I’ve been a military archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for 29 years. This article is an expanded version of the short talk I gave at the Reunion in Cleveland. NARA was established in 1934 to preserve the historical records of the Federal Government.
For researching the records of the 83rd Infantry Division and its veterans, the two facilities you need to know are the National Archives at College Park, Maryland (known as AII), and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. The important thing to remember, is that if you have any questions, ask a Military Reference Archivist at NARA.
83rd Infantry Division Operational Records at Archives II, College Park, Maryland.
The records of the 83rd Infantry Division, and its organic and attached units, are located in Archives II. There are 119 boxes of records for the 83rd and its organic units in Record Group 407: Records of the Adjutant General’s Offic, with each box containing 800-1000 pages. There are daily journals, after action reports, general orders, intelligence reports, unit histories, and other records.
The records available can vary from unit to unit, and also depend on the level of the organization (the type of records created at the division level may differ from those created at the battalion or regimental levels). The records of the attached units are found separately within the appropriate arm: armor, artillery , engineers, etc.
You can visit and review the records in our research room or request copies by mail/email/telephone request. Visit www.archives.gov for additional information.
There are also two boxes of records in Record Group 338: Records of United States Army Commands, 1942- , containing records of the training of the 83rd in 1942-1944.
Personnel-related records of World War II Army servicemen usually are located at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. In certain situations, there may be exceptions. There was a fire there in 1973 that destroyed a tremendous number of records.
If you are seeking the personnel records of an Army WWII veteran, there may be few if any records in their personnel file. However, depending on the situation, there may be other records that might be useful. One thing to remember is that the personnel files, also called 201 files (from their designation in the War Department Decimal Files System in use at the time), are a very specific type of file. If you request a personnel file, and the answer is negative, it just means there is no personnel file, not that there might not be other records that may be helpful.
At the last Reunion, a situation came to light, where Association members had requested a personnel file on a relative who had gone missing in the war, and whose body had been recovered in 1962. They requested the personnel file and were told there were no records. Again, this just means that there is no personnel file. Later, additional information was discovered in other records. This is just an example to reinforce my previous statement, that if you have any questions about military records, ask a Military Reference Archivist at NARA. In that situation, a military archivist would have recommended that they request the personnel file and the individual deceased personnel file at the same time.
These tabs contain the information you would receive from the Archives after asking questions about specific records or information. It’s an interesting read but text heavy.