Monday, January 14, 2013

Military Monday: "Going to School" With Albert

One of my genealogy resolutions for 2013 was to do a better job of citing my sources, and a personal resolution was to actually go through several drawers in an attic file cabinet to see what was there.  A few unscheduled days recently provided the time to get started doing just that.  This became the time, to quote one of my grandchildren, "to go to school" as I sorted through the military records that had belonged to my uncle, Albert Thomas Vaughan, Jr.

Lt. Albert T. Vaughan, Jr.
Albert loved to talk about being in the Army during World War II, but we were never sure exactly what he did, where he had been stationed, and whether he had always been an officer or had first been an enlisted man.  The answers to these questions surfaced as I spent several days going through close to three inches of military files.

As soon as I started looking through the files, I was hesitant about what to do with all of this stuff.  Denise May Levenick had earlier written a really helpful article on about What to Keep and What to Toss.  It gave me just the direction I was needing.

Her simple guidelines gave three options to consider "save ... skim then trash ... [or]  trash".  As I removed each item from a folder to read, I made one of the three choices.  Some of his papers contained multiple copies, as many as 10, of a single letter or order so it was easy to select the copy in best condition and trash the rest.  I kept those papers and forms that documented where he had been stationed, his rank at the time, and what he did.  A number of brittle, crumbling newspaper articles were scanned and then trashed.

Using the saved documents, now in a slim folder, I was able to construct a timeline for Albert's military service.  My husband, a former Marine, was interested in reading the documents and shedding light on what was happening, my own personal military consultant.  What resulted was a clearer picture of Albert's time in the Army Air Force between 1942 and 1946.

Albert first enlisted in the Army in June, 1942, and was immediately sent to Texas for training as a glider pilot.  When he was determined to be slightly color blind, he was given an honorable discharge in August, 1942, only to be allowed to reenlist several weeks later.  He spent the next months being trained and was assigned as an aircraft armorer, all in the United States.

Soon Albert was selected to attend Officer Candidate School.  After finishing OCS, he was discharged from being an enlisted man and granted a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in August of 1943.  As a new lieutenant he served as a personnel officer at Randolph Field, Texas, before finally getting into the position about which we had heard so many stories.  By July 1944, Albert was put in charge of a Mobile Training Unit, traveling from one Army Air Field to another, assigned at each base for about six weeks.  His unit was charged with training pilots and maintenance personnel on the changes being made with the B-17 bombers.  His papers also included some great 8x10 glossy photos of the cockpit and engine mock-ups that were used in the training process.  Many of the newspaper articles I scanned were interviews from base newspapers telling about the Training Unit's visit and its purpose, all front page articles with quotes from Albert.
B-17 Mobile Training Unit No. 14, ca 1944
Denise May Levenick's article had been the first part of my schooling using Albert's papers.  Next, there was a lot of military and personal information in his records that I wanted to document in my research.  The second part of my schooling came as I dug repeatedly into Evidence Explained to get an understanding as to how to correctly cite privately held military records.  After lots of reading, writing, rewriting, and even a post to the Evidence Explained Forum followed by their prompt answer (Thanks, EE), I think I've finally learned how to correctly write this type of citation.  Practice does make perfect when you write 14 of them!

In the end, I've learned a lot about Albert, how to correctly cite one type of source, and more about stateside military service during World War II.  All of this was thanks to a stack of dusty, crumbling military records, the Levenick article, Evidence Explained, and my husband.


  1. What great info! Glad to have all this in the family archives. It inspires me to look further into what my grandparents did during the war.

  2. What a great photo. I was drawn to it from the Geneabloggers Military Monday Pinterest page. I think your tip of how to purge items is great. I tend to hold on to things longer than I should. Thanks for the post!

  3. The tips on purging are all thanks to Denise May Levenick. I printed her list (I have a link to it in the post) and refer to it whenever I'm going through piles of stuff.