Monthly Archives: July 2013

Intern Post: Unbelievable Heroism Against All Regulations: The Story of Private First Class Jack Lucas, USMC

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PFC Jack Lucas, USMC Official Medal of Honor Photograph, 5 October 1945

While researching my uncle’s past, I’ve come across numerous stories of heroism and valor by Marines, sailors, and soldiers during the Second World War’s Pacific Campaign. One story that caught my attention was the story of Private First Class Jack Lucas, United States Marine Corps – the youngest Congressional Medal of Honor recipient of WWII.

Born in Plymouth, North Carolina in 1928, Lucas was a stellar athlete and a cadet captain at a junior military academy when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Eager to fight, Lucas enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, despite being only 14 years old while the required minimum age to join was (and remains) 18; 17 with parental consent. In order to join, Lucas forged his mother’s signature on a parental consent form and bribed a notary public to verify a falsified birth certificate claiming that he was 17. He was accepted into the Marine Corps and completed boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

Initially assigned as a truck driver in Florida and then Hawaii, Lucas deserted his unit in January 1945 and stowed away with an infantry unit bound for Iwo Jima. When the ship’s officers discovered Lucas, they chose not to court martial him for his unauthorized absence because they needed as many infantrymen as they could muster for what would turn into one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Lucas turned 17 on February 14, 1945, just 6 days before his heroic actions on Iwo Jima.

On the second day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, PFC Lucas and three other Marines were moving down a ravine when they were ambushed by Japanese soldiers. While the Marines were taking cover in a ditch, two hand grenades rolled in near the fire team’s position. Lucas dove onto the explosives and absorbed most of the blast with his body, saving the lives of the men around him. Lucas survived the attack, but was left with over 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body. He was evacuated to the hospital ship Samaritan and received 26 operations over the following months before being discharged for disability reasons.

PFC Jack Lucas was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman on October 5, 1945 for his heroic actions on Iwo Jima. Still only 17 years old, Lucas was the youngest Medal of Honor recipient since the Civil War and the youngest to serve in WWII. Lucas passed away on June 5, 2008 at the age of 80 and was survived by his wife, 5 children, 7 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren.

While Mr. Lucas’ courage and heroism are inspirational, his is a story that cannot possibly be replicated in today’s military. I think back to when I went through the process to join the military earlier this year and acknowledge the fact that today it is next to impossible to lie one’s way into military service.

Before being allowed to in-process for the Army, I was required to fill out a lengthy questionnaire detailing my entire life’s history, provide several forms of valid identification, authorize an FBI criminal records check, and turn in copies of all of my educational credentials. Had I tried to provide a recruiter with false information the way Mr. Lucas did, a computer database would’ve instantly spotted the discrepancy. I would have been disqualified from enlisting and I probably would have been arrested for forging legal documents.

Once I had completed the prescreening, I was sent to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to officially process and enlist. There, I was given an extremely thorough medical examination and a drug screening test, submitted a complete biometric record (all fingerprints and a facial recognition scan), and underwent a full background investigation. Technology has made it almost impossible to cheat the system and nearly all unqualified applicants are discovered at MEPS. Based on the causing factors and a criteria outlined by Department of Defense rules, these applicants are disqualified either temporarily (recent, minor surgeries, questionable or incomplete paperwork, presently unqualified for service) or permanently (any serious medical/psychological conditions, positive drug test results, felony convictions).

Further, today it is a felony to lie or provide inaccurate information in order to join the armed forces. In the unlikely event that a few applicants are able to “slip through the cracks” and gain admittance to the military, they are actually in more danger than if they had simply been disqualified during the enlistment process. Then, not only are dishonest applicants breaking a federal statue, but they are also in direct violation of Article 83 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Even if service members are able to conceal their dishonesty for years, if an investigation ever reveals that they were ineligible to enlist at the time they joined, they will be charged with fraudulent enlistment and may face a dishonorable discharge (the military equivalent of a felony conviction), forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a $10,000 fine, and up to three years in federal prison.

However, I would argue that there are times in history where rules and penalties may be ignored in favor of serving a greater good. World War II, the most destructive conflict in human history, was one of those rare occasions. It was an era of total war where every citizen was required to do their part in some way to ensure absolute victory. Jack Lucas chose to serve his country on the battlefield, even though by regulations he was not old enough to do so. In one of the most violent battles in American military history, at great risk to his own personal safety, he saved the lives of three of his comrades and was rewarded for his actions with the country’s highest honor.

Among the Americans serving on Iwo (Jima) Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue-Admiral Chester William Nimitz, March 1945

Sources

“Jack Lucas Dies at 80; Earned Medal of Honor at 17.” The New York Times, 6 June 2008.

“PFC Jacklyn H. Lucas, Medal of Honor, 1945.” United States Marine Corps.

Article 83. Fraudulent Enlistment, Appointment, or Separation. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“False Statements on Military Recruiting Paperwork.” About.com: US Military.

-Michael

New Exhibit at NARA NYC

draft riotThe National Archives at New York City has opened a special exhibit to commemorate the anniversary of the Civil War Draft Riots. “A City Under Siege: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War Draft Riots,” is a special display of original documents that show the events of the July 1863 riots from the holdings of the National Archives at New York City. This sesquicentennial anniversary exhibit will be on display through September, as well as the exhibit, “New York on the Record” in the 3rd floor Welcome Center at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green, New York City, NY. Exhibit tours will be offered every Wednesday at 12pm. For more information, see:  http://207.245.165.89/nyc/press/2013/city-under-siege-exhibit.html

Intern Post: The Threads that Bind Us: Eleanor, Svea, and I

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Eleanor Roosevelt

For my independent research project, I am focused on uncovering the truth behind a piece of family folklore passed down on my maternal side.  The story is not particularly long or exciting, but it does link my family to a grand figure of American history, albeit a peripheral link.  Through the exploration of this tale, I am also becoming better acquainted with the figure of my great-grandmother and the Swedish side of my family.

The story, in essence, is this: my grandmother, an impeccable seamstress herself, claimed that her mother had once sewn a dress for Eleanor Roosevelt.  I have no skill for sewing, and until then I believed that my connection to the famed First Lady was only through our shared gender and politics (also a first name, although she didn’t like or ever use it, which I find disappointing).  To learn that I may have a tangential link to Eleanor through a legacy of women was an inspiring mystery that I had to uncover.

The first step in my research was to track my great-grandmother’s whereabouts, starting with a birth certificate.  The most illuminating thing about the research thus far has been learning how difficult, but ultimately informative, tracking one individual can be.  For instance, on her birth certificate, my great grandmother was born “Svea H. E. E. Larson.”  I found, however, that by the time my grandmother was born in 1929, her mother was listed at Elizabeth Larson.  She was listed as Elizabeth in the 1930 and 1940 census, as well (she died in 1945).  I surmised that Elizabeth must have been one of Svea’s middle names, but why the name change?  Did she ever use the name Svea?

The answer to this question ultimately came after arduous searching through several death records, birth records, and censuses.  Through the search for Svea, I was able to find the death certificate for her mother (my great-great grandmother, Hedwig), her spouse, and her in-laws.  Tracking these other people gave me a better clue as to Svea’s interpersonal life and whereabouts, but it only was able to inform me about her life post-1930.  After several creative re-interpretations of the spelling of Hedwig’s first name, I was able to locate my great-grandmother as Svea in Brooklyn in the 1920 census.  I was also able to find a piece of corroborating evidence to the family story in this census – her industry was listed as dressmaker.

The next task for this project is to do some research into Eleanor’s life around the time my great-grandmother was in the dressmaking industry.  I intend to call the museum at Hyde Park on Hudson to learn more about how Eleanor may have had her clothes made and what that would have entailed.  Would she have placed an order at specific establishment? Would she have been acquainted with the seamstress who was to make the dress?  Would they have had regular visits?  Hopefully contacting Hyde Park will answer my questions, or at least point me in the right direction.

-Anna

Intern Post: My Research Question

When approaching this project, we were told that rather than putting together and exhaustive scholarly record of our family genealogy, we should attempt to make one new discovery or answer a specific question related to genealogical study.

After putting a great deal of thought into the matter, I decided to ask the most basic, yet compelling question I could think of about my Uncle Jack’s past. How did the Marine Corps accomplish its three missions with my uncle?

The Marine Corps has traditionally had three main missions, which it also regards as promises to Marines and the American public. Those commitments are “We make Marines. We win battles. We make quality citizens.”

The Commitments

To give a better idea of what those commitments mean, here is a breakdown of each mission as stated by Marine Corps Recruiting Command and what it means to those who have experienced them:

1. “We Make Marines”-

“We make Marines with the training and principles to face down the threats of our time. From Enlisted Marines to Commissioned Officers, every Marine is a part of the same storied legacy and is vital to the Marine Corps mission.”

The Marine Corps’ first mission is to sustain itself as an elite fighting force by finding qualified applicants who possess the desire and capability to earn the title United States Marine. Once they have enlisted, new recruits are sent to a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, either at Parris Island, SC or Camp Pendleton, CA. When they arrive at one of these sites, enlistees are put through their first test as members of the Marine Corps, completing Recruit Training, colloquially called “boot camp.”

Throughout boot camp, a recruit is tested through rigorous adversity and stress inoculation at the hands of his Drill Instructors, experienced Marines who have had to meet strict standards and pass an arduous selection process to earn the privilege of training America’s “new breed” of Marines. A recruit’s ability to adapt to and overcome this hardship shows both the Marine Corps and the recruit himself that he can not only survive in war, but also be victorious in a fight where most others would fail.

Marine Corps Recruit Training also emphasizes teaching and the passing on of knowledge. Although Drill Instructors are the source of tremendous stress for every recruit at boot camp, they also teach the recruits everything they need to know about being a United States Marine. New Marines leave their recruit depots with a strong sense of accomplishment for having completed the difficult training and being recognized as one of “the few, the proud, the Marines.”

Finally, boot camp also emphasizes teamwork. Drill Instructors break down recruits’ individuality (while at training, recruits are not even allowed to speak in the first person-they are to refer to themselves as “this recruit”) and teach them how to think, react, and work together as a unit. This teamwork and high espirit esprit de corps that recruits learn in training is what allows Marines to successfully accomplish missions.

2. “We win our nation’s battles”-

“Since the day it was formed, the Marine Corps has been committed to winning our nation’s battles, fighting determinedly in every one of our country’s conflicts. By air, land and sea, the Marine Corps is America’s premier expeditionary force, ready to protect our nation’s citizens and interests anywhere in the world.”

Since the Barbary Coast Wars, the United States Marine Corps has traditionally been the executor of American national policy at home and abroad. Marines are often the first troops the U.S. government sends to a crisis area and usually arrive when a situation is at its worst. The warfighting culture embedded in every Marine during training has enabled the Marine Corps to thrive in the most austere conditions and win some of America’s toughest battles.

3. “We make quality citizens”-

“The core values that guide us, and the leadership skills that enable us, not only make for outstanding Marines—they make for upstanding citizens as well.”

Beyond producing elite warriors, the Marine Corps also strives to create outstanding citizens that play vital roles in their communities. Most Marines leave the service once their initial commitment is up and return to civilian life. The Marine Corps endeavors that all of its prior-service members will carry the pride and discipline they had as a Marine for the rest of their lives.

The Marine Corps also prides itself on producing quality leaders, as it indoctrinates every Marine, regardless of rank, leadership traits that characterize a good leader of both Marines and civilians.

How They Were Met

In the case of my Uncle Jack, the Marine Corps accomplished all three of its missions. Jack joined the military the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and choose the Marines because he knew that they would be sent to fight the toughest battles. He went to MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina, endured the hardest initial entry training in the United States Armed Forces, and became a Marine Infantryman.

He was then sent to the South Pacific, where some of the most intense battles in the history of warfare were being waged. He served with the 3rd Marine Division at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, New Guinea, and Guam. While on Guam in July of 1944, he was wounded by a Japanese grenade and returned to the States. As he was preparing to redeploy to the Pacific after his recovery, Japan surrendered and his service was no longer required. He was granted an honorable discharge and returned to New York City.

Upon returning home, Jack took a position with the New York City Department of Corrections as a sworn officer and used his combat training and experience to excel at what is often considered the most stressful job in the civilian sector. He retired in the early 1970’s 1970s as a Deputy Warden stationed at the Kew Gardens Detention Center in Queens, NY and then used his experience in corrections to work as a building security planner and director.

Conclusions 

While I do not yet have many exact locations, dates, or documents concerning his time in WWII or the City Correction’s Department, I know that my uncle and the Marine Corps accomplished each of the Corps’ three main missions for one another. I look forward to continuing my research and learning more about the amazing life of John Patrick Francis.

Works Cited

http://www.marines.com/history-heritage/our-purpose#making-marines

http://www.marines.com/history-heritage/our-purpose#winning-battles

http://www.marines.com/history-heritage/our-purpose#quality-citizens

-Michael

Intern Post: Uncovering My Long Lost Brooklyn Family

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Brooklyn in the 1890s

As families go, mine is a relatively easy one to track through history. Most of my ancestors came to America from various parts of Great Britain in the 17th and early 18th centuries and proceeded to live, throughout the years, fairly sedentary lives. As a result of this, my extended family has been able to be quite fastidious about maintaining family records and preserving our history. It became clear, however, when I started my own genealogical research project, that there was one obvious ancestral stone left unturned. For this reason, I decided to focus my research on the Brooklyn-based family of my maternal grandmother – a branch of my ancestry which, due to a combination of factors, has remained mysterious.

The only thing I had ever been told about these ancestors was that both of my grandmother’s parents were the children of Irish immigrants who settled in New York City in the late 19th century. I therefore decided to use this genealogy project in order to fill in the considerable gaps of my (and my family’s) knowledge and learn a little more about where my grandmother came from. By searching census records, I was able to find my grandmother’s household in Brooklyn quite easily. Using this information I was able to find out a lot about her father – my great-grandfather – including information about his parents and siblings and their journey from Ireland. My great-grandmother, however, has proven much more difficult. I soon discovered that my great-grandmother, Anna, was orphaned at a very young age and placed in the care of a convent by her two older brothers. This means that record-wise, Anna was cut off from the rest of her family at the age of five. This has proven to be a considerable roadblock, and one that I am still working to get past. Though even without this information, I am very happy to have learned all that I have about the ancestors that I had previously thought “unresearchable”. My whole family has been grateful for this better understanding of these lost relatives and look forward to the new discoveries that lay ahead!

-Annabel

FGS Webinar Available

FGS webinarThe FGS webinar,  “Discovering Local & State Militia Records” presented by J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA,  was recorded and is now available on their website.   Many different types of records document the militias of different states and communities from the Revolution to the War of 1812.  These documents can help track your ancestors, and can be an important part of establishing your ancestor’s military record.  For more on this webinar recording, or future FGS webinars on different topics, see:  http://voice.fgs.org/2013/07/fgs-webinar-recording-now-available.html