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. Click on Search Digitized Material (near the page bottom) if you want to restrict your results to digitized content that is immediately available online. Otherwise, use the Search All option to query both digital and non-digital records.
The Center For Army Lessons Learned is another historical site that is largely available to the general public. This is more of bibliographic system than a way to pull up actual documents, but it's still worth a visit. Click on CALL Archives, then Public Archives, and then check-off all the databases for a comprehensive search. Hit Query towards the top of the page to begin searching.
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.
Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.
And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com.These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.