51st Fighter Group, USAAF WWII Research
Growing up, I knew that “Dad” was my Step-Father, he was always upfront and honest about that. I knew that my birth father had served in the Air Force, at Hamilton AFB, California (with the 84th Fighter Squadron as a Crew Chief on F-84 aircraft) before being separated for misconduct in 1957, the year before I was born. That knowledge informed my decision to enlist in the United States Air Force in the Aircraft Maintenance career field upon graduation from high school in 1976 to show the world that I could serve honorably for four years, I never intended to make it a career. As it turned out, I enjoyed the job, people, and travel opportunities the Air Force provided. After retiring on January 1, 2004 I started reflecting on my genealogical past, but never really knew where to begin.
That changed in 2016 when I visited my maternal Uncle in Oklahoma and learned that he had started researching our family tree. The visit piqued my interest, so I started researching as well on Ancestry. All I knew about my birth Father’s family was that his father had “abandoned” my grandmother around the time of my father’s birth in late 1935. In time, I had discovered some information, including the fact that my Grandfather, Stanley William Fain, also served in the Army Air Forces and died on June 25, 1942 somewhere in India and was now interred at the National Museum of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. After reaching several dead ends on myriad genealogical sites, I wrote to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) for additional information on my Grandfather’s death. The response I received was that there was no information on his death, but there may be a pay record which might have a page or two; I was dismayed and at wits end.
Shortly thereafter, I came across an exceptional presentation from Jennifer Holik on finding your WWII Military ancestors. I decided to contact her about my Paternal Grandfather; Her knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm won me over so I asked for her help. Not only did she deliver as promised, she was able to provide documentation that I had been told did not exist. She knows every nook and cranny in the military records system as evidenced by the extensive, high-quality documentation expertly interpreted in an accompanying report. As a result of Jennifer Holik’s incomparable research, my journey has ended with pertinent questions answered; I could not ask for more! – – – CMSgt Robert V. Crawford, USAF (Retired) Garden Ridge, Texas 5 Sep 2018
G Company 120th Infantry Regiment 30th Infantry Division Project
For the past 72 years I’ve thought about and tried to research the short life of my oldest brother William Edward Jones Jr. He was KIA on 13 January 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge somewhere in Belgium. Bill was sixteen years older than me, my godfather, but I have no memory of him since the family was split up not long after my birth. If you believe in serendipity or things happening without explanation then you’ll understand when I say that he reached out to me on several occasions throughout my life, through strangers who knew him in life, or guided me to places and situations that unveiled his life for me to see.
My latest unexplained encounter with him took place January 2017, I was doing some ancestry research. All of my previous attempts when I reached out to the War Dept. were unsuccessful as all of the records pertaining to his service had been destroyed in a fire in 1973. Somehow during my research I’d entered the Ancestry Blog site, on the screen in front of me was an article written by guest writer Jennifer Holik, the title “Writing Stories from the Heart” caught my attention, and I decided to read it. Jennifer described in this article her search for information about her cousin James Privoznik, who was KIA during the Battle of the Bulge on 11 January 1945. It wasn’t lost upon my sub-conscious that this was the same battle Bill was KIA just two days later, it also didn’t escape my mind that this was the month of January, and I was here reading this by chance or serendipity.
I felt that it was Bill guiding me to uncover and learn about his life during WWII. I also knew from my past attempts I wouldn’t be able to do this on my own, so I contacted Jennifer through her website, in the hope of engaging her help.
Fortunately she was able to take on researching for me Bill’s service, which she completed this August 2017. I now have a comprehensive picture of his life during his military service from his induction to his death. There was also the added bonuses of family history, like letters from my mother and father regarding the disposition of bill’s remains and personal effects. Jennifer who traveled to Belgium for personal reasons, and to participate in this May’s Memorial Day services, took time to provide for me present day pictures, and videos of the towns he fought in and monuments erected to the 30th division. I really can’t adequately express my emotions or appreciation for Jennifer’s efforts. It was truly a labor of love. —- Clarence L. Jones 31 August 2017
15th Air Force 451st Bombardment Group (H) 727th Bombardment Squadron (H) Project
Well my Dad really didn’t talk about the war. He had 3 framed pages of missions on the wall and that’s about it. We just knew that he had asked for a military funeral, but no one knew the extent of his service. Dad was 95 and had Alzheimer’s so it was way too late to ask.
As Jennifer worked, the material started to come in. I remember staring at the first Daily Operations Report. There it was, that handwriting, the number “8”. It was his. Dad never wrote a diary, but he could easily spread a math equation over 2 sheets of graph paper. There I sat paralyzed with emotion as the reality of my Dad’s service sunk in.
He was 95 and had come down with pneumonia so I had asked Jennifer to write a brief summary of his service before she left on an extended trip. Dad passed about a week after the summary was completed. The summary that Jennifer wrote bore witness to Dad’s history which would have easily been lost. As Taps was played for him, we all knew the depth of his service and patriotism.
I’m still going through the research, a new revelation every time I sit down to read it. It has all revealed a different level of my Dad’s character that I didn’t think I could respect more, but apparently I can. Thank you Jennifer. -Ted Smith 23 August 2017
28th Infantry Division Project
I want to thank you for your excellent work in researching the military records of my uncle and cousin, Homer Edwin Dutcher, who was killed in action in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany, 1944. Your response was very fast, we received a large volume of interesting information about our lost family member, and the cost was very reasonable. I will certainly recommend you to anyone who has a need for your services.– Kind regards, James Alan Sherman 13 June 2017
World War I Army and World War II Army Air Forces Project
I am pleased to say that all of the documents Jennifer was able to find for me were well worth the expense and time. In some cases, events were made more clear to me and in others, events were revealed to me for the first time. In one case, I had an arrival back in the United States for my grandfather as being on one of three possible ships; she uncovered the exact ship, not any one of the three reported in the Company History. She knew of ways to get records I thought were impossible to obtain. I might have spent less and, more than likely, received nothing at all if I had attempted to do it on my own. By the way, being able to decipher these documents in any way is a challenge. I had to ask on at least one occasion where the information was located in the document. — Jane Bonny 7 May 2017
2nd Infantry Division Research and a Trip to Europe
About twelve years ago I began to take a real interest in my relative, Pvt. Glen W. Standing, who was KIA on June 15, 1944 near St. Georges de Elle, Normandy as a member of K Co. 23rd Inf. Regiment 2nd Inf. Div. I located some of Glen’s military records, his boyhood home, his gravesite where his remains were repatriated back to the states in 1948 and his best friend from high school who served in the same unit and was wounded in the same battle but survived.
A year ago I heard about a WW II Western Front Tour taking place in the summer of 2016. This is something that I always wanted to do so I signed on along with my wife and son. To prepare myself for the tour I bought eight WW II books and began reading. A book by John McManus, “Americans at D-day” caught my interest. I sent an email to Mr. McManus and expressed my desire to find a military researcher that could provide me more information regarding Glen and inasmuch as I was going on tour which included Normandy in the summer of 2016 someone who could research and trace the steps that Glen took from Omaha Beach to the location where he was KIA. Mr. McManus recommended military researcher Jennifer Holik.
I sent an email to Jennifer and she responded immediately and understood exactly what I wanted and presented a research project outline. It was very professional and well thought out. Jennifer understands and feels the emotion of family members who are searching for information about loved ones because she has experienced this herself first hand. She and her associate searched the military archives at College Park, MD and St. Louis, MO. The work product I received was exactly what was ordered and what I needed.
Now, while I am in Normandy with my wife and son we are retracing the steps of Pvt. Glen W. Standing from Omaha Beach to the area where he was killed on June 15, 1944. We will conduct a small memorial service there by setting up a temporary Fallen Soldier Memorial with a presentation of the Purple Heart Medal. Jennifer was also instrumental in putting me in contact with Florent Plana, head of the WW II Veterans Memorial Project, who lives in Normandy. Florent and a friend of his who is an expert on the 2nd Inf. Div. are meeting us in Normandy and taking us over the route that Glen followed.
This will be a life time remembrance and it could not have been done without the expert assistance of Jennifer Holik. — Garth Limburg, July 2016
99th Infantry Division Research
I grew up not knowing the circumstances surrounding my fathers death who was killed in WWll. What a lucky day for me when I came across you website. From that very day I have learned so much information from your research that would I would never have had otherwise.
I can’t say enough about your professionalism. Everything was delivered as you promised.
For those wishing to learn more about their loved ones military service. I highly recommend they contact you for the questions that otherwise would go unanswered. I know a lot of family’s don’t know where to turn with their questions especially when dealing with the government.
Take my advise and contact Jennifer. — Jack Long, Pittsburgh, Pa. 10 January 2016
If you were looking to recapture, in detail, the military history of a relative I would highly recommend the services of Ms. Jennifer Holik.
Twenty-years ago, before the Internet became the depository of billions of pages that it is today, genealogical research of any kind was virtually impossible. That has certainly changed with numerous sites specializing in just this type of research. In fact, the Internet has provides so much information that the main challenge is determining facts from fiction.
For many years it was my intention to investigate my dad’s military service during WWII. When I finally decided to start this process there was certainly no lack of information, but unfortunately most of it was fragmented and in many cases simply not accurate.
When my dad was alive and when I was much younger, I can remember him telling me about his experiences before, during and after the war. These stories were short and in retrospect virtual snapshots of what was actually hell on earth. After his passing I had possession of his medals and a few dozen black and white photos showing him and his fellow soldiers at various points of the war.
What was always missing from those stories was a day-to-day account of his activity, his journey through Europe, the uncertainty of the next day, and a sense of the mental state that any solder has after loosing someone close in battle. For me at least it was important to find out this detail and it was for that reason that I decided to find a person that specialized in military research.
Again, I turned to the Internet and was overwhelmed with choices most of which turned out to be dead ends. One of the searches for turned up an ad that read, “Do you need a researcher at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis?” – A light went on at that point as that was exactly the starting point required.
The link took me to Jennifer’s website I think it was very late on a Sunday night and surprisingly I received a reply within an hour. I have my own business, which is a sales oriented company so I’m always impressed when someone gets right back to me and rarely disappointed when I do business with someone that does. Ms. Holik was very detailed and explained the process, which depended to a large extent on the degree of detail I was looking for. She also explained that many government records were destroyed in a fire several decades ago and those records were gone forever. I opted to go for the most detail as possible and contracted her for the project.
She asked me to send her as much information as possible. Fortunately, I already had organized most of the information. I emailed all of the documents and photos I had and within a couple of days she came back to me with a proposal which included estimates of research times, copying costs, archival access costs, etc. all of which were more than reasonable. Approximately 6-weeks later she contacted me to tell me that all of the information had been complied and that she was reviewing it for her final report.
When I received the preliminary documents I simply could not believe it. There was virtually a day-by-day account of my dad’s service from boot camp in Louisiana to his trip across the Atlantic, to Ireland, England, Normandy France through Europe and finally to Germany in April of 1945.
There were copies of the original morning reports (something I had never heard of) used to keep track of each unit, head count, casualties, etc. The morning reports logged the number and type of artillery rounds fired by the unit, enemy position and attacks, etc. There were maps showing troop movements and camp positions; notations of promotions demotions, AWOL, the weather, road conditions, miles traveled and on and on.
The morning reports also gave you a sense of how the war was going. A history book would have highlighted certain battles while this report documented the subtle changes taking place at the unit level before during and after enemy contact.
In other words I received, not just a point “A” to point “B” presentation but an actual log representing the circumstances and hardships the soldiers faced each day; in my dad’s case, almost 1,000 days of mostly hell.
Jennifer’s analysis of this data was put into a chronological report, which was very helpful because it reconciled my recollections of my dad’s service to the facts uncovered by her investigation. There is absolutely no way I could have done this on my own in as short a period of time, or as thoroughly as the presentation provided by Ms. Holik. –Tom Sutcliffe, 2015
Genealogy and Military Research and Writing
“Jennifer Holik, you are a very special Author and Genealogist who hears the soldiers’ voices and helps them tell their stories. When you dive into the rabbit holes, you uncover many hidden treasures that you turn into pages of stories. You educate and teach all of us the sacrifice our ancestors made during their time of service. We thank you for your service to keep their stories going.” – Thyra McKelvie, 2015
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