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Military Records

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Overview: 1969 to August 1974

 

Under the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War officially came to a close.  Though Nixon had secretly begun talks with the North Vietnamese during Johnson’s presidency, in 1969 the scope of U.S. involvement expanded with bombing campaigns in Cambodia and incursions in Laos.  At the same time, the administration worked to build up the South Vietnamese armed forces in order to allow for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.  During Nixon’s second term, the Vietnam War was officially ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.

 

Domestically, student anti-war demonstrations intensified.  The most infamous took place at Kent State; National Guard troops shot into a crowd of students and protesters, killing four. In 1971, the New York Times and Washington Post began publishing excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, a study on U.S. involvement in Vietnam compiled by the Department of Defense.  Nixon administration attempts to quiet the scandal created by the publication of the papers became part of the wider Watergate investigation, leading to Nixon’s downfall and resignation in 1974.

 

President Richard Nixon with U.S. Army 1st Infantry

Division Troops during Visit to Dian, South Vietnam, 7/30/1969

 

Catalog Resources:

Presidential Daily Diary, 1/21/1969 - 8/9/1974- The Daily Diary chronicles the activities of the President, from the time he left the private residence until he retired for the day, including personal and private meetings, events, social and speaking engagements, trips, telephone calls, meals, routine tasks, and recreational pursuits.

 

Vietnam- Correspondence from Richard Nixon to Nguyen Van Thieu- Letters between Nixon and the president of South Vietnam in 1972.

                                                                                                           

WHSF: Contested, 48-1- Analysis of public reaction to the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

 

February 10, 1973 - Nixon, Vice President Agnew- Discussion of the situation in Southeast Asia after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

 

February 15, 1973 - Nixon, Defense Secretary Elliot Richardson and February 15, 1973 -Nixon, H.R. Haldeman- Meeting minutes from discussions of the reception of returning American POWs, and American attitudes toward the military and the “Nixon Doctrine.”

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs "Gulf of Tonkin" resolution, 8/10/1964

 

Overview: November 1963 to 1968

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Lyndon Johnson inherited an increasingly deteriorating military and political situation in Vietnam.  Though Kennedy had reportedly begun to cool on the conflict, Johnson made the choice to escalate; 1965 saw the first deployment of American ground troopshttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/74258721as well as the beginning of Operation Rolling Thunder, a three year aerial bombardment campaign.

 

The Gulf of Tonkin Incidenthttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/2803383in the summer of 1964  gave the Johnson administration justification for further escalation and troop deployments.  Anti-war protests in the U.S. escalated in turn.



Catalog Resources:

National Security Council Meetings Files, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- Notes from official NSC meetings during the Johnson administration, many of which dealt with Vietnam.

 

President's Daily Diary, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- Activity logs prepared by secretaries outside the Oval Office. Sample of entries, starting with LBJ's first days in office after assassination. A major topic is Gulf of Tonkin attacks.

 

Johnson White House Photographs, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969-238 photos relating to Johnson’s visit to Vietnam, Johnson with troops in Vietnam and in the U.S., the Honolulu Conference, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, President Nguyen Van Thieu, Johnson administration advisers, and anti-war demonstrations.

 

Letter from John Steinbeck to President Lyndon Johnson, 5/28/1966- This letter was sent after trip by Steinbeck and his son to Washington, D.C., where the two were received by Johnson. Steinbeck praises Johnson, talking derisively about anti-war protesters in previous American wars

 

Letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson from Jackie Robinson, 4/18/1967- Robinson discusses the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s opposition to Vietnam, the role of Vietnam protest in civil rights, and states his support for Johnson.

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

Overview: August 1974 to 1976

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Although Nixon had officially ended US military involvement, Vietnam continued to be an ongoing concern for the Ford Administration through the Fall of Saigon in April, 1975.

 

The administration's efforts to avert the Communist overrun of South Vietnam were met with indifference to outright opposition. There was little support for financial aid in Congress, and even less for a proposed Congressional delegationhttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/1552953to Vietnam.  (Ford was still trying to organize the trip into March of 1975.)

 

The military defeat of South Vietnam in in the spring of 1975 sparked a massive evacuation of US personnel and Vietnamese allies, known as Operation Frequent Wind.  In the wake of the refugee crisis this sparked, Congress did approve humanitarian aid and eventually many Vietnamese settled in the United States.

 

Though many prisoners of war had been repatriated in 1973 after the conclusion of the war, the issue of the treatment POWs and American soldiers missing in action (MIA) continued to play a significant role in US foreign policy, leading the US to lobby against Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s acceptance as a member state in the United Nations through the end of the Ford administration

   President Gerald R. Ford Holding a Refugee Baby on an Evacuation

Bus at San Francisco International Airport Following the Arrival of an

Operation Babylift Plane from South Vietnam, 4/5/1975

 

Catalog Resources:

East Asia and Pacific Country Files, 1974 – 1977- Materials prepared for and by President Gerald R. Ford's National Security Adviser and National Security Council staff. Include discussions of the Vietnam War and its effects in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

 

Vietnam - Question and Answer Briefing Sheets (1975)- National Security Council materials, from the papers of Richard (Dick) Cheney.

 

Memorandum from Clinton E. Granger to Brent Scowcroft Regarding a Report on Vietnam, 4/5/1975- Report on situation in South Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon.

 

Amnesty - Ford Foundation Study of Effects of Vietnam on Veterans, Deserters and Evaders- 1974 study of the psychological, economic, social situation of veterans and anti-war activists, and recommendations of activities for the Ford Foundation.

 

1975/05/23 HR6894 Making Appropriations for Special Assistance to Refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam- Congressional appropriation for refugee resettlement and relocation.


This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council- Cuba Crisis. President Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. White House, Cabinet Room., 10/29/1962

 

Overview: 1961 to November 1963

President Eisenhower administration began first boots on the ground involvement of United States in Vietnam, sending the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the South Vietnamese military after the partitioning of Vietnam in 1954. 

 

In the fallout of Cold War escalations including the Cuban Missile Crisis and construction of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam became a critical stage for US resistance to Communist influence.  The Kennedy administration committed to increased economic and military support, growing the number of military advisers from Eisenhower’s 900 to over 16,000 by 1963.

 

One of the most definitive actions taken by the Kennedy administration was its (tacit) approval of the military coup that overthrew and assassinated South Vietnamese President Diem.

 

Catalog Resources:

America's Stake in Vietnam June 1, 1956, 6/1/1956-  Kennedy speech outlining the case for U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

 

Papers of President Kennedy: White House Central Files: White House Subject File: National Security – Defense- Famous series of letters between JFK and Mrs. Bobbie Lou Pendergrass about the death of her brother, James McAndrew, and the purpose of US involvement in Vietnam (Feb 1963).

 

World Reaction to Developments in Vietnam, 9/14/1963- Viewpoints from Far East, Western Europe, Near East-South Asia, Africa, Latin America.

 

Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam, 10/2/1963- Political and military situation in Vietnam.  Cautiously optimistic, but notes political tension and dissent with the Diem regime.  Diem would be overthrown and assassinated a month after this report was submitted.

 

Vietnam: General, 1963 and Vietnam: Security, 1963 from series Country Files, 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963- State Department cables between the US Ambassador to Vietnam and the White House detailing the situation in Vietnam, especially concerns with the South Vietnamese government.

 

American Opinion Summary Department of State -- Vietnam, dated 10 September 1963., 9/10/1963

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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When researching individual veterans, researchers have two types of records to pull information from: personnel records and operational records.

 

Personnel files for individual soldiers- stored in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO- will often contain service dates, rank, death date, and potentially background information about medals received.  Generally, personnel records will not include information about what a soldier did or where they were located during their time in service.

 

Unit and ship records are helpful for understanding the movements and activities during the Vietnam War.  Although unit and ship records usually don’t include names, they can give context to information found in personnel files and explain what that ship or unit was doing during the war. 

 

Personnel Records

 

Personnel records can be requested online through the National Archives eVetRecs portal.  Most Vietnam-related personnel records are not considered archival,* so full personnel files are only served to the veteran, the veteran’s next-of-kin, or a researcher with written permission from the veteran/next-of-kin.

 

Links:

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) - Veterans and Next-of-Kin

Explains the request process.  See links on the left side of the page for more information about military personnel files and the request process.  Next-of-kin is specified as: un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister of the veteran.

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) for the General Public

Explains the request process for non-next-of-kin researchersThis page specifies what types information from personnel files can be released to the general public .



In addition to personnel files, the National Archives hosts a number of searchable databases where researchers can locate information for specific individuals through Access to Archival Databases (AAD).



U.S. Military Casualties, Missing in Action, and Prisoners of War from the Era of the Vietnam War

These databases can be searched using identifiers (names, service numbers, home county/state at time of service, etc.)  for individual soldiers and personnel.

 

Data about U.S. Military Personnel

Includes the Vietnam Experience Study Files, which tracked selected Army personnel who served in 1967 and 1968, and a database containing information concerning some of the awards and decorations given to U.S. military personnel and allied foreign military personnel.



*Military personnel records accessioned into the National Archives become archival 62 years after the service member's separation from the military.  So, as of 2017, the records of personnel discharged after 1955 are not open to the public.

 

Unit and Ship Records

 

Archival operational military records from the Vietnam War era are held in the National Archives in College Park, MD.  Some of these records are available online (see below).  For assistance with Vietnam-era operational military records, contact the College Park reference unit here: archives2reference@nara.gov.  (For tips on the reference request process, check out this History Hub blog post: What to Expect When You're Requesting.)  You can get started learning about the National Archives’ Vietnam-era records on archives.gov.

 

Links:

 

Groupings of Databases and Downloadable Data Files

Electronic Data Records Relating to Military Objectives and Activities During the Vietnam War

Data specific to Land Military Operations and Activities

Data specific to Air Military Operations and Activities (Navy air sorties included in this grouping)

Data specific to Sea Military Operations and Activities

 

Digitized Records

Navy Deck Logs Available in the National Archives Catalog (Arranged by vessel name)

               -Information about deck logs in the Vietnam era

-Information NOT Included in Deck Logs

Marine Corps Command Chronologies

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These records are digitized and available online through the National Archives catalog and Access to Archival Databases (AAD).  This is not a comprehensive list of every Vietnam War resource available online, but hopefully these links will be a helpful stepping off point for historical research about individuals and events connected to this period. The National Archives also has a new Vietnam War research portal, which you can learn more about here.

 

 

NAID 26398247.pngPhotograph Series

(Photo: South Vietnamese Pilot and Family Evacuate during Operation Frequent Wind)

 

Black and White Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962 – 1975- Photos of a wide range of subjects including: marines in combat, military dogs, ceremonies and entertainers, aircraft, visits by VIPs, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Viet Cong, Vietnamese civilians, Operation Homecoming, and Operation Frequent Wind.

 

General Photograph File of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1927 – 1981- This series covers multiple wars, including Vietnam.

 

General Black-and-White Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1958 – 1981- Includes photos of POW releases, naval combat and ships, and medical staff with wounded soldiers.

 

 

Motion Pictures

Vietnam, Vietnam- This film reviews the history of Vietnam and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The war footage includes combat scenes, civilian massacres and mistreatment of Prisoners of War. The film concludes with a quick succession of comments by well-known and average citizens, some favoring U.S. involvement and some opposing it. The movie was executive produced and directed by John Ford, with a narration by actor Charlton Heston.

 

Motion Picture Films From "The Big Picture" Television Program Series, ca. 1950 - ca. 1975

Films from this series include Action Vietnam, The Army and Vietnam, The Big Red One in Vietnam, The Fight for Vietnam, The Hidden War in Vietnam, U.S. Army Advisor in Vietnam , Vietnam Crucible, and Why Vietnam?.  The first two minutes of each film is currently available in the National Archives catalog, but many of these films have been uploaded to YouTube by third parties.

 

 

Records Relating to Combat

Links to unit- and ship-level operational records can be found here.

 

Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, 6/1967 - 1/1969- Also known as the Pentagon Papers.  This series covers US involvement in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from WWII to 1967.  An index to the materials is available in the catalog here.

 

Vietnam Special Studies Group (VSSG) Files, July 1, 1969 - January 31, 1974 (Downloadable data file)- Summarized data about the security of hamlets in South Vietnam as derived from the Hamlet Evaluation System 1971 (HES71) files. The categories describing the security of the hamlet indicate the degree to which the GNV or Viet Cong has presence or influence in the hamlet.

 

General Records, 1965 – 1972- "This series consists of a wide variety of records that were maintained by the Command Historian. The records include Command Historian administrative files, as well as other unit histories, counterinsurgency studies, weapons effectiveness reports, personnel reports, interviews, handbooks, photographs, and operational reports - lessons learned (ORLL)."

 

 

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Records Relating to Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA)

(Photo: Marine Wives at Camp Pendleton, California Waiting for the Return of Prisoners of War, 2/12/1973)

(Digitized records relating to POWs and MIA, especially photos, are located in several series across multiple record groups and creators. Many are located in presidential records, military records, state department records, and senate records.  They can be located using a keyword search of the National Archives catalog.)

 

Cluster Analysis Map of Vietnam, 1991 – 1992- Cluster map of intelligence reports of US POWs in Vietnam from the records of the U.S. Senate.

 

CBS REPORTS: POWS PAWNS OF WAR, 6/1971, Part 1 and Part 2- CBS documentary on treatment of US prisoners in North Vietnam and Viet Cong prisoners in South Vietnam, and includes interviews with wives and families of American POWS.

 

Divider/Subject - 280 - Operation Homecoming (Repatriation of U.S. Marine POWs)  and Divider/Subject - 293 - Prisoners (SEE ALSO "Operation Homecoming") - Photos from the series Black and White Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962 – 1975

 

 

Records Relating to Veterans

Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study Files, 1986 – 1987- Study commissioned by the VA on the causes, evolution, and extent of readjustment problems experienced by veterans of the Vietnam War.

 

 

Records Relating to Anti-War Demonstrations

NAID 2803434.png(Photo: Veterans for Peace at the March on the Pentagon, 10/21/1967)

 

Survey on Campus Unrest Data File (Downloadable data file)-Study done by Nixon President's Commission on Campus Unrest with information collected from 1967-1970. This series consists of a social survey of college and university administrators, faculty members and student leaders. It includes information about the institutions and the students, and about incidents on respondents' campuses that involved the National Guard, off-campus police, outsiders, court injunctions, property destruction, injuries or death. The survey also includes information about respondents' attitudes toward causes of unrest, the institutional and governmental responses, and respondents' proposals to limit future incidents.

 

Johnson White House Photographs, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- This series includes several photos of anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. during the Johnson Administration.

 

Records of the Kent State University Investigative Team, 1970 – 1970- Materials collected to investigate the death of Kent State student demonstrators, as part of President Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest.

 

Coffin, Spock, et al. Protest- Digitized items from an investigation of anti-war activities conducted by the U.S. Attorney for the Judicial District of Massachusetts.

 

 

Records Relating to Special Events

After Action Reports and Other Records Relating to the Bob Hope Christmas Tours, 1968 – 1972- "This series consists of after action reports relating to the several Bob Hope Christmas shows staged within Vietnam ("Operation Holly", 1966-1970; "Operation Jingle Bells", 1971)."

The National Archives has a wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in the Vietnam conflict, including photographs, textual and electronic records, audiovisual recordings, exhibits, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.

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To coincide with the opening of the our newest exhibit, Remembering Vietnam, we've launched a Vietnam War research portal. This portal creates a central space for all National Archives resources and content related to the Vietnam War for use by researchers, students and educators, museum goers, veterans, and those curious about the conflict.

 

Browse our interactive timeline to journey through events with select records from the National Archives Catalog.

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You can also explore the Vietnam conflict by topic areas: Diplomacy, In Country, The War at Home, and Post-Conflict Events. Each topic page includes links to digitized records and photographs in the Catalog, descriptions of records available for research, educator resources, articles and blog posts and more.

 

Are you looking to volunteer as a citizen archivist? One of our current missions asks for your help to transcribe the captions and tag features in these black and white photographs of Marine Corps activities in Vietnam. Start tagging and transcribing on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.

 

Check it out! We'd love to hear your thoughts on the Vietnam War research portal. Have you learned something new or found a unique photo or an interesting record? Please share with us! Email us at citizenarchivist@nara.gov.

WWII Military Unit Records at the National Archives - An Introduction

 

This post provides a brief overview of some of the predominant series of World War II operational unit records in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Unit records are useful if you would like to learn more about a unit’s movements and operations. The National Archives does not have custody of unit records for every military unit, and the volume and type of records can vary considerably by unit. We also tend to have more records for higher-echelon units and fewer for lower-level units.

 

Although there are a few exceptions (e.g. muster rolls and personnel diaries), typically unit records contain little or no information regarding individuals’ service and we do not have a name index to the unit records. If you are researching the military service of a specific individual, we suggest you start by requesting their military personnel records. The locations of military personnel records depend on the branch of service and time period -- NARA’s Locations of Service Records website provides a handy chart, which can help you determine where the personnel records you seek are located and instructions about how to request them.

 

Each branch of the military kept different types of unit records, and these records are dispersed throughout various record groups and series at NARA. Each record group comprises the records of a major government entity (e.g. a bureau or an independent agency). While Army and Navy records for the World War II period are dispersed across a number of record groups, smaller branches like the Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, and Coast Guard, are generally limited to a single record group each for the WWII period. Within each record group, records are divided into numbered series or “entries,” which are grouped based on the creating office and type of record. Some record groups have thousands of entries, so it can be daunting to try to figure out the best place to start. This post highlights and describes the primary series of World War II unit records in NARA’s custody for each branch of service, with links to the series descriptions in the National Archives Catalog where available. If you have additional questions after reviewing this post, we encourage you to contact the reference staff at the NARA location that has custody of the records you are interested in.

 

Army:

The Textual Reference Archives II Branch at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, has custody of several series of records related to World War II Army units:

 

The main series of WWII Army unit records is the World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948 in Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917- (Record Group 407). These records consist mostly of unit historical reports, after action reports, unit journals, and general orders. Generally, the files do not include any personnel or medical information. The records are arranged according to an alphanumeric filing system based on military hierarchy. A paper file list index for this series is available at the National Archives. The records are not yet described at the file-unit level in the National Archives Catalog, but you may request a search of the records by e-mailing the reference staff at archives2reference@nara.gov. Be sure to include the unit(s) and date(s) of interest.

 

Another large series that contains WWII Army unit records is Unit Histories, 1943-1967 in Records of U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter) (Record Group 338). This series consists of the files of division-level organic and non-organic US Army units. Division files usually include historical reports, general orders, directives, journals, memos, circulars, bulletins, and policy records. Records of organic units (units that were permanently attached to a division) typically contain unit histories, general orders, and other administrative records. Records of non-organic units (units not permanently attached to a division) generally consist of historical reports and some administrative records. You may search the file titles in this series by clicking on “Search within this series.” The series covers through 1967, so be sure to verify that the dates covered within any particular file unit(s) you locate match the dates you are interested in. The dates covered by an individual file are listed within the file unit’s description under “Details” -- it will note, “This file unit documents the time period,” followed by a date range.

 

There also two series of records specifically related to engineer units stationed in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) in the Records of the Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army (World War II) (Record Group 498):

Engineer Unit Histories, 1942-1946

Organizational Unit Records, 1943-1947

 

Finally, for medical units, there are additional unit records in the Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army) (Record Group 112) series, Records of Historical Unit Medical Detachments (HUMEDS). This series contains copies of reports of Army medical units and facilities, as well as reports from medical components of regular Army units. Reports typically contain narratives about unit activities, descriptions of facilities and locations, and a narrative about organization and administration. Reports may also contain statistics, photographs, or maps. The reports do not contain patient medical records. The files are arranged by type of unit and thereunder numerically by unit designation. A paper file list is available for use at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

 

Air Force:

Mission Reports:

Army Air Forces World War II Combat Operations Reports, 1941-1946, also known as “Mission Reports,” are located at the National Archives at College Park, MD in the Records of the Army Air Forces (Record Group 18). This series consists of the original mission reports pertaining to specific targets. These reports were filed by the units and sometimes include encounter reports by pilots, aerial photographs, and loading lists. You may search the file titles in this series by clicking on “Search within this series.”

 

Microfilmed Unit Histories:

There are additional unit histories and supporting documents of Army Air Force and Air Force units that are still in the custody of the Air Force at the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The National Archives has custody of accessioned microfilm copies of some of AFHRA’s records in the Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations (Record Group 342), Entry (UD) 1006-B1. These microfilmed records are available to view at the National Archives at College Park, MD. Although we do not have an official index to the records, there is a private website, Air Force History Index, which can serve as a finding aid to the records. If the IRISREF number in the “Document Detail” page begins with an A, B, or C, the National Archives may have the document on our accessioned microfilm. All of the reels are not available, so please be sure to contact the reference staff (email: archives2reference@nara.gov), if you locate a document of interest.

 

Army and Army Air Forces Morning Reports and Unit Rosters:

Unit Rosters:

We frequently get requests for unit rosters from World War II. Unfortunately, rosters for units serving in World War II from 1944-46 were destroyed in accordance with Army records disposition authorities after the war. There are copies of most of the monthly rosters from 1912-43 and 1947-59 for Army units (including Army Air Corps) in the custody of the National Archives in St. Louis, MO. For information on how to request rosters, please visit the website Access to Morning Reports and Unit Rosters.

 

Unit Morning Reports:

Morning reports list daily personnel changes. They are “exception based” reports, meaning that a soldier’s name will on appear on the report only if his status has changed from the previous report (e.g. from present for duty to ordinary leave, or from present for duty to sick in quarters, etc.). The entries show the name of service member, service number/SSN, and rank. Also shown are unit strength, the location of the unit, and sometimes a Record of Events. Morning reports for Army units from November 1, 1912 to 1959 and Air Force units from September 1947 to June 30, 1966 are in the custody of the National Archives at St. Louis, MO. For information on how to access morning reports, please visit the website Access to Morning Reports and Unit Rosters.

 

Navy:

There are several records groups containing WWII Navy records in the custody of the Textual Reference Archives II Branch at the National Archives at College Park, MD. The two primary record groups are the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel (Record Group 24), which includes World War II-era deck logs and muster rolls and the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 - 2006 (Record Group 38), which includes War Diaries and Action Reports.

 

Deck Logs:

Deck logs comprise the series, Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1983. A number of deck logs have been digitized and are now available online in the National Archives Catalog. Deck logs consist of journal-style entries of the ship’s administrative activities; location and course of travel; disciplinary procedures; and any unusual events. The logs sometimes include information related to operational activities, although the level of content and detail can vary. More detailed information about deck logs is available on NARA’s The Text Message Blog, Know Your Records: U.S. Navy Deck Logs and 1941-1959 Deck Logs, including World War II and the Korean War.

 

Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries:

WWII Navy muster rolls and personnel diaries comprise the series, Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 1/1/1939 - 1/1/1949. Muster rolls are lists of naval personnel attached to a ship, station, or other activity. The muster rolls for WWII only include enlisted sailors - officers of ships are listed in the deck logs. There are also gaps in the muster rolls - we sometimes lack muster rolls, particularly for smaller units and advance bases. Personnel diaries provide compiled monthly and list significant personnel status changes, including transfers, promotions, leave, or temporary duty. More detailed information about muster rolls and personnel diaries is available on NARA’s Text Message Blog’s  Know Your Records: U.S. Navy Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries. The WWII muster rolls have been digitized through NARA’s partnership with Ancestry, and are available to search and view on Ancestry’s website at US World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949.

 

Command Files:

The series World War II Command Files, 1918-1945, includes a variety of records, including select action reports, war diaries, rosters of officers, unpublished histories, correspondence, and more. The series is arranged by organization and includes records of naval commands, and select naval units and ships, as well as records of other non-Navy agencies, including Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Army Air Force, among others.

 

War Diaries:

World War II War Diaries, 12/7/1941 - 12/31/1945: this series consists of daily operational journals created by various naval commands, shore installations, ships and other activities throughout the Navy, as well as some Marine Corps and non-Navy commands. Most war diaries provided a day-to-day record of operational activities and sometimes administrative activities as well. They are arranged in several subseries, by command, and then roughly hierarchically.

 

A separate series of War Diaries, World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, ca. 1/1/1942 - ca. 6/1/1946, has been digitized through our partnership with Fold3 and is available on the Fold3 World War II Diaries website.

 

Action and Operational Reports:

World War II Action and Operational Reports: this series consists of narrative and form reports, mostly submitted by Navy commands, although documents by other commands are also interspersed. Most of the records relate to incidents of direct combat action with enemy forces during World War II. These records are also arranged in several subseries, generally by command and thereunder roughly hierarchically.

 

Submarine Patrol Reports:

The series US Submarine Patrol Reports, 1941-1945 has been digitized through a partnership with Fold3 and is available on the Fold3 WWII Submarine Patrol Reports website.

 

Marine Corps:

World War II Marine Corps records are also in the custody of the Textual Reference Archives II Branch, National Archives at College Park, MD in the Records of the U.S. Marine Corps (Record Group 127).

 

Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries:

Muster Rolls and Personnel Diaries for the US Marine Corps. These have also been digitized through our partnership with Ancestry, and can be viewed on their website at: U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958. Muster rolls list personnel attached to a unit or command, while personnel diaries list significant personnel status changes, such as transfers, promotions, leave, or temporary duty. The WWII Marine Corps muster rolls list both officers and enlisted.

 

“Geographic Files”:

The series, Records Relating to United States Marine Corps Operations in World War II, 1939 - 1949, also known as “Geographic Files,” consist of records related to the principal amphibious assaults and ground combat operations of the Marine Corps during the World War II era, as well as the occupation of formerly enemy-controlled areas. The files are arranged alphabetically by geographic area.

 

Coast Guard:

Many records relating to the Coast Guard’s participation in wartime operations during World War II are dispersed among the Navy records (see above), however, there are additional series of WWII Coast Guard records in the Records of the United States Coast Guard (Record Group 26). Unlike most of NARA’s World War II Unit records, which are are at NARA’s College Park location, the Coast Guard records are located at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

 

Muster Rolls:

The Muster Rolls of Coast Guard Ships and Shore Establishments, 1941 - 1949 are arranged by type of ship or station, thereunder by year, and consist of printed forms giving, for each person on board, information concerning his enlistment and whether he was entitled to honorable discharge; a personal description; the date he was received on board; and data concerning his transfer, discharge, desertion, or death.

 

Logbooks:

The Coast Guard Logbooks, 1942 - 1947 are arranged by year, thereunder by type of unit or station, thereunder alphabetically. They include logbooks from U.S. Coast Guard cutters, tenders, light ships, lighthouses, lifeboat stations, light ships, and other installations. They document events that occurred and may contain information such as courses steered, distance run, compass variations, sea and weather conditions, ship’s position, principal headlands passed, names of lookouts, and a any unusual occurrences.

 

War Diaries:

The Coast Guard war diaries include Abstracts of War Diaries, 5/1942 - 9/1945, which are arranged by year and thereunder by unit, and include highlights of outstanding activities and operations by Coast Guard ships and shore units during World War II.

The series Ship and Shore Unit War Diaries, 5/1942 - 9/1945 series consists of war diaries submitted by District Coast Guard Officers (DCGO) and ship officers during World War II. The DCGO diaries include a compiled weekly report from memorandums, reports, and meeting minutes on operational, personnel, intelligence, legal, and medical activities. The ship war diaries were maintained on a daily basis and describe the major activities of the day (e.g.  repairs, maintenance, encounters with other ships, search and rescue operations).

 

Merchant Vessel Files:

Also included among the Coast Guard records is a series of Merchant Vessel Information Files, 1939 - 1952, which is arranged alphabetically by name of vessel and contains information about  merchant vessels that entered U.S. ports during World War II. The series generally contains information about radio equipment, armament, crew composition, as well as ship movements. Some also include photographs, reported security violations, cargo data, investigations of alleged sabotage or suspicious incidents, and survivors’ accounts of sunken vessels.

 

Thank you to Rebecca Collier, Marie Taylor and Rachael Salyer for contributing to this post!

I served in the National Guard started in Texas in 1989 and finished in 1995 in Arizona. I have my military paperwork but there is no form on there that shows my total active-duty time I served. Is there a way I can get that form ASAP because my family and I are homeless and trying to get some assistance for a charity. There is a form that shows that I served two months active duty. And I served nearly a year in Arizona for the joint Counter Narcotics task force. so I don't have anything to give me the correct active-duty time. I have contacted Arizona and several other places trying to get these

I served in the National Guard started in Texas in 1989 and finished in 1995 in Arizona. I have my military paperwork but there is no form on there that shows my total active-duty time I served. Is there a way I can get that form ASAP because my family and I are homeless and trying to get some assistance for a charity. There is a form that shows that I served two months active duty. And I served nearly a year in Arizona for the joint Counter Narcotics task force. so I don't have anything to give me the correct active-duty time. I have contacted Arizona and several other places trying to get these

Women have been serving in the military since the Revolutionary War in one capacity or another. In 1775, women followed their husbands to serve as laundresses, cooks and nurses, as long as the commanding officers decided they were proving themselves to be helpful to the soldiers.

 

 

From 1782 to 1783, Deborah Sampson served in General Washington’s Army disguised as a man. When she was wounded, they discovered she was a woman and they allowed her to be honorably discharged from the Army.

 

 

During the American Civil War, women served as administrators of hospitals, and cooks for the Union and Confederate Armies. Women were also spies, and others disguised themselves as men so that they could fight beside their male counterparts.

 

 

In WWI, women were allowed to join the military. 33,000 women served as nurses and support staff. More than 400 nurses died in the line of duty. The first woman to enlist in the military was Loretta Walsh in 1917.

 

 

In WWII, more than 400,000 women served at home and overseas as mechanics, ambulance drivers, pilots, administrators, nurses and other non-combat roles. 88 women were captured and held as prisoners of war (POWs)

 

 

Not until 1948, when a law was passed by Congress called the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, were women granted permanent status in the military and subject to military authority and regulations, which entitled them to veteran’s benefits.

 

 

During the Korean War, over 50,000 women served at home and abroad. 500 Army nurses served in combat zones and many Navy nurses served on hospital ships.

 

 

In Vietnam, approximately 7,000 or more women served as nurses in all five divisions of the military, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and Coast Guard. All were volunteers.

 

 

1973 is the year the draft ended and the all-volunteer military was created, which opened the door for numerous military opportunities for women.

 

 

In 1976, West Point welcomed their first female cadets and the Air Force also allowed women to be trained in military science.

 

 

1978 was the year women in the Navy and Marines were allowed to serve on non-combat ships as technicians, nurses and officers.

 

 

In 1991, an act of Congress allowed women to fly in combat missions.

 

 

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to 1992, more than 41,000 women were deployed to a combat zone. Two were actually taken captive.

 

 

1993 is the year that women were allowed to serve on combat ships by another Act of Congress.

 

 

In the year 2000, Captain Kathleen McGrath becomes the first woman to command a U.S. Navy warship.

 

 

In 2003, during the Iraq War, three Army women were taken as prisoners of war (POWs) in the first few days of the invasion.

 

 

In 2004, Colonel Linda McTague became the first woman commander of a fighter squadron in the history of the Air Force.

 

 

In 2005, during the “War on Terror,” Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester became the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action.

NARA's Special Media Branch blog, The Unwritten Record, recently posted a great overview, "How to Research: Photographs Relating to WWII Army Units" by Aaron Arthur. This post is the first of a four-part series and explains how knowing a unit's lineage, campaign locations, major battles, and any prominent individuals in the unit, can offer different avenues through which a researcher might locate photographs among our holdings. It also references some of the commonly used series. Looking forward to the rest!

The National Archives holds many records from the Civil War era and also offers many resources to help researchers make the most of those records. You can start your Civil War research with the National Archives here: https://www.archives.gov/research/military/civil-war

 

Not all Civil War records are held at the federal level, though, and there are many institutions that hold complementary collections. The National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC - https://www.archives.gov/nhprc) has awarded digitization grants to several institutions across the United States that hold records related to the Civil War, and many of those digital collections are freely available online.

 

Here are some of the digital collections related to the Civil War that were made possible by NHPRC grant funding:

 

  • The Archives of Michigan, along with the University of Michigan Digital Library, has digitized their Civil War Regimental Service Records. From their website: “The records in this collection document the history of Michigan soldiers in the form of muster rolls, letters, lists of dead, monthly returns and other materials sent to the state Adjutant General during the war.” Find out more by exploring their site:  http://seekingmichigan.org/discover/civil-war-service-records

 

  • The University of Alabama, has digitized the papers of Septimus D. Cabaniss (1820-1937), who was a southern attorney during the Civil War era. According to the University, “Cabaniss is renowned for his role as litigator and executor for the estate of a wealthy plantation owner who sought to manumit and leave property to a selection of his slaves, many of whom were his children, after his death in the antebellum south.” Check out the collection here: http://acumen.lib.ua.edu/u0003/0000252

 

  • The Missouri State Archives has digitized case files of the Supreme Court of Missouri (1821-1865). In this collection, you can find “transcripts from lower courts, briefs filed by attorneys or interested parties, depositions, summonses, and opinions of the Court addressing matters as diverse as land disputes, the Civil War, women's suffrage, civil rights, and anti-trust laws.” You can access the case files here: https://s1.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/supremecourt/

 

  • The University of North Texas has digitized several 19th century collections, most relate to the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. The collection includes a variety of records, for example “the papers of a Confederate physician, a North Texas sheriff and tax collector, a Unionist craftsman who fled to Illinois, a woman who experienced the war in Kansas, and Confederate and Union soldiers who served throughout the United States.” Cooke County ledger books from 1857-1919, which document “violence and crime during the Reconstruction era” are also available. To see the collection, visit this site: https://digital.library.unt.edu/search/?fq=untl_collection:CWADP

 

 

 

For further information, please see the previous post:

Digitization Projects Made Possible by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

From Life magazine of August 6, 1945 (pp. 40-46), a colorful spread showing all of the shoulder insignia

of the Army's forces, just as they were on the cusp of victory:

 

                Army Shoulder Insignia - Life, Aug. 6, 1945 - page 1.jpg

 

                Army Shoulder Insignia - Life, Aug. 6, 1945 - page 2.jpg

 

                Army Shoulder Insignia - Life, Aug. 6, 1945 - page 3.jpg

 

                                                            Army Shoulder Insignia - Life, Aug. 6, 1945 - page 4.jpg

    Another in an occasional series, focusing on the lives and work of former staff of

    the National Archives and Records Administration.

                                  ______________________________________________

 

    Records relating to one's military service have been coming into the custody of

    the National Archives and Records Administration since the agency was established.

 

    Retrieved from a garage in Washington, DC, and carefully flattened with the help of

    workers from the Works Progress Administration, veterans' pension records were an

    early focus of the National Archives' preservation and reference activities.

 

                               64-NAD-143 Pension Files in Garage, 1936.jpg

                                   64-NAD-143, from NAID 518148

                                          Veterans' Bureau records, in garage at

                                   1214 New Hampshire Ave., NW, May 16, 1936

 

 

                64-PR-26-2 - Worker Unfolding Pension Records, ca. 1939.jpg

                   64-PR-26-2, in NAID 18524352

                  WPA worker preparing pension records for flattening, ca. 1939

 

   The sheer size and scope of these records compelled the Archives to establish an

   operating unit devoted solely to the administration and preservation of these records.

 

   And that's where Tom Owen comes in.

   Mr. Owen?

 

                        NA Building - Owen, Thomas M., Jr..jpg

                             NAID 12091385

 

   Well, you might say I was meant to come work for the National Archives.

   This kind of work is our family business.

 

          Alabama Dept. of Archives and History, from Encyclopedia of Alabama.jpg

    Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) | Encyclopedia of Alabama

 

 

    You see, my father established the Department of Archives and History

    for the state of Alabama. It was the first state archives in the country to be

    supported with public funds, back in 1901.

 

                               Thomas McAdory Owen, Sr..jpg

                                          Thomas McAdory Owen, Sr.

                                                    (1866-1920)

                               Thomas M. Owen | Encyclopedia of Alabama

 

 

     I helped out in the archives, and eventually became the assistant director.

     My mother took over as director when my father died.

 

     But I had also felt the call to military service.

     I enlisted in the Alabama National Guard; our state organization eventually

     served as part of Douglas MacArthur's 42nd Division in France. 

 

     Here I am with my parents and my wife, Mabel, around 1918.

 

                         Thomas Owen with Parents and First Wife, ca. 1918.jpg

                   Caption for Owen Family Photo, ca. 1918.jpg

              Thomas McAdory Owen, Jr (1894 - 1948) - Find A Grave Photos

 

     I stayed active in the Guard for the rest of my life.

     In 1933 I became the historian for the national organization.

 

          Owen Listed as Historian for American Legion Convention, 1933 - from U.S. Congressional Serial Set, No. 14956, 2005.jpg

                   U.S. Congressional Serial Set, no. 14596, p. XIII, 2005

 

 

                  American Legion Letterhead with Notary Seal, 1938 - RG 64, A1 2A, file Frank T. VanHook, folder no. 3, box 3.jpg

                     file "VanHook, Frank T., folder 3" in NAID 3720066

 

     After the war, I came back and helped run the State Archives for a while.

     Then I directed the federal records surveys for Alabama for the

    Civil Works Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

 

    Records of the Work Projects Administration [WPA] | National Archives

 

     And in the spring of '35, I was hired by the National Archives.

    Its first order of business was to survey all of the federal records

    squirreled away in Washington, DC.

 

                  Announcement of DC Records Survey, 1935, page 1 - RG 64, A1 34, file Memoranda and Press Releases of the Archivist 1935-1936.jpg

                 Announcement of DC Records Survey, 1935, page 2 - RG 64, A1 34, file Memoranda and Press Releases of the Archivist 1935-1936.jpg

             file "Memoranda and Press Releases of the Archivist, 1935-1936"

                                            in NAID 4478137

 

    It was my job to ride herd on the corps of examiners who were poring over

    all of the collections of government records scattered about the capital.

    Here are the instructions I issued them:

 

                Instructions to Examiners for DC Records Surveys, June 28, 1935 - RG 64, A1 34, file Div. of Accessions Memoranda 1935-1936 Arthur Leavitt, box 1.jpg

                     file "Division of Accessions Memoranda 1935-1936"

                                            in NAID 4478137

 

 

     We sent out our staff photographers to document what they found.

     You simply could not imagine the conditions in which these

     records had been discovered.

 

                 64-NAD-84 - cropped and rotated.jpg

                      64-NAD-84, in NAID 518148

                           U.S. Shipping Board Organization records,

             in Haley Garage, 21st and Virginia Ave., September 10, 1935

 

 

    During this time, I also wrote an article about the National Archives

    for the Legion's magazine.

 

       Owen Article - A Legion Dream Comes True, Am. Legion Magazine, March 1937 - page 1.jpg  Owen Article - A Legion Dream Comes True, Am. Legion Magazine, March 1937 - page 2.jpg

               The American Legion Monthly [Volume 22, No. 3 (March 1937)]

 

    In case you're interested, here's a listing of my career up to 1937,

    when this entry appeared in our publication Register of the National Archives:

 

              Owen Listing in the Register of the National Archives, 1937.jpg

            

     By the end of 1937, the records survey work was winding down, and new

     operating units were being set up to handle the flow of records coming

     to the Archives. With the new year, I was assigned to head up one of them.

 

                     RG 64, A1 9 - Memo A-71 Intra-Organization Changes, Jan. 3, 1938.jpg

 

     Later that year, my division got a new, more informative name.

 

                     RG 64, A1 9 - Memo A-77 Intra-Organizational Changes, June 1, 1938 - page 1 - header cropped.jpg

                     RG 64, A1 9 - Memo A-77 Intra-Organizational Changes, June 1, 1938 - page 1 - Owen cropped.jpg

                       both from NAID 3890958

 

     Reference service on the pension files was a large part of the work

    of our division. During the war, we needed more shelf space for

    the multitude of records that agencies were retiring, so we hit upon

    a new way to file the pensions.

 

    Initially we just had to lay them flat on the shelves.

 

                            RG 64, P 112, file Records - Preservation - Flat Filing - Flat Files in Stack S-1804, Aug. 1942.jpg

                                       Flat files in Stack S-1804, August 1942

 

     We tried shelving them another way. And it was a big success.

 

                      RG 64, P 112, file Records - Preservation - Flat Filing - Memo to Staff re Change to Vertical Filing.jpg

 

                        RG 64, P 112, file Records - Preservation - Flat Filing - Vertical Files in Stack S-2003, Aug. 1942.jpg

                                      Vertical files in Stack S-2003, August 1942

 

                    all from file "Records - Preservation - Flat Filing", in NAID 12209376

 

 

    Of course, when those new cardboard containers from Remington Rand

    finally arrived, we moved the files into them.

 

        64-NA-370 Using New Cardboard Boxes for Project, 1942.jpg

          64-NA-370 (NAID 12168986)

                       Archivist Bess Glenn, right, with staff during packing project

                  in the Division of Navy Department Archives, National Archives, 1942

 

                                     Original Dark Green Archival Box, 1940s.jpg

 

   

    Well, it was quite a career, I surely can say. I think that the most meaningful

    thing for me has been working on behalf of all of my fellow veterans and their families.

 

                          RG 64, P 67, file 1948 - Star Obit for Thomas Owen, Dec..jpg

                                 file "1948" in NAID 7582964

 

               Thomas Owen Gravestone, Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.jpg

                                 Greenwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama