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.