At eleven o’clock in the morning on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, an armistice went into effect to cease the fighting of the Great War.  Armistice Day was first celebrated in 1919 and became a national holiday in 1938 to celebrate this anniversary; it wasn’t until 1954 that we began to celebrate Veterans Day on November 11th.

In honor of the day, I’ve investigated various repositories that handle the records of veterans of wars.  Here’s what I found:

  • American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress: Veterans History Project (http://www.loc.gov/vets/vets-home.html).  This collection includes records from World War I through the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It includes primarily oral histories of veterans, but it also incorporates diaries, letters, and other historical documents that have been contributed.  Some of the materials are in a digital format and available online.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs: National Cemetery Administration (http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/).  This Nationwide Gravesite Locator is an online searchable database of the burial sites of veterans.
  • National Archives and Records Administration: Veterans Service Records (http://www.archives.gov/veterans/).  This portal provides information on how to request military service records, how to research using military records, how to replace lost medals and awards, and links to a selection of World War Two photographs that have been digitized and placed online.  Unfortunately, NARA’s military records were housed in a St. Louis facility that suffered a devastating fire in 1973, but as they receive requests, they are still trying to reconstruct these records.
  • National Park Service: Soldiers and Sailors Database (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm).  This site provides online access to regiment lists for both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.  The site also includes histories of these regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and some prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.
  • National World War II Museum (http://www.nationalww2museum.org/index.html).  This museum, founded by Stephen Ambrose, contains more than 100,000 artifacts.  The Focus On, Featured Artifacts, and Oral Histories collections provide access to a number of these artifacts online.
  • Pennsylvania State Archives: Spanish American War Veterans’ Card File of United States Volunteers Indexes (http://www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us/archive.asp?view=ArchiveIndexes&ArchiveID=8).  The Pennsylvania State Archives has digitized an abstract card file for Pennsylvania veterans of the Revolutionary War, Spanish-American War, and World War I and makes this available online.
  • University of Hawai’i at Manoa: Japanese American Veterans Collection (http://libweb.hawaii.edu/libdept/archives/mss/aja/).  This collection documents the service of Japanese Americans in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the Hawaii Territorial Guard, the Varsity Victory Volunteers, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 1399th Engineers, and the Military Intelligence Service during World War Two.
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro: The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project (http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/).  This collection includes both records created by individual female veterans along with print and textile items collected by the University Archives.
  • A 2011 article (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Civil-War-Veterans-Come-Alive-in-Audio-and-Video-Recordings.html) in the Smithsonian references the videos that are in the Library of Congress collection that show Civil War veterans.

If you’re interested in getting involved preserving the records of veterans, the American Library Association has produced helpful Quick Preservation Tips for Military Families (http://atyourlibrary.org/sites/default/files/presweek/Quick-Preservation-Tips-for-Military-Families-13.pdf).

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