The main set of records for a military service man or woman is the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). This file can be found at the National Personnel Records Center, in St. Louis, Missouri. NPRC also holds Morning Reports, Payroll Records, Army Air Corps IDPFs, and more. If your soldier died or was discharged by 1952, the records are available to anyone.
If your soldier died or was discharged after 1952, only the next-of-kin, or authorized representative can obtain the records. Veterans can obtain copies for free, while others must pay NPRC copy fees.
During WWII the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines fell under the authority of the Navy. You will find records interspersed with Naval Records.
Explanation of Service Numbers on Wikipedia
Merchant Marine Resources
Merchant Marine at War
World War II Service Records
Obtaining service records for Merchant Mariners is not the easiest task. Records may be held in at least two locations. The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis and the National Maritime Center.
If You Want a Service File
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis may have a file. This file may contain enlistment documents for enrollment in the United States Maritime Service, training information, medical information, pay changes, and travel orders. As stated in the chapter on Starting Military Research, there are three ways to obtain this file.
Note: You do not have to be next-of-kin to request these records if the Seaman died or was discharged by 1952.
The National Maritime Center may hold documentation of service and discharge. To request a search you must complete the DD2168 form which they prefer is submitted electronically. The form must contain the nature of the request, your contact information, name and date of birth of the Mariner, social security number, and be signed and dated. You can obtain the form here:
If you choose not to submit the form electronically, you may send it to the address below.
National Maritime Center
Attn.: Correspondence (NMC-41)
100 Forbes Drive
Martinsburg, WV 25404
Note: Unlike the records held at the NPRC, according to the National Maritime Center, you must be the veteran or next-of-kin to obtain information.
Coast Guard Resources
U.S. Navy in World War II Bibliography of resources (Scroll down for Coast Guard Resources)
National Maritime Center U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard Academy Library
U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office
U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Casualty List
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