Sunday, August 23, 2009

Researching your father's (or grandfather's) war

A couple months ago I came across an absolutely brilliant book. Finding Your Father's War, by Jon Gawne is a guidebook to anyone researching the US Army in WWII. I did pretty well researching on my own for the first two years, but this book has really cleared up some questions. I wish I had it at the beginning of my project!

So how did I start my Army research? My grandpa, Cortland Hopkins landed and worked at Utah Beach. The first thing I did was to read Utah Beach by Joseph Balkoski. This was in August of 2006. The book has very little to say specific to the engineers or transportation units, but it provides am excellent background to the greater scene. While reading I was able to ask Corty new questions.

An author friend of mine, a retired Army Col., recommended the official history of WWII published by the US Government Printing Office. This multi-volume series was published after the war, chronicling every aspect of the US military's involvement. These are often referred to as the "green books" because of the hardcover's green binding. The Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas, by Joseph Bykofsky includes the work of Port Battalions in Europe. The text is very dry, but it's a great resource. Reading this volume allowed me ask Corty more detailed questions. By this time I was interviewing other veterans, Bruce, Dave, and Jon.

Another major step was approaching the National Archives. But that is a tale for another post...

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