I recently read an Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) for a Jewish soldier in WWII named Harvey P. Robitshek. This IDPF was unlike other I have read in that it is 361 pages long. Now I’ve read hundreds of IDPFs across all branches of the military for WWII, but this one really stood out.
Harvey’s father asked questions and demanded answers from the Army and U.S. government about the death of his son, the location of his burial site in Europe, his personal effects, the repatriation of his remains, and many other questions. This was a man who was not going to accept the usual form letter sent to the families after their loved one died.
While I’ve never written an article specifically about the IDPF for the Ancestry blog, you can read about this type of file and the latest news on accessing it in the Education section of my website. This is an important record for researchers who had a family member die in the war or who is still considered Missing In Action. There are many examples for all military branches of this file under the Research section on my website if you would like to view some of these files. Harvey’s will be on my website after I write some articles about the contents of his file.
Reading Harvey’s file brought up a lot of questions about who he was and I wanted to learn more about his service and family. To begin this quest, I searched for his name on Ancestry and one source that showed up was the U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947. This link takes you to Harvey’s two entries.
A couple of years ago when I contacted the AJHS after learning about these records while working on a client project, I learned that they do not hold military service files, but you can request copies of the full documents from which these cards were made. The fees to obtain the paperwork was not significant. Through the original record I was able to learn more about the soldier I was researching.
What can we learn about Harvey from the two cards which appear in our search?
- He died in service on 13 November 1944 in France.
- He received a Purple Heart.
- We know who his parents are and their address.
- We know what branch of the military he was in.
While we have his Army Serial Number (ASN), Branch of the military, parents’ names, and address, we are missing his unit. Sadly, the cards do not contain that information. This is a valuable resource, regardless, especially if one is looking for the ASN or award information.
All may not be lost in finding a unit though. When you request the papers for the soldier, there is a section called SERVICE DETAILS. In this, the individual typing the information may provide a unit. For the client I was working for, the application states the soldier was in the 1st Division. While that doesn’t get us down to the Company level to search Morning Reports, we at least have a Division starting point. Every clue is important when researching WWI, WWII, or Korean War military service.
Have you used the WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards and obtained the paperwork they refer to? What did you learn about your soldier? Have you found other Jewish resources useful in locating information? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!