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Memorial Day: to Honor and Remember

memorial day

Memorial Day: to Honor and Remember

So, you are gently strolling our local cemeteries and your attention turns to those many, many headstones of men and women who have fallen in war. One or more of them may be relatives, neighbors or friends. Some are unknown to you. Though their graves offer but a passing glimpse into their lives and sacrifices, you have the ability, perhaps responsibility, to acquire the facts and stories for marshalling a broader, deeper understanding of the circumstances that commanded these honored dead.

Make this Memorial Day the moment you begin to discover the unique details of each life in uniform, and the many reasons to honor, remember, and mourn those who died in service to our country. To that end, the following websites provide information regarding personnel records, unit histories, letters/diaries/oral histories, prisoners of war, and military burials.

National Archives
Whether or not you are next of kin, the National Archives offers a clear and effective procedure for requesting veteran service records, electronically or by mail.

Individual Deceased Personnel Files
Discover the powerful significance of these often-overlooked records. I lay out the process for requesting IDPFs.

U.S. Army Center of Military History
Obtain and read over 600 publications authored by scholars who use primary source materials to write incredibly detailed accounts of combat and support operations. This is an essential resource for acquiring text from, and references to, military unit histories.

Chapman University: Center for American War Letters Archive
This is a unique and extensive manuscript collection of previously unpublished war letters from every American conflict, beginning with handwritten missives composed during the Revolutionary War and continuing up to emails sent from Iraq and Afghanistan. These personal war-related correspondences are a vital record of the collective memory of the American people, as witnessed and articulated by service members, veterans, and their loved ones, who experienced these wars firsthand.

Library of Congress: Veterans History Project/Oral Histories
The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

Library of Congress: Veterans History Project/Prisoners of War
Select “prisoner of war” as a search criterion and examine the personal accounts of former POW.  These narratives are unique and important components of any military genealogy.

Pegasus Archive: Prisoners of War
This is a site about the experiences of Prisoners of War, of any nationality, during World War Two.

American Battle Monuments Commission
The American Battle Monuments Commission, established by the Congress in 1923, is an agency of the executive branch of the federal government.  The ABMC—guardian of America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials—honors the service, achievements and sacrifice of U.S. Armed Forces.  Search the database to find the location of burial and discover details of military service.

Find a Grave
This well-known, global database provides burial information for U.S. Military cemeteries abroad.  In cooperation with the ABMC, photos of individual graves are being added to Find a Grave.  Thus far, this is the only source online that offers images of ABMC grave markers.

Fold3 (ProQuest)
This database features original military documents. Select a war and search by name.


Tim Seman has worked in archives and libraries from Washington, D.C. to Youngstown, spanning more than thirty years.  A staunch abolitionist vegan, Tim shares life with a multispecies family, reads broadly, writes occasionally, and enjoys cooking and marksmanship.  Contact him at tseman@libraryvisit.org