World War II United States Military Records, 1941 to 1945
Over 16.5 million men and women served in the armed forces during World War II, of whom 291,557 died in battle, 113,842 died from other causes, and 670,846 were wounded.
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis maintains World War II Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF).
Please Note: On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the NPRC destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files. The affected record collections are described below.
|Branch||Personnel and Period Affected||Estimated Loss|
|Army||Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960||80%|
|Air Force|| Personnel discharged, September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)
No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. Nevertheless, NPRC uses many alternate sources in its efforts to reconstruct basic service information to respond to requests.
To order records from the National Personnel Records Center, in St. Louis:
- If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, use eVetRecs, at vetrecs.archives.gov (or use the paper form, SF-180);
- All others, use Standard Form 180;
- Written requests (using Standard Form 180, or letter) should be mailed to: National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Access to Military Service Records is limited. See Services for Veterans, Next-of-Kin, or the Veteran's Representative for more information.
Please note: The service records of all former active military service personnel who were discharged, retired, or who had died in service, prior to 1949, are now open to the public. These archival records are treasured by family members, historians, researchers, and genealogists.
The National Archives has an online database of World War II Army Enlistment Records with more than 9 million entries. The database is in the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) at aad.archives.gov/aad/series-list.jsp. Each record includes the serial number, enlistment date, birth year, and residence of the soldier.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has benefit claims files. Veteran files are located at the regional office closest to the residence of the veteran at the time of application. To find phone numbers and addresses look in the following source:
- Johnson, Richard S. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military. 7th ed. Ft. Sam Houston, Tex.: Military Information Enterprises, 1996. (FHL book 973 M27j 1996.) This book discusses various methods and addresses to locate and contact present and former military members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Reserve components.
The American Battle Monument Commission has an online database of persons interred in World War II cemeteries overseas or missing in action. The database is available at http://www.abmc.gov/wardead/listings/wwii.php.
The National Archives has a World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel available through its Archival Research Catalog (ARC). Here, you will view a facsimile of a county-by-county alphabetical list of deceased soldiers, their serial number, rank, and type of death.
The National Archives also has a State Summary of War Casualties for World War II for Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Personnel available through its Archival Research Catalog (ARC). Each state list is alphabetical divided by the casualty type, including wounded and recovered. The list also shows next of kin address.
Sailors who were killed or wounded in the war are named in the following:
- U.S. Navy Department. Casualty Section, Office of Public Information. Combat Connected Naval Casualties World War II by States. 2 vols. n.p., n.d. (FHL book 973 M23un.) The names are arranged by state according to the address of the next of kin at notification. The entries contain the name of the sailor, rank, name of parents or wife, and address.
- Casualty Lists, Pacific Naval Operations, 1941–1946. Washington, D.C.: NPPSO Naval District Washington Microfilm Section, 1979. (FHL film 485330.) These lists are alphabetically arranged by operation and ship name. They contain service number, rank, service specialty number, and date of death.
On 16 September 1940, President Roosevelt signed into law the first peacetime Selective Service Act. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO maintains World War II Selective Service Records.
During WWII, the Selective Service System conducted six draft registrations; these records are held collectively in two groupings at the NPRC. The first group contains records from the 4th Registration, known as the “Old Man’s Registration” or the “Old Man’s Draft,” for those men whose year of birth was from April 28, 1877 to February 16, 1897. The second group contains the Selective Service Records of the remainder of the WWII registrants, born from February 17, 1897 to July 31, 1927.
Please note: as there is overlap in the WWI and WWII Selective Service registration birth years (1877 to 1900), some men may have registered twice and have both WWI and WWII draft records.
How to Order a Draft Record
Copies of WWII Selective Service Records may be obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, in St. Louis, for a fee.
Written requests should be mailed to: National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, are partially indexed at Pilot.familysearch.org/recordsearch.
Information in a Draft Record
For men who registered for the draft prior to 1976, the only Selective Service System information available is that of the individual Draft Registration Card (SSS Form 1) and Classification History (SSS Form 102) records.
All other individual draftee files from that period were destroyed by the Selective Service System in 1978, in accordance with approved records retention schedules. Physical examination and test results, medical letters, laboratory work and other medical documentation that may have been included in these files no longer exist.
The individual Draft Registration Card (SSS Form 1) may contain information such as: name, Selective Service registration number, age, date and place of birth, ethnicity, place of residence at time of registration and basic physical description.
The Classification History (SSS Form 102) may contain: name; date of birth; classification and date of mailing notice; date of appeal to the board; date and results of armed forces physical examination; entry into active duty or civilian work in lieu of induction (may include date, branch of service entered and mode of entry, such as enlisted or ordered); date of separation from active duty or civilian work; and general remarks.
The bibliographies of this outline list published unit histories. For brief organizational and service histories of Army combat units see the following:
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II. Department of the Air Force, USAF Historical Division, Air University, 1969. Not found at the FHL.
- Stanton, Shelby L. Order of Battle, U.S. Army, World War II. Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1984. (FHL book 973 M2st.)
Information on WWII Marines has been collected by Jerome Beau, volunteer historian. He has collected over 7600 histories on fellow Marine Raiders.
The World War II website aims to give a full spectrum of data on World War II fighting units, including details on organization, commanders, and literature.
Prisoner of War Records
A valuable source when searching for prisoners of war is the Records of the Prisoner of War Information Division in the Records of the Office of the Provost Marshal General, 1941–, Record Group 389. It contains 31 volumes of rosters of P.O.W.s held by Germany, Japan, and neutral countries.
Additional records and information on prisoners of war held by the German military are also located in Record Group 242, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized.
The following guide will also be helpful in locating prisoner records:
- DeWhitt, Benjamin L., and Jennifer Davies Heaps, comps. Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: American Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees. Ref. Information Paper 80. Washington, D.C. National Archives and Records Adminstration, 1992 (FHL book 973 A3rr.)
National WWII Memorial
The introduction to the memorial on the web site says, "The memory of America's World War II generation is preserved within the physical memorial and through the World War II Registry of Remembrances, an individual listing of Americans who contributed to the war effort. Any U.S. citizen who helped win the war, whether a veteran or someone on the home front, is eligible for the Registry." The memorial was dedicated 29 May 2004. Visit their website for more information at http://www.wwiimemorial.com
The WWII Registry combines four databases of the names of Americans who are:
• Buried in American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) overseas military cemeteries.
• Memorialized on ABMC Tablets of the Missing.
• Listed on official War and Navy Department Killed in Service rosters now held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
• Honored by public enrollment in the Registry of Remembrances.
Sources for Further Reading
- Ancell, R. Manning, with Christine Miller. The Biographical Dictionary of World War II Generals and Flag Officers: The U.S. Armed Forces. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. (FHL book 973 D36anc.)
- DeWhitt, Benjamin L. “World War II Ship’s Logs.” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives 24 (Winter 1992): 400–4. (FHL book 973 B2p.)
- Gray, Paul D. “The Human Record of Conflict: Individual Military Service and Medical Records.” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives 23 (Fall 1991): 307–13. (FHL book 973 B2p.)
- Heaps, Jennifer Davis. “World War II Prisoner-of-War Records.” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives 23. (Fall 1991): 323–8. (FHL book 973 B2p.)
- Mix, Ann Bennett. Touchstones: A Guide to Records, Rights, and Resources for Families of American World War II Casualties.Bountiful, Utah: American Genealogical Lending Library, 1996. (FHL book 973 M27t.)
- Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Pearl Harbor Survivors: 50th Anniversary. Paducah, Ky.: Turner Publishing, 1992. (FHL book 996.93 M2p.) This book contains biographical sketches of veterans and a list of association members.
- RootsWeb Review, 21 February 2007, Vol. 10, No. 8. By Doris Demet, Article entitled "Locating Information about Your Veteran"
United States Army Military History Institute: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ahec/MHI.htm
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veteran's History Project http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/
Stories of the Survivors of the ship USS Henry Mallory. This ship was part of the one of the largest convoy battles of WWII.
The following Internet sites show maps of places and events of WWII:
Maps of World War II arranges the maps by place and date.
World War II Maps part of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. On the list of maps, click an underlined title to see the map.
INFORMATION FROM: Family History Library US/Canada Consultants, "World War II," in LAD, Family History Library, 2004, MJM