Are you wasting Time and Money on World War II research that may not pertain to your soldier?

I’ve spent a lot of time on social media and email answering the same/similar questions or commenting on posts to clear up misinformation. A lot of people have been posting that their family member served in a specific unit they got off a Discharge Paper without doing the research necessary to confirm there were no other units. It’s been my experience the last 10 years of research that in 95% of cases, service members were in more than one unit.

When you attempt to chase down the unit history of that discharge unit you are wasting time and money. It is vital you get the service file (OMPF) and do the appropriate branch research at NPRC or online to determine the correct units someone was in. Only then should you start pursuing unit records.

In an attempt to help researchers to stop wasting their time and money on World War II research, here are a few tips.

Do your homework and make sure your soldier/airmen/sailor/Marine was in the unit you think he was or he told you he was.

Why is this important? A lot of researchers (family members) have vague information or a few stories with which to begin research. They hear their father/grandfather/uncle (whomever) was in the 82nd Airborne or 1st Infantry Division and they go looking for all the history they can about that Division from a high level. They look for books hoping to catch a glimpse of their family member’s name. Some even go so far as to order unit records from College Park to get the big picture. Yet, they still have no real idea of when and how long their family member was actually in that unit.

Researchers need to start at the beginning – with their soldier and the “small” picture.

For example, I’ve had many clients come to me and tell me their father was in a particular unit and fought in several European Theater Campaigns. Once I conducted research into where they were, what units, and when, the story was not always what the family thought it was. Sometimes a soldier was in a Replacement Depot or Hospital part of the war and missed a lot of campaigns. You cannot assume just because his unit participated in a list of campaigns, that he was present.

How do you find out which units he was actually part of?

Start the research with the “small” picture of the soldier’s service history. You can start this on your own by reading my books, Stories from the World War II BattlefieldThese are the ONLY books on the market that teach you how to do the research, even if the records burned.

I give a step-by-step account of how to dig into the records. Volume 1 covers Army, Air Corps, and National Guard Records in 300+ pages. Volume 2 covers Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marines in 400+ pages. I hold a researcher’s hand and guide them through searching for basic information at home, provide checklists of where to look for information, and then guide them through the record retrieval process and analysis of information. Want to know how to organize your materials and write the stories? Volume 3 is coming out soon!

Another option is to request the service file from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. If it didn’t burn and you have a unit down to the company level, you can make an appointment to visit and and search Army Morning Reports (Army, Air Corps, National Guard.) Other service branches have records online at Ancestry.com – Navy or Marine Corps Muster Rolls.

Where can you learn more about World War II research? Have you tried collaboration?

Talk to other researchers, especially professionals, or those who have been working on a particular unit for many years. Contact military museums and libraries and research institutions that hold military records.

Attend a program or lecture series or watch webinars. I speak in both the U.S. and Europe on how to research World War II service and write the stories. The webinars or NARA Genealogy Fair programs which you can view online, give high level all wars overviews of records. They do not tell you how to do the research step by step.

I am available to speak in other locations than Chicago. Please contact me through to discuss program options.

Read blogs and online articles and magazine articles, on World War II for both a view of the big picture and how others have located information. Everyone has their own way of locating information and everyone has a different starting point. All avenues and starting points provide valuable lessons in research and analysis. Many who blog about their research and findings will tell you what when ‘right’ and what went ‘wrong’ in the process. This is a form of collaboration which is so important in research.

When do you need to hire a researcher?

When you cannot or chose not do do the research yourself. Some people hire me because they have no idea what to do, or do not have the time or desire to do the research themselves. Others hire me because I can obtain records in places that require an in-person visit. World War II records are held all over the U.S., not only in St. Louis or College Park.

Professional researchers know the ins and outs of research in various repositories. Researchers know where the records are, how to get them, how to analyze them and where to go next. They are also able to research and copy record that may require an in-person visit. For example, NPRC will allow you to mail in Form 180 and request a search of the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). They will not then go search Morning Reports and tell you where your soldier was and in which units. Usually, you will receive a letter stating his file burned if he was Army, Air Corps, National Guard.

Professionals are good at connecting the dots and thinking outside the box for research resources. One thing I am VERY good at is piecing together service histories from almost nothing. You can read testimonials here. I also have a vast network of researchers around the world I work with, some of whom are in the Research Collective, others are not listed. No one person knows everything about any topic. Collaboration is key when researching World War II service.

Professional researchers can help clear up misconceptions, questionable photographs and documents a family holds. I had one client provide me with his family story that his father was part of D-Day, and also photographs, one of which stated, ‘June 1944 Normandy, 2nd time around.’  This caption written on the back made no sense because the majority of people who were involved in D-Day kept on fighting and moving out of the area or those who were seriously wounded were shipped to England and didn’t return to France right away.

Upon further research, the only explanation I could give for that photograph was, ‘I have no idea why that caption is there and here is why.’ The explanation was his father was in England with his unit until after the invasion happened. His unit was a new one formed in April 1944 and had no amphibious training. Therefore, they were not part of D-Day. I proved this through several military documents. Also, this unti departed England after D-Day and sat in the Channel for many days because of the bad storm that ripped through there mid-June. This unit disembarked 27 June through Utah and Omaha Beaches. From there, the unit began moving out of Normandy. There was no way, based on the records, he was in Normandy twice in June 1944, as the photo suggested.

I offer fully cited, detailed reports of service with the option to write a book about your soldier. A lot of people have trouble deciphering the military language and abbreviations. Professional researchers are skilled in this and can provide a more detailed accounting of a soldier’s service. All of my reports are fully cited with all the sources from which the information came so anyone can re-create my steps. I also provide copies of all records obtained, a bibliography of other materials and research suggestions.

The other thing I do, which many researchers do not, is write and publish a book about your soldier’s life. My background is in history and genealogy. I have written countless books for clients on their family’s history and military ancestors.

The main point here is to do your homework before investing a lot of time and money in the big picture of the war. Research on your own or with a professional. Both are valuable options to consider.

Additional Resources

Contact me to set up a free phone consult to discuss a research project.

Explore all our webinars and online courses at the following sites:

WWII Education

Finding the Answers Journey

© 2020 Research A Veteran

When I lecture in the U.S. and Europe, or talk to people I don’t know online, the one question they always ask me is, ‘Why did you start researching World War II or any of the 20th century wars?’My business did not start out in military research, but genealogy. When I was finishing my history degree I took a class in 1996 which required a family history project. Once I started, I was hooked. Being Czech, as far as I had traced in 1998, I was determined to finish my degree, return to Chicago and become a great Chicago Czech researcher.

Funny how we make plans and life happens……A year after I started my business in 2010, I began working with an Italian American in Chicago. Five years later I became a Chicago Italian researcher with an expertise on the people from Ricigliano, Italy and surrounding villages. Even in 2019, I am still working with this client. His project went very quickly beyond a few generations. Each year I create several books for him documenting his entire family from past to present, with photographs, biographies, and stories. This client has written many pieces of what is becoming his memoir. I know my Italian client’s family better than my own Czech ancestors.

Robert Brouk

By the end of the the 2nd year of my business, I had published several books. One on my cousin, the Flying Tiger Robert Brouk, and several Genealogy teaching books for kids and adults. This laid the foundation for what was to come.

So how did I move from genealogy to military research? Over the course of several years of personal research into my own family’s military history, my relatives who died in service pushed me to research their stories. So I did. I researched and wrote about my WWI great grand uncle Michael Kokoska, KIA in France 1918. My Flying Tiger cousin, killed during training pilots after his AVG service ended in 1942. My cousin Frank Winkler, KIA in France in 1944. My cousin and guide for many years, James Privoznik, KIA in Belgium during the Bulge in 1945. I wrote a lecture, Finishing the Story, to help educate genealogists on some of the records I was using. That led to a book called, Stories of the Lost, where I told the stories of all those men. Along with that book, I also released the second in that series called The Tiger’s Widow, which is about the widow of Robert Brouk, Virginia Brouk, who became a WAAC then WAC in 1943 and served in Egypt.

The more I researched and looked for resources to help the process along, I realized there really were not any. Anything that did exist was so out of date, the information was basically useless. Records access changes all the time. The only book I found focused on the Army and had one chapter dedicated to records. In my mind, this lack of educational materials was unacceptable. 

I began researching service men and women across all branches of the military during WWII. With each individual, and each client who hired me, I learned more about how to research and how to write the stories. I was connected with researchers overseas who live in the Philippines and Europe, research adopted soldiers, specific units or battles, or doing Missing In Action research. These connections led to a lot of sharing of information between us and the ability to connect with other people on both sides of the ponds. I also read several “expert” websites to see what information was being shared. One expert in particular really irritates me every time I read his answers. There is a lot we can learn from those who irritate us – the question is, how do we take this and turn it into something positive to help others.

The more I read online, the more I see there is a lot of misinformation being given to people about WWII research and records access, even from genealogists doing research today. Researchers should stay on top of these issues and disseminate current information. The question was, how could I change all the misinformation being spread?

The answer came in the form of several more lectures which teach people how to research. It also led to the creation of the only books on the market today, which teach people in the U.S. and Europe, HOW to research and write the stories of American service men or women across any branch.

Luxembourg James Flag (54)My genealogy to WWII journey has taken me down many interesting roads. It led me across the sea to Europe where I’ve created a life there with my Dutch husband Johan. Actually I live two lives – one in Chicago and one in Europe from time to time. Makes for interesting stories, experiences, and life. My journey often led me down deep, dark, emotional trails to help me grow and change. Military research is not all sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows. It causes us to examine things we prefer to avoid, and feel things we may have held apart from our hearts for a long time. It sometimes brings to the surface the secrets, lies, darkness that our family has tried to hide. I have helped many clients process these results over the last decade.

 

The most important part of the journey is that my research, writing, and speaking has provided a lot of education and healing for myself, the service members I research, and their families. For this I am extremely grateful. I truly have the best job and am living my life’s purpose. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Where will the road or airplane lead next? I have some plans and ideas that are exciting. You’ll have to come back and keep reading to see what happens!

Why did you start researching World War II? Please share your story with us in the comments.

 

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

© 2019 Jennifer Holik

All the records burned and I cannot tell my soldier or Airman’s story!

How many times have you heard that phrase uttered by Army, Air Forces, and National Guard WWII researchers? I’ve heard so many people give up and continue to pass the myth around Facebook that nothing can be done. But did you know there is a record set that will help you reconstruct military service? Even if the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) or service file burned, you can still find out what happened to your soldier or airman from beginning of service to end, with this record set.

What people do not realize is there is a hidden gem in the records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. A record set that will provide the foundation researchers need to reconstruct service history from start to finish, especially if they are creative with their research. What is the gem?

Company Morning Reports

I Co 504th PIR Morning Reports-3A Morning Report was created each day outlining events of the prior day for the events of a Company. To locate information in Morning Reports you must know the Company in which your soldier served. It is not enough to know in which division or regiment. The Company can be found on a discharge paper or IDPF or any other letter or document that has a unit listed on it. Morning Reports can be traced in any direction based on the information you have.

Morning Reports listed many details about the company which include:
  • The location of the company for the date of the report.
  • Strength of the unit in numbers of men
  • Details of those entering and leaving the company
  • Names of those declared AWOL, Missing In Action, Killed In Action, or wounded.
  • The reports also provided information on the day’s events. Some clerks reported weather conditions, in addition to the usual information on where the unit was fighting, and other enemy encounters.

The companies were required to report numbers of men at each meal, which provided information to the Army, who then was able to provide food and appropriate supplies for the soldiers. These numbers also alerted headquarters when the ranks were depleted and replacements were needed.

Morning Reports are useful because they can help you track a soldier’s service from start to finish, as long as the company clerk included all the details of the entrance and exit of a soldier, showing where he came from, and where he was going. Not all company clerks did this or had the time to do this. If you cannot find detailed information within a Morning Report, consider the battle conditions under which the clerks were trying to compile reports.

Analyzing a Morning Report

The Morning Report shown in this post is for I Company 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Infantry Division. What can we learn from this report?

  • Date of the report
  • Location (but be careful with Airborne reports because their station is reported as being in England, but if you keep looking at the reports, you will end up at month’s end learning the company is really in Holland and has been there several days.)  Always check other records to ensure your soldier’s company was where you think it was.
  • We see Robert Wagner listed as going from duty to slighting injured in action. We have his serial number and rank. Knowing he was injured adds to his timeline of service we can create. Had he been removed from the company, that would have been noted.
  • We know how many men are in the company this date.
  • We have a record of events which helps us locate additional histories and records.

How do we access these records?

You can hire a researcher to pull the records or you can visit the National Personnel Records Center yourself and go through the microfilm.

To learn more about Morning Reports, see my books Stories from the World War II Battlefield, which provide a more in-depth look at these records. You can also see several examples at the 134th Infantry Regiment 35th Infantry Division website.

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time. You can also sign-up for our free newsletter to receive tips and coupons for our research webinars and classes.

©  2020 Research A Veteran

Abbreviations, codes, numbers, and ……. confusion.


Is this how you feel sometimes when you are looking for World War II information?

Sometimes the most difficult part of starting World War I or World War II research is locating vital pieces of information to move a search forward. This is especially important if the Official Military Personnel File burned. Are you looking for information on a service man or woman’s service number, unit, enlistment and discharge dates? The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, has a great resource for World War I and World War II researchers. The VA Index.

The VA Index

VA Index card

The VA Index is available for World War I and World War II service members. What is on the Index and why do you need it?

  • Full name of soldier, sailor, or Marine
  • Unit in which they served (not always on the card.)
  • Address
  • ENL: Date of enlistment
  • DIS: Date of discharge (often if the soldier was KIA, the death date is written on the card.)
  • SN: Service/serial number
  • A lot of letter codes with numbers. World War I cards may have more letters than World War II. There are many more codes than this, but these are the commonly seen ones on these cards.
    • C: Veterans Claim number
    • XC: Prefix X indicates veteran is deceased.
    • K: US Government Life Insurance. Issued when veterans converted their War Risk term (T) insurance into permanent policies or made direct application for this type of insurance.
    • N: National Service Life Insurance. Term insurance issued veterans during WWII.
    • V: National Service Life Insurance. This type of policy was issued when veterans converted their term insurance (N) or made the initial application permanent.
    • I: Permanent or Total Disability Claim or death payment of term insurance (WWI ONLY)
    • A: Adjusted Compensation (Bonus)
    • T: War Risk Insurance (WWI ONLY)
    • R: Rehabilitation (WWI ONLY)
    • CT: WWI Certificate (issued with bonus)
    • Z: Merchant Marine service number prefix.

Request a search

The VA Index is searchable by NPRC staff for a fee.

NPRC

1 Archives Dr.

St. Louis, MO 63138

What other resources have you used to start your World War I or World War II research? Please share in the comments.

© 2020 Research A Veteran

Contact Us For Research Help!

Contact us for information and to set up your free phone consultation today!

Are you interested in learning about the military death files created in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam? Would you like to understand the job of the American Graves Registration Service and how they handled our war dead? Then this webinar is for you!

This 1.5 hour webinar will focus on the history and jobs of the men who worked in the American Graves Registration Service. Then we will explore the Individual Deceased Personnel File and discuss why you need this vital record. Finally, take a journey with me in the footsteps of my cousin James Privoznik, through his military records and path through Europe to his death and burial. Learn how I told his story.

Learn more and register here to save your spot. This is the final time I’m teaching this course.

© 2020 World War II Research and Writing Center

Are you ready to explore your family and military research in a new way? To identify family patterns and secrets? To begin writing your stories to help transform your research and life? Then this course may be for you!

Over five weeks, beginning 8 February 2020, you will be exploring one of my family stories from its first version to the current version (at the time I created this class). Using my stories as an example, we will explore themes of identity, family patterns, perspective, secrets, emotions, and transformation and you will write your own stories.

This course includes two live webinars and one hour of Office Hours.

Within each module there are worksheets to download and writing assignments to complete. You are not required to share these with anyone unless you choose.

Module 1: Starting Our Journey

Module 2: Identity

Module 3: Perspective

Module 4: Family Patterns and Secrets

Module 5: Transformation and Course Wrap-Up

This course will create a foundation for the master class you may choose to participate in this summer.

Register today to save your spot. Space is limited to 20 people.

© 2020 World War II Research and Writing Center

In 2020 I am teaching my military research webinars one final time. I have chosen to focus on other areas of the military and family story this year. If you would like to learn correct strategies and processes to research WWI, WWII, Korea or Vietnam, this is your last chance for LIVE training you’ll get nowhere else in the country.

Three Offers

Webinar Bundle: Finding the Answers: Exploring 20th Century Military Research Bundle. Purchase this webinar bundle and you can watch the first webinar now and you are automatically registered for the LIVE webinar, part 2 on 1 February 2020.

https://www.wwiieducation.com/store/9xcsQGLG

Webinar: Military Service in Context 1 February – Part 2 of the research process. This is for people who already purchased the 11 January Researching Individual Military Service webinar. https://www.wwiieducation.com/finding-the-answers-wwii-serv…

Webinar: The Prisoners, The Missing & The Dead 15 February https://www.wwiieducation.com/prisoners-missing-dead-webinar

© 2020 Research A Veteran

 

Sources in your home may contain clues for family & military research. Have you explored every possibility?”

SUBHEADING

EXPLORING HOME SOURCES

A home source is a document, photograph, piece of memorabilia, or ephemera that provides clues to the puzzle you are attempting to solve. Search not only your home, but ask relatives to search theirs for clues.

Have you explored all the possible home sources that could provide clues to your military research?

As you search, look for information to help you add structure and details to your soldier’s story.

POSSIBLE HOME SOURCES

Bibles. Within family Bibles, we often find names of family members with dates of birth, marriage, death, and other significant dates like military service.

Company Records. Check with the businesses and companies for which the soldiers worked prior to the war.

Diaries, Letters and Postcards. Did the soldier keep a diary or send letters (V-Mail) home? Were there postcards sent home? The military censored a lot of material in letters and postcards sent home. While these letters will not have some key information we would wish they would, they give us an idea of life as a soldier. Check the envelopes of letters for service numbers and unit information.

MORE HOME SOURCES

Funeral and Cemetery Records. Did you check with the funeral home that handled your ancestor’s burial? If there was a military burial ceremony, proof of service had to be shown. The funeral home’s records may contain proof of military service or a copy of the discharge paperwork.

Home Movies. Did your family take home movies? Do you have any with your soldier in uniform? Are there any taken of parades or war gatherings in the U.S.? What clues do these movies provide?

Military Unit Newsletters or Newspapers. Some units created newsletters or newspapers while overseas as a way to keep the company updated on events or news from home. Often these will provide a date and general location of service which can help you complete a timeline of service.

Pension Records. Pension records from the military or an employer may provide clues to military service, addresses, and work and military history.

Probate Records. Probate records may seem more like a genealogical record to pursue, but depending on what assets the deceased had and to whom these assets were left, you may discover military information. Probate records usually contain Heir Testimony or lists of heirs, which will help you establish family histories. There also might be clues regarding the gravestone.

State-Level War Participation Certificate. It was common for a soldier to return to his home after the war ended before possibly moving elsewhere.

World War II Bonus Applications. After World War II, the government provided a bonus payment for service overseas. These bonus applications are often found within state archival holdings. Some, for states like Pennsylvania, have been digitized and placed online. The Bonus Application would have been filed in the state in which the soldier lived after service. Check with your State Archives regarding holdings and access. In some states, these records are open and available. In other states, like Illinois, laws restrict access for many more years.

Would You Like More?

Download our Military Home Source Checklist and start searching today!

Schedule a Free Research Consult Today!

Email Jennifer!

Today, 75 years ago, my cousin James Privoznik was Killed In Action during the Battle of the Bulge.

James Privoznik, right

James entered my life in 2012 after I moved out and was preparing to get a divorce. Raising my boys, creating my business into something more than it was, he was there to help guide me, bring people (both living and dead) into my life to help me shift from a genealogy business to create the military business I run today. He brought some trials into my life to see how strong I was. He brought adventure and travel into my life to walk with me where he served, fought, and died. And he brought love into my life – my now husband Johan arrived in Chicago on the anniversary of James’ death to meet me. The rest is history which you can read in my memoir, I Bring Dead Guys Home.

In the spring of 2015 I went to Europe the first time to walk in James’ footsteps. To fly his final burial flag over the Luxembourg Cemetery where he’s buried. And, to walk in the woods where he was killed. I questioned then, as I do now, how can you love someone so much you never met? I feel that way about James. He had such an impact on my life, long after his death. He remained with me until 2017 before I got married, and asked to be sent to the Light. I did as he requested and helped him cross over. It was a beautiful moment. He does appear now and then, but not like he used to. Our primary journey was complete and we helped each other heal on so many levels.

Jennifer Holik at Luxembourg Cemetery after flying James’ flag

I remember James often and talk about him when I teach, but today especially, I light a candle for him and thank him again for entering my life. For loving me so fully. For bringing me all the people and opportunities that I needed to create what the world required. To help me heal and grow. To help me learn lessons that are still helping me create what the world needs even today. James is a gift that keeps on giving in big and small ways.

Would you like to know more? You can read James’ story in my book Stories of the Lost.

Disclaimer – the book link is an affiliate link. It does not affect the price you pay.

© 2020 Research A Veteran

Seize Your Training!


In 2020 I am teaching my military research webinars one final time. I have chosen to focus on other areas of the military and family story this year.

The webinar registration links for the final military research webinars I’m teaching are now live. If you are interested in learning how to do WWI, WWII, Korea or Vietnam War research, I encourage you to register for Part 1 and Part 2 today. Everything I teach applies to all four wars.

If you have someone from any war who is still MIA or died while in service, you will also want to register for the Prisoners, The Missing and The Dead.

This is the final time I am teaching these classes. I’m soon to release the webinar registration for the family secrets and ancestral healing classes.

Please feel free to share this with your genealogy groups as no one else in the country is teaching military research in this way. I created the research strategies and process and give you a clear path to finding the answers.

Webinar: Researching Individual Military Service 11 January (Part 1 of the research process) https://www.wwiieducation.com/explore-indservice-jan2020

Webinar: Military Service in Context 1 February (Part 2 of the research process – you need to take part 1 as that info will not be repeated and is necessary.) https://www.wwiieducation.com/finding-the-answers-wwii-serv…

Webinar: The Prisoners, The Missing & The Dead 15 February https://www.wwiieducation.com/prisoners-missing-dead-webinar

 

Can I Help You?

 
 

You can also sign-up for our free newsletter and receive the Start Writing Your Military Story Today free!

 

Can I help you with your research?

Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? Email us at info@wwiirwc.com to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time.

© 2020 Jennifer Holik