Born in Salem, New Jersey, in 1858, Colonel Charles C. Pierce served as a U.S. Army Chaplain on the western frontier throughout the 1880s and 90s. Included among his traditional duties was care of the dead. During the Spanish American War (1899-1903) he headed the Office of Identification and U.S. Army Morgue in Manila, where he perfected new techniques for identifying the war dead, maintaining accurate records and transferring embalmed remains stateside for proper burial.
Colonel Pierce retired from active duty in 1908, but was recalled to service at the outset of World War I. On 27 September 1917, he was named Chief of the newly created Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Weeks later he deployed to France with the first graves registration units -- and was ultimatelyawarded a Distinguished Service Medal, along with maximum praise from General "Black Jack" Pershing.
Colonel Pierce, who died on 16 May 1921 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, is credited with being the founder of the Army’s first modern mortuary affairs system. And is looked upon still as the "Father of Mortuary Affairs."
Compiled by Dr. Steven Anders, former Quartermaster School historian
Event: WWI Graves Registration Service
Date: 27 September 1917
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row."
- John McRae In Flanders Fields (1917)