Friday, July 9, 2010

Research Resource Review #2 - "D-Day Militaria"

Headquarters - 10th Armored Division
General Orders Number 148
9 July 1945
"By direction of the President and under the provisions of Army Regulations...a Silver Star is awarded posthumously to:

Sergeant Romia L. Roscoe, 38688883, Company B, 20th Armored Infantry Batallion, United States Army for gallantry in action at Ehrang, Germany on 5 March 1945. When several assault boats were sunk by enemy action, Sergeant Roscoe, assistant squad leader, bravely waded into the river under intense enemy fire to rescue two wounded soldiers from drowning and evacuated them to safety. His gallantry reflects great credit upon himself and the military forces of the United States."
The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States armed forces for valor in the face of the enemy. As with reading citations for the Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross, one can't help but be inspired and humbled by the bravery described in Silver Star and Bronze Star citations.
In addition to doing reading, research, and writing on the American Civil War, I do the same for World War II, for several reasons: my grandfather fought in WWII with the 70th Infantry Division and the subject crosses my other interests in military history (medicine, chaplains, institutional history, etc.). In the past few years, I secured a lot of wartime letters from another WWII soldier (nota relative) and learning more about him, I found out that he had earned the Bronze Star and Silver Star for gallantry in action. I'll write more on this particular soldier in the future, but in wanting to learn more about how he earned his decorations, I was referred to another excellent research service: Mr. Brandon Weigand at D-Day Militaria.

He helped me secure the Bronze Star (x2) and Silver Star citations for "my" soldier quickly and affordably and in doing so greatly enriched my knowledge of the soldier and the battles in which he participated.

Mr. Weigand specializes in compiling the "General Orders" for decorations awarded by various American infantry and armored divisions during WWII. Once a GO is identified with a particular name, he can also often find the full citation for the award (such as that for the incredibly brave Sgt. Roscoe noted above). As with all archival sources there are limits to what is available, but Mr. Weigand is an expert and happily answers questions about the process and is very honest about what you can (and can't) expect to learn.

Even if you aren't interested in the decorations for a particular relative or soldier, researching the decorations awarded at a particular battle or within a particular division can greatly add value to other research you may be doing!

Furthermore, while my interest was in WWII, Mr. Weigand also has decoration info for the Civil War, World War I, and Korea.

See my interview with Mr. Weigand below and stay tuned for a chance to win a free name look-up and decoration citation from D-Day Militaria!
1) In the words of Austin Powers, "allow yourself to introduce yourself"!

I started compiling US decoration information in 1999. I published four books on various branches of my family history before I began publishing general order indices in 2002.
While still in high school I enlisted into the Army Reserves, serving as a combat engineer in a mechanized infantry brigade. I was nominated to the US Military Academy and the US Air Force Academy, but decided to marry instead. I entered the regular army following graduation and was reclassified as a Patriot Missile Crewmember. I served in Germany and at Fort Bliss. While serving with 1-6th Air Defense Artillery I assisted in the field testing and the development of the Theater High Altitude Area Defense Missile System. Soon after being promoted to Staff Sergeant I was selected for recruiting duty, where I ended my eight-year military career.
Upon my discharge I formally started my research and publishing company. In addition to publishing 80 books and two articles to date I have completed a Bachelors of Science degree from Geneva College as well as Masters degrees in managemnt, leadership and business administration.

I have received numerous military, academic, and civic awards, including the Colonel Albert Gleim Memorial Medal for my research and publishing activities; several certificates and coins from Army Commanders for assisting them in researching decoration recipients to name buildings, erect monuments, etc.

2) First, thank you for your service to our country, Mr. Weigand; when and why did you start this business?

The business started after I finished researching my great uncle's military service. I had amassed a lot of knowledge and sources. So I figured to use what I had learned and purchased to make the information readily available to the average person that does not have the time or funds to drive to College Park, MD

3) Where did your interest in history/military history come from?

I was basically raised by my maternal grandparents so I was surrounded by WWII veterans.

4) What are the advantages of using a service like yours instead of using the NARA forms/process?

Price and turn around time

5) Are most of your customers researching family history, authors working on historical books, both, other?

1. researching self or family member
2. militaria collectors
3. libraries
4. authors
6) What information do people need to use your service?

As little as just the veteran's name, but additional information is helpful in determining if it is the same person as there were 14 million WWII veterans and many had the same name.

7) What is a "General Order"?

It is a type of administrative document that commonly awards decorations, although some decorations were awarded in Letter Orders and Special Orders as well.

8) What can customers expect with a decoration citation? What can they not expect?

This varies greatly, on the command, the time period, security measures in effect at the time of the approval, the type of the decoration.

It is critical to understand that not every command could award every decoration. The higher the decorations required commanders at higher levels to approve them, thus you will not find Medal of Honors, Distinguished Service Crosses, Distinguished Service Medals, Legion of Merits or Distinguished Flying Crosses (under normal circumstances) awarded in Divisional general orders, as these awards were reserved for the War Department, Theater Commanders, and Army Commanders. The MOH and DSM could only be awarded by the War Department and the Legion of Merit was reserved for Theater Commanders and the War Department.

Under normal circumstances awards of decorations were made at the lowest approving authority. But this would be at the time that the award was approved not when the action occurred. This does not mean that all the Silver Star Medals awarded to members of the 1st Infantry Division where published in the 1st Infantry Division's general orders.

Purple Heart Medals were normally awarded by the medical unit/hospital that treated the soldier. This is overly simplified, but it is critical to understand the chain of evacuation. The bottom line is only those who were lightly wounded and returned immediately to duty will have their Purple Heart Medals issued in divisional or regimental general orders.

Once a decoration is published in a given command's general orders it is not republished in the superior command's general orders. Thus what is in the 506th PIR general orders is not in the 101st Airborne Division's general orders and vice versa.

All things considered the likelihood of a general order containing a full citation is directly related to where the decoration ranks in the pyramid of honor. Thus it is very likely that the General Order will have a full citation if it awards a Silver Star Medal or Distinguished Service Cross. Decorations awarded for meritorious service do not normally have full citations in the general orders. But these rules vary based upon the command, the time period, security measures in effect at the time of the approval and the basis of the decoration.

9) Do you encourage people to contact you with questions before they make an online order?

Yes, as I want them to be happy. I charge $1.00 to search my database, which then allows me to tell them what I can or cannot provide. I have digitized roughly enough general orders to account for 25% of the decorations awarded to Army Ground Forces during WWII
10) What is the future of archive digitalization as far as military decoration records?

If I can obtaining financing I would love to put the information on the web, with an user friendly interface that allows the users to get the General Order that they want in a matter of seconds.

Thanks, Mr. Weigand! If any of you are interested in WWII decorations I STRONGLY ENDORSE D-DAY MILITARIA!

Stay tuned for an opportunity to win a free name look-up and citation from D-Day Militaria!

Disclaimer: this was an unsolicted review. I received no compensation for this review or interview. I have been a customer of D-Day Militaria and happily endorse their service.

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