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.

Archives II building at College Park, Maryland
Archives II building at College Park, Maryland © wikimedia commons

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

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.

The Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RDT2) has custody of the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917- (Record Group 407), U.S. Army Command Reports, 1949-54, and the records of the U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter) (Record Group 338). Command reports among these records consist mostly of narrative historical and after action reports as well as unit journals and other supporting documents. 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. They do not include personnel or medical information. We do not have a name index to these records.

The Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RDT2) has custody of casualty lists of World War II U.S. Army division and their permanently attached units. The lists are arrange mostly by unit and, thereunder, alphabetically by the name of the casualty. Other information included in the listing are the service number of the casualty, grade, element of service, and type of casualty.

The principal World War II Army casualty list, World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing (Washington: War Department, 1946) is arranged alphabetically by state and thereunder by county. Each state booklet includes a foreword describing how the list was compiled, a statistical tabulation by counties and by types of casualty. The towns within the counties and the dates and places where the casualties occurred are not mentioned. World War II Army casualty lists are available online at http://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww2/army-casualties/

Records of the Office of the Provost Marshal General (Record Group 389) include a master list of American prisoners of war of the German and Japanese Governments. These indexes consist of many volumes and have thousands of entries for individuals listed alphabetically by surname. If you are interested in any particular prisoner and can furnish us any identifying information about him, we will be happy to search our records.

The National Archives has a number of series of records relating to World War II-era prisoners of war. Usually, these records can only establish prisoner of war (POW) status. Rarely do the records contain specific information about a prisoner’s medical condition or treatment. Enclosed is a copy of the relevant page from one of the comprehensive lists of POWs in our custody. This should assist you in verifying POW status.

Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917- (Record Group 407) include Station Lists for World War II. The lists are arranged by theater (such as European Theater of Operations) and thereunder by date. The lists are generally monthly or biweekly. Each list is arranged by type of unit and thereunder in order by unit name or number. The nearest town is listed for each unit.

World War II Army Enlistment Records are in the custody of the Electronic Records Division (RDE) and are available via the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) on the National Archives website at: http://aad.archives.gove/aad/. Click on World War II under the category section. A list of databases relating to WWII will appear and select the first database to search the WWII Army Enlistment Records.

The database World War II Army Enlistment Records, ca. 1938-1946 is a compilation of enlistment data captured on punch cards by the Army. The record you located on our website IS the record. The database is not an index to additional records. The National Archives does not have duplicates of the Army service records that were destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.

Photographs of various U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps activities dating from 1940 to 1981 are in the custody of NARA’s Still Picture Branch (RDSS), Room 5360, The National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Their email address is stillpix@nara.gov and website is http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/college-park/photographs-dc.html.

According to our records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all manifests, logs of vessels, and troop movement files of United States Army transports for World War II and most of the passenger lists.

Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) and individual medical reports for enlisted men of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after October 1912 and prior to 1955 are in the custody of NARA’s National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. In many cases where personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, proof of service can be provided from other records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders, and a certificate of military service will be issued. Enclosed is a General Services Administration (GSA) Standard Form 180 which you should complete and mail to NARA’s National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. Or you may apply online at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/

Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) and individual medical reports for officers of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after 1916 and prior to 1954 are in the custody of NARA’s National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. In many cases where personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, proof of service can be provided from other records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders, and a certificate of military service will be issued. Enclosed is a General Services Administration (GSA) Standard Form 180 which you should complete and mail to NARA’s National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. Or you may apply online at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/

The official photos of individuals, taken by the military, are not considered to be permanent federal records by the respective military services and are not retained by the service. If the photo you are seeking still exists, it will most likely be found in the individual’s Official Military Personnel File. However, there is no guarantee the photo will be present.

Facts about the fire at the National Personnel Records Center
NPRC Records blocks affected by the fire
I. The July 12, 1973, fire at the NPRC destroyed about 80% of the records for Army Personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960, and about 75% of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard thru Z discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964.
II. A listing of the records lost in the fire cannot be completed
When a records is not in NPRC’s files at the present time, and it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on July 12, 1973, Center employees often cannot determine for certain if it was burned because:

  • There were no indices to the blocks of records involved. The records were merely filed in alphabetical order within each major block:
    World War 1 November 1, 1912 – September 7, 1939
    World War 2 September 8, 1939 – December 3, 1946
    Post World War II (Army) January 1, 1947 – December 31, 1959
    (Air Force) September 25, 1947 – December 31, 1963
  • Millions of the records (especially medical records) had been withdrawn from all three blocks and lent to the Veterans Administration prior to the fire.

III. A veteran may submit photocopies of documents in his/her possession to this center
If a veteran who inquires about his/her record is advised that it was probably lost in the fire, he/she may send to this Center photocopies of any documents he/she has in his/her possession, particularly separation documents. These will be added to the computerized index and filed for permanent retention.
IV. Alternate sources of military service data
In the event a veteran has no records in his/her possession, the essential military service data is available from a number of alternate sources. The Veterans Administration, for example, maintains records on veterans whose military records were affected by the fire, if the veteran or his/her family filed a claim prior to July, 1973. Other sources of service information include various kinds of organization records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders at this Center. There is also a great deal of information available in records of the State Adjutants General, and other state veterans service offices. By using the alternate sources of information which are available at this Center, NPRC employees can often reconstruct the veteran’s beginning and ending dates of active service, the character of service, rank while in service, time lost while on active duty, and periods of hospitalization. Usually this Center is able to issue NA Form 13038, Certification of Military Service – which is considered to be the equivalent of a DD Form 214, Report of Separation from Active Duty – for the purpose of establishing eligibility for veteran’s benefits.
V. Data necessary to start the reconstruction process
Of course, the key to reconstructing military data is to get enough specific information from the veteran to allow our Center personnel to search the available alternate sources. The information normally required is: 1) full name used during service, 2) branch of service, 3) approximate dates 4) service number, 5) place of discharge, 6) last unit of assignment, 7) place of entry into service

The information you seek may be contained in his burial case file (later called the Individual Deceased Personnel File or IDPF). Burial case files from 1915-1976 are in the custody of the National Archives at St. Louis, ATTN: RL-SL, P.O. Box 38757, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. Please contact them regarding access to these records. Their email address is stl.archives@nara.gov

Morning reports for Army units (from November 1, 1912 to 1959) and Air Force units (from September 1947 to June 30, 1966) are in the custody of the National Archives in St. Louis, MO. Please contact them for access to the these records. The address to the National Archives in St. Louis, 1 Archives Drive, St Louis, MO 63138-1002 and the email address is stl.archives@nara.gov.

Copies of most of the monthly rosters from 1912-43 and 1947-59 for Army units (including Army Air Corps) are in the custody of the National Archives in St. Louis, MO. Please contact them for access to these records. The address to the National Archives in St. Louis, 1 Archives Drive, St Louis, MO 63138-1002 and the email address is stl.archives@nara.gov. Rosters for units serving in World War II from 1944-46 were destroyed in accordance with Army disposition authorities.

 

If you or the person in whom you are interested received medical treatment while in the service, information concerning that treatment may be located among the individual medical treatment records retired by military hospitals which are in the custody of the NARA’s Nation Personnel Records Center (NPRC), (Military Personnel Records) 1 Archives Drive, St Louis, MO 63138-1002. Some record collections date from the 1940s and 1950s, but more comprehensive information exists beginning in the 1960s. To request a search of these treatment records (which are a separate series of records and distinct from official personnel files), you should indicate the name of the medical facility at which the subject received treatment and date of that treatment. You might also request that the NPRC check morning reports of your unit in their custody. The morning reports are arranged by unit number and date, but will indicate only that an individual was on sick call. They will not provide medical data relating to that individual.

Relevant information may be included within the Surgeon General Tapes in the custody of the NARA’s Military Personnel Records, National Personnel Records Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. The years covered by the tapes are part of 1943, and all of 1944, 1945, 1946, 1950, 1953 and 1954. The 1940’s records include Army and Army Air Forces. The 1950’s ones include Army only.

The admissions records contain limited medical treatment information, but diagnosis, type of operation, and dates/places of treatment or hospitalization are frequently included. They are not specific or detailed medical documents, but summarized information indexed by military service number. Although no names are shown, patients are identified by military service number and certain personal data including age, race, sex, and place of birth. These records are not duplicates of the original medical treatment files lost in the 1973 fire. They were created using data sampling techniques for statistical purposes. Therefore, the listings are not complete and many admissions were skipped during the sampling process. If you wish to request a search of these records please include the name of the service member and military service number on the enclosed General Service Administration (GSA) Standard Form 180 and send it to NARA’s National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002.

Selective Service records for individuals who served after World War I and born before 1960 are in the custody of the National Archives at St. Louis, ATTN: RL-SL, P.O. Box 38757, St. Louis, MO 63138-0757. There are two types of records: the ledgers and the cards. The ledgers are in the public domain and not restricted by privacy. The cards are considered personal information and written permission for release, a death certificate, and/or an indication the information is requested for genealogical purposes should accompany the request for copies of the cards. Please use the enclosed form to request a search of these records.

Prior to 1944, Army regulations allowed the preparation of only an original discharge certificate, which was given to the soldier. The National Archives would not have the certificate on file unless it was later submitted by the veteran in support of a pension claim, nor does it have the authority to prepare another.

For information regarding prisoners of war and U.S. servicemen missing during WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, and other conflicts, we suggest you contact the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Public Affairs Office, 2600 Defense Pentagon, ATTN: External Affairs, Washington DC 20301-2600. The telephone number is 703-699-1420 and their website is http://www.dpaa.mil/.

For information relating to American overseas cemeteries and to former military personnel buried overseas, please call (703) 696-6900; write to the American Battle Monuments Commission, Court House Plaza II, Suite 500, 2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201; or send an email to info@abmc.gov

You should write directly to the National Cemetery Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20420. There is a nationwide gravesite locator available online at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/j2ee/servlet/NGL_vl

Information concerning lineage and honors can be obtained from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, ATTN: DAMH-FPO, 103 Third Avenue, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington DC 20319-5058. Their website is http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lh.html.

Information relating to heraldic items such as coats of arms or historic insignia, uniforms, flags, colors, streamers and guidons of military units can be obtained by writing the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, 9325 Gunston Road, room S-112, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-5579 or call (703) 806-4971. Their website is http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/

The U.S. Army Military History Institute, the Army Heritage & Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA 17013, has a large collection of published unit histories. Their website is http://www.ahco.army.mil/site/index.jsp

For published military literature you may wish to consult the Army Publishing Directorate at http://www.apd.army.mil/

Records pertaining to the U.S. Military Academy and the Cadets are in the custody of the Special Collections and Archives Division, U.S. Military Academy Library, Jefferson and Cullum Road, West Point, New York 10996-1711. The telephone number is (845) 938-3259 and the email address is 8libarch@usma.edu.

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