March 24, 2008

Use Caution When Accessing Newly Available Army Records

I have often wondered why I could not find the enlistment records of my father and two of his brothers who served in the Army Air Force during WW2.

The Air Force kept, and apparently still safely maintains detailed records of men and equipment from that era. An uncle was a bombardier instructor, and was killed along with several of his crew when an engine on the B-29 in which they were flying exploded. The report provided to me by the Air Force is detailed, and includes eye witness reports, survivor reports, and other valuable information.

An uncle of my wife was also killed during WW2 while flying in a B-24 over the Adriatic Sea. The report that I obtained on that incident not only included the serial number of nearly everything on board the aircraft, but also maps, eye witness reports, crew names, ranks, serial numbers, hometowns, next of kin, etc.

According to an article by Sharon Tate Moody, which appears at Tampa Bay Online, the National Archives tossed some 1.5 million (about one-third) of the WW2 enlistment records which could not be scanned. The article tells how the electronic records were created in 1994 in an attempt to help reconstruct military files lost by fire in 1973. It also describes how errors were introduced by the electronic scanning process, and warns that caution should be used when interpreting certain data from the cards.

Click on the title link to read the complete article.

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