I Found My Book! – The Keel

I Found My Book – The Keel

Well, after not seeing my boot camp book for more than 36 years and actively searching for it more than 19 years on a daily basis…I finally found it.

Here’s how it happened.

I have searched eBay on a DAILY basis (literally) searching for this book. I have searched Facebook searching for old shipmates. I have searched Abe’s Books of New York (one of the largest book searching tools in the world). And after all those years, I never got a HIT on a book or a name. I even called the base up at Great Lakes, Illinois, but was told they do not archive the books and only had limited copies, none of which were mine.

The biggest problem I had was that I could not remember very many names from my boot camp shipmates. I knew a couple of first names, a couple of last names and some nicknames, but I had exhausted my search for all of those names and had hit a dead end. I finally took a chance a few months ago and contacted the National Archives in Washington, DC to ask if they kept the books in the National Archives (thinking that ALL books were kept). I was informed that although they kept a large number of books, those kinds of books were kept, but only a few as examples. However, they mentioned that they did keep ROSTERS of ship crews and boot camp rosters, but I needed to provide some information to them. So I gave them what I thought was the dates of my boot camp training. They took several days to research and finally got back to me, telling me that the best they could do is provide me with a list of about 50 pages with about 30 names per page of the recruits that attended during the month of June 1973. They also listed the day of the month, but I would have to go through the 1500+ names and pick out the ones that attended on the same dates as I did.

It took me a few hours and I finally had highlighted about 40 names that attended the same time I did. The next step was to do another Facebook search for those 40 names on Facebook…of which I only found a couple of names that matched, and they did not pan out. I then tried looking the 40 names up on the “Whitepages” app on my iPhone and came up with about 26 names and addresses. So I started writing a form letter to send to all 26 names in the hopes some of them would contact me. I only got 4 hits. One person texted me and said I got the wrong person, and I had 2 letters that were returned to sender. About the time I felt like giving up, I got a phone call from a guy on January 31, 2018. The first thing he said is hey, this is Matt Jenne. I was in your boot camp company. Matt said, “Yes, I have THE BOOK and YOU can have it”. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t get emotional…I did.  It was like being reunited with a long lost friend. I told Matt that I would send him a UPS envelope to ship the book to me. While the book was in transit, he texted me and let me know that he did want the book back after I had it reproduced, that his son now wanted the book. I totally understood that request and was fine with it.

I had made arrangements with a company that professionally reproduces these books and was in constant contact with them regarding how I wanted to handle them copying the book and then returning it to the original owner. So on February 7, 2018, the day the book was delivered, the first thing I did was to do my own scanning of the pictures. The book was in pretty bad shape, or at least the cover was…the pictures and pages were still in pretty good shape. I scanned the pictures so fast that I actually didn’t even look at the recruit photos of my shipmates. As soon as I got the book scanned, I took it up to the UPS office to send it out to the reproduction company. I had the book in my possession less than 3 hours total.

When I got back home…only then did I actually study the pictures. That’s when I found out why I had received so few responses. Of the 26 letters I sent out previously, only about 3-4 of the letters I sent were to actual members of my company in boot camp. I had my DATES WRONG on the day I started training and the date I graduated training…and that made a HUGE difference.

The reproduction company had the book a total of just a couple of days. The turnaround time for the entire copying process including the shipping was less than 6 days. The book arrived on February 12, 2018 and was exactly as I was hoping. The quality was excellent and I had both a printed copy of the book and a digital copy on CD.

Since I have received the book, I sent out an additional 16 letters and heard from 2 more shipmates. In fact, one of my shipmates has agreed to give his original copy of the book to me. Thanks Bob Hadley.

I truly thought I would never see the book again in my lifetime. It’s been a long journey, but a rewarding one.

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