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World War II Enlistment Records

The United States National Archives has made available an extensive database of World War II Enlistment Records.


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Resource: Tracing Lines
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World War II was waged over a period of approximately six years. It was fought on land and sea and in the air in several theaters of operation. The United States National Archives has made available an extensive database of World War II Enlistment Records. It can be searched online at The time period for these records is 1938-1946.

In an effort to reconstruct the personnel records at the National Personnel Records Center, the microfilmed punch cards of enlistments was scanned by the National Archives. Some of you may remember old punch cards that can no longer be read.

The microfilm, consisting of nine million records, was read and transcribed. It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million records could not be scanned because of the condition of the microfilm. Even so, the transcribing has produced records for approximately 16 million World War II men and women who enlisted and served their country.

When using the database information, you will see no digitized images of the original punch card. This is a transcription of information. The punch card began the process of creating a transcription from the original records, then somebody transcribed the information from the punch card that had been microfilmed. While there are errors, it is still a valuable database for 20th century research.

If you are looking for somebody who enlisted as an Army officer, they will not be on the database. This is strictly for Army enlistments and not officers. If they were later promoted to commissioned officers, they will be shown. It is best to perform a check for your relative, just to make certain they are or are not there. The database also contains information on over 130,000 women who enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

To easily access the database from the web page shown above, scroll down to the "Most Popular" area. Click on "World War II Army Enlistment Records." There is a search box toward the top of the page. While you can enter a name, I have found it more efficient to click on "Advanced Search." Before searching, it is also a good idea to read the information about the database. Once a match is secured, the following information (and in some cases more) is given in the database:

enlistee's serial number
state and county of residence
place of enlistment
date of enlistment
term of enlistment
nativity (place of birth, i.e. state)
race and citizenship
civilian occupation
martial status
component of the army
box and film reel number (storage of the punch card)

Doing a search for information on my late father who served in the Air Corp, Pacific Theater, I did not find him listed. While this was disappointing, I realize his punch card is among those not transcribable. Even, so I checked for other relatives and did find database entries and information.

This is a great example of how the National Archives is preserving records and creating access to them. Perhaps in the future we can look forward to even more large databases that can be accessed quickly and easily from our homes.

Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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