World War II veteran's body returns to Tennessee

World War II veteran's body returns to Tennessee

August 26th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Local - Breaking News

U.S. Army PFC Cecil E. Harris

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The body of U.S. Army PFC Cecil E. Harris, who was killed in France in 1945 and missing until last September, is scheduled to land on Tennessee soil today at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville at 11:06 a.m.

Harris, born in Shelbyville, Tenn., was killed Jan. 2, 1945, during an enemy counterattack in the Alsace Region of France where his platoon was holding a defensive position near the city of Dambach.

A hiker taking a break last summer at the base of some rock formations in the area where the attack took place discovered Harris' remains. The discovery led to the 19-year-old soldier's remains being returned to the U.S. after nearly seven decades.

A recovery team found Harris' dog tags and military items used during the war and confirmed his identity through DNA tests and dental records.

A funeral service is planned Friday at 11:30 a.m. at Red Bank Baptist Church. The body will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.

Harris is survived by his former wife, Helen Cooke, of Chattanooga, son, William Edwin Harris, of Mountain City, and sister, Janice Carlton, of Shelbyville.

Harris was posthumously awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He also received the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal and World War II Victory medal.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam declared a day of mourning and ordered flags flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Oct. 22 in honor of Harris' sacrifice.