Barbara Krasner-Khait examines the records available.
MY FATHER WAS
a Tech Sergeant in the US Army Air Force, 1226th Quartermaster
Company. He was responsible for the food. This seemed natural
as his parents owned a grocery store and he knew the business
inside and out.
Krasner's official wartime photograph."
But it was only after
his death in 1997 that I began to understand how much his WWII
service meant to him. As I rummaged through his desk drawer,
crammed with ancient manila folders, I found a V-day copy of
the Stars and Stripes. I found tons of photos and negatives
of friends and comrades during training and in the field. I
found aerial shots over London. I also found photos of him with
his mother's first cousin, Bernie Adler, taken in London in
1945. The Adlers left Galicia during WWI to escape the activity
on the front line and settled in Vienna. Bernhard and his brother
Murray left Vienna in the late 1930s. Their parents and sister
were deported to Minsk and were never heard from again.
My aunt told stories
of my father's efforts to get into cadet school. He needed to
get his weight down and walked for blocks and blocks everyday
to meet the requirements. I found letters of recommendation.
On 17 March 1942 he entered military service, specifically the
Army Air Forces Pre-flight School (Navigation-Bombardier) in
Monroe, Louisiana. From there, he progressed to the Army Air
Forces Advanced Navigation School in Monroe, Louisiana. But
navigation eluded him. He became a supply sergeant.
Sometimes as family
historians we focus on what's "old" but not on events and documents
of the 20th century. If you have or have had a WWII veteran
in your family, now's the time to do your research. Here's how.
Home Sources Interviews.
If you haven't already documented your family's WWII service,
begin by asking veterans and other relatives questions about
their experiences. Through a conversation with a second cousin,
Stanhope, New Jersey-based researcher Barbara Klein Meyers discovered
that another second cousin, Artie Klein, was a war hero and
died on Okinawa for his troops. There was an abridged story
about him in Reader's Digest in the 1980s. She contacted
the Army and received the unabridged version that appeared in
an Army magazine.
Dianna's grandmother fell and hit her head after reading
this telegram about her son."
Suzanne Pauza Dianna's
father never spoke much about the war other than to say it was
cold and they covered themselves with newspapers to keep warm.
But after a stroke two years ago, "he was talking as if he were
still in the military, about women and needing a cigarette.
I wish that I listened and asked more questions, because he
only lived a couple more days. I think it was then when I started
to realize that there was more to my father's life."
had never heard of V-mail until my aunt mentioned it. She gave
me sample letters from my father and his brother to their parents.
Letters of recommendation from hometown employers spoke of my
father as an exemplary worker. I was amazed that he still had
copies of these letters from January 1942.
Denise Feldman of
Baton Rouge, Louisiana has a scrapbook containing information
her grandmother kept of her grandfather's 25 missions as a bombardier.
She also has a trunk with every letter he ever wrote to her
grandmother while he was away. Feldman says, "Because he was
'at war,' my grandmother wasn't allowed to know exactly where
he was, but they came up with their own little code in his letter
writing so she would know exactly where he was when he wrote
Dianna has two V-mail
letters. The first is from France to her grandmother asking
for long stockings and paper. About the other letter, she says,
"I cried when I first read it, it was also written in France.
In that letter, my father was talking about buying a log cabin
near the lake for his mother and father so they may go fishing
anytime they like. He also asked about his girlfriend and for
candy. He stated the paper he was writing on cost him $12."
But then there was
a dreaded form of communication - the Western Union telegram.
Dianna says, "It said he was wounded on 20 March 1945. My aunt,
who is 12 years younger than my father, remembers when that
telegram came. Her mother, my grandmother, actually fainted
and hit her head against the wall when it was read."
Letter writing can
aid your research. For instance, the catalyst for Meyers' phone
conversation with her second cousin was a letter she wrote to
the widow of another relative. She says, "The woman was ill
and older so she sent my letter to him and asked that he contact
My father had kept all his discharge and separation papers.
From this I knew that he enlisted on 17 March 1942. As Supply
Technician, he "supervised 35 men in station Quartermaster,
filling orders and receiving military supplies and equipment.
Prepared and consolidated requisitions and purchase orders.
Was overseas for 18 months in the European Theater of Operations."
His discharge papers disclosed he was awarded the American Theater
Ribbon, European-Africa-Middle Eastern Ribbon, the Good Conduct
Medal and the Victory Medal.
portraits of her three sons in service once adorned the walls
of my grandmother's home and now all are stacked against the
walls of my mother's basement. I'm fortunate that my father
came home from the war with many personal photos, both casual
and official, group shots and aerial shots. The photos followed
his military career from training to the European theater.
Internet mailing lists and newsgroups give you the opportunity
to ask questions about individuals, campaigns and battles, regiments,
battalions, and companies.
Betsy Rich Gilon's father was a doctor at one of the Air Force
hospitals in East Anglia. She began researching her father's
WWII history about four years ago. She started by studying the
area where he served, leading to a research trip to England.
She met people who were with him and spoke with one man on the
phone who had worked with him. She says, "I found all this out
by posting messages on WWII message boards. I got an answer
from some fellow who turned me on to another fellow and so on."
Dianna posted a query
to GenForum's WWII message board, looking for anyone who might
have known her father, Anthony Pauza, from Company F 260th Infantry.
That same day, she received two responses. One stated the 260th
Infantry was part of the 65th Infantry Division and provided
two addresses for the division's veterans association. The other
response gave her a brief history of the division.
Death Index. Naomi Fatouros of Bloomington, Indiana has
been able to track down information on her uncle's service by
starting with the Social Security Death Index at Ancestry.com.
He turned out to be a research analyst for the Nuremberg trials
and clerk of the court at Ansbach. He had been an Army interrogator,
serving with Army Intelligence. She says, "Thanks to Horace
Feldman's Social Security Death Record and also a biographical
reference I later found during one of Ancestry.com's free search
offer periods, I was able to learn more precisely what Horace
did while he was in the army. I went to Indiana University's
library to check that reference for him in the 1966 edition
of Who's Who in Library Services."
Cadet Ground School in Monroe, Louisana."
National Personnel Records Center. Under the Freedom
of Information Act, you can download Form 180 from NARA (www.nara.gov/regional/mpr.html)
to request 20th-century service records from the National Personnel
Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132. Bear
in mind that due to a 1973 fire, a large amount of information
has been lost. Eighty percent of the information on Army personnel
discharged between 1 November 1912 and 1 January 1960 no longer
exists. The same goes for 75 percent of the information on Air
Force personnel discharged between 25 September 1947 and 1 January
1964 (with alphabetic names after Hubbard, James E.). However,
there are some alternative sources of information, including
final pay vouchers and medical data.
the US Army Military History Institute. Founded in 1967,
the USAMHI is the primary research facility for the history
of the US Army and the Army's official central repository. Its
holdings include manuscripts, maps, oral histories, photographs,
and other printed material. Online finding aids will help to
determine what materials the institute may have that relate
to your research.
War Graves Commission.
If your relatives were killed while serving in the forces of
the British Commonwealth, you may find the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission helpful. Founded by Royal Charter in 1917,
the commission has the responsibility to mark and maintain graves
of those killed in the two world wars. Its members include the
UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.
You can search surnames using the commission's online register.
Dianna hasn't had much to go on in order to research her father's
WWII past. She says, "Almost all of his personal papers and
medals - except for the purple heart - were auctioned off
when his mother died. The papers and letters I did get were
in a metal box that I found in a closet in his apartment."
WWII impacted our
families more than we probably know. If you've got relatives
who served, line up those interviews now and ask for copies
of letters, documents and photos. It will help you flesh out
your family's history, provide the opportunity for sharing,
and record the history for posterity.
The thing I remember
most from my father's funeral was the special ceremony conducted
by the Jewish War Veterans. My father was very proud of his
service, even if he didn't get to fly. And according to my
mother, that was a good thing. He did not go on his first
flight mission. Those who went did not return.
article originally appeared in our March/April 2002 issue.