Saturday, October 17, 2015

With Love From Mother -- A WWII Soldier's Bible

During WWII, it was common for newly enlisted soldiers to be presented with a pocket Bible given by their family or church. Many of these Bibles had a message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the front. Some had a metal cover and were called "heart shield Bibles." Such Bibles seem to be appearing on eBay with increasing frequency. The soldiers are dying out, and these Bibles are probably being sold at estate sales, especially in cases where the soldier had no children who would want to keep them.

A couple of times recently I've purchased one of these Bibles and returned it to the family. Today I ran across one that struck me as particularly poignant. It was a tiny New Testament and Psalms inscribed with the name "Robert H. Thompson, Co. K, 12th Infantry." It was signed, "With Love From Mother."

Any thought of returning it to the family disappeared quickly when I started researching. There was no indication of his Army Service Number, where he lived, or when he joined the service, the clues that help find people. The unit number is little help, because soldiers changed units often and there are no comprehensive databases that list that information. My primary source of information is the National Archives' database of WWII enlistments, which contains more than nine million names. Unfortunately, there are 75 men named "Robert H. Thompson" in the database. Four men by that name were killed in the war. I suppose this Bible will become one more piece of lost history for some family.

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