Follow Their Footsteps
Many World War II veterans give few specifics about their service. If you want to visit battle fields or simply complete your family history, it turns out there is an amazing amount of information on the Internet and in atlases. Here are some quick hints about how to play WW II detective.
First, collect all that you have learned from your veteran – what was their job, in which division did they serve, in which campaigns did they fight. Next, collect other documentation such as letters that they wrote home or that relatives received from the Army. The biggest help is the veteran’s discharge record -- a document that most veterans keep to prove eligibility for veteran benefits. It will contain the specific unit in which your veteran served plus the campaigns in which he served, and that's the key to tracing your veteran's service on the Internet and in atlases. If you have access to none of this information, some of the Internet links listed below can likely help you start.
The Army loves abbreviations, so you'll need to decode what you find. For example, "BTRY B 109TH FA BN" -- Battery B, 109th Field Artillery Battalion which, a Google search will show, was part of the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Most online histories and maps use the division designation, so it's particularly important to find this (the Navy and Marine Corps may use different designations). Using many of the Internet links listed below and from acquiring WW II atlases, you can reconstruct almost a day-by-day itinerary of his time overseas, including many stories of individual battles.
The repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. Information from the records is made available upon written request (with signature and date) to the extent allowed by law.
Veterans of any U.S. military service may request replacement of medals which have been lost, stolen, destroyed or rendered unfit through no fault of the recipient. Requests may also be filed for awards that were earned but, for any reason, were never issued to the service member. The next-of-kin of deceased veterans may also make the same request.
European Theater of Operations - Divisions By the Office of the Theater Historian - Paris, France - December 1945
The following combat chronicles, current as of October 1948, are reproduced from The Army Almanac: A Book of Facts Concerning the Army of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1950, pp. 510-592.
Provides lists of ships, Naval Intelligence Combat Narratives, U.S. Naval Operations, Naval Stations and Facilities, U.S. Coast Guard members, and US Navy Histories from WWII.
Selected World War II Marine Corps Chronology 1941 - 1946
A National Gallery of Art publication in PDF format, this manual offers comprehensive information on the branches of the federal government, departments, offices, and related bodies.
The Force Structure and Unit History Branch's primary mission is to provide force structure and historical support to the military planners, doctrinal developers, and force accounting personnel on the Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) staff and at the major Army commands.