WWII NY National Guard Records Go Online

When 28,969 New York National Guard Soldiers mobilized in the fall of 1940 as the United States prepared for war, clerks filled out six-by-four inch cards on each man.

Now, thanks to a team of 15 volunteers, those records&#8211listing names, serial number, home, and unit, and later on annotated with hand written notes on whether or not the Soldier was killed or wounded&#8211 are available online from the New York State Military Museum.

&#8220I’ll bet you that we are the only state that has such an item on the web,&#8221 said retired Army Col. John Kennedy, one of the volunteers who turned the index card information into digital data.

Kennedy, a World War II veteran himself, and the other volunteers spent a year keying the information on the cards into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The digital information is now available on the museum’s website and can be downloaded and searched.

The museum put this information online so it can be used by people researching their family history or the history of World War II and New York’s role in it, said Jim Gandy, the assistant librarian and archivist at the museum.

&#8220Not only can you research a specific individual but you can also research who enlisted from what town- where men in the New York National Guard were born, or how old the average age of the men was. We indexed most data points on the cards including: date, city, state and country of birth- ID number- hometown, unit- rank- as well as enlistment and separation dates&#8221, Gandy explained.

In September 1940-a few months after France was overrun and defeated by the German Army and the British were fighting for survival in the air-the United States had an Army of 269,000 men. The German Army, meanwhile, had 2.5 million.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced Congress to call up the 300,000 men in the National Guard for a year to double the size of the nation’s Army and prepare for any German threat.

On Oct. 15, 1940 the 28,969 members of the New York National Guard, including the entire 27th Division, reported to their armories to begin processing for a year of active duty. This is the data now available from the museum website.

For the 90-year old Kennedy, who keyed in the data on 6,500 Soldiers, the task brought back memories of his own World War II service. A Cohoes native, he joined the Army Reserve in 1940, transferred to the New York National Guard in 1941 and went to war in Europe in 1944 with the 8th Infantry Division.

He recognized the names of many of the 108 Soldiers on the list who cited Cohoes as their hometown because he had grown up with them, Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who now lives in Florida and served in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard until retiring in 1981, volunteered to help with Gandy’s project because he’s made the history of World War II and the role of New York’s units in it his hobby.

Bruce Scott, an Albany resident and another volunteer who keyed in the data, got involved in the project because he wanted to do something from his home that would be useful to others.

Scott, Kennedy and the other volunteers were critical, Gandy said. Without their work this kind of project would be impossible for the museum to carry out.

Eventually the Soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division who were called for training in the fall of 1940 went on to serve in the Pacific, securing Hawaii from a feared Japanese invasion in February 1942, invading Makin Atoll and the Island of Saipan, and eventually fighting on Okinawa. Other New York National Guard Soldiers called up in 1940 served in rear area security duty and fought in Europe.

The museum’s next web project is to create an index of which battles New York’s Civil War Regiments fought in, Gandy said. The data base will make it easier for historians to determine which regiments fought in which battles and the losses that were sustained in each fight. If anyone would like to volunteer, they may contact the museum at 518-581-5100, Gandy said.

The index card database can be found on the museum website.

Photo: A typical index card of a New York Army National Guardsman. Each card was 6 inches wide and 4 inches high.

Buffalo: Millard Fillmore Remembered

Col. John Higgins, the Vice Commander of the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing laid a wreath at the gravesite of President Millard Fillmore at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo on behalf of President Barak Obama last Friday

Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States, was a co-founder of the University at Buffalo and the school’s first chancellor. The university has conducted a memorial ceremony annually since 1937.

The United States Military honors former presidents by laying wreaths sent by the current president at their gravesites on the anniversary of their birth.

The New York Army and Air National Guard traditionally conduct the wreath layings at the graves of President Chester A. Arthur in Menands, Albany County- President Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook, Columbia County- and Fillmore.

Born on Jan. 7, 1800, Fillmore was instrumental in founding the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, the Buffalo Club and the Buffalo General Hospital. His activities also led to the creation of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.

Some historians credit the former teacher, postmaster, lawyer and member of Congress with establishing the White House Library. During his administration the United States opened trade relations with Japan and California was admitted to the union. He died on March 8, 1874.

The 107th Airlift Wing, which is based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, operates C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft in support of United States military operations worldwide. Individual Airmen also deploy regularly to locations around the world.

Photo: Col. Jim McReady, commander of the 107th Airlift Wing, presented the wreath at the Millard Fillmore grave in 2011.

Former Northern NY Military Rifle Range Inspections Set

The National Guard Bureau will surveying old National Guard rifle range in Ticonderoga, Malone, Glens Falls, and Saratoga Springs for the presence of environmental poisons this summer. The ranges are among 23 former New York Army National Guard training sites used between 1873 and 1994 that the National Guard Bureau will be inspecting for potential environmental hazards.

The program is being conducted worldwide to address human health, safety, and environmental concerns at former non-operational defense sites. This includes over 400 sites in 48 states and two territories formerly used by the National Guard. The training sites in New York vary in size from 3.7 to 939 acres.

Currently, the New York National Guard has three training sites located in Guilderland, Youngstown and at Camp Smith, near Peekskill. Soldiers also train regularly at Ft. Drum, near Watertown.

Current property owners are in the process of being asked to allow contractors on their property to conduct this check which although mandated by the Department of Defense Military Munitions Response Program, will only include soil samples from a depth &#8220less than two to three inches.&#8221 The survey will also a visual inspection and checks with hand-held metal detectors. According to a press release issued by the Guard, &#8220the inspectors will collect the samples with disposable plastic spoons, which are about the size of an ice cream scoop.&#8221

A preliminary assessment to identify locations, research historical records, land usage and past incident(s) in the area was completed in 2008- this summer’s site inspections are expected to collect additional information, data and samples necessary to determine if following actions are warranted.

About the sites:

The Malone Small Arms Range was used from about 1895 to 1985. The range was approximately 43 acres- the range layout and boundary are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used there. The former range is located on state land, redeveloped for a correctional facility, northwest of Malone.

An older Ticonderoga Small Arms Range measured about 406 acres and was used from about 1950 to 1973- the newer one measured 105 acres and was used from about 1986 to 1994. The layouts and boundaries of the ranges are unknown, as are the types of ammunition used at them. The former ranges are located between Vineyard Road and Corduroy Road.

The Glens Falls Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1955. The range was approximately 876 acres- the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on forested, municipal property north of Peggy Ann Road.

The Saratoga Springs Small Arms Range was used from about 1878 to 1951. The range was approximately 100 acres- the range layout has been verified, but the types of ammunition used there are unknown. The former range is located on residential properties and forested land east of Weibel Avenue.

Anyone who has documents, records or photographs of the range are encouraged to contact Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo at [email protected] or (518) 786-4579.

Photo: New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, conduct weapons training at the Guilderland Weekend Training Center.

Historic New York National Guard Records Online

There are now 53,671 more pages of New York National Guard records available online on the New York State Military Museum website. Printed out, that much information would take be 18 feet high if the pages were stacked up, or reach more than 9.7 miles laid end to end.

The digital files include 197 issues of the New York National Guardsman Magazine (shown at left) published between 1924 and 1940, and National Guard annual reports from 1858 to 1955. It’s a treasure trove of information available to genealogists, historians, and military buffs with the click of a computer mouse.

&#8220I can search across 150 different Adjutant General reports in ten seconds and to do this by hand would take me all day,&#8221 said Jim Gandy, the assistant librarian and archivist at the museum.

&#8220Our collection is a tremendous resource and this is an opportunity to broadcast this tremendous resource to the widest possible audience,&#8221 said Museum Director Michael Aikey.

&#8220We get 15,000 people through the museum each year, but the website is getting several million hits,&#8221 Aikey added. &#8220I come from the public library world and the goal is to get as much information easily available, readily available to the public.&#8221

The searchable pdf-format files can be opened online and are also downloadable. The cost of the scanning project was $12,000. Biele’s Information Technology Systems in West Seneca did the scanning work in 2005. However, the museum’s website couldn’t accommodate posting the documents until upgrades were made this year, Gandy said.

The Adjutant General’s Annual reports contain data on the number of Soldiers and Airmen in National Guard units, training exercises, officers’ names and units, and expenses.

The National Guardsman Magazine includes professional articles, reports on unit athletic events and social activities, and period advertising. Publication of the National Guardsman was suspended in the fall of 1940 when the entire National Guard was mobilized in response to the successful German invasion of most of western Europe in the spring of that year.

While the new online documents provide a window to the state’s military past that’s fascinating to any military history buff, some of the biggest users of the state’s records have always been amateur genealogy researches, Gandy said.

Both the National Guardsman Magazine and the Adjutant General’s reports are full of names and dates. This kind of information is valuable to people trying to flesh out their family histories and find out exactly what rank Uncle Bill held, Gandy explained.

The demand from amateur genealogists for information is so great that the museum is working on a deal with Ancestry.com, a popular genealogy resource, to make online documents available there, Aikey said.

Putting the documents on line makes them accessible to people around the country, and also allows researchers to look through them without damaging the originals, Gandy added. Too many fingers opening and closing old books and magazines, even when done carefully, eventually wears those documents out.

The collections of the New York State Military Museum date back to 1863 when an officer in the Adjutant General’s office was assigned to collect press clippings and other memorabilia about New York regiments serving in the Civil War. Today New York has one of the outstanding state archives of Civil War material, much of it available on line, as well as the largest collection of unit battle flags in the nation.

The Unit History Project section of the Military Museum website includes extensive on-line historical information on all New York Civil War military units, as well as in other conflicts.

To view copies of the New York National Guardsman and the Adjutant Generals Reports on line click on &#8220research&#8221 on the New York State Military Museum homepage on the left hand side of the screen. Links to the magazines and reports are below on the Research page.