Finding a World War II (1939-1945) Veteran's Records
Use this guide to find information in military records about a man or woman who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II.
If the veteran is still alive, ask his or her help finding records. Gather facts from sources at home,and talk to relatives. Look for discharge papers. Look for clues about where he or she lived and served.
Use the research wiki articles at World War II United States Military Records, 1941 to 1945.
Family History Library Sources
The Family History Library has only a few World War II records, mostly selected unit histories. They contain rosters, brief biographies, and usually photographs of men and equipment. To find unit histories use Places Search in the FamilySearch Catalog under United States and the topic Military History or Military Records, followed by the topic World War, 1939-1945.
In the Family History Library you may find a few other World War II sources found by using a Places Search for the servicement's home state, county, or town, followed the topic Military Records.
Social Security Death Index
Veterans who died since 1962 may be in an index on the Internet at http://searchgenealogy.net/SSDI.html . The index provides the deceased person's birth date, social security number, state where the social security card was issued, month and year of death, and sometimes the residence and zip code where the death benefit was sent.
If you know a serviceman's hometown, inquire about his discharge papers at his county recorder's office. Servicemen were asked (but not required) to register their separation form DD-214. This paper gives their rank, unit, service number, separation date and place, birth date and place, physical description, pay, assignments, and awards. Many veterans kept a copy athome. Call directory assistance to get the phone number and address of a veteran's county recorder's office. For an example of a discharge paper (a .pdf file), see http://blog.mlive.com/news/baycity_impact/2009/04/schurrecord.jpg .
Veterans Affairs Records
Many veterans received a G.I. Bill educations, veterans' hospital or health benefits, or housing loan benefits. If you know the veteran's name, birth date, death date, and Social Security number, you can request information from the nearest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They may be able to provide insurance, birth date,service number, service entry and separation dates, service branch, pay grade, or claim folder location. Veterans Affairs offices are in the U.S. government section of the telephone book.
Contact organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, or American Ex-Prisoners of War to ask for a vetera's application, or to find people who might have known your veteran. VFW applications include a copy of the discharge papers form DD-214. A local post of the association is more likely to have applications and other records than the national headquarters. Look in the telephone book for phone numbers or the Internet for address directories.
Personnel and Medical Records
A typical personnel file has information about service dates, marital status, dependents, rank, salary, assignments, education level, decorations, service number, birth date and place, death date and place, and sometimes a photo. For an explanation of how to apply for a personnel file using the National Archives form SF 180 and Internet links to the form, go to http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html. Also use SF 180 to request a "complete" military medical file, which is in separate archives.
Message Boards and Queries
Use the Internet to contact people who may be able to tell you more about your veteran, his military unit, or its history. Post queries on the "Military Search Bulletin Board" at http://tracksomebody.com/?tag=military-search-bulletin-board or at http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.military.wwii/mb.ashx .
Cyndi's List of genealogy sites on the Internet has two categories linking you to relevant resources, repositories, people, societies, and records:
Internet Search Engines
Use search engines like Google to search for information about the history of World War II battles, military units, and individuals with unusual names. Use the ARC search engine at www.archives.gov/research/arc/ to help find World War II records preserved at the National Archives.
Army and Army Air Force Casualty Lists are on the Internet at http://wwwarchives.gov/research/arc/ww1/army-casualties/ . Within each county they are slphabetical by name and only include those who died from wounds received in the line of duty. They show name rank, serial number, and type of casualty. Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard Casualty Lists are at http://wwwarchives.gov/research/arc/ww2/navy-casualties/index.html . Each state list is alphabetical divided by the casualty type, including wounded and recovered. Also shows next of kin address. For a guide to the National Archives record groups on this topic, see:
- Benjamin DeWhitt. Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: American Military Casualties and Burials; Reference Information Paper 82. Washington, D.C.: NARA, 1993. At various libraries (WorldCat). (FHL Book 973 J53da). This guide describes the military casualty reporting system and related papers.
The National Archives Register, World War II Dead Interred in American Military Cemeteries Overseas is available online at Ancestry.com for a fee. Free access to the collection is available at the Family History Library U.S. Rosters of World War II Dead, 1939-1945. It lists name, state, rank, service, plot, and burial date.
Prisoner of War Records
For National Archives sources and a guide, see the United States World War II Prisoner of War Records Wiki page.
A typical card will list name, address, telephone, birth date, and place, next of kin, employer, and physical description. Draft Registration Cards are indexed and digitized at FamilySearch World War II Draft Registration Cards
Finding a Living Veteran
Internet People Finders. The Internet has several sites that help locate living people.
For a book about finding military people, see:
- Richard S. Johnson, and Debra Johnson Knox, How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military: Armed Forces Locator Guide, 8th ed. (Spartanburg, SC: Military Information Enterprises, 1999). At various libraries (WorldCat). (FHL Book 973 M27j 1999). Includes chapters about service and Social Security numbers, active duty, Reserve and National Guard, retired, veterans, how to obtain military recirds, locating anyone, reuntions, state government records, deceased, and family history information.
For Further Reading
- United States Military Records Wiki article.
- George Forty, US Army Handbook 1939-1945 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1998). At various libraries (WorldCat). (FHL Book 973 M27f). Discusses training, organization, units, staff, arms, services, vehicle markings, insignia and patches.