WWII Marine Robert E. Bishop – A Case Study
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When we begin World War II research, we often search as many online indexes and databases as possible, usually beginning with Ancestry. And while there, we usually see if there is a family tree that has records attached to it. If there is a photograph of the individual, that is a huge bonus. Robert Edmund Bishop Meet Robert E. Bishop, born 1 August 1919 in Michigan and adopted within months of his birth by Ward and Evelyn Bishop. If you click his name, you will be taken to an Ancestry member tree where there is a very handsome photo of Robert. Robert was a Naval aviator who transferred into the U.S. Marine Corps after training. He is one of the Marines I conducted extensive research on for my Stories from the World War II Battlefield research books. If you examine his family tree, there are several things you will learn about his service from some major record sets. Not every possible record Ancestry has is linked to this tree, but you will get an overview of what is available. Did you know the indexes provided on Ancestry do not show every record available within a record collection' If you investigate the record collections more deeply than scanning the index, you will find gold. Case in point, Marine Corps Muster Rolls. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls Looking at Robert's family tree you see two muster rolls attached for July 1943 and October 1944. In July 1943, he is part of the Vmsb-341, Mag-24, Third Marine Aircraft Wing, Fmf, Atlantic Field, North Carolina. In October 1944 he is part of the Prisoners Of War and Missing Persons Detachment, Hq., U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines were the only branch of the military that moved men from the morning reports or "muster rolls" to a separate POW/MIA list if they were taken prisoner or were missing in action. In the Marine Corps, those who were prisoners or missing were left on these rolls until 1946. At that time, the Army, Navy, and Marines had emptied the Japanese POW camps and knew who had survived and who had not. Those who had not survived, or had not yet been located, were given a "finding of death." This was the official death date for that Marine. The muster roll indicated when the Marine was officially missing in action and when he was officially declared dead. If you view Robert's January 1946 muster roll, you will learn when he went missing in action and when he was officially declared deceased. 33068_272470-00076 Ancestry has additional muster rolls available for Robert E. Bishop. What a lot of people do not know is only the months of January, April, July, and October are indexed for each year. Every month in between is available on the site. It just requires some digging to find the next month and roll to view. How do you find these other rolls' First, use the indexes available to create or add to a timeline of service for the Marine you are researching. Once you know what units he was part of, you can click on the roll number above the image (just below the collection title). This will provide a drop-down menu of additional rolls to view. Move forward or backward through the rolls, depending on where you start your search. It takes time and patience to locate the next month you seek between the indexed months, but the rewards are worth the effort. Here are some other collections we can consult to possibly learn more about Robert, or for the World War II veterans in your family. World War II Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Casualties, 1941-1945 This list of casualties includes those who were killed in action and whose remains were located and those whose were not. The list does not specify if remains were located, only that the sailor or Marine was a casualty of the war. This record set is helpful because it provides the name and address of the next of kin. U.S., Navy Casualties Books, 1776-1941 You may question why a Marine aviator would be listed in the Navy Casualties book. The Marine Corps was under the authority of the Navy during World War II. This means when you search for Marine Corps records, you should also search Navy records because information is often included in those records. World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas This list of casualties includes those who were killed in action and whose remains were located and those whose remains were not. It is important to pay attention to the Monument and Last Known Status for the soldier, sailor, or Marine. Many, like Robert Bishop, were never recovered and are listed on a tablet or wall of the missing somewhere with a status of "missing." This also means if you find a grave marker in the U.S. for one of the missing, it is a memorial stone unless the American Battle Monument Commission website shows an update stating that the remains were recovered. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current The Find A Grave entries must also be examined carefully for the same reasons as I stated in the World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas section. Just because a name is on a stone does not always mean the individual is buried there. Final Thoughts ? Editing the Family Tree It is important to pay attention not only to where a person is buried but also to the location of death. Robert's death place is listed as Fort William McKinley, Manila, the Philippines. This is not where he died. Robert likely died over the ocean on a mission. His name, however, is inscribed on the Table of the Missing at Fort William McKinley, which is in a record attached to the death entry. To make the family tree correct, it would be better to edit the death location and put Rabaul, New Britain, and also cite the January 1946 Marine Corps muster roll as the source of this information. This is where he went missing and is likely the location of his death. To learn more about World War II research and see examples of other records to help tell a Marine's story, visit my World War II Research and Writing Center and explore the additional resource files for my books, which you may download and examine.