The Value of Military and Veteran Archives and Records
Preserving the legacy of our nation’s defenders is essential.
While many people think of libraries and library workers in terms of public libraries where they check out books and bring kids to story hours, the reality is that library work is much vaster in scope and encompasses a much wider array of services and holdings.
One important example is military and veteran archives and records. These records aren’t just valuable for people researching military history but also for people involved in genealogy — many military records can help fill in enormous gaps family researchers have in determining where and when various family members have lived or worked.
These records are also foundational for understanding numerous aspects of US history. Maintaining these records is no small job. It used to be more difficult for people to access them, but as archives are increasingly digitized and available online, it’s becoming easier for someone to research, even from the comfort of their own home. (That said, not everything is online yet, so check the website for specific sites to learn what holdings may be available on the internet and which may involve travel or receiving help from library staff.)
Here are some of the major holders of military archives and records.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Archives is the official archives for the US Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, and other government agencies. Within their holdings are military personnel service records, documents including unit reports and rosters, maps and diagrams, films, audio recordings, and electronic records. While not all their materials are available online, they have resources for genealogists, veterans, and military historians.
The Department of Defense (DOD) holds an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) for every veteran and service member. Many of these records are available online, although the process is ongoing, so some items are still not digitized.
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also has military service records for past and present personnel. Some are available online through a site called milConnect. For anyone having difficulty finding their records online, it could be worth a visit to your local VA county office for assistance.
The General Services Administration (GSA), based in St. Louis, holds the National Personnel Records Center and a branch of the National Archives with a wide range of military personnel records.
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Each of the US military branches has its own archives as well. Online holdings can be found here:
As always, library workers are at the forefront of protecting and preserving invaluable parts of the nation’s history and working to connect researchers with the information they need. At EveryLibrary, we’re honored to help these workers continue this hard but necessary work. Consider donating to help our mission of keeping libraries connected to their missions.
Visit www.everylibrary.org to learn more about our work on behalf of libraries.
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