Military Monday – Check Your Facts

I was recently putting together a timeline for 2nd Lt. Fred A. Davis for my books. I was looking at the notice of his death in the 23 Nov 1944 Chicago Tribune. His widow stated he was the co-pilot of a Liberator Bomber reported missing after a flight over Austria on November 2. What she fails to state, or the reported failed to report, was he went missing November 2, 1943. The War Department was actually reporting his Finding of Death, which was issued a year after he went missing and was unrecovered.

What is the moral of this bit of information? Check your facts. If this was the first piece of information you located on Fred, you might assume he went missing November 2, 1944 and was declared killed in action by the 23rd. In some cases this may be the truth. In Fred’s it was not. Always look for other sources to back up what you find in any source. Humans make errors and when dealing with military records we should assume nothing until we have checked the facts.

Some sources to check in this instance: Morning Reports, Service File, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Missing Air Crew Report (MACR), Bombing Mission Reports, Unit Histories. Those are just a few you can check.

What discrepancies have you located in records and how did you resolve them? I’d love to hear from you.

© 2014, Jennifer Holik Woodridge, IL

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Eccentric? Yes, I Know This To Be True

This morning before I crawled out of bed I was thinking about stepping way out of my comfort zone and showing a side no one sees. I thought about posting something different on my blog I wrote recently that came from an unexpected place in an unexpected form. I was also thinking about something a friend said recently. He has listened to me talk about my work on World War II soldiers for months and just attended one of my lectures. It was something along the lines of ‘I thought you were eccentric but now I understand.’ I responded something like ‘I knew you thought I was crazy by the way you look at me sometimes.’

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but thinking this morning and then reading a blog post by Jeff Goins, Three Things I Know To Be True, made me laugh as once again the universe reminded me just to be me and be amazing. His post also reminded me it is OK to be eccentric and the world will benefit if I am true to myself and keep sharing and doing what I was put here to do. A large part of what I do is teaching and helping people find and tell the stories of their family. Another large part of what I do is creating a better world through my words.

The words I will share today came out of several things I wrote in June this year. Part of it came from an evening sitting under the tree in front of my house while drinking mudslide mix and watching my kids play with their friends. I was doing a stream of consciousness writing after reading Patton quotes. The pages I wrote that night came from one of his quotes about floating down a river of destiny. The other part of it came from the rewrites of my World War II book, The Tiger’s Widow, in which the story moved from biography to love story and into which I was quite surprisingly inserted.

This fall I reread all the pages I wrote that month and found something resembling poetry in it. I wrote several poetry-like pages and found in one, my recent past, the present at the time I wrote it, and something foretelling a dark piece of my future that did come to pass. In another, a reminder to be my authentic self and share my gifts with the world, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

So in the spirit of Jeff’s post, here are my words about more than three things…..

Meandering streams, all connected, flowing gracefully from one point to another.
The key to unlock yourself – just float
Just Be
Winding rivers rush by banks of smooth black stones
Feel the softness under your feet as you walk barefoot under a foot moon
Stomp your feet
Throw your hands in the air and dance to the beat of your heart
Let the primal side of you show
Bare it all
Swing your hips in a seductive way
Slowly…..side to side
Close your eyes and let the music overtake you
Turn in circle around the roaring fire and embrace yourself
With raw emotion
Feel the heat rise in your body
Dance naked under a full mood
Feel the dewy grass under your feet
Embrace the freedom as you dance around the glowing fire
Open the door to your heart and soul
Be vulnerable
Be fearless
Allow the sparks of creativity and joy out of your soul
Let someone worthy catch fire
Let them be inspired and awed by your grace
Speak your mind
Stand up for who you are and what you believe
Be unafraid!
Make no small plans
Rise up from the depths and be amazing
Be a leader, a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves
Tell the stories without fear
Shine and shine brightly no matter what others think
Just be your authentic self —- always
No one can do the job you were put here to do but you……

© 2014 Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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Military Monday – Reconstructing a Military Service File

posterI recently presented my newest lecture “The Day That Lived in Infamy” Navigating World War II Records at the Cook Memorial Public Library District. There is a lot of information to cover in about an hour on the basics of World War II research and what records are available if the service file burned. I spoke a little over an hour and passed out an evaluation form to gather feedback. I received a lot of good comments about the program, the records, and what people learned.

One thing that struck me was a comment that someone wanted to know how to reconstruct a burned military file. Even though that is a lot of what I covered, I never used the words Use these records to reconstruct a file. I will make sure I use those words in my future talks, workshops, and in the book series I’m finishing.

For those unfamiliar with why someone would ask about reconstructing a military file, a bit of history. There was a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in 1973. Roughly 80% of the Army and Air Corps records burned. You can read all about it here. NPRC 1973 Fire

Now, there are many records you can obtain to tell the story of your soldier and trace his service. The NPRC has the following paragraph near the bottom of their explanation of the fire if you read that far.

These alternate sources have played a vital role in the NPRC’s efforts to reconstruct service files. Some of the more important records used by the NPRC to supplement damage files include: Veterans Administration (VA) claims files, individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers (MPV) from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System (SSS) registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), as well as medical records from military hospitals, entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records. Many work hours were spent making these sources usable. Efforts included: the transfer of records to the NPRC, screening projects and securing access to VA computer records.

There are other records you can use to trace service, like Morning Reports, which are not specifically listed in NPRC’s explanation of alternate record sources. Morning Reports can help you trace a soldier throughout his service (usually) if the clerk indicated into what unit he was going or from what unit he came when transferred.

To learn more about records for tracing military service, subscribe to my blog and newsletter, and attend one of my upcoming programs.

© Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, IL

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