Where can I find Navy Missing Air Crew Reports from World War 2?


How do I find a Navy or Marine Corps MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) during World War II?  I have a grandfather who was a Navy pilot and went missing over the Pacific during World War II. (He may have flown from the aircraft carrier USS Essex in 1944, I’m not sure exactly.) How do I find the MACR for his loss?

Thanks very much

  • Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


    To start, the Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), although they have some Navy and Marine Corps reports, are primarily for missing Army Air Force aircraft.  If you want to search the Missing Air Crew Reports, they are available online on the National Archives Catalog, but you will need to consult the index before you use the main collection.


    For the Navy and Marine Corps, finding information on a missing aircraft and crew will depend on where the plane departed and what it was doing when it went missing.


    The two major categories of information involve planes operating within the Continental United States and Territories and those operating overseas in the theater of combat.


    In the first situation with planes departing from the US and Territories, we search the General Correspondence of the Bureau of Aeronautics in Record Group 72 for aircraft accident reports.  The most important pieces of information we require to find a report are the aircraft type and the date of disappearance.  The General Correspondence is arranged by the Navy Filing Manual. The Navy filing designation for aircraft starts with “V” and the designation for material casualty is L11-1.  For a crashed Hellcat, a F6F-4 (for example) would be filed under VF6F4/L11-1.  Reports under this filing designation are organized by the date the report was filed. If the plane took off but crashed and an investigation took place, the date of the report would be near the date of the crash. If a patrol plane or an anti-submarine bomber took off on patrol to never be seen again, there may be some copies of communications of the plane being overdue concurrent with the date it went missing, but a final report may be filed weeks or months later.


    Looking for this kind of information covers both Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.  For losses from 1941 to 1942, you should contact the National Archives in Washington, DC, which has the earlier portion of the General Correspondence from 1925 to 1942. Contact archives1reference@nara.gov.  For accident reports from 1943 to 1945, you would need to contact archives2reference@nara.gov for the later portion of the General Correspondence.


    If you are searching for a plane that was overseas aboard an aircraft carrier or with a land-based squadron, you would need to consult the aviation-based portions of the Action Reports and Other Operational Records, the War Diaries, or the Select War Diaries and Other Operational Records (a digital collection). These series are arranged hierarchically by naval command. Therefore, there are sections for naval and Marine aviation divided into air wings, air groups, and individual squadrons.  Occasionally there are aircraft action reports filed under the Task Force and individual carriers.


    The Navy action reports and war diaries do include some Marine Corps squadron reports, but not all of them.  There are separate series in Record Group 127: Records of the US Marine Corps, such as the US Marine Corps Aviation Unit War Diaries and Unit Histories for Shore Commands and Squadrons.


    Lastly, for information on personnel casualties of naval and Marine aviation units, there is the Casualty Assistance Branch Ships, Stations, Units, and Incidents Case Files. These are divided into shore establishments and then naval operating commands (ships, squadrons and units). These files include primarily naval commands, but also include some Marines.  For the Marine Aviation losses, the US Marine Corps muster rolls for the aviation units is a good resource.  The USMC muster rolls are arranged monthly. There are listings of casualties located either in the footnotes at the end of each unit’s muster roll for a month, or in a separate listing after the footnotes.  In the general muster roll in the listing of names, you will find in the remarks column a sequence of letters.  These letters relate to footnotes at the end of the unit’s muster roll. The footnotes explain various events that occurred during the month, such as the embarking and disembarking of a ship, who participated in a particular mission, and those who had medical or casualty information.


    We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!