WWII Vet Grave Marker Travesty

This is NOT a technical blog, but one of my occasional detours into a subject that interests or bothers me. If you have no interest in veterans’ affairs, please excuse my diversion and stay tuned for my next article. Otherwise, read on about this very odd situation I have discovered in regards to WWII vet grave markers. I’m publishing it to help others who may be researching WWII vets.

Howard Badman- where it all starts

Let me start by showing you my grandfather’s grave marker, located in Moravia, NY.

I never knew my dad’s dad, as he passed away when I was a baby. Thankfully, I had many good years to enjoy and appreciate my grandmother and the extended Badman clan. I heard enough stories through the years about the man I was middle-named for that naturally I’d be curious about his service time. He shared very little of it with my father and the aunts and uncles, evidently. I hear that a lot about WWII vets- they did what they had to do, came home and got on with their lives and didn’t say a lot about their experiences.

I do know that Howard was a Prisoner of War, and figured out what camp he was held in. I found some details about his service timeline in various federal archives. But that grave marker doesn’t square with what I found.

And his marker is just one example of the bigger story of WWII vets having their service experiences reduced to a governmental convenience that, to me, borders on being a sham.

About the 9201 Technical Service Unit

Given that PFC Badman’s government-provided marker says he served with the 9201 Technical Service Unit (often referred to as 9201 TSU), and that his service started at Fort Dix, New Jersey for training and then was exclusively spent in Europe during the thick of the fighting, I assumed that the 9201 Technical Service Unit was the organization he was assigned to in the field. Like this would be the unit fighting, with men being injured and killed, taken POW, or living to see another normal US Army day all under the banner of the 9201 TSU. That’s what’s on his grave marker, yes?

The 9201 Technical Service Unit is shown on thousands of similar markers for other vets. Those markers tell the world “This soldier was assigned to that unit, now you have a sense of their service”.

Not even close. It’s BS, and really kind of strange.

The 9201 Tech Service Unit was real, but it was simply an administrative unit at the New York Point of Embarkation– the place where Howard and huge numbers of other vets filtered through on their way home from Europe. SOME soldiers were certainly assigned to the 9201 Tech Service Unit, but if you dig into the actual details relating to those whose grave markers say “9201 Tech Service Unit”, you’ll find that they had a much different story.

One Example of Truth

PFC Howard Badman actually served with Company C of the 134th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 35th Infantry Division. At the time of his capture, he was involved in fighting near Habkirchen in Germany.

Here’s the original Battle Casualty Report that reported him Missing in Action on December 12, 1944 (eventually found to be POW). With just these bits of information, you can see the organizational patches that he wore on his uniform. You learn that his unit’s battle cry was “All hell can’t stop us” and wonder how many times he heard or read that along the way. You get a sense of what his ACTUAL unit did in the war. You can feel the emotion of whoever had to type up those grim Battle Casualty reports. And you get more context to this veteran’s service than just “he passed through NYC coming home” as conveyed by his grave marker.

So Why Is it This Way?

I researched at least a dozen other vets that all have the same “9201 Technical Services Unit” on their markers, foolishly thinking that maybe some of these gents were in battle with my grandfather. It’s a reasonable assumption if you didn’t know better. But in each case the veteran, like PFC Howard Badman, had their own ACTUAL organizational and battle history, but their grave marker doesn’t come close to telling any of it- only that these men all came back through a common entry point to the states.

I’m a veteran. Over my 10 years and multiple units served in around the world, I get that the military does odd things. I’m assuming that the 9201 Tech Service Unit is the last organization shown in all of these soldiers’ records as they processed away from the military, and so that’s all that the VA cared about when putting out these markers despite the fact that it distorts each person’s actual military history. I’m guessing that Howard got off the boat from Europe, spent HOURS doing paperwork at the 9201 TSU, then boarded a bus for home. It’s far more convenient to grab the last, meaningless line in a military record and say “this sums that person up” than to actually put anything personally significant on each grave marker, evidently.

The travesty is that there is very little history on the 9201 Tech Service Unit itself, and nothing of real value as a launching off point to look into the history of any of the men and women who have that unit mentioned on their grave markers. If you are researching a WWII vet: know that that if the 9201 Tech Service Unit is mentioned on their grave marker, it is an absolute dead end and provides no real information on the veteran’s service.

Emblems of the 134th Infantry Regiment and 35th Infantry Division.

12 thoughts on “WWII Vet Grave Marker Travesty

  1. Dave Wright

    Hi Lee, I couldn’t agree with you more strongly. As a Marine Corps combat veteran I have both 1st Marine Division and 1st Tank Battalion unit decals on my POV. Those are the units I identify my service with, though I did later tours with H&S Battalion and was technically part of some obscure reserve unit during my time in the IRR. It’s a real shame that they put that on your grandfather’s marker. Is there any way to make an appeal to the Dept of Veterans’ Affairs to have it corrected to his combat unit in Europe?

    Thanks for fighting the good fight on this.

    Semper Fi,
    Dave

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      Thanks for reading, and for sharing your own experiences, Dave. I’m just realizing how widespread this is- it’s really bizarre. From grunts like my Grandfather to senior officers- it looks like just the way they did it. Not sure anyone would be interested in fixing them all, and I’d have to give some thought about whether I’d want to do battle over Howard’s marker. Might be more expedient just to augment with a more accurate marker. Odd stuff.

      Reply
  2. Michael D Keith

    When it came time to do My wife’s marker I made sure that each and every conflict she was involved in was listed as well as her medals. If I had left it to the system one conflict and no medals would have been listed. I’m now working on my fathers and have been getting push back because he served in two branches both as enlisted and as an Officer. He was extremely proud of both but the VA doesn’t seem to get it. As we are getting Granite I may have it modified at my own cost to make it right. The funeral home already has the layout for mine as well my sons that way there can be no mistakes down the road. They are a family run business and they understand our wishes and after seeing me get my way with my wife’s they understand it can be done. In fact they have had me work with another Vets wife to make sure his is done right.

    Reply
  3. Scott P LaVine

    Hello Lee,

    I came across your blog entry while doing some research on my father’s WWII experiences. My father, Paul A LaVine Co C, 134th Infantry, was also reported missing on 12 Dec 1944, and was also a POW incarcerated at Stalag IIIA Luckenwalde. You can see his name posted in the Battle Casualty Report you referenced above. He was liberated by the Russian army in late April 1945. I am sorry your grandfather did not get the proper recognition on his military grave marker. My father did not speak much about his wartime experiences so getting info has been a longtime research project. He died in 2002.

    Let me know if you want to share info at some point.

    SPL

    Reply
  4. Scott P LaVine

    Hello Lee,
    I came across your blog entry while doing some research on my father’s WWII experiences. My father, Paul LaVine C 134th Infantry, was also reported missing on 12 Dec 1944, and was also a POW incarcerated at Stalag IIIA Luckenwalde. You can see his name posted in the Battle Casualty Report you referenced above. He was liberated by the Russian army in late April 1945. I am sorry your grandfather did not get the proper recognition on his military grave marker. My father did not speak much about his wartime experiences so getting info has been a longtime research project.

    Let me know if you want to share info at some point.

    Reply
    1. wirednot Post author

      That’s pretty neat, Scott. Would be amazing if they knew each other, but no way of knowing at this point. Thanks for the note!

      Reply
      1. Scott P LaVine

        You are welcome. My father passed in 2002 so no way to go back. Platoon C, 134th infantry was sent across the Blies River into Habkirchen in the early hours of 12 Dec 1944. Later that day, my father was rendered unconscious by a concussion grenade in the basement of a farmhouse and was taken prisoner. He was incarcerated 1st at Limburg (Stalag 12A) and later marched across Germany in the middle of winter to Luchenwalde. In my dad’s records, I found the name and address of Anselem R. Rumpca, another POW listed on the Battle Casualty Report. Mr. Rumpca died in 1958. It would not surprise me if my father knew your grandfather.
        Best
        SPL

      2. wirednot Post author

        Wow, that level of detail is what I had hoped to get to when I started digging- like how exactly did he end up in German hands? I realize your dad’s circumstances are likely not identical to my grandfather’s (but then again, maybe they were together at the time… who knows?) but reading that gives me a sense of the bigger story that day. So many details lost to time, and so many men’s bad fortune simply unknown to the rest of us. This information is an absolute gift, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing. If you’re ever near Central New York, I owe you a beer or an iced tea. I appreciate you reaching out, Scott.

  5. Scott LaVine

    Thanks Lee. I wish I had been able to gather more info from my father while he was alive. After his passing, I came across a 1945 article in NY Historical Newspapers where he was invited to give a talk to the local Rotary Club. In that article was info the family had never heard before. FYI, here is a link to the article.

    https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn87070301/1945-06-15/ed-1/seq-2

    My father said that the Russian army detained the Luchenwalde POW’s after liberation and were marching them east. He and a (nameless) friend hid in a haystack to escape from the Russians, stole bicycles, and made their way back to the American lines.

    I have original copies of the battle honors bestowed to the 134th for the Habkirchen campaign as well as the medals, pins, and patches from the 134th. We also have some Red Cross letters the Germans eventually allowed him to write.

    Good luck in your search for info about your grandfather. These men were heroes for sure.

    SPL

    Reply
  6. Lisa Marie Augustine

    So thankful for your blog. Ive been searching for over a year and found no information for the 9201 tech service unit. Now I can take my research in a different direction. Thank you!

    Reply

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