Bureau of Personnel Casualty Branch
Collection Number: COLL/655
Finding aid (PDF)
The Casualty Section was established within the Bureau of Personnel's Dependents Welfare Division to carry out a number of functions relating to deceased, missing, and wounded personnel serving in the Navy. During World War II, the Casualty Section was tasked with a variety of functions. In addition to keeping the Navy's official casualty lists, the Section prepared condolence letters from the Secretary of the Navy to service members' next-of-kin, forwarded accolades and ships' histories to the next-of-kin, and responded to their inquiries regarding the status of service members.
Following World War II, the staff of the Welfare Division declined sharply, from the 709 military and civilian personnel on duty as of 1 September 1945 to 138 by October 1946. Despite the decrease in strength throughout the Division, the Casualty Section's efforts continued, as they worked to complete action on wartime casualties. Much of this immediate post-war work involved determining the final status of men who had been listed as missing or as prisoners of war. When a final determination was made, the service member's status was changed accordingly, the next-of-kin notified, and forms for settlement of the death gratuity, arrears of pay, and A(V)N bonus sent. Additionally, the Section continued to answer a large number of inquiries family members, and with the war ended was able to provide them with more details regarding the loss of their loved one.
With the coming of the Korean War the number of Navy casualties grew, and the Casualty Section, now the Casualty Branch of the Bureau of Personnel, found itself facing a "tremendous increase" in work. Efforts were made to speed the notification of next-of-kin and the processing of their benefits. The multi-national nature of forces operating in Korea under the United Nations banner meant that casualties were sometimes foreign nationals. Working through the Chief of Naval Operations and U.S. naval attaches, special letters of condolence were prepared and sent to the next-of-kin of these foreign officers. The Casualty Branch also worked to improve and standardize procedures and policies with the other armed forces on such matters as statistics, disposition of personal effects of missing and deceased personnel and prisoners of war, the identification and repatriation of prisoners of war, and repatriation of Korean dead.
In the years following Korea, the Casualty Branch continued working to improve its responsiveness to family members and next-of-kin of Navy personnel. It issued new directives that progress reports on seriously ill and injured personnel be kept daily. Planning for a Casualty Assistance Program, in which a Navy officer would contact the family within hours of a casualty, was underway by 1953. Further, efforts were being made to improve relations between the armed forces and to develop Department of Defense forms that would expedite the payment of benefits. Cooperation with the State Department, United Nations, and other agencies on matters relating to missing and captured personnel would also be an ongoing program.
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains records generated by the Casualty Branch of the Bureau of Personnel. Much of the collection relates to World War II and the Korean War, and casualty lists from both conflicts are included. Additionally, information on Navy casualties sustained as early as the Mexican-American War may be found in the collection.
Other material found in these Records relates to the operation of the Casualty Branch. Their Procedure Manual, detailing the steps to be followed when casualties are incurred, is of special note. Changes to the Branch's standardized correspondence and telegram forms are also contained in the collection.
The collection is organized in four series. In Series I, State Summaries, are booklets created by the Casualty Branch following World War II. These booklets list Navy personnel from each state lost during the war. This series is arranged alphabetically by state.
Series II, Post-World War II, contains additional casualty lists. Among the items in this series are several lists of Navy losses in Korea, formatted both alphabetically and by state. Listings of officer casualties as late as 1959 and enlisted casualties through 1954 are included as well. This series is arranged alphabetically by title.
Series III, Investigation Reports, consists mostly of reports following the investigation of aircraft losses in which the crew was killed or captured. In some cases, the alleged mistreatment of captured aviators was examined as well. The reports include a synopsis of facts followed by a lengthier description of the incident and findings of the investigation. This series is arranged by the assigned case number.
The final series, Subject Files, contains a variety of documents. Included in this series are casualty lists from the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, the interment of the Unknowns from World War I, World War II, and Korea at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Casualty Procedures Manual. Also of interest in this series are lists of Navy personnel buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of Hawaii and at Sitka, Alaska during World War II. The Subject Files are arranged alphabetically by title.
This collection should be cited as Records of the Casualty Branch, Bureau of Personnel, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC.