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The death of Pvt. Alfred Harper: freedom is never free


In memory of native son Alfred Harper, who on this day seventy-five years ago -- November 25, 1944 -- died in a hospital in France of battle wounds received four days earlier in Germany.

Mr. Harper, 31 years old and a husband and father, had served as chief clerk of the Adair County Selective Service Board since its inception, but volunteered for military duty himself early in 1944. He was inducted into the US Army on February 27 at Ft. Thomas, KY, and soon thereafter, was sent to the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, where he was assigned to a machine gun unit.

In the forepart of April, his wife Elizabeth , and their son Jimmy, along with Nellie Dean Burr, traveled to Alabama to visit their kinsmen. (Nellie's husband, John, had been inducted at the same time as Alfred and they were assinged to the same IRTC.)

Come July, Pvts. Harper and Burr were granted furloughs to visit their families, and on the 21st, they pulled out from Adair County for Ft. Meade, Maryland, Before the end of August, they safely landed in England. Alfred would never again see home or family.

In 1944, news traveled slowly, particularly from the war zones, so it wasn't until December 6 that the News referenced a letter from Alfred, recently received by a family member. Stated the paper, in part,
"Pvt. Alfred Harper, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Harper, writes from Germany where he has been in the thick of the fighting for the past two months, that he is okeh. He is with a machine gun company in the 1st Division of the 1st Army."
Not until three days later, on the morning of December 9th, did the family receive notification from the Army that Alfred had been "seriously wounded" on the November 21, and more days elapsed before his parents received the telegram edged in black. The sad news had to be relayed to California, where Elizabeth and Jimmy were at the time.

A memorial service was held in Columbia in late December 1944, and almost exactly three years later, the remains of Pvt. Alfred Harper were repatriated for final burial in the Columbia City Cemetery.

Freedom is never free.

This story was posted on 2019-11-25 10:30:39
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Pvt. Alfred Harper

2019-11-25 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy JIM.
This photograph appeared in the January 3, 1945 edition of the Adair County News as part of the article about the memorial service held for Pvt. Harper on December 28, 1944.

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