Informing the legislative debate since 1914
Military Service Records and Unit Histories:
A Guide to Locating Sources
Nese F. DeBruyne
Information Research Specialist
February 27, 2015
Congressional Research Service
Prepared for Members and
Committees of Congress
This guide provides information on locating military unit histories and individual service records of discharged, retired, and deceased military personnel. It includes contact information for military history centers, websites for additional sources of research, and a bibliography of other publications.
This report will be updated as needed.
|Personnel Files: Military Service and Pension Records at the National Archives
|Finding Unit Histories
|Additional Sources for Research
|Table 1. Military History Centers and Museums
Personnel Files: Military Service and Pension Records at the National Archives
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records, holds most existing military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services from World War I to the present. Personnel records may be requested online (http://www.archives.gov/veterans), by mail (the appropriate address listed on the back of the form), or fax (314-801-9195) using the Standard Form 180.
In 1973, a disastrous fire at NPRC destroyed approximately 16 million to 18 million Army and Air Force official military personnel files. In such cases where files were lost, NPRC uses alternate sources of information to respond to requests.
More information about obtaining military personnel files can be found on the NPRC websitehttp://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/, or by contacting the center at
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Tel: (314) 801-0816 congressional line
Tel: (314) 801-0800 public line
Older military personnel records (generally prior to 1917) are located at
National Archives and Records Administration
Textual Archives Division
Washington, DC 20408
Finding Unit Histories
The Modern Military Records office of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has custody of records relating to World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The records vary by conflict and branch of service. The records for Army units active during the interwar periods (1920-1939 and 1945-1950) are incomplete. For more information, contact the Textual Records office at National Archives and Records Administration - College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001; telephone 301-837-3510. Online contact information is available at http://www.archives.gov/contact/.
Most U.S. military unit records after 1954 (except Vietnam), if they still exist, are in the custody of the Department of the Army. Information may be requested in writing from the Department of the Army, Freedom of Information Act Office, 7701 Telegraph Road, Room 102, Casey Building, Alexandria, Virginia 22315-3860.
Auxiliary and organizational records, including morning reports, unit rosters, officer pay cards (Army), muster rolls (Navy), U.S. Army Surgeon General’s office records and Veterans Administration index cards are maintained at the National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. Further information is available at http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs/other-records/index.html.
Certain published unit histories can be found in the collections of the Library of Congress or the military history center of each U.S. military branch (see Table 1).
Table 1. Military History Centers and Museums
|Center or Museum
|U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424
|Air Force Historical Support Division
3 Brookley Avenue, Box 94
Joint Base Anacostia Bolling
Washington, DC 20032-5000
|National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433
|U.S. Army Center of Military History
102 4th Avenue Bldg. 35
Washington, DC 20319-5060
|U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
950 Soldiers Drive
Carlisle, PA 17013-5021
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (research inquiries)
|U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office (CG-09224)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7031
2703 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE
Washington, DC 20593-7031
|Coast Guard Museum
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
15 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320-8511
|Center or Museum
|Marine Corps History Division
3078 Upshur Avenue
Quantico, VA 22134
|Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
3800 Fettler Park Drive
Dumfries, VA 22025
|American Merchant Marine Museum
300 Steamboat Road
Kings Point, NY 11024
|Naval History & Heritage Command
805 Kidder Breese Street, SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
|(202) 433-3224 archives
(202) 433-4132 library
Source: Table compiled by the Congressional Research Service.
Additional Sources for Research
Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress
The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.
Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator
The database contains burial locations of veterans and their family members.
American Battle Monuments Commission
The website contains databases of veterans interred or memorialized at overseas American military cemeteries and memorials.
Philippine Army and Guerilla Records at the National Archives
The collection includes records of the Philippine Commonwealth Army of the United States Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE), including recognized Philippine Guerrilla forces (not the Army of the United States or Philippine Scouts) during World War II.
Beers, Henry Putney. The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America. Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 1998.
Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War.
Washington: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1988. 3 v.
Controvich, James T. United States Army Unit and Organizational Histories: A Bibliography.
Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003.
——United States Air Force and Its Antecedents: Published and Printed Unit Histories, a Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.
Dinackus, Thomas D. Order of Battle: Allied Ground Forces of Operation Desert Storm. Central Point, OR: Hellgate Press, 2000.
Dornbusch, C. E. Military Bibliography of the Civil War. New York: New York Public Library, 1971.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. New York: T. Yoseloff, 1959. Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle, U.S. Army (Ground Force Units). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.
——Vietnam Order of Battle. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.
U.S. Department of the Army. Office of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Army Ground Forces in World War II, Pacific Theater of Operations: Administrative and Logistical Commands, Armies, Corps, and Divisions. Washington: Department of the Army, 1959.
U.S. Naval War Records Office. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1987. 30 v.
U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: GPO, 1880-1901. 70 v.
An earlier version of this report was authored by Julissa Gomez-Granger and Anne Leland.