Correcting A Family Legend

Updated: Feb 6

I grew up with the story being told that my maternal great grandfather, Glen Ryan had a metal plate in his head. I truly did not really know much about my great grandfather. I never really got a clear reason as to why he was not at family events much. I was eleven when he passed away and most of that time I was not living in Michigan where he lived. Family trips to visit family in Michigan would include visiting all of the other relatives, but not my great grandfather. When I asking about him I would be told that he has a metal plate in his head. I was not really sure what this meant. Further information was never offered as to why I never saw him around.

I have always wanted to know more about him. As a genealogist, I began using my research skills to learn more about him. To determine if he had received the metal plate during his time in the Navy I decided to send off to receive a copy of his military records to see if I could find out more about how he ended up needing a metal plate in his head. I learned that he enlisted into the Navy on March 9, 1944, during World War II. When I discovered this I thought that maybe it was from a battle injury. Glen served as a Fireman Apprentice during his time in the military. Looking through the copies of his military records I learned several interesting things about him.

On December 27, 1944, he was stationed at Camp Allen in Norfolk, Virginia. On this day he was charged with three offenses (1) AWOL, (2) Unauthorized use of government vehicle, joy riding, and (3) out of uniform. Apparently, he was having some fun while serving in the military. He ended up being assigned a 30-day restriction.

A second time he went missing from the military he somehow was reported surrendering on November 12, 1944, to the NAS in Pasco, Washington at 9 pm. I have no idea how he ended up in Washington State because he was stationed in San Bruno, California. It is about 750 miles apart from each other. Military records show he had been reported missing since 6 am on November 10, 1944. Upon his surrender, he was transferred back to San Bruno under technical arrest orders. I did not find a record of what happened to him when he was back at San Bruno.

Whatever his punishment had been from his prior trip to Washington did not deter him from disappearing again. He was declared a straggler on January 27, 1945, while still stationed at San Bruno, California. He had been AWOL since 7:30 am on January 18, 1945. It was listed as his intentions unknown for being AWOL. I did not find any records about what happened upon his return for this incident either. I am thinking that there is paperwork missing from his file. It makes me wonder if he got into other trouble too. I wish I could have learned more about his adventures while serving in the Navy.

Even with all the fun he apparently had while in the Navy he served until November 18, 1945. I did not find information about him getting injured while serving in the military. So the idea that he had received the metal plate in his head while serving in the military is not correct.

What I did find within his military file was a notation that was reported by his father, Warren Walker that he had an injury while running the tractor on the farm on April 15, 1949. I have no idea why this note was in his military file. This is the only explanation that I could find that could possibly explain why he had a metal plate in his head.

I have not given up trying to learn exactly why he had the plate, but I will not give up trying to see if I can learn for sure what happened. Maybe one day a relative will have the story of what actually happened. It sounded more interesting that he received the plate in his head while serving in the military. His time in the military seems more about him enjoying his time. Luckily he was not dishonorably discharged because he had a wife and children at home.