A Facebook friend I went to high school with e-mailed me this morning about the few hundred letters she has that her grandparents exchanged during World War II. Her grandfather wrote about the countries he visited, and referred to his buddies from the local saloon who also were in the service. What a treasure! She wanted to know how to research her grandfather’s service and learn about the people mentioned in the letters.
World War II can be a bit harder than other wars to research because many records are still closed due to privacy concerns. Some resources I suggested include:
- WWII veterans or their next-of-kin can request the veteran’s military service records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
- Ancestry.com’s 1942 “Old Man’s” draft cards, Navy cruise books, missing in action reports and other WWII records. I was glad to be able mention Ancestry.com’s Free Access Weekend for its military records in honor of Veterans Day.
- Footnote’s WWII missing air crew reports, submarine patrol reports, Pearl Harbor muster rolls and other WWII records.
- The National Archives’ WWII enlistment records in its Access to Archival Databases, where you can search for an Army enlistee by name and get basic information about his service. These records also are part of Ancestry.com’s military collection, and they’re in Footnote’s free WWII Hero Pages.
- The Library of Congress Veterans Oral History Project, which has a database of veterans who’ve participated. (Our local Cincinnati Public Library takes part in the project and has its own database of local participants.)
- The Veterans Administration searchable Nationwide Gravesite Locator has burial information on veterans and, in some cases, their descendants, in VA cemeteries and state and local veterans cemeteries.
- The WWII National Memorial Registry, which combines four other databases: those buried in American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) overseas military cemeteries, those memorialized on ABMC Tablets of the Missing, those listed on official War and Navy Department Killed in Service rosters , and those who’ve been enrolled in the memorial’s Registry of Remembrances. (You also can search ABMC WWII databases here.)
You’ll find sources and strategies for researching military ancestors in these resources from Family Tree Shop:
- November 2008 Family Tree Magazine, with our guide to online military records
- Online Military Records: Document Your Family’s Service webinar recording
- Family Tree University Independent Study: US Military Records