1 Reply Latest reply on Aug 1, 2017 11:41 AM by Research Services at the National Archives

    What preliminary research can I do to look up a black WWII veteran?




      I'm looking to do research on my grandfather's WW II service. According to his son (my father) he refused to talk about it so anyone who might have known much is passed on. All my dad or me know is that he dug runways and handled corpses like lots of other enlisted blacks.


      I'd like to visit the archive at a later date and am going through the NARA website to prepare. I've already used the enlistment records database and found his serial number, grade, etc and read the Personal Participation in World War II PDF.


      Beyond that the evetrecs website only seems only to let immediate next of kin request more personal military records but my father is too ill to do this. Is there some way I as his grandson can request them? Various forums I've read online talk about the SF 180 but I'm unclear if the information I'll get is different from the website.


      Assuming I can get ahold of those records I'd like to know what else I can do without visiting. I'd especially like to know the best information I should have on hand that will help me research my grandpa when I visit.



        • Re: What preliminary research can I do to look up a black WWII veteran?
          Research Services at the National Archives Tracker

          Dear Mr. Haines,

          Thank you for your question to History Hub! 

          Whether or not you are required to be immediate next-of-kin to submit an SF-180 for your grandfather’s records depends on when he left military service.  In other words, if your grandfather was discharged BEFORE 1955, you (and anyone else who wanted to request them) should have free and open access to his personnel records.  The exemption at the bottom relates to his personal information, which would be excluded from the file during the process of the request.  If you wanted that excluded information, you would have to retain permission from your father and submit it with the SF-180 (see http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/).  Assuming he did remain in the service AFTER 1955, then any request would have to be made by your father. In any case, the location of these personnel records are listed for the various military services at the bottom of the form.  Most standard military requests will go through the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis (the last address at the bottom of the form).

          If you are looking for unit records in addition to personnel records, those requests would be made either by showing up at the research room in College Park, Maryland, or by submitting a remote reference request at archives2reference@nara.gov. The Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RDT2) has custody of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1917- (Record Group 407) and the Records of U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter) (Record Group 338).  Military unit files among these records consist mostly of historical reports, after action reports, unit journals, and general orders.  Because the files are arranged hierarchically, identification of the specific unit (i.e., division, regiment, and battalion) and date of interest are necessary before a search can be conducted. Please be aware that they do not include personnel or medical information. RDT2 does not have a name index to these records.

          More information related to researching and requesting unit records is linked here. Reference Information Paper No. 105 Records of Military Agencies Relating to African Americans from the Post-World War I Period to the Korean War may be of use to you as well.

          Hope this helps!  Best of luck with your research.

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