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Figuring out my great uncle's service history

Discussion in 'What Granddad did in the War' started by Doug Trefun, Jan 5, 2023.

  1. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    Hi everybody, my name is Doug and I recently inherited my great uncles WW2 medals and flag. Prior to this I was relatively unaware of our military family history. I knew my grandpa served and his brothers, but not much else.

    That all changed when I discovered within the flag was his discharge papers and Bronze Star citation. He was drafted in the summer of 44 and quickly found himself in the thick of the Battle of the Bulge. He was honorably discharged in April 1946.

    Here's a transcript from his Bronze Star citation:

    ‘Headquarters 84th Infantry Division
    Office of the Commanding General
    Award of the Bronze Star Medal
    Citation
    Private First Class Walter M Trefun 35843443, 333rd Infantry, United States Army. For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy in Belgium and Germany, 22 December 1944 to 9 May 1945. Performing many daring actions throughout this period, Private First Class Trefun has contributed immeasurably to the sustained success of his unit’s combat operations.
    On one occasion when enemy sniper fire threatened the attack of his unit upon a German town, Private First Class Trefun boldly exposed himself to withering enemy fire as he advanced single-handedly upon the entrenched enemy positions to kill three of the snipers and force the others to surrender. The courage, initiative and aggressiveness displayed by Private First Class Trefun reflect high credit upon himself and the armed forces. Entered military service from Indiana.
    A. R. Bolling
    Major General U.S. Army,
    Commanding.’


    Not bad for an army cook with an 8th grade education. Also he was featured in the local paper here around that time too.

    But perhaps the biggest discovery was when I found his war buddy's letters home. He's mentioned more than a few times and they even have a picture together. His daughter transcribed his many letters and until recently I was unaware that this was out there. The above link is when she posted about her dad's signature on a captured nazi flag (Dulken). And funnily enough my great uncle's signature is on there as well.

    Anyway, I certainly have tons of questions about his service. I've been able to piece a lot of it together using those letters, but not all of it makes sense. If people care enough, I can go into more detail, it's quite extraordinary. But currently I'm at a loss trying to figure out his discharge papers.

    For the most part they make sense, but it's the last bit of his separation code that I can't figure out.

    5svc cir 49/46

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Can anybody help decipher these codes?


    Additionally here are some more photos in an imgur album

    Great to be here!
     
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  2. Biak

    Biak Boy from Illinois Staff Member

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    Welcome Doug ! One of the best "First" posts I've ever read.
    Feel free to write as much as you want! We have some true Historians here who will help you fill in many blanks.
    Just as an aside, We also have our share of hysterics here too. Mostly harmless.
     
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  3. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    Thanks! This seems like an active and interesting forum. It's been years since I've actively posted on one of these.

    The other thing I found out just today is that my great uncle still has several medals he never received.
    • Bronze Star awarded to soldiers who participated in the Battle of the Bulge, that also earned the Combat Infantry Medal.
    • WW2 Victory Medal - This one is pretty straight forward. He obviously never requested one once they were available.
    • Occupation Medal - I'm mostly certain he is eligible to receive this, as he definitely spent more than 30 days in Germany. But there could be something I'm missing. But yet again, these (to my knowledge) weren't authorized until after the war.
    He was also involved with liberating several concentration camps (Hannover-Ahlem and Salzwedel), as well as being around during the massacre of 11 black US soldiers. I say "around" as there is no way of knowing what he was actually doing. But per his job description he was in charge of feeding 500 men 3 times a day. There is another story associated with this that I won't go into right now, but perhaps in a future post.

    And perhaps the weirdest thing was his participation in the taking of Dulken. From the research I've done that was also one of the biggest "bamboozles" launched by the Ghost Army.

    Mapping out his known points on a map, he seems to have been involved in the southern part of the pincer. But again, some of these things I'm only guessing at.
     
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  4. firstf1abn

    firstf1abn Member

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    If you don't already have it, there is a division history published in 1946, authored by Theodore Draper.
     
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  5. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    Guys, I have a lead on what part of his departure code means. And I need someone to tell me I'm being crazy.

    For "CIR 49/46", the numbers are most likely years. But what about "CIR", Continued Intelligence Requirement.
    So he's required to be available for questioning through the years 46-49. At least that's my theory.

    He was witness to several war crimes and possibly even lead to the discovery of a concentration camp. Even if half of the things are true, he found himself in the middle of a lot of crazy crap.
     
  6. Tipnring

    Tipnring Active Member

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    Very interesting letter & Flag. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    I copied his newspaper clipping from your link & posted it here.
    Image 1-6-23 at 11.30 AM.jpeg
     
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  7. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    How common would've it have been to have a Pfc discharged by a Signal Corp Lt?

    [​IMG]
     
  8. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    "5SVC" was the 5th Service Command. "CIR" was standard Army abbreviation for "Circular", which is what the code actually references - the 49th Circular in 1946 promulgated by the 5th Service Command relating to AR 615-365.

    The signing separation officer was whoever was available so that he was a Signal Corps officer has no significance. My Dad's (he was a 1st Lt CAC) was signed by an Infantry Major.
     
  9. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    Thank you! I was struggling to find the real answer and kept going down rabbit holes. That all makes a lot more sense.
     
  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    BTW, why do you think he was a "cook"?
     
  11. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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  12. Tipnring

    Tipnring Active Member

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    On my dad's discharge paper it has his Military occupational specialty as : Cook (060).

    I asked my dad about it & he said the only thing he cooked was placing C ration cans on the truck motor to heat them up.

    What form is that you shared with us? I only have this one from my dad's service.

    Screenshot 2023-01-06 at 12.57.22 PM.png
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2023
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  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Very good thanks. That is his Separation Qualification Record, WD AGO Form-100, which was intended to record the job qualifications and training to ease the soldier's return to the civilian workforce. It is not as common as the Report of Separation WD AGO Form 53. I suspect that most soldiers either tossed them after they got their first postwar civilian job or they ended up in postwar civilian company personnel files and got left behind when the employee changed jobs, died, or retired.

    As a Cook 060 and Basic Infantryman 521 his service as a combat infantryman was probably whenever the call to put "clerks and cooks" in the firing line went out. Many times in critical situations the various "technical" specialists in the line Rifle Company were called forward as emergency replacements either assigned temporarily to the Rifle Platoons or even sometimes formed as a separate ad hoc Rifle Company, usually designated "J" Company or "JIG Company".
     
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  14. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    I've been going back and forth with the daughter of his old war buddy for the past week. My uncle Matt and Herbert Miller were indeed in the same division and everything.

    Soldier & Foxhole Buddy

    Above is a link to her blog. This is actually a recent post collecting all the mentions of Matt Trefun. One of the more interesting parts is when his buddy recalls a story about my uncle speaking another language:

    ---
    From the blog...

    My dad said that his foxhole buddy was an American-born Serbian who could speak several languages. Some German citizens told his buddy that they were forced to dig a very large grave and that many bodies were buried there. The soldiers alerted their commanders and they did find a mass grave.

    Matt Trefun was that American-born Serbian soldier. His parents were both immigrants, both from Yugoslavia. It would not be surprising that Matt could speak several languages.
    ---


    I've confirmed that my uncle Matt was in fact fluent in Serbian. And upon reaching out to my family who still lives in Serbia, us Trefuns were from a part of Serbia where there is a significant German population (Vojvodina). He went on to say that it's entirely possible he at least knew some German. I don't know a lot about Serbian history during the war, but I know it's not good.

    So anyway, if the story about him talking to a German citizen is true, I would imagine that'd be sensitive information. As well I've looked through the survivor documents of those concentration camps, and a fair amount of them are Yugoslavian.


    I also just found out that he was in the hospital Nov 1945. For what, I don't know. But it sounds a bit like Typhus. Which given the 84ths proximity to known concentration camps, wouldn't be a surprise. But by November 1945 they should have been done liberating. So it might just be he got sick with something. The army seemed to give out penicillin for everything.

    Name: Walter M Trefun
    Gender: Male
    Race: White (includes Mexican) (White)
    Rank: Enlisted Man (includes Aviation Cadet or Student)
    Admission Age: 27
    Birth Date: abt 1918
    Admission Date: Nov 1945
    Discharge Date: Nov 1945
    Discharge Place: Aid Station, Clearing or Collection Station, Dispensary
    Military Branch: Infantry, General or Unspecified
    Military Unit: 3
    Diagnosis: Diagnosis: [withheld by NARA]
    Type of Injury: InjuryType: Disease; InjuryType2: Not a traumatism
    Medical Treatment: Penicillin therapy (treatment with penicillin)
    Type of Discharge: Duty (includes AWOL)
    Length of Service: 1-2 yr.
    Service Number: 35843443
    Notes: None
     
  15. Tipnring

    Tipnring Active Member

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    Thanks Rich for the information. Very helpful & informative.
     
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  16. Doug Trefun

    Doug Trefun New Member

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    So I've been researching this a bit more, and I can pretty much trace his route from France into Germany well enough. He landed and connected with the 84th Division right before the Battle of the Bulge. From there I can, with some accuracy, place him "around Hardt" and likely in Dulken. But the newspaper article describing his exploits mention he was in the "Ninth army".
    (see above post with the article)

    [​IMG]

    I was under the assumption he was with the 84th Division, 333rd, L Company, since that's what all his documents say as well. But if he was somehow with the Ninth army at the time, wouldn't that place him in the Battle of Remagen?


    [​IMG]
    (my uncle's name on a captured nazi flag from Dulken)

    And from there I have even less to go on as he's not mentioned again by anything other than a hospital admission document in November 1945. There are brief mentions of him in his buddies letters home, but even those are sparse.

    Although the daughter who's been transcribing her dad's letters home has since made a post collecting all the mentions. She's been a huge help in discovering all this.

    And while his discharge documents make no mention of this, he was also fluent in Serbian and likely spoke German to some degree. I confirmed with my cousin that still lives in Serbia that our family comes from a part of Serbia where there is a large German population, and it would've been likely that he knew at least some German.
    Not only that, it's suspected he was involved in discovering some mass grave sites by over hearing some German citizens talking.

    This makes me wonder what the army would do with a private who knows a few languages and was involved in several big events.

    Thoughts?
     
  17. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I would note that someone designated cook, or other occupation within an infantry unit in WW 2 would be seen as an immediate replacement for infantry casualties as they would have received sufficient training in weapons and such during basic to be used that way. So, you uncle would have been a cook right up until the regiment, battalion, etc., needed warm bodies to replace now cold ones on the lines.

    The names on the flag are something akin to a "short snorter." That is a dollar bill with the names of participants in something local on it.

    [​IMG]
    This was a common practice with the US Army in Europe at the time.
     

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