I know there's a section to post WWII German Issued POW Tags, but this story is far to complex to cram into there. So I thought I’d share it here!
I have been looking for a German issued POW tag attributed to an American Soldier for quite some time. Unfortunately most for sale are ether not issued to Americans or the history behind them is unknown… Those with history can be very expensive and hard to find! So a few months ago when a WWII German Issued POW Tag popped up on eBay I deiced to take a chance and buy it! The seller, from Ohio, posted very little in the description, so I decided to message him to see if I could find out more.
The seller told me he found the tag while cleaning out his friend’s dad’s house in the 1970’s. The seller stated he found the tag and recognized it as a German issued POW tag because his father was an ex-POW. He said he asked the friend about the tag and the friend said he could have it. After years of sitting around, the seller decided to offer it up on eBay.
Anyhow, the seller told me his friends name was Ralph Ball, and he believed his father was also named Ralph but wasn’t 100%. So I did some digging and I think the seller did some too… He must have gone on the NARA POW site where you can search POW names because he did find a “Ralph Ball” who was in Stalag 12A and from Ohio. The seller was now confident in telling me “Ralph” was the guy! I wasn’t so easily convinced, so I did my own digging and red flags started popping up!
First, the number range seem off for the date “Ralph” was captured and he was an Officer… Secondly, I found a obit notice for “Ralph” and it made no mention of a Son… Third, Ralph lived across the state and the seller told me he was from Cleveland… All those things made me think “Ralph” wasn’t the right guy…
After searching the last name “Ball” on the NARA POW site and running a few enlisted serial numbers, I finally found a candidate that matched the hometown location, time frame, and family member! Unfortunately, the only thing odd was the Stalag didn’t match that on the tag…So I was 99% sure “Russell Ball” was my guy! Unfortunately, very little was posted on the NARA POW site about him… It only mentioned he was in the Signal Corps.
So I thought that’s where my story would end… Only 99% sure I had the right guy but never really knowing… Not ready to give up I decided to send off to St. Louis to see if any military files existed for him. That was a shot in the dark as 90% of the WWII Files were destroyed in the fire… After several months of nothing, I finally got a response saying damaged files were located and were being treated. I was surprised but only expecting 5 or less pages of ash or final payment notices… Was I in for a big surprise!!!
When the files came in there was some 75 pages!! By some miracle, his Army Personnel file had survived the fire! Yes, there were many burnt tops and edges, but for the most part the file was complete!
To my great surprise the unit listed for Russell Ball was the 101st Airborne Signal Company of the 101st Airborne Division! Ball was one of the original members of the 101st Division, a transfer from the 82nd Airborne that help create the 101st Airborne Division in 1942! Amazingly there were still more surprises to come!
Staff Sergeant Ball was captured in Normandy, France on June 6th 1944, D-Day!! Along with 8 other men in his Comm. Line Crew.
I was shocked but still nervous as no POW connections were made yet to the POW Tag…. Finally there is was!! A postcard sent by SSGT Ball from Germany with his POW number, the same number on the Tag! Many more documents were present with the same number confirming 100% that this tag was issued to S/Sgt Russell Ball.
This is why I love colleting! I love doing the research and seeing where it goes! You just never know what you’ll find! From almost trash to a real piece of treasure!
Staff Sergeant Russell Ball - "You Are Not Forgotten"
Edited by jeffs1130, 14 December 2018 - 02:23 PM.