Military Monday – Fred Goempel’s Story Part 1

Guest post by Barbara Geisler.

Many years ago, my mother-in-law was reminiscing about her eldest brother, Fred, who went off to war in early January 1945, when she was twelve years old. In February, the family received word that Fred had been listed as missing in action in Germany. They held out hope that he had been a Prisoner of War, but the following year, the family received a notice stating that Fred had been officially declared dead.

The story was definitely interesting as she relayed that her uncle had spotted a photo on the front page of the newspaper featuring liberated soldiers in a POW camp. One of them had an uncanny resemblance to Fred. When Fred never returned home, the family had concluded that the POW camp had been liberated by the Russians and that he was one of many who had been taken to Russia rather than being let free. This woman firmly believed that her brother could be alive somewhere, and she actually hoped that he would someday make his way home.   That little girl, who ran to the window every time she heard the front gate swing open, hoping to see her big brother return, had lived her whole life waiting for him to walk through the door.

She asked me if I could find the photo from the paper. She described the details imbedded in her memory: the photo featured a group of soldiers carrying a kettle of dandelion soup at the POW camp, Stalag IX B.

I was certainly intrigued, and began my search at the local library, scrolling through newspapers on microfilm, looking for anything that looked remotely like the photo that she had described to me. It soon became clear to me why the family made the connection to Stalag IXB, also known as Camp Bad Orb.   The papers were full of names of local servicemen who were being held there at the same time that Fred had been listed missing.  But, the photo was not to be found in any of the papers that I scanned at the library.

This was back in 2002 when there was not nearly as much information on the web as today regarding World War II records. I decided to write to the National Archives, describe the photo, and ask them if they could find it.

Bad Orb POW camp. Source: National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Bad Orb POW camp. Source: National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Much to my surprise, two photo-copies arrived in my mail one day, and there was the photo that my mother-in-law had described, along with a second photo from the same camp. On the back of each was an explanation stating that the Signal Corp who had liberated the camp had staged these photos.  None of the men in the photo had been inmates at the POW camp.  My mother-in-law’s theory had been easily disproved, but I certainly could not announce this without at least attempting to find out what had happened to her brother.

I began with absolutely nothing to work with. My mother-in-law only knew the date her brother went missing and nothing else. There was no service record file or personal information to help me. One day, as I was on the web searching his name, the American Battle Monument Commission site popped up. When I clicked on the link, I was shocked to see that Pvt. Frederick W. Goempel’s name was listed on the Tablets of the Missing in Luxembourg American Cemetery.   The information included his rank, service number, and what unit he served with, along with a death date of Feb. 10, 1946. It also noted that he had earned a bronze star medal. The information was essential to finding his service record, but I certainly questioned the DOD. He had been declared MIA on Feb. 9, 1945, the war in Europe ended in May 1945, how could he have died in Feb. 1946?

I would soon learn that the date listed is called an FOD, finding of death. When MIA status was not resolved, the army designated the date one year and a day after the MIA date as the official date of death.

With this new information, I was able to request Fred’s IDPF, with his sister signing as next of kin. At the same time, I was able to request after action reports, and any medals that he would have earned, as the family had absolutely nothing in regards to his service.

When I searched online for his unit, the 5th Infantry Division, I was surprised to see that the annual reunion would be held just a few miles from our home. My husband and I were able to attend and meet some veterans from the 11th regt., 5th Inf. Div. As soon as I mentioned the date, I found myself listening to stories of a wicked river crossing where many men had been injured or died. The common theory among these veterans was that Fred must have drowned in the river while crossing. This was quite disheartening, and I could only wait for the IDPF to arrive to see what kind of information it would glean.

The reports arrived within a month, and I was able to mark the coordinates on a huge map of the area that represented the battlefield in 1945. One of the vets had been happy to copy it and mail it to me. It included the grid coordinates as well as any markings that showed German pillboxes and bunkers.

It took well over 6 months to receive the IDPF, and there wasn’t much information to be had. In reviewing the file, it soon became quite obvious that the American Graves Registration Service had made a blatant error regarding the search location for Fred. The file stated that Pvt. Frederick W. Goempel had been unknown to his platoon and had last been seen entering an assault boat 10 miles SE of Echternach.

All of the information that I had received from the 5th Infantry Division stated that the crossing took place 2 miles NW of Echternach. As I flipped through papers, it soon became quite obvious to me that each review was based on the original assessment. The original information has been copied verbatim, with a different year typed in the corner. No one had actually looked at the information in relation to the 11th regiment to be certain that the coordinates had been correct. Each review was based on the original error.

Had I not researched the movements of the regiment, I would never have realized the significance of that error.

One redeeming fact from the file was the listing of Fred’s company: F.

That small piece of information was the key to locating all sorts of valuable resources that would help to develop Fred’s story: Morning Reports, Staff Daily Journals, as well as the listing of the men who served in Co. F which was printed in the back of a book that I borrowed entitled, “The 11th Regt. in the ETO”.   This listing not only gave a name, but also the hometown. I quickly spotted 3 men with the same hometown as Fred and went about finding them to see if I could get any information.

Fred’s story will continue next week.

About Barbara

portrait BarbaraBarbara graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Chemical Engineering.  She began her career as a research engineer, working for Gulf Research.  She married her Chem E lab partner from Pitt, and decided to change career paths to full time motherhood after giving birth to their first child. Since 2000, her research skills have been invaluable in the hunt for information pertaining to her husband’s uncle.  Over the years, she developed a passion for genealogy, and has been volunteering since 2007 at the local Family History Center.  In addition, she has been involved with finding several families of MIA’s in hopes of collecting DNA for the WWII database.  She firmly believes that all families of WWII MIA’s deserve to have answers regarding the fate of their loved one.  

© 2015, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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Writing Wednesday: The Family History Writing Studio: A New Resource for Family History Writers

I received this last week from Lynn Palermo. Have you seen it? If not, please check out her new studio. It is amazing.



The Family History Writing Studio: A New Resource for Family History Writers


10 March 2015 – Simcoe, On, Canada. Genealogy Professional and Author Lynn Palermo announces the debut of  The Family History Writing Studio, a multi-media online resource designed to aid family historians seeking to turn their research into stories.

The Family History Writing Studio offers tools and resources to help genealogists create engaging and compelling stories in shareable formats for today and tomorrow’s generation.

What’s inside The FHWriting Studio?

Here are some the exciting and diverse products being offered at The Family History Writing Studio in the upcoming months:

Workbooks – A series of Family History Writing e-Workbooks designed to build on one another. Each ebook looks at one aspect of writing a family history narrative. Filled with worksheets, they will help writers apply the various elements of creative nonfiction to narratives.

Webinars – On-demand webinars are designed to complement the workbooks. Lynn personally guides writers through exercises and examples to expand on the workbook content. These on-demand webinars are designed to watch over and again at your convenience.

Courses – Coming this September, a variety of online courses, designed for writers who want to take a more in-depth look at a particular aspect of writing in a more intimate setting will begin. Lessons are delivered in a variety of formats including downloadable worksheets, workbooks, and videos. All courses include private groups and forums to bring the class together for discussions and critiques with the teacher. Classes are small to provide a more personal learning environment.

Personal Coaching – If you’re nervous about sharing in a group environment then personal coaching might be more your style. In the personal coaching section, Lynn offers a couple of options to work privately together, whether it be to brainstorm your stories or book or for a critique of your written narrative.

Newsletter – Lynn has merged the current monthly writing newsletter Storylines from The Armchair Genealogist with the Studio. It will have a fresh look but with the same great how-to articles along with tips and tools to help you become a more efficient family history writer. The new Storylines will reflect the popular Daily Dose newsletter from The Family History Writing Challenge. The first edition in the revised format begins in April. Storylines will also keep members up to date on all the newest workshops, webinars and courses coming out of the FHWriting Studio.

Writing Groups – The Family History Writing Studio is designed to meet the needs of individuals and writing groups. The Studio offers options for small genealogical societies that cannot afford an in-house speaker or the cost of a webinar. Information for writing groups and societies can be found at here.


Click Here, To learn more about the inspiration behind The Family History Writing Studio.

From Lynn Palermo, Developer of The Family History Writing Studio:

“Genealogists come to family history writing with a variety of skills and generally with an overwhelming fear of writing. Because there are multiple aspects to writing stories and producing a family history book, we saw a need to create educational tools to address genealogist’s individual needs on their journey to becoming a writer,” said Lynn Palermo.


“We also wanted to provide flexibility, because we understand that we all have busy lives and finding time to write is not an easy task to add to one’s schedule,” continued Palermo.

“One can spend a lot of time floundering around trying to sort it all out, our goal is to help writers break it down into manageable tasks. We also want to help take the fear out of writing and provide family historians with knowledge and self-confidence,” Palermo added.

About Lynn Palermo

Lynn Palermo is a writer and genealogy professional. She wrote her first family history book in 2010 and began her blogging career at The Armchair Genealogist in 2009. Every February, Lynn leads nearly 1000 members through The Family History Writing Challenge, a month-long effort to focus genealogists on writing their family history stories. Lynn believes passionately in the reward a family history writing journey can offer and the legacy it can leave behind.

Contact:   Lynn Palermo

The Family History Writing Studio
12 Atwood Crescent, Simcoe, On Canada N3Y 5A4


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World War II Records Research Books Available

Now available!Cover Vol 1

Volumes 1 and 2 of the new World War II records series, Stories from the World War II Battlefield.

Volume 1 : Reconstructing Army, Air Corps, and National Guard Service

Volume 2: Navigating Service of the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Merchant MarinesCover Vol 2

Joe Balkoski was the first to review Volume 1 and had this to say,

Jennifer Holik’s Stories From the World War II Battlefield is a remarkable achievement. The growing number of people dedicated to learning of an ancestor’s World War II military service cannot afford to miss it! It provides a clear and focused explanation of the sometimes baffling archival resources available to the public related to wartime service. I’ve been studying World War II for more than three decades, and I still learned plenty of new research techniques from Jennifer’s book.”
Joseph Balkoski, author of Omaha Beach and Beyond the Beachhead

You can view the full press release, table of contents for both volumes, and purchase the books on my website today!

© 2015, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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