How to Search United States World War II Military Records

January 8, 2020  - by 
US WW2 soldiers holding flag

With over 16 million Americans who served in some capacity during World War II, you are likely find an ancestor or two in the records that were created. You can use the World War II military records search form below to find records of your ancestors’ service.

World War II U.S. Military Records Search

 

If you don’t know of anyone in your family who served during the war, consider asking your family or looking at your family tree for those who would have been the right age to have registered for the draft or who may have served. Men born between about 1877 and 1927, including residents of the United States who were not yet citizens, were within the traditional age range to have registered for the draft.

Learn more about different types of military records and what they can tell you about your ancestors.

Records at Home

WW2 medal, a unique type of military record

The best place to start your search is right at home. Ask relatives what they know about members of the family who served in the war. Try to identify what kind of military service your ancestor was in—this will be especially important to know for when you start looking for records outside of home.

See if you can find pictures, letters, a discharge certificate, or even an old uniform or victory medal. You may even want to visit the ancestor’s tombstone.

As you begin your search for more information about your ancestor, you may want to explore our article on Basic Military Search Strategies.

United States World War II Records: Draft Registration

On September 16, 1940, the United States Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This law instituted a national draft that required all men ages 21–65 to register. Men who were selected were required to serve for at least one year. When the United States entered the war, the draft was extended.

WW2 Draft record. search military records on familysearch

There were seven draft registrations during World War II. They included the following:

Draft Registration 1: October 16, 1940; men ages 21–31 were required to register.

Draft Registration 2: July 1, 1941; men registered who had reached age 21 since the last draft registration.

Draft Registration 3: February 16, 1942; men ages 20–21 and 35–44 were added to the register.

Draft Registration 4: April 27, 1942; men ages 45–65, who were not previously eligible for military service, were now required to register. This registration is sometimes referred to as the “Old Man’s Draft.”

Draft Registration 5: June 30, 1942; men ages 18–20 were required to register.

Draft Registration 6: December 10, 1942; men who turned 18 since the last registration were added to the register.

Draft Registration 7: November 16–December 31, 1943; men ages 18–44 who were United States citizens living abroad were required to register.

The World War II draft records in the United States are not complete; however, many are available. One thing to keep in mind is that even if your ancestors didn’t serve in WW2, you may still find them in the draft. All resident males were required to register for the draft, even those who were not yet citizens. Not everyone who registered was drafted.

Official Military Personnel Files

WW2 Military Soldiers. Find ancestors using military record search on FamilySearch

If a family member served in World War II, the next step in your research is the National Personnel Records Center and Military Personnel Records in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the repository of personnel files for discharged and deceased veterans of all branches of service.

A wonderful guide online will walk you through the process of requesting your loved one’s military service file. For a quick overview, here’s what you need to know.

A military service file is called the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). It contains much information about your ancestor’s time in service, such as unit assignments and transfers, awards, and discharge papers, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, on July 12, 1973, a fire nearly destroyed the building that housed the OMPF. The fire destroyed and damaged many of the records of people who served in the United States Army during World War II. Because the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard records were stored elsewhere, they were not affected.

Persons who wish to obtain a military service file have three options.

1. Visit the archive at 1 Archive Drive, St. Louis, Missouri (by appointment).

2. Employ an independent researcher.

3. Submit a written request for the records.

Fees are associated with requesting records from the archive so be sure to check out the fees before submitting your request.

Individual Deceased Personnel Files

WW2 Military Soldier

Your military records search might turn up an Individual Deceased Personnel File. An Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) is a personnel file created by the military. It documents the death of a military person and includes information associated with the disposition of the remains. The IDPF is sometimes referred to as a “Mortuary File” or a “Casualty File.”

This file would be particularly important to those researching ancestors who were killed or died during service. These records were not part of the fire of 1973, so they can be used as a way to reconstruct the service record of a veteran who died.

The IDPF may contain information such as the following:

  • Correspondence
  • Memorandums
  • Documentation relating to the death of the service person
  • Service member’s rank and serial number
  • Service member’s date of birth
  • Brief description of the circumstances of death

If you would like to obtain a copy of your ancestor’s IDPF, you can contact the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri. IDPFs held there cover the years 1939–1975 and include records of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

You may also find valuable information about your ancestor from the relative’s grave. Though some military family members may be buried in local cemeteries, many are also located at a national cemetery or even overseas. The following are resources you can use for locating your military ancestor’s gravesite:

As you continue your military records search, you can gain a new perspective by researching your ancestors who lived during World War II. Learn more about the war and how it could have affected your family.

Other Useful Resources

Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser Tennant is a genealogy researcher, writer and presenter.She writes blog articles and other content for many top companies and societies in the genealogy field. Her most treasured experience is working as a consultant for family history. Amie lives with her husband and three children in Ohio, surrounded by many of her extended family.

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Comments

  1. Hi, We are looking for my husband’s birth father, He was conceived either in March or April of 1943 and born on December 2,1943, in Minot, North Dakota. Through DNA , he matches to the family of Lambert Bertis Jackson. One of the son’s of Lambert fathered him. This family lived and still does in West Virginia., The son’s names are William Lester Jackson and Frederick Odessa Jackson. We have eliminated the other brothers through DNA. We are thinking in the military and traveling through N.D. or Railroad and working. We just don’r know how to find this kind of information. Sincerely yours, Sharon Jesson

    1. Sharon, I would suggest you contact DiscoverFamily.net. This group of individuals are able to really look closely at your case and see how best to help you in your search for a birth family.

  2. I’m Having trouble finding info on my grandfather who served in the Navy, in the Sea Bees, during WW2.
    I have his registration date and what’s on his Draft card. Not sure how long he served, but I know he was in the Pacific. This has really been a stuggle to find out more . I’d like to know where’s the best place to go to find this info. I’ve tried the sites listed here, but come up empty. Is there a good group to help me with finding this info? Thanks for any help.

  3. Hi I’m looking for my grandfather’s family members. He’s buried in Normandy died on the front line. My dad was adopted by British family as my grandad was American gi killed August 1st 1944 been searching for my grandads American family. He came from pensylvania in Marland name was Gordon e Thomas desperate to find any family members alive many thanks hope you can help

  4. I am looking for a military picture of my father.. His name is Lewis Lee Diehl. He was a Tech 5 in the Army. He was drafted October 16, 1940 Local Board Chariton County 6 Keytesville, Missouri.

  5. Dear Amie,
    I hope you can help me, my father and his 3 brothers all served during WORLD WAR 2 (4 brothers), it is my understanding that there is a certificate of recognition that is available to honor the family. Any idea of the document/form I would have to fill out to obtain this certificate of recognition? Thank you for your response!

  6. I am searching for records from my grandfather who I believe served in either WW1 or WW2 possibly both. He was born in 1891 in Baltimore Md. I have found his WW 2 “old man’s draft” record but that is all. The only thing I remember was when I was a child I saw pictures of him in a “doughboy ” outfit. He owned his own business a Texico Gas Station from about 1925 to 1966 when he died. He worked 7 days a week so I didn’t get to talk him too much. He had a hard copy of. Books about WW2 that the had in the living room . He wouldn’t let me look at them too much because they were quite graphic. My older sister took these things after he and my grandmother died.i asked her about them and she said she got rid of them. St Louis Recordx enter ssid any records were destroyed. I am trying desperately to find his records because my grandmother and him are buried on unmarked graves. A long bad family story. I would like to get him a Military grave marker but I can’t find any records. Can you help me find something. Thanks

  7. Hi I ve be looking and searching for my grandfather name Marty or Martin during WW2 he served among the Pacific and I related him by blood because he met my granny in kiribati at Apamama I know the name because I already heard from my granny Hes a Barber in that days or in the pacific.

  8. Hi my name is Nathan Couture, my grandmother and grandfather have passed away I loved my grandmother very much we were really close. unfortunately she passed away before I got the chance to ask her about my grandfather I have no living family members to tell me about him he passed away before I was born. I know he was in World War II I’ve seen one picture of him, he has a patch on his left side it was of a fox. I really would love to know about my grandfather’s military past. I can tell you that my grandmother is Evelyn Greene, and my grandfather’s name was Charles P Greene. He was in war war 2 and I think my grandmother and grandfather were born in 1918. I think they live in New Jersey when he got out of the service then move to Vermont where I’m from Brattleboro Vermont where my grandmother passed away. Can you please help me with this before I get too old myself and never know. Im 40 years old and I live in Brattleboro Vermont.

  9. hello im jenley william from philippines. can anyone help me how to locate and know who was the father of my dad. he was a son of one of the american soldier during WW2 IN THE PHILIPPINES. he didn’t have a chance to meet or to know his father. no one knows whos his father.

  10. Hello Im from the soutpacific including Kiribati, and I like to search my ancestors during ww2 in Kiribati and Apamama island during ww2 I remember his name from my family as Marty and Barber Im not sure his own name or nick name but the supporting evidence from him is lost Thank You and I pleaded U to help me to find my ancestors marine corp.

  11. How do I find out for sure of my grandfather received US citizenship for his service in WW2? He passed away in 2014. I was always told this is how he became a citizen, but I can’t find any record of it. I do have his military discharge and enlistment papers.