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

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

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.

Footsteps Researchers head to the Pacific

To expand our services beyond the European Theater of Operations. Joey van Meesen will be going to Okinawa, Japan this May to explore the World War II battlefields of the Pacific Theater. A European Theater expert, Joey will put his history degree to use as he travels this specific area of Asia. As our Footsteps Researchers on-the-ground researcher/tour guide, he will travel from his home in The Netherlands to learn more about the units that fought in the Pacific.

Desmond T. Doss

Desmond T. Doss, B Co, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division, won the Medal of Honor for his actions on Hacksaw Ridge. His story is well known from the movie Hacksaw Ridge, released in 2016.

Joey will be staying on the island for two weeks visiting key sites such as Hacksaw Ridge and Kakazu Ridge. Another big part of the trip is to learn about the Okinawan lifestyle and people. This will benefit our team when we lead Footsteps Researchers Tours in the Pacific!

Follow Joey from May 8-25 on his adventure. Stay up-to-date on his whereabouts on Instagram and Facebook!

Front page Standard Speaker, Pennsylvania

Myra and Joey were team members on this great adventure with Bob Konings and his crew! We love the King Size project!

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.

 

LEGACY: Lost & Found

Imagine finding or having a WWII canteen, knife, jacket, mug, plate, etc… that is a mystery to you. You might have been metal detecting, purchased on eBay, or been rummaging through a flea market and come across this relic of the past.

But this one is unique…. it clearly has a name or number etched/scratched/stamped on it.

Who dropped it?  Who lost it?  Why did they leave it behind? Where were they from?

At no cost to the person in possession of the WWII item or the veteran’s family, Footsteps Researchers will attempt to find the rightful owner. However, the person in possession must be willing to give up the relic and let us return it to the family of the veteran free and clear once our search is 100% confirmed.

UPDATE:  We have a 100% confirmation with family in Alabama and will be returning the knife to them on Sunday, May 20th. Place and time still to be determined!

(We are currently busting at the seams to share the news with a family in Alabama that we have an item with their veteran’s name on it (found by a friend in Germany while metal detecting).  The veteran’s family has been located by an incredible quick search of our team member and Special Projects Assistant, Sara Collins. However, it is our policy to wait for a 100% confirmation before releasing the news.)

* The attached photo is a canteen we are currently researching. It has the name “Gilbert” scratched in it. We know where it was found, so we know the possible time and unit. We don’t know if Gilbert is first or last name. Looking forward to reuniting this personal item with the family of the veteran who lost it.

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!