Maginot Line at War 1939-1940

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Researching WWII Soldiers

Researching US Service Members

American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC)The ABMC maintains several databases of US service members killed in action and buried overseas. Of interest to researchers of the World Wars are the WWI (33,717 records) and WWII (176,399 records) databases of casualties either buried in ABMC cemeteries or listed on the Walls of the Missing.

Department of Veterans Affairs: National Cemetery Administration: If the service member is buried in a National cemetery, then the VA should have the soldier's name in its database. For the nationwide gravesite locator:

US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): NARA has several useful databases:
-  WWII Army Enlistment Records, 1938–46
-  Records of WWII Prisoners of War, 12/7/1941 - 11/19/1946
-  WWII Prisoners of the Japanese Data Files, 1941-45
-  Records About Japanese Americans Relocated During WWII, 1942-46
-  Records of Duty Locations for Naval Intelligence Personnel, 1942-45

The databases can be accessed at:
This one is useful for finding enlistment records of WWII soldiers:

Dad's War: This web page has a staggering amount of advice and information. It is perhaps the best overall website for finding information on a US Service Member.

Personnel Records: Once you have the basic information, then try the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) for the service member’s personnel records. Download the Standard Form 180, and mail or fax it to NPRC. Note: be patient, waits of about six months are the norm.


Researching Members of the German Armed Forces

Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V (German War Graves Commission)For those who died in either World War, the VDK maintains an online database of burial locations of more than 4.4 million dead and missing soldiers. It provides a quick way to find some basic information.

There is an option to select English-language version of the pages, but because it uses an online translation service (Babel Fish), the "grave search" (gräbersuche) sometimes times-out before providing results. Suggest using the German-language version. Link to the database:

Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle für Kriegerverluste und Kriegsgefangene (WASt) (Wehrmacht Information Office for War Losses and Prisoners of War)WASt is the primary repository for information about German military personnel. All requests must be made in writing. The service takes time - perhaps six months - and you must pay the service. If you are not a family member of the soldier do not expect full records. Replies are provided in German.
Their website has is in several languages to include English:

German and US National ArchivesRecords of soldiers are kept at the Bundesarchiv: (you must read German to figure this site out) and the US National Archives in College Park, MD which has personnel records of many Wehrmacht and SS officers on microfilm: Neither archive has the records available online.

International Tracing Service (ITS)The ITS has an archive of victims of Nazi persecution and their families.

Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V (German War Graves Commission)The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V (German War Graves Commission) maintains an online database of burial location of dead and missing soldiers. The homepage has an option to select English, but often it times-out when trying to search the database. Therefore, if at all possible try using the German-language pages.

The gräbersuche (grave search) database is at this link:

Enter the name and as much data as you know:
Nachname: (Last Name)
Vorname: (First Name)
Geburtsdatum: (Birth Date) Enter dates as as day, month, and year as so: 12.03.1914. Use dots - – no slash “/” or dash “-.”
Todes-/Vermisstendatum: (Death/Missing date)
Geburtsort: (Birth Place)

The more data you have the better chance of finding the right information, but in the search process if the database states that it cannot find any information, then come back and remove some information to broaden the search, and try again.

Click on Suche beginnen (Begin Search) and you will get a page that requires you to register by entering some personal data. You must register to access the database. If you have not visited the database recently, you will have to re-register. Fill in the parts that are marked with an asterisk: “*”
Nachname: (Last Name)
Vorname: (First Name)
Straße / Nr.: (Street Address)
Land / PLZ / Ort: Country, Postal Code, Town

Under Grund meines Interesses an der Gräbersuche online (Reason of my interest in the grave search on-line), check the appropriate reason; it makes no difference as to the type of information you will receive. I use Geschichtliches Interesse (Historical Interest). Then you must check the agreement box, and then click on Zur Ergebnisseite (To the result page).

Next page click on Suchanfrage ausführen (Retrieve Query Data)

The web site will then provide either a list of soldiers that match the data you inputted, or a statement that Die Recherche war leider erfolglos. Dies kann folgende Gründe haben: (The search was unfortunately unsuccessful. This can have the following reasons)

If you are lucky and only one soldier matches the data you inputted, the information provided will be something like this:
Nachname: Bauer
Vorname: Joseph
Dienstgrad: Infanterist
Geburtsdatum: 21.08.1914
Geburtsort: Bei Herzing
Todes-/Vermisstendatum: 05.12.1944

Joseph Bauer ruht auf der Kriegsgräberstätte in Lafrimbolle (Frankreich) . Endgrablage: Kameradengrab (Joseph Bauer rests in a war grave in Lafrimbolle (France). Final grave: mass grave

Nähere Informationen zu diesem Friedhof erhalten Sie hier. (For more information about this cemetery, click here)

Above the soldier's information, the web page gives you the option to download (Daten Downloaden) or print the data (Daten Drucken)

If you get a list of soldiers that match your data, then you will have to deduce which soldier is the correct one by clicking on each and where possible eliminating possibilities.

If you get the notice that the search was unsuccessful, use the small bluish-green arrow below the data (…zurück zur Abfrage) to go back to the previous page and change the data you originally entered. The webpage suggests these steps:

Step 1. Enter only the surname and date of birth (with WWI dead just the death date). If that fails:
Step 2. Enter surname and first name, but no birth or death date. Possibly try first name variants. (Wilhelm, Willi, Willy, Johann, Johannes etc.). If that fails:
Step 3. Enter surname and first letter of the first name or only surname (with similar names such as Schmidt, Mueller, Fischer etc.). Then examine the list of names provided by the database. If this does not lead to the desired result, then:
Step 4. Enter first letters of the surname (at least 3); works only with rare names.


If All Else Fails:

Step 5. Enter the "Geburtsort" into the appropriate field. You will receive anywhere from zero to tens of thousands of results.  For example, entering "Berlin" returns 66,553 results. If you can add anything at all that could help refine the search (e.g. an individual's initials), it will substantially reduce the number of results generated, which in turn will improve your chances of finding the individual of interest.

Note: If you receive an "Achtung" after submitting the request, don't worry; select "OK" and the search results will be generated.