Finding the Missing Pieces

I've been a listener of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast for awhile now -- I love Lisa's friendly style and her great ideas for using technology for family history research.  She often tells stories of the serendipitous connections made by people who share their research online.  

Think about it, we are all just part of a whole:  your old family movies also include neighbors who attended your family birthday parties, your photos include people and places in your ancestral communities, and your memorabilia include events that other people participated in as well.

I was reminded of this recently, when I got an email from a woman named Carla who had seen my blogpost from Memorial Day 2013.  In that post, inspired by one of Lisa's podcasts, I wrote about my father-in-law's experiences during World War II as an Army doctor attached to the 1777th Construction Engineer Battalion in the European and Pacific theaters.  I included a Google map with a scanned copy of his unit's "travelogue" and photos from every place they were stationed, as well as relevant newsreels I found on YouTube.  Altogether, it provided an in-depth perspective on his unit's experiences in the last years of the war.

This is what Carla wrote:


Kathleen,

I just found your blog about the 1777th Engineering Construction Battalion.   My father was a member of the 1777th Engineering Construction Battalion out of Ft. Sill, Ok.  Although I saw no reference to Oklahoma in your blog or map detail I can only assume they are the same group.  My father told us next to nothing about his time in the service.  He did mention working in Japan after the war helping clean up.  He was a bulldozer operator and said he worked in the kitchen also.  So when I saw your picture of the "kitchen ablaze" in Agoo, I burst into laughter.....oh, let's just pretend it was my dad's fault.  LOL...he never enjoyed working in the kitchen let's just say.

The only time I can actually recall him working in the kitchen was when my mother was making homemade rolls.  She would call him into the kitchen and he would have them "rolled" in no time.  Typically rolling them against the counter with multiples at one time.  A skill he attributed to from working in the kitchen while in the Army.

My father, Junior T Montgomery (based on the discharge paperwork) but who went by the name Thomas Montgomery afterwards died of cancer in June 1990.  I sometimes wonder if the time spent in Japan had anything to do with his dealth.

The discharge papers that I have from the Army shows that he departed on November 2, 1945 for AP (Asia Pacific) and arrived November 21, 1945.  It also shows returning July 29, 1946 and arriving back on August 10, 1946.

Thank you for your detail on their movements.  I have often wondered.  I submitted a request for his medals several years ago.  At that time I also requested a detail of the travels done.  The government replied stating the archives had burned in a fire years ago.  So finding your information has been a gift.  Something I can now share with my kids.

My father brought back with him some Occupied Japan china, some weapons, and binoculars from Japan.  I plan on dividing up the items and gving them to my children.  I will add the Travelogue to the collection.

Again, thank you. 

Carla Montgomery Matto

"No, not enemy action -- kitchen ablaze at Agoo" -- Henry Tesluk, 1945

Making those connections and helping someone find the missing pieces of their story is one of the true joys of genealogy in the internet age.