1 Reply Latest reply on Nov 2, 2021 10:42 AM by Rachael Salyer

    Seeking burial case file of Pvt Thomas Joseph Fitzgerald

    Ryan Sullivan Newbie

      Hello,  I’m trying to obtain the burial case file as well as any other records pertaining to my great uncle Thomas J Fitzgerald, who was a Pvt. in B Co, 1st Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. Here's his picture. Pvt. Thomas J Fitzgerald taken in South Boston just before shipping out to Europe. He was killed in action on July 19, 1918 during the unit’s assault on Chouy and his body was never recovered/identified. He is listed on the Aisne-Marne wall of the missing as ‘Pvt Fitzgerald, T.J.’ I have found out much about the action his unit was involved in that day thru a few Army War College reports I have found online, including one written by general Walter “Beetle” Smith, who was wounded in the same action. The assault (as well as Tom’s death I believe) is also described in the memoir ‘Yesterday there was Glory’ by Gerald Andrew Howell. However I’ve been unable to find anything as detailed relating to the after action events specifically the burial of the dead, at least for that battalion on that specific date. Oddly enough I have letters from the time indicating some sort of records error because my great grandparents received from the unit chaplain a death notice, then were told he was only wounded and back with his unit after they enquired that September when never receiving an official report, only to be told a few weeks later that he was in fact killed in July. I contacted Giles Langin and he told me that some of the dead in that action were buried by the French as the unit was relieved that night, which may explain why he was never recovered and where he actually might be. I am hoping to confirm this thru Tom’s burial case file, to make sure he his remains weren’t recovered then lost at some point after. I would very much appreciate any help, advice or guidance any one can give. And I can certainly elaborate much further and provide more details if needed. Thank you in advance!


        • Re: Seeking burial case file of Pvt Thomas Joseph Fitzgerald
          Rachael Salyer Ranger


          Dear Mr. Sullivan,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          As you suggested, the information you seek may be contained in Pvt. Fitzgerald’s Army burial case file. Burial case files for 1915 to 1939 are in the custody of the National Archives at St. Louis (RL-SL). For more information about these non-digitized records, please contact RL-SL via email at stl.archives@nara.gov.


          If you have not done so already, we also suggest that you request a copy of his Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). OMPFs and individual medical reports for enlisted men of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after October 1912 and before 1959 are in the custody of NARA's National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. In many cases where personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, proof of service can be provided from other records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders, and a certificate of military service will be issued. Please complete a GSA Standard Form 180 and mail it to NARA's National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO  63138-1002. For more information see Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), Archival Records Requests.


          Next, we searched the National Archives Catalog and located the series Records of the 1st Through 338th and the 559th Infantry Regiment, 1916-1921 in the Records of U.S. Regular Army Mobile Units (Record Group 391) that include the records of the 39th Infantry Regiment during WWI that may contain some relevant information. In addition, we located a series titled Records of Divisions, 1917 - 1920 in the Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I) (Record Group 120) that includes the 4th Division and files of the 39th Infantry Regiment  in Boxes 29-32. For more information about these non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov. We were unable to locate specific records of Company B or the 1st Battalion. Records of lower echelon units sometimes were incorporated into the files of the  regiment.


          Plus, we located the series American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs in the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (Record Group 165) that includes 1 photograph of the 39th Regiment that may be of interest to you. This image has been digitized and may be viewed online using the Catalog.


          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RL-SL and RDT2. Also, NPRC will continue servicing requests ONLY associated with medical treatments, burials, homeless veterans seeking admittance to a homeless shelter, and those involving the VA Home Loan program. If your request is urgent, please see Emergency Requests and Deadlines. Please refrain from submitting non-emergency requests such as replacement medals, administrative corrections, or records research until NPRC returns to pre-COVID staffing levels.  Please check archives.gov/veterans for updates to the NPRC operating hours and status. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          Finally, the US Army Center of Military History provides some information online about the 39th Infantry Regiment | Lineage and Honors and about Aisne-Marne that may be useful. We suggest that you contact them directly for further assistance.


          We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!