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NY WWII history project lists entire Guard roster

By Chris Carola

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 30 2012 12:55 p.m. MDT

Index cards for New York National Guard members from 1940 are seen at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Friday, March 16, 2012. Information from almost 29,000 cards was entered into a database at the museum.

Mike Groll, Associated Press

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Among the thousands of names Jack Kennedy punched into his computer for the New York State Military Museum's World War II project were scores of men he knew while growing up in an upstate mill town. Many were sent to the Pacific, and more than a few didn't come back.

"They had a tough go over there," said Kennedy, 90, himself a veteran of the fighting in Europe.

Kennedy was one of more than a dozen volunteers who spent nearly a year at their computers filling Excel spreadsheets with information on almost 29,000 soldiers in the New York National Guard who were called up for federal service in October 1940. In total, 300,000 National Guard soldiers reported for duty that fall.

Jim Gandy, the project's coordinator, said the resulting database is unique in the United States because it's apparently the only one online listing an entire state National Guard organization called up for active duty during World War II.

The museum, located in an old armory in Saratoga Springs, posted the information online so it can be used by people researching their family genealogy or the history of World War II.

Gandy, the museum's assistant librarian and archivist, said he got the idea after some local veterans spent a week painstakingly going through paper records to find every National Guardsman from their town who was called up with the 27th Division in 1940.

"Now you can have that information in a minute," he said.

The online project is a boon to researchers such as Tom Kelly, a retired college history professor who has interviewed many 27th Division veterans, a process that involved mailing out hundreds of questionnaires.

"This obviously would make life much simpler," he said of the museum's online tool. "I'm excited to get access to it."

Bruce Scott got involved after helping out with another museum project. He was also frustrated over trying to trace his genealogy, hitting dead-ends because some records aren't posted online.

"You know there's all this information but it's hidden in some file cabinet somewhere," said Scott, a retired state worker from Albany. "So anything I can do to get this information out there, it's a bonus to somebody."

Al Miller, chief of historical services for the U.S. National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., called the project significant. He said he didn't know of other places with the resources to accomplish it.

"There may be other (National Guard) units as large and as famous as the 27th that have done this, but I have not heard about it," he said.

Gandy was helped by a group of 15 volunteers, most of them from New York, but some from as far away as Missouri and Florida, including Kennedy, a retired Army colonel from Elfers, Fla.

Starting in early February 2011, Gandy sent volunteers copies of the index cards in numerous batches of between 100 and 300 — 28,969 in all. Each typewritten card, 6 inches wide by 4 inches high, lists a soldier's name, rank, date and place of birth, street address and hometown, unit and enlistment dates. Some bear handwritten notes, added later, that say the soldier was killed or wounded.

Kennedy punched in information for some 6,500 soldiers, including about 100 he knew from his hometown of Cohoes, just north of Albany.

"You know the guy, how old he was, what outfit he was in, what town. There was some attachment there," he said in a telephone interview from his home near Florida's Gulf Coast.

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