Wesley Johnston's
History of the 38th Armored Infantry Battalion:
Status of Writing the History

7th Armored Division
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Last updated: May 2, 2008 - What's New?
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My father, Walter G. Johnston, Jr., served in the 38th Armored Infantry Battalion from November 1944 for the duration. He died in 1954, and I never learned much about his experiences in the war. It was not until 1994, during the 50th anniversary of World War II, that I began to try to find out the story he would have told me if he had lived to tell it. In December 1994, I walked the forested hillside east of St. Vith, Belgium. Many of the foxholes are still there. I wondered: who were these men who fought for their lives in these holes in the ground in December 1944? And there, standing in one of those foxholes, I decided to learn the names of those men and to tell the story of the entire 38th Armored Infantry Battalion.

November 8, 2004 Update
So how am I doing?

The rains came 2 weeks early this year -- right after my last update. As a result, I am now down to about 40% effectiveness -- though that is still a lot better than a year ago. I am able to do a lot, as long as I take it slowly and cautiously and keep my expectations realistic.

NOTE: I will not update this page as often as I update my health status on the site map page. So if you want to see my most recent status, click here.

And what have I been doing since my last update (October 14)?

There are two significant results to report on my progress on the six sources of the files (which I now realize is 6,200+ and not 5,500+ as I previously estimated) that I brought back from my September research trip: (1) the Reunion, (2) research for 4 days at the Military History Institute, (3) research 5 days at the National Archives, (4) see the WWII Memorials, (5) visit two A/38 veterans/families, and (6) visit my family in Chicago. All but three rooms of my house now has piles of WWII papers and books and folders.

  • Completion of preliminary inventory of records from Military History Institute
    I have now completed the preliminary inventory from #2 above (MHI; I already had done #3 - National Archives). I brought home 2,826 files from there:
    • 2,182 images of records of or about 7th Armored Division
    • 608 images of records from non-7AD units (US Army Post-war Manuscripts on German Units, XX Corps, and more)
    • 36 other files and images (Finding Aids)
    This brings the total for both MHI and the National Archives (NARA) to 4,921 files:
    • 3,678 images of records of or about 7th Armored Division
    • 1,127 images of records from non-7AD units
    • 116 other files and images
    Now I will work on organizing #1 -- the Reunion files -- and finally following up on the requests that made to me at the Reunion and recorded in one of those files.
  • New Auxiliary 7AD Web Page for Document Transcriptions
    I have now transcribed 17 documents (12 from NARA, 5 from MHI), totalling 275 pages (94 from from NARA, 181 from MHI) or about 5.6% of the total files I brought home -- so just a small fraction. I have posted all of these transcriptions (text-only) on a new Auxiliary 7th Armored Division Web Site. This was necessary because these documents already take up much more space than I had left on my America Online account. To see the new web site, go to the 7th Armored Division Document Repository web page (http://www.7thArmdDiv.org/docrep).

And what is the status of the book?

Until I sort out what I already had before my 3-week trip as well as the 6,200+ files that I brought home from my research trip, I will not resume working on the book. In fact, I am not even reading much less answering the vast bulk of my e-mail until the end of the year or until I get all these files organized, whichever is sooner. So please be patient about e-mail -- and do keep me up to date if your e-mail address changes.

.................................................................................................................... Wesley Johnston

October 14, 2004 Update
So how am I doing?

I am still about 50%-60% of where I was before my chronic fatigue began -- now 9 years ago. But considering that I just spent 3 weeks on the road, followed by 3 intense weeks at home (computer problems) AND that it is October, which is when I have fallen apart every year up until last year, I am doing pretty good for all that I have accomplished. And have good hopes for continuing to accomplish more -- since there is a LOT more that needs to be done.

NOTE: I will not update this page as often as I update my health status on the site map page. So if you want to see my most recent status, click here.

And what have I been doing since my last update (June 28)?

July and August were spent sorting out what turned out to be 11 (and not 8) boxes that I hauled in from the garage. This process was not finished by the time that I left my home in Clovis, CA for my 3-week trip to PA-MD-DC to (1) the Reunion, (2) research for 4 days at the Military History Institute, (3) research 5 days at the National Archives, (4) see the WWII Memorials, (5) visit two A/38 veterans/families, and (6) visit my family in Chicago. So one room of my house is completely covered in paper that still has to be sorted.

But now I have a huge additional task. I came home with over 5,500 images of documents, maps, books, photos, etc. -- 4 gigabytes of data on my laptop. That meant I had to install a new hard drive on my desktop, where I do all my heavy work. The installation went fine, but I renamed some files that I thought were obsolete -- BIG ERROR. They were not obsolete, and I completely lost my computer for several days. While it is getting better (through lots of effort by me) every day, it will take weeks to get it back into prime shape. But at least I now have the added disk space. So I have been able to resume organizing those 5,500+ new computer files. In fact, I also want to find out just how in the world I created that many files in just 3 weeks. It seems staggering to think that I did that much work.

And now I have made a preliminary inventory of the files that I created in item 3 above -- my 5 days at the National Archives. I created 2,095 files there:

  • 1,496 images of records of 7th Armored Division
  • 519 images of records from non-7AD units (XX Corps [450 images], 3rd Cavalry Group [38], Ninth Army [2] and a unique study of combat exhaustion among 29th Inf Div troops [29])
  • 80 other files and images (Finding Aids created by the Archives [55], Spreadsheets and copies of record requests to keep track of my searches [16], photos of National Archives II [9])
So I really did do all that work -- 2,095 files in just 5 days.

Now I have to make a similar inventory of the files for the other five activities of my trip. And once I finish making the inventories, I can then start the process of actually reading and integrating the content of these 5,500+ files into what I know about 38 AIB and 7AD in World War II.

As I organize and read and integrate these things, you will not have to wait for me to finish writing the book to see some of what I have found. I find it very helpful to create web pages to order what I know, and those new web pages will appear from time to time. One of them already has, even though it is just a bare nub of a web page so far. This is a web page about the largely unknown and unpublished story of US troops in Holland (OTHER THAN Operation Market-Garden) -- of which 7th Armored Division was a major part. Have a look at it at http://www.7thArmdDiv.org/us-troops-in-holland.htm.

And what is the status of the book?

Until I sort out what I already had before my 3-week trip as well as the 5,500+ files that I brought home from the trip, I will not resume working on the book. I need to be able to find and verify the facts. I need to be able to quote them exactly and to cite them, so that I am sure that the history that I am writing is as accurate as I can make it. And that means putting everything in order first -- so that I can find it when I need it. I also have built up a huge e-mail backlog, since I have stopped answering all but the most absolutely critical e-mails until I get the archival records organized -- while it is still fresh in my mind. So once I finish the organizing -- which I hope to do by Thanksgiving -- then I will finally start working through the massive e-mail backlog, which I hope to finish by mid-January. Once I finish that, I will see where I am in my research and in my health and strength, and then I will decide if I can at that point finally resume writing the history. The big difference of this year's hope from prior years is that I am actually very actively working on making it possible to resume writing, while in past years all I could do was to hope that I could even get to the point where I now am. So there is much more optimism that I will finally resume writing in 2005.

.................................................................................................................... Wesley Johnston

June 28, 2004 Update
So how am I doing?

In December 1995-January 1996, after a lifetime of sinus infections and three related surgeries, I suffered the final in a series of sinus infections that pushed my body beyond its limits. As a result, I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue ever since. The sinus infections continued every 2.5 months, like clockwork: infection, antibiotics to knock it out, resistance until the antibiotics wore off, then new infection. This cycle continued to weaken me, though with careful lifestyle changes, I was able to have some periods of relative stamina. I did begin work on the book, but since becoming very ill again in September 1998, the book has been on hold, waiting for my health to improve. My health continued to worsen ever Winter (roughly from mid-October to mid-May). No medical specialist was able to figure out the cause of my chronic fatigue.

Finally, I heard from a friend of a friend about a doctor who really knew about Chronic Fatigue and how to treat it: Dr. Robert David Tufft, of Oakland, CA. He discovered that a 1993 upper-jaw root canal that looked fine below the jaw line had a tiny fracture in the root of the tooth above the jaw line. This tiny fracturee was plenty of room for bacteria to form an abscess, which did appear to be present on the right kind of x-rays. Surgery in January 2000 found a "massive" abscess, which harbored two kinds of bacteria. These bacteria were safe, since no blood flow went to the abscess. So the series of infections and antibiotics -- and the chronic fatigue -- was apparently all due to this abscess, which was safe from the antibiotics, since no blood flow went to the abscess. Removing the abscess and sealing the tooth did break the cycle of sinus infections.

However, I was very weak after years of these infections. Making matters worse, the infections had led to my prostate antigen levels being high, which led to 3 prostate biopsies in 2000-2002, which found no prostate cancer but which weakened me even more. So I have been on a very slow recovery since January 2000. In 2002, I found Okada Purifying Therapy (OPT), which I have been able to receive regularly since retiring in September 2003. So right now my health is stable enough to at least consider the possibility of resuming work on the book, for the first time in 6 years.

NOTE: I will not update this page as often as I update my health status on the site map page. So if you want to see my most recent status, click here.

And what is the status of the book?

First the bad news. The book is still on hold, still in the form that it was left in August 1998, when I had to suspend work. At that time, I had completed 170 pages of the first draft, covering the official records through 27 Nov 1944.

Now some good news. During those years, I have continued research, within my health limits and the limits of my life's other commitments. In particular, I have obtained all of the rolls of Morning Report microfilm for 38 AIB's entire existence, from September 1943 to October 1945, and I have obtained all of the Individual Deceased Personnel Files for all of those 38 AIB men who died overseas. I have also obtained other records and contacts, which have helped to answer some of my questions. There is more research yet to be done. For example, I have not yet obtained all of the 7th Armored Division General Orders.

I have now at least begun the process of preparing to resume work on the book. The preparation means:

  1. taking the boxes of postal mail that I have received since 1998 and sorting and filing them, including scanning any pictures, maps, documents, etc.: a huge task - so far I have identified 8 boxes, each containing 1.1 cubic feet of paper
  2. resuming work on indexing the Morning Reports during the combat months, which are about 60% done - but also scanning them now, so that I do not have to go to the library for a microfilm reader -- there are 29 reels of microfilm
  3. resuming work on transcribing, indexing and annotating the WWII documents relevant to 38 AIB - about 4 boxes of these
  4. organizing all of the e-mail that I have received since 1998: a huge task in itself - thousands of e-mails from hundreds of people
  5. organizing and cataloging all of the scanned images (photos, maps, documents, etc.) that I have, so that they are readily accessible - about 9 Gigabytes of about 3,000 - 4,000 image files
  6. updating and expanding the 38 AIB web pages, which is one way of organizing the data, while also making it more available to everyone -- the Decorations web page is the first step on this
  7. continuing to do new research where I see that it is needed -- gathering more notes, more pictures, more maps, etc. -- not a task that has to be done before resuming writing of the book but one which goes on daily and thus generates more on-going organizing
  8. ... and there is probably something that I am not even seeing right now that will also need doing ...

Clearly there is a lot of work to do before I even start writing the book again. But to make the book accurate, I need to have all of these materials readily available while I am writing the book. In the 1998 effort, even with my materials organized, I found that it took ONE HOUR TO WRITE ONE PARAGRAPH, since I am taking great care to make sure that what I write is accurate.

I am also thinking that instead of a single volume, it is more within my ability to do it if I break it into four volumes: France, Holland, Belgium, Germany. I do not want to have everything fall apart again, as it did in 1998. So I am going to be proceeding with super-caution, taking time out to see what I am doing that is right and what is wrong for my life, rather than trying to bull ahead, only to have my life come crashing in around me. But at least for now, I am beginning -- for the first time in 6 years -- to do the enormous job of sorting and filing that is the first step toward resuming the writing of the book.

.................................................................................................................... Wesley Johnston

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