Follow Friday – Military Reading Lists March 7, 2014

The Army and Air Force posted their Chief of Staff 2014 Reading Lists. Take a look. They include more than books!

Chief of Staff Air Force 2014 Reading List

Chief of Staff Army 2014 Reading List

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday -Examining WWII Death Records For a Non-Recoverable Soldier

It’s Monday and that means a new installment in the world of military records! As you read through this series, please keep in mind I’m discussing World War II records only. While there is a lot of overlap between other wars and records, the focus here is only World War II. Today we will examine components of an IDPF for a non-recoverable, identified soldier. If you missed the post about common elements of an IDPF, you can view that now.

 Once Upon A Time……..

Once upon a time there was a soldier named Lawrence Block and a researcher looking for information on a POW who had an IDPF. She stumbled upon a forum post about the adoption of a grave at Margraten, Holland for a Lawrence Block. So she began to dig. First, she obtained his IDPF and then she found a set of nine documents (all written in German) on Fold3.com concerning his imprisonment and murder. Currently, she is having these documents fully translated as she begins the search for other pieces of information on this soldier. Military research is a slow process which requires as much patience as genealogy research.

The more the researcher read the information on Lawrence, the more she wanted to know his story. Lawrence was a Private First Class, serial number 19082844, member of Company “A”, 12th Infantry Regiment. Company “A” was moving from Bech, Luxembourg to Echternach, Luxembourg on 16 December 1944, to reinforce Company “G” and the last place they were seen was Hill 313. Apparently this Company was ambushed by the Germans and only one man escaped. The others were captured and sent to Stalag IIIA in Altengrabow, Germany.

During his time at Stalag IIIA, Lawrence traded with the Russian POWs and during one of these trading sessions, he was murdered by the Prison Guards. He was then buried in Stalag IVA’s cemetery. His remains were never recovered because after the war, the Russians took control of that area and it became a Soviet Training Ground for their Army. The Soviets would not allow our Graves Registration teams to enter and attempt to recover remains and by 21 October 1953, Lawrence was memorialized as a Non-Recoverable Remain and listed on Margraten’s Wall of the Missing.

Lawrence’s IDPF

Lawrence’s IDPF has the usual documentation one would find in any other IDPF (you can view a complete copy below.) An important piece of documentation is the Missing Report shown here. Examine the information found on this document. We are able to identify him in a specific unit, at a specific time, and place.

Lawrence Block Missing Report

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Missing Report” Lawrence Block, SN 19082844.

The file contains a lot of testimony surrounding his disappearance, imprisonment, murder, burial, and status of recovery. You can read some of this starting on page 24 of his IDPF.

There are many Narratives of Investigation included that discuss the research path the Graves Registration Service men took to locate, recover and identify remains of those soldiers that were disinterred. Unfortunately Lawrence was not one of them. You can read the two-page narrative starting on page 11 of his IDPF. Several soldiers were recovered only to discover none of them was Lawrence. The file contains a map of the cemetery where the disinternments took place. See below.

Lawrence Block map

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Prisoner of War Cemetery at Altengrabrow Map,” Lawrence Block, SN 19082844.

Want the full story as told through the IDPF? You can read Lawrence’s entire IDPF here.

 Fold3.com Documents

On Fold3.com I found a set of nine pages called “Shooting of American POW Lawrence Block.” These documents outline the testimony provided by the German guards and other POWs who witnessed or knew of Lawrence Block’s murder. These documents provide birth date, death date, circumstances of death, date of death, and location of burial. Valuable information on a soldier.

Non-Recoverable Status

Unfortunately due to Soviet take-over of the former POW camp, Lawrence Block was never recovered. The government made a last attempt in 1952 to gain access to the area to attempt to disinter possible American soldiers. The Soviets denied admission to the area. After an examining board reviewed the entire file and narrative regarding the final attempt to disinter in the Soviet controlled area, Lawrence Block was made a Non-Recoverable status and Memorialized on the Tables of the Missing at Margraten Cemetery.

Lawrence Block MemorializiationWhat’s Next for Lawrence?

Lawrence was survived by a widow and step-daughter. It is possible that his widow remarried and no one was left to wonder about his remains. Today, his name has been adopted at Margraten and that individual is looking for more information so Lawrence is not forgotten. To learn more about Lawrence’s life and death, POW records through the National Archives need to be accessed. Morning Reports need to be requested and analyzed to outline his service. Any existing service records can also be analyzed to put the story into greater perspective. Also, the history of what Company “A” was doing in Luxembourg in December 1944 as the Battle of the Bulge was getting underway is important. Without that historical context, his story has less value. Want to know what else was going on in that area of Luxembourg? You can read an article in an Omaha newspaper, in which Mike Boehler is quoted, Act of Mercy Amid Brutal Winter Fighting in Battle of the Bulge.

Will more of Lawrence’s story appear in these blog posts? Perhaps. It depends on what information I locate and how quickly I locate it as I work through writing and posting. Stay tuned. You never know when an extra post will appear with his story.

Next week I will wrap up the Examination of Death Records by showing you a few other interesting features in some of these files and talk about those service members who died state-side rather than overseas. And I’ll answer the million dollar question – is there a death certificate?

Like what you’ve seen and want to know more? Sign up for my newsletter on my author website. For military research and writing services, or to book a lecture on military records, please contact me through my website Generations.

Want to read this series from the beginning?

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Follow Friday – Writing Sites February 28, 2013

I encourage everyone to write their family stories. You do not have to publish a book, but write the stories to pass to the next generation. This information is so important. To help you with this task, here are a few writing blogs I enjoy reading. Many have writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

Bryan Cohen’s Build Creative Writing Ideas Cohen’s website contains many resources for writing and he has books specifically for kids!

Writer’s Helping Writer’s has numerous excellent writing posts and their books are fantastic! Looking for help with writing – this is one place you must stop.

The One-Minute Writer offers short daily writing prompts.

The Heart and Craft of Life Writing is another great site with plenty of inspiration.

Do you have a favorite writing blog or website? Please share with us in the comments below.

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday – Examining WWII Death Records For an Unidentified Soldier

It’s Monday and that means a new installment in the world of military records! As you read through this series, please keep in mind I’m discussing World War II records only. While there is a lot of overlap between other wars and records, the focus here is only World War II. Today we will examine components of an IDPF, an X-File, for an unidentified soldier. If you missed last week’s post about common elements of an IDPF, you can view that now.

An IDPF created for a soldier who was initially (and possibly forever) unidentified, was called an X-File because he had no serial number by which to identify him. So an X-number was provided. The X-number was a sequence of numbers which identified the Unknown Soldier Dead brought to U.S. Military Cemeteries.

Reasons Why A Soldier Is Unidentified

  • Identification tags were not recovered with the remains.
  • There were no personal effects on the remains that could aid in identification (letter, photograph, ring or watch with inscription or initials.)
  • Laundry marks were for too many individuals.
  • No pay book was found.
  • The remains were decomposed and facial features, clothing, fingerprints and possibly teeth were not recovered.
  • The remains were a skeleton with no additional identifying information.
  • The soldier had been blown away and very little remained to aid with identification.
  • The soldier had been buried in a temporary grave by other soldiers, the enemy, or civilians, with no identifying items. By the time it was recovered, it was so badly decomposed it was nearly impossibly to obtain fingerprints or dental imprints.
  • The soldier had been buried in a POW camp cemetery and the records disappeared (burned, removed, or never retained in the first place.)

Records Process for Unidentified Soldiers

Soldiers who were unidentified went through the same recovery process as those who could. All possible identification evidence was collected and the appropriate IDPF forms were completed. Additional forms which are discussed below were completed. A copy was sent to the War Department and a copy was buried in a bottle with the remains. Remains were buried in a mattress cover, sheet, or parachute with the X-Number painted on the mattress cover. The bottle buried next to the remains in case the soldier could be identified in the future.

Components of X-Files

  • It contains information on the items found on the remains (if any) that may help identify the remains.
  • Testimony from other soldiers or civilians regarding the last know whereabouts of the soldier, where he was located after death, or buried. Some of this testimony was collected after the war as the military was trying to recover MIAs and those buried in temporary graves.
  • Search Investigation documents outlining where the remains were found and any additional information obtained at the time of recovery.
  • Lists of soldiers who were declared MIA in the same area, time period, and unit as the potential unidentified soldier. These lists contains names and serial numbers.
  • Records on other soldiers from the MIA list.
X-62 File information on additional possible soldiers

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Unknown X-62 (Hamm)” in the IDPF for Michael J. Greco, SN 33788653.

  • Checklist for disinterment (if buried in a non-U.S. cemetery when found.)
  • Dental charts to aid possible identification
X-62 Report of Burial

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Report of Burial for X-62″ in the IDPF for Michael J. Greco, SN 33788653.

  • Report of Burial (a second copy was buried with the remains in case of future identification.)
  • Disinterment Directive for permanent burial.
  • Declaration that the body is unidentifiable (this usually occurred by 1951.)

Importance of X-Files

X-Files are important to researchers because they often contain information on other soldiers within an area or unit in which the unidentified soldier was recovered. If you read X-62′s entire file linked below, you will see many soldiers listed by name and serial number. The Graves Registration Service was requesting the dental and medical records from St. Louis or the FBI, from the soldier’s personnel files. The entire personnel file was not included in the IDPF, just these pieces.

Using the IDPF of soldiers within the same unit as your ancestor or MIA soldier and the records of the unidentified, provides the bigger picture of the war. It may provide clues that will help you tell the story of your MIA or known soldier. You may discover pieces of battle stories within these other files that you otherwise would not have located. Again, we have to step out of the genealogy box and put on our historians hat and explore those records and the bigger picture.

You can view X-62′s entire file here. Please review it before you read the rest of the blog post. Notice it references a soldier named Michael J. Greco.

Connecting to an Identified Soldier – Sometimes

There are cases where you can link an X-File to a soldier and other times when you cannot. In the case of Michael J. Greco, a soldier who was recovered and initially provided an X-number (X-4055.) The X-File pieces will be combined with the IDPF that does identify a soldier. That file then becomes so much richer with information because of the testimony, additional medical and dental records, and other paperwork. It also provides the reasons why (the proof) of how the Graves Registration Service came to the conclusion this was a specific soldier. Look at Greco’s Report of Burial shown here. Notice the X-4055 under his name?

Greco Report of Burial

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Report of Burial” for Michael J. Greco, SN 33788653.

Personnel File Included?

If you read my initial post a few weeks ago, Military Monday – Where ARE the World War II Military Records?, I said there was a military researcher online telling people that the personnel file information was included in the IDPF. This is only partially (a very small part) true. Look at this page from Michael J. Greco’s file. The Graves Registration Service sent a letter requesting specific information from personnel files on soldiers they thought a possible connection to the remains found. If that happened, you will find unit, date and place of induction, and training camp information among the details provided. However, that is all of the personnel file that is included.

Greco Request for Information

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, “Memo: Information requested for Graves Registration Service” in the IDPF for Michael J. Greco, SN 33788653.

Want to know the rest of Michael’s story and what is included in his IDPF? You can read Michael J. Greco’s entire IDPF here.

There is much more to discuss regarding X-Files and IDPFs but we’ll save that for the book series coming out soon.

Important! If your soldier died in service, you want to request this file. It will take at least six month to receive but it is well worth the wait. If you have very little information on your soldier to start with, the IDPF will provide a great deal of information to help your search.

Location of IDPFs

For those killed while serving in the Army Air Corps – contact the NPRC in St. Louis.

For all other service branches send a letter to:

Department of the Army
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
ATTN: AHRC-FOIA
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 107
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5504

Next week I’ll talk about a soldier who is non-recoverable and what that means. You will want to stop by and check out his story and records related to his death.

Like what you’ve seen and want to know more? Sign up for my newsletter on my author website. For military research and writing services, or to book a lecture on military records, please contact me through my website Generations.

Want to read this series from the beginning?

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday – Examining WWII Death Records For an Identified Soldier

It’s Monday and that means a new installment in the world of military records! As you read through this series, please keep in mind I’m discussing World War II records only. While there is a lot of overlap between other wars and records, the focus here is only World War II. Today we will begin a series focusing on the death record known as the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF.) This file was created when a soldier was killed or died in service. While I will not give you an exhaustive run down (that is coming this year though!) of every piece of paper that could be found in these files, there are many common elements of this record set. Every IDPF is created with some specific documents, however, depending on the circumstances of the death, different documents may be included. Contents will vary for a soldier who was identified, unidentified, or non-recoverable. We will start by examining a relatively short IDPF for James Privoznik, who was identified and killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Important! If your soldier died in service, you want to request this file. It will take at least six month to receive but it is well worth the wait. If you have very little information on your soldier to start with, the IDPF will provide a great deal of information to help your search.

Common Components of an IDPF

An Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) was created for every Soldier Dead upon receipt of remains by the GRS. Each form within the file usually contained, if the soldier was identified, the name, rank, unit, and serial number. While every file is somewhat different, it generally contained the following forms.

Report of Burial A Report of Burial contained the soldier’s name, serial number, rank, date of death, place of death, and a copy of his identification tag which was stamped onto the form using an addressograph machine. The report also contained the grave location of the soldier along with the man buried on either side of him, to help with identification purposes. At the time the report was created, if the emergency contact and religion information was available the information was also added to the report. A list of personal effects was to be included if any were found on the body.

Key Components of James’ Report of Burial

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Serial Number
  • Unit
  • Death date and location of burial
  • Cause of death

    IDPF - James Privoznik Report of Burial

    Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 200 Stovall Street Alexandria, VA 22332-0400, Report of Death for James F Privoznik, serial no. 36640529, dated 3 Feb 1945, stamped by Commanding Office of Graves Registration Company Mar 1945.

Battle Casualty Report The Battle Casualty Report had the usual service information in addition to the date of casualty, which could have been designated as Missing in Action (MIA) or Killed in Action (KIA), name of the next of kin and relationship to the deceased as well as the date notified of the casualty.

Report of Death The Report of Death was a form for the Adjutant General’s Office which listed the deceased’s usual information, branch of service, date of birth and death, date of active entry in service, where he was killed, emergency contact and beneficiary information. There was a section at the bottom of the form which allowed for additional information about the deceased. Usually some statement about when the evidence of death was received by the war department was included in this section. In some instances, there were duplicate or almost duplicate copies of this form in a file. In the case of James Privoznik, a second report was made a month after the first indicating a change in pay status. He had been made a Combat Infantryman per General Order #6, Headquarters, 358th Infantry. (Based on other research I know he was in the infantry the last 14 days of his life. Prior to that he was within the same division, the 90th, but was in the 790th Ordnance Group.)

Inventory of Effects The Inventory of Effects form described the items collected to be sent to the family. It was broken out by package number in case there were multiple packages to send to a next of kin. These were accompanied by a letter to the family regarding the remains.  There was a duplicate letter sent which had to be signed by the next of kin acknowledging the receipt of effects.

Disposal of Pay Records This was not a form, but a memo to the Adjutant General forwarding pay records. This memo contained the soldier’s name, serial number and rank. In some cases it also listed the job the soldier performed.

Letters from the Quartermaster General Letters from the Quartermaster General fill these files because they contain responses to letters written by family members regarding their loved one. The Quartermaster also sent informational circulars on the distribution of personal effects and the disposition of remains.

Request for Disposition of Remains The form was sent to the next of kin to complete so the government would know what to do with the remains of the Soldier Dead. The choices were:

  • To be interred at a Permanent American Military Cemetery Overseas.
  • To be returned to the United States or any possession or territory thereof for interment by next of kin in a private cemetery.
  • To be returned to [insert foreign country] the homeland of the deceased for interment by next of kin.
  • To be returned to the United States for final interment in a National Cemetery.
IDPF - James Privoznik Disinterment Directive

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 200 Stovall Street Alexandria, VA 22332-0400, Disinterment Directive for James F Privoznik, serial no. 36640529, dated 3 Feb 1945, stamped by Commanding Office of Graves Registration Company Mar 1945.

Disinterment Directive The Disinterment Directive form contained the basic identifying information on the Soldier Dead: Name, rank, serial number, date of death, cemetery name and location of grave, name and address of next of kin, condition of remains, date disinterred and remains prepared. In James’ case, his mother chose to leave him buried in Luxembourg rather than be repatriated.

Key Components of the Disinterment Directive

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Serial Number
  • Burial Location
  • Next of kin information
  • Condition of remains
  • Date and location of reburial

Receipt of Remains The form was used for Soldier Dead repatriated, not buried in overseas cemeteries. This form was signed by the next of kin or funeral home receiving the remains when they arrived in the hometown.

Inspection Checklist The Inspection Checklist form was used before a shipping case containing a soldier’s casket was removed from the ship and train. If there was any damage to the case or casket, it would be repaired before the remains were shipped to the family.

Certificate The Certificate form was the request for reimbursement of interment expenses and transportation expenses born by the family of the Soldier Dead. The expenses were reimbursed by the U.S. Government.

Miscellaneous Most IDPFs contain letters from family members to the Quartermaster asking questions about personal effects or the location of their soldier. In many cases these letters are handwritten, not typed, so researchers get a copy of their ancestor’s handwriting.

Location of IDPFs For those killed while serving in the Army Air Corps – contact the NPRC in St. Louis. For all other service branches send a letter to:

Department of the Army
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
ATTN: AHRC-FOIA
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 107
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5504
 

Join me next week when we will look at some components of a soldier’s file who was unidentified. This is called an X-File. Why do we need to look at these? Because in many cases there are records about other soldiers (possibly yours) within these files. In addition, if the soldier was later identified, these X-Files were incorporated into the IDPF and you will learn a lot more about the cause of death. View James Privonzik’s entire IDPF.

Like what you’ve seen and want to know more? Sign up for my newsletter on my author website. For military research and writing services, or to book a lecture on military records, please contact me through my website Generations.

Want to read this series from the beginning?

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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Tuesday’s Tip – Read “Finding Your Roots”

20140205_103227_resized (2)There are many beginning genealogy books available today. So which ones are the best? That all depends on what you are looking for. I received a review copy of Janice Schultz’s Finding Your Roots and would like to share my thoughts about the book.

The book is laid out similarly to other beginning genealogy books. There are chapters on Getting Started; First Steps; Federal, State, and Local Government Records; Military, Church, and Cemetery Records; Printed and Internet Sources; Immigration, Foreign, Native American and African American Research; and a Putting it all Together chapter.

One thing I really like about this book is Janice breaks things down into manageable pieces and she gives you an Assignment or a Genealogy: Twenty Minutes A Day assignment. She provides specific tasks to help you begin the research, look for records, and find resources without feeling overwhelmed. The book contains a lot of online and offline resources, tips, and suggestions on where to get help. There are greyed in boxes on about every other page that contain a bibliography of books or a list of websites related to the topic being discussed. Valuable information! The book also contains many examples of records and what you can find on each. This is very helpful to new researchers and even experienced ones who have not encountered certain records.

If you are new to research or just need a refresher, pick up Finding Your Roots and take a peek. I think everyone who reads this book will learn something new.

If you are in the Chicago area, my copy will be donated to the Casa Italia Genealogy Department. You can stop by our library to take a peek.

© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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