I’ve begun to start transcribing a lot of the documents that I have collected over the years. I’m starting on the letters that my grandfather, LeRoy Thielke, wrote home during World War II. The first letter I grabbed was the one he wrote to his mother when he was being shipped off to Europe. It’s heartbreaking and courageous to see him write that. I can’t imagine what he was feeling at the time.
24 April 1944 – Monday – 9:00 A.M.
Well I arrived here last night about 2:15 A.M. I slept almost all the way home. I had a seat all the way home or should I say back to camp. There were only a few fellows that had to stand and they usually sat on the arms of the seats. The train was a military special (G.S.)
It was a lot better that way because we didn’t have to transfer at North Chicago Junction. We had a mixed crew aboard. Waves, Wacs, Sailors, Marines, and of course Soldiers.
Well Mom, I got my wish. I’m pulling out in a few hours, 11:45 A.M. to be exact. According to the things we have to carry in our personal duffle bags, I think we’re going for a long ride.
We’re going on a troop train so I don’t suppose I’ll be able to write again until I arrive at the place we get off. There’s only one other kid leaving with me from our barracks, that is we’re leaving on the same car together, so we should end up at the same place. I’ve been talking to him and he’s a high school graduate too, so we both think we will get into something better than the infantry, we hope. I’d like to get into something that I can make a profession or career out of.
Mom, I’ll write as soon as I can and let you know where I am and also if I want my car jack up. Don would probably do it for me. Well Mom, Good Bye Now. You can write to me at the address on the envelope. I’ll get it.
Loving Son, LeRoy
On a side note. I updated, what I’m going to call, my Notes site. This is basically a wiki where I will post a lot of transcribed stuff since it’s a better spot to hold that kind of information. There are a few interesting things already on there.
The other day I happened to run across the Digital Collections of the Milwaukee Public Library. As any genealogist does, I got lost in it for an hour or so. I then found their WWI Military Portrait collection and searched for “Zalewski.”
I found entries for my great-grandfather, Joseph Frank Zalewski. While it did not have an actual portrait for him, it did have a war service document from the “War Mothers of America.” Most of the information on his document wasn’t new, though it did mention that he participated in no major battles during the war.
There are many instances of these families crossing into each other, but I just can’t confirm anything. My hope is that connecting them may finally allow me to break down this old Zalewski brick wall. Though, this is the first time that Joseph Goralski is specifically mentioned as “kin” even though that may not really mean blood relation. More mysteries, indeed.
Over the last few months I’ve put together a lot more information about what my grandfather did in World War II. As previous posts mention, he never really talked about the war, not even to my mom. Though, he has kept a lot of items from the war and I guess he was starting to put together a map before he started to have health issues. Sadly, my grandfather passed away on November 1, 2015. I did not get any more time to talk to him about his time in the war, but I’ll never stop researching his service to my country.
Outside of that, I’ve put together a rough history based on letters, notes, photos, and maps that he kept along with some tricky Google searches and Wikipedia. I am posting this for both posterity and to maybe get some searches coming this way to open up more history from other researchers.
This will be an ongoing post as I find and update the information, but I want to get it posted. There is an updates section at the end of the post where I will note what I updated or edited.
I have also recently put this information into a Google Map since they have released the custom map engine for their new map system.
A couple of weeks ago I finally got a bunch of photos from my maternal side of the family. I really had next to nothing when it came to photos for that side of the family compared to the amount from my paternal side. Among the awesome pics of my grandparents and their families when they were younger, there are some photos of my grandfather during World War II. You may have remembered that there is almost nothing known about his time in WWII. It’s not something he talked about with most people and he’s considered too “young” to show up in a lot of the available public military records. I have yet to go to the state military archives, since there may be some stuff there, too.
One amazing photo was of him and a group of other men from November 1945 in Mannheim, Germany. The building behind the group has the words “504 QM BN Headquarters” on it. I quickly translated that to the “504th Quartermasters Battalion.” As much searching as I did, I could not find any info on that specific battalion. I posted a query over on /r/Military on reddit and got some help, but nothing solid. Fortunately, on the back of the photo were the names of all of the men. I searched for all of them and didn’t find much besides some generic obituaries, but again, no solid info.
My mom brought over another photo album and some newspaper clippings. One of the clippings was from a local paper in 1944 talking about my grandfather, a local man, and his service information. This clipping lists him as being part of the “748th F. A. Bn. Hq. Btry.” out of Camp Shelby, Mississippi which I assume is the “748th Field Artillery Battalion Headquarters Battery.” Again, no solid leads on that information, but it is another avenue of research.
The research trail continues. I may have some time to sit down with my grandparents, though they are slowing down in their old age, and maybe ask him about his service. Rumor has it that he was working on getting all of his military info in one place before he needed heart surgery a few years ago. Maybe he’s waiting for someone to ask him now.
I’d like to thank all of our ancestral military veterans in our family trees. Thanks for fighting for this country in any way you could, be it fighting in combat, fixing machinery, or defending our borders. Thanks for helping fight to allow me things like freedom of speech and the right to vote. Here is a (hopefully full) list of all of our veteran ancestors.
Carey TONEY – My wife’s 5th-great-grandfather – Stories say that he served with the Virginia Militia in Rev. War in 1781 and was an eyewitness to the surrender of Cornwallis
Johann LAST – My 3rd-great-grandfather – My research tells me that he served in the Civil War with the 50th Wisconsin Infantry. It seems he was stationed in what was the Dakota Territory at the time to protect the western front.
Jesse TONEY – My wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather and Carey’s grandson – Served in the Civil War as Corporal in Company G 33rd Wisconsin Infantry.
Joseph ZALEWSKI – My great-grandfather – Served in World War I with the 86th Division, Company B, 331st Machine Gun Battalion. That division was split apart into other divisions. I wrote a post about my findings. I have not found information on where he went after the split, but stories say he fought in combat in France near the end of the war.
Richard ZALEWSKI – My grandfather and Joseph’s son – Served in World War II, though didn’t see any combat. He was stationed with the US Navy in Hilo, Hawaii as an Aviation Machinist’s Mate.
Keith MORAN – My wife’s grandfather – Served in World War II. No documented information on his experience, but my father-in-law says he was involved in some combat in the colder areas of Europe, probably around the Belgium area.
LeRoy THIELKE – My grandfather – Served in World War II – I have recently posted a large amount of information from his experience in WWII. Though, he’s not the one who likes to talk about it. Hopefully, I can find more information to honor his service.
I may have possibly missed a few individuals. I think there were more Civil War veterans, but it’s tough to search my information for that. In any case, today is the day to honor them, though we should always honor their sacrifices for our freedom.
My wife’s 3rd-great-grandfather, William J Dakins, passed away on April 18, 1916. He participated in the Civil War with Company 1, 17th Wisconsin Infantry and according to his obituary below, “he was with Sherman on the famous march to the sea and through the Carolinas and participated in many engagements of Sherman’s great campaign.”
This database contains U.S. Navy muster rolls and associated reports of changes for U.S. Navy enlisted personnel who served on U.S. Navy ships or in other naval activities between 31 January 1938 and 31 December 1949. Over 33 million records are contained in this database.
I ran a search on my grandfather and found many records. Most of them don’t contain any surprising information, but they can be used to track his movement through the Navy during WWII.
The next listing is from 28 Feb 1941, where he is still located at Pensacola. This listing mentions that he has a change in rating (CR). It specifically says, “Rating changed from AS, to Sea2c in accordance with Art. D-5108(1) BuNav Manual.” “Sea2C” is listed as Seaman 2nd Class. He is listed again in Pensacola in 31 Mar 1941, still rated as S2c (Seaman 2nd Class.)
The next listing on 31 May 1941 has two entries. The first entry is from Pensacola which mentions that he was transferred to the NAS (Naval Air Station) in Miami, Florida on 23 May 1941. The next entry is from Miami stating that he was received from Pensacola on 28 May 1941. He is again listed in Miami on 30 Jun 1941, though no changes were made, still a Seaman 2nd Class.
His next change in rating came on 1 Jul 1941 at Miami, written as “to Sea1c. AUTH: BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 27-41 corrected by BuNav Cir.Ltr. No. 66-41.” Not sure what all of that means, but he did get a promotion somewhere in there. He is still a Seaman 1st Class on 30 Sep 1941. According to Wikipedia, Sea1c is now called Petty Officer Third Class.
On 1 Dec 1941, Richard gets his next promotion from Sea1c to AMM3c, which during WWII stood for Aviation Machinist’s Mate, 3rd Class in his case. They were responsible for “maintaining aircraft engines and their related systems, including the induction, cooling, fuel, oil, compression, combustion, turbine, gas turbine compressor, exhaust and propeller systems” and many other things. The last muster roll entry for Miami is on 31 Mar 1942 where he is still listed as an AMM3c.
There are two entries I also found on ships that are more than likely my grandfather. The “Service Numbers” on the entries match up from the earlier entries. I know the earlier entries were him due to records and photos I have. Though, he never saw combat, he may have been on a ship while it was docked in America. The first entry was on the USS Orizaba on 10 Jul 1944. Though, the ship is listed as travelling from San Francisco to “FRAY.” I’m not sure what “FRAY” is. This matches up with the history of the Orizaba as it says, “Back at San Francisco in June , she underwent repairs; completed a run to the Marshalls and Marianas; and then sailed north to the Aleutians.” He is now listed as AMM1c, so he has been promoted to 1st Class since 1942.
The next and final entry I have found was for the USS Shangri-La on 1 October 1946. Again, the “Service Number” matches and this record matches up with the historical record of the ship, “she made a brief training cruise to Pearl Harbor, then wintered at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.” He is still rated as an AMM1c. This entry contains some information that I can’t quite figure out at the moment. I’ve browsed through the whole muster roll and can’t find explanation of the abbreviations and acronyms they’re using or what the columns mean.
The first entry may mean something like “For Further Transfer (FFT) Work Completed (WC) Discharge (DISCH)” I know he finished his naval work in 1946. Maybe this was the ship he took from Pearl Harbor back to the contiguous 50 states after serving in Hawaii.
While I was aware of a lot of my grandfather’s navy duties during WWII, it’s neat to see them written in government documents. Though, there is no information from his time spent in Hilo, Hawaii from which most of the photos I scanned a put online were from.
For Wayback Wednesday, I’m going to give you more than just the one photo shown here. I’m going to give you a whole collection of 119 photos. I recently uploaded my grandfather’s Navy photo collection to Flickr. I was hoping that maybe somebody from the photos, or their families, will find them. It would just be nice to let them see the photos. He has a lot of photos of his fellow navymen from when he was stationed in the Hilo, Hawaii area from about 1942 to 1946. There is also a lot of Hawaiian history in some of his photos, like of old Honolulu.
One of the big mysteries I am trying to solve in my genealogy is to find more information on my great-grandfather, Joseph Zalewski’s, military history. According to a previous family researcher, all of his military files were burned in the extremely destructive 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire. So, all the information I had was that he served in World War I, possibly in France at some point. By sheer luck, during a random Google Books search, I found him listed in a book about the 86th Division headquartered at Camp Grant in Illinois. From there I was able to determine that they were shipped to France in 1918, but never saw combat due to the Armistice. Though, it did mention that a lot of the division was broken apart and used in other divisions at the time. I did a more in-depth post about this find about a year ago.
In this huge collection of photos and documents that I currently have from my grandmother, there are some documents about my great-grandfather including a military record. It looks to be his “Honorable Discharge” papers. About half-way down on the “Enlistment Record” side it has a hand-written line that says:
5th Co. 161 Depot Brigade. Last assignment to 323rd Machine Gun Bn.
Unfortunately, it looks as though the previous line may be missing, but I do now have more information on where he may have went after the 86th Division broke apart. I have yet to find much information on the 323rd Machine Gun Battalion, which looked to be part of the 83rd Division. I mostly find information on Ohio, since it looked to be originally stationed there.
Here are the two documents. Click the for larger versions.