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I.  Getting Started


Individuals beginning a search of military records would be well served by first reading a general overview of the subject area.  Excellent resources in this regard include the “Frequently Asked Questions” publication prepared by the National Archives and Records Administration,


Equally helpful would be the “Frequently Asked Historical Questions” publication of the US Army Heritage and Education Center and a comparable piece compiled by the Naval Historical Center, and respectively.


Additional research guidance is offered by the genealogy section of the National Archives and Records Administration site, and especially  Consult as well and for additional guidance about available information.  Individuals unfamiliar with the military may find particularly enlightening the Navy’s description of the contents of a service record,


II.  Obtaining Military Service Records


A.            Federal Resources


The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records,, is a repository for the personnel, health, and medical records of all discharged and deceased veterans (all branches of the armed forces) who served after 1900.  Veterans and their next-of-kin may now use the “eVetRecs” system to request records from the Center,  Veterans and next-of-kin without Internet access and all others may submit their requests in writing to:


National Personnel Records Center

Military Personnel Records

9700 Page Avenue

St. Louis, MO  63132-5100

Fax:  314-801-9195


If possible, use a Standard Form 180 for this request.  The form may be downloaded from  If you cannot obtain a Standard Form 180 for this request, include in your inquiry the service member’s complete name, Social Security number and/or serial number, branch of service, and dates of service as well as your return address.  Date and place of birth for the veteran would be helpful too, as would be place of discharge, last unit of assignment, and place of entry into service, if known.  You must sign and date your request.


More than one request may be submitted per envelope, but policy requires that you submit a separate form/letter for each individual whose records are being requested.  Please allow at least 2 – 4 weeks for a reply.  If you need assistance, telephone the Center at (314) 801-0800 or contact them via email at “”


B.            State Resources


State agencies may be valuable resources as well.  The Military Records and Research Branch of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs, for example, contains more than 300,000 discharge documents for Kentucky veterans, beginning with individuals who served in World War I through modern day.  It also contains historical records of Kentucky militia and National Guard units dating from 1792.  Oregon’s State Archives offers a detailed listing of the resources it has available regarding the military service of state residents.  To assist researchers, the state has prepared the Oregon Military Department Records Guide, 1847-1986.  


For a complete state-by-state listing of state government resources, see pages 9 – 10 of this document.


C.            Local Resources


Although the federal government is the primary source for military records, other sources may be close at hand.  Local governments, for example, merit a researcher’s attention, as veterans may have filed their military discharge documents (e.g., AGO 100 or DD-214) with the county clerk or recorder. 


III.  Understanding What You Find


A.            Abbreviations/Acronyms


Glance at any service record and one will see quickly that the military has its own special language.  Fortunately, the Department of Defense posts a searchable version of its current Dictionary of Military Terms at  For those struggling with the abbreviations used in Naval records (e.g., CVHE & LST), the Ship’s Hull Identification guide provided by the US Navy also is a godsend,, as is its listing of abbreviations for Navy ratings (i.e., jobs), 


Abbreviations and terms change over time, thus, for the acronyms and terms commonly used during WWII, see:


United States War Department, Dictionary of United States Army Terms, War Department Technical Manual 20 – 205 (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1944).  A current version of this document is on-line at


United States, Navy Department, Office of Naval History, Glossary of US Naval Code Words (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1948).  On-line at


United States Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Office of Naval Records and History, Glossary of US Naval Abbreviations (Washington, DC:  United States Navy Department, 1949).  On-line at


Basic abbreviations that individuals may encounter frequently, especially in conjunction with World War II research, will include:


AA          Antiaircraft

AAA       Antiaircraft Artillery

AAB       Army Air Base

AAC       Army Air Corps

AAF        Army Air Force

A/B         Airborne

AD          Armored Division or Active Duty

AEF        American Expeditionary Force

AGF        Army Ground Forces

AGS        Armed Guard Service

BB          Battleship

BN          Battalion

Btry        Battery

Cav        Cavalry

CB          Construction Battalion (SeaBee)

CBI        China-Burma-India Theater

CIB        Combat Infantrymen’s Badge

CMOH   Congressional Medal of Honor

CO          Commanding Officer

Co           Company

CP           Command Post

DET        Detachment

DNB       Died, Non-Battle

DOI        Died of Injuries

DOW      Died of Wounds

DSC        Distinguished Service Cross

ETO        European Theater of Operations

FA           Field Artillery

GCM      Good Conduct Medal

Gp           Group

HQ          Headquarters

KIA        Killed in Action

LOD       Line of Duty

LC          Landing Craft

LCI         Landing Craft, Infantry

LCM      Landing Craft, Mechanized

LCP        Landing Craft, Personnel

LDF        Local Defense Forces

LST        Landing Ship, Tank

LSV        Landing Ship, Vehicle

LVT        Landing Vehicle, Tracked

MC         Medical Corps

MIA       Missing in Action

Mort       Mortar

MOS       Military Occupation Specialty

MP          Military Police

MT         Maintenance

NCO       Non-commissioned Officer (e.g., a sergeant)

NMI       No Middle Initial

OLC       Oak Leaf Cluster (signifies repeat of award)

Ord         Ordnance

PH          Purple Heart

Plat         Platoon

POW       Prisoner of War

PUC        Presidential Unit Citation

QM         Quartermaster

Rcn         Reconnaissance

Regt        Regiment

Sig           Signal

Sqd         Squad

TF           Task Force

Tk Bn     Tank Battalion

TD          Tank Destroyer

T/O         Table of Organization

Tr            Troop

WIA       Wounded in Action



B.            Awards, Decorations, and Campaign and Service Medals


Most service records will mention commendations earned by the serviceperson individually or as part of a unit.  The Institute of Heraldry provides comprehensive information on Army awards, badges, decorations, insignia, and medals,  For assistance in deciphering abbreviations relating to these items, see the Data Codes Quick Reference Guide listed on (“Awards and Decorations”). 


Similar information for other services may be reviewed at,, and index.html, respectively.[1]


For instructions on how to request original or replacement medals and awards, go to the NPRC’s site,


C.            Military Rank


The individual service branches vary in the names they use to designate the grades/ranks of enlisted personnel and officers.  Comparable information for all services is posted on-line at and  During World War II, grades/ranks were as shown in the following chart.[2]




Marine Corps


Private (Pvt)

Private First Class (Pfc)

Technician Fifth Class (T/5)

Corporal (Cpl)

Technician Fourth Class (T/4)

Sergeant (Sgt)

Technician Third Class (T/3)

Staff Sergeant (SSgt)

Technical Sergeant (TSgt)

First Sergeant (FSgt)

Master Sergeant (MSgt)

Sergeant Major (SMJ)

Warrant Officer – Junior Grade (WOJ)

Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)

Second Lieutenant (2Lt)

First Lieutenant (1Lt)

Captain (Capt)

Major (Maj)

Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol)

Colonel (Col)

Brigadier General (BGen)

Major General (MajGen)

Lieutenant General (LtGen)

General (Gen)

General of the Army


Apprentice Seaman (AS)

Seaman 2nd Class (S2)

Seaman 1st Class (S1)

Petty Officer 3rd Class (PO3)

Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2)

Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1)

Chief Petty Officer (CPO)

Warrant Officer (WO)

Commissioned Warrant Officer (CWO)

Ensign (Ens)

Lieutenant – Junior Grade (Ltjg)

Lieutenant (Lt.)

Lieutenant Commander (Lt.Com)

Commander (CDRO

Captain (Capt.)

Commodore (CDRE)

Rear Admiral (RADM)


Admiral (Adm)

Fleet Admiral (FADM)


Private (Pvt)

Private First Class (Pfc)

Corporal (Cpl)

Sergeant (Sgt)

Platoon Sergeant (PlSgt) or Staff Sergeant (StfSgt)

Gunnery Sergeant (GunSgt) or Technical Sergeant (TSgt)

1st Sergeant (FSgt) or Quartermaster Sergeant (QMSgt)

Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) or Master Technical Sergeant (MTSgt)

Warrant Officer (WO)

Commissioned Warrant Officer (CWO)

2nd Lieutenant (2Lt)

1st Lieutenant (1Lt)

Captain (Capt)

Major (Maj)

Lieutenant Colonel (LtCol)

Colonel (Col)

Brigadier General (BrigGen)

Major General (MajGen)

Lieutenant General[3] (LtGen)



D.            Military Units


Organization.  For administrative and tactical purposes, military forces are organized in various size units.[4]  Army personnel may be grouped in the following manner:


Squad – Small unit of 9 – 14 men, commanded by a sergeant.

Platoon – Three or more squads, commanded by a lieutenant.

Company – Basic combat unit consisting of three or more platoons, commanded by a captain.  Total force averages about 120 soldiers.

Battery – Artillery combat unit with three or more heavy guns.  Similar in size to a company, commanded by a captain.

Battalion – Three or more companies or batteries, commanded by a lieutenant colonel.  Total force averages 500 – 800 men.

Regiment – Large unit formation, consisting of three or more battalions, commanded by a colonel.  Total force ranges between 2,000 – 3,000 men.

Brigade – Two regiments with supporting artillery and support troops, commanded by a brigadier general.  Used in World War I but not in World War II.

Division – The command units for large formations of three or more regiments, with various supporting troops, commanded by a major general.  Total force exceeds 15,000 soldiers.

Corps – Two or three (usually the latter) divisions, commanded by a lieutenant general.

Army – Two or more corps, commanded by a general (four stars).  The 36th Infantry Division was assigned to the 5th Army in Italy and the 7th Army in Southern France.


To assist those eager to understand the often-confusing organizational structure of the US Navy, the Federation of American Scientists offers an “Overview of Navy Units” at  A detailed description of the Air Force structure is available at


Unit Insignias.[5]  A comprehensive overview of Army unit insignia is available from the Institute of Heraldry, on-line at[6]  The Institute also provides information on rank insignia,  Similar information for the Air Force may be found at  Additional background on enlisted and officer rank insignia may be found at and 


Grunt, the Ultimate Military Site, also provides researchers with illustrations of all military badges and insignias at  Navy insignias are described at; 267; and


IV.  Additional Reference Materials or Resources


A.            Records of US Ships and Naval Units from the Modern Era[7]


The National Archives has custody of a wide range of records relating to ships and other Navy units for the period from World War II through Vietnam, with a heavy concentration in WWII vessels.  Available records include, but are not limited to:


Action Reports (WWII)

Armed Guard Logbooks and Reports[8] (WWII)

Casualty Reports (WWII – late 1950s)

Deck Logs (1941 – 1967)[9]

Movement Report Cards (i.e., Records of the Tenth Fleet, WWII)[10]

Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries (WWII – 1970)

Records of Individual Convoys (i.e., Records of the Tenth Fleet)

Submarine War Patrol Reports (WWII)

War Diaries (WWII)


To learn more about the scope of these materials and to request records for a given ship, write to the following address. 



Modern Military Records Unit (NWCTM)

National Archives at College Park

8601 Adelphi Road

College Park, MD  20740-6001


In your letter, include the ship/unit’s name, the date/time period of interest; your full name, address, and telephone number; and as much other detail as possible about the information you would like to obtain.  Due to the volume of requests received and the time needed to identify all appropriate records, Archives staff requests that you limit your request to five items per each letter.  Allow approximately 10 – 12 weeks from the initial inquiry to receipt of the records.


A charge will be imposed for reproduction/mailing of the records,[11] however, do not send any cash/check/charge card information with your initial inquiry.  Staff of the Archives will review your request and send to you by mail an estimate of the cost and payment information.  Follow the directions contained in that letter to order the desired records.


B.            Selected Reference Works[12]


Adamczyk, Richard and MacGregor, Morris, Jr., eds., United States Army in World War II Reader’s Guide (Washington, DC:  United States Army Center of Military History, 1992),


Carter, Kit C., The Army Air Forces in World War II:  Combat Chronology, 1941 – 1945 (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1973),


Craven, Wesley Frank, ed., The Army Air Forces in World War II, 7 vols. (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1948 – 1958), [13]


Gawne, Jonathan, Finding Your Father’s War, A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army (Drexel Hill, PA:  Casemate Publishing, 2006).


Maurer, Maurer, ed., Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1961),


_____________, Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (Washington, DC:  United States Department of the Air Force, Air Force History Division, 1969),


Mooney, James L., ed., Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, 9 vols. (Washington, DC:  United States Naval Historical Center, 1959 to 1991).  On-line at


Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings:  Lineage and Honors Histories (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1984),


Stanton, Shelby L., Order of Battle, U.S. Army, World War II (Novato, CA:  Presidio Press, 1984).  European Theater of Operations, on-line at


United States Army, “Combat Chronicles of U.S. Army Divisions in World War II,” The Army Almanac:  A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States (Washington, DC:  United States Government Printing Office, 1950), pg. 510 – 592.  On-line at


C.            Burial Locations & Casualty Lists


The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an on-line locator service for most of its 120 national cemeteries,  For veterans buried overseas, the American Battle Monuments Commission also facilitates the search for their final resting place,


Casualty lists are available as well for some conflicts.  The National Archives and Records Administration posted on-line the state-by-state casualty lists for World War II,  A county-by-county breakdown of the World War II dead and missing from Texas for the US Army and Army Air Force, for example, may be accessed at


WWII casualties for the other services are posted at  Those from Texas (including an indication of those individuals held as prisoners of war) may be found at  Korean War and Vietnam-era casualty information may be retrieved at  Information from subsequent conflicts is posted at


D.            Reunions


For listings of military unit reunions from all service branches, consult the US Marine Corps list of approved reunions,


E.            Miscellaneous


The Armed Forces use symbols in a variety of ways.  For a basic overview of military map symbols, for example, see


Once you’ve navigated the unique world of military acronyms, you also might be interested to learn more about the special language of the military.  The US Navy has done a wonderful job of explaining some of the familiar terms, such as scuttlebutt and watches, that one might encounter in old correspondence or military records.  See


V.  On-Line Resources


A.            Military History Resources


Individuals and organizations interested in military history are among the most active users of the Internet.  As a result, a tremendous volume of information is available on-line about any conflict or military unit, especially those of the modern era.  Included among the sites that may be valuable reference sources are:


Air Mobility Command Museum,

American Civil War Homepage,

Army Air Forces,[14]

Army Historical Foundation,

Buffalo Soldiers Museum,

Civil Engineer Corps, Seabee Heritage Center,


Civil War Center,

Civil War Manuscripts Project,

Civil War Official Records, (128 volumes of Confederate & Union Army records; 31 volumes of Confederate & Union Navy records)

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System,

Cold War Museum,

Congressional Medal of Honor Society,

Fleet Air Arm Archive (British site),

Historic Government Publications from World War II,

Historic Naval Ships Association,

HyperWar (annotated history of WWII),[15]

Index to the Military Rolls of the Republic of Texas (1835-1845),


Korean War Commemoration,

Master Index of Army Records,

Military Medical History,

National Museum of Naval Aviation,

National Museum of the Marine Corps,

National Museum of the Pacific War,

National Museum of the United States Air Force,

National World War II Museum,

Navy Bureau of Medicine,


Naval Historical Center,[16]

Naval Historical Foundation,

Naval Vessel Registry,

Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Database,

Rutgers University, Oral History Archives of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Cold War,

Submarine Museums,

Texas Military Forces Museum,

US Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute,


US Air Force Historical Research Agency,

US Air Force Historical Research Agency, Research Division,


US Air Force History Support Office,

US Army Aviation and Missile Command (i.e., Redstone Arsenal Historical Site),

US Army Aviation Museum,

US Army Chaplain Museum,

US Army Engineer Museum,

US Army Heritage & Education Center,

US Army Military Police Corps,

US Army Museums,

US Army Ordnance Corps History,

US Army Quartermaster Museum,

US Army Signal Corps Museum,[18]

US Army Transportation Museum,

US Army Women’s Museum,

US Coast Guard Historian’s Office,

US LST Association,

US LST Ship Memorial,

US Marine Corps History and Museums Division,

US Military Academy,[19]

US Military Aviation,

Veterans History Project,

Vietnam Project,

Western Front Association (WWI),

Women Air Service Pilots (WASP),

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP),

Women of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services),

Women in Military Service for America Memorial,

World War I – Trenches on the Web,[20]

World War I Document Archive,

World War I Draft Registrations,

World War II Documents,

World War II Resources (Pearl Harbor History Associates, Inc.),


B.            State Archives and Historical Agencies



















































       (Confederate pensions search)












Addendum –Military Service Records Held by the Texas Military Forces Museum[21]


Ø     World War I Individual Service Cards for each Texan

Ø     World War I Listing of Military Units in the 36th Infantry Division

Ø     World War II Casualty Lists for All Services Organized by County

Ø     World War II Deceased Service Persons for All Services Organized by County (with list of next-of-kin notified)

Ø     World War II Individual Service Cards for each Texan who served with the 36th Infantry Division

Ø     World War II 36th Infantry Division Service Lists (two sources)

Ø     Vietnam War Casualty List (Texans only)

Ø     Post World War II Individual Service Card for Every Commissioned Office of the Texas National Guard (1946 – 1968 only)





Last Updated:  April 18, 2007 by Sharon Lawrence, Volunteer, Texas Military Forces Museum, P.O. Box 5218, Austin, TX  78703-5218

[1]               The site also includes an interesting discussion of battle streamers and a detailed listing of awards for all service branches.

[2]               United States War Department, Dictionary of United States Army Terms, War Department Technical Manual 20 – 205, p. 125.

[3]               The Marine Corps had no rank equivalent to General or Admiral during World War II.

[5]               More than 11,000 of these insignias are on display at the Texas Military Forces Museum, courtesy of the family of Joseph Massaro.

                Barry Jason Stein’s US Army Patches, Flashes and Ovals:  An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Cloth Unit Insignia (Greenwich, CT:  Insignia Ventures Co., 2007) should be an invaluable reference work for those seeking to identify service related items. 

[6]              In the alternative, you may write the Institute at 9325 Gunston Road, Room S-112, Fort Belvoir, Virginia 22060-5579 (telephone:  703-806-4971).

[7]               Ship plans may be obtained from the Maps and Plans Work Group, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS), Room 3320, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD  20740-6001. 

                For photographs of Naval ships, contact the Still Picture Reference Team, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-Stills), Room 5360, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 (telephone 301-837-0561; facsimile: 301-837-3621; E-mail:

[8]               For the cargo ships and troop carriers protected by the Armed Guard Service.

[9]               Deck logs consist of brief records of the administrative activities of a ship.

[10]             These file cards list the ports of arrival, due dates, dates of actual arrival, and the dates of setting sail to the next port as well as convoy information, if applicable. 

[11]             Reproduction of the records is handled by a private contractor, not federal government personnel.  A minimum charge of $10 is imposed on all mail orders.

[12]             The US Air Force Historical Studies Office has made available on-line a growing list of publications covering all facets of Air Force history at

[13]             Reprinted by the US Government Printing Office for the Office of Air Force History (1983).

[14]             Offers a glossary and other valuable features.

[15]             See information on US Navy Ships, 1940 – 1945,

[16]             Of particular interest may be the guide to Navy museums in the United States,

[17]             Excellent source for information on USAF acronyms, abbreviations, lineage and honors, force structure, and unit histories (e.g., wings and squadrons), supplemented by a fine overview (including colored illustrations) of campaign streamers from World War I to modern day.

[18]             See for a detailed description of the signal flags.

[19]             Superb on-line collection of maps covering military engagements from ancient to modern times.

[20]             Site has the capability to translate the material into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

[21]             Contact the librarian or a docent for assistance in accessing these records. 

                A retained record for every person who served in the Texas National Guard from 1946 to the present is held by the Adjutant General’s office.  To review these records, contact the Freedom of Information Officer in Building 34 at Camp Mabry.  The Museum does not house or control access to these records although they are available at Camp Mabry.