The chronicle of this woman's perpetual game of hide-and-seek with her ancestors
I used to giggle when I saw men wandering around the beaches with their metal detectors. Not anymore.
It all started last Saturday with an email. Brian, a gentleman who lives in Yepoon, Queensland, Australia, contacted me and said that his friend was using his metal detector on the beach in Keppel Sands and found a ring. He believed from the markings that it must have belonged to someone from the South Dakota National Guard 147th Field Artillery Regiment. This ring has probably been under sea and sand for at least 60 years! He searched the internet and found these previous blog posts about my grandfather during World War II.
He asked me if I could identify the emblems on the ring as belonging to the 147th Field Artillery:
Unfortunately, the emblems assigned to the 147th have changed over the years – mainly because the Battalion was deactivated after World War II, and reactivated during the Korean War. It has been reorganized a time or two since then, and new emblems were assigned back in 1971. I’ve had a hard time finding any images of the emblems associated with the 147th during World War II.
I found a brief history of the Battalion written by Robert G. Webb using the journals kept by Captain William H. Daly. The 147th left San Francisco in November 1941, and stopped in Pearl Harbor on 30 November. By the time the Japanese attacked on December 7, the convoy of ships with the 147th was about 1500 miles southwest of Hawaii. They were diverted to the Fiji Islands until mid December, then spent Christmas in Brisbane, Australia. On December 28, they traveled north inside the Great Barrier Reef until they arrived at Darwin on January 6. Their camp was about 15 miles inland. They were the first Americans to raise a U.S. flag on Australian soil.
The 147th became part of the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Command, but after the ABDA disbanded, the 147th remained attached to Australia’s Northern Territory Forces. They stayed in Darwin for 6 months, throughout the multiple air raids on Darwin by the Japanese. I think one or two Captains from the 147th are still buried up there, having been killed in one of the raids. On June 29, the 147th started by truck over the Great North Road to Alice Springs. They finally reached their destination of Ballarat by train on July 8, and remained there for three months.
In October 1942, the 147th was assigned to Camp Cable, just outside of Brisbane. In February 1943, they followed the First Corps of the U.S. Sixth Army from Camp Cable to Rockhampton. The First Battalion of the 147th stayed there until June 1943, when the 147th was assigned to the islands of Woodlark and Kiriwina off the coast of New Guinea. The Second Battalion left in July and joined the First at Milne Bay in New Guinea.
This is the historic marker found at Bicentennial Park in Darwin, NT, Australia:
Given that the 147th was in or near Keppel Sands twice during the time they were in Australia, it is entirely possible that the ring belongs to one of the men from that unit. Plus, the emblem on the marker is similar to the emblem on one side of the ring.
I have contacted the Curator at the South Dakota National Guard Museum in Pierre to see if he can identify the emblems on the ring and confirm that it belonged to a member of the 147th. I can’t wait to hear back!
Do we share any ancestors?