Military Records of World War II Veterans

Individual Service Records

Military Service Records at the National Archives

Official personnel records for all members of the Army are at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, about 85 percent of the records were destroyed in a fire at the center in 1973. Alternative sources of information on individuals who served in the Army in World War II include the General Accounting Office pay vouchers filed in the National Personnel Records Center; Selective Service records in the Regional Archives Division of the Federal Records Centers; the courts-marshal records from the Clerk of the Court, Army Judiciary, in Falls Church, Virginia; the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C.; and in the records of state adjutants general and county and municipal governments.

If the Center cannot provide the requested records, do not hesitate to contact your local Congresscritter for assistance -- the Center does not always go out of its way to determine if the records can be reconstructed from other sources. Write directly to:

or request online.

Give them as much background as you can: Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Service No, Rank, etc. and your relationship.

Also see the individual's Notice of Separation from U.S. Naval Service (NAVPERS 533):
NAVPERS 533
and Discharge Certificate:
Honorable Discharge Certificate

Individual Deceased Personnel Files (IDPFs)

Army and Army Air Force personnel (I don't know if Navy and Marine Corps are included):
These contain mostly burial (and sometimes reburial) information, but they do indicate the unit and location of original burial -- a useful starting point for research.

Write directly to:

Give them as much background as you can: Full Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Service No, Rank, etc. and your relationship. Good luck!

Additional information at the Naval Historical Center: Official Service and Medical Records

Job Descriptions

("What did you do in the war, Dad?")

Replacement Medals

USA Military Medals: USA Military Medals Army Medals - Navy Medals - Air Force Medals - Marine Medals - Coast Guard Medals

Sources of Official Information for US Naval Vessels

The primary repository of documentary information for US Naval vessels of the World War II era is:

A list of the "Record Groups" containing US Navy records can be found at the:

Navy Department Library
A guide to the contents of Record Group 45 (only small amounts of WWII records) is at:
Navy Department Library

Within NARA's Record Groups, documents are filed according to the Navy Filing Manual.

Following is a sample of the kinds of information available:

 Deck Logs (1941-1961) 

Brief records of the daily administrative activites of the ship; includes journal style entries of the ship's administrative activities, location and course of travel, etc.

Supply the ship's name and hull number, and date(s) of interest.

Cost is $0.50 per page. Typical logs (depending on ship type) include 1 or more pages per day. Please contact the Archives first, before sending any money; these prices are offered only as a general guide. Additional information at the Naval Historical Center: Ships' Deck Logs

Sample: USS Ward (DD-139) Deck Log for December 1941.

 Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries (1941-1966) 

Quarterly reports of a ship's enlisted personnel, with monthly updates of personnel changes. Contains name, rank/rating, and service number for each individual serviceman.

Supply the ship's name and hull number, and date(s) of interest.

Cost is $34.00 per roll of 16mm microfilm (as of August, 1999). Each ship should have its own roll; some Muster Rolls come on multiple microfilm rolls (some rolls will include several ships). Please contact the Archives first, before sending any money; these prices are offered only as a general guide.

Casualty Reports

Include casualty lists, reports of incidents resulting in casualties, statements of witnesses or survivors, and other documents.

Supply the ship's name and hull number, name of operation/battle/campaign, and date(s) of interest.

Sample: USS Panay (PR-5) Casualty Reports for the bombing and sinking by Japanese aircraft above Nanking, China, 12 December 1937.

Cost is ? Please contact the Archives first, before sending any money; these prices are offered only as a general guide.

Action Reports

The basic source of reports for naval action and operations during World War II.

Sample: USS West Virginia (BB-48) Action Report for the Pearl Harbor attack.

Supply the ship's name and hull number, name of operation/battle/campaign, and date(s) of interest.

Cost is ? Please contact the Archives first, before sending any money; these prices are offered only as a general guide.

War Diaries

Daily journals of events submitted by all but the most minor of naval commands during World War II. The operational information is complementary to that of the Action Reports and analagous in form to the Deck Logs.

Sample: USS Kyne (DE-744) War Diary.

Supply the ship's name and hull number, name of operation/battle/campaign, and date(s) of interest.

Cost is ? Please contact the Archives first, before sending any money; these prices are offered only as a general guide.

Naval Armed Guard Voyage Reports

The Armed Guard Voyage Report was prepared by the Armed Guard commander at the completion of each voyage in accordance with General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships.

Sample: Armed Guard Voyage Report from the U.S.A.T. General George W. Goethals (from her trip in convoy WS 31--Glasgow to Cape Town to New York, 8 June 1943 to 16 August 1943).

Naval Armed Guard Personnel Reports

The Armed Guard Personnel Report was prepared by the Armed Guard commander at the completion of each voyage in accordance with General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships.

Sample: Armed Guard Personnel Report from the U.S.A.T. General George W. Goethals (from her trip in convoy TU 5--Glasgow to New York, 19 December 1943 to 31 December 1943).

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Compiled and published by the United States Naval Historical Center. Contains 1-3 page descriptions of ship, hull number, characteristics, dates of construction of construction, launch, and commissioning, and narrative of major activities and events. The multi-volume Dictionary is some decades out of date and currently under revision, so the eventual fate of many ships is not included. However, the NHC is in the process of placing this resource online, where updating will be an easier, ongoing process.

The level of detail can be rather sketchy, but will provide information about major campaigns, battles and incidents -- which can then provide starting points for any of the above logs/reports, as well as campaign/battle histories of World War II that may be relevant.

Sample: USS West Virginia

Plans and Photos

For ship plans, call the National Archives at 1-301-713-7030
For ship photos, call the National Archives at 1-301-713-6625

Photos are also available from the US Naval Institute and from a variety of Web sites.


Other Types and Sources of Information



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Last updated: 3 February 2010

Compiled and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation