Over the last few years I’ve written a lot about the best practices when doing WWI, WWII, Korean War or Vietnam War military research, especially when the records burned.
Over the last year I’ve gotten an overwhelming number of new clients who previously hired a genealogy record retriever who offers the cheapest prices for record retrieval and only offers One Month of Morning Reports for the same unit that is on your discharge paper. That’s the only option you can choose when you order this and put it in the shopping cart in that individual’s business. You get a whole month of reports whether your soldier was actually in that unit or not – for all the months he was overseas.
Rather than be quiet and let people continue to be taken advantage of – I provide education and the reasons why this is usually a waste of your time and money. I also offer a better approach to reconstructing service to get the answers you require. I’ve spent a decade studying this and wrote the only books available on how to research and have taught this in the U.S. and Europe. There are answers available to you even if the records burned. At the end of this article there are also other articles I’ve written about what these records mean, why they are so valuable and other things to consider when hiring a researcher. It is all personal choice who you work with, and now you have a few more pieces of information to make an educated decision. We don’t know what we don’t know.
Clients come to me with months worth of morning reports and say:
- I have no idea what this means.
- My father is only listed on one report which shows him coming into this unit after the war ended.
- I just paid for 8 months of reports and my dad is only in a couple at the end of the war. It says he transferred into this unit right before he shipped home. What do all these other reports mean and why do I have them if he wasn’t in this unit?
Why Does This Approach Usually Waste Your Money and Provide Few Answers?
What this record retriever does not choose to acknowledge is the proper way to reconstruct military history. It is not as easy as taking the unit on the discharge paper and making that the whole story. 95% of the time it is not.
Out of all the Army and Army Air Forces projects I do whether records burned or not – the men and women were in multiple units. The unit on the discharge may be a discharge unit only. Meaning they were put in there at the end of their service for the purpose of discharge. I just finished a project for a man who was in 6 – yes 6 units throughout his entire service and the unit on his discharge paper was not the one he was in combat with.
Men and women were transferred within a Division or into a new unit due to a number of reasons which may include – personnel changes, reorganization, wounds and being taken out of your unit for a long period of time, transfers through units for discharge, the job they did (perhaps they drove a tank) is no longer needed so they are put somewhere else doing something else.
When you allow someone to blindly copy months of Morning Reports because the discharge paper gave you a unit and the researcher copies them all for the period your individual was overseas does not mean you actually get reconstructed service.
Case in point – this week a client came to me with six months of reports copied by this researcher. His dad was not in months 1 or 2 – he transferred in at month 3 from a different unit. The researcher does not bother to trace through those reports this soldier – so in essence this man wasted money on two months of records and he only knows about the time his dad was in this unit and not the others he was part of before or after this one.
How Do You Properly Reconstruct Service Using Morning Reports?
It’s quite simple actually. You start with the unit on the discharge paper and then you work backwards through the Morning Reports looking for every instance the soldier appears. So let’s say he was F Company 358th Infantry Regiment 90th Division at war’s end – which for this example was the death date on 11 January 1945. You start there and go backward. You realize in December 1944 the Morning Report shows this soldier as being transferred into this Company from a different unit.
At this point you stop looking at F Company records and get the microfilm for the unit he transferred from and locate him in those records. If one shows he was transferred – as this particular soldier’s does in February 1944 – from a Replacement Depot and a few weeks before that from the 126th Medium Maintenance Company where he spent over a year training – you keep pulling those different units.
This allows you to see the units he was in. My firm will also pull every time the unit changes station (location) – unless a client wants every single day of Morning Reports that we find for each unit he was part of. So we can not only reconstruct his service history but also every move he made with those units.
Can you see how blindly pulling months of reports does not really serve you in finding answers? Our approach takes a bit longer to do – maybe a few hours depending on the archivists getting us the films. It does not usually take days unless the unit is obscure and records are illegible, to get the answers required.
When you consider hiring a genealogy or military research professional – investigate how they are actually doing their job. Ask questions and if they are unwilling to provide answers on how they do the work they do or why they only do it that way – that is a red flag to seek out someone else. There are several researchers out there who operate in a more ethical and educated way to accomplish finding answers for our clients.
Additional Resources to Learn More
- When NOT to Hire a Genealogy or Military Record Retriever
- How to Accurately Reconstruct Military Service History
- Company Morning Reports
- More on Company Morning Reports
- 5 Reasons Why You Must Have Army and Air Force Company Morning Reports
Are you ready to learn the bigger picture of your family member’s military service? We are taking new clients and can help you find the answers and tell a deeper story about your family member. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your free phone consultation today to discuss project options, fees, and time.
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