WW2 army service records chronicle the efforts of the "Greatest Generation" during this terrible global conflict. The entrance of the United States into the war sparked massive enlistments by young American men and women. Records from World War II are the first time a typewriter, rather than handwriting, was used for United States war records. This has helped greatly in ensuring an accurate transcription.
Obtaining WW2 Army Service Records
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) operates the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The NPRC is the central repository for U.S. military service records. Records can be requested by the veteran or next-of-kin. Other interested third parties may request the information, but a signature of the veteran or next-of-kin is required. Genealogists should be aware that in 1973 a fire in the St. Louis NPRC Center destroyed about 16 to 18 million records. It is estimated by NARA that 80 percent of U.S. Army records for those discharged between 1912 and 1960 were lost. NPRC has attempted to reconstruct the information using alternate sources, such as pay vouchers.
Other Sources for Records
While NPRC has the official WW2 army service records, there are other sources available with information on military service during the war. Some of the sources provide a broader look at the veteran's army service:
- The National World War II Memorial includes a registry of citizens who contributed to the war effort, including army service members. This list was compiled by public enrollment and governmental sources. The registry can be searched for free.
- NARA's Access to Archival Databases has several databases regarding World War II army service, such as listings of prisoners of war and U.S. Army enlistment records.
- Ancestry has World War II draft registration cards for the year 1942. Ancestry charges a fee for a subscription, but many libraries allow free access for patrons.
- Fold3 has numerous databases regarding the military in World War II. While some databases require a subscription, others may be viewed by simply registering.
- The Department of Veteran Affairs maintains a listing of veteran burials, including World War II veterans. This database includes those interred in veteran cemeteries and those with a government gravestone.
- The American Battlefield Monument Commission maintains a database of over 125,000 military service men and women who died during a war and were buried overseas.
- Some state archives keep records of veterans of the state.
- Cyndi's List of Genealogical Sites on the Internet is an index of websites of Internet to genealogists. This index includes a category for World War II research.
U.S. Involvement in World War II
The United States entered into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. America remained active until the end of the war on September 2, 1945. Over eight million Americans served in the U.S. Army during the war. Of these:
- Over 220,000 were killed in action
- Over 570,000 were wounded
- Over 12,000 were missing in action
The war was fought in multiple areas, called theatres. Army involvement was mostly in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific Rim.