Since I have been digging into things that happened before I was born to people who have been gone for over 55 years, there are more than enough unknowns to fill several volumes. I have no letters, one person’s diaries, hardly any pictures from the time before the war. There are a couple from my dad’s high school, a profile in a college yearbook, bits and pieces of the family story. But nothing else of any substance.
Even from the years I am covering through my grandmother’s diary there are so many blank spots, most big enough to drive a Sherman tank through. But as has been said, one does not know what one doesn’t know. Which is why I still dig, still keep looking for new information.
I did some of that through a researcher in St. Louis who was recommended to me from a mentor. I wondered what might be in the National Archive in St. Louis from back there in 1942-43 that I had not yet discovered. The unit Morning Reports for the companies of the 80th Armored Medical Battalion were out there. Was my dad in there somewhere?
I was shocked when some things were found. In these I found information that I hadn’t seen any hints of in Beula’s diary entries. Maybe I should have.
This series of events started at Christmas, 1942. Buddy was in Georgia with the 80th Medical. It was only a few months since he had been activated in August and assigned to the 10th Armored at Fort Benning, GA. Then that December Beula says in her diary that she was “looking for” him on Christmas Eve. Did he say he was coming home? Just that one little statement.
• Looking for Harold
The next day, Christmas Day, she reports that she
• Looked for Harold. I am disappointed.”
He didn’t show up. When I first read that a couple years ago I just assumed it was a mother wanting to see her son who was now in the Army- wishful thinking that he would come all the way from Georgia for Christmas. But with no advanced warning? It didn’t make sense because it didn’t say she missed him being home or that she wished he was there. There was action in it- she was looking. I passed it by.
In the information from St. Louis, however, I found something intriguing that may be connected. The morning report for 24 Dec 1942 from HQ Company, where he was assigned at that time, for T/5th Lehman:
• DY to Hosp. (Duty to hospital.)
What? It looks like he was one of five from the company who went from duty to hospital in a five day period that month.
Move forward to January 14 and Beula comments in her diary that she has received a letter from Harold and that he
• might be home soon.
Two weeks later, 28 January, the Morning Report records that
• T/5 Lehman hospital to DY.
Apparently he was in the hospital these entire five weeks.
Okay, he’s back to duty? But there's more.
Also on January 28, when he went from hospital to duty, Beula says in her diary that Harold is in Atlanta, which is two hours north of Fort Benning. She says that he is traveling home and
• Gee, I’m nervous.
On the 29th she says that he is
• delayed in Washington
and then on the 30th that he arrived home. I do not have the Morning Report pages for January 29-31 so I do not have confirmation of “duty to furlough” at this time. But on 12 February I find in the Morning Report that
• Tech 5th grade Lehman fur to DY.
That correlates with Beula’s diary from the day before, February 11, that he left to return to Georgia.
Once again, he’s back on duty? Once again, it appears not to have been the whole story.
• MR for 13 Feb 43
Tech 5th grade Lehman duty to abs in hands of civil authorities.
Six weeks later:
• Beula’s diary entry for March 23 1943
Harold called. Gee, I was glad to hear from him and to hear everything was O.K.
Then, after about 40 days:
• MR for 25 Mar 43
T/5 Lehman fr conft in hands of C Auth to dy.
So here I am today, mere months from the end of the war in Europe and I am quickly transported back to Dad’s first six months in the battalion. In that period he has been promoted twice, from Private to Private First Class to Tech 5th Grade, a specialist rank equal to corporal. But he has also been in the hospital for over a month followed immediately by furlough for two weeks and then immediately absent into the hands of civil authorities, obviously for confinement for over six weeks.
Is there no end to the surprises?
To be clear, I do not have all the diary entries in front of me. All I have are the ones I entered into the timeline that at the time seemed different or out of the ordinary. I will have to wait to get home to look these dates up and see what else was around them. But let me do some reflecting and ask a whole set of questions, in addition to “What the hell is this all about?”
- Why was Beula “looking for Buddy” to come home on that Christmas Eve when I am aware of no indication that he had said he was? That needs to be verified, of course. That this is the day he goes to the hospital is interesting.
- Why was he in the hospital? That there were four other members of the company in the hospital at the same time may be an indication of some flu or other bug going around. Since I do not have all the morning report pages, just the ones that mention Buddy, I don’t know when the others went back to duty.
- He wrote to Beula, obviously, it seems, from the hospital, and she mentions it at almost exactly the half-way point in his hospital stay. No apparent mention in his letter about even being in the hospital.
- His return to duty from the hospital seems to be on the same day Beula gets a call from him in Atlanta. Was that where he was in the hospital?
- Was he delayed in Washington the very next day? He is most likely on furlough since he returns from furlough, according to the Morning Report, on February 12. It is unlikely that he was AWOL. I may just be missing the pages that might give some hint.
- One tiny bit of intrigue from his furlough at home was that there was one night when he didn’t come home. That was, of course, an old pattern of his as I have mentioned in earlier posts from that time period. Was this perhaps Buddy’s last “fling” before the next issue arises a few days later?
- But then the big surprise, his being in the hands of “civilian authorities” for what would later be called “conft”, confinement. It does not say where this confinement was. One assumes in nearby Columbus or further? No hints, no family lore, nothing to go by in anything I have or have ever heard. Beula seems relieved when she hears from him again in March a few days before he is returned to duty from civil authorities. She was “glad… that everything was ok.” What role might have this played in who Buddy became? It didn’t seem to have an impact on his status in the Army.
When one digs into the unknown, there are always things of interest that pop up.