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.

Then and Now Photos with Joey and Myra

On December 30, 2018, Joey van Meesen and Myra Miller took off on a day trip through Belgium and Luxembourg (with Ronald van Meesen singing in the back seat). The goal was to locate current locations to match original WW2 photos. Then Joey used his skills to blend the shots together. We had so much fun that day! #footstepsresearchers @footstepsresearchers.

Then & Now: Infantrymen of the 83rd Infantry Division march into Bovigny, Belgium, after driving east from Bois de Bonce Forest. Co. Bo, 329th Regt. US First Army. 20 January 1945. Signal Corps Photo. ETO-HQ-45-9096 (Tec 4 Leo Moran) from 165 Sig Photo Co. Released by Field Press Censor 22 January 1945.
(Myra the photographer with Joey walking in the picture.)

Then & Now: Tank destroyer moves with the infantry through the town of Bovigny, Belgium. The column in the foreground is World War I Memorial. 329th Regiment, 1st Battalion, 83rd Infantry Division. 639th Tank Destroyer Battalion. 20 Jan 1945. Signal Corps Photo HQ-45-9099 (Moran). Released by Field Press Censor 22 Jan 1945.
(Myra the photographer with Joey posing like the statue in the picture.)

Then & Now: This photograph shows members from the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division standing near a war-torn building in Tintange, Belgium.
(Joey the photographer with Myra walking toward the building in the picture.)

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



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!

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!