I never met Gene S. Jacobsen (who is listed as Jacobson in the World War II Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941–1945, database, a misspelling I’m sure happened often). But Jacobsen was the man who made the Bataan Death March real to me, as well as the horrific conditions that waited for the men who survived it: the death ships, the POW camps, the mines. Jacobsen was one of only 65 from his squadron of 207 to make it back, and reading a draft of the account he wrote years later made me wonder how any of them survived. But there they are in the records: Lloyd Huth, Joseph Barna, Nelson Quast, and several dozen more.
Gene Jacobsen and the men of the 20th Pursuit Squadron are just some of the stories you can find amongst the new databases we’ve released in time for Veterans Day. There are plenty more. We’ve added application papers for West Point, 1805-1866, to the U.S. Military and Naval Academy Registers, 1805-1908, collection. They include a file on Abner Doubleday, a career soldier who returned the first shot from Fort Sumpter, where he was second in command, to begin Union action in the Civil War. He also had good handwriting.
By the way, West Point is where Doubleday was toiling away as a cadet during 1839, the year he supposedly invented baseball back in Cooperstown.
West Point provided scores of officers on both sides of the Civil War, which divided classmates as well as a nation. George Pickett’s West Point file includes a reference to his resigning his commission to serve with the Confederate Army.
If you have Pennsylvania ancestors who fought for the country, you’ll want to take a look at the Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-1999, database. County veterans affairs offices started creating these cards back in 1929, but their work stretches all the way back to the French and Indian War. The database includes a record for Lucille E. Desmarais, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2/16/43 through 9/22/45. Which has me wondering if this is the former Lucille E. McClarren of Nemacolin, PA, the first enlisted female Marine in WWII. (I’m just working on a hunch and a handful of similar dates and locales right now, if anybody knows the answer.)
And those are just the U.S. collections. We’ve also brought online almost 2 centuries worth of British military medal records:
- UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793–1949
- UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793–1972
- UK, Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914–1920
So take a minute this Veterans Day and get to know a veteran. I never met Gene Jacobsen, but I’ll never forget his story. There’s a saying that begins, “Old soldiers never die…” By taking time to remember them this Veterans Day, they won’t just fade away, either.
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