Reading Between the Lines: U.S. Army Experiences in WWIIJan 05, 2022
One of the things I've noticed in my almost 30 years of genealogical research plus helping both genealogy and military clients and reading social media posts and blogs, is that most researchers are content with the basics.
What do I mean by the basics? Researchers are in such a hurry to add numbers (people) to their trees or answer one question about military service, that they ignore all the other information a record contains.
However, when we take the time to read between the lines and understand what else a record is saying, we can learn a lot about who our ancestors were and how they helped shape us to be who we are. We learn about the inherited trauma we carry because of a grandfather's unprocessed and unintegrated war trauma. Or grandma's energy of grief and loss because several of her siblings died when she was young and then she lost babies as a young mother. Perhaps we are unconsciously living out an aunt's unrequited love story or trying to fix it for her by having a relationship "she would want".
All of this unconscious research and living can be destructive for us and our families. As a parent, if we choose to ignore our own traumas and pains, we will just project that or pass it through our DNA to our children. Our children will learn how to be co-dependent or a narcissist or hide their emotions because they grew up watching and learning from mom and dad who were the same energies.
How do we change this and start researching & living consciously? One way is to read between the lines in the research documents we gather, the stories we hear, the photographs we view, and start writing the stories.
When we write the stories we see the gaps in our research, the errors we made or that were written in a document or told to us by a family member. We begin to feel the things that we have repressed or the family has repressed. This is especially important to know if you are an empath and pick up on the energies of those around you.
Ok, that makes sense you think, but how do we do this?
View the Records, Ask Questions & Tell the Story
Let's start with a WWII soldier's story and look at one example of records for his unit.
Unit: 735th Tank Bn
- What did dad/grandpa/uncle do in the war?
- What units was he in?
- Where was he when he was overseas?
- What experiences did he have? Usually people want to know if he was wounded or if killed, the explanation of how it happened.
- What were the dates of service?
- Are there any photos of him?
Dig deeper - read between the lines
Questions we should be asking:
- What happened to dad/grandpa/uncle during combat? What did he see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch, do? This means we go beyond Gerald served in France in X Month.
- What trauma did dad endure that caused [fill in your blank].
- Why was dad/grandpa/uncle mean/angry/hateful/violent/an alcoholic or drug user?
- Why did he never talk about his experiences? What did he see or take part in that was so horrific? What did he specifically do in combat that created trauma?
- Why did we hear screaming in the night? That was scary. If unexplained and understood to children, they may have grown up with anxiety issues or other issues related to sleep, nightmares, PTSD, depression, secrets and family lies.
- When we grew up we noticed: mom changed and became quiet and withdrawn after dad came home. Dad yelled a lot. Dad demanded we were always quiet. If we were too loud or outside noises were too loud dad would freak out or cry or get angry. We had to walk on eggshells so we wouldn't upset dad or make him (angry, cry, scream, drink, hit us, etc.) These are for some families, extreme examples.
- As an adult we noticed: we all chose a spouse that was like our abusive/withdrawn/angry/co-dependent/quiet father. Or our fearful/co-dependent/alcoholic mother. These are for some families, extreme examples.
- As an adult we ran away from home to escape the energy of dad/the abuse/the neglect/etc. Once we were gone a while we realized you can't escape the past and must face it.
The above are only some of the questions we can be asking. Each researcher's family experience and childhood trauma is different. Even if you are a grandchild or great grandchild of a veteran, you inherited the trauma that was never dealt with. It is your choice to heal it or allow it to perpetuate.
Look at the Records. Read Between the Lines.
Download this Company Morning Report for B Co 735th Tank Bn. Read the entry for 21 September 1944 which describes an event for a tank crew on 20-21 September 1944.
What does this suggest?
- Dad/grandpa was likely traumatized by this experience. Extreme fear he may have had to hide from his crew. He may not have known if he would live or die as the Germans passed by. This may have created or added to PTSD already being created in his body.
- Being part of a tank crew may have affected him as far as not choosing to be in small, confined, no way out spaces after the war.
- Hearing Germans or other foreign languages may have triggered his trauma after the war.
- The inability he had in those moments to save his life and those of his crew may have stayed with him. He might have chosen to do whatever was required (no matter how intense or strange) to save his family or friends later.
- Having to be so quiet as the Germans passed by may have created the need for him to be quiet/withdrawn after the war.
- Showing fear or talking about this experience may make him seem Less of a man in the eyes of others who had not gone through combat. "Real men" would not be afraid - is a societal program we hear since birth.
- Lack of control during this experience may have led to him being in control of everything and everyone after the war.
These are only a few things we can learn about this one combat experience. Now imagine what else he may have gone through that would have shaped who he became after the war. Who he chose to be with his wife/siblings/parents/children after the war. Think about what he did not process because veterans and families were not given the tools needed to process, that YOU now carry in your life.
No matter what genealogy or military record we are working with, there is always more to discover if you read between the lines.
If you would like to explore more of your research and family stories and start writing those stories, sign up for my free workshop, Healing the Roots: Words, Wounds, Wisdom. It might just change how you look at yourself and your family and help you start writing the stories.
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