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New German WWII Records Added

October 26, 2020 by | 29 Comments

We’ve added a new collection of WWII records from Germany. The Germany, Military Killed in Action 1939-1948 collection contains index cards for about 2 million German soldiers killed during WWII.

Researching German WWII soldiers can be tricky because many service records were destroyed during the war. 1939, the High Command of the German Wehrmacht began operating an information center for war casualties and prisoners of war. Initially, the agency was called WASt (short for Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle für Kriegsverluste und Kriegsgefangene). In 1946, it was renamed Deutsche Dienststelle für die Benachrichtigung der nächsten Angehörigen von Gefallenen der ehemaligen deutschen Wehrmacht (German Office for the Notification of Next-of-Kin of Members of the Former German Armed Forces who were Killed in Action). The name is commonly shortened as Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt). In 2019, that service became part of the German Federal Archives as the newly established Department PA (Information on Personal Data related to World Wars I and II) and is based in Berlin-Reinickendorf.

The index cards in this collection contain information that can help research German soldiers who were killed in WWII including:

  • Name
  • Birthdate and Birthplace
  • Unit, Reserve Unit, Identification Number, Rank
  • Date of Death, Time of Death, Place of Death, and Type of Casualty
  • Burial Date, Location, and Grave Number (if known)

These records are written in German but can be interpreted using the following example:

Explore these index cards in the Germany, Military Killed in Action 1939-1948 collection on Fold3 today!

We’ve Updated our Fold3 Browse

October 14, 2020 by | 26 Comments

You may have noticed some changes to our site recently. Our engineers have been working hard behind the scenes to update our Fold3 browse experience. We know that change can be a little uncomfortable at first, but we think you’ll find the new browse will offer easy access to the nearly 600 million records available on Fold3.

What is the difference between Browse and Search? Browse simply allows you to browse all the collections (we call them publications) available in your desired research area. We’ve increased the number of filters offered allowing you to drill down to a specific conflict, country, available collections, military branch, and content provider. For example, if you’re searching WWII records, you can browse all WWII collections and then start to narrow the results by adding filters. Simply stated, “browse” is a great way to see what collections are available, and “search” is the best way to look for individual records.

How does it work?  On the top bar of our home page, you’ll see an option called “Browse”. When you click on browse, you’ll see a column on your left. This is where you’ll add filters. You can then scroll down through the column on the right to see any collection available that contains relevant records. Browse is a great way to explore less familiar collections.

Can I still use search? Yes! Search is still the quickest way to drill down to the desired results and our search remains unchanged. You can search right from the home page or click “search” on the top bar and add filters like name, date, keyword, or even military ID number. 

We hope you enjoy our new browse experience on Fold3. You might even discover a collection you’ve never explored before. To watch a short video tutorial on browsing Fold3 records, click here. To explore our new browse feature, visit Fold3 today!

October 19 – November 22, 1914: The First Battle of Ypres

October 1, 2020 by | 50 Comments

The First Battle of Ypres was a bloody WWI Battle fought October 19 – November 22, 1914, around the city of Ypres in West Flanders, Belgium. It was the climactic fight of the “Race to the Sea,” an attempt by the German army to break through Allied lines and capture French ports on the English Channel which opened access to the North Sea and beyond. The battle was extraordinarily costly in terms of casualties. Allied losses included 54,000 British soldiers, 50,000 French soldiers, and 20,000 Belgian soldiers either killed, wounded, or missing. German casualties numbered more than 130,000. The battle was an attempt by both sides to advance past the northern flank of their opponents, but neither achieved significant breakthroughs leading to an indecisive win. During the battle, both sides settled into trench warfare which became commonplace all along the Western Front for the remainder of the war. 

German soldiers in a trench near Ypres in 1914

In September 1914, German forces advanced through Belgium and eastern France but were stopped by Allied troops in the Battle of Marne. Both Armies then began the “Race to the Sea,” an attempt to outflank each other as they headed northward. The armies came face to face near Ypres, the gateway to the English Channel and key ports including Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Fighting began on October 19, 1914, and with the real possibility of losing the Channel ports, Allied soldiers were ordered to entrench and hold their position to prevent German soldiers from pushing through.

Pvt. Thomas H. Evans is one of many soldiers reported missing at Ypres

On October 25, Belgium’s King Albert took drastic action to prevent a German incursion north of the Lys River. He ordered Belgians to manipulate the canals and floodgates in the Yser valley. As the tide came in, they opened the floodgates, then closed them before the water could recede. On October 29, Albert ordered the sluices opened and a rush of water destroyed the town of Nieuport. It also flooded the battlefield occupied by three German divisions, forcing them to retreat. With this action, the Allies secured the left flank.

Meanwhile, German forces continued their assault southeast of Ypres pushing back British troops. On October 31st, German troops broke through the line and captured Gheluvelt but a counterattack pushed them back out of the village.

British heavy artillery gun is transported into position in Ypres

In early November, Germany captured Messines and Wytschaete, but fresh French reinforcements stopped the advance. As temperatures fell, the onset of winter brought miserable conditions. Soldiers were holed up in trenches half-filled with freezing water. After a lull of several days, German troops planned one final assault with plans to break through into Ypres. On November 11, after an intense bombardment on Messines Ridge, they broke through and penetrated Nonne Bosschen. Once again, counterattacks drove the Germans back. After a final attack at Herentage Wood on November 17th, German forces moved into a defensive mode and sent available troops to the Russian front. Sporadic fighting continued until November 22nd when the arrival of winter forced the battle to end. Both sides suffered appalling casualties and the city of Ypres would be the scene of two more battles before the end of the war. To research your ancestors that fought in the First Battle of Ypres, search WWI collections including British Army Lists, British Army WWI Pension Records; British WWI Wounded and Missing; Airmen Died in the Great War; and Biographies of Fallen British Officers. Search Fold3 today to learn more about the First Battle of Ypres.

New Vietnam War Records from Phan Rang Air Base

September 23, 2020 by | 119 Comments

Phan Rang Air Base was an important United States Air Force base during the Vietnam War. It is located in the Ninh Thuan Province of Vietnam.

Originally built by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII, it was rebuilt by the United States Air Force and used during the Vietnam War by both the USAF and the South Vietnamese Air Force. As part of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, the base was turned over to South Vietnam. In April 1975, the People’s Army of Vietnam seized the base, and today it is used by the Vietnam People’s Air Force.

We’ve recently added historical records from Phan Rang (also called Happy Valley). These records include stories, photos, rosters, and newsletters that have been collected and shared to a Facebook page dedicated to those who were once stationed at the base. 

The newsletter collection contains stories about dangerous missions, enemy attacks on the base, military awards and decorations, and descriptions of what off-duty airmen did to pass the time. You can also find stories of how base medical personnel treated local villagers, and how Christmas was celebrated on the base.

The Phan Rang Air Base collection is part of our User Contributed collections that include Unit Histories, yearbooks, scrapbooks, journals, and more. Explore the newsletters, photo collections, and remembrance lists for Phan Rang Air Base on Fold3 today.

Discovery of a Forgotten Antietam Map Ignites Civil War Researchers!

September 15, 2020 by | 73 Comments

In 1864, railroad engineer and cartographer Simon G. Elliott visited the battlefield of Antietam and prepared a detailed map that documented the burials of 5,844 soldiers—2,634 Union and 3,210 Confederate. After the war, Elliott’s map found its way to the archives of the New York Public Library (NYPL) where it remained largely forgotten.

Earlier this year, two Civil War researchers from the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg, Pa., were searching the NYPL digital archives for more information about Elliott (who had also created a well-known map for the Gettysburg battlefield), when they stumbled upon the Antietam map. Realizing the significance of their find, they immediately reached out to the American Battlefield Trust, who confirmed the importance of the map and shared it with rangers at Antietam National Battlefield Park. The Elliott map sheds new light into the Battle of Antietam where more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or listed as missing, in one day. In some instances, researchers can pinpoint the exact burial location of individual soldiers, regiments, and even horses.

As part of our Civil War Stories project, we’ve teamed up with the American Battlefield Trust to help tell the individual story of Civil War soldiers, the regiments they fought in, and the families and communities they left behind. The Elliott map is an amazing tool to help us do this!

In the days after the Battle of Antietam, the area surrounding Sharpsburg, Maryland, turned into a mass burial ground. Soldiers were buried in single graves or sometimes in long trenches turned mass grave. In 1864, the same year Elliott mapped the battlefield, efforts got underway to identify the gravesites. The State of Maryland purchased property nearby, and in 1867, the newly created Antietam National Cemetery was dedicated. Many of the soldiers’ remains were disinterred from the battlefield and reinterred in the Antietam Cemetery. Their original burial location became lost to time.  

The Elliott map helps tell the story of soldiers like Isaac Thurlow from the Third Wisconsin Infantry, Company C. On April 19, 1861, just four days after Abraham Lincoln sounded the call asking for 75,000 troops to enlist in the Civil War, residents of Green County, Wisconsin, gathered at the County Court House to discuss organizing a company of volunteers. During that patriotic meeting, hands shot up one by one as men volunteered to leave their homes and families to heed President Lincoln’s call. Within a short time, 83 men enrolled, including 24-year-old Isaac Thurlow. His 18-year-old brother Albion would follow in his footsteps just a month later.

On September 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, the Third Wisconsin was just north of the Miller Cornfield in an open and exposed position when its men were attacked by Hood’s Division as they emerged from the corn about 7:30 a.m.

Elliott map notes position of the Third Wisconsin and location of graves

Lt. Warham Parks, recorded the following experience as Isaac Thurlow was hit by gunfire, “I caught him as he fell and his brother (Albion Thurlow) carried him to the rear. In a few moments, he came back saying his brother was dead, picked up his musket and resumed firing…but his courage never failed.” When the firing ceased, nearly two-thirds of the regiments 345 soldiers were either killed or wounded. Originally Isaac Thurlow was buried on the battlefield and using the Elliott map, we can pinpoint almost the exact spot. Later Isaac’s remains were reinterred in the Antietam National Cemetery.

Do you have ancestors who fought at Antietam? Search the Elliott map for the location of their regiment and head over to our Civil War Stories page to learn more. As part of our Civil War Stories project, Fold3 and the American Battlefield Trust are trying to research every soldier who fought in the Civil War. You can be a part of this massive effort by sharing your Civil War records, stories, journals, and documents. Just upload images using this tool. Alternatively, you can attach images to an existing soldier’s Memorial or create a new Memorial page using this video tutorial. Keep in mind that Fold3 has already generated thousands of memorials using regimental records, and one may already exist for your soldier.

We’re so excited about this project! Eventually, you’ll be able to search your ancestor and see regimental records for all the soldiers he served with. In many cases, these are brothers, fathers, sons, and cousins. To take a closer look at the Antietam Elliott map, click here. To learn more about the Battle of Antietam and the regiments that fought in it, visit our Civil War Stories page on Fold3 today.   

September 10, 1861: Battle of Carnifex Ferry

August 31, 2020 by | 70 Comments

On September 10, 1861, the Battle of Carnifex Ferry took place in the opening months of the Civil War at Nicholas County, Virginia (now West Virginia). The Union Army, under the direction of Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans sought to stop the advancing Confederate Army, under the direction of Gen. John B. Floyd. The battle took place near Summersville at an important crossing of the Gauley River and resulted in a strategic Union victory. The battle was an impetus to the movement that helped portions of Western Virginia break away to become the 35th state of West Virginia. Two future U.S. presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes, and William McKinley were among the soldiers who fought at Carnifex Ferry.

Events leading up to the Battle of Carnifex Ferry had been unfolding for weeks. Confederate troops had advanced into the Kanawha Valley and launched an attack at Kessler’s Cross Lanes (just over a mile from the ferry crossing) on August 26th. Proceeding to Carnifex Ferry, they drove Henry Patterson and his family from their farmhouse which overlooked the Gauley River. Some 2000 Confederate forces then set up a defensive position on the Patterson farm and along the steep cliffs overlooking the ferry.

In order to take control of the area, Rosecrans assembled a large army of 7,000 to push the Confederates southward. As the Federals advanced, the leading brigade encountered Floyd’s pickets about 3:30 p.m. on the afternoon of September 10th at the ferry.

Rutherford B. Hayes, 38, and William McKinley, 18, both served in the Ohio 23rd Infantry. For many soldiers in the Ohio 23rd, this was their first battle experience (the unit mustered in just three months earlier). During the battle, the 23rd found themselves caught in a friendly fire incident while trying to flank the Confederate line. In the confusion and fleeting daylight, they started firing on their own men, killing two and wounding 30. The Patterson home was also caught in the crossfire from both armies and riddled with bullets. The structure still stands today at the Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park.

Patterson Home

Fighting continued until dark, at which point the Confederates withdrew and the Union soldiers settled in for the night, prepared to resume the battle at daylight. During the night, Floyd, realizing that he was outnumbered and facing heavy Union artillery, decided to retreat his army across the ferry to the south side of the Gauley River and continue eastward to Meadow Bluff near Lewisburg. The Federals, exhausted from their march to Carnifex Ferry and the ensuing battle and facing adverse weather, decided against pursuit.

The conflict resulted in Union losses of 17 dead and 141 wounded. Confederate losses totaled 30 wounded with an unknown number of deaths. The Battle of Carnifex Ferry allowed the Federals to secure the Kanawha Valley and its tributaries which gave protection to those who favored secession from Virginia. Six weeks after the battle, residents of areas controlled by Union forces voted to form their own state, and in 1863, West Virginia joined the Union.

To learn more about the Battle of Carnifex Ferry, search Fold3 today!

New Records from the Canadian Expeditionary Force!

August 28, 2020 by | 22 Comments

The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was the force raised by Canada for service overseas during WWI. Some 620,000 Canadians who enlisted between 1914-1918 served in the CEF. Of those enlistees, about 424,000 went overseas. Most were volunteers, but when recruitment slowed, a conscription law went into effect in 1918. Our new Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1915-1919 collection contains nominal rolls, rosters, war diaries, yearbooks, and unit histories for the CEF. Before the war came to an end in November 1918, the CEF gained the respect of both friend and foe as an elite fighting force. There were more than 233,000 Canadian casualties during WWI, resulting in nearly 61,000 deaths.

Canadian troops are issued tea ration from field kitchen along the Western Front

As part of the British Empire, Canada automatically entered WWI in August 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany. Canada, however, had limited military forces and began accepting volunteer recruits to serve. The first Canadian division arrived in Europe in 1915 under the command of the British military. Additional battalions arrived as the war progressed. Soon Canada’s fighting forces evolved into a National Army.

Some examples of what you might find in this collection are unit histories like this one for the 13th Battalion that fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. If you have an ancestor that served as a nurse with the CEF, the nominal rolls for the Nursing Sisters are a great resource that provides the name and address for next of kin of the nurse enlistees. These women left their homes and families to care for soldiers with injuries and their dedicated work saved many lives.

The Canadian Grenadier Guards from the 87th Infantry Battalion were primarily recruited from Montreal but had members from every province of Canada. Their yearbook includes photographs of individual soldiers. The 160th Bruce Battalion was formed from residents of Bruce County, Ontario. In this collection, you can find a roster from the 160th Bruce Battalion from December 1916. The group celebrated the Christmas holiday at Bramshott Camp in England. Canadians in Khaki was a WWI pictorial newspaper that included stories of valor and heroism like this one for Sergeant-Major F. W. Hall who died during the Second Battle of Ypres. He served in the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the front line trenches. To get to the trench, soldiers had to cross an exposed bank where enemy machine-gun fire resulted in many casualties. Sergeant-Major Hall left the safety of the trench twice to rescue wounded men who lie suffering on the exposed bank. While attempting to carry a third injured soldier back to the trench he was killed.

To explore this new collection of Canadian records, search our Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1915-1919 collection today on Fold3!