Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend, besides being a "long weekend" and the library book sale I've been looking forward to, is Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.

My family hasn't been in the U.S. long enough to participate in the Revolution (What's this AWI business? is revolution a dirty word? ), the Civil War, etc. They came to America sometime in the early 1900s (for the most part).

Both of my grandfathers joined the army in World War II - one, according to family mythology, gave up a promising path in electronics because he wanted to serve "on the front lines". Ironically, he wound up stationed in India where he killed a tiger, learned to drive and spent a lot of time playing cards. And by tiger I mean the furry variety, not the German armor by the same name. The other grandfather's service I know less about, although there's some notion that he served as an MP in the Pacific. In both cases, they made it home - for which I'm grateful (I wouldn't exist otherwise).

Certainly I'll put out feelers to my family when i speak with them this weekend, just to see if they have learned any more than what I've heard already - but neither grandfather spoke of their service much at all. Other than a picture of the dead tiger and a hazy memory of an  evening at a Chinese restaurant in New Jersey when I was around 10,  with both sets of grandparents present and the grandfathers talking about "The War", I don't think either one ever cared to reflect publicly about their experiences.

In any case, I have no more information than that - and by "more information", I mean specifically unit names, locations, and length of service.

Apparently, only next of kin can request complete records from the National Archives (and even then, 80% of army records from a time period that spans WWII were lost in a fire). However, The National Archives makes a ton of databases available for public access. Best of all, they're free. I managed to find my paternal grandfather's enlistment record. It's not everything I want to learn, but it's a start.

So in addition to the aforementioned book sale, gaming activities, and watching Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora! and a host of other war movies, calling to mind the countless lives lost in the name of war, I'll be kicking around the genealogical tree to see what I can find out.

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