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Uncle Jasper Was a Commando


Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

Absolutely. grin



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Revision Log
26 September 2017page first published

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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

There's a special affinity to a battle when you know you had family members involved.

I have nine uncles, including half-uncles and step-uncles. (This is on my adopted heritage.) Many of them took part in World War Two. However, it often turns out that their service, while honorable, isn't 'wargamable'.

For example, my father served as a typist at SHAEF headquarters. That's what comes when you worked on the high school newspaper, I suppose!

I knew that one uncle served in the U.S. Navy, and my mother always said "he was never the same after the war." I imagined that he saw some dangerous service overseas. But when I finally checked the records, I found he worked at a naval shipyard in California for the duration…

It's my uncle Jasper who may inspire my wargaming someday, though I need to learn more about his wartime service. I never had the chance to meet him. His full name is Jasper Junior Daugherty – yes, 'Junior' was his legal middle name. He was born in 1922 in Des Moines, Iowa. I don't even have a picture of him.

Family history happens to be one of my 'other' hobbies. When I first took a course on the subject back in the 1970s, you had to send off for records by mail or scroll through microfilmed records. Now, it's largely an online hobby!

The websites I use are ancestry.com and familysearch.org. The main difference is that on Ancestry, everyone works on their own family trees; on FamilySearch, everyone collaborates on a master tree.

Both websites will give you 'hints' (known as a 'leaf' on Ancestry) when their search engines find possibly useful resources. These can be online documents, other family trees, even information from other websites. And in the case of my Uncle Jasper, the websites found a listing for him on findagrave.com:

Find a Grave listing

FindAGrave (and the similar BillionGraves) are websites that link up family researchers with volunteers who take pictures of gravesites. And there's the headstone:

Headstone

Which reads:

JASPER J. DAUGHERTY
CPL US ARMY
WORLD WAR II
1922 1992
PURPLE HEART

Then Ancestry came up with a hint from the U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. It was a text-only record (not an image of a document):

Name:
Jasper J Daugherty
Birth Year:
1919
Race:
White, citizen (White)
Nativity State or Country:
Iowa
State of Residence:
Iowa
County or City:
Polk
Enlistment Date:
10 Feb 1941
Enlistment State:
Iowa
Enlistment City:
Des Moines
Branch:
Infantry
Branch Code:
Infantry
Grade:
Sergeant
Grade Code:
Sergeant
Component:
National Guard (Officers, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men)
Source:
National Guard
Education:
2 years of high school
Civil Occupation:
Architects
Marital Status:
Single, without dependents
Height:
71
Weight:
162

So now I know he enlisted in February 1941, and apparently was in the National Guard or had been previously. With only two years of high school, 'Architects' as his civil occupation seems unlikely. (I know that after the war, he worked for the railroad and as a machinist for John Deere.) And I'm guessing he might have lied about his age to make himself older, as there's a lot of evidence for him being born in 1922, not 1919.

And why does it say 'sergeant' on the enlistment papers, and 'corporal' on the headstone?

Next, Ancestry finds a listing for Uncle Jasper in the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010:

Name:
Jasper Daugherty
Birth Date:
19 Apr 1922
Death Date:
16 Dec 1992
SSN:
482189310
Branch 1:
ARMY
Enlistment Date 1:
10 Feb 1941
Release Date 1:
29 Aug 1945

Then Ancestry finds one more thing, and I'm lucky Uncle Jasper is from Iowa. After WWII, Iowa gave out bonuses to its veterans, and that paperwork is now available online:

Iowa bonus form

Some useful information from the two-page document:

Date of Departure for Foreign Service
30 April 1942
Date of Return from Foreign Service
21 July 1944
Terminal Paid Leave
2 months, 2.5 days
Honorable Discharge?
Yes
Court Martial?
No
AWOL?
No

And then my uncle listed his service:

Iowa bonus form
  • Company D, 168th Infantry, 34th Division
  • Marshall's Troop, No.1 Commando
  • 34th Division, Recon Troop

What is especially interesting here is that my uncle was in the 34th Division at the time when William Orlando Darby was organizing the first U.S. Rangers (based on the British commando model). However, my uncle doesn't claim service with 1st Ranger Battalion, but with No.1 Commando in the British Army!

After doing a bit of Googling, I've determined there actually was a Marshall's Troop in No. 1 Commando (led by Jack Marshall), and that it was not unusual for American volunteers to serve with that unit.

I thought that perhaps I could just look up Uncle Jasper's Purple Heart citation, but according to https://www.thepurpleheart.com, "there is no comprehensive list of Purple Heart recipients in existence."

That's as far as I've been able to go so far. I still don't know how Uncle Jasper earned the Purple Heart. I assume he served with the 34th Infantry Division in Operation Torch, in North Africa, and in the Italian Campaign. I'm guessing he might have been with No. 1 Commando during the Torch landings.

Now I feel a personal connection to these campaigns that I didn't have before.