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Memorial Day History: Honor Them with Words and Deeds

Posted by Writing PIs on May 23, 2015

My father (center), 1945 Honolulu

This picture sat on my father’s desk for as long as I can remember. I always thought he looked like a movie star in the photo — in fact, the picture reminded me of a still from a black and white movie. On that sunny day in Honolulu, my dad and his two good friends were getting ready to head back out on battleships to the South Pacific. Unfortunately, his friends’ ship sank during battle weeks later, and Dad was the only one to return home after the war.

Dad returned to his college studies, fell in love and married my mom, became a father to her two girls, then three when I came along. Eventually all of us moved to California where he pursued a career in education.

Whenever I visited my parents, I spent hours in my dad’s office. I loved looking through his history books, the notes he left to himself on his daily calendar, the mementoes scattered through the room, the paintings by my mother on the walls, and this photo of Dad and his two friends that always sat framed on his desk.

After he died, I asked for that photo. It’s one of my prize possessions and I keep it where I can always see it. I think Dad would have liked that.

Memorial Day History

Originally, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day” in the South for Confederate Soldiers Who Had Died in Battle

Memorial Day was first enacted to honor Union soldiers after the Civil War, and was expanded after WWI. Although initially the day was called different names, such as Decoration Day in the South (for the Confederate soldiers who had given their lives), the term “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, and became commonly used after WWII. It was declared the official name by federal law in 1967.

In our business, we have at times researched WWII histories, so I’ll share some of those links below.

WWII Research Links

Research WWII military records.  You can search, for free, military personnel and service records at the U.S. National Archives. Searches include casualty lists, pictures, and other WW II records. To research WW II records, click here.

From the Internet Archive: Pamphlet on Mediterranean Theater of Operations & the Middle East

WWII Archive (Internet Archive): A collection of public domain WWII books, news, broadcasts, old time radio, training films and more. Curated by a librarian.

WWII Forums. This community forum provides free resources for reading and researching WWII, with topics including first-hand accounts by veterans, WWII obituaries and more.

Finding Information on Personal Participation in WWII.  This online document, provided by the National Archives and Records Administration, contains tips for researching military records relevant to those with personal participation in WWII.

Other Wars: National Archives’ Research Links

Click on link for documents in that category:

Civil War

Vietnam War

US Army troops on break during Vietnam War

US Army troops on break during Vietnam War

Korean War

War of 1812

Military Service Records

Although all military service records were once sent to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) which is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives and Records Administration, only the Coast Guard now sends their records there. Address The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, fax: 314-801-9195.

The Navy stopped sending veterans’ records to NPRC in 1995. For Navy personnel discharged after 1994, those records are now sent to NAVPERSCOM in Millington, TN (1-866-827-5672).

The Marines stopped sending records to NPRC  in 1997, and they are now sent to Quantico.

The Army stopped sending records to NPRC in 2002, and they are now sent to the Army Human Resources Command in St. Louis.

The Air Force stopped sending records to NPRC in 2004, and they are now sent to Randolph AFB, TX.

Memorial Day – More than BBQs and Fireworks (Internet Archive blog)

B-17 Flight Evokes Images About What WWII Missions Were Like (b-townblog.com)

10 Historical Facts About Memorial Day (USA Today)

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority.

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