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Here is the problem with NARA at St. Louis as it pertains to records for WWII Soldiers and their family members.

When a request is made for Verification of Military Service the Archivist Technicians based it off of Discharge Paper 53-55.[1]  The problem with that is that the 53-55 Discharge was done by an overworked typist back here in the states and the information was supplied many times by the Soldier themselves.  The Durning Case is the perfect example of what can go wrong.

A St. Louis Archivist used the 53-55 Discharge as the basis for the Verification of Military Service[2] for the Purple Heart, Silver Star Medal and Bronze Star Medal (on line 10 for Decorations) which was based on the Combat Infantry Badge. 

It took a year plus to get St. Louis at NARA and NPRC to correct this issue.  Durning was only qualified for the Purple Heart, nothing else.  When St. Louis did their due diligence they finally discovered the error.  The only way it came to light was when a Researcher discovered that.  Even then St. Louis Archivist Paul Simon said due to the fact the Durning was in the 398th Inf he was entitled to the CIB.[3]  When he was told that was not true and that a Soldier was only eligible during War time he disagreed.

I then contacted Scott Levins the Director and he stated the same thing.[4]  Even though the documentation had been sent to Levins he also stated that Durning was entitled to the CIB.  He had the documentation right in front of him and wouldn’t read them.[5]

Then it was sent to the Director, National Archives at St. Louis.  Even then it took months to get this straightened out.[6]  Durning is entitled to the Purple Heart and no more. 

Why St. Louis doesn’t go to the source material is unknown.  If Archivist Paul Simon had just used original sources (Morning Reports in this case) none of this would have happened.  The 53-55 Discharge is only a starting point, not the end point.  St. Louis needs to have a set standard when working on records.

It has happened once again it seems.  Plumley is listed as having two CIBs including WWII.  As mentioned in my article[7] Plumley Arm of Service was Artillery not Infantry.  How long will it take this time to be corrected and how many other people are allowed to have a CIB and the Bronze Star Award for Meritorious Service?  I contacted Archivist Technician Barrera three weeks ago and still no response.[8] 

I just received a call from St. Louis and it turns out the Mr. Barrera has left the NPRC.  The person I spoke with the other day was very helpful.  I know that the employees at the NPRC have a long backlog for requests and understand that.  I look forward to having the the Plumley case completed.  

Brian Siddall

September 18, 2015



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