RESEARCH LINKS:
Here are some simple research tips for seeking information on an
individual soldier or a unit from World War II...
If you are researching the military service of a WWII veteran and don't know where to begin, there is an excellent
book available called:
Finding Your Father's War by Jonathan Gawne.  You can purchase it here at
Amazon.com for about twelve bucks.  It is a treasure trove of information.  

If you like to surf the Internet, try the website
Dad's War. This site contains a wonderful collection of links and
advice on how to obtain the information you seek. Other helpful websites are
Cyndi's List and Rootsweb.  Spend
a little time exploring all of these websites and you will be a research pro in no time!

If you are trying to locate the individual military file of a loved one who served in the U.S. Army in World War
II, you have an extremely remote chance of  ever getting it.  The U.S. Government did a very poor job protecting
those files by unwisely housing tons of old dry paper in an ancient warehouse without modern fire controls.  In
1973, the building burned down.  Nearly ALL the individual military files of every single WWII veteran of the
U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Corps were lost, and the records of many other service men before and after
WWII are gone as well.  The files were not backed up on microfilm or in any other way.  They were
one-of-a-kind and  are lost forever.  Still, a shot in the dark is better than no shot at all.  Take a few minutes of
time and fill out a Standard Form 180 (downloadable) slap a 1st Class postage stamp onto an envelope and take
your shot.  Click on the blue for the official website to the
National Personnel Records Center and follow their
instructions.  Don't put your  research on hold while you wait to hear back from them...it can take a number of
months to get an answer.

You may have some success reconstructing a portion of an individual's record by obtaining his Veteran Affairs
file. In order to do this, the veteran must be deceased and (I believe) you must be a close relation.  Try digging
around the
Veteran Affairs website if you wish to go this route.  It has been nearly 10 years since I requested my
grandfather's VA file so the rules may have changed.  I am glad I did obtain his file.  Though much of it was
superfluous paperwork, I was able to reconstruct a portion of his service record.  

If your soldier was killed in action during World War II and is buried overseas, you can locate his gravesite at the
American Battle Monuments Commission website.  If the soldier was brought home for burial or passed away in
the years after the war you may try finding him at the
Veterans Administration Gravesite Locator.  If his was a
battle death, you can also order his IDPF (Individual Deceased Personnel File) from the U.S. Army Human
Human Resources Command.  The
Dad's War website mentioned above contains details on how to go about
ordering an IDPF file.  You will find the address and some tips partway down the home page. Remember again
that you are dealing with a government agency.  Do not expect to get your file copy immediately.  It can take
several months.

If the soldier was a Prisoner of War, the National Archives has a
Prisoner of War Database that you can search
by name, serial number, and in other ways. You will need to work with it awhile and learn some of the value
codes, but you may come up with some key information in your research.   

The National Archives in College Park, Maryland. holds the surviving files of World War II U.S. Army units.  
Yes, surviving files.  An army may march on its stomach, but it leaves behind paperwork.  The larger the army,
the more paperwork it produces.  The U.S. Army in World War II produced tons and tons of documents--most
of which were downright mundane--such as jeep maintenance journals or sock counts at a quartermaster depot.  
Much of that stuff was not preserved.  In the 1950s, the Army set up a program whereby only the "historically
significant" material was kept and the rest destroyed.  Eventually this material was passed to the National
Archives.  For some reason, the Army did not consider company-level material to be "historically significant."  
Today, you can locate such items as unit journals, general orders, intelligence reports, and after action reports for
specific Battalions, Regiments, Divisions, Corps, and Armies, but rarely for Companies.  The National Archives
keeps an extensive in-house cataloging system of these records but much of it has yet to be put online.  Try
browsing the
National Archives Research Room to get an idea of what National Archives research is all about.  In
short, if you have a specific item that you would like to have copied, the National Archives staff can probably do
it for you for a fee.  (They are generally quick.  You request is usually handled in six to eight weeks.)   However,
if your research is more extensive and requires milling through boxes of material you will have to either go there
yourself or hire a professional researcher who lives near Washington D.C.  

To give you an idea of what a catalog page looks like, and what the National Archives has specifically for the
756th Tank Battalion, see the below photocopy. All that the National Archives has for this particular unit is
contained in four 12" x 9" x 6" boxes of documents:
You will NOT find individual military files at the National Archives.  In fact, you will find very little material
about individuals at the National Archives unless your subject was an important General OR your subject was
given some award for valor (Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, etc.)  In which case, you
may be able to locate the General Order conferring the honor and read the citation language to an individual's
award.  In other words, if your family always wondered how "Uncle Jim" got his Silver Star, you may be in some
luck.  The quickest and surest way to locate the General Order is to check your subject's Discharge
Papers--specifically line 33 labeled "Decorations and Citations."  The medal, GO number, and issuing
headquarters will be listed there.  You can ask the National Archives to locate and copy that General Order for
you. If you don't have the GO number and issuing headquarters, you will have a tougher road.  The National
Archive staff cannot help you with a broad search.  You will need to either go to there yourself or hire a
professional researcher.  You still have to determine what Division and Army "Uncle Jim" served in (knowing his
Battalion or Regiment may also be helpful), and what honor he received.  If "Uncle Jim" received the Bronze Star
or Silver Star then you will probably need to check through stacks of orders in the Division-level boxes.  A
Distinguished Service Cross was issued at the Army level.  If "Uncle Jim" received the Medal of Honor (the
nations highest award) then you will need to go to a special War Department file to obtain a copy or you can just
read the text of his Medal of Honor citation online at the
Center of Military History.  

The National Archives does retain one type of Company-level document.  These are the "Morning Reports," and
are housed at the
National Personnel Records Center  facility in St. Louis Missouri.  "Morning Reports" were
filed each day to record any change of duty status for Company members.  Depending on the fancy of the
Company clerk or 1st Sergeant, other details might be added--such as the activities of the Company for a
particular day.  You cannot put in a general request for all the Morning Reports where your "Uncle Jim" is
mentioned, so do don't waste your time.  There is no possible way for an archivist search every single microfilm
image for a name.  You need to request certain dates and you must give a particular Company, Battalion or
Regiment, and Division.  You can't ask for too much either, otherwise you will be asked to visit the St. Louis
facility yourself or to hire a local professional researcher. Request a "Morning Report" the same way you would
an individual military file--through Standard Form 180 (downloadable at their website.) Again, you must allow a
few months for processing. Before you do, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by ordering the reports. If
you are simply collecting mementos of "Uncle Jim" and his war service, it is probably not worth the effort.  If you
are trying to reconstruct the circumstances around a particular battle and wish to learn the identities of soldiers
killed or wounded at the time, then the "Morning Reports" are an indispensable resource.  

The following image is an example of a "Morning Report."  This is the Company "B" / 756th Tank Battalion
report for August 27th, 1944 where the battle deaths of my grandfather and two of his tank mates are recorded.  
A fourth man, Pvt. Buisset transferred out with an illness.  Some action details follow as well as a head count of
officers and enlisted men in the Company:
If you are more interested in general information such as Campaign histories, there is no better resource than
the
U.S. Army Center of Military History.  U.S. Army historians may have already done your work for you!  
Browse the U.S.Army CMH bookstore for titles that may interest you.

The
United States Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania has an extensive library and a
searchable catalog that might also be of interest to you.

You may find some information posted on a particular veteran in the World War II registry at the
National
World War II Memorial website. Any soldier killed, missing, or died of wounds should already be listed by the
U.S. government and would include name, rank, serial number, and hometown.  The registry also includes the
names and brief biographies of other veterans who served and survived the war.  This information was placed
there by family and friends. If you have a family member who is not listed, be sure and do so for them.