:45 p.m., Glennon began listing heavily and sank. At that time, Glennon’s final casualty total was 25 missing and 38 wounded.

SEARCH AND RECOVERY: During the initial incident, no vessel other than the launch from Glennon picked up survivors and no deceased personnel were recovered from the water. There is no record of any wider search for the missing crew members in the immediate aftermath of the ship’s sinking.

With no further information available on the fate of Cox Alexander, officials determined his remains to be non-recoverable on May 4, 1949, and the status of non-recoverability was declared final on Nov. 30, 1950.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) was the unit tasked with investigating and recovering missing American personnel in the European Theater. The AGRC conducted dozens of searches along the French coast until 1951 and identified five sailors from Glennon among the remains found during those searches, but registration teams found no information about Alexander.

In 1957, pieces of Glennon were hauled to shore by salvagers. A local resident was searching through the larger sections of wreckage and found human remains within the forward portion of the ship. The remains were turned over to American officials and processing determined the remains to be those of at least two individuals, subsequently designated X-9296 and X-9297. After unsuccessful efforts to identify the remains, they were interred on 4 March 1959 in Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupré, Belgium.

In 2021, DPAA researchers began an effort to associate unresolved sailors from the Glennon based on historical documentation of the remains removed from the ship’s wreckage. By August 2022, the Department of Defense and the American Battle Monuments Commission exhumed unknown remains X-9296 and X-9297 from Ardennes American Cemetery for comparison with unaccounted-for sailors from Glennon.

To identify Alexander’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR) analysis.

Alexander’s name is recorded on the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Wall of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England, along with the others who are missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Cox Alexander will be buried at Greenmound Cemetery, New Madison, Ohio, on June 29, 2024. The graveside service will full military honors begins at 11 a.m.

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