During times of conflict, the military collects different types of records. One important resource for learning about the military history of your ancestor is the Unit History. Unit Histories usually contain a history of the regiment and may also include maps, daily movements, battles, injuries, and awards. Some histories contain detailed information and photographs of individual soldiers.
A 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed 16-18 million military files and no duplicates were kept. For many of us trying to research our ancestor’s military history, Unit Histories can provide background information about where your ancestor served, what battles they fought in, and even about their day-to-day life while serving in the Armed Forces.
We have a growing collection of Unit Histories like one from the 380th Bombardment Group. The 380th (also known as the Flying Circus), was attached to the RAAF and based out of Darwin in Australia for most of its operational career. Their objective was to engage and destroy Japanese strongholds in the Pacific. They fought over New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan. Their attacks on the oil refineries in Balikpapan on Borneo earned them a Distinguished Unit Citation. This record-breaking bombing run required a 17-hour non-stop flight out of Darwin.
The 500th Bomb Group flew combat missions over Japan during WWII. They entered combat with an attack on the submarine pens at Truk in November 1944, followed by the first attacks on Japan several weeks later. The 500th released propaganda leaflets over Japan, copies of which are found in the Unit History. They also participated in food drops to POWs in Japan, China, and Formosa.
On D-Day, the 458th Bomb Group attacked coastal defenses to support the amphibious landings in Normandy. The Unit History of the 458th contains daily diaries of the squadrons with daily remarks of troop movements listing many soldiers individually by name.
Some referred to the 137th Infantry Regiment as “Hollywood Soldiers” because, in April 1942, they were ordered to California for beach defense along the West Coast. While there, they made training films and served as background soldiers for several war movies. This glamorous assignment didn’t last long and before long the 137th began intense training before heading to Europe. They arrived in Normandy about a month after D-Day and fought in the Battle of Saint-Lo, across France, participated in the Battle of the Bulge and endured heavy fighting in Luxembourg and Belgium before advancing east through Germany.
Do you have a Unit History or a military yearbook that belonged to a family member? If so, you can participate in helping us to preserve this important history. Please reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll arrange to digitize your book and return it to you intact. These records will then be available for anyone to view free of charge. Search our collection of Unit Histories and other military records on Fold3 today!