If you’re just joining in on this series, welcome (and welcome back to those of you who have been following along). Today I’m going to share the first of three posts from the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) of three Navy service members during World War II. These records are available at the National Archives – National Personnel Records Center at St. Louis, Missouri. Navy personnel records often come in tri-fold envelopes, and many of them contain negatives for personnel photos (which I’ll show later this week), but this particular file came to the research room in a flat file folder.
As you can see, these are the original onion-skin and/or cardstock pages, and some of them have been preserved in sleeves by the archival team at NARA. Let me tell you, it’s a really cool feeling to open one of these files with the weight of history behind them. Some of the pages, particularly in the tri-fold envelopes, have been folded and creased since a clerk in the Bureau of Naval Personnel may have shoved them in seventy plus years ago. Everything I’m going to tell you below comes from details in the 39 pages of this file, with the exception of one detail added from a Navy muster roll.
First things first: If you’ll remember, this photo was rescued from EBay with only a name LaVern F. Martin. I identified who I initially thought were two candidates, but amended in Part 2 last week. So how do I know that this file belongs with this photo? Unfortunately, this file did not have a personnel photo, like so many of the Navy files do, so I went off of two details. The first being his matching signature:
The second being a detail in his medical examination from February 1944 – a 2″ scar on his left cheek, which you can see just below his left eye in the photo. Based on those two things, I think we have a match! Now on to his story:
LaVern Francis Martin was born 2 June 1926 in Capac, St. Clair County, Michigan to Harold Carr & Gretel Esther (Chapin) Martin. His parents divorced in 1934, and custody was granted to his mother, who moved them to Rochester, Oakland County, Michigan. She remarried to Robert Craig.
LaVern was 5′ 7 1/2″ with blue eyes and brown hair and a ruddy complexion. He finished one year of high school before leaving school (probably not voluntarily). He played the cornet and was the section leader in band, he enjoyed baseball and building model airplanes. When he left school he went to work at Frank Adcock’s Service Station in Ferndale, Michigan, where he spent 18 months as a gas station attendant – biding his time before he was old enough to join up and serve his country.
When he was 17 (about three months shy of his 18th birthday), his mother Gretel signed her consent and LaVern voluntarily enlisted for two years in the US Naval Reserve on 22 February 1944 at nearby Pontiac, Michigan. He was accepted into the service as an Apprentice Seaman Class V-6 and was sent to US Naval Training Center Great Lakes (Waukegan, IL – north of Chicago), where he became part of Company 404-44. His interest was in furthering his schooling, particularly in refrigeration and electrical work, skills that would transfer to his eventual life after the Navy. His schooling at Great Lakes and his natural interest in airplanes took him into the Navy’s Aviation Division. By February 1945, Lavern was
stationed at Naval Air Station Ottumwa, Iowa and then at Naval Air Station Clinton, Oklahoma by the time his enlistment was up in April 1946. Although the War had officially ended the previous fall, he must have felt fulfillment in his work, because he re-enlisted for two additional years in the active Navy. With his switch from Navy Reserve to Navy, he was assigned the rank of Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class (AMM 3/c). He stayed at NAS Clinton, Oklahoma for a time and went through the Midshipmen Summer Aviation Training Program before boarding a troop ship to Guam.
He spent the following year in Guam with the Air Transport Squadron Seven and Squadron Ten, and earned a promotion to AMM 2/c. His job encompassed overhauling Lycoming R680 aircraft engines, and calibrating and troubleshooting the instrument panels for the Navy’s aircraft. He also studied for and passed his G.E.D. test, earning his high school equivalency diploma while he was stationed there. The Navy began consolidating the Air Transport Program, and his enlistment was reduced to one year,
and by November 1947, he was on back on the troop ship USS General W A Mann (AP-112) heading to San Francisco. LaVern was honorably discharged from the Navy at Receiving Station San Francisco on 16 December 1947.
At age 21, LaVern went home to Michigan, where he found work as a repairman in a factory at Rochester. He also signed on for four more years as an inactive member of the Naval Reserve, Great Lakes Region, finally being honorably discharged after 8 years of service in 1952.
He married Maida Jean Davison in 1948, and they had four children, all of whom are now deceased. LaVern died in 1984 at Lapeer County, Michigan.
I hope you all enjoyed “meeting” Lavern F. Martin, and will join me later in the week to meet Orin Queen and Leffie Martin.
I’m passionate about telling the stories of service members, particularly in World War II, and if you’d like to find out more about the military records of service members in your own family or obtain personnel records from NARA St. Louis, please see our services page. I’d be happy to answer questions and help you obtain those records in order to tell the stories of your own family.
If you are a descendant of Lavern F. Martin, I’d love to return his photograph and his service record to your safe-keeping. Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org