Thursday, January 26, 2012

…Or Not

The question is: how fast can you take a honeymoon? If you have other pressing matters (like a monolithic employer with an immovable schedule), you may escape with a token weekend getaway, and let it suffice at that. Or promise yourself to schedule that dream trip for a more convenient time.

The key is: when is Frank Stevens due back on duty in his new role as an Air Force enlistee?

Of course, to find that out, I’ve scoured all the papers in my possession. I had hoped Frank’s DD-214 from his Air Force years would tell the tale, but it didn’t. I looked for ships’ passenger lists online to no avail. I even searched for records under his new wife’s name. No luck.

You know these things have a way of surfacing right under your nose after you’ve tossed every room in the house in that fruitless search. And that is what happened today. Filed away in its proper place (here, if you are a "World Deluxe" Ancestry member) and awaiting my arrival in good time to revisit the record when needed, was the digital version of the transport document in my Stevens family tree.

On a form dated December 6, 1949—barely one month after Frank married Norma Flowers in New Lexington, Ohio—he is listed as a military passenger on a ship bound from New York City to Southampton, England. Not far from the port at the time the form is issued, his military unit is being staged at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Without a moment to lose in that month since his wedding, Frank has to drive to his mom’s home in Chicago (as we’ve already seen), then turn right around and make his (or their?) way back to the east coast some time before that form is processed. Within six days after that, on December 12, he is on his way to England.

Frank is sailing—without Norma, obviously—on the U.S. transport ship, the George W. Goethals, at that time operated by the military branch he once hailed from: the Navy. He journeys from Fort Dix to the port in New York City where he boards the ship. On December 20, he and his military companions land at Southampton in England.

Thankfully, it is on this transport record that I glean the date of his enlistment in the Air Force: a four year term that began on April 10, 1947 (which, oddly, predates the actual legislation authorizing the formation of the Air Force as a separate military branch in the United States—talk about getting in on the ground floor!). That may explain some telegrams home to mom (that I have yet to post) from San Antonio, Texas, home of what has since become an Air Force base.

While that answers some questions for me, it creates other mysteries. For one, I am now curious about what is to become of Norma, Frank’s bride of—at the time of his departure—six weeks. Did she stay with her mother-in-law, Agnes, in Chicago? Return home to New Lexington? (That hardly seems possible, seeing she quit her position with Dr. Bennett.) The newspaper publication of her wedding announcement stated she would be accompanying her husband to England, but the passenger list indicates otherwise.

As you may have suspected, I do have other papers giving me some indications of how things ultimately turned out. As for the immediate future—from the date at which Frank’s ship embarked on its journey to England until those records quite a few months later—I have no leads.

Photograph, top right: the USNS George W. Goethals, sailing at about the time of Frank Stevens' journey to England, courtesy NavSource Online as found on Wikipedia; photograph in the public domain.

Photograph, bottom left: Norma Flowers Stevens in late teen years. From private collection of author.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder at what point, any available records would not be available? I mean, do they keep records of people flighing in and out of the country today (and if so, is it, or will it, become publicly available?)

    I wonder if Norma was onboard that ship. It seems that separating them for the trip to England wouldn't make that much sense....


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