Saturday, February 11, 2012

Once So Vital, Now Invisible

Oh, how I thought I’d be able to find significant mentions of the young men serving in the military during World War II who had trained at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center with my father-in-law, Frank Stevens. It just isn’t turning out to be so.

With all the resources at my disposal, from Ancestry to ZabaSearch, you would think there would be some mention of these men. But, in many cases, I found precious little. Even so, I would like to post the remainder of the pictures enlarged from the Company 162 photograph from the U. S. Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois, taken on April 6, 1942.

There have been some tentative finds, though. Thanks once again to the work of Iggy, we may have found more information on Gilbert “Bud” Becker from Racine, Wisconsin. Iggy located the Becker family entry in the 1920 U.S. Census, thanks to the discovery of an obituary for Bud’s older sister, thus providing the basics of that family constellation. A creative-spelling census-taker for the 1930 census made locating the updated family information tricky—the vital link, considering that Bud had not yet made his appearance at the Becker home in time for the 1920 census—yet, in the end, even that was pieced together.

As for what has become of Bud since then, there are too many false leads. Lack of a middle initial, and lack of Navy Muster Rolls under that name that include date plus location of enlistment prove frustrating. After much stumbling about, one Google result led me to think that perhaps, just perhaps, the middle initial might be “W,” connecting me with a possible place of death in southern California. I’m now awaiting response from one of those Genealogical Kind Souls who volunteers to do obituary lookups to see if I have a match.

Despite signing his full name on the back of Frank Stevens’ Company 162 photo, Howard Thomas Cunningham also seemed to evade detection in his later years. Other than discovering, courtesy of Google, that “Howard Cunningham” is the name of a character on the old TV show, Happy Days, I haven’t found much. (I’m beginning to sense that that might have been the pinnacle of my research on this topic.) Thankfully, Iggy once again came to the rescue with a possible listing on a FamilyTreeMaker page, which opened some possibilities for contacting (yikes!) living descendants. A post to a Rootsweb volunteer and an email to a possible son will hopefully yield some more guidance. Courtesy, once again, of Iggy, I found further information on Mr. Cunningham's Chicago alma mater, the Albert G. Lane Technical College Preparatory High School. also yielded some information on military duty, although most frustrating was the fact that either there are two Howard Thomas Cunninghams in the Navy during that same World War II time period, or the Navy issued two different service numbers for the same man. The fact that each number is only off—and not by much—for one digit tempts me to think that this might be a typo; I’ve resisted that temptation and am treating these entries as representing two different men. Which one is the one I’m looking for remains to be seen.

This leaves us with data showing a Howard Thomas Cunningham serving aboard the USS Sunfish, the USS Cobia, the USS Runner, and/or the USS Orion, in addition to a record showing service on the USS Capitane, flagship for the Submarine Division 222. Either that’s a super-human tour of duty, or the work of Howard Thomas Cunningham’s double. It remains to be seen which Howard Thomas Cunningham is the double!

Hopefully, at some point in the not-too-distant future, someone will recognize a face posted today or in the previous couple days, and enter a comment to fill us in on the missing details. If nothing else, I hope it allows someone’s descendants to enjoy finding something new about their relative and his younger days in the Navy.

1 comment:

  1. All of these once bright-faced young men deserve to be remembered. So many of them had promising lives cut short in order to preserve our country's way of life. So many of them were were truly modest and a great number of them would never speak of what they "did during the war" (either from trauma, modesty, and/or other reasons).

    I was honored to be able to help you in this "search for rememberance" - it is my wish that none of those that served in the horror of war be forgotten - as sadly too many (meaning any) are.

    I see a sea of faces staring at me from this "class of 1942" and hear murmured conversations - from eager, excited, frightened, unsure, men that "signed on" for nearly as many reasons as there were men. What was their story? Each of them has one - and even if it's only half as interesting as Frank Stevens' amazing tale of adventure - it would be fascinating to hear and moreover, deserves to be heard.


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