|1st LT Tom Holland, Vietnam|
The US Military has some huge databases online.
A few of them contain extensive historical records of military actions, and reports by, or about, individual soldiers, platoons, units, companies and every other category used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines (and the Reserves, Coast Guard, etc). These are available to the public, and they're free.
Perhaps it's no surprise that these datasets are also rather bureaucratic and not the most user-friendly. Maybe that's why they're not often used by genealogists or those casually searching for family history records. But still...they contain so much information that they are definitely worth a look. So, without further ado...
The Army Heritage Collection Online is a military history website that is both a pointer system to offline records, as well as a large library of digitized information that is fully searchable. There's an incredible assortment here: oral histories, field reports, letters and diaries, memoirs, along with a large body of photos and artifacts. Poke around this site, as there are other resources here as well.
The Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) is another useful resource that includes many soldiers by name, such as the collection of yearbooks from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Click on the Digital Library tab to restrict your search to online content.
I've covered a number of other terrific sources of military information in earlier posts. Have a look at:
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors
- More Civil War Resources
- World War I and II Enlistments
- Medieval English Soldiers
- Veterans' Gravesites
- British Soldiers of World War I and II
Good luck, everybody.
Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.