Monday, January 3, 2011

Military AND Mystery Monday: John Russell Tapley Update

Russ (left) w/unknown buddy
This is an update to a November post I did about how little I know about my Uncle Russ's World War II service and how I long to find out what unit in which he served:

My cousin went to the funeral home that handled Uncle Russ's funeral to see if they still had a file on him and possibly had his separation papers in that file.  Unfortunately, my cousin completely struck out; he was told they have no records back that far (1960's). 

So my next step, I guess, is to check with the county where he was living when he was discharged to see if he filed his separation papers there.  I don't know at this time when I'll make a trip to Jacksonville, but this will go on my to do list for my next visit.

Meanwhile, I found a website called Vet Friends that seems to be a place where veterans can go and try to locate people they served with.  As a matter of fact, the site seems to be all things veteran.  You have to join (for a fee) to get on the message boards and post a search for someone.  The fees are:  [and I quote]
 I have not decided whether to join just to place a "blind" post on the message board and hope that a World War II veteran who happened to serve with my uncle will see it.  It's a long shot.  But that appears to be all I have.  

I am sure that this is a worthwhile site with lots to offer our veterans.  However, they send me more than one e-mail every single day!  And I've only signed up for the free membership so far!  So the jury is still out on this one.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to find out what unit my uncle served in during WWII???  I would appreciate any and all ideas.


  1. Although there was a fire, I think it worth the time to request your uncle's military records from the National Archives. Not all records were burned.

    It's really helpful if you have his SS# (I think this is it: 267-12-4886, but could be wrong. This was listed under J. Tapley with a death date of July 1967 in Duval Florida, which matches the Florida Death Records for John Russell Tapley, death date July 1967, which I guessed was your Tapley.)

    I would NOT pay for the above mentioned service unless they offer to do research or provide you with information that is of value to you. There are plenty of places to make posts to find military people. The most unfortunate thing is that most veterans of WWII are now gone.

    Make posts on every free forum you can, along with the above picture, and maybe it will spark some leads.

    Take care,

  2. Thanks, Angela! I have actually already requested his military records from St. Louis - back in 2005 - but got the standard... his records were involved in the fire. That is how I did get his medals replaced - that inquiry I made. I do have his SS number, and I agree, I don't think I'll pay that site as I have already found some other free sites that put vets in touch with each other. I do plan to post that picture on some of them - maybe someone will recognize his buddy, if not my uncle. A friend has already spent hours researching the patch on the buddy's shoulder and thinks he has it narrowed down to the 4th Infantry Division. So progress is being made! Thanks!

  3. That doesn't look like 4ID to me (they have the Ivy leaves), but I can research that a bit more. My husband and I supported 3 platoons of the 1/22 which were with the 4ID in their first tour of Iraq, a girl friend of mine also served with them, and a fallen soldier from Vietnam whom we honor was with them.

    Let me poke his name around and see what I find. There is a 4ID Association that has a guest board and such. I haven't been on it in years, but I can look that up.

    I'll get back to you.


  4. This is what the 4ID patch would have looked like in WWII.

    He may have been in a special division that disbanded after the war and was just attached to another unit. I know this be true of another WWII peron I was researching.

    I hope you don't mind, but I forwarded a copy of the pic to my contacts who are vets from the 4ID, Vietnam. They are very interested and active in preserving the history of the 4ID and their repective units. Hopefully I will get some positive feedback to help you with.

    I looked at the list of units who served in WWII, and none of their unit patches matched the one on your uncle. This is another reason I believe it may have been a temporary unit. I will keep digging though.

    I'd like to hear if you get any more info, if you don't mind. Remembering our heroes is kind of important to me.

    Take care,

  5. I do believe you found the right patch, but unfortunately that means that Uncle Russ's buddy was not in his unit. If I'm understanding correctly, that patch was the Coast Artillery and their job was to protect the U.S. Coasts - so they stayed here during the war. Uncle Russ was definitely on the front lines (infantry more than likely) in Europe under General Patton in his 3rd Army. That has been passed down consistently in the family.

    I will post the picture around (and thank you for sharing it) to see if anyone recognizes either of them.

    The link you sent on Camp Blanding is fantastic! I can definitely use that!

    One step forward, 2 steps back. But I won't give up. Thank you so much for all your work on this. You also helped point out that the patch is not the 4ID... cause like you, I see no ivy leaves.

    I appreciate your help. If you think of anything else, please let me know. Feel free to e-mail me directly if you like.

  6. I looked at the patch on your uncle's arm, and the coloring (dark and light sections) suggests that it is the same patch.

    I was reading more about the Coast Artillery and they did get shipped around the world to various posts. The following article is in PDF form. I think it was a book broken down into various sections, but go to page 429 (13 of 81) and you can read about the WWII info on the Coast Artillery Units.

    I'm not saying that he definitely didn't belong to this unit, but rather the consideration should be strongly made before discounting. I won't sleep so well tonight =0(

    I'll keep poking (perserverence is my adotped middle name!).

    Take care!


  7. Keep searching, Liz. My father's records from WWII were also destroyed in the fire. Fortunately, I have a copy of his DD214 (Discharge papers), so I have the important info on there as to his battles, awards, etc. I wanted much, much more detailed info, but haven't gotten it. I posted something on a few military sites, but got no hits.

    Any chance some direct descendent has your uncle's important papers? There should be a DD214 somewhere......if no one "cleaned house" and threw things like that away.