Lost Comrade Search Guide
There are several different approaches that you may use to locate missing 303rd Bombardment Group (H) comrades. I will highlight these approaches and provide more information on the individual approaches on the following pages.
With computers in your home, or your children's or grandchildren's homes, the Internet provides a couple of ways to locate our comrades. You might even ask your next door high school student to help you.
You can start with the people locators, searching for addresses and phone numbers, or you can start with the Social Security Death Index. In any case, you will need to use both of these lists for each name. For example, if you find a name in the Social Security Death index, then you need to find a telephone number and an address of a similar name, living in the area where he passed away. This is so that you can confirm that the name you found, was in fact, the same person. The only way you can do that is to locate a relative in the same general area.
- Start with a search for the telephone and mailing address first. If found I would immediately look to see if there was an e-mail address. This is very important, as this will be the simplest manner in which to get in touch with him. If he doesn't respond to your email message, then very possibly he has the same name, but was not at Molesworth. So you would start using the Internet to find the telephone number and address. These are the Search Engines that are normally listed on your Browser:
- The Social Security Death indexes can be found at the addresses below. Here are some general guidelines when you are searching here. The person's name appears and his date of birth is shown. Now you may have as many as 20 or 30 names that are listed for you, all with the same first and last name. (Sorry-SSDI does not include middle initials). So you need to go through each name listing and select the potentials, by using their dates of birth. 98 percent of our comrades will have been born in 1925 or earlier. And 95 percent of them will have been born after 1915. So you start copying down the information on all of the names that fall in that category. Be sure and copy all of the information (and it would be smart to get yourself a large tablet, and set up columns like the SSDI has, so that you can copy info in the same format, as you will need it later.)
You need to record the state in which the Social Security Number was issued, as that is most likely the state in which our comrade entered the service. If he is an enlisted man then his Army Serial Number will coincide with that location. (The second digit of the ASN gives a clue at to what region of the US the man enlisted or was called up to duty. See the ASN information below.)
For each man on the list, it will "usually" tell you where he received his last social security check. That will be a clue to where you need to zero in, to obtain a confirmation that you have the right man, before you can conclude his search.
As a general rule, if you can narrow the names down to three, having been born in the 1915-1925 category, then we will call this a "Probable 303rd Death." If you still have more than three names, then it will be termed a "Possible 303rd Death."
But be sure and keep all of the records on each of your "Lost Comrades." We will be looking for them again in year 2002, and your initial efforts will be most valuable.
Here are the addresses that provide the best Social Security Death Index info:
The 2nd digit (sometimes the 3rd) of the Army Serial Number generally indicates the area of the country where the person enlisted. They are roughly numbered from east to west and are made up of nearby the states. A map of the Service Commands is available here. The Nine Service Commands are:
Service Command Headquarters:
- First (Boston, MA)
- Second (Governors Island, NY)
- Third (Baltimore, MD)
- Fourth (Atlanta, GA)
- Fifth (Columbus, OH)
- Sixth (Chicago, IL)
- Seventh (Omaha, NE)
- Eighth (San Antonio and Dallas, TX)
- Ninth (San Francisco, CA)
ARMY SERIAL NUMBER: Because of the tremendous number of individuals who have passed through the Army, serial numbers are given to prevent confusion. Using the name "William P. Smith" as above as an example, it was found that at the time of writing there were 84 men of this name in the Army, and several hundred men with the name "William Smith" without respect to initials. In attempting to identify one of this number much confusion could arise, and this is obviated by the use of a serial number.
Serial numbers are assigned with great care and according to a set of regulations. Consecutive serial numbers, for example, are not assigned to twins since this might cause confusions of identity between two persons with the same birth date and same general physical characteristics.
Generally speaking, numbers fall into two broad categories: simple seven or eight digit numbers (in a few cases fewer digits) or male enlisted personnel, and prefixed serial numbers for other personnel. Regular Army enlisted men who entered the service before the outset of Selective Service bear seven-digit or lower serial numbers, usually beginning with "6" or "7", as 6974426, Men who enlisted in the Army of the United States have eight-digit numbers beginning with "1", the second digit indicating the Service Command of origin. For example, the serial number 14066025 would indicate that the man enlisted in the Army of the United States in the Fourth Service Command (Southeastern U.S.), Men called into federally recognized National Guard service received eight-digit numbers beginning with "2", the third digit representing the Service Command: 20107656 indicates a National Guardsman from New England (First Service Command). Men inducted or enlisted through Selective Service were given eight-digit numbers beginning with "3" or "4", the second digit representing the Service Command. The prefixed serial numbers for other than male enlisted personnel carry a designated letter: 0- (as in 0-1574257) for male commissioned officers; W- for male Warrant officers; T- for Flight officers of the Army Air Forces; L- for commissioned officers of the Women's Army Corps; V- for WAC Warrant officers; A- for WAC enlisted women; R- for Hospital Dietitians, and M- for Physical Therapy Aides.
- There are over 100 Genealogical Web Sites on Internet that will help you, after you have located one of your "Lost Comrades" addresses or found his name in the Death Index. If a telephone call, or a letter does not provide positive identification, then the use of one of the Family Surname Genealogical Web Sites is your next stop. Here are some addresses that will allow you to move to the proper surname family.
Without a computer within the family, or next door, here are a couple of approaches that you can use.
- Go to your Public Library and ask the Librarian to direct you to their supply of Telephone Books. They will have many in their regional area, and if you are in a big city, you will find more telephone directories than you wish to search.
- Prepare a special letter to send to the U. S. Government Life Insurance company.
This approach will only cover those individuals who have continued to maintain their VA GI Life Insurance Policy or they will advise you if the person you are seeking has died.
Here are the requirements if you follow this approach:
- You place your inquiry letter in a stamped, sealed envelope with no return address.
- You place the name, rank & serial number of the person you are seeking on
this inner envelope.
- Then you place this sealed envelope into another envelope addressed to the
Life Insurance Division
Dept. of Veterans Administration (VARIOC)
P. O. Box 8079,
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Their phone number, in case you might need to contact them, is: 1-800-669-8477.
- Going directly to the Veterans Administration should be utilized when you have had no luck on the Internet or with the phone books.
- With the Veterans Administration, you must follow the instructions very
carefully or they will toss your request into the waste basket.
- Here is a sample letter that you can download and have reproduced at a nearby copying machine. Please place the name of your "lost comrade" at the top of the letter, and fill in your name, address, phone number and email address at the bottom
- Place this letter in a small envelope, print carefully the name of your "Lost
Comrade" on the outside, along with his ASN (Army Serial Number).
- Put a stamp on the outside of this letter. Now the letter will have nothing but his name, serial number and a stamp on the outside.
- Place this letter inside another envelope and address it as follows:
Mr. Dale Demers - Manager
Veteran's Service Division
Veteran's Administration Center
Togus, ME 04330
- On this letter you should place your return address-if your "Lost Comrade"
has passed away, this information will be passed on to you. If he is living,
according to their records, the letter will be forwarded to him.
- If you have any questions, you may wish to call the Veteran's Administration
Center at (207) 623-8411 and ask for the Veteran's Service Division Manager.