We are happy to announce our new collection of UK, WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards dated 1914-1923. This collection provides details of military and military-related personnel who filed for a pension following WWI. When a soldier was killed in the war, his widow and/or other dependents were also entitled to pension benefits. This collection may also contain records for fallen soldiers who were unmarried and had other next-of-kin apply for benefits.
The collection is divided into Mercantile Marine Index Cards, Naval Pensions Ledger, Pension Record Cards, and PRC Ledgers.
Mercantile Marine Index Cards contain details on pensions awarded for death or injury to a seaman on a British ship, like this one for Boatswain William Alfred Belanger. He drowned when the S.S. Van Stirum was torpedoed on Christmas Day in 1915. The index card lists his widow’s name and address, along with the date and the cause of his death.
Naval Pensions Ledger records provide details of military and military-related personnel who filed for a pension if injured or killed. This ledger also contains details about their widow, dependents, or next of kin if unmarried without children. In this example, we see the Pension Ledger for William J. Barnes. It provides the name and birthdates of his wife and their three children.
Pension Records Cards are particularly valuable for providing details on soldier’s dependents. This card for Albert Head, who went missing before being declared dead, lists his wife and four children and even includes details about when his widow remarried.
PRC Ledgers relate to British servicemen and does not extend to Empire/Commonwealth soldiers who would have received pensions from their own governments. These ledgers provide information on the types of wounds and injuries received during the war. In this example, William Tarn served in the Royal Air Force and suffered “Delusional Insanity” as a result of his service in the Great War.
Start Exploring this new collection of UK records on Fold3 today!
During the post-WWII era, many young boys entertained themselves playing army games. Ten-year-old Don Milne was more interested in learning about real soldiers. He devoured books about Patton, Churchill, McArthur, and Eisenhower. He particularly loved learning about ordinary Americans who served their country in extraordinary ways. Often called the Greatest Generation, Don was touched by heroic stories of the WWII fallen.
Don grew up and embarked on a 37-year career in the banking industry, but his love of military history continued. In 2016, he started a blog, and each day on his lunch break, he researched and wrote the story of a fallen WWII soldier. Before long, he had accumulated 1,300 stories and 1.5 million views on his blog! It seems that Don’s efforts struck a chord with others.
In 2019, Don lost his longtime job at the bank. He decided to take a leap of faith and focus full-time on research and writing. The Stories Behind the Stars (SBTS) was born. When a WWII soldier died, their family received a Gold Star Service Flag. More than 400,000 US service members died during the war, and Don wants each one remembered. To do that, he needs our help!
Today more than 700 volunteers from 49 states and 12 other countries are helping to document these stories. SBTS provides free training for anyone willing to participate. Their goal is to document every soldier lost in WWII before 2025 (the 80th anniversary of the end of the war). In about the time it takes to watch a movie, you can research and write the story of one of WWII’s fallen. Fold3 has teamed up with SBTS and will host these stories on our Fold3 Memorials, where they are preserved and available to view free of charge. Records from Fold3, Ancestry®, and Newspapers.com™ can all be attached to provide rich detail and add to the narrative. Here is an example of a completed Memorial.
One volunteer described his involvement in SBTS as “interesting and rewarding.” John Schlatter has written more than 100 stories and says that his respect for these soldiers and their families has grown immeasurably. Although John has a background in writing, he stressed that anyone can participate. “Anyone can tell a story,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even if you make a mistake, the families of these soldiers are just grateful that someone has remembered them.” John recalled connecting with a woman whose father died a week before she was born. Never having known her dad, she expressed gratitude for John’s efforts in remembering him. “Thank you,” she said, “for this gift to our family.”
In addition to preserving each soldier’s story, SBTS has big plans for the future. Don envisions a day where visitors to war memorials or cemeteries can use a smartphone app SBTS is developing. The app would allow you to scan the name on a headstone and get an immediate link to that soldier’s story. He has several volunteers helping with open-source app development and database management but would welcome more help.
On January 19, 1862, Union troops experienced their first significant Civil War victory during the Battle of Mill Springs in Kentucky. The battle, also known as the Battle of Logan’s Cross-Roads (in Union terminology), and the Battle of Fishing Creek (in Confederate terminology), occurred in Pulaski and Wayne Counties near present-day Nancy, Kentucky. It resulted in Union troops breaking through the Confederate defensive line and opening access into Middle Tennessee.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Kentucky declared neutrality, refusing to align with either the North or the South. By late 1861, the Confederacy had established a long defensive line, running from Cumberland Gap across the southern part of Kentucky to the Mississippi River. After a failed attempt by the Confederacy to take control of the state, Kentucky threw out its neutral status and aligned with the Union. Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky native, was reputed to have said, I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
In November 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer wanted to extend the Confederate strategic defensive line by moving north and establishing his winter headquarters near Mill Springs. He hoped to shore up defenses to prevent Union troops from advancing into Middle Tennessee.
Hoping to attack before reinforcements arrived, General George B. Crittenden, area commander for the Confederate army, ordered Zollicoffer and roughly 5,900 Confederate troops to advance. They started marching towards Logan’s Cross-Roads just after midnight on January 19th. Heavy rain, deep mud, and cold temperatures made the six-hour journey difficult.
At 6:00 a.m. on January 19th, with driving rain, dense fog, and limited visibility, Confederate forces attacked. Fighting was fierce and the weather added to the chaos. The Confederates achieved early success but were repelled by Union forces who had far superior weapons. During a lull in the fighting, Zollicoffer approached a Union company. Assuming they were his men, he ordered them to cease their fire. Union troops recognized his Confederate officer’s uniform and shot and killed him.
After the loss of their leader, Confederate troops became disorganized and fell back from the center of their line. As Union troops surged forward, the Confederates were defeated and forced to retreat across the Cumberland River.
The Union victory at Mill Springs resulted in an estimated 262 Union casualties (including 55 killed) and 552 Confederate casualties (including 148 killed). The battle created the first break in the Confederate defensive line that would ultimately lead to Union operations in Tennessee and Mississippi. To learn more about the Battle of Mill Springs and other Civil War battles, search Fold3 today!
During WWII, the government commissioned propaganda posters to teach American citizens and soldiers that careless speech could endanger national security. Any American with knowledge of troop movements, military equipment, or any other information that might prove useful to the enemy was encouraged to keep quiet. To remind all Americans of their duty, the Office of War Information (OWI) commissioned artists to create propaganda posters. The posters were hung in public places and widely reprinted. They used imagery that tugged at heartstrings, invoked fear, and appealed to a sense of patriotism. Fold3 has an archive of WWII propaganda posters found in our Boston Public Library collection. Here are a few of those propaganda posters and a little about the artists that created them.
Anton Otto Fischer was a native of Germany and an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post. His seascapes attracted the attention of Russell Waesche, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, who credited Fischer with helping WWII recruitment efforts and immediately enlisted him as a lieutenant commander. Fischer created this poster showing wounded soldiers rowing away from a sinking ship to emphasize the importance of maintaining secrecy.
In this poster, artist Joseph Harry Anderson depicts grieving parents who have just learned of their son’s death as a result of careless talk. He intended to remind Americans that enemy agents were listening to conversations both at home and abroad. Anderson was best known for his Christian art commissioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Families who lost a soldier during the war received the Gold Star Flag. In this poster, artist Wesley Heyman depicts a cocker spaniel resting on a scarf that once belonged to his master in front of a Gold Star Flag. His master’s death occurred because somebody inadvertently shared sensitive information. This poster struck a chord with many. It was reproduced millions of times, shattering the record for poster requests.
Stevan Dohanos created several “Don’t Talk” posters for the OWI. He is best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers and created this sinking ship poster and this puzzle piece poster to warn against unguarded speech. He worked for the Section of Painting and Sculpture of the U.S. Treasury Department and painted murals in several post offices.
John Philip Falter created many cover paintings for the Saturday Evening Post. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and used his artistic skills to design more than 300 recruitment posters, including a series for the women’s Navy (WAVES). He created this Navy poster and the Sailor Beware poster to warn Americans that loose lips could result in lost lives.
Albert Dorne was a highly successful commercial artist. Along with Norman Rockwell and several other illustrators, he founded the Famous Artists School. He created this image of a fierce rattlesnake with blood dripping from its fangs to convey the dangers of inadvertently divulging military secrets during the war.
Can careless speech imprison American soldiers? Artist Adolph Treidler wanted to convey that message in this poster of an American POW. This image is one of several propaganda posters Treidler created for both WWI and WWII. Among his work was a series of posters depicting women in the workplace and Women Ordnance Workers. He is also widely known for his images promoting tourism in Bermuda.
Throughout 2020 we have reflected on the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a look back at the moment that brought the United States into WWII – the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The attack by Japanese forces occurred 79 years ago this month, and more than 2,400 U.S. personnel lost their lives. There are countless stories of heroism from that day. Here are just a few:
Navy seaman first class Don Stratton, 19, had just finished breakfast aboard the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. He put some oranges in his hat to go visit a buddy in sickbay and made his way up on deck. Suddenly a Japanese bomb exploded, destroying a part of the ship. A fireball set his shirt on fire and caused 1st and 2nd-degree burns on his face and ear and 3rd-degree burns on his extremities. Despite his injuries, Stratton took up his station and tried to shoot down enemy planes, but the shells could not reach the Japanese aircraft. As the Arizona started to sink, Stratton grabbed hold of a rope and began to climb hand over hand. His hands were raw and burned, but he was determined to survive as he inched across the rope hanging above flaming water. He finally reached safety. Within 25 minutes, the Arizona sank to the bottom of the harbor.
Frank Emond was a French horn player in the band aboard the USS Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor at the time. On December 6, 1941, musicians from the Pennsylvania performed with 21 members of the USS Arizona band. The following morning Frank was getting ready to play for the morning flag-raising when the Japanese attacked. Trained as a stretcher-bearer, Emond went to work removing the injured and dead. Later he learned that all 21 members of the USS Arizona band that he’d performed with the previous evening died in the attack.
Brothers Vernon M. Matney and Claudie A. Matney both served in the Navy and were assigned to two different ships in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Vernon was aboard the USS Arizona and Claudie was nearby on the USS Worden. Vernon served as a fireman first class and died in the attack. Claudie survived. The boys’ parents were not officially notified of Vernon’s death until February 1942, but an earlier letter from Claudie confirmed their fears. Navy censors prevented Claudie from directly telling his parents directly about Vernon’s death, so he relayed the information in a type of code. He wrote, “Tell Mildred (their sister) that she can name her last boy Vernon after Buddy.” In 1944 Vernon was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
George W. Blake was playing basketball with a local team on the morning of December 7th when he noticed an unusual sound, like a plane landing on a corrugated metal roof. He ran outside and realized the sound he was hearing was machine gunfire. “I came out and the air was full of planes,” he said. Pearl Harbor was under attack. Blake ran to the barracks where a sergeant ordered him to grab small arms and make his way to the gun park. He ran a half-mile across the base, taking cover under palm trees while firing his rifle at Japanese fighters. After arriving at the gun station, Blake was put in charge of a .30 caliber machine gun. He tilted it toward the sky and fired at attacking planes. “I didn’t hit anything,” he said. Across the harbor, he saw billowing clouds of black smoke. He later realized it was probably the Arizona. Blake said they expected the attack to be followed by a land invasion and he spent the next 24 hours manning a machine gun on the shores near the entrance to the harbor. Following that, he lived for several months in a sand cave dug out on the steep slopes of the beach, positioned with a machine gun facing the beach, waiting for another attack. Looking back at those that were lost, Blake says, “The first thing that comes to mind is they were kids.”
Lauren Bruner was at his battle station in an anti-aircraft gun director, a metal box on the forward mast of the Arizona, when a Japanese bomb ignited the powder magazine. A fireball engulfed six men in the box and trapped them. A sailor threw them a line and the men crawled down the line. Their skin was charred and falling from their bodies. Bruner was the second to last man to leave the Arizona before she sunk. Burned over two-thirds of his body and shot in the back of his leg, he spent months recovering. After being released, Bruner went to work on another ship, the USS Coghlan. He served in the Aleutian Islands and the Battle of Komandorski before finishing out the war in the South Pacific.
Regimental Combat Team is a WWII U.S. Army regiment composed almost
entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans, known as Nisei, who answered
the call to serve. They fought in Italy and France and were described by more
than one commander as, “The
finest assault troops he’d ever led.” They volunteered at a time when many
Japanese American families lived in internment camps. Some members of the 442nd
were serving in the Hawaii National Guard when the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbor. The government made them turn their weapons in, but as the war
progressed, the War Department permitted them to bear arms in defense of their
country. We’ve recently added the Unit History for the 442nd, which
consists of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the 522nd Field
Artillery Battalion, and the 232nd Combat Engineer Company. Later the
Infantry Battalion joined with the 442nd.
This Unit History is part of Fold3’s growing collection of
Unit Histories, many of which are donated by our users. We can digitize any
Unit History or military yearbook and return the original undamaged book to the
donor. Fold3 is dedicated to preserving and sharing Unit Histories and make them
available for anyone to view free of charge.
Among the heroic soldiers in this unit was Sadao S. Munemori. He was born
to Japanese immigrants. Just a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sadao joined
the U.S. Army and was in an Army training center when his family was forced out
of their home and to an inland internment camp. Sadao was assigned to the 442nd
Regimental Combat Team and sent to Anzio as one of the first group of
replacements for the 100th Infantry Battalion, who had already been
in combat for nine months.
After Rome fell to Allied hands in June 1944, the 100th
and 442nd shifted to France, where they played a heroic role in the forests
above Bruyeres. Later, they returned to Italy with a new objective, to break
through the Gothic Line. The Gothic Line was a defensive barrier in the
northern Apennines mountain range. The 100/442 scaled the mountains and sent a
massive artillery barrage down on German forces. The enemy returned fire
relentlessly. At one point, Sadao and several other soldiers dove into a shell
crater for protection and to avoid heavy fire. Noticing two machine-gun nests,
Sadao decided to try and eliminate them. He crawled from the hole and attacked the
machine-gun nests with hand grenades, knocking them both out. While crawling
back to safety, a live grenade bounced off his helmet and fell into the hole.
Knowing there wasn’t time to throw the grenade out, Sadao threw his body over it
and absorbed the impact as it exploded. Sadao died instantly, but his comrades
survived. Sadao Munemori became the only Japanese American to be awarded the Medal
of Honor during the war (other Japanese Americans received the medal long
after the war ended.)
To learn more about these heroic Nisei soldiers, search the
Unit History of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. If you have a Unit
History or a military yearbook that you are willing to share, please contact us
at [email protected]. We’ll make arrangements
to digitize your book and return it safely and undamaged to you. Others will
then be able to view that Unit History or yearbook for free. See more Unit Histories
at Fold3 today.
Throughout American History, Native Americans have
distinguished themselves with bravery and courage in military service to their
country, often without enjoying the same rights and privileges afforded other
soldiers. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight the
contributions of just a few of the many Native American soldiers who have
served with honor.
During WWI, more than 10,000 Native Americans served in the
American Expeditionary Force. The majority were volunteers, and most were not
considered U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens were eligible for the draft. Despite
this, the government required Native American men to register
for the draft, causing frustration and sometimes rebellion. Many hoped
their service would lead to the government granting them full U.S. citizenship.
At the time, only Native Americans who accepted an allotment of land
under the Dawes Act
of 1887 received citizenship. As a result, thousands of Native Americans served
before they even won the right to vote. It was during WWI that military
officials realized the value of Native languages to transmit sensitive
information. German officials were not able to decipher coded instructions
passed by telephone, radio, or telegraph using these Native languages. Code Talkers,
as they came to be known, played a critical role in both WWI and WWII.
Native American soldiers participated in the WWI Meuse-Argonne
offensive. William S. Harjo,
a Creek Indian, was killed in
France and awarded
the Croix de Guerre military medal for his actions during that offensive. He
served in the 142nd Infantry, 36th Division. An Oklahoma
reporter accompanying the regiment spoke
of the contributions of Harjo and other Native Americans who “gave their
all” as German shells exploded all around them. “Among these men who gave their
lives for the sake of all we hold sacred in the name of democracy are to be
found numerous men of the original Americans. These Indians have borne their
part all the way through,” he said.
Native Americans also made remarkable contributions during
WWII. In 1942, the first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were sworn in. Before
the war ended, more than 400 Code Talkers participated, creating an unbreakable
code that helped win the war. Samuel
Holiday served in an elite Marine unit of Code Talkers. He went behind
enemy lines on Iwo Jima to locate a Japanese artillery unit advancing on
American forces. After locating the artillery unit, Holiday sent a coded
message directing Marine artillery fire. With his help, U.S. forces eliminated
the threat, and Holiday replied with a coded message saying, “Right on Target!”
Code Talkers were a key factor in military victories at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and
several other major battles in the Pacific Theater.
During the Iraq War, Pfc. Lori Piestewa became the first Native American woman in the
military to die as a result of combat. She was killed in 2003 after her convoy
was hit by a bomb in Nasiriyah. Piestewa, a single mother of two small children,
was first reported missing. She became a household name and the adopted
daughter of many Native American tribes as a worried nation awaited word of her
fate. When military officials confirmed Piestewa’s death, the nation mourned with
her family. She was 23-years-old, the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and the
granddaughter of a WWII veteran.