WWI Purple Heart Recipient Index Cards

I have read through many of the remarkable posts about WWI purple heart recipients and how they had to apply to have their wound chevron converted to the Purple Heart medal. My question is this...

Q: When WWI soldiers applied to receive their Purple Heart medal, were those requests cataloged in a database somewhere, perhaps at the National Archives or Army records center?

Background: I have diligently searched countless sources over the past decade regarding documents of my great-grandfather's service in WWI and have been rather successful despite the burning of his personnel record at the Archives in St. Louis. In summary I have requested his OMPF twice, since I was told they had reconstructed some after the fire, both times I only received his final pay voucher. Thankfully I have his original discharge, VA claim documents, Indiana compiled service card and many more documents. The reason I believe there to be a database is listed below from another forum online. 

"However, there is an office at the personnel records center in St. Louis that has all of the WW I Purple Heart recipients on the original index cards. It lists name, date of wound or citation for merit, and the number of the Purple Heart that they were issued. These are maintained alphabetically, and there is usually no problem obtaining a copy of the index card. It just takes them awhile. I'll try to dig out the exact address."

Does anyone know the record group or location where such files may still be located? I have requested documents from Record Group 120: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, Name Card File of Dead & Wounded Casualties of Infantry Divisions 126th Infantry - Oct 1918 Entry 568, Box 149. The Index card at this location provided his name, rank, unit, wound description and regimental case number. 

I have a Purple Heart medal from him, with a serial number on the side, but no documentation to accompany it. It was not engraved with his name, and I understand this is more rare for WWI recipients. 

Although I realize that no comprehensive Purple Heart recipient database exists, it logically makes sense that those WWI members who had to apply for the retroactive medal should've had their applications cataloged somewhere. 

John Simon Hilgenhold
Serial Number: 3,091,281
Inducted at Perry Co, IND on 28 May 1919
Residence: RR #1, Tell City, Perry, Indiana
Place of Birth: St Marks Ind, 24 March 1992
Organizations Served In, with dates of Assignments and Transfers:
44 Co, 11 Bn, 159 Dep Brig to 16 June 1918
Co M, 153rd Inf - to 13 Sep 1918
Co C, 126th Inf - to discharge (Combat unit)
Rank: Pvt
Engagements: Romagne (Verdun) / Meuse-Argonne (1-5 October)
Wounded in Action (degree and date): "Slightly" on 5 Oct 1918
Served Overseas from: 6 Aug 1918 to 9 Jan 1919
Honorably Discharged on: 1 Feb 1919
In view of occupation he was, on date of discharge, reported, “0” percent disabled
Died: 6 Jan 1969 in Tell City, IN

Thank you!

Parents Reply Children
  • Thank you for your response! I took a deep dive into more catalog listings and have a few record groups identified that I plan on requesting soon or have pending requests currently.

    The Central Files, 1926-1939 that you mention, I couldn't find the reference to Box 1089 or any box with a 22.05 prefix, only 210. Could you point me towards that item?

    To update other readers of this post. The 210 series boxes I examined from the Central Files were interesting, 210.52 Military Merit had a lot of memos pertaining to the Purple Heart, but not individual records.  210.52 Military Medals had an interesting design for the Purple Heart that was never implemented. The record groups in this series appear to primarily be focused on higher level awards, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Stars, etc. All items that require citations. Although I did run across a compiled list of Purple Heart applications that had been mailed from a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, so it may be possible to find a few applications scattered in, I still have a lot more to search. Definitely not a comprehensive list. 

    In case anyone is interested in a previous search of the below record group for Purple Hearts, my great-grandfather was not listed. According to the researcher “[N]one of them held applications for Columbia Wound certificates, WWI Victory Medals, or Purple Hearts. The documents in those files appear only to pertain to requests for service badges and medals." However, I would still try this Record Group as to not leave a stone unturned. 

    Record Group 407 Entry (NM-3) 416 Records of the Adjutant General's Office. Approved and Disapproved Applications for Decorations and Awards, 1905 - 1951 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/7513370  


    Thank you for posting your question on History Hub!

    Please note that the Record Group 407 series Central Files, 1926 - 1939 (PI-17 37-H) is only partially available in the Catalog and it appears not all file units are presently listed either. Therefore there is no full box/file unit available for that series in the Catalog.  Also, keep in mind that the Catalog can only take you so far with this type of research. In other words, archival research is labor intensive and time consuming. Searches such as this involve an iterative process, identifying decimal numbers of interest and tracking down related records. We have had similar inquiries in the past related to wound chevron upgrades and this is one place we were able to locate potential documentation. As these files have not been digitized they are only available to be consulted with in person. 

    We invite you to continue the conversation with community members on History Hub, but should you have follow up questions for the staff at Archives II, please email us at archives2reference@nara.gov so that we can assist you further. 

    We hope this assists you with your research! 


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