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Neal W. O'Connor - Research

Discussion in 'Military Service Records & Genealogical Research' started by Ren O'Connor, May 9, 2017.

  1. Ren O'Connor

    Ren O'Connor New Member

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    Hi all -

    I hope this note finds you well. I am the grandson of Neal W. O'Connor, author of the single longest book title in the history of literature, "Aviation Awards of Imperial Germany in World War I and the Men Who Earned Them."

    I'm interested in learning more about his personal history - he was diagnosed with ALS when I was 11 and we had the chance to take an amazing trip to Normandy, France, for 50th anniversary of his brother's death on July 4, 1945. Since that experience, I have been fascinated with WWI/WWII history and am curious to learn about his trek through Italy. I'd like to research his military records to find his division/regiment info, track his progress through the peninsula and hopefully get a better idea of what he went through. He never really spoke about it, and I'd like to put the pieces together for him much as he did for the German air corps in WWI.

    From what I've been able to find, he was a part of the 350th Infantry Regiment, and I believe the 88th Division. Unfortunately, I've been unable to verify any of the information as I don't have his actual records, and there is no mention of his name anywhere in the clippings I've read.

    I'd appreciate any direction you'd be able to give in terms of where to start searching. I'm in no means asking for a tell-all, but if there is one I'd be interested in reading! I'm looking to compile all the information and chronicle the journey in what was one of the most intense campaigns of the war whose story has gone largely untold.

    Best,
    Ren O'Connor
     
  2. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    According to his obituary in the LA Times, "...O'Connor served with the 350th Infantry Regiment, antitank unit, 88th "Blue Devil" Division, of the 5th Army in Italy during World War II."

    If you haven't come across it yet, the 350th Infantry page on the MtMestas.com website may be of interest. There is a lot of free documents that can be viewed. They also sell "research CD's", which are not expensive. However, much of the content can be obtained free online. The main advantage is that they have done the work of collecting it for you. I would not expect your grandfather to be mentioned in the documents that they provide.

    If you haven't done so already, I would suggest that you make as many people in your extended family know that you are interested in his WWII service, especially the older folks. Even if you don't get any immediate response, be patient. I was able to get some good info on my great uncles that way. Many soldiers wrote to various family members while they were overseas. Their letters and V-Mails can have useful info (i.e. Serial Number, Unit, etc).

    If you can find out where he lived immediately after the War, the local county may have a copy of his discharge on file.

    Note: edit to add link
     
  3. Ren O'Connor

    Ren O'Connor New Member

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    TD-Tommy thank you for sending this along - the Mt. Mestas page is actually where a lot of my confusion lies, as I had previously found his obituary where it spells out his service, but when I go to the website and read through the documents I haven't been able to find mention of his name. It seems like I won't be able to find that info there, but I'll keep searching/reading to see if I can find anything.

    The relative route is one I'm definitely down the path with - unfortunately few of my grandfather's peers are still alive, especially on his side of the family (Irish blood + Wisconsin Cheddar + Usinger's Sausages doesn't prove to be the healthiest combo). I'm not entirely sure where he ended up following the war, but that's a great call with his discharge papers. I know he was awarded a Purple Heart, but again have had trouble locating documentation of why he received the medal and when (it's also not listed on Mt. Mestas).

    I still have yet to comb through the various books, but will do so in the future. Thanks for your help!
     
  4. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I would not have expected that you would find him on that website. Most of the unit records are not the type that mention individual soldiers. However, they are helpful in understanding what his unit did and, by extension, what he did in the War.

    It may not matter that relatives of his generation are not around. Often photos, letters, and such were collected and passed on to the next generation. Sometimes they may be donated to local historical/genealogical societies as well, so that may also be an avenue of investigation.

    If you want to accelerate the process of researching your grandfather's WWII service, hiring a researcher will get you more information faster. Typically, they will search the unit Morning Reports and Rosters at the NARA in Saint Louis. The MRs will give you the unit or units to which he was assigned, dates and locations where he & his unit were, etc. With that info, you can find out more about what he did by researching his unit.
     

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