Despite writing about Frank Stevens’ unexpected decision to leave the military life he had grown accustomed to during a tour of duty in the Pacific at the close of World War II, I’m still not sure how things turned out once he officially separated from Navy life just prior to Christmas, 1945. Frank had insisted so many times to family members that he just couldn’t see himself living any other life—at least any other occupational life—than in the Navy. He had even applied for advanced training in the hopes of promoting in his line of specialization.
As if to provide providential proof and dispel my doubts, this holiday weekend, my hand happened to fall upon another confirmation of this recent change of mind: a form dubbed “Finance Form 1382” in the vernacular of the Veterans Administration—more commonly known as Application for Servicemen’s Readjustment Allowance. There the tale was recapped for any among us still doubting the turn of events:
- Date of entrance upon active duty: February 24, 1942
- Date of separation from active duty: December 21, 1945
I have precious little to confirm what occurred in Frank Stevens’ history once he returned to Chicago. Oh, you can be sure I have more letters. But the next few months—and for good reason, as we’ll find out—go dark as far as written communication goes. Without the documentation to reconstruct the actual sequence of events, I can only presume what happened, based on circumstantial evidence. And the story passes through a rough spot that I wish I knew more about because I think, not only for this one individual but many that follow him, that these few months make up a significant turning point.
When I return from my unexpected travels later on this month, I intend to follow up on contacting the appropriate archives and requesting Frank’s military records. As many who have sought archives records have discovered, though, the results may not include every item I might hope for. For one thing, the cornerstone of the military personnel records is a page called the DD-214. Many people do not already have that document, and so it is a treasure to actually hold even that page from a relative’s records. In our case, since Frank’s mom was so careful to save virtually everything of significance, I now have that actual copy that Frank once brought home. I already have some early documents listing major accomplishments, honors, and campaigns Frank participated in. So I am already one step ahead in this paper chase.
In seeking directions on how to proceed with requesting Frank’s military records, I encountered one disconcerting situation in the myriad online archives pages I scoured: the statement that records would include battles participated in was both confirmed and refuted. Okay, now wait a minute: either the package will or will not include these files. We can’t have both statements being true at the same time! (I take that back: perhaps in the military it is possible for this to be so—I do know that government agencies are rumored to have a love affair with oxymorons.)
So, as it stands now: I try to get my head around the fact that Frank has indeed dumped his dream to pursue further medical training via the military. I endure the untenable wait to send for copies of his actual military personnel file. And I attempt, in the meantime, to reconstruct what life must have been like for Frank Stevens upon his return home in the aftermath of a world war on the eve of the New Year, 1946.