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Historian to share story of identifying American soldier killed in WWII

A French military historian who was part of a five-year effort to identify an American soldier killed in World War II will speak at Austin Peay State University.

Dr. Jacques Petit will share his experience in identifying the soldier during a talk at 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 18 in the Kimbrough Building, Gentry Auditorium. The event, sponsored by the APSU Department of History and Philosophy and the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, is free and open to the public.
A French military historian who was part of a five-year effort to identify an American soldier killed in World War II will speak at Austin Peay State University.

Dr. Jacques Petit will share his experience in identifying the soldier during a talk at 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 18 in the Kimbrough Building, Gentry Auditorium. The event, sponsored by the APSU Department of History and Philosophy and the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, is free and open to the public.

Petit was 12 when the U.S. 3rd Armored Division liberated his village, Montpinchon, France, on June 29, 1944, as part of a breakout operation code-named COBRA in Normandie-Basse.

The village also had an important bridge crossing the Soulles River, deemed paramount for the 3rd Armored Division to maintain momentum of the attack. However, the reconnaissance platoon of the division was ambushed, and after it was over, Petit saw the soldier dead. He never learned his name.

For many years, the memory of finding that unknown soldier stayed with Petit, who later earned a doctorate and worked for the World Bank and the government of Canada.

In 1997, he and another French military historian began researching the soldier's identity. Five years later, the soldier was identified as Harold Marzolf, assigned to Delta Company, 83rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, of Nauvoo, Ill.

In 2004, the village of Montpinchon held a remembrance ceremony and dedicated a memorial to Marzolf in the village square during festivities surrounding the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

Petit's comments will include an overview of the battle in his village, with a special focus on Marzolf's ambush. He also will discuss his work to identify Marzolf via the National Archives and the U.S. Army Center for Military History.

For more information, contact Dr. Minoa Uffelman, assistant professor of history, by telephone, (931) 221-7404, or by e-mail at uffelmanm@apsu.edu, or Joe Bailey, president of Phi Alpha Theta, jbailey16@apsu.edu. -- Melony A. Jones