Letters of War: Wounded in the Ardennes

FIGHTING WITH THE 83RD – Two weeks ago, I received a new package of five letter covers from different enlisted men of the US Army during the Second World War. Since I’ve been involved with the 83rd Infantry Division lately, I also bought two covers of an officer who served in the M/330th, 83rd. These were written by Frank J. Markham.

The 83rd Division is actually very easy to research as most of their documents are available online through http://www.83rdinfdivdocs.org which are very nicely organized by Thijs Hodiamont. Footsteps Researchers has been working the past two years to image all of the Morning Reports at the Archives in St. Louis to make this site possible. It is because of this fantastic website that I was able to track down Markham through the Morning Reports of his unit, M Company, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division.

Frank Markham joins M Company of the 330th Infantry Regiment on July 19, 1944.

Markham joined M Company as a replacement officer when the unit was in Normandy, France on the 19th of July, 1944. At the time he was a second lieutenant and upon joining, he probably replaced another officer who was sent on to another Company of the same regiment. Markham’s MOS was 1542, which stood for Infantry Unit Commander, which likely meant that he was a platoon leader.

On the 17th of October, Markham was in Luxembourg when he was taken off the line due to a disease. He rejoined his outfit three days later. Eventually, Markham was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant on the 6th of November, 1944. 


Markham continued to serve with his unit in the Hürtgen Forest and in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. But, on the 4th of January, when still in Belgium near the town of Malempre, he was somehow taken off the line due to a non-battle cause on the Line of Duty. He was transferred to the 102nd Evacuation Hospital and supposedly didn’t return to the unit. I wasn’t able to track Markham after that. Due to the circumstances of his transfer, I believe he suffered from trench foot or frostbite. Myra, our lead researcher at the Archives in St. Louis is pulling his service records… I wonder what they will tell about Markham’s service.

Unfortunately, he isn’t with us anymore. Markham passed away in 1993 at the age of 80.

  • Morning Reports are the key to exact footsteps and can only be searched at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis where the WWII microfilm is held. Myra and the Footsteps Researchers Team in St. Louis work hard to get these documents for clients. Contact-us if you are interested in having us help you find your veteran’s footsteps.

Marvel Creator Wounded in World War II

The new Marvel’s film, Captain Marvel, will open with a tribute to Stan Lee. Together with Jack Kirby he created almost all the Marvel comics. Kirby was the only one that served as infantryman on the battlefields in Europe.

In 1943 Kirby was drafted into the United States Army (Service Number: 32966619). He followed his basic training and joined F Company of the 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division in Europe in their drive through France. In September 1944 the men of the division received the mission to take the fortified town of Metz.

This proved to be the deadliest task of the Division throughout the war and Kirby witnessed it all by himself. From September 8 to 10, the 11th his regiment made a crossing over the Moselle River at the village of Dornot to the village of Corny. Unexpected, the Germans had set a trap for them. Kirby found himself on hell on earth.

Information from Hospital Admission Cards (NARA)

The men who made it across the Moselle were trapped in a patch of woods named after its shape: The Horseshoe Woods. Somewhere between the 8th and 14th of November, Kirby was wounded by bullet in his shoulderblade. He was treated at the battalion’s aid station to continue the fight. However, it was a cold month and the Moselle river was flooding. On November 14, Kirby was taken off the line with trench foot. It wasn’t until July ’45 that he was discharged from the hospital.

A couple of years ago a memorial was erected by the Thanks GI’s assocation
on the location where Kirby once fought. True Marvel fans might’ve recognized the war’s influence on Kirby’s work. However, for the rest of the people this information will give new understanding to the works of Captain America, Hulk and many other well known Marvel characters that were created by Kirby.

Crosses in the Wind

One of the most overlooked units in World War II is the Graves Registration Service. The men assigned to this unit were responsible for processing the bodies of killed US enlisted men as they were transferred to their final resting place. As Footsteps Researchers, we come across very interesting and sad documents when we image the Individual Deceased Personnel Files (IDPFs) for clients. Many times, we hold handwritten and heartfelt letters from mothers, fathers, wives, and others; begging for answers as to where their loved one’s belongings were or dealing with the burial of their soldier’s body.

In 1947, a book called Crosses in the Wind: Graves Registration Service in the Second World War was published by Joseph Shomon, commander of the 611th
Quartermaster, Graves Registration Company during World War II. Its first press was the only one ever printed making the book very hard to get. However, in 2016 a limited edition print run was done and the book is available again. This is a fantastic read as it describes the service and jobs men had to endure in less than pleasant environments.

The personal account of Joseph Shomon takes you from Bastogne to Berlin and gives you insight into the birth of the American War Cemetery in Margraten. It’s not a personal story of war, but a tale of the consequences of war. The job done by men like Shomon was a necessary one, allowing every enlisted man to rest in peace.

We are proud to assist families and those interested in the burial records that are housed at NARA St. Louis. Our Footsteps archive researchers submit the forms in person and image every page with great care. We owe a great deal to the men who served in the Graves Registration Service and thank them all for their service, commitment, and honorable dedication to our fallen warriors.

Graves Registration Form for an official burial of a WWII soldier.

Okinawa – Learning about the War in the Pacific

Okinawa Recap:

It’s been five weeks since Joey left for Okinawa. Joey is catching up on everything now that he has returned home to The Netherlands. We are releasing this blog about a few of his experiences on the trip.

On May 8th of this year, Joey flew to Okinawa for two weeks to explore the World War 2 battlefields. The plan was to walk in the footsteps of the various units that fought in the Battle of Okinawa. This battle lasted almost two months from April 1, 1945 to May 21, 1945. With the history being so alive here in Europe, Joey noticed this is not the case on Okinawa. Most people don’t really know about the war and the battle sites are “like a shy little boy in a big crowd.” Nevertheless, Joey visited the following sites and footsteps:

  • Mount Yaedake in the footsteps of the 6th Marine Division
  • Ie Jima Island in the footsteps of the 77th Infantry Division
  • The area of Yonabaru and the footsteps of the 7th and 96th Infantry Division
  • Chatan – Yomitan, the landing beaches of the 1st and 6th Marine Division and 7th and 96th Infantry Division
  • Hacksaw Ridge in the footsteps of Desmond T. Doss and the 77th Infantry Division
  • Kakazu Ridge in the footsteps of the 96th Infantry Division
  • Sugar Loaf Hill, the bloodiest site for the 6th Marine Division
  • Many more!

Wow! Today was an amazing day as I took a boat trip to Ie Jima, an island of the Okinawa prefecture. After the US army recognized there was almost no Japanese resistance in the North they could as well already go for Ie Jima. That's why on April 16th, L-Day +15, the 77th Infantry Division went ashore there on the south western coast. The location of the pictures were Red 1 and Red 2, the sector for the 305th Infantry Regiment. All of the Japanese forces however, were on the big mountain overlooking the island, Mount Gusuku, known as 'The Pinnacle'. Another regiment, the 306th arrived within 600 yards of that hill on the same day when they encountered most of the Japanese resistance. It wouldn't be until April 21st when the hill was captured and the island was taken. Today I came across a building full of bullet impact holes and other traces of war, as well as a foxhole while climbing up Mount Gusuku. Another great trip in the footsteps of the brave men who fought there! Tomorrow I'm moving to a new Guesthouse to another part of the Okinawa Battlefields! @footstepsresearchers

A post shared by Joedemadio WW2 Traveler (@joedemadio_ww2) on

 

Hacksaw Ridge!

For Joey, Mount Yaedake, Ie Jima Island and both Hacksaw and Kakazu Ridge were his favorite sites! The first two had a wonderful nature with many historical spots. Kakazu Ridge was probably the most ‘alive’ place as it contained many signs and locations to visit. Hacksaw Ridge is a very well known ridge that’s known from the 2016 movie and Joey went there to compare the movie with the real location.

https://www.instagram.com/joedemadio_ww2/

Tours!

As the weeks pass by, Joey will be editing and releasing video’s of his complete trip on his YouTube Channel. As Footsteps Researchers we’re very proud and happy to add Okinawa to our work list. Joey said he has a clear view of the Island, the battles that took places and the culture. He’s ready to lead footsteps tours for people who look to visit their veteran’s footsteps on this Japanese Island!

Joey to the Battlefields of Okinawa

When you are reading this, Joey van Meesen, will be on an airplane on his way to Okinawa, Japan. For two weeks he will move around the island to research the World War 2 Battlefields. Throughout the trip, he will be actively posting pictures and other content on Facebook and Instagram. But the biggest effort will be put into his YouTube Travel Video series where he walks the battlefields and explores the island.

Joey hopes to learn and understand the Okinawan culture and also to show the world what the former battlefields look like today. He’ll be walking in the footsteps of the 1st and 6th Marine Division as well as the 7th, 77th and 96th Infantry Division who all fought in the Battle of Okinawa.

Don’t forget about Hacksaw Ridge with the story of Desmond T. Doss! Joey will be visiting Hacksaw Ridge! Another interesting fact is that right now it’s the 73rd Anniversary of the battle which took place from April 1 to June 22, 1945. The Footsteps Researchers team members are really looking forward to following his travels as he visits these sacred locations, hikes in the mountains, and follows the footsteps of one of the bloodiest battles in World War 2.

Besides a lot of fun and interesting stuff, this trip will help him broaden his work field. Joey hopes to gain a ton of knowledge and experience with the battlefields over there as well as the island itself. The Pacific Theater and research of it is overlooked way too often compared to the European Theater. Also for Footsteps Researchers, it’ll expand our service to the Pacific. This means we can help MORE families and honor MORE veterans!

Make sure to follow Joey both on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. The YouTube video series will be edited and released in the summer months!

You can also follow Joey on our Facebook and Instagram!

LEGACY: Lost & Found, The Foxhole of Prentice W. Ball

Image result for 30th old hickory divisionToday our European researcher, Joey van Meesen, took possession of the pocket knife owned by Prentice W. Ball. This WWII relic was found on April 1, 2018, by Frank van Vark and Joey’s dad, Ronald van Meesen. Traveling to Germany, Joey and his dad went back to the original location and foxhole where the knife was found.

In March 1945 Pfc Ball’s unit, A Company, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division was in position preparing for their offensive farther into Germany. On March 22, 1945, in the woods south of Alpen, Germany, Pfc Ball and his platoon sat huddled in their foxholes awaiting orders to move forward and engage the enemy.

Joey in the foxhole where the knife was found. Most likely the foxhole Prentice W. Ball was in when he dropped his etched blade.

The next day, March 23, 1945, the 117th Regiment received the orders to move closer to the Rhine River to the town of Wallach. During this move, Prentice W. Ball apparently dropped his knife in the foxhole as his unit was moving out.

March 24, A & B Company of the 117th crossed the Rhine River at Wallach and took the town of Ork, capturing 150 German prisoners in the process.

The view from Joey and his dad’s location looking over the crossing site of the 117th, near Wallach on the Rhine River.

Fast forward 73 years. The recovered relic is an original Case XX Hunter’s knife with a bakelite handle. It stayed in good condition for all those years due to the superior construction and materials used in the manufacture of the knife.

During the second trip to the site, Joey captured the scene on film where Pfc Ball’s knife was found.  Joey can now send the knife back to Myra Miller (USA). Myra and team member, Sara Collins, will personally deliver the knife to the family in Alabama. A ceremony will be held on May 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm in Cullman, Alabama at West Point High School.

Battle of the Bulge Footsteps – Then & Now

While working on a client project about the 83rd Infantry Division, European Researcher Joey van Meesen came across a picture of the 83rd Signal Company somewhere in Belgium. With the use of Morning Reports and other documents he was able to find the location where the Signal Company was billeted that day. Fortunately, we were able to find the location where the picture was taken by using Google Street View.

 

The photograph was taken by the 83rd Signal Company on January 27th 1945, right after the Battle of the Bulge. The unit was staying in the Belgian town of Houmart, Belgium. At Footsteps Researchers, we are specialized in tracing the footsteps of your veteran. In some cases, as you can see with this example, we find the EXACT footsteps.

Footsteps Researchers head to the Pacific

To expand our services beyond the European Theater of Operations. Joey van Meesen will be going to Okinawa, Japan this May to explore the World War II battlefields of the Pacific Theater. A European Theater expert, Joey will put his history degree to use as he travels this specific area of Asia. As our Footsteps Researchers on-the-ground researcher/tour guide, he will travel from his home in The Netherlands to learn more about the units that fought in the Pacific.

Desmond T. Doss

Desmond T. Doss, B Co, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, won the Medal of Honor for his actions on Hacksaw Ridge. His story is well known from the movie Hacksaw Ridge, released in 2016.

Joey will be staying on the island for two weeks visiting key sites such as Hacksaw Ridge and Kakazu Ridge. Another big part of the trip is to learn about the Okinawan lifestyle and people. This will benefit our team when we lead Footsteps Researchers Tours in the Pacific!

Follow Joey from May 8-25 on his adventure. Stay up-to-date on his whereabouts on Instagram and Facebook!

Footsteps Research

Unique. Team. Research.

How does our team approach your research needs differently?

Think of your veteran’s story as a puzzle still in the box. To make the image take shape, many individual pieces have to come together from both sides of the Atlantic. The process of assembling your veteran’s unique puzzle begins with Myra at the National Archives in St. Louis. From the World War II military personnel records she has access to, a detailed picture begins to emerge of a soldier’s activity during service—and afterwards, in the case of a hero killed in action. From Belgium, Joey is then able to reconstruct your veteran’s path, using his access European archives, battlefields, and local historians and experts.

Our combined efforts and access to the most extensive WWII resources allow us to create the most complete picture of your veteran’s experience. It is our mission to help you learn more about your family

Our team specializes in presenting your veteran’s information in the format most meaningful to you—in writing, in maps, in video-documentary, and in tours.

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