Marion & National Archive Records
#31

Just got my second installment of records. I now have about 1500 pages (God it could be more) of docs on the 540th. Lots of good reading here folks. It will make for some good stories that's for sure.

 

The daily journals are my godsend. I just found the docs for the period of Dec 44 and Jan 45. Yup the Ardennes/Alsace Campaign. The entries for the 1st of January are very riveting. They are right in the thick of things and the fighting is fierce. They were used as infantry during many days of this conflict. I would not have wanted to be there. I will have to post them on the site someday soon.

 

Right now I have to sort through all this paper. We are going to sort by campaigns (hubby and I), to make it easier. Remember I still have more docs coming this year... Sometimes it's a bit overwhelming and I think, my gosh woman, what the hell have you gotten yourself into? This is no cakewalk.

 

I look forward to the challenge though. And a challenge it will be. :pdt34:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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#32

Well Steve it was a bunch of "hooey". I received a letter and documents detailing what was available from NARA on Saturday. Seems there are numerous documents at my disposal. Because of the volume, I think I will contact Georgetown University and have a research student copy the designated docs. I could have NARA copy the files, but I am limited to five and it wouldn't do me much good unless I could get ALL of them.

 

I just got back from a business trip to DC, where I extended my stay for one day just to take a visit to NARA at College Park, MD. After re-reading this thread, I see that I probably should have contacted you before hand to see if there was anything you might want----but as you pointed out, they have lots of records and I couldn't copy all that I wanted.

 

I wanted to describe my trip and relieve some of the worry some may have about going there in person. First, one important bit of info that I learned:

NOTE: There will be a re-organization at NARA in OCTOBER 2006 and the people who work Reference will be assigned to work on the floor. If you can go now, then you might get more help.

 

I was very hesitant about taking time and spending money on Hotel in order to visit NARA. I was afraid I would miss a bus or miss my flight(like I did at the last time) or the Archives would be full of people and not enough copiers. You know the usual thing that goes on at a library when your term paper is due.

 

Well, it was really a breeze. There is a free shuttle bus from the NARA on the Washington Mall to College Park that left at 8am. Take the METRO subway to the ARCHIVES--NAVY MEMORIAL stop on the Green & Yellow lines. When you exit the subway on the escalators, the Navy Memorial with blue-dyed water fountain will be on one side of Pennsylvania Ave and the back of the National Archives is directly across the street. Cross the street to the left and go to the bus shelter to the left of NARA, or East corner, only 30 yards off Pennsylvania Ave. A small (20-seat) bus marked "Archives" will stop there.

The trip takes about 20 minutes. I got to Archives #2 building and checked in at the registration desk just behind front door security. You watch a brief computer presentation on their rules and security. Then you get a photo ID made that becomes your charge card. You pay a cashier on the 1st floor who adds credit to your ID card.

 

You won't believe security and rules. The following are FORBIDDEN in the research rooms.

. . . pens, folders, sticky notes, more than 1 book,

. . . back packs, cameras

. . . Food & drinks.

Some people had their cameras approved to use for photographing documents; I'm not sure what that takes to do that. They have Lockers (free) in the basement for you to store your belongings. There is a cafe with hot food and sandwiches on the 1st floor.

By 9am I had completed registration. I went through the main security and reported in at the 2nd Floor, where the WW2 documents are stored. The staff(I'm not sure what his title was) was friendly to help out the new guys. I gave him a list of 3 items that were priority on my list. He filled out the Form for each box or file. They are detailed in the info they want on the 3-part Form, so their assistance was appreciated. Their first document pull was at 9:30am and I had my form ready in time for this first pull.

 

They only pull a few times a day once every hour. You usually have to wait up to 1 hour to get your documents retrieved. But they do skip some hours. One guy missed the 2:30 pull and had to wait until the 3:30 pull which meant he didn't get his documents until nearly 4:30.

While I waited, this staff gave me a badge and escorted me to see a Reference Staff who was more expert on WW2 documents. I told him what I was trying to do and what I had already pulled. He showed me indexes for more files and helped me with my 2nd document pull. The index had subjects such as Maps and Divisional Artillery records and such.

With my Luck, my first pull went wrong. This was not the fault of the staff who filled out my form, either. They pulled from the 84th Division instead of the 85th Division. I went back to the staff who immediately corrected it and returned the correct files within 15 min. Out came a cart with 24 boxes of files.

 

You check for your name on the Pull log. When they enter your name, you ask for your files. You sign the pink copy of the form to check out the files. You can return the files and they will hold it for 3 days, thus eliminating the 1-hour pull, again.

Each Box is a only 6-inches deep and hold legal size documents that are in folders. Again the rules require you to remove ONLY 1 box and ONLY 1 File (folder) per box. They give you a laminated file marker to mark where it was removed. Oh, they watch you with personel and security cameras so you won't do anything sneaky or stupid.

 

The Research room is very nice. It has glass windows with a high ceiling which gives great light. There are tables with 4 work stations on each.

Copying Data-- When you find a file you want to copy, you take the Box with you to either the 5-minute copiers scattered around or the Bulk Copy area located at one end of the room. You show the desk the documents and he checks to see if the documents have a Security Classification. If so, they give you a small Declassified label to tape to the glass of the copier. You swipe your card and start copying; again one File folder removed at a time. Cost is 15 Cents each copy and every copy is Legal size. They only start timing your copier use when a line forms behind you. I got carried away and they had to tap me on the shoulder once.

 

I had some Maps to copy. Some maps were spliced together with glue. In some cases the glue came apart and I could copy each sheet. You can not copy any document UNLESS it hangs over the copier too much---it could damage it. Generally, check with the desk to make sure you can copy it. Some that would not fold out, I took to the bulk copy area where they had a copier that photographed it from above.

One map was larger, so I took it to the 3rd floor Map room. That copier feeds the page thru a copier, so there dimension are limitations for that, too. My map would easily unfold, so it could be copied. The cost was $2.70 a linear foot; total was $5.40. It was a map of the position of all the German units north of the Arno River in August 1944 for the II Corps sector.

 

Some of the data I retrieved was all the files on the 328FA, including Ops Reports, Journals and general history. I requested the General Orders for the 85th Division which was a thick stack of all the memos that issued awards & decorations----too thick to copy it all. A few Maps from 85th Division Itelligence. Some were marked and some were just extra blank maps. The overlays were brittle and some were faded. Others were great but without the map they are not useful.

 

The last shuttle back to DC departed at 5:00pm. Sometimes the Archives stays open to 9pm. That would be a great day to go and spend 12 hours there. Of course the cafe closed at 3pm or so. When you go back through security, they check your material to ensure you haven't taken anything and you have all the Declassified stamps.

 

A day at the archives is sufficient time to collect a lot of useful info. I would highly recommend it. Two days would be better, but you might have to take a day to read your material and decide where to continue. It all depends. Then there is a question as to how much of this can you afford to copy.

 

A helpful Hint: Copy what you need and don't take time to read it.

Copying Hint: For old, yellow documents, set the copier to Light (2 out of 7 setting).

 

Hope this helps.

Steve

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#33

Glad you had such a great and productive day at NARA. Sounds like you used your time wisely and got a lot done. Excellent.

 

My NARA researcher copied about 2000 pages of docs for me. She said she was getting an aching back, shoulder and arm. I can only imagine.

 

I have ALL the docs from Maryland now on the 540th, but would like to go myself someday to see other records such as the 36th or 39th. A future trip...

 

Ya, I read and heard about the security measures. They have to be strict. Can you imagine someone screwing up these irreplacables docs? :wacko:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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#34

Great news, Steve. My grandpa has made the comment that he would like to obtain his unit records while in Korea. He thinks it would help him in his claim for partial disability due to frozen feet and PTSD. Unfortuneatly, he just did not know where to go. I'm surprised no one at the VA was able to get these for him.

 

I hate to admit, but all that red tape and BS just makes me give up before I even get started.

 

At any rate, that is great news, Steve. I'm glad you found what you were looking for and it wasn't an altogether unpleasant experience.

 

Brooke

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#35

I hate to admit, but all that red tape and BS just makes me give up before I even get started.

Me too. I called a few people to get advice and try to determine if the trip would be worth it. That is why I wanted to post this.

 

I'm editing the above post to include extra details that I forgot.

 

Steve

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#36

Well as of this week, I have begun sorting through the 2000 or more pages of NARA docs that I acquired. A very important step at this point in time since I am actually writing the book now. I am sorting all the docs into folders my month and year, and where applicable, into the separate battalions. In my case the 1st, which later became the 2832nd, and the 2nd, which later became the 2883rd.

 

This will make accessing the data much easier. Then if I need something I will know right where to go. If I try and do a bit each day or week, the job won't be as cumbersome as it sounds. As I am sorting, I am quickly perusing each sheet for recognizable names, and making notes on a pad for quick reference.

 

I need to find the sheet that listed my dad's hospitalization, so I can contact NARA and get the morning reports for that time period. After I receive these, then I can apply for his Purple Heart.

 

:heartpump:

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#37

Four months ago I submitted a request via vetrecs.archives.gov for my father's personal military records. Yesterday NPRC replied with a letter saying "The record needed to answer your inquiry was in the area that suffered the most damage in the July 1973 fire ... We have located a few documents that were successfully recovered after the fire." They offer viewing in their archival research room but "Because the record you seek is fire-damaged and may also contain mold, preservation treatment will be required ... may take several weeks, depending on how badly the record is damaged. If the record is in such fragile condition that handling of original documents cannot be permitted, a photocopy of the OMPF will be provided."

 

As much as I would like to visit NPRC to do some digging myself its not possible now. Photocopy services are $50 for what they have recovered which I'm guessing is very little. I don't know if I'm getting the standard run around answer.

 

Peanuts

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#38

Peanuts, that is pretty much the reply most folks are getting. :unsure: Some of it IS true, but many people have simply received a form letter and...

 

However, I myself, and several others I have directed, were able to pick up a copy of their loved one's discharge papers from their state's Veteran's Admin. If a loved one received any kind of treatment after discharge from the VA, then they have permanent records which they will copy for you.

 

When I wrote to the Michigan VA, they sent me a copy within two weeks. Please check out this link for info:

 

http://www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isFlash=1

 

So contact your dad's home state VA and see what transpires. The best to you.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
Reply
#39

That is definitely good advice, M1. There was never any mention of my Dad getting medical treatment from the VA after discharge, but my mother received a burial flag. So first I wrote (in January) to his Buffalo, New York state VA office and have had no response even though I tagged my letter as an FOIA Request. A follow-up to the VA call center told me they are six months backlogged with inquiries, that VA did not have my Dad's records (she checked their database with his social security number), and to contact NPRC in St. Louis.

 

I already have my father's honorable discharge papers. They show that he signed-up for VA insurance with a premium of $6.70 each month. Because of that, and the burial flag, I thought they would have all his records.

 

My request included specific files being sought—the 201 file, DD214 documents, Service Record AGO Form 24, and/or all documents containing every assignment - my father's complete military service - from start to finish.

 

Well I guess the NPRC letter I received, to Dear Sir or Madam, is a form letter. Since it said they located a few documents recovered from the fire it gave me hope that a real effort was in progress.

 

By now, I know the history of the 36th Engineers pretty well. But there are some discrepancies between my fathers two discharge papers that need clarification and I want to learn the exact dates of brief periods where he was out-of-action due to Sandfly Fever and a non-battle injury. Maybe Morning Reports are the next route to go. I really don't know what else to do if both VA and NPRC are shining my request and besides funds are very limited.

 

Thanks for your input. Telling our stories often helps others.

 

Peanuts

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#40

Hi Peanuts,

I applied for my dads records about 6 months ago and was told that they were destroyed in the fire. I wonder if there are certain initials that received less damage that they send out the response that you received.

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