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               February, 2012

      Charles Hansen, Editor
      Jennifer Holik-Urban, guest contributor
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  World War II Military Records
  — by Jennifer Holik-Urban

Last fall when I began digging into my great great uncle's military story, I had very little to go on. These are the steps I took to find information to write his story.

1.  I looked at the information I had from birth, census, World War I Draft Registration Card, cemetery records. This is what I had: Michael Kokoska b. 9/28/1891 in Chicago and d. 6/27/1918 in Alsace, France. Buried in Bohemian National Cemetery 5/29/1921. His military information: Army Co. L 127th infantry, 32nd Division. Why did it take three years to bury him there? During both World Wars, men and women who died overseas were buried overseas. The families, after the wars, had the option to leave the remains buried overseas or brought home. There is a book that describes this process called Soldier dead: how we recover, identify, bury, and honor our military fallen By Michael Sledge.

2.  I learned about a World War II death file called the IDPF, Individual Deceased Personnel File. Through some online research I discovered World War I had a similar record called a Burial File. The IDPF was a slightly expanded version of the Burial File. has a great article about Burial files here: Military Burial Files.

3.  I wrote a letter to the National Archives requesting his file. This is the letter I sent:

Military Textual Reference Branch (NWCTM)
National Archives
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
December 28, 2009

Dear Staff:
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby make a request for the Burial File  for my below listed family member who died or was killed-in-action while serving in the military during World War I.

Name:  Michael Kokoska
Branch of Military:  Army
Military Service Number:  Unknown
Division:  32nd Division 127th Infantry Co. L.
Date of Birth:  September 28, 1891 in Chicago, IL
Date of Death:  June 27, 1918 near Alsace, France
Burial site in U.S.A.:  Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, IL
Buried:  May 29, 1921
Relationship to deceased:  Great Grand Niece.

Please be advised that I will be responsible for any costs incurred for photocopies over the allowed limit of free photocopies.

Very truly yours, [signature omitted]

The Burial File contained:

  • Grave Location Sheet which contains his location of burial in the French cemetery and parent s contact information.
  • A statement about Michael s death.
  • A card filled out by Joseph, his father, requesting his remains be sent home to Chicago and then to the Funeral Home of Joseph Marik.
  • Report of Disinternment and Reburial which has his grave location in France, dental records, state of the body, and type of casket.
  • Burial records from France.
  • Disinterment records from France that show what ship his remains would sail on to the United States. The port where his remains would arrive. The information for travel by rail for his remains from the port to Chicago. Information for Joseph on the procedure for accepting his son s remains at the rail depot in Chicago.
  • Handwritten correspondence from his father, Joseph, to the government asking and pleading for their son s remains to be returned.
  • Records from the Quartermaster regarding Michael s remains arriving in the United States.
  • Information on the undertaker and where the remains were to be taken and buried. This included a change of cemeteries

This file is a gold mine of information.

4.  When I received the burial file it contained Michael's Army Serial Number. Using this number I was able to send the Standard Form 180 obtained from the National Archives website here: I mailed the form to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis hoping to obtain his Army records. Unfortunately there was a massive fire at the facility in 1973 and over 80% of the Army records burned. I had no luck getting his records. It was worth a try though.

5.  My next step in locating some other service records was to search the Illinois State Archives. I discovered they had World War I Bonus Applications and Payment records. Majdalena and Joseph Kokoska, Michael s parents were able to fill out forms to receive monies after Michael s death in France. When I received these records I was happily surprised to find:
  • A handwritten affidavit from my great great grandfather, Jan Zajicek, vouching for Majdalena and Joseph as the parents of Michael.
  • Another affidavit signed by someone I did not recognize.
  • The application also contained Majdalena's signature, something I had never seen. She and Joseph were Bohemian Immigrants in 1880 and she could barely write her own name.
6.  Upon further research I discovered some states have Statement of Service Cards  for World War I. These records, if they exist, are held with the Adjutant General for the State. There is an interesting article about these cards here. The state of Illinois does not have these records. I confirmed this with both the Illinois State Archives and the Great Lakes (Chicago Branch) of the National Archives. The Great Lakes region does have Textual Reference materials that have information on men who were drafted for World War I. I have not yet explored these documents. I was told if someone enlisted, the records are held in Washington, D.C.

7.  Knowing the Division Michael was in, I have been able to obtain and read several Unit History books about the 32nd Division. While these books did not specifically mention Michael, except in the death lists, they did give great background information on the history, movement during the war and homecoming of the Division. There is a set of books called, "The Order of Battle", see my Bibliography page for more information on these books. There are five for World War I. They contain all the movements of each unit in the War. I was able to trace where Michael s Division, down to his company, moved through the time period he was in France.

8.  I also searched major Chicago newspapers for information. I was able to locate a couple of articles and photos of Michael, one which included the names of three of his brothers and which Army units they were serving in, stateside. 9.  In addition to major city newspapers, I am also able to search the Czech language paper, The Denni Hlasatel. These papers are found on microfilm in many Chicago and Illinois area libraries. Newspaper holdings are searchable through the Illinois Newspaper Project.

All of this information put together has given me a great start to writing his story as part of my family history. I hope the steps I followed aid you in your search.

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