Last month I discussed Building a WWII Timeline of Service. This month, I’d like to take that a step further. When clients come to me seeking help to trace their soldier’s service, they often have very little information. As long as I can obtain a name, service number, unit and point in time when the soldier, sailor or Marine was in that unit, I have a starting point. If he was Killed In Action (KIA), then there are two avenues by which I immediately begin work.
Recently I have been working on Army Soldier Adolph Weeks’ history, in which he had two Army enlistments. Based on the information provided for both enlistments, I followed my usual research path to request the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) and Morning Reports through my researcher at National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. He pulled the Morning Reports, but unfortunately the OMPF burned. The Morning Reports obtained show Adolph coming from a Replacement Depot into the 78th Infantry Division in February 1945. However, we cannot, yet, find him in the Replacement Depot records to trace his service backward to 1942. More research must be done to locate him.
The client did provide me with the Headstone Application after I received the Morning Reports. Often, when a veteran dies, the family completes a Headstone Application so a government issued military stone can be placed at the gravesite. Ancestry has these applications digitized in the U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 record set.
The family applied for a marker. However, the information is confusing when both the front and back of the application are viewed. The information on the form points to both his first and second enlistments, but do not specify which enlistment was WWII on the front. The information shown adds confusion to his timeline of service. Just what unit was he really in during his enlistments?
The applications were either handwritten in blue or black ink or typed. The military used a red pencil to check the information (sometimes). In the first few years after the war ended and remains were being shipped home, the military did not do a thorough job in checking information. My cousin Frank Winkler’s headstone application shows the wrong unit, one which never existed, because his father wrote it down incorrectly. The military did not check it and carved his stone.
In Adolph Weeks’ case, they did check the information. His enlistment date for World War II does match the VA Index card I received from NPRC. The Branch of Service in box 9. Written in pencil, shows his final combat unit for World War II. Had he not served a second time, this is the unit that would have been etched on his grave stone.
The other unit typed on the form says Bat C, 39th F.A. Bn 14th Combat Team. This means Battery C, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 14th Combat Team which was part of the 3rd Infantry Division, if you do some research. This is crossed out. Was it incorrect?
Now flip to the back side of the application and we see written in red pencil on the top, information about his second enlistment and a different unit. Enlisted and active duty 18 May 1948. Served as Corporal with Battery C 9th Field Artillery Battalion 3rd Infantry Division. Honorable Discharge 14 July 1950. Field artillery. Decorations – Bronze Star Medal.
Written in regular pencil at the bottom of the page we see Cpl Btry C 9 FA Bn 3rd Inf Div / WWII BSM. This is what was etched onto his grave marker.
Three Different Units! Now what?
If this was a record you found at the beginning of your research, your timeline of service might look like:
- 13 October 1921 – Adolph Weeks birth
- 18 July 1942 – World War II enlistment and induction. Army service number 34334843.
- 17 October 1945 – World War II discharge
- 18 May 1948 – Army Reserves, second enlistment induction
- 14 July 1950 – Army Reserves, second enlistment discharge. Corporal with Battery C 9th Field Artillery Battalion 3rd Infantry Division.
- 12 April 1954 – Adolph Weeks death. Headstone Application Completed.
Combining this information with the Morning Reports, we do know the other unit, Headquarters and Service Company 303rd Engineering Battalion, Corps of Engineers is the final combat unit in which he served. And we could add to his timeline:
- 2 September 1945 – Headquarters and Service Company 303rd Engineering Battalion, Corps of Engineers
I’m currently waiting for my researcher to pull the second enlistment Morning Reports since we have this new information. I believe since both the 39th Field Artillery and 9th Field Artillery were part of the 3rd Infantry Division, they will show his transfer between units. Adolph’s child also provided a few pieces of information from family letters which indicate this transfer. Now I wait to see what the records show.
To learn more about records and how to use them and Adolph’s case, please visit my World War II Research and Writing Center where I’ll post articles and tips.