Continuing the theme of my last post, which introduced alternate ways to research 20th century military service (to compensate for the personnel files lost in the 1973 file at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis), this time we’ll look at two essential series of unit records relating to World War II.
By far the most useful–and heavily-used–records about Army units are located in the series “World War II Operations Reports, 1940-1948” (ARC ID 305275). This series is arranged into six subseries, including 1) WWII Operations Reports, 2) Combat Interviews, 3) Miscellaneous Lists, 4) Order of Battle, 5) Pre-Invasion Planning, and 6) Special Files. While I would encourage you to read the detailed archival description of the records on ARC, the main series of Operations Reports generally includes unit histories, after action reports, operation reports, journals, general orders, and intelligence reports about the combat operations of specific units and commands in active theaters–in particular the European Theater of Operations–and may also include photographs, maps, diaries, and unit yearbooks. Here is where you can find details about the exploits of such noteworthy organizations as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (of Band of Brothers TV fame). Even though there is a vast amount of information to wade through in the Operations Reports (over 12,000 linear feet of records in 27,000+ archival boxes!) there is a useful card index available (ARC ID 596364) which provides a brief description of the reports, including the name of the unit, file designation, type of record, and date. For WWII veterans whose individual personnel files no longer exist in St. Louis, the Operations Reports offer a useful substitute for information regarding their wartime experiences.