Saturday, July 9, 2011

Military Separation Papers - Byron Miller

Last year, I asked my mother (as next-of-kin) to order a copy of her father's military files. She agreed, completed the paperwork and sent them in to the NARA. Her father died when she was nine years old and our family rarely speaks of him. He was served in WWII prior to meeting my grandmother and she knew very few details about his service because it wasn't something he talk about. I was hopeful through his military files we would learn the specifics about his overseas service and the injuries we knew he sustained.

After several months, my Mom received a generic form letter saying that NARA didn't have his record and that it was most likely damaged/destroyed in a fire. At this news, I have to admit that I was more than a little heartbroken. At the time, I felt that this was the one and only way we were going to learn about his history in the Army.

As time passed, I was able to piece together snippets of his service from his military headstone, a picture of him in uniform with a patch on his sleeve, and a book on the battles of Leyte that was in the possession of my Grandma. I felt lucky that I was able to piece these small tidbits of information together and resigned myself to the fact that this is all we would ever know.

Fast forward a year and you can imagine my surprise when my Mom called and told me that Grandma found some "military papers" on Grandpa while sorting through her papers! My Mom, being the awesome lady that she is, ran to the store and made copies of them for me before they were filed away again.

She mailed them straight away and I received them earlier this week. These "military papers" were actually his Honorable Discharge letter and his separation qualification record. Grandma had found the mother-load!

I spent several hours today pouring over these records with my husband, who is fascinated with WWII history. From the information we were able to learn a lot about his training and even a few details on his civilian life. Listed below are the main things we learned:

  • The highest level of education he completed was the 7th grade
  • He was employed as a civilian truck driver before joining the Army in 1942
  • He attended special service school courses in Radio Repair and Operation, Tank Driver, and Radial Engine Mech.
  • He was in the 776th Amphibious Tank Battalion
  • His military specialties were Antitank Gunner and Radio Tender
  • He operated and maintained radios in his tank company
  • He coded and decoded messages in combat zones
  • He had blue eyes (no one had ever told me this before)
  • He was a draftee
  • He was in the service a total of 2 years, 7 months, and 6 days
  • His wounds received in action are listed as "SWA on Leyte Island 20 Oct 1944" (SWA = Seriously Wounded in Action)
  • He was discharged from the hospital at Camp Carson in Colorado
  • He received the following decorations and citations: Asiatic Pacific Ribbon, 1 Bronze Battle Star, Purple Heart, and Good Conduct Ribbon
Having never met the man and knowing very few details about him, the things that stood out the most to me were his signature and right thumb print. After all, the details I had been craving to learn are mere facts compared to the handwriting and thumb print of the Grandfather I have never met.

3 comments:

  1. OMG, this story sounds like mine! My mom's dad also died when she was young, and I knew he had served in the military during WWII or shortly thereafter. I was going to have her sign the papers to get his records, but I had heard about the fire and didn't have a lot of hope. I mentioned it in front of my grandma one day, and she was like, "I think I might have something for you." She had the mother-load of papers too! She never threw anything away. She had his separation qualification record and his discharge certificate.

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  2. That is wonderful example of the information you can glean from military papers. Congratulations on having an awesome mother. She is special. Glad you found them.

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  3. What a wonderful find!

    Whenever I hear about these types of situations (missing government records and families coming up with actual records) it always makes me wonder if the government would want a copy of those records to fill in the gaps of their records? Sadly they probably wouldn't because they would look at them as an added workload to already overloaded employees. But wouldn't it be nice for later generations if they would integrate your documents into your grandfather's file.

    Again what a great find and thanks for letting us know.

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