Posted by: philipmartin | October 4, 2010

What Did You Do During the War, Dad? (Part II)

[This is the 2nd in a series of posts by Nancy Martin, co-author with her father-in-law of the book, Patton’s Lucky Scout.]

“What did you do during the war, Dad?”

In my father-in-law’s case, the war was World War II. That question eventually led to our book, Patton’s Lucky Scout.

How about your relative?

Here are some questions & story prompts to help you encourage the veteran in your family to share his/her recollections.

Remember it wasn’t just men that served, many women did also. This list will give you a jumping-off point, but I would encourage you to keep a running list of topics you want to explore. Your questions will be better than mine, because yours will be tailored upon what you already know about your vet. Don’t feel like you have to get all of the questions answered in one sitting . . . it would exhaust both of you!

There are two questions that can lead you to other information.

1)    What was their dog-tag number? If you know this you can obtain their official service record (separation papers), which will list their medals. If they don’t remember their dog-tag number, the official National Archives (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) website may be able to help you figure it out.

2)    What unit did they serve with? Get as specific as possible. If you research online, you may find multiple unit/regiment/division specific websites. You may also find books, even movies specific to your veterans unit.

Here are some more prompts to start with and directions they may lead:

  • Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)? Who were you with? And what happened next?
    • Did you enlist or get drafted?
      • How old were you?
      • Still in school or working?
      • Had you been following war news before Pearl Harbor?
      • Did you have a steady or were you already married?
        • What did they think about you going into service?
      • Did you have siblings? If so, what about them, what did they do?
    • Which branch of the service did you join and why?
    • When and where were you sworn in?
    • Were you or did you have relatives involved in the war before the U.S. officially entered the fight?
  • What was your dog-tag number (a lot of vets can still recite theirs)?
    • Do you still have it . . . or your uniform, or any pictures or other souvenirs?
      • This question could potentially get your most interesting stories!
      • If they have their original uniform, you may find their dog-tag number written in the collar in permanent ink.
    • When and where did you do you do boot camp?
      • What was the easiest/hardest thing for you there?
  • Did you get any specialized training? What sort? When? Where?
  • When did you ship out? To which theater of war?
    • How was your crossing? How long did it take? Do you remember the ship’s name? Was your convoy attacked?
  • What unit(s) did you serve with?
    • There are several parts to this question. For instance, in my father-in-law’s case, he served in the 328th regiment, which was aligned with the 26th Yankee Division, which was part of the Third Army. The divisions were sometimes realigned as situations changed. Try to get down to specific company if possible. This answer will allow you to do additional research and perhaps even find other vets that served with your vet.
  • Who did you serve with? Friends from home, buddies you meet along the way?
    • This may be a vet’s most talkative question, but potentially a sad one.

I’ll post the next group of suggested questions tomorrow.


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