Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

History Books with a Family Twist

I think I have mentioned before that I had three great uncles involved in WWII. My cousin Mary Ann took the letters that her father wrote and pulled together a little pdf document that incorporated the letters, pictures and framed them within the context of the war and what was going on at that time.
She did a great job on that. Uncle Jerry was in the 34th Infantry Division, in the 125th Artillery Battalion. What I find most interesting in the letters is that he never really spoke about the war itself, the conditions, the food, the weather but not the actions he was involved in. Granted some of that wouldn't have made it by the censors anyway but there is still only one letter that briefly mentioned "that by now you would have heard about" types of actions.
34th Infantry Division Association

All three of the brothers were actually in the army before the war broke out and Jerry was close to being discharged at the time.

Donald was the middle brother and was in the army and Louisiana at the same time as Jerry when the war broke out and had his enlistment extended for the duration. He ended up in the 164th Infantry regiment (North Dakota National Guard, still not quite sure how he ended up there) which would become part of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) in the Pacific. Don died of wounds sustained in the Philippines in 1945. All we have are his letters and pictures that were sent home. Mary Ann is working on putting together a pdf of Donald too. His unit was the first Army unit to join the Marines on Guadalcanal and was graced with the title of the 164th Marines by the 1st Marine Division. There is a book "They Were Ready" by Terry Shoptough about the 164th and while my great uncle is not mentioned in it, it is fascinating to read and think about what he must have gone through. My mother gave me Don's purple heart.
164th Infantry, N Dakota National Guard
164th Infantry Rgt on the left, 23rd Inf Division (Americal) on the right

Stanley was the youngest brother and he ended up in the Army Air Corps after the war started. He would be the only officer of the three. He was part of the 8th Air Force as a bombardier in a B-17 flying missions over Europe from December of 1943 - April of 1944. He was part of aircrew 8 in the 568th Squadron in the 390th Heavy Bombardment Group (J on the tail). The 390th has its own museum in Arizona which includes a fully restored (but non-flying) B-17. I haven't been done there yet but I intend to make that trip in the near future. Their website has an amazing amount of information and I was able to find all the missions that he flew, who the other crew members were (and after reading that you will find out just out rare it was for an entire crew to serve together for 25 -30 missions), and the aircraft he flew in. The aircraft was something that surprised me. Only the ground crew were assigned to a specific aircraft, mission crews could be assigned to any of the B-17s in the squadron although 14 of Stanley's 30 missions did take place in the same aircraft. Like the 164th, the 390th has its own book as and Stanley is mentioned in it receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross with three clusters. I'm not sure about other crews but bomber crews were apparently awarded a DFC for every 10 missions completed. 
390th Heavy Bombardment Group
568th Squadron patch
390th Heavy Bombardment Group patch

I'm not sure if Mary Ann is going to put together a pdf for Stanley or not but I hope she does just to keep the stories going and accessible to the family.


  1. Replies
    1. Its amazing what can crop up in a family's past!

  2. Very interesting indeed! My grandfather and his brother both joined the army immediately prior to the war and both wound up in the Army Air Corps in North Africa/Italy. I have often thought it would be interesting to put all their various ephemera together into a little book such as this.

    1. I think its a fabulous idea. If you want to see the pdf on my Great Uncle Jerry I would be happy to send it to you.