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Researching a World War II Veteran

I am very lucky to regularly hear from veterans of the 182nd Infantry from World War II, as well as their children and grandchildren. Sometimes, I am even able to help them find new information, documents or photographs of a particular veteran. It can be difficult to track down the specifics of an individual’s wartime service, though. I wanted to share a few tips here, along with some guidelines for what I can and can not help with on the research front.

First of all, it is important to note that my research focuses on one company of the 182nd Infantry, and their service during World War II. Over the years I have collected hundreds of primary source documents from locations such as the National Archives and the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives. While some of these documents relate to the entire 182nd Infantry, or even the full Americal Division, in most cases they pertain only to Company G of the 182nd. This unit of approximately 200 men made up just a small portion of the 182nd during the war. Thus, I am often unable to help researchers trying to find out more about their relatives. Please contact me if you are unsure what company a 182nd Infantry serviceman served with – I may be able to determine this.

Since I can’t answer everyone’s questions, I always try to point them in the proper direction to do their own research. The starting point for any research into a U.S. service member is the National Archives. The most important pieces of paperwork to track down are discharge papers and separation records. These days, those forms are known as the DD-214, but during World War II, they went by other designations such as WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and NAVCG 553. These forms list the veteran’s name, address, rank, duties, foreign service, and other important facts. Unfortunately, when researching U.S. Army records during World War II, there is a rather serious problem. In 1973, a massive fire at the National Archives repository in St. Louis destroyed most of these records (read more about that fire here). If you do not have a copy of the veteran’s service records, you should request them through the National Archives here, but be aware that they may no longer exist due to the fire. These records, when they do exist, are held at the National Archives location in St. Louis, at a place known as the National Personnel Records Center.

Other important military records from World War II can be obtained to expand the knowledge of a veteran’s war service. At the National Archives in College Park, MD, dozens of boxes contain the original reports and documents created by Americal Division units during the war. These include important records such as Unit Histories (example here), Operations Reports (example here), and many others. The College Park location of the National Archives also holds photographs of many war time events and people. You can learn more about visiting this location to do research at this link.

Other documents generated by World War II U.S. Army units can be found at the National Archives location in St. Louis. These included Unit Rosters, and Morning Reports (see example here). These reports are highly informative. Morning Reports were created each day by each company, and they list what the unit did during the day. The also list out any changes to the unit’s personnel, such as the departure of sick and wounded, arrival of replacements, and reporting of those killed. You can find out more on their website.

The last archival destination I recommend for 182nd Infantry research is the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives. Located in Concord, MA, this facility houses the records pertaining to the unit’s time prior to departure for the Pacific in January 1942. There is a wealth of photographic material here on the pre-war years, as well as rosters and paperwork. Please note that this National Guard facility does not hold records related to the 182nd’s four years overseas in the Pacific – a period when the unit had been federalized and served in the U.S. Army.

In terms of reading material, one book in particular is crucial to knowing the story of the 182nd Infantry Regiment in World War II. This is Under the Southern Cross, written by Captain Francis D. Cronin a few years after the war. It can be purchased from the Americal Legacy Foundation in their Online Store.

I hope this this general information is helpful to those investigating the service of a World War II service member. If you have specific questions about a 182nd Infantry Regiment individual, please feel free to contact me at 182ndinfantry@gmail.com.

Published inHistory

2 Comments

  1. Tim J. Adamescu Tim J. Adamescu

    Dave,
    First I would like to comment on what a great job you have done on your website. It shows your compassion for passing on history to others and the time spent, which I am sure, was very gratifying to you. I too love researching history, not only for myself, but for friends and family as well, which brings me to this email.
    My sister in law’s father, Emil Chipko, was with the 182nd infantry during the Cebu campaign with the medical detachment which, from my research, I believe, would be the 3rd Battalion Section. At the start of the campaign he was a corporal, but there was a commendation for him that states he was in charge of a litter squad that evacuated 47 wounded men from 03/29/45 to 3/31/45. It was because of this, he was promoted to staff sargeant.
    I have been unsuccessful in locating information regarding the medical detachment of the 182nd. Could you possibly direct me in the right direction and or share what you might have? I look forward to your response. Below is all my information for contacting me.
    Best regards,

    Tim J. Adamescu

    • Dave Colamaria Dave Colamaria

      Thanks so much for your comment Tim. I appreciate the feedback. I will send you an email to respond to your question.

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