OBTAINING AND RESEARCHING MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS
beginning a search of military records would be well served by first getting a
general overview of the subject area.
Excellent resources in this regard include the “Frequently Asked Questions”
publication prepared by the National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA). Equally helpful would be the “Frequently
Asked Historical Questions” publication of the US Army Military Heritage and
Education Center and a comparable piece compiled by the
Additional research guidance is offered by the genealogy section of the National Archives and Records Administration site, http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/military/ . Consult as well http://www.archives.gov/veterans/index.html and http://www.archives.gov/veterans/research/online.html for additional guidance about available information. Individuals unfamiliar with the military may find particularly enlightening the Navy’s description of the contents of a service record, http://www.npc.navy.mil/CareerInfo/RecordsManagement/AboutYourRecord/Pers_Rcds.htm.
II. Researching Military Service Records
A. Records of Individuals
Federal Government Resources. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records, http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel, is a repository for the personnel, health, and medical records of all discharged and deceased veterans (all branches of the armed forces) who served after 1900.
Veterans and their next-of-kin may now use “eVetRecs” to request records from the Center, http://www.archives.gov/veterans. Veterans and next-of-kin without Internet access and all others may submit their requests in writing to:
Military Personnel Records
If possible, use a Standard Form 180 for this request.
The form may be downloaded from http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html.
Copies of the Form also may be obtained by dialing the
If you cannot obtain a Standard Form 180 for this request, include in your inquiry the service member’s complete name, Social Security number and/or serial number, branch of service, and dates of service as well as your return address. Date and place of birth for the veteran would be helpful too, as would be place of discharge, last unit of assignment, and place of entry into service, if known. You must sign and date your request.
More than one request may be submitted per envelope, but policy requires that you submit a separate form/letter for each individual whose records are being requested. Please allow at least 2 – 4 weeks for a reply. If you need assistance, telephone the Center at (314) 801-0800 or contact them via email at “MPR.email@example.com.”
Casualty lists are available as well for some conflicts. The National Archives and Records Administration posted on-line the state-by-state casualty lists for World War II, http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ww2/army-casualties. A county-by-county breakdown of the World War II dead and missing from Texas for the US Army and Army Air Force, for example, may be accessed at http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ww2/army-casualties/texas.html.
Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard WWII casualties are posted at http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ww2/navy-casualties. Those from Texas (including an indication of those individuals held as prisoners of war) may be found at http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ww2/navy-casualties/texas.html. Korean War and Vietnam-era casualty information may be retrieved at http://www.archives.gov/research/korean-war/casualty-lists. Information from subsequent conflicts is posted by the Defense Department’s Directorate for Information Operations and Reports, http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm.
State Archives. State agencies may be valuable contacts as well. The Military Records and Research Branch of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, for example, contains more than 300,000 discharge documents for Kentucky veterans beginning with individuals who served in World War I through modern day. It also contains historical records of Kentucky militia and National Guard units dating from 1792.
Oregon’s State Archives offers a detailed listing of the resources it has available regarding the military service of state residents. To assist researchers, the state has prepared the Oregon Military Department Records Guide, 1847-1986. For a complete state-by-state listing of helpful state agencies, see the end of this document.
County Records. Although the federal government is the primary source for military records, other sources may be close at hand. Local governments, for example, merit a researcher’s attention, as veterans may have filed their military discharge documents (e.g., DD-214) with the county clerk or recorder.
B. Awards, Decorations, and Campaign and Service Medals
The Institute of Heraldry provides comprehensive information on Army awards, badges, decorations, insignia, and medals, http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Awards/Ribbons/OrderofPrecedence.htm. For assistance in deciphering abbreviations relating to these items, see the Data Codes Quick Reference Guide listed on https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/active/TAGD/awards/index.htm (see “Awards and Decorations”).
Similar information for US Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy service and campaign medals may be reviewed at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/ribbons/index.html, http://www.af.mil/news/airman/0101/medals.html, and http://www.history.navy.mil/medals/index.html, respectively.
For instructions on how to request original or replacement medals and awards, go to the NPRC’s site,
C. Unit Insignias
Detailed information about Army unit insignia is available from the Institute of Heraldry, on-line at http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/DUI_SSI_COA_page.htm. The Institute also provides information on rank insignia for enlisted personnel and officers, http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Rank_page/USArmyRankInsignia.htm. Similar information for the Air Force may be found at http://www.maxwell.af.mil/au/afhra/heraldry/heraldry.html.
Additional information on enlisted and officer rank insignia may be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/insignias/enlisted.html and http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/insignias/officers.html. Grunt, the Ultimate Military Site, also provides researchers with illustrations of all badges and insignias for all services at http://www.gruntsmilitary.com.
D. Burial Location
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an on-line locator service for most of its 120 national cemeteries, http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/j2ee/servlet/NGL_v1. For veterans buried overseas, the American Battle Monuments Commission also facilitates the search for their final resting place, http://www.abmc.gov/wardead/index.php.
III. Understanding What You Find
The Department of Defense posts a searchable version of its current Dictionary of Military Terms at http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict. For guides to military acronyms and terms commonly used during WWII, see:
States War Department, Dictionary of
United States Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Office of Naval Records and History, Glossary of US Naval Abbreviations (Washington, DC: United States Navy Department, 1949). On-line at http://www.history.navy.mil/books/OPNAV20-P1000.
Abbreviations that individuals may encounter frequently, especially in conjunction with World War II research, will include:
AAA Antiaircraft Artillery
AAB Army Air Base
AAC Army Air Corps
AAF Army Air Force
AD Armored Division or Active Duty
AEF American Expeditionary Force
AGF Army Ground Forces
AGS Armed Guard Service
CB Construction Battalion (SeaBee)
CBI China-Burma-India Theater
CIB Combat Infantrymen’s Badge
CMOH Congressional Medal of Honor
CO Commanding Officer
CP Command Post
DNB Died, Non-Battle
DOI Died of Injuries
DOW Died of Wounds
DSC Distinguished Service Cross
ETO European Theater of Operations
FA Field Artillery
GCM Good Conduct Medal
KIA Killed in Action
LOD Line of Duty
LC Landing Craft
LCI Landing Craft, Infantry
LCM Landing Craft, Mechanized
LCP Landing Craft, Personnel
LDF Local Defense Forces
LST Landing Ship, Tank
LSV Landing Ship, Vehicle
LVT Landing Vehicle, Tracked
MC Medical Corps
MIA Missing in Action
MOS Military Occupation Specialty
MP Military Police
NCO Non-commissioned Officer (e.g., a sergeant)
NMI No Middle Initial
OLC Oak Leaf Cluster (signifies repeat of award)
PH Purple Heart
POW Prisoner of War
PUC Presidential Unit Citation
TF Task Force
Tk Bn Tank Battalion
TD Tank Destroyer
T/O Table of Organization
WIA Wounded in Action
B. Military Ranks
The individual service branches vary in the names they use to designate the grades/ranks of enlisted personnel and officers. Comparable information for all services is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/insignias/index.html and http://fas.org/man/dod-101/comp/org.htm. To decipher the abbreviations you might see in a Navy service record, see http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq78-2.htm. During World War II, grades/ranks were as follows:
Private First Class (Pfc)
Technician Fifth Class (T/5)
Technician Fourth Class (T/4)
Technician Third Class (T/3)
Staff Sergeant (SSgt)
Technical Sergeant (TSgt)
First Sergeant (FSgt)
Master Sergeant (MSgt)
Sergeant Major (SMJ)
Warrant Officer – Junior Grade (WOJ)
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)
Second Lieutenant (2Lt)
First Lieutenant (1Lt)
Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol)
Brigadier General (BGen)
Major General (MajGen)
Lieutenant General (LtGen)
General of the Army
Apprentice Seaman (AS)
Seaman 2nd Class (S2)
Seaman 1st Class (S1)
Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3)
Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2)
Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1)
Chief Petty Officer (CPO)
Warrant Officer (WO)
Commissioned Warrant Officer (CWO)
Lieutenant – Junior Grade (Ltjg)
Lieutenant Commander (Lt.Com)
Rear Admiral (RADM)
Fleet Admiral (FADM)
Private First Class (Pfc)
Platoon Sergeant (PlSgt) or Staff Sergeant (StfSgt)
Gunnery Sergeant (GunSgt) or Technical Sergeant (TSgt)
1st Sergeant (FSgt) or Quartermaster Sergeant (QMSgt)
Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) or Master Technical Sergeant (MTSgt)
Warrant Officer (WO)
Commissioned Warrant Officer (CWO)
2nd Lieutenant (2Lt)
1st Lieutenant (1Lt)
Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol)
Brigadier General (BrigGen)
Major General (MajGen)
Lieutenant General (LtGen)
C. Military Units
For administrative and tactical purposes, military forces are organized in various size units. Army personnel may be grouped in the following manner:
Squad – Small unit of 9 – 14 men, commanded by a sergeant.
Platoon – Three or more squads, commanded by a lieutenant.
Company – Basic combat unit consisting of three or more platoons, commanded by a captain. Total force averages about 120 soldiers.
Battalion – Three or more companies or batteries, commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Total force averages 500 – 800 men.
Regiment – Large unit formation, consisting of three or more battalions, commanded by a colonel. Total force ranges between 2,000 – 3,000 men.
Brigade – Two regiments with supporting artillery and support troops, commanded by a brigadier general. Used in World War I but not in World War II.
Division – The command units for large formations of three or more regiments, with various supporting troops, commanded by a major general. Total force exceeds 15,000 soldiers.
Corps – Two or three (usually the latter) divisions, commanded by a lieutenant general.
Army – Two or more
corps, commanded by a general (four stars).
The 36th Infantry Division was assigned to the 5th
To assist those eager to understand the often-confusing organizational structure of the US Navy, the Federation of American Scientists offers an “Overview of Navy Units” at http://fas.org/man/dod-101/navy/unit/overview.htm. A detailed description of the Air Force structure is available at http://www.maxwell.af.mil/au/afhra/rso/organizations.html.
IV. Additional Reference Materials or Resources
A. Records of US Ships and Naval Units From the Modern Era
The National Archives has custody of a wide range of records relating to ships and other Navy units for the period from World War II through Vietnam, with a heavy concentration in WWII records. Available records include, but are not limited to:
Action Reports (WWII)
Armed Guard Logbooks and Reports (WWII)
Casualty Reports (WWII – late 1950s)
Deck Logs (1941 – 1967)
Movement Report Cards (i.e., Records of the Tenth Fleet, WWII)
Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries (WWII – 1970)
Records of Individual Convoys (i.e., Records of the Tenth Fleet)
Submarine War Patrol Reports (WWII)
War Diaries (WWII)
To learn more about the scope of these materials and to request records for a given ship, write to the following address.
Modern Military Records Unit (NWCTM)
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
In your letter, include the ship/unit’s name, the date/time period of interest; your full name, address, and telephone number; and as much other detail as possible about the information you would like to obtain. Due to the volume of requests received and the time needed to identify all appropriate records, Archives staff requests that you limit your request to five items per each letter. Allow approximately 10 – 12 weeks from the initial inquiry to receipt of the records.
A charge will be imposed for reproduction/mailing of the records, however, do not send any cash/check/charge card information with your initial inquiry. Staff of the Archives will review your request and send to you by mail an estimate of the cost and payment information. Follow the directions contained in that letter to order the desired records.
B. State Archives and Historical Agencies
http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/pensions/ (Confederate pensions search)
C. On-Line Resources About Military History
Individuals and organizations interested in military history are among the most active users of the Internet. As a result, a tremendous volume of information is available on-line about any conflict or military unit, especially those of the modern era. Included among the sites that may be valuable reference sources include:
Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, http://cepme.maxwell.af.mil/heritage/index.html
Air Force Historical Research Agency, http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra
Air Force Historical Research Agency, Research Division, http://www.maxwell.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/rso/rso_index.html
Air Mobility Command Museum, http://www.amcmuseum.org
American Civil War Homepage, http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war
Army Historical Foundation, http://www.armyhistoryfnd.org/armyhist/armymain.html
Buffalo Soldiers, http://www.buffalosoldiers.net
Civil Engineer Corps, Seabee Heritage Center, http://www.seabeehf.org/index.asp?cat=82&Action=cat&Page=1.
Civil War Center, http://www.cwc.lsu.edu
Civil War Manuscripts Project, http://www.chs.org/kcwmp/default.htm
Civil War Official Records, http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa. (128 volumes of Confederate & Union Army records; 31 volumes of Confederate & Union Navy records)
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss
Congressional Medal of Honor Society, http://www.cmohs.org
Fleet Air Arm Archive (British site), http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net
Historic Government Publications from World War II, http://worldwar2.smu.edu
Historic Naval Ships Association, http://www.hnsa.org/index.htm (list of historic naval ship museums)
Index to the Military Rolls of the Republic of Texas (1835-1845), http://www.mindspring.com/~dmaxey/rep_cont.htm
Korean War, http://www.korea.army.mil/org/history
Korean War Commemoration, http://korea50.army.mil/history/index.shtml
Master Index of Army Records, http://www.army.mil/cmh/reference/records.htm
Military Medical History, http://history.amedd.army.mil/default_index2.html
National D-Day Museum, http://www.ddaymuseum.org
National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center, http://126.96.36.199/store/mchf/index.asp
National Museum of Naval Aviation, http://naval.aviation.museum/museum.html
National Museum of the Pacific War, http://www.nimitz-museum.org
Naval Historical Foundation, http://www.navyhistory.org
Pearl Harbor Casualties (Civilian & Military), ftp://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/hi/military/pearl.txt
Rutgers University, Oral History Archives of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Cold War, http://fas-history.rutgers.edu/oralhistory/home.html
Texas Military Forces Museum, http://www.kwanah.com/txmilmus
US Air Force History Support Office, http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil
US Air Force Museum, http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum
US Army Aviation and Missile Command (i.e., Redstone Arsenal Historical Site), http://www.redstone.army.mil/history
US Army Aviation Museum, http://www.armyavnmuseum.org
US Army Chaplain Museum, http://www.usachcs.army.mil/museum/nav1/mainpage.html
US Army Engineer Museum, http://www.wood.army.mil/museum
US Army Military History Institute, http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usamhi
US Army Military Police Corps, http://www.wood.army.mil/usamps/history/default.htm
US Army Ordnance Corps History, http://www.ordmusfound.org
US Army Quartermaster Museum, http://www.qmmuseum.lee.army.mil
US Army Signal Corps Museum, http://www.gordon.army.mil/ocos/museum
US Army Transportation Museum, http://www.eustis.army.mil
US Army Women’s Museum, http://www.awm.lee.army.mil
US Coast Guard Historian’s Office, http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/collect.html
US LST Association, http://www.uslst.org
US LST Ship Memorial, http://www.lstmemorial.org
US Marine Corps History and Museums Division, http://hqinet001.hqmc.usmc.mil/HD/Home_Page.htm
US Military Academy, http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/atlases/map%20home.htm
US Military Aviation, http://www.globemaster.de
Veterans History Project, http://www.loc.gov/folklife/vets
Western Front Association (WWI), http://www.westernfront.co.uk
Women Air Service Pilots (WASP), http://www.wasp-wwii.org
Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), http://www.twu.edu/wasp
Women of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services), http://www.womenofthewaves.com
Women in Military Service for America Memorial, http://www.womensmemorial.org
World War I Document Archive, http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi
World War I Draft Registrations, http://www.rootsweb.com/~rwguide/WWIdraft.html
World War II Documents, http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/wwii/wwii.htm
World War II Resources (Pearl Harbor History Associates, Inc.), http://www.ibiblio.org/pha
D. Selected Reference Works
Adamczyk, Richard and MacGregor, Morris, Jr., eds., United States Army in World War II Reader’s Guide (Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1992). On-line at http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/11-9/11-9c.htm.
Carter, Kit C., The Army Air Forces in World War II: Combat Chronology, 1941 – 1945 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1973). On-line at http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/chron/contents.htm.
Craven, Wesley Frank, ed., The Army Air Forces in World War II, 7 vols. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1948 – 1958). On-line at http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/Annotations/cravenAAFWWII.htm.
Maurer, Maurer, ed., Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1961). On-line at http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/fulltext/af_combat_units_wwii.pdf.
_____________, Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (Washington, DC: United States Department of the Air Force, Air Force History Division, 1969). On-line at https://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/fulltext/combat_sq_of_the_af_wwii.pdf.
Mooney, James L., ed., Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, 9 vols. (Washington, DC: United States Naval Historical Center, 1959 to 1991). On-line at http://www.hazegray.org/danfs.
Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings: Lineage and Honors Histories (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1984). On-line at http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/fulltext/combat_wings.pdf.
Stanton, Shelby L.,
For listings of military unit reunions from all service branches, consult the US Marine Corps list of approved reunions, http://www.usmc.mil/reunions/reunions.nsf/approved.
Last Updated: February 15, 2006 by Sharon Lawrence, Volunteer, Texas Military Forces Museum, P.O. Box 5218, Austin, TX 78703-5218
 The site also includes an interesting discussion of battle streamers and a detailed listing of awards for all service branches.
 In the alternative, you may write
the Institute at
 United States War Department, Dictionary
 The Marine Corps had no rank equivalent to General or Admiral during World War II.
 See http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/comp/org.htm. Information on the individual service branches may be found at http://fas.org/man/dod-101/army/unit/index.html, http://fas.org/man/dod-101/navy/unit/index.html, and http://fas.org/man/dod-101/usaf/unit/index.html.
 Ship plans may be obtained from the Maps and Plans Work Group, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS), Room 3320, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
For photographs of Naval ships, contact the Still Pictures Reference Team, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
 For the cargo ships and troop carriers protected by the Armed Guard Service.
 Deck logs consist of brief records of the administrative activities of a ship.
 These file cards list the ports of arrival, due dates, dates of actual arrival, and the dates of setting sail to the next port as well as convoy information, if applicable.
 Reproduction of the records is handled by a private contractor, not federal government personnel. A minimum charge of $10 is imposed on all mail orders.
 Excellent source for information on USAF acronyms, abbreviations, lineage and honors, force structure, and unit histories (e.g., wings and squadrons), supplemented by a fine overview (including colored illustrations) of campaign streamers from World War I to modern day.
 Offers a glossary and other valuable features.
 Includes detailed information about Ships of the US Navy, 1940 – 1945,
 Superb on-line collection of maps covering military engagements from ancient to modern times.
 Site has the capability to translate the material into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
 The US Air Force History Support Office has made available on-line a growing list of publications covering all facets of Air Force history at http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/titleindex.htm.
 Reprinted by the