My grandfather served in the Naval Armed Guard during World War II. He was called to duty late in 1943. He began his training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Glenview, Illinois. From there he was sent to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center and the New Orleans Armed Guard Center before taking his place on a ship.
My grandfather died before I was born so I know very little about his time in the Navy. The family has two different stories about the action he saw during the time he served, yet I cannot find any proof of this. I have been able to obtain some records to help tell his story, which are outlined below.
1. To obtain the Naval Armed Guard Logs, Deck Logs and Captain’s Logs, for the ships on which he served, I wrote a letter to the Modern Military Records Unit (NWCTM), National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
I provided information they would need such as his name, Serial Number and the dates for ships on which he served.
Joseph J. Holik Serial #: XXXXXXX
May 5, 1944 – Sept. 17, 1944 – S.S. Joshua Hendy
Sept. 18, 1944 – Jan. 15, 1945 – S. S. Sea Quail
Feb. 28, 1945 – July 13, 1945 – S. S. Henry Durant
I initially ordered the Deck Logs about 10 years ago and was charged copy fees. I read that the Captain’s Logs differed from the Deck Logs. In the case of my grandfather’s ships, both logs appeared to be almost identical and again I paid for copies. Recently a researcher assured me that the Armed Guard Logs would provide more information than the Deck Logs, so I sent for those. I was charged for the copies and only one of the ships had slightly different information than what I already had. All of the logs showed No Enemy Encounters.
One thing to note about these types of logs is that the information they provide varies based on who was keeping the log. Some logs are very detailed, while others are the standard log that was required to be kept. The logs basically outline the training done on the ship, guns tested or repaired, enemy encounters, damage to the ship, port of call, cargo carried, convoy numbers, some health information on the sailors, and daily routines.
My uncle provided me with a copy of my grandfather’s Discharge Papers from the Navy. This document provided me with his Serial Number, date of entry into active service, how long he served, the stations (on land) on which he served, yet no mention of ships. The document also gave the name of his last employer, dates of employment, occupation and what he planned to do after being discharged.
If I would not have had this document, I could have written to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis by sending in the Standard Form 180 to request his records. Not being next of kin, the NPRC will not release all of his information to me.
3. If you are next of kin, you are able to obtain more information from the NPRC in St. Louis. My father recently requested my grandfather’s medical records. Only a few pages of his file was sent and they included medical records such as Dental Check-ups and Treatment, Immunization records, Physical Exams, and Medical History forms where specific tests were performed such as assessing night vision.
4. Several years ago I located and contacted someone who served on one of the ships my grandfather did. This man got on the ship the day my grandfather was getting off. Even though they did not serve at the same time, this man was able to help guide me to resources for more information. He provided me a document outlining his experiences in the Armed Guard which gave me an idea of what my grandfather’s life might have been like while serving. He also sent me a photo of the ship. Some old ship photos can be found online.
There are still questions I would like to have answered such as if another ship in the convoy had an enemy encounter, did only that ship record it in the Deck Log? Is it possible my grandfather experienced the enemy by watching something take place, but not firsthand?
For more information on the Armed Guard or obtaining records, you can read the World War II US Naval Armed Guard website http://www.armed-guard.com/