Answered By: Dr. Stephanie Rollins
Last Updated: May 26, 2022     Views: 9830

Locating Military Personnel: Past and Present

The following websites may provide useful information:

1. US Army Heritage and Education Center

2. National Archives

3. Air Force Historical Research Agency

4. Fold3 (Available for free to Air Force members through the Air Force Virtual Library.)

Fold3® provides convenient access to military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served. The records at Fold3 help you discover and share stories about these everyday heroes, forgotten soldiers, and the families that supported them. On Fold3, you can combine records found on the site with what you have in your own albums and shoeboxes to create an online memorial for someone who served.

The following agencies may provide useful information:

1. Superintendent of Documents,
United States Government Printing Office (GPO)
Washington, DC 20402 (202) 512-1800

2. If you need specific information about a military person:

If you're seeking information about military personnel who served in the United States Army Air Forces, or the United States Air Force, first obtain as much of the following information as possible:

A. Full name and serial number of the individual.
B. Rank held at a specific time or highest rank achieved.
C. Names and dates of awards for decorations received (e.g., the Purple Heart).
D. Unit(s) to which the individual was assigned or attached and the dates of service.
E. Individual's military occupation or specialty, e.g., pilot, navigator, bombardier, gunner, physician, nurse, maintenance technician, supply clerk, security or military police, etc.

If requesting the records of a relative, the requester should mention the relationship to the former member (brother, uncle, or other). There is no charge for this service to former service members or their next of kin. For others, a nominal fee is charged for research and reproduction costs. Files at the Records Center are maintained as historical records only and are not updated to reflect current data on the former service member. The address for the National Personnel Records Center is:

National Personnel Records Center
Attn.: Air Force Reference Branch
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63132

3. For individuals compiling family histories, NARA provides assistance to those interested in genealogy:

NARA normally charges a nominal fee for research and reproduction costs. Their address is:

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20408

4. Contact local sources if original residence is known:

  • Adjutant General's Office in the individual's state of residence for data on state personnel who served in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam.
  • County and State Veteran's Service Offices for information in case the individual applied for Veteran's benefits or hospitalization.
  • County Office of Vital Records in individual's county of residence prior to entry into service for either birth or marriage records of the individual.
  • County Probate Office for a will or Letters of Administration on file for the individual if he or she possessed property in the county and is now deceased.
  • Newspapers published in the city or county where the individual is presumed to have lived prior to entry into service for news items or articles, including obituaries or death notices.
  • Local post of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans of World War II, and the like, for information on local men and women who survived service in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam.
  • The State Office of Vital Statistics for death records of service personnel who died while on active duty.

5. Another source for information on military personnel is the Air Force Historical Research Agency.  The agency's collection consists of two broad categories of materials:

Unit Histories: The major portion of the collection consists of unit histories that the various Air Force organizations have prepared and submitted periodically since the establishment of the Air Force History Program in 1942. Reporting requirements have changed from time to time over the years, and the submissions vary in quality. Taken as a whole, the unit histories with their supporting documents, provide remarkably complete coverage of Air Force activities.

Special Collections: The coverage provided by unit histories is supplemented by special collections, including historical monographs and studies; oral history interview transcripts; End-Of-Tour Reports; personal papers of retired general officers and other Air Force personnel; reference materials on the early period of military aviation; course materials of the Air Corps Tactical School of the 1920s and 1930s; working documents of various joint and combined commands; miscellaneous documents or collections of various organizations, including the US Army, British Air Ministry, and the German Air Force; USAF individual aircraft record cards, and a large collection of material relating to the USAF activities in the war in Southeast Asia and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

6. Next of kin may ask for a copy of the service member's personnel records (including "201" files) by contacting:

World War II Memorial American Battle Monuments Commission
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 501
Arlington, VA 22201

7. For air crew members lost in combat during World War II:

Request a Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) under the individual's name from:

National Archives and Records Administration
Attn.: Textual Reference Branch
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park MD 20740-6001

8. To determine whether an individual was declared missing or killed in action, contact the agency below. They can also provide location details if the deceased is buried in a US (overseas or national) cemetery. If the response is negative (no record of death or continued missing status), it is possible that the member survived.

U.S. Total Army Personnel Command
2461 Eisenhower Ave., Room 984, Hoffman Bldg 1
Alexandria VA 22331

9. To contact Air Force personnel who are still on active duty, or who have retired: Write a letter to the person you wish to contact. Place the letter in a sealed and stamped envelope with your name and return address and the name of the individual on the outside of the envelope. Send this envelope to the agency below along with a note giving all identifying information about the person that you are trying to reach. Ask the locator to add the individual's current address to your sealed envelope and to forward it to the person you wish to contact. A $3.50 finder's fee must be included (make check out to: DAO-DE RAFB). Their address is:

550 C Street W, Suite 50
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4752

10. To contact military personnel who have filed a claim against the Veterans Administration (VA):

Write a letter to the person, place in an unsealed stamped envelope without a return address. Send envelope with $2.00 fee and name, serial number, date of birth, etc., to the local or regional VA office listed in the Blue Pages of the phone directory. The VA will forward your letter to last known address.

11. What if all else fails?  Consider sending "search notices" or letters to the editor in these publications:

Retired Office Reader's Exchange
201 N Washington St Springfield VA 22159
Fax (703) 750-8601
Air Force Times
6883 Commercial Dr Springfield VA 22159
Fax (703) 750-8601
Sergeant's  Magazine
5211 Auth Road
Suitland MD 20746

A final possibility is the book, How To Locate Anyone Who Is Or Has Been in the Military: Armed Forces Locator Guide, eighth edition, by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Richard Johnson, MIE Publishing.  It explains hundreds of proven ways to locate current and former members of all service branches, including the National Guard and Reserve. It provides information on how anyone may obtain copies of individual military records, rosters, muster rolls, after-action reports and numerous other military records.

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