Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Express Browsing:

Mon-Thurs: 10-8pm

Fri: 10-5pm

Sat: 10-4pm

Finding Family Members Who Fought in World War II

It is not unusual to want to learn more about family members who fought in World War II. Each person who was involved has a story. It is my hope that this material will help you find it.

Finding Additional Material

Information and histories about the four branches of the military may prove to be critical clues in finding your information. Did you know that the Air Force became a separate branch only after the war?  The Army Air Force was responsible for much of the air action on the European and African fronts post invasion. The United States Navy also had a naval aviation unit. (Think of the aircraft carriers.) The Marine Corps was considered a separate branch of the military, but its commandant reported directly to the Secretary of the Navy. The Marines also included pilots in their ranks. Knowing facts such as these will help you know where to search.

This section of the Guide includes just a tiny selection of material on World War II military in general, as well as the four branches and smaller divisions and units. Consider this a guidepost to the type of material you can find for your own branch, regiment, squadron, ship, or crew.

To find other books, check with your local library's online catalog and with your reference librarians.  You can use a combination of keywords or a more formal subject heading such as "World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States" in your online search. And then there is the Library of Congress online catalog at http://www.loc.govHere you can find books not available locally. You can request books that you find using the Interlibrary Loan program through your local library. Their Interlibrary Loan Department or librarian may be able to find the book closer to home in a nearby library network or state.  Also take a look at the websites listed here. 

World War II and Military Branches, Divisions, Regiments...

United States Army

Organization of Infantry Division from Kahn's Fighting Divisions

You can find the above chart on the "Organization of [an] Infantry Division" in Fighting Divisions by E.J. Kahn, Jr., 1945 (pages xiv - xv). The book is listed directly below.

Army Air Force

The Air Force became a separate branch of the United States military after World War II.

United State Navy

These are volumes from Samuel Eliot Morison's history of the United States Navy during World War II. For the complete citation see directly below.

United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps is considered a branch of the United States military, with the commandant serving on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  At the same time, the commandant reports directly to the secretary of the Navy. Congress placed the Marine Corps under the secretary of the Navy in 1834.

A little know fact outside the Marine Corps is that of the 589,852 Marines who served in during World War II, approximately 70% were reservists.

United States Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard, although a separate branch of the military, was made a specialized branch of the Navy for the duration of World War II. It took part in every European and Pacific landing operation.

American Forces in Action Series

In the thick of battle, the soldier is busy doing his job. He has the knowledge and confidence that his job is part of a unified plan to defeat the enemy, but he does not have time to survey a campaign from a fox hole. If he should be wounded and removed behind the lines, he may have even less opportunity to learn what place he and his unit had in the larger fight.

American Forces in Action is a series prepared by the War Department especially for the information of wounded men. It will show these soldiers, who have served their country so well, the part they and their comrades played in the achievements which do honor to the record of the United States Army.

G. C. Marshall
Chief of Staff

From the forward to Merrill's Marauders


This series is also available online. See the box that is labelled "The American Forces in Action Online" directly below this list of books.


American Forces in Action Online

U.S. Military Chaplains

USS Massachusetts

USS Massachusetts from Jane's Fighting Ships

Above you see information on the USS Massachusetts published in the volume of Jane's Fighting Ships covering the years 1943 - 1944 (page 442). The ship has been permanently berthed in Battleship Cove, Fall River Massachusetts since June of 1965.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress

This is among the best of the online catalogs to check for published regimental and division histories.  Once you find a book, request it through the Interlibrary Loan Department or librarian at your local library.

Author of Page

Ginny Audet's picture
Ginny Audet
Reference Department
Newton Free Library
330 Homer Street
Newton, MA 02459