© 2019 by Rabbi Rachel Bearman.

  • Rachel K Bearman

My Grandfather's Military Service



This spring, I sent a request to the national military archives for the records of my grandfather and my great- grandfather- both of whom served during WWII.

It took MONTHS to even hear back from the archives, but after waiting more or less patiently, I finally got a response. The letters from the military archives explained that they had located records for both men. But, they wanted to caution me and explain that after a devastating fire in 1973, many of the records had been lost, and therefore they couldn't guarantee that the records that they had found would be the ones that I wanted. The letter went on to say that if I still wanted to, I could send a check and move forward with the request.

Needless to say, I sent the check. I didn't care if I got one page back. I knew that if I didn't ask for what was available, I would always wonder if there had been some kind of treasure waiting for us in the National Archives.

A month after I sent the letter, I finally received my grandfather's records! (I'm still waiting on the records for my great-grandfather.) And, I have to say that the National Archives seriously downplayed how amazing the records would be!

Before this packet of documents arrived, I knew only the most basic details about Grandpa George's time in the army- namely the years that he entered and left the service and a couple of stories that had been handed down.

Now, I know that Grandpa George served with the 242nd Field and Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations. The story that my mother had told us girls about him delivering mail as part of his responsibilities has been expanded by the following note from his records:

"Was in charge of all mail in the battalion. Picked up the mail at the APO [Army Post Office]; sorted it and brought it to the various batteries. Handled all first class mail and packages for an average of 600 men. Sold stamps and made out money orders."

After reading through his records, I now know that when Grandpa entered the army, the doctors who examined him reported that his posture was good; his eyes were blue; and his complexion was ruddy.

These records have taught me that that in the years he served in the army (1942-1945), my grandfather managed to gain 8 pounds (raising his weight to 163 pounds) and that somehow his eyesight was better at the end of the war, than it was at the beginning.

I've even learned that my grandfather received the following awards and citations:

The European African Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal

The American Theater Service Medal

and

The Good Conduct Medal

But, more than anything else, these records have opened up an entirely new arena of research (which is a family historian's dream)! There's so much new information to learn and understand and exploring it is so exciting that I've found myself getting lost in the work time and time again.

All it takes is one new fact for me to start falling down the family history rabbit hole! I'll show you what I mean:

New Piece of Information:

Grandpa George belonged to the 242nd Field and Artillery Battalion

Step 1:

Ask google what the 242nd Field and Artillery Battalion was and find the following page

http://www.242nd-field-artillery.com/242nd.asp

Step 2:

Buy the book Serving the Pieces- an account of a soldier in the 242nd FA Battalion on your kindle only to then discover that the paperback comes with a CD of photos and other information... Comfort yourself by saying that now you'll have two copies and that there's no such thing as too many books!

Step 3:

Email the contact person for the website about the 242nd FA Battalion and introduce yourself and your newly discovered connection to the 242nd

Explain that your grandfather appeared on the list of the men in the service battery and ask if there is any other information he can share with you

Step 4:

Do a giddy dance when the son of the man who served in the 242nd (and the author of Serving the Pieces) emails you back and includes attachments with detailed information about the movements of the service battery

Step 5:

Start googling some of the places on the list only to decide that the best way to do this part of the research is to create a detailed google map that marks each and every location the service battery stayed as well as the dates they arrived at and departed from each place

I have just begun to learn about Grandpa George's time in the army. But, I have to say that the last few weeks of exploring these new sources of information have been so exciting and fascinating. Every bit of information helps me travel through time and learn even more about Grandpa George's years in the army.

I'm proud of his service and grateful for the chance to learn more about this chapter of his story.

Ps: 10,000 points to the person who can tell me what, "La Monde Brique," refers to. It's the only location that I haven't been able to figure out. The 242nd's Service Battery stayed there in October of 1944 in between their stops in Thiébauménil and Lunéville.