Funeral held for Franklin Co. soldier missing in action, killed during WWII

Army Private, Eugene J. “Gene” Appleby (Photo courtesy Miller Funeral Home)

 

COSHOCTON, OH (WCMH) — The funeral for Army Private Eugene J. “Gene” Appleby, who was reported killed and missing in action during World War II was held Thursday.

On Tuesday, Appleby’s body returned home to central Ohio for the first time in 72 years. A memorial procession went from the airport in Columbus to his final resting place in Coshocton County.

The funeral for Appleby was held at Miller Funeral Home at 639 Main Street in Coshocton. Interment followed at South Lawn Cemetery where a United States Army active duty Honor Guard performed full Military Honors, Coshocton County Veterans Honor Guard assisted.

According to Appleby’s obituary, he was born in Franklin County and served in the United States Army, 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

During a drop on September 17, 1944, in the Netherlands, Appleby was killed in action and had remained missing in action.

Appleby’s remains were identified using DNA after they were found by residents on a farm in the Netherlands in 2011.

At the funeral, a fellow member of the 508 PIR, 82nd Airborne Division Don Jakeway spoke of Appleby’s bravery. Like Appleby, Jakeway was dropped into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden on September 17, 1944.

Jakeway was part of H company, while Appleby was part of A company. The troops were dropped into combat at different times. A company was the first one’s up.

According to Jakeway, in a pre-combat briefing General Gavin told the men they were, “being sent into trouble,” and there was “an 85% casualty rate expected.”

Jakeway was part of the third wave dropped, and his plane was shot down. He escaped and survived the battles of World War II. It is unknown exactly how Appleby died on that initial day of fighting, only that he died in that farmer’s field.

Gene Simonds is Appleby’s nephew. He was named after his uncle by his mother, Appleby’s sister. Despite having the namesake, the family never talked about his uncle so Simonds knew little about him.

He says, when he first found out that his uncle’s remains had been found, he went numb. Now, after seeing his uncle returned to the U.S. after being missing for decades, he has hope.

“This gives me great hope, and I hope that it gives many others great hope that their loved ones can one day come home and be with them,” said Simonds.

Private Appleby could have been buried in a national cemetery, or anywhere for that matter. His family chose for him to be buried in Coshocton next to his mother and his sister.

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