New Ancestry Publication: Finding Granddad’s War

Granddads War.jpgArmed with a stack of photos and stories, author Jeffrey Badger sets out on a 10-year hunt to retrieve a past in Finding Granddad’s War.

(PROVO, Utah) 6 Nov. 2008—Growing up, Jeff Badger imagined that if he stared long enough at the pictures of Leo Kavanaugh as a WWII GI, they would tell him the story of the grandfather he never had the chance to know. When the pictures didn’t, Jeff decided to track down the men who could—the soldiers who had served with his grandfather in the 978th Engineer Maintenance Company.

Finding Granddad’s War is both the story of Jeff’s search and the stories of the men he found. Flattered by his interest, Jeff’s new “war buddies” confided in him, shared experiences they had never spoken of before, and sent Jeff hundreds of photographs taken in Europe and the Pacific. Sometimes the experience of talking was cathartic, sometimes not, but most of the men spoke on, whether they were discussing anti-Semitism within their own ranks, the unit’s one casualty in three years and two theaters of war, or robbing a German bank.

Finding Granddad’s War is filled with the firsthand accounts Jeff found so compelling, he expanded his search to Europe to track down sites and characters from the GIs’ past. Retracing his grandfather’s steps in Holland, Jeff unearthed memories from the days when the 978th occupied the town of Spekholzerheid, drinking in the barroom where his grandfather once boxed, and speaking with people who had posed for pictures fifty years before.

As his grandfather’s war buddies became his own, Jeff came to know the soldier, the hell-raiser, the friend, and the war they had known. Their voices, in concert with Jeff’s own, make Finding Granddad’s War an open-eyed, loving portrait of the “greatest generation”—from a grandson of WWII.

Finding Granddad’s War is a new title from Ancestry Publishing, the publishing arm of popular genealogical website

Here are some quotes from the book:

You know, Jeff, you ask me about that war. What can I tell you? It was sometimes tragic, sometimes sickening, sometimes happy, sometimes sorrowful. I didn’t know if I was going to make it… But we were glad that we were alive. I have different memories. Sometimes it puts a tear in your eye, even today, even now. But even today, every day I get up, maybe I hear gunfire, maybe I hear something else, but I’m grateful I’m alive.
—John Powasnik

There were a lot of other bodies in the area that we were picking up. I came across one American GI lying on his back who had a letter sticking out of his breast pocket. Foolish me, I read it. He looked to be in his mid-to-late twenties. He was married and the letter was from his wife with a picture of her and two or three kids. He was from Kentucky, my neighboring state. That hit home quite hard. I got pretty choked up. After I read a few lines I suddenly felt like a thief. That letter belonged to him.
—Farran Helmick

Well kid, I’ve really been around this damn world since the war started. A fellow really learns a lot too. I mean in a thousand different ways. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for a million dollars. But I wouldn’t give 10¢ to do it over again either.
—Leo Kavanaugh

If they told me that they needed me, that I had to go out and do it again, I’d be there tomorrow. And I could do it too. I’m not joking. I still have my uniform. And it doesn’t fit me half bad.
—Elmer Kulback

Contact: For a review copy or to schedule an interview, please contact Russ Hannig at 801-705-7314 or You can find more about Jeff Badger and Finding Granddad’s War (including photographs) at

3 thoughts on “New Ancestry Publication: Finding Granddad’s War

  1. My dad, Charles Donald “Don” Wurm, was a First Sergeant in the Ohio 37th Medical Battalion. He saw some of the worst of the results of the War. He rarely talked of his experiences and I have learned more since his death (35 years) from relatives than he ever told me. Would that I could talk with him again and ask the questions.

    He joined early in September 1936 and served until October 1945. He served in the south as a drill Sergeant until the build up for D-Day. Landing in Normandy, he fought in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.

    One of the few things he told about was entering our families home city of Wurms, Germany. Later he traveled to Nuremberg, the city from which his great grand parents, John Michael and Anna Margaretha Lehner Wurm left in 1842. Someday I hope to retrace his steps to better understand his hardships.

  2. My father, Frank Bailey (“Buster”) Quarterman was a hero of sorts though he never served on active military duty. When he was called for examination for induction, he returned home and stated that he was rejected because “by the time they trimmed him down to fighting weight the war would be over.” In truth he had been recruited by U.S. Naval Intelligence to serve as a civilian observer reporting to Capt. Vincent Astor (yes, that one) at NAAS Glynco, Brunswick, Georgia.

    He was a petroleum dealer, selling fuel oil and marine supplies to the prawn fishermen. Under the guise of training carrier pigeons, Capt. Astor and his staff were quite frequently at the waterfront, The shrimpers would take the pigeons out to sea and release them to return to the base. If they saw something suspicious they would report it to my father and he relayed the info to Capt. Astor. As you may know, there were two German U-boats sunk off the South Atlantic coast.

    There would be a knock on the door in the middle of the night and he would get up, get dressed, strap on his gun and disappear. There were a few people wondering what he was up to, including my grandfather. When the war ended and he told us what he had been doing, there was a definite sigh of relief.

    So, you see, all the “heroes” didn’t see combat.

  3. Hi Don, My maiden name is Gwen Edith Wurm. Are you my father’s cousin? His name is Dale C. Wurm and he lives here in the States. Most of his family are in Canada and Michigan. If you are my dad’s cousin, please let me know. My mom is still trying to figure out the family tree, and my dad does not remember all of the information. At the moment, I am kind of confused myself. I am trying to look up family history, and cann’t find anything that really goes with my dad’s version that he told us when we were younger. My email address is Feel free to contact me by email. Thanks and have a merry Christmas. Gwen

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