Last week I was at Pritzker Military Museum and Library doing some research and writing and found a set of six books called United States Submarine Men Lost During World War II. The book series is based on a research project by Paul W. Wittmer and Charles R. Hinman. This book is a compilation of basic information on all the known men who died while in, or were attached to, a command of the U.S. Submarine Service, including passengers lost on U.S. submarines.
The books are incredible. On each page are two entries for men. Almost every entry contains a photograph of the man. Each entry also includes the following information:
- Full name and rank
- Submarine on which he was lost
- Date or approximate date of loss
- Hometown, place entered service from and when, and where he lived in 1930 based on the census
- Where he is buried or which Table of the Missing he is listed on through the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)
- Birth date, place, and parents names with address listed in military service file
A variety of sources was used to compile these books. Lists were compiled from State lists of individuals Killed In Action. Then the Naval service file (OMPF) was used to extract data. Ancestry.com resources such as family trees, census records, and vital records were used.
There are a couple of important notes in the front of the book. These are vital to the research we do and results we find.
- Ancestry.com apparently, at some point, made a sweeping change to place of death for all U.S. Submariners “Lost At Sea.” The author stated Lost At Sea is appropriate and correct but the change made it to say “Lost City, West Virginia.”
- The author also mentions discrepancies in the ABMC database online with date of death versus the finding of death date (one year plus one day of the Missing In Action date.) I have encountered this discrepancy with Bomber crew graves. It seems while the Finding of Death date is the official date of death for those MIA and unrecovered at that point, so the family can get the insurance payment and death gratuity – if it was “likely” the man was KIA then that date seems to be what appears in the database. For example, 2nd Lt. Fred Davis, pilot of a bomber which crashed 2 November 1943 in Austria was given a Finding of Death 3 November 1944. Yet his grave says the death date is 2 November 1943. Again, when we research, we must look at all the records and attempt to resolve discrepancies.
If you are interested in submariners who were lost during World War II or are researching the service of one, I highly recommend this book series. Just remember to use the information provided with other official military and civilian records.
© 2015 Jennifer Holik