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Discover Your WWII Veteran with Fold3® Military Records

Nationwide, descendants of America’s Greatest Generation are clamoring to learn more about their ancestor’s military service. Less than 1 percent of the 16.1 million Americans who served during WWII are still alive today. In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to provide a few pointers for those who would like to learn more about your ancestor’s WWII military experiences.

  1. Gather any records you have at home. Collect discharge records, military yearbooks, photographs, diaries, etc. Search these records for clues that may shed light on your ancestor’s service (which military branch they served in, regiment details, military service number, newspaper clippings, etc.) A devastating fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 destroyed 17 million personnel files. The loss of those files presents a challenge, but we have records to help bridge the gap.
  2. Find your ancestor’s WWII Draft Registration Card. We have nearly 36 million WWII Draft cards available to search here. Among other details, these cards will tell you where the registrant lived and their birthplace.
  3. US Army Enlistment Records. If your ancestor served in the Army, you can cross-reference enlistment records with the draft card. Army Enlistment Records include the enlisted’s birth year and enlistment place. They also have another big clue – the Army Serial Number. This military service number can open new research possibilities.
  4. Military Service Number. Using Fold3® search filters, search your ancestor’s military service number like this: Search – Filter – Military – Service Number. In some military records like WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, military officials recorded a soldier’s military service number but not a name (or they may have used initials) when generating a record. Thus, a name search may not return all available results. When conducting name searches on Fold3®, use all variations of the veteran’s name. The military did not have a uniform system; one record may contain the full legal name, while another may use an initial and last name.
  5. Search Unit Histories: Each unit kept a regimental history. Some are very detailed with day-to-day movements, injuries, awards, and medals. Even if your ancestor is not mentioned by name, a unit history can help you track their service and experiences. Search our collection of Unit Histories here.
  6. Marine Corps. Explore our Marine Corps Muster Rolls collection if your ancestor served in the Marines. For those who died while serving, the Marine Corps Casualty Indexes can provide information about their military unit, cause of death, and military service number. The Marine Corps also recorded War Diaries for aviation units. These give detailed accounts of engagements.
  7. US Army Air Forces. If your ancestor served in the Army Air Forces (the US Air Force was created following WWII in 1947), we have several collections that might provide helpful information. The WWII US Air Force Photos collection has photos from all theaters of operation. You will find personnel photos, aircrew photos, photos of bombing operations, and more. If a plane went missing, authorities filed a Missing Air Crew Report. These reports recorded who was on the aircraft and their military service number, witness statements, crash details, and more.
  8. US Navy. Even if your ancestor didn’t serve in the Navy, you might find them listed on muster rolls because they boarded troop ships to travel to and from overseas postings. If they did serve in the Navy, explore our Navy Support Books collection, WWII Navy Muster Rolls collection, Navy Cruise Books, and Submarine War Patrol Reports collection. Our WWII War Diaries collection includes daily operational reports and can provide detailed accounts of engagements.
  9. Women in WWII. Women served critical roles during WWII. Explore our Women’s Army Corps (WAAC or WAC) unit history and a collection of WWII Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files to learn more about their valuable contributions.
  10. Fold3® Memorials. Millions of families have honored the military service of their loved ones by creating Memorials for the Fold3® Honor Wall. These Memorials are a valuable collaboration tool and may include photographs, journal entries, and more. Your ancestor may not have recorded their personal experience, but maybe a soldier who fought alongside them did. If you want to create a Fold3® Memorial, click here for simple instructions.

These research tips are just the beginning. We have 160 WWII record collections from the United States to explore (and more from other countries). This Veterans Day, honor the military heroes in your family by learning more about their service on  Fold3®.


  1. I have been trying to find my grandfathers military records from service during WWI. I understand there was a fire in ST Louis around 1973 that destroyed many military records. I am the oldest remaining grandson and a Navy veteran of 27 years, trying to trace my grandfathers military service since all other relatives are deceased. I have tried researching via the National Archives and other sources without any results. Louis Vercelli was born in Piedmonte, Italy on June 15, 1890 and emigrated to he United States in the early 1900s. He was drafted or enlisted in New Jersey sometime between 1917 and 1918. I would appreciate any information and or assistance someone could provide in my search for my grandfather Louis T. Vercelli Army military records, unit, campaigns, and or awards and decorations during WWI.

    • Denise A Wells says:

      Please contact me at [email protected] my name is Denise and I may be able to help you.

    • Robert Legg says:

      Take a look at this record at FamilySearch. The name and birth date match. His residence was Hoboken, NJ. His rank and unit were listed as: Pvt 1cl Btry F 309 FA [Private 1st Class, Battery F, 309th Field Artillery]. You can set up a free account at FamilySearch if you do not already have one.

    • P. Fontana says:

      If possible, go to the courthouse where your grandfather lived upon discharge from the military. They should have a DD 214 form in file for him. This should tell you all you want to know about his military service. It worked for me, however, my relative was in WWII. I don’t know if the system was in place after WWI.

    • David C. Daniels says:

      Check with the recorder of deeds in the county that he was either from or returned to after the war. Many veterans recorded their discharge papers there.

    • L. Robinson says:

      Fold 4 and likely have the transportation records for Louis Vercelii being in the Battery F 309th Field Artillery. If you can find a unit history of the 309th FA you’ll have a good idea what his service involved. He’s also on a list of men from West Hoboken NJ that left for Ft. Dix NJ on April 3, 1918 which appears in The Jersey Journal, Jersey City NJ, April 4, 1918 p.4 c.6.

    • Jean Brady says:

      My brother was in WWII. He was KIA near Worms, Germany on March 26, 1945. I have tried to find all the information I can about his death. He was in the infantry. I was told about the.
      fire. Where else would there be information? He was killed in Germany.

    • Heather says:

      Have you tried

  2. Susan says:

    Have you looked on Ancestry? There appear to be some records there.

  3. Dr. Vicki L. Berger says:

    My father, Lloyd Thomas Crawford (1904-1954), served in the United States Navy between WWI and WWII. I too was given the story that many records perished in a fire in St. Louis. As the Department of the Navy was no help at all (only a form letter about the fire), where do I start searching for clues as to my father’s military years? After nine years in the Navy, he joined the Civil Aeronautics Administration (later the FAA), and completed 21 years of service, retiring with a full 30 years of service. His government service led our family to tours of duty in Greece and Newfoundland, as well as in Washington, DC.
    Any clues are appreciated.
    Vicki L. Crawford Berger, Phoenix, AZ

    • Joan Capobianco says:

      Send a request to the FAA. Do NOT say it’s for genealogy. Ask for an unredacted file. The info may be in there. Also, check what is on his headstone. That’s how I found my dad’s battalion, etc. Let me know if I can help further. See my other response below. Best of luck.

    • Robert Legg says:

      Ancestry has several images of USN muster rolls for a Thomas L Crawford in their “U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949,” database. This person enlisted 28 October 1936 and served at US naval air stations in Pensacola and Miami, Florida, through 1942. His rating was MCMM, which was Aviation Chief Machinist’s Mate. My concern with this person is that his enlistment date wouldn’t line up with your father’s birth date and years of service. There is also the matter of the first and middle names being reversed, but that isn’t unusual.

  4. Joan Capobianco says:

    Check with the military museums. I was able to get a CD of the cruise log for my dad who was a SeaBee. Hard to find that stuff. My husband, a USCG vet said you can also request the ship’s cruise log and it will show what ports they were in . I hope that helps. Also, call the local libraries, schools, etc. They may have copies from memorials. I have Ancestryworld so let me know if you have any luck or if I can help. Lastly, there are a ton of FB groups for various units and branches of the military. You may be able to reach out and see if they find something there. Rootsweb and Ancestry forums also may have obtained some photos, etc. from people who have visited antique shops in the area and sell/donate them to families.

  5. Joan Capobianco says:

    FYI – for those of you unaware, make sure to check pages before and after. Records may be continued or prefixed and only 1 of the pages shows up, so make sure to check those. Email me at [email protected] if I can assist.

  6. Barbara Fligel says:

    Dr. Berger and anyone else with military relatives – the next best source of information when government records aren’t available is the newspapers. The smaller the paper – local boy – the better the odds you will bits and pieces about their comings and goings to visit family on leaves. Articles if they are promoted, wounded, awards. Dr. Berger, I checked one newspaper source for your father and have found a number of articles about your dad – one in particular includes a picture of you as a child. If you want, feel free to email me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to forward all the articles I can find to you.

    My next suggestion would be to check with local VFW and American Legion posts near where your relatives were living post military service. They might have been members and shared information about their service that might be kept in the post records.

  7. Vicki Berger says:

    Dear Robert, Joan, and Barbara,
    Thanks for your efforts on my behalf. To piece together the years of my Dad’s Navy service, and counting back from his retirement in 1954, he must have enlisted after one year in college. He was 49 when he died, so this means that he was 19, stayed in the Navy for nine years (three tours), left Navy, joined the CAA for 21 years, retired in summer 1954 at age 49. In the Navy, he was a Radio Man First Class. I remember him talking about his ship’s dog “Sparky.” After the Navy, he continued his radio communications as a Ham Radio Operator with the call name Sugar Victor Zero William Roger. As a child, I walked to people all over the world, sitting beside him in his radio shacks in Canada and Greece.
    Barbara, my e-mail is [email protected]. I’d be overjoyed to see the articles you have found. He was interviewed in Kilgore, Texas after he retired.

  8. Karla says:

    Luckily my dad joined the army at a late age – he was in and out of service- he would serve his time he enlisted for get honorable discharge get in a card game that included drinking and then go reenlist again. I have theses papers along with his CCC papers. He was in probably a total of 7/8 years. Good luck on the folks who are searching for records and thank you to all these veterans who fought the wars for our freedom.

  9. Vicki Berger says:

    Sorry for the typo. Make that “I talked to people all over the world….”

  10. Jacquie Schuster says:

    I Want to find my father in law’s WWll records for my son and nieces and nephews, but there was a fire in St Louis that destroyed the records. We do have some information on his service but would like to flush out the details. With the destruction of the service records, is there somewhere else we could search out the information?

  11. Samuel O. Abenes says:

    I’m trying to find the mil record of my father!
    The least I can remember he’s overseas duty
    At Camp Napunja, Naha,Okinawa the year i
    Forget,….He is CIPRIANO R. ABENES, as member of Philippine Scouts,..PS-US Army
    With Serial Number 10336666…

  12. I found a US marine dog tag
    I’m looking for the families to come forward and claim it this soldier died in 1942 or 43 world War 2 in the pacific in Papua new Guinea battle of Milne Bay US and Japanese fought the war please help me find the relatives

  13. BILL STEWART says:


  14. John McClure says:

    I use a site called Find a Grave
    It often has military information

  15. L. Robinson says:

    If you can’t find what you are looking for here at Fold3 I suggest or Also, visit the hometown historical society or library which may have compiled records of town veterans and those who died in service. Another resource is hometown newspapers. Sometimes they published letters written home by the soldier and, in case of death in service, by their commanders. Also, if a soldier went MIA, it was noted in the paper. During the WWs they also published the APO address of these soldiers. Many hometown papers are online and searchable. The search engines are not perfect so you may have to do a search by surname and narrow down it with a date range. It’s time consuming but well worth it if you learn something new or gives you new leads to pursue. The local VFW or American Legion might also have records.

  16. James E Jacobsen says:

    This is a historical records loss that makes the loss of the 1890 census look like a mere misfiling. I wonder how it has hampered veteran’s benefits going forward and the destruction will only escalate going forward. I would be interested to learn exactly which records categories were loss-my understanding is that this entailed individual service records files. Even the 1890 census fire spared a few counties-what survived this fire?

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      James, the fire destroyed between 16-18 million military files. They include 80% of Army files for Personnel discharged between November 1912 – January 1960; and 75% of Air Force files for Personnel discharged between September 1947 – January 1964.

  17. Ken says:

    Looking for my uncles records, Arthur Charles Bunda from World War II

  18. L. Robinson says:

    Separation papers for an Arthur C. Bunda from Missouri are on

  19. T Melton says:

    We have been trying to find the records of Lawrence Joe or Joe Lawrence Melton who fought in WW1 and his sons Vernon Melton, brothers Joe Melton & Alvy Melton who fought in WW2. But like others, because of the fire in 1973 can find no information. We are particularly interested in the information of the father Lawrence Joe or Joe Lawrence Melton from WW1 as he had medical issues and spent alot of time in the Va in Lexington KY. Any help would be appreciated. I do have some pictures of Lawrence Joe in Uniform if the metals and badges would help with info.The same with the 3 sons of Lawrence. Thank you

  20. Lori Tierney says:

    All of granfathers served. My paternal grandfather was in Navy, Maternal grandfather I. The Army, Navy and Merchant Marines…as well as my paternal great grandfather was in the Marines, which while he was fighting during the pearl harbor attack my grandmother was taken hostage and placed into a concentration camp for several years. I would like to find out info on all 3 of them. One I know for sure was given a.military funeral. I would like to rebuild their medals n such if possible as I want to do shadow boxes with mine. As I myself am a DAV and am having a heck of time with this.

  21. L. Robinson says:

    Lori… If your g-grandmother was interned during WWII in the US then you can search here:

  22. Lisa Gray says:

    Hi – just a general question. I’ve been looking for military records for my husband’s great-grandfather. All I can find is a draft card – no muster lists, no discharge papers, nothing more. Is it possible that he has a draft card but never served?