Military Monday – Excerpt from “The Replacement”

On May 8, I will release my next book Stories of the Lost, available through my author website. You can pre-order a signed copy today! This is an excerpt of one chapter about Frankie Winkler.

The Family Story

Frank Winkler, 29th Infantry Division

Frank Winkler, 29th Infantry Division

My grandmother told me a story about my cousin Frankie Winkler, saying he enlisted in the Army when he was 19. He had started college but chose to enlist because of the guilt he felt for not fighting. His father, Frank Sr. did not approve of his choice. It was said that Frank Sr. was very protective of his only living son. So protective he wouldn’t let him even ride a bike for fear he would be hurt. Family lore also said Frankie’s uncle, Frank Kokoska, would join the fight and watch over Frankie.

As the story continued, my grandmother said Frankie came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 29th Infantry Division. He spoke German and was doing reconnaissance work. I wondered how they would have known he was in reconnaissance.

My grandmother also told me Frankie died on June 24, 1944 of head wounds received on D-Day. A photo appeared in Life Magazine of a soldier sitting on a beach on D-Day with his head wrapped, holding a cigarette in one hand and a pack of smokes in the other. The family to this day swears it is Frankie.

The story continued and grandma told me when Frankie’s remains were returned to Chicago, his mother was too distraught to view them. Instead, Frankie’s uncle and father went to the funeral home. After viewing the remains they did not think it was Frankie. This did not make sense to me. Why would they not have thought the remains sent home were his?

I listened to my grandmother’s story, took notes and left it at that. It was not until my parents European vacation in October 2010 in which answers to my questions began to emerge. My parents visited several American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries. They asked many questions about the war and where to locate information on Frankie’s service. Using the information my parents provided, I spent two years researching his story and discovered many twists and turns. In the end, the story I tell is different from the family lore.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations, Woodridge, IL

Print Friendly
Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Family Story and Remembering a Soldier

Please bear with me as I get a train of thought out. I have been talking with a colleague who identifies himself (as I do) as a historian and genealogist. We were talking about the NARA records article I shared yesterday and a comment I saw about genealogists not being included in this NARA survey. This colleague and I talked about this article and that comment, which led into a discussion about the telling of family stories and the research that is involved in genealogy related to those stories. That led me to a realization. The point of this blog post is about the STORY passed down through the family. In my military lectures and books I start out with the family story.

One guy in particular, Frankie Winkler, who was a D-Day guy. He was not. I explain the family story is he went in with the 29th on D-Day and received head wounds. He died a few weeks later of those wounds. He spoke German and did reconnaissance work. The family swore – still to this day they swear, the photo of one of the guys from the 1st Division who came onto Omaha with the 29th that was in Life magazine is Frankie. It is not. The family also said Frankie enlisted. He did not. They say that people would come into his dad’s (also Frank) Butcher Shop and ask why Frankie had not gone off to serve. He had started college. So there was some shame involved and pressure.

The records show Frankie was 18 years and ¾ months when he was inducted into the Army. That was correct for late 1943 – the Army had changed the rules regarding age. He had graduated HS and probably was in college (this has yet to be confirmed.) So he was the “right” age to go off and serve but couldn’t until the Army would accept him. Did he speak German? Maybe but the records show he was placed into Camp Wolters, TX – an infantry replacement training camp. He was being trained to be a rifleman. Did he do reconnaissance work?

Joe Balkoski the former 29th Historian worked with me and got me the Morning Reports. They only show Frankie coming into the 29th Division, 115th Reg on 23 June, KIA 24 June. It does not specify from where he came – Joe said an Infantry Replacement Depot in England or Ireland. His obit says he was in Ireland so he must have sent letters home. One family member has some but won’t share because she says they are too personal. Joe said he likely went out on patrol (reconnaissance) the 23rd and was killed within 24 hours.

That’s what the records show. A different story than the family. And I show the paper trail and explain my reasoning through military and genealogical records and history about how I arrived at this altered version of the story. I also think the family may have received  a letter perhaps from someone in the 29th after he was killed that used the word reconnaissance. Think about that – reconnaissance is a more impressive word than the phrase, “out on patrol.”  So over time these stories about our soldier and war dead may become embellished a little because of our use of words. Maybe the family used this as a coping mechanism. Their boy wasn’t just “one of the thousands of riflemen lost” he was doing reconnaissance because he spoke German – he was in their eyes perhaps more important than a rifleman.

Stories like this get passed down all the time but I never considered the WORDING used in stories that get passed down and how they can be interpreted until this discussion. I also think that often, families are worried that if they dig into records, the story will change. And does THAT add shame or something else to the soldier or the family if the story is different? Are we dishonoring the memory of that soldier if the records show something different?

How do YOU cope with the changes in family stories based on the records you uncover? Do you tell the new story in comparison to the old? Do you take into account how the family has felt about this story, this individual or family involved, through the generations? How do you dig into the records and deal with the outcome? Or  do you even bother to dig?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations

Print Friendly
Categories: Books, Military Research | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Military Monday – Excerpt from “The Tiger”

On May 8, I will release my next book Stories of the Lost, available through my author website. This is an excerpt of one chapter about Robert Brouk, a Flying Tiger.

Christmas 1941 – Burma

Robert Brouk, Flying Tiger.

Robert Brouk, Flying Tiger.

“CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES” or more appropriately, “War in the Air”. The morning started out pretty calm, even though the Japs promised us over the radio that they would give the Americans and Rangoon a real Christmas present. About 10:30 we got a call to scramble to 15 angels – I was on Bishop’s wing in Dupouy’s flight. We took off first, but Bishop did not wait for the rest of the flight. We got up to 18 angels and cruised around for a half hour, then not hearing anything on the radio, Bishop and I dove down over the field. We just about got to 2000 feet when I heard the radio say not to pancake. We started climbing again and as I got about 4000 feet, I looked around and saw a burst and then bombs exploding on the field. We must have been directly under the bombers and did not see them. I expected any moment to hear some ships diving on us as we were slowly climbing. I quickly gave it the gate and climbed as fast as possible. I got to 18,000 feet unmolested and I then saw a tight 30 ship Jap bomber formation going southeast over Rangoon at about 20 angels. I started towards them and as I got closer I noticed a single Jap Navy #96 pursuit ship, with fixed landing gear. I had about a 1000 feet height advantage off to his left, so I turned into him on his rear and dove down below his rear and climbed up his blind spot under his tail. As I closed into within 50 yards, I opened fire with all six guns. I could see the bullets entering his ship and he suddenly made a very quick wing over to the right, and I had to turn the opposite direction to miss him. I turned around to see if I could find him, but he was probably going down too fast. I didn’t follow him down so cannot say exactly where he fell, but from my close fire, he could not have possibly escape destruction. I dove down for speed and then climbed up to 16 angels – I could not see any planes so I came in to land. Pending confirmation, I think I have my first plane.

The other fellows did very well – Hedman accounting for four, McMillan got three and was shot down himself. We thought he was a goner when he did not return, but after supper about 8:30, he walked in the mess hall with a bandaged arm and hand. He made a crash landing in a rice paddy and finally got the natives to help him. He got a horse and rode about 10 miles to Toungoo where the police took him to Rangoon on a police boat and then in a police car up to the field. He had a Jap Saber which he got from a bomber shot down on the first raid. We sure were glad to see him walk in. Overend was also reported shot down and missing, so we did not expect to see him anymore, but at about 9:30 that night, we got a telegram from a small village that Overend was safe and we should pick him up at Rangoon about 10 p.m. He was not hurt at all, but shot down while shooting a bomber down. He also had a crash landing.

Our unofficial account was 10 fighters and nine bombers. The R.A.F. got six planes and lost four. This was their first loss in personnel.

The two ships shot down and Smith’s and Hedman’s were pretty badly shot up. Dupouy shot down one model “0” and in getting away, hit his wing tip against the wing of another causing the enemy to spin in and Parker came in alright with his right wing tips off and half of his aileron missing. Another McMillan feat. Older and Haywood stuck together and counted four together. Some of the fellows thought they saw some Me 109’s but not positive.

The damage to the field was about the same as before with larger holes caused by bigger bombs. Only one Petrol dumb was hit and two casualties on the field. The greatest damage to the personnel was via food. We were very low on food and, of course, were without any kind of Christmas Dinner. In the afternoon, Mr. Bill Pawley came out with a car full of canned food and drinks which was really welcomed. So another day under fire passed with experience gained and ships lost. A sidelight of interest was that just after the air raid sounded, the British General – Wavell D.C. – 2 landed with her and General Brett of the U.S. Air Corps. They both had to take shelter in a trench and saw the raid first hand.

You can now pre-order a signed copy of “Stories of the Lost” on my website!


© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations, Woodridge, IL

Print Friendly
Categories: Books | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Follow Friday – An In-Depth Guide to Richmond Virginia


An In-Depth Guide to Richmond Virginia book release announced by The In-Depth Genealogist

March 30, 2014; Utica, OH:

This Guide to Richmond, Virginia was created in honor of The National Genealogical Society’s 2014 Family History Conference “Virginia: The First Frontier” held May 7-10, 2014.  Within the guide, Shannon Combs-Bennett shares her familiarity with Richmond and the surrounding area to assist genealogists and family in making their trip an enjoyable one.

The book includes: a Packing Checklist, Downtown Richmond City Safety Guide, Public Transportation, Shopping (ATM’s & Banks, Convenience Stores, Restaurants), Richmond Area Genealogy and other Attractions, and Genealogy and other Attractions that are short Day –Trips (within 2 hours drive) of Richmond.

The book is being offered as a PDF for just $4.99 or get a paperback version that is black & white 8.5” x 11” for $9.99.  Simply go to to get your copy!

For more information, please contact Terri O’Connell.

Print Friendly
Categories: Education | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Military Monday – European Theater Temporary WWII Cemeteries

US Temp Cemeteries coverI’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing on the Graves Registration Service of WWII and came across a very cool book. It is a Pictorial and Historical Record book called United States Temporary Military Cemeteries European Theater Area World War II.

This book is a guidebook of sorts for the temporary cemeteries established during WWII, some of which would become permanent American Battle Monuments Commission Cemeteries.

The book provides brief descriptions of when the cemetery was established, where, how close it is to a major city, and for which Army unit it was primarily established.

Hamm page1The book is small but an excellent resource for those who had soldiers buried in the European Theater. I believe books like this were created for the Mediterranean and Pacific Theaters but have not run across them yet. If you find one, please let me know.

What books have been helpful to you in your search for information on your WWII ancestors? Please share with us in the comments.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations

Print Friendly
Categories: Books, Military Research | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Updated Generations Resource Guides Available

It has been a busy week! I finalized the changes for the final version of the Stories of the Lost book. It is ready for its May 8 debut! I also updated four of my Resource Guides which are now available on Kindle for only $2.99. You can view these on my website. If you purchase any of the paperback copies of Branching Out, Engaging the Next Generation, or To Soar with the Tigers books, you can take 20% off using the code GCLTGYTN  through April 6.

World War I and II Resource Guide

WWII rec guide cover KindleLocating World War I and II service records can be difficult because of the National Personnel Records Center Fire in 1973. This quick reference guide will give you ideas on places to search for additional records. (You can get this for free for a limited time if you sign up for my author newsletter.)




Italian Genealogy Records Guide

Italian Records Kindle coverItalian genealogy has become a more popular research area the last two years since FamilySearch began digitizing and making freely accessible, Italian Civil Records. To assist your genealogical journey, this guide contains quick tips and resources to assist you in the research of your Italian ancestors. Learn about helpful records and investigate websites that may lead you to family in the old country.

Cook County Genealogy Property Records

Cook County Guide kindle coverChicago property maps and records are valuable tools in genealogical research. Chicago property records contain a wealth of information for researchers. The information contained in a record may help prove a relationship in the researcher’s family. It may provide clues as to neighbors and possible family members. The records can provide details on construction of the house or changes made to the house. Records provide a glimpse into the life of the family based on the type of house and value of the property.



Kids Genealogy Resource Guide

Kids Guide Kindle coverFamily history gives us roots, helps shape our identities, and helps us understand the past, present, and the future. This history is important for children in helping them understand their families. Sharing our family stories, photographs, and traditions, enable us to engage the next generation in family history.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

Print Friendly
Categories: Books, Military Research | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.