So I've been waiting to get some documents from the New York City Municipal Archives before I wrote another blog, but I forgot how long it takes. It's been so long since I ordered anything from them...I guess I thought since I was requesting only documents, not a search for said documents, that they would've gotten to me by now, but alas, here I am two months out, running to the mailbox every. single. day. as if I were waiting for a love letter from my crush... ::sigh:: Every day begins with hope and ends with disappointment...I live only 30 miles from the Archives. I could've gone in and found everything myself ages ago...don't tell my 3-year-old daughter. I'm always admonishing her to be patient.
And so, while we wait...
I was watching an episode of Genealogy Roadshow recently and they were looking at old Civil War muster rolls, which I have for my 4th-great grandfather Charles Haase, but I also have Navy muster rolls for my grandfather Clifford Raynor's service during World War II. Muster rolls are kind of like attendance, and were taken every couple of months, and so can kind of recreate your family member's service journey, showing exactly where he was on those muster dates. As far as I can tell, though, my grandfather's muster rolls, which are available online, don't say where the muster roll was taken, just his rank, any change in rank, and what ship he was serving on - the USS Amsterdam, which was a CL-101 Cleveland-class light cruiser.
I knew my grandfather served in the Pacific Theater (although not until after he had passed - if only I had known while he was alive and had also been old enough to understand what his service had meant!) but none of the details. So I had muster roll dates - Jan. 8, 1945, March 31, 1945, July 1, 1945 and so on. So I checked online. Wikipedia actually has a somewhat detailed service history for the Amsterdam - Jan. 8, 1945 the ship was commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, July 1, 1945 it left Leyte, Philippines as part of the 3rd Fleet went on the offensive with Task Force 38 to protect US planes doing airstrikes against Japan, and so on. While I knew my grandfather never saw hand-to-hand combat, as it were, the way infantry and others who fought on land did, I guess I never realized that he actually was a huge supportive part of the battles that were going on. He might not have seen combat, but he saw combat.
I decided to revisit the Fulton History newspaper archive website to look at old newspaper reports just to round out the picture a little more. My grandfather enlisted in the Navy in November of 1943 - when his grandfather, Joseph J. Raynor died in January of 1944, my grandfather was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. in March of 1944 he was attending Wright College in Chicago, which was used by the Navy during World War II for its Electronics Training Program, which trained men to work with the radio and electronic equipment aboard naval crafts.
After training, my grandfather served as a radio technician in the Navy. While Grandpa ended up in the Pacific, his brother, Monroe was serving on the other side of the world in Germany. My grandfather was one of seven siblings; he and his brother were the only boys. I wonder how my great-grandparents felt having both their sons fighting in a world war, on both fronts...
Anyway, what was the point of all of this? Each record or database gives me pieces, glimpses, of my grandfather's wartime naval service - I have muster rolls, I have Google, I have websites dedicated to detailing the service of every naval craft, I have newspaper articles. Don't ever just be satisfied with what you can glean from one record - "Oh, my grandfather was in the Navy on this date, this date, and this date during the war...cool." What part of the world did he serve in? What battles was he a part of? What did he do while he was in service, what was his "everyday" job? How and when did he get involved? Always ask questions. Always dig a little deeper. Always want to find out more. I actually knew most of this info from prior research. Today I pinpointed Grandpa's exact location at each muster roll. I also learned that radio technician was a highly skilled, highly selective job, which I never knew. I have so many questions for my grandfather now about his naval wartime life! Maybe in the next life (or Grandma, if you're hanging around and can ask him and pass along the answers to me in a dream, that would be cool, too...)