Posted by Jennifer Holik on January 19, 2017 in Guest Bloggers

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Bulge, which was fought during World War II from 16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945, in the Ardennes in Europe. It was in this battle, that my cousin James Privoznik of the 90th Infantry Division, lost his life on 11 January 1945 near Bras, Belgium.

American soldiers of the 117th Infantry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, part of the 30th Infantry Division, move past a destroyed American M5A1 "Stuart" tank on their march to recapture the town of St. Vith during the Battle of the Bulge, January 1945.
American soldiers of the 117th Infantry Regiment, Tennessee National Guard, part of the 30th Infantry Division, move past a destroyed American M5A1 “Stuart” tank on their march to recapture the town of St. Vith during the Battle of the Bulge, January 1945.

Many units participated in this big push to move the German Army back and end the war. The most well-known unit was the 101st Airborne in Bastogne. Stories from veterans who dealt with frostbite and trenchfoot, not enough warm clothing, dry socks, or boots, and low supplies are numerous. The Battle was held during one of the worst winters in European history where temperatures ranged near zero degrees Fahrenheit, ice covered the landscape before the snow fell, rising up to men’s knees in some places, making movement, fighting, and survival difficult.

With this backdrop and brief introduction to the Battle of the Bulge, how does one begin researching a soldier’s experience in this battle? We begin by writing down everything we know and documenting that information in our Ancestry family tree, to build a timeline of service. Next, using James Privoznik as an example, we will explore some online and offline resources that will tell us more about his service and death during the Battle of the Bulge.

At the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge, James was in the 790th Ordnance, 90th Infantry Division. When General Patton needed replacement riflemen, men were pulled from the rear echelons. On 27 December 1944, James was transferred from the 790th Ordnance to F Company 358th Infantry Regiment 90th Infantry Division. He was hit by a high explosive shell on 11 January 1945. His service as an infantry soldier lasted 15-16 days. James is buried in Luxembourg Cemetery.

Offline Research

Start your offline research, and some online research, by using my World War II Research Guide, which is a collection of articles on this blog. This information will put you on a path to learning more about your soldier through offline records, creating a timeline of service, and working with online resources.

The Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF)

James Privoznik died in service and the Graves Registration Service created a filed called the Individual Deceased Personnel File, or IDPF. Each soldier who died in service or is still considered Missing In Action, has a file. This is a file you must have for your research. You can read James’ full IDPF on my website. Requesting the IDPF has become more complicated. You can read more about requesting this information in my article, WWII Education – Requesting the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF).

Once you have compiled a timeline of service and learned more about your soldier’s participation in the Battle of the Bulge through offline records, using additional resources, we can move forward in learning more about the battle.

Ancestry Research

There are no specific Battle of the Bulge databases or histories on Ancestry, but you can use the military and genealogy databases to fill in gaps of your soldier and family’s life. Then update your online family tree with this information so you have a clearer picture of what happened.

Fold3 Research

While there are no specific Battle of the Bulge databases on Fold3, there are numerous record sets which contain information about units, towns and areas of the battle, and soldier pages which may provide additional details. Search within the following databases to learn more about your soldier’s participation in the battle. Remember, unless he was an officer, he may not be named. These record sets provide more historical context information to help you understand more fully what your soldier’s role was in the battle.

  • Contributed Military Group Records (this is updated often so check back to see what new records have been added.)
  • Headstone Applications, 1925-1963
  • Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs)
  • WWII Army and Air Force Casualty List
  • WWII European Theater Army Records
  • WWII Foreign Military Studies, 1945-54

Do you need help attaching information you find on Fold3 to your Ancestry tree? Read my article Combining World War II Research on Fold3 with Your Ancestry Family Tree. This article contains a lot of search tips that apply to all areas of WWII research.

Newspapers.com Research

Search newspapers.com or other sites to learn more about your soldier or the battle in which he participated. Try these search techniques to find articles and information.

  • Search by surname, full name, or use a wildcard with partial name.
  • Search for the name of the battle.
  • Search for the unit in which your soldier fought.
  • Search for the area or town where the battle occurred.
  • Search for the officers in your soldier’s unit as they are more likely to be written about in the larger newspapers.
  • Search your local newspaper where the soldier lived and also large papers like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and other big city papers that may have written up battle articles that might not have made it into small hometown papers.

Important! OCR does not capture 100% of all scanned materials. You may have to do some page by page searching of newspapers when you know there should be an article about your soldier. OCR can be affected by the quality of the text and condition of materials which were scanned.

Important! Remember to verify what you find in the newspaper about your soldier or a battle with military records and histories written after the war. The newspapers at the time did not always report the full story of what was taking place. Military leaders often left out important details until time had passed or they were forced to report them.

Next Steps

Once you have exhausted (at this moment) the resources on Ancestry, Fold3, and Newspapers.com, search the World War II Reunion Association websites for histories and military records that may be digitized. On the 90th Division Association website you will find many digitized materials to help put the Battle of the Bulge into context. James Privoznik is also listed in the 790th Ordnance history.

http://www.90thdivisionassociation.org/History/index.html
http://www.90thdivisionassociation.org/History/index.html

Finally, please write the story of your soldier as you research. If you would like to add the story and information to your Ancestry tree, please read my article, Preserving a World War II Service Member’s Lifestory on Ancestry Member Trees.

Good luck with your Battle of the Bulge research. I’d love to hear from you what you discovered about your soldier and his service!

 

 

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer Holik is an international WWII researcher, speaker, and author of the only authoritative books on the market, “Stories from the World War II Battlefield,” which teach individuals how to research WWII service across any branch. She can be found at her website The World War II Research and Writing Center or on Facebook.

8 Comments

  1. Lorna Gilbert

    “90th Division” caught my eye–that was my father’s unit! He was also in the 358th Infantry, Captain Harold Bergdale, and was the munitions officer. There is a whole website for the 90th, which still has wonderful annual reunions! Would love to hear from other 90th folks!

  2. Lorna Gilbert – please email me – info@wwiirwc.com – my cousin James Privoznik was in the 358th for 14 days before he was KIA. I can put you in touch with one of the historians who has morning reports for the 90th. They are not on the website.
    Jennifer Holik (Author of the article)

  3. Dennis J. Knight

    It seems all my efforts to find my Fathers WWII Service Records even with his Dog Tag # keep turning up 0 results… at one point was told of a fire destroying some records other information was ” not available” I am so sad that I can not find any information of him and it seems even my service record is gone also ….

  4. Terrence Gillespie

    My father, Maj Stephen Martin Gillespie served in WWII in the 394th Regiment, 99th Division. the day before the Battle of the Buldge began, he heard his youngest brother, John “Jack” Gillespie, who was serving with the Fifth Division, was in St. Vith. Dad and his driver (whose name I don’t recall) set out to find Jack. An hour or so later, they heard what sounded like thunder. They stopped the Jeep and climbed the hill next to them only to find the German army advancing below them. The Germans spotted them, and my Dad was shot next to the spine(a bullet he carried with him until he died, since it was too dangerous to operate to remove) . Dad made it back to the Jeep, but his driver got separated due to the ensuing chaos.
    Dad, delirious from loss of blood, was rescued and retuned to his Unit. The story however, got stranger. My Uncle Jack was captured in the German advance, and while he was on the truck to the POW camp, he struck up a conversation with a fellow prisoner wearing the checker-board patch of the 99th Division. As it happened, he was my Dad’s driver!
    When the war in Europe ended, my Uncle was liberated. A Deroit Newspaper heard about

  5. Terrence,
    Have you contacted Eric Bijtelaar (Netherlands) or visited his website about the 99th? http://www.99thinfantrydivision.com/ He’s a Dutch researcher specializing in the 99th and I’ve met him and worked with him on client projects. He has a lot of information, spends time on the battlefields, and is doing a documentary on the 99th. If you contact him, if you don’t already know him, please tell him I referred you to him.
    Jennifer (author)

  6. Stephanie

    I’m lucky enough to have a basic written history from my grandfather who served in the 241st General Hospital during the battle. Between that and what I found online from another man who had written a history of his time in the 241st I wrote up a general combined history of what happened during the Battle of the Bulge. Also, while digging through his letters to my grandma during the war, we found negatives of pictures I had never seen. My aunt got them developed and they’re all of his time in France. I need to get the history and pictures on ancestry.

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