My name is Ron Franscell, and I am a journalist and author. But Iíve recently become part of an all-volunteer effort to reconnect a small personal military artifact with a fallen infantrymanís family, and I hope that someone in your agency will help me do a good and right thing.
A WWI dogtag was found last year by a French metal-detector on a WWI battleground in France. Rather than sell it into the collector market, this French citizen decided to try to reunite it with the family of the doughboy who lost it. I volunteered to help him. We are not accepting any compensation for this, not even the eventual costs of shipping the dogtag to the family from France. Iím hoping you can help me connect the proper dots.
I am seeking information about Army PFC JOE GRAIPER (#45870). The surname is listed as both GRAIPER and GRAPIER Ö and his dogtag looks like GRIEPR. When he registered/enlisted on April 26, 1917, he lived in Ironwood, Gogebic County, Michigan, USA in Michigan. According to the Michigan Archives, Joseph Graiper was born in Poland to Stanley and Rosalia Grapier (no hometown listed). He was a single man, worked as a miner. No birthdate or other information was given. The actual spelling of his surname is not known at this time.
He was in Company A, 18th Infantry, 1st Division. He was killed in action on July 21, 1918, and published casualty lists in American newspapers claimed he was from Opale, Russia. Although likely buried in a temporary grave on/near the battlefield, Graiper/Grapier/Griepr was eventually buried permanently in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery near Fere-en-Tardenois, Picardie Region, France. His headstone there says his name is JOE GRAIPER.
Ellis Island records contain no comparable GRAPIER (although he might have come through another immigration point that I haven't checked). I can find no GRAPIERs in Michigan today. I found a 1956 article in the Ironwood, Mich., paper that lists JOSEPH GRAPIER among the county's war dead for a soon-to-be-built memorial (which might still be there) ... and the story mentions that the task of gathering the names was made difficult, in part, by the great number of immigrants from that county who enlisted to fight and who had no family in the USA.
I cannot find an Opale, Russia, but I found an Opole, Poland. I donít know if that is his hometown, nor the home of his parents. But it is likely a good place to start looking.
Thatís all we know at this time. Itís quite possible he came to the USA alone and has no direct descendants here. But he might still have modern-day relatives in Poland.
I am genuinely sorry that I simply donít know more about this doughboy. I am hoping that someone there understands and will help us get a little more information on him, which might lead us to his modern-day family. However we get there, I think itís worth every minute we spend trying. We wonít accept any compensation for this work, even postage.
We want to return this small, noteworthy artifact to PFC GRAIPERís family. Thank you for listening, helping and being patient while I explain this unusual tale. I hope we can make something good happen.