Many baby boomers are the offspring of World War 2 veterans and are now beginning to realize that they do not know much about their family history. Genealogists often start their searches with birth, marriage, and death records to gather data. After those resources run out, where else can they search?
Much can be learned about our “greatest generation” from World War 2 military records. This is another important resource that should not be overlooked. But where do we go to find these records?
National Archives and Records Administration
The internet has exponentially increased the ease and availability of all these records, including World War 2 military records. One such source can be found at Archives.gov, the website for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The United States government uses the NARA to store records that are deemed to be of legal or historical value. Genealogists and historians can use it to access records that may not be available through other sources. The NARA also stores such important and vital documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The National Personnel Records Center – Military Personnel Records
Part of NARA, The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) is a storehouse for millions of military records, including personnel, health, and medical records. Access to these records for veterans or next of kin is available at Vetrecs.archives.gov, and for all other requests you need to file a Standard Form 180 with the NPRC-MPR.
Another source for World War 2 military records can be found at Militaryindexes.com, an online guide geared to specifically help genealogists. Records from all US wars are available here, including databases of soldiers, rosters, military and war causalities.
Cyndi’s List is well-known to genealogists as an excellent compilation of resources on the internet from around the world. There is an entire section devoted to links for World War 2 information and records which is located at Cyndislist.com/worldwar2.htm.
There are also several other services available to access World War 2 military records, but require a fee. Ancestry.com has military records available, as well as a vast database of records from numerous sources. While there is a fee involved, they do a very good job of compiling a lot of data at one source. Ancestry does offer a free two-week trial, so be sure to block out some time so that you can make the best use of your trial.
Learn about the lives and stories of the World War II veterans now, while they are still alive and can share the emotional details of their personal experiences. If you have a loved one who has died, it’s still not too late to find information. Just get started right away!