I say this often in most of my WWII talks but I will say it again. It’s vital you search for information on the collaterals. Those people who served with your service member, especially if they were part of a bomb crew or tank crew, or any unit in which they served closely with several others.
Why? Because their records may contain details on their crew members, especially if they died in service or are still considered Missing In Action (MIA).
2nd Lt. Fred Davis, pictured here, was a co-pilot in a bomber that went down 2 November 1943 in Austria. Researching Fred’s service online didn’t yield much. When I searched for the pilot, Jefferies, I landed on a website in which the author had written (not published) an 800 page book about the mission. He documented every crew, had numerous photos, and histories of the crews, the mission, successes, and losses. It was so well sourced you could walk his paper trail. Had I only searched for Fred, I may have never found that resource.
In another case, I received five IDPFs for a bomb crew. Some of these IDPFs contained letters to and from a Dutch researcher dated in the 1990s. Usually you see this in OMPFs (service files) where someone has requested a search. Those requests and any documents they send to NPRC, show up in the files. The same happens for IDPFs.
You can see an example here.
Through searching the collaterals, you may meet others who have done research on the people for whom you are searching for information. You may also learn details about the men and women you are researching, or discover others who might be incorporated into a research project. The possibilities are endless.
What interesting things have you discovered by searching the collaterals? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
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