All the records burned and I cannot tell my soldier’s story!
How many times have you heard that phrase uttered by Army, Air Forces, and National Guard WWII researchers? I’ve heard it more times than I can count. What people do not realize is there is a hidden gem in the records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. A record set that will provide the foundation researchers need to reconstruct service history from start to finish, especially if they are creative with their research. What is the gem?
Company Morning Reports
A Morning Report was created each day outlining events of the prior day for the events of a Company. To locate information in Morning Reports you must know the Company in which your soldier served. It is not enough to know in which division or regiment. The Company can be found on a discharge paper or IDPF or any other letter or document that has a unit listed on it. Morning Reports can be traced in any direction based on the information you have.
Morning Reports listed many details about the company which include:
- The location of the company for the date of the report.
- Strength of the unit in numbers of men
- Details of those entering and leaving the company
- Names of those declared AWOL, Missing In Action, Killed In Action, or wounded.
- The reports also provided information on the day’s events. Some clerks reported weather conditions, in addition to the usual information on where the unit was fighting, and other enemy encounters.
The companies were required to report numbers of men at each meal, which provided information to the Army, who then was able to provide food and appropriate supplies for the soldiers. These numbers also alerted headquarters when the ranks were depleted and replacements were needed.
Morning Reports are useful because they can help you track a soldier’s service from start to finish, as long as the company clerk included all the details of the entrance and exit of a soldier, showing where he came from, and where he was going. Not all company clerks did this or had the time to do this. If you cannot find detailed information within a Morning Report, consider the battle conditions under which the clerks were trying to compile reports.
Analyzing a Morning Report
The Morning Report shown in this post is for I Company 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 82nd Infantry Division. What can we learn from this report?
- Date of the report
- Location (but be careful with Airborne reports because their station is reported as being in England, but if you keep looking at the reports, you will end up at month’s end learning the company is really in Holland and has been there several days.) Always check other records to ensure your soldier’s company was where you think it was.
- We see Robert Wagner listed as going from duty to slighting injured in action. We have his serial number and rank. Knowing he was injured adds to his timeline of service we can create. Had he been removed from the company, that would have been noted.
- We know how many men are in the company this date.
- We have a record of events which helps us locate additional histories and records.
How do we access these records?
You can hire a researcher to pull the records or you can visit the National Personnel Records Center yourself and go through the microfilm.
To learn more about Morning Reports, see my books Stories from the World War II Battlefield, which provide a more in-depth look at these records. You can also see several examples at the 134th Infantry Regiment 35th Infantry Division website.
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Want More Resources?
Visit the WWII Education Website and explore my military research webinars. This pack comes with 14 pages of questions, checklists, and resources to help you start your military research (WWI – Vietnam).
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