ST. LOUIS STUDENT SOLVES MYSTERY FOR WWII RESEARCHERS
Carter Cashen of Thomas Jefferson School locates last missing photo for WWII memorial
(ST. LOUIS, MO, July 7, 2021) - At the beginning of summer in 2020, Carter Cashen, a rising sophomore, now junior, at Thomas Jefferson School (TJ) in St. Louis, Missouri, needed to fulfill his service learning hours, a requirement for graduation. With his growing interest in history, Cashen volunteered to research the experiences and lives of WWII veterans, and his contributions to WWII research are still being recognized by many all over the world.
Last summer Cashen volunteered over 60 hours for LEGACY: Lost & Found, a nonprofit organization that identifies and returns military relics that belonged to veterans to their families free of charge. LEGACY was founded in 2018 by an organization known as Footsteps Researchers, a global team of WWII researchers who retrace the footsteps of those who served in the war. For several years, the team at Footsteps have been searching for a photo and the relatives of a crew member, Henry G. Maxham, who was killed in a B24 plane crash on Christmas Day in 1944 in LaFosse, Belgium. Today, there is a monument located on the site of the crash memorializing each of the crew members who were killed, and Maxham’s photo was the only one that was missing until Cashen located it. Using death records, census data, and obituaries, Cashen built Maxham’s family tree. From there, he found an old newspaper article and yearbook photos from Maxham’s hometown. He was also able to connect with one of Maxham’s last living relatives, his cousin, who before speaking with Cashen and Footsteps, did not know any details about her cousin’s service or death in the war.
Footsteps researcher and battlefield tour guide, Bob Konings, worked with Cashen last summer and was ecstatic when Cashen located the information. “Carter’s detailed work over just a few weeks was incredible. I have been searching for Maxham’s photo and family for years and thanks to his contributions, we finally found both,” said Konings.
Footsteps Co-founder and TJ adjunct faculty member, Dr. Myra Miller, agrees. “This discovery has truly been a significant milestone not just for Carter, but also for LEGACY, Belgium, and WWII researchers across the world,” said Miller. “To have a 15-year-old dedicate considerable time over his summer break to help us solve this mystery was truly amazing. We had been searching for several years and without Carter’s key research, we would still be stuck.”
Maxham’s photo will join the rest of the crew members’ photos on the monument in Belgium in December 2021 in time for the Battle of the Bulge ceremonies.
This summer Cashen returned to Footsteps as an independent contractor. His invaluable contributions in 2020 secured him the role of project manager, accepting requests from various relatives and friends of WWII veterans and assigning them to various researchers all over the world. He also assists with the initial research for each assignment. “My experience with LEGACY and Footsteps has been a really amazing and fun opportunity for me,” said Cashen. “Having the ability to help relatives of WWII veterans uncover missing pieces of their time in the war is extremely rewarding. I am grateful to Dr. Miller and the rest of the team for giving me this opportunity.”
“Carter’s volunteer experience is the perfect example of why TJ’s service learning program is in place,” remarked Dr. Matthew Troutman, TJ’s Head of School. “Through our service learning program, we hope to give our students an awareness of the larger community beyond their school and their individual social circles. Carter’s work has helped people not only from our local community but from across the world as well. We are extremely proud of him.”
Cashen will graduate from Thomas Jefferson School in 2023, and he hopes to continue developing his interest in history and his research skills in college.
About Thomas Jefferson School:
Founded in 1946, Thomas Jefferson School is a co-educational, non-sectarian, independent day and boarding school located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, that educates a purposefully diverse and deliberately sized group of academically talented students spanning grades 7-12. Today’s students come from Missouri as well as a number of other states and countries. Our distinguished alumni live and work all over the world. To learn more, please visit: www.tjs.org.
About Footsteps Researchers and LEGACY: Lost and Found
Footsteps Researchers is a global team of WWII researchers that retraces the footsteps of those who served in the war. Founded in 2018 by researcher Dr. Myra Miller, their mission is to seek and discover the history of veterans for their loved ones and understand not only their service, but also the role they played in the war. Their nonprofit 501(c)(3) arm, LEGACY: Lost and Found, identifies the veterans who owned items that were lost or sold after WWII. They reunite these sacred relics with the veteran or their family, and they strive to educate the family, local school children, and the public about their sacrifices. To learn more about Footsteps and LEGACY, please visit www.footstepsresearchers.com.