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!

Front page Standard Speaker, Pennsylvania

Myra and Joey were team members on this great adventure with Bob Konings and his crew! We love the King Size project!

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.

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.

We offer the follow packages:

  • Footsteps Research
  • Footsteps Research Package
  • Footsteps Footsteps Photo & Video Package
  • Footsteps Tours Silver Star Package
  • Footsteps Tours Gold Star Package

Click here for more information about our packages!

Morning Reports

Tracing. Exact. Footsteps.

Why are Morning Reports a critical tool in tracing the exact footsteps of your veteran?

Morning Report A Co, 506th PIR December 5th 1944

A Morning Report provided the higher command with an essential overview of all personnel activity within the company on a given day. It contains the following details:

  • The company’s exact location
  • Names of personnel transferred to another company
  • Names of personnel wounded or killed in action—in the case of transfer to a hospital, the report gives the particular hospital unit.
  • The strength of the company—that is, the number of active soldiers that day
  • An overview of the rations in the company’s inventory
  • Sometimes, a brief record of events about the company’s activities that day—e.g., moving or fighting

Searching Morning Reports is a labor-intensive process. They are stored on microfilm and require patient, careful searching through reels of negatives. Let us locate, process, and interpret your veteran’s files.

Disclaimer: Please bare in mind that requesting and receiving your files usually takes two to four weeks!

 

 

 

 

Service Records

Archives. Files. History.

Discharge Papers of Michael C. Bilder

What constitutes your veteran’s service records?

Every veteran who fought in WWII has his own Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). Soldiers who were killed or died during their military service also have an Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF), which documents their death and actions associated with the disposition of their remains. These files are housed at NARA St. Louis, Missouri.

The OMPF contains details about the veteran’s service history, which may include:

  • enlistment documentation
  • training
  • duty stations and assignments, including campaigns fought
  • payroll records
  • discharge information, including list of decorations earned

In 1973, a fire destroyed 80% of these files, and many relatives were told their veteran’s records no longer exist.

Don’t be discouraged! The archivists have been reconstructing the damaged and destroyed files, and we have found that in most cases, some records exist. You simply can’t know until we submit your OMPF form. You never know, you may be one of the lucky ones who get a B-File (burned file) that has gone through the preservation department at the Archives. For information about what happened after the fire of 1973, go to https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs/preservation-program/burned-records.html

The IDPF documents the processes of the military after a soldier’s death while in service and may include:

  • location and circumstances of death
  • medical examiner’s report
  • the soldier’s possessions at the time of death
  • burial or repatriation information
  • correspondence between the family and the government

Disclaimer: Please bare in mind that requesting and receiving your files usually takes two to four weeks! However, the request takes longer if it has to go through preservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At NARA College Park, Maryland, the WWII Unit Journals, After Action Reports, photographs, and maps can be researched for you. It is a different process to research at this facility. We would request a wish list and figure a capped dollar amount before researching files. We would then communicate about our progress to let you know the success of the project.