The Lost Battalion

Having never met my grandfather, I never really knew any details of his World War II experience.  He died the year I was born (I think) or shortly afterward.

My Dad emailed me a couple of weeks ago when all the news was on about the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.  His father, Fred Miles, was in Japan at the time — a prisoner of war since his capture on Java early in the war.  I didn’t know a whole lot of details about him, so this set us off on a search for more information.

So here’s what I’ve tracked down, so far. The first step was to try to find some data online at the National Archives.

It turns out some years ago the Archives made an electronic copy of the listing of all World War II prisoners of war. You can get to the database here:

http://aad.archives.gov/

I found his POW record and enlistment record (you may not be able to view the file without internet explorer). This showed the date of capture in 1942. Given that it looked like hundreds were captured the same day, that led to finding the Lost Battalion of Texas.

It turns out that the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery of the Texas National Guard was activated for federal service sometime in the fall of 1941.  My grandfather had been inducted in Atlanta at Fort McPherson, then went through basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  He was then assigned to 2/131 FA, which departed to reinforce the Philippines in November 1941.  They were mid-pacific when Pearl Harbor was hit, and were redirected to Australia.

By January the unit shipped to Java to reinforce the primarily Dutch and British allied garrisons there.  Some good details about the history of the unit were to be found online at the Lost Battalion Association, but they didn’t give me the most relevant detail — was he actually assigned to this unit (it seemed it was so) and if so, where did he end up going after his capture?

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