The Research

 

Fifteen years ago, I was sitting in a computer room on the USS Gary (FFG-51) in Yokosuka, Japan, browsing eBay when I came across an auction for a Soviet medal with a small, yellowed piece of paper attached to the lid that had the name of a US Navy Chief Petty Officer. Thirty-three dollars later, it was mine. At the time, no one I knew had any information about what I had just purchased. In fact, many people thought it was fake. "Why would the Soviets give a medal to a United States Navy Chief?" they would ask.

 

The medal sat forgotten on a shelf in my office for several years until I found the collector who had the documents that came with the medal. At that point, putting them together, I knew it wasn't fake and I knew there was a story behind the medal. But no one knew anything about these...so it became my job to do the research. In 2007, I the article "Soviet Military Decorations to Americans during World War II" was published in the Journal of the Orders and Medals Society of America. This ground-breaking research earned me their Literary Medal for the year and raised people's curiosity about these little-known awards. Being done with the article, I thought my contribution to their history was complete. I was wrong.

 

In 2011, digging through my garage, I discovered my old research from the article. Out of curiosity, I decided to see if there was any more information available about the recipients as the volume of information available digitally has increased over a thousand-fold since starting my original research. First, I found enough for another article, just about Soviet medals to the US Navy. Then, with a bit more digging, information came flowing in. I had enough for a book, and the heroism of these brave men warranted one. And with that, Blue Seas, Red Stars was born.

 

 

How do I know all this stuff?

I'm asked that question routinely. I have spent literally thousands of hours on the internet and in the National Archives, combing through long-forgotten files and references. Online references include: ancestry.com, newspaperarchive.com, geneologybank.com, fold3.com, peoplefinders.com, whitepages.com, and google.

 

At the National Archives, I've found rich resources in the Armed Guard files and in the files of the State Department and the Navy Department. I am continually amazed, however, with how some esoteric sources yield some of the greatest information!

Another source is the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). I have been able to access many of the service records of the recipients and have used those to piece together the stories of their lives before the war, their service during the war, and their hopes for civilian life following the war.

 

However, what it doesn't tell me is what really happened to them after the war. This is why my book is completely dependent on the generosity of the families of the recipients.

From the National Archives, I was able to access the Armed Guard Voyage Reports for the following ships, and referenced them in building the narrative of the book:

 

SS Africander

SS Alcoa Banner

SS Alcoa Prospector

SS Alcoa Rambler

SS Alcoa Ranger

SS Alexander Macomb

SS American Robin

SS Ballot

SS Beaconhill

SS Bellingham

SS Benjamin Harrison

SS Campfire

SS Christopher Newport        

SS City of Joliet

SS Columbian

SS Cornelius Harnett

SS Daniel Morgan

SS Dartmouth

SS Deer Lodge

SS Dunboyne

SS Effingham

SS El Almirante

SS El Capitan

SS El Oceano

SS El Oriente

SS Eldena

SS Exford

SS Expositor

SS Exterminator

SS Francis Scott Key

SS George Clymer

SS Heffron

SS Henry Wynkoop

SS Ironclad

SS John Penn

SS John Walker

SS John Witherspoon

SS Kaimoku

SS Kentucky

SS Lafayette

SS Larranaga

SS Massamar

SS Michigan

SS Mormacmar

SS Mormacrio

SS Nathaniel Greene

SS Nicholas Gilman

SS Oliver Ellsworth

SS Oregonian

SS Oremar

SS Pan Kraft

SS Pan New York

SS Pan York

SS Patrick Henry

SS Peter Kerr

SS Richard Bland

SS Richard Henry Lee

SS Sahale

SS Schoharie

SS Scottsburg

SS Seattle Spirit

SS Sharpsburg

SS St. Olaf

SS Stone Street

SS Syros

SS Thomas Hartley

SS Troubadour

SS Virginia Dare

SS Wade Hampton

SS Washington

SS West Cheswald

SS White Clover

SS William Hooper

SS William Moultrie

SS Yaka

SS Yorkmar

© 2014 by Dave Schwind.