Courage Under Fire: Growing up in the South Pacific of World War II. Pt 1

History remembers the celebrated. Genealogy remembers them all.

Fred L. Jacobs service photo

Frederick L Jacobs has been a topic of genealogical curiosity for me. Like most my research subjects I never met him. He has been the topic of many stories, most of which are long on vagueness and short on detail. Fred was my husband’s grandfather.

Fred Jacobs spent a fair portion of his life haunting a bar stool at the bar in a small Michigan town by the name of Paris. His wife tended that same bar. Every day he could be found wearing blue jeans, a pocket t-shirt, suspenders, and his highly decorated American Legion hat. Fred was a popular relic in the small town farming community where he spent most of his life.

This blog series is my attempt at trying to trace his life during World War II.

Just a small town boy

I had all the genealogical vital stats on him. Fred Jacobs was born to Joseph Jacobs and his wife Eula Payton. Fred was the third son. He was born in Michigan on December 12, 1922. His family had recently made the move to the region from Cabell County, West Virginia in the months before he was born. His father, Joe, worked in the road construction industry.

Fred Jacobs grave

In the Army now.

Fred was just shy of his 18th birthday when he enlisted in Big Rapids, Michigan on 15 October, 1940. He lied about his date of birth by a year when he signed paperwork to join the Army. He would spend the next 5 years experiencing some of the most brutal jungle warfare of World War II.

During his time in combat Fred Jacobs would be awarded the purple heart three times. With the passing of time, information about the circumstances of those awards is undoubtedly lost to time. The medals remain a token to his sacrifice while the sacrifice has been lost to history.

Purple heart medal

Like so many soldiers who served during World War II, Fred’s service record was destroyed. The disastrous fire in 1973 of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri resulted in near total destruction of a majority of the Army records held there. A request to the National Archives turned up one of the disappointing form letters and the offer of a scant scrap in the form of a last pay statement. So much valuable information up in a puff of smoke.

It would be easy to admit defeat and stop the search there. Call it a day and a lost cause. For years I did just that as I avoided devoting any precious research hours to the cause. I wasn’t motivated to dig deeper. Time and again conversations would turn to that old box of medals and those three purple hearts. Like a book unread it was time to crack the cover on this tale.

I turned my attention to the box of medals and military memorabilia. Inside was a red arrow patch. I had an enlistment card transcription. A mystery….and this series…was born with the effort to sleuth out details about Fred Jacobs and his service during World War II.

red arrow patch

Dig Deeper

I started by learning more about the unit patch. He kept that red arrow, it had significance. The Red Arrow Division, a nickname for the 32nd Infantry Division, is a military division with a long and storied history. One of the units in the 32nd was 126th regiment. Company E was the National Guard unit called up from Big Rapids, Michigan on October 15, 1940. Big Rapids, Michigan was the station where Fred enlisted on October 15, 1940. Using this information I have tried my best to retrace what were his possible steps over the next 6 years.

In the fall of 1940 the United States was not officially at war. Tensions in the world were growing more strained and it seemed inevitable that the U.S. would be pulled into the world’s conflicts. That was the circumstance which led to President Roosevelt ordering over thirty-five thousand men to active duty on September 15, 1940 with a report date of October 15, 1940. The United States was preparing for war. Fred Jacobs enlisted in the Army.

Training

During the last week of 1940 the 32nd Infantry Division was ordered to Louisiana for training. The division would participate in a training action known as the Louisiana Maneuvers. The units traveled by train to Camp Beauregaurd in Louisiana for the first step in what would be a long journey around the world.

Infantry Soldiers of the 32D Division stand at attention in a company street at Camp Beauregard, LA.

Stay tuned for more about Fred Jacobs in my next post in this series.

Honor and Valor: Military Service as a Family Tradition

It’s Just a Family Tradition

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

All families seem to have their own set of traditions. In mine it seems to be military service.

My husband was in the military. My son is in the military. My son in law is in the military. My Grandfather was in the military. I had an uncle who was in the military. My husband’s Grandfather was in the military. He had an uncle who was in the military. It goes on and on.

I often joke that my ancestors showed up for every war. We don’t get along with anybody.

In reality, the reasons for military service have been various. For some of my relatives signing up for military service, even during times of conflict, was the safer alternative to the major industries in their hometowns. Coal mining I’m looking at you. Some I am sure were seeking adventure, while others were motivated by financial means. Others still were called to arms to support a vision of something bigger than they could imagine at the time in conflicts such as the American Revolution and Civil War.

A part of Something Bigger

Though the reasons were various, generation after generation, members of my family have been called to serve as part of something bigger.

With the approach of Veteran’s Day I thought I would take a look back at some of the relatives who have been called to serve.


Roll of Honor

In no particular order here is a list of some of the notable service members related to either me or my immediate family. For privacy issues it contains only deceased individuals.

Elden F. Shuck

Elden F. Shuck

Elden, my maternal Grandfather, was a Korean War Veteran of the United States Army. He served as a cook. The Shuck brothers were notable in their Korean War service because so many of the family signed up for service together. Elden signed up to look out for his younger brother who also joined to help appease his Mother. At one point in time 3 Shuck brothers were together in Korea at the same place and the same time, an event which was recorded in the newspaper of his hometown.

Coal mining was a main industry in the mountain region of West Virginia where he was born and raised. At the time it was safer to enlist in the military than it was to go to work in the coal mines. After the military Elden went onto work in the automotive industry in Flint, Michigan. He raised 6 children with his wife, Sally. Elden is buried in the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.


Fred Jacobs

Frederick Jacobs has the noteworthy distinction of having served in both World War II and the Korean War. Fred Jacobs was my husband’s maternal grandfather. Fred and his brother Charles “Bud” Jacobs both served.

Fred’s service record was lost in the records fire so there are more gaps than information about his years in the service. It is known beyond a doubt that Fred was injured in combat. He carried the scars of his injuries for the rest of his life. Legend and lore states he lay injured on a battlefield for days presumed dead before being rescued. Fred received 3 purple hearts during his service. He married and adopted one daughter. Fred is buried in Parkhill Cemetery in Paris, Michigan.


Leming “L.J.” Eckler

L.J. Eckler was a paternal 3x great grandfather. This ancestor of mine has made the blog roll in the past for the amazing things he had to survive during his service in the Army during the American Civil War. It would be a farce to not mention him on a military honor roll.

Leming served under the infamous George Armstrong Custer long before that fateful battle where the general made his fated last stand. L.J. survived the worst of the Confederate prison camps. He spent time at Andersonville Prison. Amazingly, L.J. survived the war and went onto live a long life. He has many descendants and is buried in the Almer Township Cemetery in Tuscola County, Michigan.


Daniel E. Adams

Daniel E. Adams was another of my 3x great grandfather on my father’s side. Daniel is noteworthy for the fact that he claimed to have served both under Jefferson Davis during the Mexican War and against Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. The claim is dubious. Some suspect it could even be a tall tale.

It is beyond question that Daniel served in the Civil War but questions remain about this service in the Mexican War. He would have been a child soldier if he did indeed serve in the Mexican War under Jefferson Davis. Daniel E. Adams is buried in the Smith Hill Cemetery in Otisville, Michigan.


Dexter Adams

While Dexter Adams was not a direct ancestor, he left no descendants and a significant bit of family lore. Dexter was the brother of Daniel E. Adams. One undisputed fact about Dexter Adams is that he was a musician who played the drums in the Army during the American Civil War. A second undisputed fact is that Dexter played the drums in the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln.

The more questioned information? Who has the drum sticks that Dexter used to play his drum during the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln. There are at least two different branches of the family that I have heard claim ownership of the drum sticks. Dexter is buried in the Aventine Cemetery in Flint, Michigan.


First Five

This list is the start of my military roll of honor. These are some of my favorite or more noteworthy past service members hanging around my family tree. My family has a long and remarkable tradition of military service.