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OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2

 
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OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 8:47:52 PM   
Rusty1961

 

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How does one today use the internet to locate which units a relative served in during WW2?

Thank you.
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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 9:28:25 PM   
Chickenboy


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Rusty1961

How does one today use the internet to locate which units a relative served in during WW2?

Thank you.


I am also interested to find out more about my uncle that was involved in the Ardennes fighting ("The bulge").

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 9:37:16 PM   
Canoerebel


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Many/most American units of any size had "alumni" organizations with annual meetings or, at a minimum, websites. Also, most units maintained logs or made after action reports that are at National Archives or other repositories - the Navy, Marines, Army and other branches have records, with possibly duplicates at National Archives. Then there are the big museums, some devoted to D-Day, some to specific units (8th Army Air Force, etc.) others to battles.

Usually, I start with a general internet search (Google) and read the broad info on sites like Wiki. Often, those will direct you to more specific sources of information.

As for individuals, there are records maintained (I think) at U.S. facility in St. Louis. I can't recall if it has records for all military personnel or just U.S. Army. Once you track down the repository with the information about an individual, you can order it. The record should include the units he served with, various ranks and fitness reports, etc.

A for instance: A few years ago I was interested in information about Private Harris Steele, KIA at Iwo Jima, 4th Marine Division. I found his personal files at the Marine Archives in Quantico and ordered a copy.

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 9:39:48 PM   
Canoerebel


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Here's a decent starting point:

https://www.archives.gov/research/order/order-vets-records.html

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 10:20:46 PM   
Korvar


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A lot depends upon in which branch he served during what years.

The 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed the majority of US Army and USAAF/Air Force records from the early 20th Century to the mid-1960s. A small number of US Navy, USMC, and Coast Guard records were also destroyed, but nowhere near the same amount. The records which were destroyed had no known copies made, so if they were destroyed, they're gone.

That said, the National Archives are a mandatory stop to see what you can find. The link Canoerebel posted is how you go about starting the formal request. If you can luck out and get a hold of any portion of his service record, then of course that will be the best source of reliable data. Be aware that they only give information with the veteran's written permission if he/she is living and only to a next of kin if the veteran is deceased, so you may need to involve others depending on your situation. The Archives folks will be able to provide specific guidance.

There's one other thing to try for official records if his were lost in the fire. It can be somewhat of a 'chicken and the egg' scenario, but if you know that he served overseas at a US base, especially in Europe, there were independent records kept there. The process for exploring that route depends on the particulars of each case. In addition, if you can ID at least one unit to which the veteran was attached at some point, the vast majority of units have well-established histories that you can at least glean general info from (where the unit was stationed & when at the very least) which then can shine more light on other pieces of info you have specific to your relative.

A very helpful thing to do once you've made a request for official records is to gather up any documentation, pictures, medals, awards, etc. that you can. Copies/photos are OK too, you don't need originals necessarily, just the clues/information they can provide. The best bet for photographs is early in the vet's service, typically during some phase of training they received. Cadets/trainees almost always get their picture taken at some point. If the most 'obvious' documentation (for example, discharge papers, otherwise known as a DD-214) is not forthcoming, then think of any associated documentation which might exist. Think of if the veteran was married when they served, and if the spouse lived on base(s) with the veteran at any particular time. Spouses are also commonly issued ID cards, PX cards (for the on-base store), and whatnot as part of living on base. It's also another person with a separate personality - sometimes a vet who may not have been the best at keeping records has a spouse who was much better at such things (opposites attract, right!?).

Then start searches online using whatever bits of information you were able to gather. If there's anyone you trust with personal info, you can have them look as well for a 2nd pair of eyes. If you need help identifying things which aren't too personal, perhaps a unit patch, a ribbon/pin on a uniform, you can give selective information on a forum like this one so folks who are familiar with the military/history can give feedback.

I've helped others with the process, let me know if there's anything I can do to help.

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/12/2018 11:16:24 PM   
pnzrgnral

 

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Never having known my biological father - he and my Mom were divorced when I was 4, and he disappeared afterwards - I did a records search using the link provided by the VA website. I knew he was n the Navy and served in the Korean War, but that's all I knew. The process was simple, with some paperwork to fill out. I received his records after maybe 3 months' time. He enlisted in '47, was posted to the DD USS Zellars in the Atlantic, and was due to ETS when Korea broke out - he was stop/lossed when his destroyer division was reassigned to Korean waters. He spent a total of 8 years in the USN, entering as a SA and leaving as the same (his records had some interesting disciplinary stuff which I won't go into here!) Having served in the US Army for 21 years, it was easy to "read between the lines" and decipher the Navy's more technical stuff from his records. Best of luck to your search - and be sure to request "any and all records" on your family member, Rusty!

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/13/2018 2:27:34 AM   
Rusty1961

 

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I suspect my dad's files were destroyed in the '73 fire.

Thus, working backwards, any way I can find the muster logs for units deployed at Ft. Ord in 12/41, Melbourne 3/42 and PM in '42?


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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/13/2018 3:45:28 AM   
rms1pa

 

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you also may try the us army heritage museum Carlisle Pa.

rms/pa

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/13/2018 5:30:23 AM   
Korvar


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One such resource you can use is Fold3 by Ancestry.com. The full documents are behind a paywall, but you can actually glean a lot of information without registering or becoming a member. You might be able to find documentation such as his Draft Registration Card. You can also get a free 7-day trial if you're willing to give them a credit card & remember cancelling before it charges (or you can select a membership option if that interests you).

Even better is to use the NARA Search (look for a green 'Search AAD' towards the top of the page). Start by searching for his name (first and last).

Hopefully you will get some hits on the 'World War II Army Enlistment Records - Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File' database, which will look something like this:




If you find this, click the 'View Records' button and find his name. There are little blank white pages to the far left which will allow you to pull up individual records. Also note that there might be multiple pages, so you might not find his record on the 1st page. There should be small page number links at the bottom of the records. If you do find his record, it will contain the 'paydirt' on the 1st line: his Army Serial Number, as well as some interesting info such as where he enlisted. The Army Serial Number will allow you to make much better requests for official documentation, as it is a powerful index number for clerks to cross-reference when digging up docs.

Consider this a hypothesis at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if your dad was part of the 32nd Infantry Division. It pretty closely meshes with the duty stations and dates you provided. The good news is that there weren't many units sent to Oz that early - the 32nd itself was essentially an emergency garrison sent to help calm the Aussies down and justify them not recalling all of their own divisions which were abroad. The "bad" news is that even if the hypothesis is correct, you're still at the Divisional level... so I'd consider it 'getting warm' but obviously you'd want to know Regimental details, etc. At least the Army changed to the triangular Divisional org chart right around that time, so you'll only have three Regiments to choose from instead of four. Then it's only finding out which part of the 10,000+ personnel strong outfit was your dad part of...

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/13/2018 2:41:01 PM   
Rusty1961

 

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Thanks,guys. I appreciate your efforts tremendously.

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/13/2018 11:44:30 PM   
Korvar


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I thought about it more today and realized that the 41st Infantry Division should also be considered. It was sent along with the 32nd to Oz as part of the I Corps. Very similar early WW2 service record to that of the 32nd. The 41st has Melbourne as its port of entry to Oz, while the 32nd was shipped to Adeliade (not too far from Melbourne in the grand scheme of things). On the other hand, it seems that at least part of the 32nd was stationed at Fort Ord before shipping out to Oz, whereas the 41st mustered in Washington State and shipped out from San Francisco and the East Coast from what I can tell.

You'll probably want to take a look around the 32nd's Veteran's Association webpage to see if you can find your Dad's name mentioned somewhere. They also have some good tips about where to look for more information:

quote:



1. How can I learn more about my relative’s service with the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division during WWI or WWII?

a. You could try to obtain copies of his service records from the National Personnel Records Center, which is part of the National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/ or http://www.archives.gov/veterans/. Unfortunately there was a disastrous fire in 1973 that destroyed many records from WWI and WWII, but some records survived. Another section of the site has additional suggestions for research: http://www.archives.gov/research/military/veterans/.

b. Check with the state historical society and the state veteran museum where he lived before or after the war, they may have some records about him or his unit.

c. Check with the local historical society where he lived when he entered the military. Many communities kept pretty good information about local Soldiers during wartime. Some communities compiled this information and published books detailing local Veterans’ experiences.

d. Check with the local VA office where he lived after he returned from the war. If he applied for any of the VA benefits that he earned, then they should have a file on him, which would contain some information about his military service. If he did not survive the war but had dependents, you can still try this because his dependents may have been able to use some of the benefits he earned.

e. The county courthouse where he lived after the war may also be a resource. Today in the military we are encouraged to file our separation documents at our local courthouse, that way there will always be a certified copy of these important documents if we lose our personal copy. I do not know how far back this practice started, but it is worth a try. During WWII the separation document was usually “WD AGO FORM 53-55”. I do not think there was a specific form for this during WWI, because my great-grandfather’s separation document was a simple, half page memorandum.

f. Search through the old, local newspapers where he lived when he entered the military. Local Soldiers often made the local paper, more often in small towns, but sometimes in large cities as well. This can be time consuming, yet very rewarding. If you do not live in the same community he lived in at that time, you can obtain copies of these newspapers on microfilm through an interlibrary loan at your local library. Plus, everyday more and more newspaper archives can be found on the internet.

g. If he belonged to the VFW, American Legion, or some other Veteran’s organization, then it is possible that someone at the local post might have known him and might be able to provide some useful information. Some posts maintain detailed information about their current and past members, some posts do not.

h. Check with family, even distant relatives. Some relative might have letters, mementos, records, or other pertinent information your Veteran sent home during the war. Some relative may also have a scrap book of newspaper clippings or other mementos.


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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/14/2018 5:33:22 PM   
Rusty1961

 

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Thank you! Lots of information there. I see he wasn't listed on the Honor roll of the 32nd so that eliminates that, I think?

Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

I know he was stationed near Melbourne in July/August of '42 as that is the city he met my mom!

(in reply to Korvar)
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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/14/2018 9:09:50 PM   
Korvar


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I believe the Honor Roll is only for those members who were lost in the line of duty, and even then it is only about 50% complete because a single list was never compiled for the 32nd during/after the war. To my knowledge it is a best effort compilation of many, many sources of information.

Try searching Google for:
[your Dad's name] site:www.32nd-division.org


You might want to try some variations - first & last only, with middle initial, and full name.

Currently we can only speak in terms of probability as it's hard to say anything with certainty. The Fort Ord connection leans towards the 32nd, as part of it was actually stationed there while the 41st was not. Fort Ord was also a training base which included basic training, so it's possible as well that your Dad was part of the 41st but completed some portion of his training at Fort Ord. Due to the anticipation of war and certainly when war was declared, a lot of the standard procedures went 'out the window'. Standard Army practice at the time was to allow a unit to train for a full year, but things quickly changed according to the 32nd's Wiki page:

quote:

[when the 32nd entered combat] nearly one-third of its troops had been in boot camp only five months previously.


The Melbourne connection leans heavily in favor of the 41st. It was actually stationed in Melbourne upon arrival in Oz; some of its troops landed in Sydney but apparently were sent by rail and/or a few smaller Dutch transports to Melbourne to join up with the rest of the unit. Even then it's not certain because both Divisions were sent initially to secure Australia's ports and key cities, so it's likely that elements from both Divisions were sent wherever they were needed. It's certainly possible elements of the 32nd ended up in Melbourne as the 32nd's camps were built just outside of Adelaide.

As for the timeline, it doesn't tell us anything for certain other than it's very, very likely that your Dad was part of either the 32nd or 41st. Both arrived in Oz April of '42. The 32nd was the 1st to ship out to New Guinea in the middle of September. The 41st followed in December with both landing at Port Moresby for the push to Buna.

One interesting thing I found:
quote:

In July the [41st] division moved by rail to Rockhampton, Queensland.


The 41st landed in Melbourne, but was shipped out to Northeastern Oz right around the time you know your Dad was in Melbourne. It could be that he stayed longer for some reason and caught up with the Division later OR it could be that elements of the 32nd were moved into Melbourne to take over security duties while the 41st shipped out.

Did you have any luck with the enlistment search? You'll be well on your way once you get your Dad's Army Serial Number. I would try to get that so you can include it on your official requests to the National Archives. Also browse information about both Divisions. Maybe a unit patch or particular detail of one of their service records will stand out to you. For example, the 41st was sent in two groups - one departed New York and transited the Panama Canal on its way to Oz. The other group sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and departed San Francisco. Sailing on the Queen Elizabeth or going through the Panama Canal might be things your Dad would mention if he ever told stories about his service in WW2. Something like that might spark your own memory and give you another clue.

I also highly recommend that you look through the histories of both Divisions.

32nd Infantry Division in WWII

The Jungleers: A History of the 41st Infantry Division

Whether you download them as PDFs or view them online, do searches for your Dad's name in different variations, including just his last name. You can use Ctrl + F to bring the search function up in Adobe Reader if you go the PDF route.

Take a look at just two pages from the 41st' history - a full map and timeline!




Let me know if you need me to help with anything. I take this seriously as it's the least we can do to honor the memory of 'The Greatest Generation'. I've encountered the same attitude when I've needed to involve active duty service members in a search (usually for an Honor Guard detail at a funeral). Families are sometimes worried that they'll need X, Y, and Z documentation for proof, but they don't realize the military is more concerned with 'leaving one of their own behind' so to speak than making sure all the paperwork is square. One of these contacts concerned a Veteran who enlisted with the Army Air Corps and was still serving when it became the Air Force in '47. Both services responded with, "When and where?" and coordinated a dual Honor Guard.

That said, you and your family deserve to know what your Dad accomplished.

< Message edited by Korvar -- 4/15/2018 5:12:06 AM >


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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/16/2018 5:55:07 PM   
Skyros


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One other option is to call you Senators or Congressmen and see if they will be able to find anything. I called mine and was able to get a copy of my dads Navy record from WWII. It had all of his scores from boot camp and specialty classes as well as a detailed listing of posts and the one ship he was assigned to. This is a constituent service that they do perform so take advantage of it.

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/16/2018 7:59:06 PM   
USSAmerica


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Korvar

One such resource you can use is Fold3 by Ancestry.com. The full documents are behind a paywall, but you can actually glean a lot of information without registering or becoming a member. You might be able to find documentation such as his Draft Registration Card. You can also get a free 7-day trial if you're willing to give them a credit card & remember cancelling before it charges (or you can select a membership option if that interests you).

Even better is to use the NARA Search (look for a green 'Search AAD' towards the top of the page). Start by searching for his name (first and last).

Hopefully you will get some hits on the 'World War II Army Enlistment Records - Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File' database, which will look something like this:




If you find this, click the 'View Records' button and find his name. There are little blank white pages to the far left which will allow you to pull up individual records. Also note that there might be multiple pages, so you might not find his record on the 1st page. There should be small page number links at the bottom of the records. If you do find his record, it will contain the 'paydirt' on the 1st line: his Army Serial Number, as well as some interesting info such as where he enlisted. The Army Serial Number will allow you to make much better requests for official documentation, as it is a powerful index number for clerks to cross-reference when digging up docs.

Consider this a hypothesis at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if your dad was part of the 32nd Infantry Division. It pretty closely meshes with the duty stations and dates you provided. The good news is that there weren't many units sent to Oz that early - the 32nd itself was essentially an emergency garrison sent to help calm the Aussies down and justify them not recalling all of their own divisions which were abroad. The "bad" news is that even if the hypothesis is correct, you're still at the Divisional level... so I'd consider it 'getting warm' but obviously you'd want to know Regimental details, etc. At least the Army changed to the triangular Divisional org chart right around that time, so you'll only have three Regiments to choose from instead of four. Then it's only finding out which part of the 10,000+ personnel strong outfit was your dad part of...


This is great information! I just found my Step-Grandfather's enlistment record, including his Army Serial Number, in 30 seconds.

Thanks for posting, Korvar!

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RE: OT: Locating Unit Father served in during WW2 - 4/17/2018 1:36:52 AM   
Korvar


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You're most welcome!

The good news is that whatever documentation does exist in official archives will be much easier to locate with his Army Serial Number, should you wish to pursue further information. Names are not always the most reliable means of searching because they are more prone to original errors in the document as well as OCR (optical character recognition) processes when the documents are digitized. Even just the variations in how a name can be formatted (full names, initials, partial names, etc.) A solider's name could be completely missing or be written with illegible handwriting but the document would still get to where it needed to go if the serial number is present and legible.

A missing/incorrect serial number on the vaccination paperwork, for example, and it's two rounds of shots for you, solider! I don't care if I was the one who gave them to you yesterday! Paperwork says you don't have 'em - right butt cheek, please!

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