This is a guest post by Jennifer Holik-Urban*
My grandmother told me a story about my cousin Frankie Winkler. She said Frankie came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 29th Infantry Division. He died on 24 June 1944 of head wounds received on D-Day. When his remains were returned to Chicago, his uncle and father viewed the remains and did not think it was Frankie. I listened to this story, took notes and left it at that. It wasn’t until many years later in my research did I seek out Frankie’s story.
When my parents traveled to Europe in late 2009 they visited a U.S. cemetery in Ardennes. They met a Marine named Michael who worked for the American Battle Monuments Commission. Being the only visitors to the cemetery that day, Michael gave them a two hour guided tour. My mom told Michael about Frankie and he told her about a military file called the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). An IDPF was created for each service man or woman who died during service. It provides information on their death, personal effects, interment overseas, some files contain letters from the family, disinterment information and reburial information.
Michael also gave her the name of the historian, Joe Balkoski, for the 29th Infantry Division in Maryland. Armed with this information she emailed me as soon as she could so I could start the process of tracking down the IDPF and contacting this historian. We both wanted to know what happened to Frankie.
I had very little information on Frankie’s military service. From his grave and the Honor Roll of Cook County I obtained his unit information. His sister provided a copy of his Purple Heart certificate and a photograph. I had his obituary and the cemetery record that indicated his burial was in 1948. He was buried in Chicago four years after he died. Why?