How to Research WWII Veterans (For Free)
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
Services like Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and GoldenArrowResearch.com may provide more information on a given veteran, but unlike the research tools we have outlined below, they all require payment.
Perhaps you have just bought a WWII M1 helmet liner (possibly after using one of our guides) and while looking it over, you noticed an eight digit number inscribed in its interior. Well, you have just lucked out! This number is known as a United States Army Service Number ("ASN") and it's likely your best chance at identifying the veteran to whom your item belonged. Unlike last names, initials, and laundry numbers (which we will address further down), ASN's are unique and no two servicemen were issued the same ASN.
The National Archives & Records Administration Database contains an extensive, but incomplete record of WWII service numbers (on July 12, 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center destroyed countless documents). If you are fortunate enough, your veteran's ASN might be found by searching the NARA database.
If your item is not marked with a complete ASN, it might have a laundry number. Laundry numbers consist of the first initial of the veteran's last name, followed by the last four digits of the veteran's ASN.
Unlike the NARA database, WWII-Enlistment.com allows for laundry number searches. It's quite likely that two or more servicemen will have the same laundry number, though; in order to narrow down the results to a proper identification, supplementary information (veteran's hometown, a set of initials, etc.) may be required.
Perhaps your item is only marked with the veteran's name. Both the NARA database and WWII-Enlistment.com are searchable by name. The WWII Registry is another name-based search engine that combines four separate databases:
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cemeteries (official)
ABMC missing in action (official)
NARA War and Navy Department killed in service rosters (official)
Public Registry of Remembrances (unofficial)
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only 496,777 are still alive in 2018. The final resting places of some of those who have since passed on can be found at FindAGrave.com.
Veterans' obituaries can sometimes be found through Legacy.com, but when all else fails, a simple Google search might produce the results you are looking for.
Now that you have the necessary tools to research veterans, give it a try! If you would like to acquire an item that has already been researched, view Circa1941's constantly-updated selection. We would love to earn your business!