I wrote the first article in a new series to provide answers and healing for families of WWII war dead, called, Demanding Answers About WWII War Dead. In this article I explained I was reading a 361 page Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) for a Jewish WWII soldier named Harvey.
361 pages, in this instance, is a lot of information. Often in the larger IDPFs, there are multiple copies of documents. Or as in the case of some, like Glen Miller’s, it is over 600 pages because each time it was requested by an author, historian, or other person, it was copied and that copy was included in the overall file.
In this 361 page document, there are some duplicate copies of documents, but overall, the pages contain different information. After reading through it, I have a few options to organize all the documents and my thoughts about the file contents in preparation to pull pieces out and create mini PDFs to share in the articles.
- I can print it and arrange the pages chronologically (I’ll likely do this).
- Create a timeline of service/events based on the documents.
- Create a list of documents with the PDF page number, which stand out and require explanation.
Digesting 361 pages of information and all the “small” details contained in the letters is quite a task. George, Harvey’s father, is every historian’s dream because he cites his sources so to speak. He documents in most letters, the response letter with date from the military, which allows readers to refer to each letter. Can you do this by putting the documents into chronological order? Yes. But just viewing the PDF of the 361 pages, or writing a history of Harvey’s death, requires this level of detail created by his father.
George picks up on details most of us ignore as we view these files. In his letters, he questions EVERYTHING. The details offer us a glimpse into the IDPF we might otherwise ignore and offers a great teaching opportunity. For example, on the Inventory of Personal Effects Document it says at the top and bottom
R E S T R I C T E D
George questions this word at the bottom of the form as it appears to have been typed after the words: Any additional pertinent information: [with a space for that below.] Yet he seems to miss the word RESTRICTED at the top of the form typed exactly the same way. This means the form is restricted and not to be distributed to everyone.
This may seem like an inconsequential detail, but to a man who was seeking every scrap of evidence he could get about the death, burial, length of time to receive information, personal effects, and burial details for his son, this one word represented something of great importance.
Are you looking at these seemingly inconsequential details in all your military records? Are you paying attention to the smaller details or just looking to answer one or two questions and overlooking the rest? We all do it, focus on one thing and miss other details that could move our research forward or answer other questions we have. What have you found in your records?
© 2017 World War II Research and Writing Center
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