Last week, we shared a story with you about Mario San Paolo’s search for the owner of dog tags he found 15 years ago. Since that story was published, we’ve received dozens of tips from our Facebook followers, but nothing that helped us connect directly with William Francis White’s family.
We also reached out to our colleagues throughout VA to see if we could track down any information about White that might connect us to him or his family. Not every Veteran uses VA’s services. If they don’t, we won’t have any contact information for them. If they do, the contact information might be out of date, or old enough to have been archived. That’s what we found when we went looking for William White.
Military records show William Francis White served on the USS LCI (L) 547.
The dog tags found by San Paolo, a reservist with the U.S. Coast Guard, included White’s service number. From that, one of VA’s team members found that White, a Navy reservist, had served aboard the USS LCI (L) 547. At the time, it was stationed in the Phillipines.
During World War II, the ship was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific theater and participated in four campaigns, including the Manila Bay-Bicol operations in April 1945.
Another VA team member was able to confirm William Francis White served in the U.S. Navy Reserves from July 1943 to May 1946. She also was able to identify that White passed away on April 30, 1971, and his records were archived more than 40 years ago.
With that information, and publicly available records from Ancestry.com, we determined that the Navy Veteran died in Hingham, Mass. A colleague of mine outside VA, Don Bowman, found White’s obituary online. We learned the name of his wife, mother and two brothers – John and Richard – which might have given us a starting point to find a surviving relative. But we also found Eileen White’s obituary from just a few years later in 1976. Listed as survivors were an aunt and “several cousins.”
Census records from 1940 show that William, John and Richard lived at 122 Boston Post Rd. in Wayland, Middlesex Co., Mass., with their parents, Frances J. and Mary M. White. Mary was an Irish immigrant.
Even with the census records and obituaries, finding next of kin still proved challenging. There was one place left within VA to check to see if William White had any survivors who we might be able to connect with San Paolo.
VA’s National Cemetery Administration operates 131 national cemeteries in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Burial and memorial benefits are available for eligible Servicemembers, Veterans, and family members. Surviving family members can request at no charge to the applicant, a headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. Records are kept of these requests and form the basis of a valuable tool for genealogists, VA’s Nationwide Gravesite Locator. Searching the name “William Francis White” leads us to nine Veterans with that name who have passed away that have a headstone, marker or medallion. None was the one we hoped to find.
Monterey County resident Mario San Paolo, a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, found dog tags belonging to World War II veteran William Francis White lying in the dirt near a Castroville swimming pool 15 years ago, when he was 10 years old. (Photo by Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald)
Mario San Paolo would still like to return the dog tags he found to a relative of William Francis White.
San Paolo told us that one of the reasons he wants to is because his family has so very few physical mementos of his own grandfather’s military service during World War II. He said the family doesn’t have any items — dog tags, a uniform, medals — that once belonged to his grandfather, though they did find a citation for a Purple Heart he received.
Neither William or Eilleen White’s obituaries include the names of any children as survivors. William’s brothers, John N. White and Richard P. White, appear to have been in Hingham, Mass. His mother was Mary White of Wayland, Mass. Eileen Cronin White died on Feb. 28, 1976 in Mashpee, Mass., and was the niece of Sabina Noonan of Dorchester.
Do you have family or friends in the Boston area who might know the relatives of Navy Veteran William Francis White? If you do, let us know. Leave a comment below.