Monday, September 20, 2010

Military Monday - Attack on Kesternich and a Lesson in Determination

The early morning of 14 December was extremely cold and the snow that had fallen during the past four days was glazed and deceivingly deep. The troops had spent a miserable night. Every man was tense and excited. Feet were half frozen and fingers brittle. The need for arctic overshoes was certainly apparent. Rest was almost impossible during the night because of intermittent artillery and mortar fire. Consequently these non-battle wise soldiers spent most of the night improving their individual positions. (from "The Operations of the 2D Battalion, 310th Infantry (78th Infantry Division) in the Attack on Kesternich, Germany, 14-16 December 1944, pg. 12)

When I first began my genealogy research (two years ago this October), I knew military history and records would be a big part of my search. My family has a rich history of military service. I just never imagined how personal those records would be.

Boldly googling my grandfather's name, Niram L. Sauls, I stumbled upon a monograph written by him posted on the 78th Division Veterans Association website. Well...almost. My grandpa's report had just been removed by the webmaster due to storage issues. So admitting defeat, I bookmark the site and move on to "easier" research.

Less than two years after that initial search and a few half-hearted glances at the Association's website later, I find myself wanting that report. I type my grandfather's name in the Association's search box once again - this time with more determination.

Surprisingly, within the past few months, another researcher posted on the message board a request for various reports including my grandpa's! So sheepishly, I post a request and email the webmaster, Tom, for a copy of the monograph my grandfather had written 60 years ago. With little hope of a response, I once again move on to "easier" research - so much for determination.

A few hours later, while on a break from my "easy" research, I open my inbox hoping to find a response - and there it is! Tom emailed the report! He also supplies me with additional information about the monograph and a link to his Wikipedia site [] - seems Kesternich is a personal research project of his.

So thanks to Tom and his dedication to researching WWII, I now hold a piece of history - personal history. My grandfather died in 1990 and did not talk much about his experiences in the war - especially to his granddaughter. But thanks to genealogists and history enthusiasts like Tom, the heroic acts of my grandfather and the men of the 78th Infantry, including Tom's father, will live on.

Besides learning about my grandfather's determination, I learned something about having determination in genealogical research. Determination - no matter how sheepishly it appears - does win in the end.

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