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seeking some basic info re: Torch


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#1 Nick.V

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Posted 11 December 2013 - 10:55 PM

Greetings, all

 

I'm new here, so I don't know forum etiquette. I posted these questions on the introductory thread, but haven't got answers yet, and I thought there might be more traffic here. So I hope it's alright for me to post them in more than one place at a time.

 

I’m working on a novel that spans several generations, one of which is immediately following the WWII. The father of main character in that section was killed in the war, early on after the US entered the war. None of the action takes place in the war, there’s just some conversation about it, so I don’t need a  lot of detail. Assuming he enlisted in the Army (not Navy), immediately after Pearl Harbor, it seems like the earliest action he would have been likely to have died in would have been November 8, 1942, in North Africa. Does this make sense?

 

Assuming it does, I have a few (I hope very simple) questions. I need to know:

  1. How long would it take after someone was killed in action before the family would be notified? (Assuming the CO knew right away)
  2. Would that notification have come as a telegram, as portrayed in some movies, or a letter? Or was there a personal visit?
  3. Is there anywhere online I could view a few facsimiles of such messages? (I found one on Google images, but it might be good to look at a few more)

Thanks!


—Nick


#2 jimmytwohand

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 12:18 PM

Managed to find 5 examples for you to have a look at:

 

http://speakitsname....jpg?w=468&h=341

http://tarawa1943.co...elegram-KIA.jpg

http://thebenninobro...g-families.html another two here.

http://www.arlington...net/hgjohns.htm

 

I believe that telegram was the standard method of notification. Letters confirming the telegram and giving further details and dealing with arrangements for burial etc would follow. I don't think personal visits were standard but i have read accounts of the local WUnion operator organising for the telegrams to be delivered with the local doctor or friends to help ease the shock. Cant remember any sources for that off the top of my head though. 

 

If you go to the internet archive: https://archive.org/  and do a search for : creator:"United States. Adjutant-General's Office" you may be able to dig out a protocol manual.


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#3 Slipdigit

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 02:21 PM

Nick, I know that I said elsewhere that I could not answer your question, but...

 

In the book, The Bedford Boys, the author spends a great deal of time with the actions of the telegraph operator in the days following the landings at Normandy. 

 

Bedford is a small town in Virginia that was home to A Co./116th Infantry Regiment/29th Infantry Division, a National Guard outfit that was inducted into Federal service and assaulted Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach at Normandy in June 1944.  The company still had a large contingent of Bedford citizens in it by 1944 and it was virtually wiped out in the first 5 minutes of the landings.  The National D-Day Memorial is at Bedord, VA, to honor the sacrifice the families of that town made.

 

Back to the book.  The telegraph operator received a large number of casualty telegrams on one day and it was her job to see that they were delivered,  She ended up enlisting the help several descreet townspeople to deliver the messages, as she could not get them all done by herself.  I will look at the book and see what day this was that she received them, but I think it was in late June or July, following the deaths on June 6th.

 

Bear in mind, this was in 1944 and the war had been going for 2 1/2 years.  With the large number of deaths in the intervening years, procedures could have change from what was done in 1942.


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Best Regards,  
JW :slipdigit:

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#4 jimmytwohand

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 02:40 PM

Re: Bedford

 

At 8 am on Monday, July 17, 1944, Elizabeth Teass turned on the Western Union teletype machine in her tiny office at the back of Green’s Drug Store in Bedford, Virginia. Bedford was a small town of 3200 people; Company A of the 116th Infantry, 29th Division included 32 soldiers who called Bedford home. Residents of the town had been on tenterhooks since the D-Day invasion on June 6th, since it was known that Company A had been one of the first forces to land on Omaha Beach. A few people had received news of loved ones’ deaths in letters sent home but as of mid-July, no one had received any official word from the Army about the soldiers of Company A.

That changed on July 17th. When Teass turned on the teletype it clattered to life with the message, “Good morning. Go ahead. Roanoke. We have casualties.” Then, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son …”

Teass does not remember the order of the names of the men who were killed, nor does she remember the exact number of telegrams that were received that day. (A present day newspaper report says nine.) In all, 19 soldiers from Bedford were killed on June 6th; an additional 3 died in the following days, making the town famous as the one that suffered the largest loss of life, per capita, of any American community during the invasion.

As the telegrams poured in, Teass’s anxiety mounted. She wanted to get the messages to families and loved ones before they heard the news “through the grapevine,” which in a small town like Bedford was likely to happen. She went into the drugstore and in addition to the owner, Mr. Green, found the local undertaker and doctor; she pressed all three of them into service. Elizabeth made a list of everyone she knew who had a truck or car and might be willing to drive out into the country (remember at the time, gas was strictly rationed). In the end, Roy Israel ended up being the hero of the day. A former cowboy from Texas, Israel had a Cadillac and used it as a one-car taxi business. He took the telegrams from Elizabeth and delivered them throughout the county, often sitting with the family until they had begun to be able to absorb the bad news.

 

http://speakitsname....0th-century-us/


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#5 Nick.V

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 02:47 PM

So it appears both from what you say about the Bedford Boys, and the information in the telegrams, that although the time was understandably variable, 3 to 4 weeks was a fairly common time lapse.

 

Once again, I thank both of you very much. This is very helpful. I'm pretty sure that at this point, between this information and Mr. Howe's book on the Northwest Africa campaign that you linked me to, I have everything I will need.

 

Once again, I am very grateful. I will be in touch again, if this project goes anywhere.

 

Have a great holiday!


—Nick


#6 Nick.V

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 02:52 PM

!!!!!????   I tried to "like" jimmytwohand's response above, and got an error message saying I had "reached my quote of votes for the day"  Sorry...


—Nick


#7 jimmytwohand

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 03:18 PM

Don't sweat it Nick. I enjoyed poking around for answers to your questions. They give a solemn reminder of the human aspect of the conflict which can often get pushed to the side in the grand sweeping narratives of such a grand struggle.

 

I seem to remember the first of Rick Atkinson's trilogy is very good for the American side of the N.African campaign and might give you a more human angle than the green book account. It should be pretty cheap in paperback, I got one for less than a quid. 

 

It's worth checking back in case any of the more knowledgeable members have spotted any errors or have anything to add. I am firmly amateur. :) Also as that info about Bedford is unattributed you might want to see if slipdigit can confirm from source. I thought i had a copy of the "Bedford Boys" but for the life of me i cant find it.... 



#8 Slipdigit

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:13 PM

Well, there ya go!

 

Don't sweat it Nick. I enjoyed poking around for answers to your questions. They give a solemn reminder of the human aspect of the conflict which can often get pushed to the side in the grand sweeping narratives of such a grand struggle.

 

I seem to remember the first of Rick Atkinson's trilogy is very good for the American side of the N.African campaign and might give you a more human angle than the green book account. It should be pretty cheap in paperback, I got one for less than a quid. 

 

It's worth checking back in case any of the more knowledgeable members have spotted any errors or have anything to add. I am firmly amateur. :) Also as that info about Bedford is unattributed you might want to see if slipdigit can confirm from source. I thought i had a copy of the "Bedford Boys" but for the life of me i cant find it.... 

Yes, Atkinson's An Army At Dawn would make a good read to get background information on the US Army in North Africa in 1942.  It has good detail and is easily obtainable.


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#9 Slipdigit

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 04:24 PM

Nick, also note this passage:

 

A few people had received news of loved ones’ deaths in letters sent home

 

 

Soldiers were able to use V-mail, which was postage-free one-page letters they could send from anywhere in the world-where ever they happen to be, whether a foxhole or a ship at sea..  The man wrote his letter and turned it in to be censored.  It was then micro-filmed and the microfilm was sent back to the States where the image of the letter was transferred back to a piece of paper and sent to the addressee.


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#10 jimmytwohand

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 05:21 PM

The man wrote his letter and turned it in to be censored.  It was then micro-filmed and the microfilm was sent back to the States where the image of the letter was transferred back to a piece of paper and sent to the addressee.

 

 

Fascinating little nugget! Id always envisioned huge piles of mail being freighted about the place. Really interesting that they had a techie solution. It must have saved a lot of tonnage. 



#11 R Leonard

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 03:05 AM

You may find these to be marginally interesting.  Unfortunately, even when I cut the articles from the magazines they are too big to upload so the URLs are the direct links to the issues.  These, are, by the way, official USN publications.

 

First is the August 1944 issue of the the Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin, the article of interest starts on page 10.

 

http://www.navy.mil/...08#.Uqp44yeDlqU

 

Next is the July 1945 issue of All Hands Magazine (new title for the above publication), article starts on page 24.

 

http://www.navy.mil/...07#.Uqp5cCeDlqU

 

Rich


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I wonder what this button does . . .

#12 jimmytwohand

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Posted 13 December 2013 - 10:01 AM

Nice! Slow to load like you say, but definitely worth it.



#13 Nick.V

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Posted 14 December 2013 - 03:26 PM

Thank you Rich. I have downloaded and look forward to looking through them


—Nick





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