CWU News

CWU Presentation to Focus on Repatriation of WWII Veterans

A majority of history books date the end of World War II to Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard USS Missouri or the demobilization of returning US soldiers in 1945 and 1946. 

“We would make the case that the real end of World War II wasn’t until the remains of more than 171,000 deceased servicemen and women were removed from temporary burial sites and transferred--with dignity--to their final resting places,” says Central Washington University education professor Naomi Petersen. 

In honor of Memorial Day, CWU will host “A Salute to Survivors, Supporters, and Service Members” on Thursday, May 7, at 3:00 p.m. in the Student Union and Recreation Center Ballroom. A portion of the ceremony will focus on special US Army trains, which were used to return and repatriate deceased American soldiers.

Petersen, from CWU’s Educational Foundations and Curriculum department, will present the research she conducted on the subject, with retired US Air Force Lt. Col. James Murrie, who will also attend the event.

“This is a fascinating story of collaboration across armed services, intermodal transportation, [and] forensic science,” Petersen notes. “[It’s] a historic effort to honor the wishes of family members regarding the dignified return of the remains of their loved ones.”

It is based on “The Last Train Ride: The Repatriation of the World War II Fallen,” by Petersen and Murrie, which is published this month in Railroad History Journal. 

“The event will provide some career context for the [CWU Army and Air Force] cadets and an opportunity for informal discussion with veterans and family members,” Petersen added. 

It will also offer an opportunity to honor veterans and their families, and to share the grief of losing loved ones and comrades, Petersen points out.

May 5, 2015

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Content Development, 509-963-1487,