There is so much talk about Army and Air Force records from World War II, that today I want to switch gears and talk about Coast Guard records. I have observed through conversations on social media, that when people think about the Coast Guard for WWII, they think of either the Pacific Theater of Operations or Normandy. The public has a general knowledge that the Coast Guard assisted in the transportation of troops and materials during the war, especially for the Pacific Theater or D-Day. Did you know there are 698 Coast Guard service members listed on the Wall of the Missing or buried at the following cemeteries?
- East Coast Memorial (Wall of the Missing)
- Ardennes American Cemetery
- Brittany American Cemetery
- Cambridge American Cemetery
- Honolulu Memorial
- Manila American Cemetery
- Normandy American Cemetery
- North African American Cemetery
- Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
- West Coast Memorial (Wall of the Missing)
Obtaining the OMPF
Have you adopted the grave of a Coast Guard service member and investigated his life and service? The Coast Guard records were not affected by the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. The Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) is still intact there and can be requested by anyone. You can download Form 180 from the NPRC website, complete, and mail in. NPRC will let you know what the charge will be for a copy of the file.
What does the OMPF for a Coast Guard member contain? Depending on when the individual enlisted, it may contain the following items. This list is by no means complete as each file varies in content. View a sample of what is in Lt. Thomas James Crotty’s file. Crotty served in the Pacific Theater, but his file is a good example of what other Coast Guard files contain.
- School records and grades.
- Letters of recommendation, especially if the individual was going in as an officer, from school and employers.
- Photographs (usually closer to WWII you’ll find more photographs, earlier files do not always contain a photo.)
- Medical history and health records while in service.
- A letter or essay written by the individual explaining his history, education, and reasons for wanting to join the military.
- Training information.
- Overseas station information.
- Insurance and next-of-kin information.
- Often the files contain handwritten letters from family members if the individual was MIA, POW, or KIA.
- Pieces of documents found in the IDPF.
- Death information.
Obtaining the IDPF
The Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) or death file, should also be requested. This is currently held by the Army and being scanned through Ft. Knox. You can email a FOIA request for the file to: ‘USARMY.KNOX.HRC.MBX.FOIA@MAIL.MIL’. It takes up to two years to receive files but they are free and scanned. You can view Lt. Crotty’s full IDPF.
What does the IDPF contain? Again, this list is by no means complete.
- Location, time, date, and cause of death.
- Location, time, date and place of temporary burial. Sometimes this is an isolated grave or unknown location until after the war.
- Documents which detail burial, disinterment, final burial information.
- Handwritten letters from family members.
- Letters from the military, Congressmen, U.S. military organizations to the family.
- Maps, search area testimony and documentation if the soldier was recovered from a crash site or not located immediately.
- Dental and physical charts and information.
- Stateside service training locations and dates.
To learn more about these files and other records you can get for WWII service members, please see the Education section of my website. Both Honoring Service and Education have many links to articles.
Would you like to know more about Lt. Thomas Crotty? Here are several links to articles about his life. He is still considered MIA and listed on the Tablet of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. May he never be forgotten.
- 2014 Coast Guard Dedicates Football Season to WWII Hero
- WWII Medals for Multi-service NYer 68 years later
- USCGA Alumni Association
I am taking new clients at this time if you are interested in working with a researcher to pull records for any military branch. I’m also scheduling speaking appearances in Europe for 2017. Please contact me if your group is interested in a program. I have seven to choose from on my website.
© 2016 World War II Research and Writing Center