Military Monday – African Americans in WWII

20150723_135716Last week I was at Pritzker Military Museum and Library and stumbled upon a book I did not know existed, while looking for something else. I found African American World War II Casualties and Decorations in the Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine by Glenn A. Knoblock.

This book provides incredible genealogical and military service information on thousands of African Americans who served in these branches during the war. The term casualty does not only mean those who were killed or died of wounds. It also means anyone who was wounded.

The book is broken out by military branch and then adds a couple chapters on The Port Chicago Disaster and Pearl Harbor. Within each chapter, the ships involved in accidents or sinkings are named, described, and all those who were wounded. Each ship provides the name, information and sometimes a photo, of those KILLED or WOUNDED or DECORATED.

Interestingly, it leaves out the Missing In Action status. Now, all those Missing In Action were given a Finding of Death, which was the official death date. However, had the author separated those who were still considered Missing, that would have been helpful information. We cannot assume because a man is listed as being KILLED, that his remains were recovered and buried or buried at sea.

This book is a great resource for anyone researching African American genealogy or the Navy, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines during the war. I highly recommend it for any researcher who wants to learn more about our honored war dead.

© 2015 Jennifer Holik

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Writing Wednesday – Magazine Resources for World War II Research

Educating people about the many resources to reconstruct World War II service, across all branches, is one of the jobs I do. I accomplish this through my books, speaking engagements, and article writing. There are three magazines for which I currently write World War II articles. Have you seen them? The articles take a different look and often expanded look at the resources I offer in my Stories from the World War II Battlefield books. 

Internet Genealogy

The latest issue is Aug/Sept 2015 and has my article, Seven Resources For World War II Reunion Groups and Associations.

Your Genealogy Today

The latest issue is July/Aug 2015 and has my article, Beginning Your World War II Research.

You can purchase Internet Genealogy or Your Genealogy Today from Barnes and Noble or their websites.

The In-Depth Genealogist’s Going In-Depth MagazineGoingInDepth-201507-cover-300x388

I write a monthly WWII column for IDG. Clicking the link above allows you to subscribe to their magazine through my affiliate link.

Happy Reading!

Coming in October, the World War II Research and Writing Center! The World War II Research and Writing Center brings together a collection of resources to help people research and write the stories of U.S. soldiers during World War II. We accomplish this through toolboxes, forms and checklists, articles, newsletters, webinars, courses, and books. Sign-up for my WWII newsletter here.

 

© 2015 Jennifer Holik

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Military Monday – Debating Stories and Official Records

An issue I have run into several times while researching World War II service, is the difference between oral or written history by a veteran, versus what is contained in the official military records and histories. This issue was brought up again this weekend in one of the Facebook groups I’m in. One member insisted his father fought in the Battle of the Bulge because he told his son he did. Another member insisted this unit did not fight in the Bulge. This member then showed proof this unit did not receive the Ardennes-Alsace campaign credit.

A lengthy discussion ensued, including a question of whether or not the veteran had lied about his service. Now, there are cases of stolen valor and veterans claiming they participated in battles they did not or did something they did not. These issues are not what this post is about. This post is discussing the memories versus the official records.

War is a messy, horrific thing. Information circulates through the lines and things are remembered different based on the perspective of the soldier. Letters sent home did not contain battle details because of censorship. Sometimes families used code which could have been misinterpreted especially if the letters were read years later without the code. The way we interpret histories, letters, or records today may not be correct when the information is put into historical context. Historical context means looking at an issue or individual as part of the whole of what was happening to that individual at that time.

Over time all our memories fade. Things are remembered differently or not at all. This is what it is to be human. Rather than arguing over what our World War II soldier did, or did not do, why not investigate the records to see what they say? Now, errors did occur in the records, so there will be times you cannot prove one way or the other, if a memory is correct.

When you explore the records, you must also have to read the entire record. You cannot just stop on the day you find one piece of I Co 504th PIR Morning Reports-3information. An example of this is found in Army Morning Reports. If you had a soldier who was in I Company 504th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment) 82nd Airborne, it may look like he was in England most of September because that is what the station states. However, if you continue reading the Morning Reports until 30 September, you will find, at least for I Company, a note which states the Company dropped into Holland on 17 September and by 30 September was in a defense position 1500 yds N of Grave.

In fact, the station remains England into October. Officially, the Company was stationed in England, yet their were engaged in combat in Holland. To learn more about what they were doing in Holland, you would need to read other documents including After Action Reports and Unit Histories. If your I Company 504th PIR relative told you he was in Holland at the end of September and you were only looking at Morning Reports prior to 30 September, you might say he was wrong. This is why we continue to research.

 The next time an issue like this arises, rather than debate or watch the conversation take a bad turn, consider all sides. Let go of the ego part of us that has to be right because our soldier told us something was so. It could be, but look into the records so you have a fuller story.


 

Coming in October, the World War II Research and Writing Center! The World War II Research and Writing Center brings together a collection of resources to help people research and write the stories of U.S. soldiers during World War II. We accomplish this through toolboxes, forms and checklists, articles, newsletters, webinars, courses, and books. Sign-up for my WWII newsletter here.

© 2015, Jennifer Holik

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