Army Pfc. Cecil E. Harris, husband, father and World War II veteran, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, passed away on Jan. 2, 1945, in the Battle of the Bulge in France. His remains were found in France in September of 2013.
Cecil was born in Shelbyville, Tn. and he enjoyed things like farming, hunting and horses.
On Jan. 2, 1945, Pfc. Harris and Company D, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division was deployed to France. Pfc. Harris was a member of the rifle platoon whose mission was to hold a defensive position near Dambach, France. During this mission, Harris’ platoon was attacked by German forces and was forced to withdraw to a more defensible position. After the attack, Harris was reported missing.
Pfc. Cecil Harris was killed in action during Operation Nordwind, the last German offensive along the Western European front during World War II. His body was not recovered until more than 68 years later.
On Sept. 3, 2013, the American Battlefield Monuments Commission (ABMC) contacted the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) to inform them a private citizen, while hiking near Dambach had found possible human remains and an identification tag with Harris’ name.
From Sept. 9-11, 2013, a JPAC recovery team excavated a burial site in Dambach recovering possible human remains, personal effects and military gear that correlated to Mr. Harris.
To identify Mr. Harris’s remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used forensic identification tools such as dental comparison with his records and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Mr. Harris’s sister and niece.
Pfc. Harris is survived by his wife, Helen Harris Cooke of Chattanooga; son, Edwin "Eddie" (Mary Jo) Harris of Mountain City, Tn.; sisters, Janice Carlton and Alice Marie “Polly” Harris both of Shelbyville; grandson, William Edwin “Eddie” Harris, Jr. of Monteagle; granddaughter, Christy Leann Harris (Mark) Besserman of Wilsonville, Illinois; great-grandson, Elston Harris of Pelham; great granddaughter, Sierra Kampmann of Granite City, Illinois; two step granddaughters, several step great-grandchildren and step great-great-grandchildren.
Cecil was followed in death by his father, Henry Dennis Harris; mother, Mary Lee Harris; brothers, Henry Dennis “H. D.” Harris, Jr., Leonard Franklin Harris, Sr. and Earl G. Harris; sisters, Ruth Adams, Claudia Gleaves and Sarah Faullin.
A celebration of Pfc. Harris’ life will be held for family and invited friends on Aug. 29, in Chattanooga. He will then be buried on October 22 in Arlington National Cemetery.
Arrangements are by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson.
Please share your thoughts and memories at www.chattanooganorthchapel.com.