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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MRC: Putting Together Individual Histories of Service.

Primary Sources:

  • Discharge, enlistment and draft records. All provide information that points us to specific information on a service member. DD214’s and any official military papers are crucial to building and tracing a service person's history.
  • Pictures: particularly in uniform, but even off-duty pictures in civilian clothing. A picture in uniform can tell us their rank, unit, service station, etc. A faded picture with a well-known bakery in the background and a hard to read inscription on the back, “Taft Street”, helped us find the exact location of JD Littrell’s location in the Philippines. A similar picture of Redford “Red” Littrell at the military Gate identified his branch of service, unit and training station before we ever saw his discharge papers. Sometimes the short, hard to read or understand notes written on the back of a photo is as informative, if not more so, than the picture itself.
  • Unit Citations and cruise/training books: It is sometimes possible to find what is called a cruise book or a ship's book or books that are published in the US Army at the end of boot camp chronicling in pictures and some commentary on the boot camp or deployment experience. Such a cruise book for JD Littrell's Navy service from World War II was a big help.

Secondary Sources:

  • Letters and postcards: Invaluable in personalizing a servicepersons story, but also important in researching and developing a service history. Even in the case of personal mail being censored, it is possible with hindsight and a knowledge of military history, mythology, and practices to decode simple unknown or confusing references that may not otherwise seem relevant.
  • Newspaper articles.
  • Souvenirs.

Invaluable Sources:

  • Personal recollections passed on from generation to generation: Family stories sometimes evolve with each telling and are often affected by fading memories. This may be the case even to the point of rendering the story void of sustainable facts, but that is the nature of family stories… their accuracy is important but just as important is the ‘flavor’ of the story, Being aware of this can lend itself to making even the most inaccurate recollection useful.

Missing Information:

  • We may not know what we don’t know, but when we know something is missing we have a mystery to solve, and that is where the fun begins.

You would be surprised at what I can sometimes find from the simplest clue. Missing information exists… it just has not yet found its way to being published in a book and or reference on the internet. But as time passes sometimes this information all of a sudden is there, you just have to remember to backtrack and double-check for its existence.

For many of the veterans in our family book "Military Roll Call" there is sometimes limited information that requires us to piece together the story of their service by relying on what we believe are their dates of service and then referencing the history of their military unit. While this does not give us a specific recollection of their service they provide us with a barometer by which we can relate to the conditions of their service and what they more than probably endured at some level.


Send any information or inquiries to: indianaglenn@gmail.com

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