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What information can you find in a Veterans Enlistment Record?

Updated: Feb 25

As I start going through a WWII veterans service records and what information you can glean from it I will also point out how it can help you in other searches. So let's jump right in with the Enlistment Record. The following are things you will find in the record and should note:

  1. What service they enlisted in - in WWII usually the Army or the Navy. The United States Air Force did not come into being until after the war. So your pilot will be enlisted in the Army.

  2. The correct full name of the veteran - this name, and variations of it will be the name which you search for the subject of your search in all subsequent searches. Note the spelling and be aware you may have to search variants of it - typos happened.

  3. What unit they were assigned to, however this can be misleading. Here is an example the Cavalry still existed at the beginning of WWII and although my father was initially military police and then a glider pilot, his service record reflects that he was originally" Calvary, unassigned". This will not be a huge factor in later research but can certainly throw you off.

  4. Where the service member signed up, where they lived at the time as well as where they were shipped to for training and how long their enlistment period was for. Note: This applies to enlistments not necessarily draftees.

  5. What their mother tongue was. This can also be misleading. My father spoke english and french and his parents who immigrated from Canada spoke both languages as well. His "mother tongue" on his enlistment papers say "French" although he was bilingual and was a native english speaker.

  6. Next will come the veterans birth date, age and citizenship. Followed by race, level of education and occupation as well as any prior service. This can be great information for family history research.

  7. The next section goes into detail about the enlistees health: eyesight, height, weight, measurements, posture, frame, hair and eye color, and skin complexion. It then goes into a more detailed physical analysis. The health information can provide many people with health information that has a bearing on their own health but also it can explain why they were placed in the job they were in. Certain physical or eyesight requirements were necessary for particular jobs. If they were not met the enlistee, regardless of desire or motive for signing up may not be placed in their job/training of choice. However, most physical requirements were lowered as the need for manpower increased as the war moved on.

  8. The next section is the Oath and Certificate of Enlistment. Here you will get the exact date of enlistment and its duration as well as next of kin and the named beneficiaries and their addresses.

  9. In my father's case he was a minor. So his record included a notarized statement signed by his parents consenting to his enlistment. In lieu of parents it must be signed by a guardian.

This is not necessarily the same entire packet that will be included in every veteran's records since other forms may be necessary depending on the individual enlisting. These records are a valuable and pretty accurate starting point. Not only will these records help you in starting a records search for your veteran armed with the correct information but it can also aid you in verifying other information about grandparents, locations, and health information you may need to know. It may take some time to receive the record but it can save you many hours of fruitless research if you have little to go on. It is not unusual for grandchild or other removed family member to search for a veteran so this correct information is vital.

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