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Family History Resources:
Military Records

Copyright 2002 Carolyn M. Brady

ALWAYS UNDER CONSTRUCTION - updated 15 April 2005

If you have any corrections, additions, or suggestions for links that you find especially useful, please contact me!

Military Personnel Service Records

The National Archives' National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, houses the records for soldiers who served in the U.S. military in the 20th century. Unfortunately a fire in 1973 destroyed many of the records for those who served in World War II and the Korean War, but they can search to see what materials might remain related to a particular person. Veterans and their next of kin or legal representative can request their records using the SF180 form (available in PDF form at that page). It's a government form, so be sure to read all the fine print.

World War I Draft Cards

In 1917 and 1918, all men in the U.S. between 18 and 45 years of age (born between 1872-1900) were supposed to register for the draft regardless of citizenship. This does not mean that they ever served in the military. The original cards are housed at the NARA Atlanta, GA, regional facility, but they are also available on microfilm. (NARA description includes microfilm numbers. You can also order microfilm through your local Family History Center).

The registration cards are organized alphabetically by last name for a particular location. You'll need to know which city and county your relative was living in around 1917-18, and for big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, you may need a street address as well. (I was fortunate that everyone in Hood River County, Oregon, was lumped together.) Information on the cards filled out in 1917 included the man's address, date and place of birth (including Japanese town and prefecture in many cases), occupation, employer, whether there was a family member solely dependent on him for support, marital status, previous military service, and a very vague physical description. You can see my grandfather's card here.

The individual was also required to sign his card or make his mark (X). The majority of forms were filled in by hand so they may not have always been alphabetized properly. I also suspect that in many cases, someone at the draft board filled in the card for the man and then he signed it, since I noticed a number of inconsistencies in the spelling of the name at the top of the form and the man's signature. (And I was surprised by the number of Japanese registrants' in Hood River who had very neat signatures, sometimes easier to read than the handwriting of the person filling out the forms. My grandfather's signature looks like a very careful schoolbook hand :o)

The cards for 1918 (which are all mixed together with the 1917 cards) also give address, date of birth, occupation, and employer, and brief physical description, but they don't give as specific a place of birth, only asking which government the person is subject to if not a US citizen (i.e., Japan). The 1918 cards do list "nearest relative" which in many cases is a wife in the US or family member in Japan (relationship not always identified).

You can also search the WWI Civilian Draft Registrations at

I have made photocopies of the cards for Japanese men in Hood River County, Oregon.

Access the WWI Draft Cards!

Veterans organizations and other stuff on-line

Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) Alphabetical listing of names on the new National Japanese American Memorial in DC; Nisei in Military Intelligence Hall of Fame; and JA military history links. There's also a site search engine at the bottom of their front page.

Japanese American War Veterans (lists vets from WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars) - Unofficial website of the 442nd includes listings of 442nd and 100th members

Dianne Kiyomoto is compiling a searchable database of Japanese-Americans who served in World War II

The U.S. Army Center for Military History website has a section on Asian-Pacific Americans and the US Army

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