Researching the 39th Machine Records Unit has been a somewhat frustrating task as there is not much information to be found. On top of this, my grandfather’s letters don’t say much of what they were doing in Europe. All he ever told us was that they logged soldiers’ deaths.
I read a book yesterday called General Patton’s Punch Cards (I highly recommend this book if you’d like to know more about M.R.U.s. It’s a very short read, yet incredibly informative) and was relieved to find that the author of the book had experienced the same frustration. It turns out that everything about Machine Records Units was top secret.
In Province’s own words: “The soldiers were told not to report, write in their letters home, or take pictures of the trucks, machines, or anything having to do with the operation of the units. By the time the top secret clearances were lifted—decades later—most of the historical material had been either destroyed or lost.” (33)
It wasn’t that my grandfather didn’t want to talk about his time in the war. He couldn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if he died without ever knowing the top secret clearances had been lifted. Just before I left Texas I found an envelope with photo negatives from my grandfather’s time in Normandy and Germany. I wonder what we will find once they are developed. Stay tuned…