My name is Kyle Jenkins, and recently I began an internship with the Pritzker Military Library as a part of my studies at Loyola University Chicago.  Being a History/Secondary Education double major, my first year of classes was an understandable mix of base-level history and Common Core classes.  In the end they were well worth it, but I knew in this next year I wanted to get out and experience Chicago more; see what more could be done outside of the classroom to learn history.  In my search, I found the Pritzker Military Library.  Located off Michigan Ave., they have a massive collection of military history books, including rare and period-appropriate pieces, as well as the occasional guest speaker, special display, and everything in between.  Even though my time will include some desk work, the majority of my time will be in a research capacity, either gathering information and book collections for their website, or, as I did on my first day, assist with other members’ projects.  

When I walked in the door, I was introduced to Paul Grasmehr, the Reference Coordinator for the library.  Christy Stanford, the Intern and Volunteer Coordinator and the person I arranged the internship with, wasn’t there, so I was enlisted by Mr. Grasmehr to help with some research.  A veteran from the Battle of Iwo Jima is coming to the library in September, and he wanted to learn more about the official actions of the battalion he was apart of.  Mr. Grasmehr then handed me 4 books and told me to compile a narrative of the 3rd Battalion, 26th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, from their mobilization to a day-by-day account of their ordeal on Iwo Jima.

Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed at first.  Worried just as much about whether or not the clothes I purchased fit the library’s definition of “business casual” as where the bathroom was, it seemed odd to be thrown into the thick of things without so much as a quick refresher tour.  However, after spending around an hour reading in extensive detail about the necessity of the 5th Battalion’s creation near the end of WWII and how truly arduous their lives were on Iwo Jima, I realized this immersion was very helpful.  Mr. Grasmehr gave me everything I needed to just dive head-first into my research, and he let me revel in it.  I learned about the Medal of Honor recipient in 3rd Battalion’s mix, PFC William Caddy, who dove on a grenade to save his platoon superiors while they tried to push the Japanese defenders further and further north.  What was very sobering was that he was one of 5 men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for the same act.

At the end of the day, Mr. Grasmehr made sure that “they didn’t scare me off” and ask when I’d be back.  When we were discussing the other research topics I’d be conducting, including the Merchant Marines, he not only gave me great places to start my work, but the tip that I should look for the human stories of bravery and courage within the greater narrative of the sailors.  They are not only what make history interesting, but they are what make it human.  That really struck a chord with me.  It quite nearly summarized why I wanted to pursue a History degree, and work with the library.  Those tales, like those of PFC William Caddy, turn history from facts into stories, and more importantly lessons.  Needless to say, I reassured him that I’d be back the following Saturday.