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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.
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.
WWII missing air crew reports, submarine patrol reports, Pearl Harbor muster rolls
and other WWII records.
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.
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
2008 Family Tree Magazine, with our guide to online military records
Military Records: Document Your Family’s Service webinar recording
Tree University Independent Study: US Military Records