“U.S. troops go over the side of a Coast Guard manned combat transport to enter the landing barges at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, as the invasion gets under way.” November 1943. This picture is from the National Archives online.
With Memorial Day almost upon us, we remember family members who have been in the military, those who fought and those who died protecting the freedoms that we still enjoy. We regret that we don’t know more about them and what they went through. Over the past few months I have been working on a guide to finding information on family members who fought in World War II. It is in a relatively new software format known as a LibGuide.
This guide is divided into four sections represented by four blue tabs near the top of the guide. You can move from one section to the other by clicking a tab. The guide, for now, includes books and websites. Eventually links to relevant blogs, blog postings, and articles may also be included. Books are linked to the library’s online catalog. Click on a specific title and you will find out whether or not it it available at Newton. It will also give you all the book’s bibliographic information. This will help you locate the book if you belong to a library network other than Minuteman. All website links listed are live links. Just click on them and you are there.
Each highlighted heading that follows will bring you to the tab/page being discussed.
When you first go into “Finding Family Members Who Fought in World War II”, you will find books to help you with your military research, two specifically dedicated to World War II. You will also find links to various web sites, such as the military records section of the National Archives and indexes to other online resources.
Material reached by clicking the second tab will include two types of personal narratives. The first is military narratives. There is a wealth of information that can be found in the writings of individuals who actually served during the war. This type of work often lends added insight and background information to your own search, not to mention some understanding of what these people went through, especially before, during, and after fighting. The books listed in these sections are just a tiny selection of what is available. If you click on a book of interest, the record that comes up will include subject headings. You can click on a heading to bring up other books or use a headings as the basis for a keyword search.
The other type of personal narrative included here are those of family members who sought to find either additional information on individuals or to locate family members missing in action. The books contain specific information on the methods of a search and where relevant information was found. It might help you in your own search.
This section (the third tab) includes works written about regiments, divisions, and broader service histories, as well as smaller groups. These are often overlooked sources of information that can be of tremendous help once you find in what part of the military your family member served. It may give you additional sources of information when you come up against a brick wall in your search. It also helps to put an individual’s service into a broader context.
The last section provides information for veterans who are considering saving their personal military experiences before they are lost. This is often done so that their fellow combatants, their friends, will not be forgotten. The combat veteran faces a unique and difficult challenge. “Do Bar Fights Count?,” written by a woman who helps veterans and runs writing workshops for them, explains the problem. War is traumatic. It forever changes a person who has been through battle. To write about it is to relive it as though it is happening now. I had a cousin who was a young medic on Omaha Beach. He told me that you grow up quickly when you have your best friend die in your arms. Only the combat veteran who has gone through battle understands its deep, personal costs. They deserve nothing less than our gratitude, our understanding, and our deep respect.