Footsteps Researchers adding archive detective at NARA College Park, Maryland

We are happy to announce that we are now able to get WWII Unit Journals, After Action Reports, photographs, and maps much faster from the NARA facility in College Park, Maryland.  In the past, we had to request them through another Independent for Hire Researcher which added to the cost and slowed down the process for our client. Now, we have our own Footsteps Researcher on the east coast with extensive archival research, specifically WWII.  We have researchers at both facilities where the most important documents for WWII are housed.

For any request regarding research, it helps to fill out the form on this site under the Contact Us tab. The request comes straight to our email box where we can then process into our project list.

NARA St. Louis, Missouri

Footsteps Researchers; Myra Miller, Kevin Banks, Kwabe Boaten, Ken Miller

NARA College Park, Maryland

Footsteps Researcher; Heather Steele

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!

View this post on Instagram

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!

In Search of a Father’s Footsteps – June 7, 1944

The son of Captain Henry C. Hobbs is pretty happy right now.

For many years, he has been searching for the location in Normandy, France where his father crash-landed his glider on June 7, 1944. All of his men survived and they walked over four miles to a command post in Les Forges before heading back to Utah Beach and England.

Chuck Hobbs was in Normandy during the 74th Anniversary of D-Day last week. He enlisted the help of Footsteps Researchers to find the glider crash landing area and to walk in his father’s footsteps.

The search started with Myra Miller in St. Louis organizing the Footsteps Researchers team. Myra assigned Kevin Banks, our Archive Researcher, specific files to pull along with flight records and Morning Reports from the National Archives where the WWII records are stored. Kevin sent his findings to Myra who then worked on figuring out the coordinates, maps, and locations based on information found in the reports. She then sent her findings and Skyped with team member Florent Plana, who lives in Normandy. The next day, Florent met with Chuck and took him to the area where the glider crashed in 1944… they traveled along the roads where a C-47 also crashed (Henry Hobbs mentioned finding this C-47 in his interrogation report)… and then to the command post where Henry and his men ended up.

Chuck reported back, “Myra, I had a wonderful time with Florent this afternoon. He did a super job and gave me a lot of information on the probable location where my father landed. He was also excellent in talking to local residents about what they remembered. Thanks for setting things up for me. I look forward to seeing the files when I get home.”

Teamwork and passion… this is how we make people happy!

 

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.

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.

 

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.