I just finished reading this book, The Dead of Winter by Bill Warnock. What a powerful book! I have done genealogical research on my family’s World War II soldiers, almost all of whom died in service. I have worked with military records (IDPFs, Morning Reports, After Action Reports, and Unit Histories to name a few.) I have seen some X-files, the files for those soldiers who were unidentified at the time of burial. I have never worked on a MIA case ……yet. I suspect this is in my future.
This book is an excellent example of the research conducted by historians, genealogists, forensic scientists, veterans, and those who live in Europe who dig for artifacts and those who were declared Missing. Every genealogist researching WWII ancestors should read this book because it provides an excellent storyline while incorporating the research conducted, the process of locating the Missing, the records used, and the timeline of events. Just as genealogy is not easy, neither is researching the lives, deaths, and burial locations of our Missing.
One thing that struck me as I finished the book was that there is no central repository of information. The government has JPAC and other organizations dedicated to various components of this search, recovery, and identification process. There are numerous historians, battlefield investigators (many of whom do this research on their own time and dime), genealogists, and others who request and analyze data in the search for the Missing. Can you imagine how much faster the process could become if there was a way for everyone to work together? What a concept right? Cooperation? Sharing of information? I’m no expert on what the U.S. government is doing currently with the location, recovery, and identification of the Missing, but from what little I have read, things are not quite the way some would wish them to be. Long delays and inadequate funding are a few issues.
One of the best things about this book I feel, are the stories. The author not only explained the research, recovery, and identification process, but brought to life the soldiers that were Missing. He brought to life the stories of the soldiers who survived and helped in the research process. The STORIES are so important. It is something I strive to teach people when I lecture and through my soon to be released books. Write those family stories even if you have only that. A story. Write it. The research will come of course and you’ll add and modify the family story according to records. But you must start somewhere.
I challenge you in 2014 to WRITE the stories of your military ancestors.
One of my goals for 2014 is to continue reading books and research such as this. I feel there is a reason why I’m learning so much about the WWII Graves Registration Service, the Missing, the military records available, and being connected with so many who do this kind of research. If you know of some good books or articles I should read, please note them in the comments or email me directly.
© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL