MEET Footsteps Researcher – Loïc Jankowiak!

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, loic@footstepsresearchers.com

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

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!

 

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 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

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.

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.