It started with a question from Shane Peterson, “I am trying to get a sense of how the attached orders (to return WWI military dead) might have "looked" like. What kind of rail cars and standard practice would be used?” A simple question until you look at the orders; they are dated October 5, 1920 almost two years after the end of World War 1. Why were World War 1 dead being returned to their families two years after the end of the war? What is the back story? I was intrigued by the question and the orders. What happened and why?
Prior to World War 1, military dead were buried close to where they had fallen, in a hastily dug trench or pit. The bodies were grouped together and the dirt thrown back on top. A few words and the rest of the soldiers moved out, leaving the dead behind with little or no markings. That was the tradition until the Civil War.