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Trying to figure out my Grandpa's WWII Unit history - Stupid 1973 fire!

Discussion in 'All Hands Club & Canteen Discussion Area' started by Jason Popp, May 11, 2016.

  1. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Hi all,

    I originally posted this on 10/5/2015. Luckily I saved off one of the responses to my post shortly before the old forum content became inaccessible. I've been waiting for the old content to be reloaded, but I think it's time for me to pick up where I left off...

    I'm trying to figure out anything I can about what my Grandpa did during WWII.

    Here's a few things about my Grandpa, from his Report of Separation, which I've also attached to this post.
    Sgt. Joseph Tartas
    Army Serial#: 31 160 165
    SS#: 015-14-8332
    Inducted: Aug 12 1942
    Date of Separation: Nov 13 1945
    Military Occupation Specialty and number: Radio Operator AACS / 760
    Service school attended: Radio Operator Mechanic Sioux Falls South Dakota (started or ended) Feb 1943
    Departed May 15 1943 for Philippines and arrived on May 19 1943
    Departed May 4 1945 for USA and arrived on May 24 1945
    Battles and campaigns: New Guinea
    Organization: 78th AAF Base Unit​
    My Grandpa passed away in Jan 1996 and the most he ever told anybody was "They were trying to kill me" and possibly that his job was to spot enemy aircraft and radio in their position.

    I would love to be able to confirm exactly what he did during the war.

    I sent a request for his Records to the NPRC, but all they had was a letter he sent to them in 1984 requesting Medals and copy of his Report of Separation. I followed up with a second request for anything else they might have but they confirmed there was nothing else. The Archives Tech also confirmed he was not listed on the "VA Bureau Master Index Card" and therefor there would not be any records on him with the VA.

    The only clues I have on his Unit history are:
    • His Military Occupation Specialty was Radio Operator AACS.
    • He went to "Radio Operator Mechanic" school in Sioux Falls South Dakota (started or ended) Feb 1943.
    • He departed the US on May 15 1943 for the Philippines and arrived on May 19 1943.
    • He departed on May 4 1945 for the USA and arrived on May 24 1945.
    • Aside from officially traveling to the Philippines, his Report of Separation lists New Guinea under "Battles and campaigns".
    • The "78th AAF Base Unit" Organization listed on his Report of Separation was a Separation Unit.
    • He either started or ended Radio Operator Mechanic School on Feb 1943, I'm not sure which. Based on a microfilm list of 24 Radio Instructors School class start and end dates (probably from this forum) which included Sioux Falls, if he finished the School in Feb, he could have been in class 9, 10, 11 or 12. If he started the School in Feb, he could have been in class 21, 22 or 23.
      Class 09 111942-020343
      Class 10 111942-021043
      Class 11 112642-021743
      Class 12 120342-022443
      Class 21 020443-042843
      Class 22 021143-050543
      Class 23 021843-051243
    I managed to save the following reply from the old forum:
    Post by: bernies
    Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:02 pm
    The 78th AAF Base Unit was the AACS Overseas Screening and Replacement Center at Sheppard Field (until December 1945, when it moved to Langley Field), so it would definitely be a separation unit.

    If he served with AACS in the Pacific between 15 May 1944 and 15 July 1945 he would have been assigned to (probably a detachment of) a lettered squadron of the 91st AAF Base Unit (7th AACS Wing). (Squadrons D, E, F, I, J or K)

    After July 1945, if he was still in New Guinea he would have been in the 770th AAF Base Unit (140th AACS Squadron), if he moved forward to the Philippines, in the 769th AAF Base Unit (139th AACS Squadron), 771st AAF Base Unit (141st AACS Squadron), 772d AAF Base Unit (142d AACS Squadron) or the 773d AAF Base Unit (143d AACS Squadron).

    Before May 1944 he would have been in a detachment of the 5th Airway Control Squadron

    Although the AACS wing and squadron numbers did not become official unit designations until 1948, if you look for more information, they're a better search term than the base unit numbers, which were official.

    I tried to figure out this part:
    (probably a detachment of) a lettered squadron of the 91st AAF Base Unit (7th AACS Wing). (Squadrons D, E, F, I, J or K)

    Force Structure as of 15 May 1944 - http://www.cbi-history.com/part_v.html#10
    91st AAFBU (7th AACS Wg)
    Sec A (Hq, 7th AACS Wg) - Hickam Field, T. H.
    Sec B (68th AACS Gp) | Sec C (Hq, 68th AACS Gp) - Hollandia, New Guinea
    | Sec D (139th AACS Sq) - Brisbane, Australia
    | Sec E (140th AACS Sq) - Dreger Harbor, New Guinea
    | Sec F (141st AACS Sq) - Clark Field, P. I.
    Sec G (69th AACS Gp) | Sec H (Hq, 69th AACS Gp) - Morotai Island
    | Sec I (142nd AACS Sq) Morotai Island
    | Sec J (143d AACS Sq) - Hollandia, New Guinea
    | Sec K (144th AACS Sq) - inactive​
    Am I completely wrong to use the above reference?

    Could he have been with Sec D (139th AACS Sq) out of Australia?
    What about with Sec I (142nd AACS Sq) out of Morotai Island in Indonesia?
    What about Sec C (Hq, 68th AACS Gp) out of Hollandia, New Guinea?

    Does anybody have the Sioux Falls "Class Book" with my Grandpa in it?

    Where am I supposed to go from here?

    Do I request Unit histories for the above lettered Sections and hope I get lucky?
    Should I try to work backwards from his Separation from the 78th AAF BU, by requesting the 78th Base Unit's history and trying to find out when he was transferred TO the 78th and more importantly what he was transferred FROM?

    Would Unit histories actually contain the names of individuals when they were transferred from one Unit to another?

    If he returned to the US on May 24 1945 but didn't Separate until Nov 13 1945, what would he have done between May 24th and Nov 13th in the US?

    Why did it take him 5 days to get to the Philippines but took him 21 days to return back to the US? Does that mean he stopped elsewhere on the way back?
    Are there port records for things like this?

    Any other suggestions?

    Thank you very much,

  2. j.peters140

    j.peters140 Active Member

    Jason....Please contact your local Veteran Administration Office...there should be a VA Representative in your town/city...and if not, there Will be a State VA Representative....the VA Representative should be able to assist you.

    Contrary to popular belief...the VA Records were NOT destroyed at the St Louis Fire...they are/were in a SEPERATE LOCATION, and thus were not affected by the fire at St Louis....The VA Records are of a MEDICAL nature and will give the location of ANY MEDICAL treatment AND STATION....Thus, one can reconstruct the STATIONS of his tour.

    Jim :)
    BMBazooka and Airwar like this.
  3. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Hi Jim,
    I just emailed the VA Representative from my town. I'll let you know when he gets back to me. Hopefully he finds something.
    Thank you for the suggestion,
  4. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Jason, you may need to "bite the bullet" and order some things from AFHRA.


    There is an index site here:


    If you go to the advanced search option here, it is a place to start.


    For the dates I would first restrict it to 01/01/1943 to 12/31/1946 then enter AACS in the search field:
    I get 56 hits. You can look through those and see if any seem to match up Bernies suggestions:


    OR, You can try to narrow search yourself within the date range to narrow in on Bernies suggestions:

    AACS Wing 0007
    (Two hits)

    Click on the "blue" numbers to read the full abstracts for each:


    AACS Group 0068 (no hits)

    AACS Group 0069 (no hits)

    AACS Squadron 0139 (some hits, but the dates found are all completely in 1946 so probably not what you want)


    AACS Squadron 0140, (no hits)

    then AACS Squadron 0141 (some hits in 1945)


    AACS Squadron 0142

    No hits for AACS Squadron 0143 or 0144

    When you are looking at a detailed record, there is a blue "get ordering instructions here" box that explains how to order.

    When you order give your Grandfather's name, serial number etc. Give your email, mailing address etc. Sometimes if the documents are short, they may just give you a way to download the documents and you don't need to order and pay for CDs.

    Note, I think the ordering email address is now (according to the info linked off the home page) here:


    Last edited: May 13, 2016
  5. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Hi Jim,

    Here's the response I received from the VA Rep in my town:
    Jason, Thank you for the email.
    If I understand your inquiry correctly, you actually already have more information than most can find.
    I think you are confusing "VA" records with "military" records.
    Military records are those of his time in the military which you highly detailed in your final paragraph. "Va" records are only medical records after he got out of the service and obtained health care in the Boston area.
    The only actual military records/personnel file would be whatever you would have received from the national records center.
    Hopefully that clarifies your question and that the VA is only medical records after he got out of the service in Boston, not military related.
    Thank you, Mike​

    Based on what you said in your previous reply, how do you recommend I proceed with this?

    Thank you,
  6. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Hi RSwank,
    Thanks for the recommendation and list of documents you searched for. I sent an email to AFHRA.NEWS@US.AF.MIL to request the documents you noted.
    Thank you,
  7. j.peters140

    j.peters140 Active Member


    Perhaps the answer you received was from someone who did not want to research far enough....there have been times that this has occurred. Perhaps the VA representative who told you that VA Medical Records only represent his records AFTER leaving the Service is misinformed...this is the FIRST time I have heard this.
    I do not know whether to believe this VA Reprsentative or not.

    We have a VA Representative here in Columbus, Indiana, and I will check with him as to the truthfulness of the statement that the VA records only represent the time after he go out of the Service.

    The reason I am doubtful, is my own experience...I have a 20% loss of hearing caused by my flying combat in WW II. where in order to communicate with the pilots, (Who were listening to the UHF/VHF radios) , it was up to me to stay on intercom so as to relay a question to the Pilots..this included the Bombardier, Navigator, Radio Operator, Ball Turret, both Waist gunners and Tail gunner. When someone wanted to ask a question of the pilot, I would get his attention by tapping him on his shoulder, and point to my earphone..he would stop monitoring the UHF/VHF, talk to the person calling, then go back to the UHF/VHF.

    When I applied to the VA, the story was that the Records have been destroyed in the St Louis Fire....but that the VA recordds were in a different location and therefore were not burned........I was told by the Local VA reprsentative , ...to resubmit ....that I was a WWII COMBAT VETERAN in RED, and two weeks later I received a phone call from the VA that additional records had been located, and I was given an appointment. I have both ear hearing aids.

    My personal advice to you, is to NOT GIVE UP....the person who you talked to, was either ignorant, or misinformed.

    Jim :)
    BMBazooka likes this.
  8. LarryJ

    LarryJ New Member

    My opinion. You are mixing apples and oranges. The records fire everyone talks about was not at a VA facility, it was the National Archives Record Center. This included military service records. Many of the documents involved in the fire were not totally burned, but charred and extremely brittle. There are specially trained people at the Archives that are attempting to retrieve information from those charred records. Obviously, not the primary job of the records center as they have many other duties to perform, but the work of a few. It takes time to carefully sift through the remains of the documents to determine if any usable information can be extracted. There also were many records that were totally destroyed.

    The VA consists of three activities. Those are claims, medical and mortuary services. In Jim's explanation, he submitted a claim for hearing. On the basis of his claim, he was referred to the medical side of the VA who provides any medical care to disabled vets. The mortuary is the burial side of the house and process requests for veteran burial issues, to include the bronze plaques that are placed on veteran graves.

    I'm not aware of where veteran medical records were transitioned to on a WWII service members discharge. The process for submitting a claim was for the veteran, typically through a representative, to submit the claim paperwork to the VA. It was the VAs job to locate any medical records related to the claim. This introduced a huge delay in getting claims processed, as the claim processor was working with many, many claims. As information on the claim filtered back to the claims processor, they determined if they had enough data to approve or deny a claim. If they thought there might be more available, then they would seek that info. The claims processing machinery is complicated and I don't claim to have first hand knowledge of the process. My abbreviated explanation is derived from information received from VFW and American Legion certified claim officers.

    Regarding the OPs search. MOS 760 is RADIO OPERATOR, ARMY AIRWAYS COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM. Tech Manual 12-247 describes a 760 as: Operates radio transmitted and receiving equipment at an Airways Communication Station (AACS) conducting a point-to-point and ground-air operations. Sends and receives messages by voice, or using letters and numerals of the International Morse Code (CW, ICW, or tone signals) or by light signals in the same code.
    Receives CW, ICE, or tone signals (copying by typewriter) at a minimum speed of 20 five-letter random code groups per minute without error for a minimum period of 3 consecutive minutes out of 5, or without more than five errors for a period of 10 minutes under actual operating conditions.
    Transmits CW, ICW, or tone signals using a hand hey at a minimum speed of 20 five-letter random groups per minute without error for a minimum period of 2 consecutive minutes out of 3, or without more than five errors for a period of 10 minutes.
    Handles without error a minimum of 18 plain-dress normal form messages (averaging 10 five-letter random code groups of test) per hour in a radio net under actual operating conditions.
    Tunes radio receivers to predetermined frequencies using standard frequency meter. Must be thoroughly familiar with the functions and operations of all controls on standard communications receivers.
    Intercepts signal broadcast of weather conditions and map signal transmissions.
    Reads and transmits messages by light signals at a minimum speed of eight words per minute.
    Must have a working knowledge of the operation and adjustment of a semi-automatic telegraph key.
    Must possess thorough working knowledge of combined radiotelephone and radiotelegraph procedures and authentication.
    Maintains station logs and message files.

    The training at Sioux Falls would have given him the pre-requisites listed in the MOS description.

  9. pathfinder504

    pathfinder504 Active Member

    I always believed that if a vet was being treated at the VA for a service connected disability then the circumstances of that ailment would be annotated--and so by default--there would be some anecdotal information regarding his service.
  10. Mike Wenger

    Mike Wenger New Member


    There is a possible pathway for reconstruction of your grandfather's service history by using the microfilmed morning reports and rosters for the period of 1942-1945 that reside at NARA/St. Louis. The morning reports exist for the entire war, although the rosters exist only through July 1943. Get me a response going here, and we will figure out how to establish personal contact.

    I have done quite a bit of work in these records, and could do some gratis exploratory work for you, perhaps in July, as I am going out then to work on an NPS-related project. While I live in North Carolina, there are a number of very competent researchers for hire that live in the St. Louis area who could do the work for you, but such is apt to involve a great deal of expense, although, as I said earlier, I will do my preliminary work gratis. The main thing is to drive a stake into the ground and verify his presence with a specific unit at a particular point in time. Then, it is a matter of moving backward and forward from that position, via the rosters and morning reports.

    There is indeed hope of a reconstruction of sorts, although such will likely entail substantial time and treasure. I feel a particular compassion for you and your situation, as my father's records burned as well. The frustration with that fact and with results of the fire is immense, and the impact of the destruction of so many millions of records has impacted Army history more adversely than most people will ever appreciate.

    Anyway... let me hear from you via the forum. Then perhaps we can open up communication offline.


    Mike Wenger
    Raleigh, NC
  11. Rick

    Rick New Member

    I live in Sioux Falls, SD the location of the former radio school.
    I collect the class books and so far have 30 of them with over 11,000 names AND PICTURES.
    Right now a friend's daughter is entering them into an Excel data base by class number. I am due to get the list and books back by mid July. I will look him up as soon as I get them.
    Pls send me an email fr my files as I keep track of requests and constantly look up the names in newly acquired books.
    Good luck
    Rick c
    Msgt, usaf ret
    BMBazooka and Airwar like this.
  12. Rick

    Rick New Member

    I have the data base back, i will look for tartus tomm.
    Will let you know.
  13. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Wow, I had no idea that you guys were still responding on my post. The last email I received was from j.peters140's post on May 16th. Apparently I am no longer getting emails when people reply to this post. New forum issues, maybe?

    LarryJ, thanks for the description of MOS 760 from Tech Manual 12-247.

    Mike, I agree that the main thing is to verify his presence with a specific unit at a particular point in time. Thank you so much for any help you can give with that! I'll send you a PM with my contact info.

    Rick, sorry for not getting back to your post from June 16th, but thanks for sending me a PM. I received an email from your PM, otherwise it might have been a while before I thought to login and check this post for any updates. In case it matters, when searching Excel, my grandfathers name was Joseph Tartas (not Tartus). I responded to your PM. Let me know what you find. Thanks!

    Thank you,
  14. Rick

    Rick New Member

    found him.
    Tartus j. ...I copied the page but cropped him. If you want the whole page with class mates let me know.
    I can upload here or send your email address to me at vietvet@sio.midco.net.
    Airwar likes this.
  15. bcarusella

    bcarusella New Member

    Out of curiosity - do you know if your grandfather was the same Joe Tartas who wrote a foxhole radio article in Popular Mechanics in 1962?
  16. bcarusella

    bcarusella New Member

    Here's the article - maybe a coincidence, maybe not!

    Airwar likes this.
  17. Jason Popp

    Jason Popp New Member

    Yes, that's him. He wrote a lot of articles that were published in Popular Mechanics and another magazine or two over the years.
  18. bcarusella

    bcarusella New Member

    I've been collecting interviews from veterans for years about foxhole radios and other improvised radios, and I've always wondered if the author of this article had been a veteran. And now I know. Thanks! I assume he must have built one of these during the war?
  19. Airwar

    Airwar Well-Known Member

    Attached Files:

    bcarusella likes this.
  20. Brin

    Brin New Member

    Interesting read and thank you guys for submitting! One other item I found on my search for my own father that is similar is. I was able to order my fathers medical file from Baltimore Maryland. That medical file was the medical fitness evaluation for entry into the Army Air force. There was the usual Dr.s notes and there was dental records as well. also included was much other information and family history medical stuff. This also included, high school athletics records and many doctors notes. His file was July 1943. Good luck. Brian A

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