Footsteps Researchers and Tour Guides

We have an awesome team of researchers on the ground covering the European Theater of operations for WWII. If you are interested in finding the exact footsteps of a WWII veteran, we can do it! Just fill out the contact us form. We can customize your search!


Joey van Meesen
Lead Researcher/Tour Guide – European/Pacific Theaters
Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Okinawa
Battle of the Bulge, Operation Market Garden
Schiedam, Netherlands
joey@footstepsresearchers.com

Florent Plana
Researcher/Tour Guide – France
Normandy and Brittany Region
Operation Overlord
Bayeux, France
florent@footstepsresearchers.com

Loïc Jankowiak
Researcher/Tour Guide – Southern France
Southern France, Italy, Africa
Operation Dragoon
Bandol, France
loic@footstepsresearchers.com

LEGACY: Lost & Found – History Returns Home

Today, a family in Alabama got to touch and hold the etched pocket knife of their patriarch, Prentice W. Ball. Ball was a member of the 30th Infantry Division, 117th Infantry Regiment during WWII in 1944-45. He presumably dropped the knife in his foxhole as his unit was moving out to cross the Rhine River on March 23-24, 1945.

The well-preserved knife was found by metal detectors on April 1, 2018 in Germany. The knife was handed over to the Footsteps Researchers team to try to find the family in order to return it to the rightful owner. The successful search culminated today with members of the team driving to Cullman, Alabama to present the knife to the Ball Family.

We want to express the joy we felt seeing the family so happy.  It is our privilege and honor to return a part of history home.

The event will be featured on ABC 33/40 Birmingham affiliate at 10:00pm, May 20, 2018. You can also find it on their website at http://abc3340.com.

 

 

LEGACY: Lost & Found the Voice of Earl W. Garrison

BINGO!!!!! The family spent all day checking us out to make sure we were legit! YAY! We are now in touch with a relative of Earl W. Garrison, his great niece from California. He was KIA on March 30, 1945 in the Solomon Islands. The family has heard stories about him and informed us that they have photos. So, hearing his voice on this record will be fabulous! This is so much fun! Good job Sara!

This is our latest quest! We have a record from WWII with the voice of Earl W. Garrison from North Dakota. On the record, he mentions his siblings names. Our Special Projects Researcher (and guru), Sara Collins, has identified the family and we are now trying to make contact with them.

However, in the age of social media and scammers… we sometimes get deleted when we are making contact. We are posting this here in the hope that they will check out our website and see that we are real and that we want to return this valuable item to the family at no cost to them.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the family responds to us via Facebook.

Myra and Sara

Skype Interview with ABC 33/40 in Birmingham Alabama

We had great fun being interviewed for this news report about Prentice W. Ball’s knife.

  • Joey was with his dad in The Netherlands
  • Sara was at her home in Kansas
  • Myra was sitting in her car at a truck stop in Missouri
  • Andrew Donley was in Birmingham, Alabama and interviewed us all at the same time via Skype!

Watch the video!  They interview the Ball family about what it feels like to have the knife returned to them. We can’t wait to meet them!

http://abc3340.com/news/local/alabama-wwii-soldiers-pocket-knife-found-abroad-on-its-way-to-family

Myra and Sara will be presenting the knife to the Ball family at West Point High School Library, Cullman, Alabama, May, 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm.

The knife made it to the USA and is with Myra!

Prentice W. Ball’s knife has arrived in the USA!

Myra is now in possession of Prentice W. Ball’s knife after it traveled from Alpen, Germany where it was hidden for 73 years in a foxhole. It was quite amazing to touch it and hold in my hand. Sara Collins and I are so excited to deliver the knife to the family on May 20th at 2:00 pm in the library at West Point High School, Cullman, Alabama.

Website Open! Read the entire story of King Size: The Lost B24 of Lafosse, Belgium

Joey and Myra had the privilege and honor of being on the research/film team for what we call, the plane crash project.

Victor in Lafosse, Belgium, March 23, 2018

Our Dutch friend, Bob Konings, has finished the website that tells the entire “King Size” story along with photos of our adventure. Please take an opportunity to read about the crew, what happened, and a team of passionate (and crazy) people who came together to solve a mystery for Victor.

Victor was a six-year-old boy who witnessed a plane explode in the air and watched horrified as two parachutes opened on Christmas Day, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. The plane crashed in the field by Victor’s house. The Americans came and took the bodies and large sections of plane out of the area leaving the local citizens without a name for the plane or the crew.

Seventy-three years later, a team of dedicated people found the answer for Victor….. read the website to know the rest!  http://www.b24-kingsize.com/

WWII knife to be returned to family!

LEGACY: Lost & Found, UPDATE:

We have 100% confirmation that the pocket knife etched with Prentice W. Ball’s name (found in Germany last week) belongs to his daughters living in Alabama. It will be an honor to return the knife to them and his family in mid-May.

PRESENTATION:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2:00 pm

West Point High School
4314 County Road 1141
Cullman AL 35057

Stay tuned as this fabulous story unfolds with even more details… his WWII footsteps will be shared upon return of the knife. Prentice W. Ball served in Company A, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division.

 

LEGACY: Lost & Found

Imagine finding or having a WWII canteen, knife, jacket, mug, plate, etc… that is a mystery to you. You might have been metal detecting, purchased on eBay, or been rummaging through a flea market and come across this relic of the past.

But this one is unique…. it clearly has a name or number etched/scratched/stamped on it.

Who dropped it?  Who lost it?  Why did they leave it behind? Where were they from?

At no cost to the person in possession of the WWII item or the veteran’s family, Footsteps Researchers will attempt to find the rightful owner. However, the person in possession must be willing to give up the relic and let us return it to the family of the veteran free and clear once our search is 100% confirmed.

UPDATE:  We have a 100% confirmation with family in Alabama and will be returning the knife to them on Sunday, May 20th. Place and time still to be determined!

(We are currently busting at the seams to share the news with a family in Alabama that we have an item with their veteran’s name on it (found by a friend in Germany while metal detecting).  The veteran’s family has been located by an incredible quick search of our team member and Special Projects Assistant, Sara Collins. However, it is our policy to wait for a 100% confirmation before releasing the news.)

* The attached photo is a canteen we are currently researching. It has the name “Gilbert” scratched in it. We know where it was found, so we know the possible time and unit. We don’t know if Gilbert is first or last name. Looking forward to reuniting this personal item with the family of the veteran who lost it.

King Size: The Ghost Plane of LaFosse Discovered

Adult children of surviving WWII B24 crewmember travel to plane crash site to assist in recovery

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, March 19, 2018— On Christmas Day 1944, seven crewmembers perished after their B24 was shot down over Belgium attempting to return to their base in Hethel, England, from a bombing mission to Germany. Two crewmembers survived.

Seventy-three years have passed, and on March 23-24, 2018, Peter Ferdinand, Jr. and his sister Debbie Ferdinand Kelley will travel from the United States to Belgium to participate in the recovery of their father’s plane, King Size, 42-50612.

Peter Ferdinand, Sr. T/Sgt, was one of the two fortunate survivors of that fateful crash. Ferdinand parachuted to safety in the middle of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. He was eventually rescued by Americans and survived the experience. Ferdinand returned home to Drums, Pennsylvania, married, and had a good life raising four children.

Plane Crash Found :

In 2014, an aging landowner asked his community for help to metal-detect and locate pieces of a plane he remembered seeing crash as a young boy. It had happened on his family’s farm around Christmas time in 1944. For four years a group of Dutch and Belgian men led by Bob Konings of Grandmenil, Belgium, metal-detected on the land. They eventually located the debris field and recovered numerous small pieces which they were able to identify only as a B24. The farmer wanted to erect a memorial on his property to the crew of the plane that he had seen crash. The name of the plane and identity of the crew continued to elude the team of detectors.

Plane and Crew Identified:

In November 2017, Konings requested the help of Myra Miller, PhD, a WWII researcher living in St. Louis, Missouri, in identifying the plane and crew. With the help of  Steven Volkaerts, a Flemish WWII expert, Konings identified the 42-50612 as a possible match. David Pratt, an Englishman and WWII 8th AirForce expert, found the MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) with the list of names. After narrowing the list of possible planes to three (which included the 42-50612), Miller ordered the IDPF (Individual Deceased Persons File) and OMPF (Official Military Personnel File) related to these crashes. After reviewing almost thirty files, she was able to confirm the downed plane as the King Size, B24, 42-50612 and name the nine crewmembers. Within hours, Konings and Miller located Peter Ferdinand’s son on Facebook and made the initial contact.

Henri-Chappelle Cemetery Ceremony:

On March 23, 2018, Miller will excort Ferdinand’s adult children, including his son-in-law, to Belgium. They will arrive at 1:30 pm at Henri-Chapelle American Military Ceremony near Liege, Belgium to participate in a “sanding-of-the-marker” ceremony honoring the pilot and tail gunner who died in the plane crash.  MEDIA: Media are welcome to attend the ceremony at Henri-Chappelle and interview Konings, Miller, and the Ferdinands.

Plane Crash Recovery:

Twenty members of the plane crash recovery team, along with the Ferdinands, will excavate the final pieces of the B24 out of ground on Saturday and Sunday, March 24-25. During the process, a film crew will document the entire story and recovery. The team anticipates major pieces of the plane to be uncovered which will be cataloged and donated to a museum. MEDIA: The location will not be made public and only members of the media who contact Bob Konings directly will be invited to the area.

TIME SCHEDULE:

Friday, March 23 – 1:30 pm, Henri-Chapelle American Military Cemetery, “Sanding-of-the-Marker Ceremony” at the graves of 1st Lt, Raymond E. Price, pilot, and S/Sgt, Henry G. Maxham, tail gunner who died on December 25, 1944. Adult children of Peter Ferdinand will participate in the ceremony. MEDIA are very welcome.

Saturday,  March 24 – Plane Crash Site, Belgium; recovery team will excavate land (approved and permitted by landowner). MEDIA: You may contact Bob Konings for specific directions to site and approval to film and interview landowner, Ferdinands, and digging team.

 Sunday,  March 25 – Ceremony at Site 3:00 pm, Plane Crash Site, Belgium; continued excavation with ceremony honoring the crew of King Size. MEDIA: You may contact Bob Konings for specific directions to site and approval to film and interview landowner, Ferdinands, and digging team.