3 Replies Latest reply on Dec 31, 2020 12:04 PM by Phillip Bussey Branched from an earlier discussion.

    How to find information on how to date a military picture?


      Can anyone direct me on how to find information on how to date a military picture? I have a picture of my great grandfather on a navy ship but I don't know what year or if he even served in a war because I can't find any info on him.

        • Re: How to find information on how to date a military picture?
          Holly Rivet Tracker

          Ms. Michel,


          Thank you for contacting the History Hub!


          You may be able to request a copy of his Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) from the National Archives in St. Louis.  This record series consists of Navy servicemen retired or discharged between 1886 and 1994.  The files contain basic biographical information as well as military training and bases where they served. Often times they also include identification pictures and personal correspondence.  Many of these records also contain a negative of their ID picture which we are happy to put onto a CD for you.


          These records are releasable to the public when the date of separation becomes 62 years from today’s date.  You may request these OMPFs to view in our Research Room for no charge or complete an SF-180 form and send it to the following address:


          National Archives and Records Administration

          National Archives at St. Louis

          ATTN: RL-SL

          PO Box 38757

          St. Louis, MO 63138




          Holly Rivet


          2 people found this helpful
          • Re: How to find information on how to date a military picture?

            Ms. Michel,


            Photographs can contain clues as to the date they were taken.  Uniforms, insignia, and decorations worn can suggest a range of dates of when the photograph was taken because the Navy (as do all the Services) had regulations that specified how sailors should be dressed--those regulations have dates.


            Similarly, if enough of the ship is included in the photo, a reasonable guess as to the age of the picture can be made.  The ship's configuration, weapons, even paint scheme, can all give clues as to when the picture was taken.  Warships seldom looked the same throughout their careers, and visual details about the ship can give clues about the years the ship held the configuration suggested in your photo.

            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: How to find information on how to date a military picture?
              Phillip Bussey Wayfarer

              Hi Ms. Michael,


              Something that has worked for me at times in the past in identifying photos like you have is to scan the image as a PDF file, and then use google to search using the image. If the image is stored in their rather large database then there may be a surprising amount of detail accompanying it.


              Scan the photo into your computer, bring up Google the search engine, and then click on the word 'images' that is likely in the upper right hand corner along with a few other terms.


              It will open a small window around the middle of the page, do a drag and drop of the image into the box, and then cross your fingers that the image is also in a scanned data base. It will give you a response in less than a minute if someone else has scanned something close to the same image into their photo database.


              FYI this is a technique passed along to me by a military historian who works in the Washington area, and I was using it to ID photos of planes in flight over the Pacific in 1944, and it worked well for me, giving me a specific date and the aircraft carrier from which the planes had flown.


              Hope this helps.


              Phil Bussey