Friday, March 3, 2017

Military Monday: Is This Dad's WWII Jacket?

This morning I woke up to an unexpected surprise, in the form of an email from a gentleman in New England. He wrote:
"I recently bought an old military field coat with the name H.D. Burk and B4446 written in it. Some basic research tells me it's from a Harold Burk who was born in 1909 and enlisted in the Army in 1942. A quick Google search also returned a link to your blog...Does this sound like the correct Harold Burk?"
My Dad, Harold Burk (1909-1978), enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton, NY on March 7, 1942, 75 years ago this week. I took out Dad's dog tags and sure enough, the number matched!

I wrote back to say "yes," this sounds like Dad. The handprinted name looks like his writing, and I felt a pang just looking at it. I asked how this gentleman, Mr. G, went about researching the jacket. He sent me to the WWII US Army Enlistment website, which contains info on nearly 9 million people.

At left is the search box from the site, where I did what Mr. G did--I entered the laundry number (part of Dad's serial number) and his surname. Up popped a few details about Dad's enlistment. I had already documented his service, using his discharge papers, among other sources, but now I have another resource to try when researching other ancestors who served in WWII, thanks to Mr. G.

(Try it for any of your ancestors who served in WWII! Even if you don't have a serial number or laundry number, go ahead and fill in other details on the search form, then weed through the results.)

My Dad served in Europe with the 3163d Signal Service Company, as a clerk, and spent April of 1945 in Paris after the liberation. He's the serviceman on the right in this photo at a bistro.

Mr. G gave me more info about the jacket: It's an M-1943 Field Coat, which became standard for the Army during the war, especially for soldiers in colder climates. How my Dad's survived all these years, and in such great shape, I can't imagine.

What a wave of emotion seeing Dad's WWII jacket and handprinted name, and knowing that the collector, Mr. G, wanted to find out more about the man who wore it seven decades in the past.

I'm grateful to Mr. G for getting in touch, especially as this fits in nicely with my Genealogy Go-Over, reexamining documents and artifacts with an eye toward telling more stories about my ancestors. Thanks to Mr. G for permission to post his photos of Dad's jacket!


  1. That's a wonderful story! That jacket has a history & you can share it with your family. Wow. That's a treasure.

  2. Mr. G tells me the jacket is roughly size 36, which would be the right size for my Dad. How emotional to know it was his! Thanks for reading and commenting, Colleen.

  3. Wow Marian, I bet that email was a little overwhelming, coming out of the blue like that, bittersweet maybe, but so exciting.

  4. That is incredible, Marian, what an unexpected surprise and a new research resource! Thanks for sharing.

  5. That is so neat! I am thankful for those who do some research and reach out to us. Another reason to blog! Maybe someday you can go and "visit" the jacket and take some photos with it. :)

  6. Wait... didn't Mr. G send you the jacket? Gosh, knowing it was out there would make me want to have it!

    Great story, Marian. And thank you for sharing it in the Genealogy Blog Party!

  7. That's so encouraging, that someone would reach out to you like that!

  8. It was amazing to be contacted by Mr. G and hear the story of how he came to own Dad's WWII jacket. I actually didn't want to have the jacket itself--Dad would be pleased to know how much it means to someone else, a collector who prized this item and its memories. I'm thankful for the story, and appreciate the opportunity to share it in the Gen Blog Party.

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Such a heart-warming story!