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!

 

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.