The end of the year with its holidays focused on family and gratitude always bring me back to thinking about my ancestors and their lives and being grateful that I’ve had the time and funds to research and explore their lives for the last thirty plus years. One ancestor who I heard a lot about growing up, but never had the opportunity to meet was my Great-Uncle Miles. Uncle Miles was my maternal grandmother’s baby brother. A few weeks back when I posted a genealogy tip on researching in military records I promised to post an example of my travails researching two World War II military record. So, here I will provide you a glimpse into Uncle Miles’ life (and his wife’s who out-ranked him) and a presentation of how I got there one little bit at a time.
Miles was born on 11 August 1912 in Santa Rosa County to William Franklin and Mary Malissa HART KING. He was the 10th child of eleven. His oldest sister, my grandmother, was married two years later so as with many families from this time period, the family was well spread out through time. He led a somewhat uneventful life in his early years, at least as far as anyone remembered and I could find.
The King family had no history of serving in the military that I’ve been able to document. His older brother, John had to register for WWI but it was right at the end of the war so he didn’t serve. It is really unclear why Miles decided his route lay with the Army Air Corp. It certainly is possible that the depths of the Depression and the struggles that families around the upper Yellow River area were enduring, led him to think that leaving home would be a win all around. Or maybe he was drawn to military service and the possibility for travel. Regardless of why he decided to join, on 4 November 1933 he enlisted at Maxwell Field outside of Montgomery, Alabama. His initial enlistment was for three years. When the 1935 Florida census was done, he was home on leave, listing his occupation as “Army”. If I had found this record early on, I would have saved myself some time. A good reason to look at all available census records before moving to more detail.
For many years I was under the impression that he had joined or was drafted when World War II started so I was surprised and perplexed when I couldn’t initially find him in the WWII registrations. I had some pictures of him he sent to my grandmother while he was stationed in the Pacific during the War, so I knew he was stationed there for at least part of the War and I knew he was a Master Sergeant in some of the pictures. Since I too served in the Army during Vietnam, I came to realize that it was likely he was in the service before the war started since it is a bit unusual to go from a Private to a high ranking non-commissioned officer in less than two years. I also knew that at some point he had gone to Officer Candidate School and specialized in hospital administration. Both my grandmother and my mother told me that. And I knew he married a woman named Dorothy either during or after his service and they settled in Texas. I knew she had been a military nurse during the war. I made contact with a cousin in the 90s, the son of Miles’ youngest sister Ovella and he gave me Dorothy’s last name as Rice. With these bits of data, I started trying to put their lives together a few years ago in preparation for a family reunion.
I started by sending a request for whatever could be sent to a non-direct relative for both Miles and Dorothy. To be honest, I did a bit of begging since they had no children and I wanted the family to know their military history. As I’ve mentioned in a number of previous posts, many Army records were lost in the fire in the National Personnel Records Center in 1973. What I got back was sketchy but way more than I had before the request. It was through this request that I learned he joined in 1933 at Maxwell Field. He remained a Private First Class during this initial enlistment. He re-enlisted in 1936 and quickly moved up in rank. By the war, he was a Sergeant and moving through those non-commissioned ranks as well. I know from the pictures that he was in the Philippines and in the Tactical Air Command, which has helped me piece together his unit’s movements as well. He re-enlisted a second time on 4 January 1946 and chose to transfer to the new military branch, the Air Force, and attend Officer Candidate School becoming a 1st Lieutenant on 16 April 1951.
His first turn of duty after becoming an officer was Eielson Air Force Base at the North Pole, Alaska. I bet that was a shock for a Florida boy. He served first with the Air Force’s 5010th Medical Group, first as a Base Account Medical Supply Officer then as a Medical Services Administrator. In 1952, he was transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ and served with the 303rd Medical Group first as Group Adjutant, then Hospital Medical Supply Officer, then Hospital Adjutant. This is likely when he met Dorothy since she was also stationed here during this time period.
Dorothy Marie RICE was born on 29 June 1908 in Alton, Illinois to Edith Ida KOHLMEYER and Frederick RICE. Dorothy appears to have studied the piano and took singing lessons since I found her mentioned a number of times in recitals in the Alton Evening Telegraph. In 1928, the newspaper mentioned a going away party for Dorothy Rice who was leaving for St. Louis to attend nursing school. Dorothy joined the Army on 15 January 1941. It appears that she spent at least some of the War at Davis-Monthan where it is possible she received her training as a flight nurse. She served in Tachikawa, Japan during the occupation after the War and in the Phillippines with the 801st Medical Evacuation Squadron. It was here that I found a couple of references to a Dorothy Rice in a military newsletter where she was participating in a musical on base. She also served with the 6163rd and the 403rd Medical Groups during the Korean Conflict and with the Continental Air Command Allied Rapid Reaction Corp in support of NATO. She was transferred back to Davis-Monthan with the 803rd and likely met Miles while both were working in the hospital there.
They were married on 2 June 1954 in Tucson, AZ. She retired from active duty with the Air Force on 1 June 1955 as a Major, though it appears from her records that she was in the Reserves until 1962 when she completely left the service as a Lt. Colonel. Miles was transferred to Chaumont Air Base in France for 3 years in 1955. He transferred back to the States in 1958 and served in a variety of administrative positions until he retired as a Major in May 1961. They settled in Turtle Creek near Kerrville, Texas where Dorothy was very active with the Turtle Creek Community Church, as a founding member and as treasurer. Dorothy passed away in 1980 and was buried at the Garden of Memories in Kerrville. Miles lived 12 more years and passed away in January 1992. He is buried with Dorothy at the Garden of Memories Cemetery.
Some of the details the Personnel Office sent me were lists of medals earned by both.
Miles’ Decorations and Awards
the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Air Force Longevity Service Award with 1 Silver Oak Leaf Cluster.
Dorothy’s Decorations and Awards
the WWII Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Japan Clasp, the Korean Service Medal, the Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, the American Defense Medal, the Distinguished Unit Citation, and the Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with 3 bronze campaign stars.
This will be my last history post until 31 December 2018. I take the holidays off from my blog to spend with my Mom, family and working on some of my other projects. I hope to finish much of the draft for my book on the Upper Yellow River area and get a few other projects started or finished. You can follow me on Facebook at www.fb.me/NWFloridaHistory where I will continue to post short items on history and genealogy through the holidays. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. It is a time to enjoy family and be grateful for all we have. May Peace and Joy be with you until next time.