Archive for the ‘The War’ category

Searching for Dad, Finding a Career Direction

October 31, 2007


Recently I mentioned wanting to find out more about what my father did during World War II. I’ve submitted requests for Dad’s service records to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (so far I’ve come up empty), and nosed about on the internet trying to see what I could find. Earlier this spring, Ancestry.com, normally a pay-for-access site, announced they were making their military records databases available to search for free for a limited time. I searched and turned up an enlistment record for Dad, but without a serial number. A Google search for Dad’s old unit, “U. S. Ninth Air Force in World War II” turned up the marvelously useful United States Army Air Forces in World War II site, where veterans, children and grandchildren of veterans, researchers, and military history buffs can ask questions and gather and share information. I cannot say enough good things about this site and the people who contribute to it! Within just a few days they had graciously and courteously answered many of my questions, provided information I didn’t have, and pointed me in new directions for research, including a database of Army enlistment records (with serial numbers) administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, and useful Wikipedia pages on the history, organization, and nomenclature of the U. S. Air Force in general and the Ninth Air Force in particular. With the help of these fine people I learned that the predecessor of the present U. S. Air Force was the U. S. Army Air Forces (plural), and that there is a difference between the U. S. Army Air Forces and the U. S. Army Air Corps. I was most impressed when veterans answered my queries. Often they would sign their postings with their rank, their unit, and the dates of their service. I am in awe of these men: their courage, their sacrifice, their humility, and their willingness to share what they remember. I know what they tell me is accurate because they were there to see it–and my father was one of them.

All this exploration and discovery of what happened to my father (what I’ve dubbed “the Dad project”) has made me realize that I might want to become what is variously called an information broker, an independent researcher, or an independent information professional. These are people who will plan and conduct searches for information (often highly specialized) in conventional and electronic sources, distill and package the information, and present the results of their search to the client for a fee. Many have library science degrees, as I do, but some don’t. The largest professional association of information brokers is the Association of Independent information Professionals, which I’ve joined as a prospective (free) member. I’m working my way through a bibliography of articles about the profession and know I want to read more. I’ve ordered three books on the subject that are frequently cited in the literature and are considered essential reading for anyone thinking about the IB business.

This is a new and potentially exciting career direction for me. This is problem solving, investigation, detective work and creativity–the kind of work I wanted to do when I decided to become a librarian in the first place. I want to see where this path leads. I hope Dad would be proud of me for following it.

Watching The War

October 14, 2007


I just finished watching the final installment of Ken Burns’s mammoth documentary series The War about World War II. Public television stations in North and South Carolina have been running it almost continuously for several weeks now. I’d seen bits and pieces of it along the way, but didn’t try to watch the whole thing for fear it might be too overwhelming. I think I was right. I choked up at several points during this last episode, thinking not only in general terms of the horrors the veterans and survivors of that war had to endure, but also in particular of my own parents who lived through that terrible, awesome time.

I especially thought of my Dad who was an Army Air Force pilot during those years. I wish I had another chance to thank him and tell him how proud I am of him for what he did for our country. It made me wish I had asked him in greater detail about what he did during those years. If I know Dad, he would have shrugged it off, insisted he didn’t do anything special, and told a story about something funny that happened to him. Earlier this year I tried to obtain a copy of his service records from The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, but I quickly realized I didn’t have enough information to locate his records because I didn’t know his service number, his unit, or his precise dates of service. I also received a form letter from NPRC informing me that his records may have been lost in a fire there in 1973. I’ll keep trying. I’d like to know what he did. It seems my brothers and sisters have different recollections of what he told them about his wartime service, even disagreeing about whether he went overseas. It doesn’t matter. Even if it turns out he spent the war peeling potatoes at Fort Dix, I would still be proud of him.

I also thought of my Mom during the film. Katharine Phillips of Mobile, Alabama, one of the people that Burns chose to describe life on the home front, reminded me quite a bit of Mom and has several things in common with Dad. Ms. Phillips was born in Mobile; Dad was born in Birmingham. Both she and my Dad attended Auburn University. The film made me realize how much I still miss my parents and how much I have a new respect for them because of the remarkable experiences they lived through.