My name is Loïc Jankowiak, I am 25 years old and a graphic designer living in Bandol, France. Please see my website at ljankowiak.fr. I think I became a designer, so that I could blend my passion for history with creation to have the ‘power’ (insert laugh) to share to the media as I want.
I am not like others who say they became interested in history since they were very young. I started to be fascinated and discover the major event of WWII when I was 12-years-old. I have always been a very curious kid and now as an adult, this interest leads me to continue my quest for WWII knowledge.
Since the first commemorations of the landing of Provence in 2009, in which I participated as a reenactor, I really began to take an interest in what was called “Airborne in Provence”. This also led me to study the liberation of the area by the American troops. Since I lived in Provence, I quickly tightened the vice on what I should be interested in as a WWII specialty. I concentrated on the short existence of the First Airborne Task Force (the provisional airborne division for Operation Dragoon) and this has been the center of my research for a few years now.
With the existence of the 1st Airborne Task Force being a relatively short time, I also became interested in the long history of the units which constituted the 1st Airborne from their beginning to the end. To make a long story short, I am especially interested by the US Airborne, Special Forces, Independent units which fought in the Mediterranean Theater of Operation, and beyond. My area of specialty involves the war regions of Southern France, Italy, and Northern Africa.
My curiosity led me to interest in little or unknown units of WWII. These units have limited essential information. So, for me, every single word and document is important so that I know more! It is hard to explain… I am interested in all the possible stories of each of these units. I search constantly for details, components, functions, staff, and most importantly, the men themselves.
At the beginning of my research, I wanted to contact veterans through the internet and by mail. At first, I received no answer, but this did not discourage me. A few years later I received a reply from Mike Reuter and John Devanie, both 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Since then, I have probably interviewed over seventy veterans through internet and by phone who told me “their war.” Some veterans who remained in the shadows for over 65 years were surprised to finally get recognition.
The internet has appeared to me as a rich interface to learn, transmit, and share. That is why I had the idea in 2013 to create a website to share what I learned in the fighting areas and books, but above all, to pay tribute to paratrooper veterans of the “Forgotten D-Day.” It was from that year that I started to put online the first pages of the site. It was in March 2013 that the site ‘First Airborne Task Force: the Forgotten Paratroopers’ was launched. www.1stabtf.com.
I found Myra Miller on Facebook and through a twist of fate… I ran into her in Auxais, France when my WWII reenactment group was on march ending at the Church d’Auxais. We recognized each other and had our photograph made. Then, she searched for me in the fields of our WWII reenactment group’s bivouac area in order to personally hand me a copy of Soldiers’ Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs.
Earlier this year, she contacted and invited me to join the Footsteps Researchers team as a researcher and tour guide. I have been assigned to assist on Footsteps Researchers Packages and write Day-by-Day narratives in addition to developing Google Maps footsteps using the Morning Reports she images from the archives in St. Louis. I have never seen anything as remarkable as these footsteps maps and I am honored to be part of this unique team helping descendants find their veteran’s exact steps across Europe.
I was also asked to help develop the logo for LEGACY: Lost & Found, the non-profit arm of Footsteps Researchers. We help return WWII relics to the families of the men who lost them. It is quite an experience to be part of this operation!
Our Footsteps Researchers team is made up of many outstanding people from around the world with skills and talents. I am proud to work with Joey van Meesen, Florent Plana, Bob Konings, and Benjamin Mack-Jackson as a younger generation of people interested in preserving the history of WWII. www.footstepsresearchers.com/our-team.
Loic Jankowiak, Researcher and Tour Guide
Footsteps Researchers, firstname.lastname@example.org