Wednesday, March 14, 2012

World War II European Theater Army Records on Fold3.com

Caught a tweet this morning, from Dear Myrtle and had to check it out.  I looked for a message from Fold3.com in my mail box but never found one... no tweet either so I hope Dear Myrtle won't mind my recopying some of it here.

When I was a little girl, I turned my eyes and cringed every time one of my elders would bring up the war (WWII) as they were alive when it happened and they remembered first hand what they had gone through.

My father was five years old when the German armies marched through his little village of Dalhem in early May 1940.   I am fuzzy about the exact chronology but I know my grandfather was deported to Germany shortly after the invasion. How he ended up in a military POW camp, I am not sure about either but that is where he was.  We have a handful of letters he wrote the family but they never quite satisfied my curiosity.
They first had him in Stalag VA in Ludwigsburg, then moved him to Stalag VB in Villingen. He was put in the service of a woman whose husband was fighting/had fought in Hitler's armies: Widow HEFELE at Illerbachen - hamlet of Berckheim- D- 88450.



In his own correspondence with me, my father says that he still recalls vividly the few hours of 'emptiness' between the time the German soldiers left and the American soldiers arrived... "like the calm after the storm".  He painted a US flag and a UK flag on two white sheets...  I often think about the soldiers who came marching down the street that day... Did they notice him? Not that it matters really but there was so much emotion involved in making those flags... I can picture him waving them with all his arms from the top of his 10 years.  Which army delivered them, anyway?

I recently transcribed letters that my husband's uncle wrote while he served as a medic in Europe. He was in Liege, and in Maestricht...  did he ever walk through the streets of Dalhem?  He never mentions it by name although he does talk of the welcoming committee they found everywhere they went.  Stanley was assigned to the US Ninth Army...

SO as I discovered this morning that Fold3.com (formerly FootNote.com) had released WWII European Theater Army Records, I could not resist.
 "War is waged primarily in battle, yet made possible by operations beyond the battlefield as revealed in the WWII European Theater Army Records, a collection of administrative documents compiled by the U.S. Army's Historical Division, 1941 through 1946. These records, originally marked secret and confidential, are now available on Fold3.", as the message sent to Dear Myrtle explains.

We do tend to think of combat when we think of war battles, but would the troops do without their supporting cast in charge of:
- supplies
- engineers
- medical
to name but a few...

Transcribing Stanley Safford's letters made me see with new eyes the building of pontoon bridges and the plight of soldiers dealing with mud and debris... 
After reading the sample document included in the article I knew I had to share these with you.


IMAGE: Details of air transport evacuation of 30,000 Allied prisoners of war. *

*IMAGE SOURCE: U.S. Army, U.S. Forces, European Theater, Historical Division: Records, 1941-1946 . National Archives Records Administration. Record Group 498, File 261 page 407. Viewed 3/14/2012 at www.Fold3.com. "These records cover operations of the European Theater during World War II, as collected, maintained, and organized by the Army's historical division staff."

I too got a chuckle out of the comments made by Captain James Stewart as he transported the former POWs from Belgium and other places to 'his' fort.

It struck me funny how people who had been deprived for years would think twice about taking a cigarette from the soldiers who were offering them for fear the soldiers would not have enough for themselves...  and it brought me back to my grandfather...  When he returned he too was not much more than skin and bones and obviously changed by the years in captivity.  As my father said: "after he came home he was more like a godfather than a father".

You may wonder how to access these records?
Go to www.fold3.com
You can benefit from a 7 day free trial if you have never registered with FootNote
They are having a special right now, so might be worth your time to subscribe.
Or you can go to a library that has access to the database, like a Family History Center for example.
Some other libraries give access to their patrons, either at the library or remote access.  You might want to ask your local librarian.

That's all for today...  Happy Hunting!


http://thebelgianresearchers.blogspot.com/

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