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Reference Information Paper 82

A Finding Aid to Records Relating to Personal Participation in World War II: American Military Casualties and Burials

Table of Contents

Part II: Audiovisual Records Relating to Casualties and Burials

In most respects the audiovisual records of World War II are of limited usefulness for the researcher seeking information on a specific individual who was a casualty of the war. They were not created to account for all casualties in a given location, campaign, service, unit, or theater, as were many textual records. They were most often produced to offer a picture of military experience that, although it depicts individuals, was intended to represent the whole, with the aim of depicting group effort, inspiring the nation, or capturing a sample of the American wartime sacrifice.

Some motion picture films and still pictures contain images of individuals who are not identified but possibly could be, given some special knowledge or preliminary research. A very few are accompanied by name indexes or other finding aids that could enable a researcher with a little background information to find an image of a given person. While these records are of great value in a few cases, the researcher must remember that the appearance of a particular individual is the result of serendipity and not of some consistent plan on the part of the persons who created the records.

Motion Pictures

[For more information about the motion pictures described here, contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Unit, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0526 Email: mopix@nara.gov]

A relatively large number of scenes of American casualties can be found on motion picture film for the World War II period. For the most part this footage consists of a few minutes in each instance, and there is no systematic way to track down or even identify individuals. However, clues are usually available regarding the approximate time and the location at which the pictures were taken. The possibility exists that persons who were casualties, their family members, or others familiar with them can select motion pictures based on knowledge of someone's wartime experiences and have a small chance of finding film of an identifiable individual. Therefore, with minor exceptions, the descriptions of films in this reference information paper provide information and available clues about the time and location at which they were shot. Also described are public information and publicity films relating to World War II casualties. The films are listed in order by record group number and thereunder by National Archives identification number. Much of the material, especially the newsreels, is subject to copyright or other restrictions regarding reproduction.

  • Record Group 18--Records of the Army Air Forces

    Records of the Army Air Forces Combat Film Library contain some footage relevant to the American casualties and deaths in World War II. An example follows:

      18 C 722 "Combat film report no. 722" (1944). Wounded U.S. troops brought to a field hospital by ox cart, unloaded, tagged, carried to tents, and given treatment; Filipinos carrying the wounded to transport planes; burial of the dead. (10 min., silent, black & white, 35 mm)

  • Record Group 56--General Records of the Department of the Treasury

    The Department of the Treasury sponsored films to promote the sale of war bonds. Many emphasized the war's cost in human terms by depicting the wounded and the dead in actual combat footage and in dramatizations. Some examples follow:

      56.11 "RAF & 8th Air Force Report from Britain (Signal Corps Miscellaneous Film No. 1038)" (1944). Footage of U.S. Marines taking an island in the South Pacific, showing the cost in men and equipment. (7 min., sound, black & white, 16mm & 35mm)

      56.13 "What Makes a Battle (Signal Corps Miscellaneous Film No. 1037)" (1944). The capture of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, including aid to the wounded. (16 min., sound, black & white, 16mm & 35mm)

      56.14 "Freedom Comes High (Navy Training Film No. MN 4380b4m)" (1944). Dramatization of a death in naval combat, including notification of the widow. (16 min., sound, black & white, 16mm & 35 mm)

      56.16 "The 957th Day (Navy Training Film No. MN 4380f)" (1944). A typical day in the naval war, including scenes of the dead and wounded. (10 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

  • Record Group 107--Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

    Films in the Office of the Secretary of War were created under the auspices of the Allied Military Governments in Europe and the Far East. An example follows:

      107.1060 "Bureau of Public Relations film no. 1060" (1944). A truck wrecked in a Japanese ambush in Burma; the wounded taken to the rear; chaplains standing over graves of those killed in the action. (9 min., silent, black & white, 35mm)

  • Record Group 111--Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer

    The Signal Corps, administered by the Chief Signal Officer, was responsible for communications within and by the U.S. Army, and was charged with production of Army training films. The corps also had overall responsibility for motion picture production in the War Department.

      111 ADC File consists of unedited footage, including a relatively large amount on casualties and burials. A card index contains approximately three inches of cards, arranged alphabetically by location, under the heading "Cemeteries." All entries in the index are in the holdings of the National Archives. (Silent, black & white, 35mm & 16mm)

      111 LC File consists of unedited footage much like that found in 111 ADC but generally from a later period (although some footage is from the 1940's). A card index for 111 ADC and 111 LC combined has 8 inches of cards, arranged alphabetically by location, under the heading "Cemeteries." Users should also consult a separate 111 LC card index that contains cards only for the entries that are still in National Archives holdings; this index is arranged numerically by holding number. (Silent, black & white, 16mm & 35mm)

      111 M 1101 "Miscellaneous Film No. 1101: He Has Seen War" (1944) examines how war changes men, with emphasis on its sordid aspects. On Reel 2 the wounded are treated in the field and carried away by jeep and LST; the dead are dug from the mud, fingerprinted, and put aboard ships. (17 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      111 M 1256 "Miscellaneous Film No. 1256: Quartermaster Activities in the South Pacific" (1945). Reel 3 contains an explanation and depiction of the Quartermaster Corps' operation of the Graves Registration Service for the U.S. dead. (29 min., sound, black & white, 35 mm)

      111 M 1317 "Miscellaneous Film No. 1317: Decision" (1946) explains the selection of sites for burial of the war dead. Reel 1 explains that the next of kin decides where the dead are to be buried; presents a dramatization of a war widow receiving an explanation of burial procedures and of the use of temporary cemeteries. Reel 2 explains the order of kinship; reveals the widow's decision; depicts the notification of the Quartermaster Corps. (16 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      111 SM 61 "Army-Navy Screen Magazine, no. 61" (1945). Reel 1 offers a tribute to the Army Chaplain Corps; shows chaplains conducting funeral services on battlefields; shows church services in occupied Germany and at a military cemetery. (19 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      111 SM 68 "Surrender in the Pacific (Screen Magazine no. 68)" (1945). Reel 2 shows POWs' graves and the hospital ship Benevolence. (20 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

  • Record Group 208 - Records of the Office of War Information

    The Office of War Information coordinated the dissemination of news about the war to the American public. Its activities included work on feature films as well as on newsreels. A scan of the card file entries for the record group shows that casualties and wounded Americans were sometimes depicted in OWI productions. Some examples follow:

      208 UN.64 Footage shows convalescing American sailors sightseeing in Yosemite National Park. (Sound, black & white, 35mm)

      208 UN.97 Footage records a ceremony in which the parents of Japanese-American soldiers who died in Europe are presented with Purple Hearts. (Sound, black & white, 35mm)

      208 UN.146 Footage shows wounded veterans returning to New York City. (16 min., sound, black & white, 16mm & 35mm)

  • Record Group 226--Records of the Office of Strategic Services

      2226 H 6681.71u "[Burial of crash victims]" (Unedited military film report) (1944) shows Kachin guerrillas and OSS personnel who gather in a village, carry crosses to a wrecked plane, bury downed American flyers, and fire a salute. (4 min., silent, black & white, 16mm)

  • Record Group 242--National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized

    Motion picture films were among the records seized by the United States during World War II. These include German, Japanese, and Italian films, both feature productions and newsreel. Most of the casualties shown in the films are Axis country nationals. A few newsreels, such as the following, show American dead:

      242 MID 2822 "Italian News, No. 332" (1942). Part 3 shows destroyed Allied equipment and dead on the Dieppe beachhead. (7 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      242 MID 3136 "Die Deutsche Wochenschau, No. 2 (German Weekly Newsreel)" (1945). Part 4 shows U.S. POWs and dead from the German "Bulge" offensive of Dec. 16, 1944. (7 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

  • Donated Historical Materials

    The National Archives and Records Administration is authorized by law to accept from private sources documents--including motion pictures, sound recordings, and still pictures--that offer evidence of the U.S. government's organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and transactions. The materials in this record group have been donated by a wide range of businesses, cultural organizations, institutions, and individuals.

      200 PN 1.96 Paramount News [July 26] (1942). Part 1: Wounded are evacuated, dead are buried. (9 min., sound, black & white, 35 mm)

      200 PN 3.85 Paramount News [June 21] (1944). Part 6: U.S. dead are buried. (10 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      200 PN 4.24 Paramount News [Nov. 26] (1944). Part 4: Army corpsmen carry out wounded under enemy fire; dead are buried. (7 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      200 PN 7.15 Paramount News [Oct. 18] (1947). Part 1: Corpses of U.S. troops killed during World War II in the Pacific area are unloaded in San Francisco from the transport Honda Knot, paraded through the city, and arranged in state in City Hall. (8 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

      200 PN 7.19 Paramount News [Nov. 1] (1947). Part 2: U.S. World War II dead from Europe arrive in New York City aboard the transport Joseph W. Connolley; one of coffins is drawn on caisson through the city to Central Park, where memorial services are held. (8 min., sound, black & white, 35mm)

    Still Pictures

    [For more information about the still pictures described in this part, contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Still Picture Unit , National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0555 Email: stillpix@nara.gov]

  • Record Group 26--Records of the U.S. Coast Guard

    The 15,000 prints of photographs of activities, facilities, and personalities, 1886-1967 (26-G), which document the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and its predecessor agencies, are arranged alphabetically by subject and thereunder in roughly chronological order. The prints pertaining to World War II are separated into the categories "European landings" and "Pacific landings," which include some 200 views of the rescue, recovery, and transport of American wounded, as well as American dead on the beaches. A box list is available in the Still Picture unit of the National Archives.

  • Record Group 52--Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

    This series, photographs of Navy hospital facilities in Normandy, France, and Southern England, summer 1944 (52-G), consists of 303 prints documenting the treatment of casualties during the Normandy Invasion, including views of operating rooms in tents near the front; evacuation of casualties by air, train, and ship; and activities at U.S. Navy hospitals in England. Half the collection is arranged by subject; the other half, chronologically by date the photograph was taken.

  • Record Group 80--General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1789-1947

    The general photographic file of the Department of the Navy, 1900-58 (80-G), consists of approximately 700,000 images (prints and negatives) covering a great variety of subjects. Most of the images have very informative captions. The series is arranged numerically by item number but is accompanied by two thorough indexes. The general index (80-GG) was created by the Department of the Navy and consists of approximately 800,000 3- by 5-inch cards arranged into two sections, 1942-45 and 1946-58. Each of these sections has three subsections arranged (1) numerically by ship hull number, (2) numerically by aircraft number, and (3) alphabetically by subject. The third (subject) subsection in the World War II section contains over five inches of index cards related to American casualties and burials. These cards often contain more than one entry each and are in no particular order within the category headings. Each card bears identifying information about the photographs, but the nature of that information varies. All cards contain at least one element of information in addition to the (sometimes approximate) date on which the photograph was taken. These additional informational elements may be the names of military units (down to basic levels in some cases); locations (such as island names, ship names, the names of battles); and (in a few cases) individual names. The category headings follow:

      1. "Casualties" [general] (1.5 in.). After the general entries, the cards are in groups arranged alphabetically by nationality.

      2. "Casualties, Miscellaneous" (1 in.)

      3. "Casualties, U.S." (1.75 in.)

      4. "Cemeteries, American" (.25 in.)

      5. "Wounded" (1.5 in.)

    The second index is a large "personalities" (name) index (80-GX) that identifies individuals in the photographs throughout the series. Since the "personalities" index primarily lists only high-ranking military personnel or well-known civilians, it is advisable to consult both indexes when seeking a photograph of a given person.

  • Record Group 111--Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer

    The series Signal Corps photographs of American military activity, ca. 1754-1954 (111-SC), contains approximately 386,000 items covering a large variety of military and related subjects. Finding aids to the series offer access to general topics, but the best method of access is through the use of another series, U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs of military activity during World War II and the Korean Conflict, 1941-1954 (111-SCA), which consists of 6,760 albums of photographs. These albums contain images selected by the Signal Corps as the best representation of significant subjects and subtopics in the photograph collection. A third series, index to U.S. Army Signal Corps black-and-white photographs in series 111-SC, ca. 1900-1981 (111-SCY), provides highly detailed, item-level coverage of 111-SC; however, in order to gain a quicker, more general view of holdings pertaining to casualties, one may consult the title list for the albums in series 111-SCA.

    Ninety-nine albums of photographs (most consisting of about 2 inches of prints, or approximately 125 items, 8- by 10-in.) contain a predominance of material on World War IIbattlefield casualties, burials, cemeteries, and varied aspects of the handling of the wounded. Relevant albums appear on the title list under the following headings:

      1. "Casualties," in the subject section (10 albums), arranged under subheadings "American dead" and "American wounded"

      2. "Cemeteries and Graves," in the subject section (19 albums), arranged alphabetically by country, from Admiralty Islands to United States

      3. "Funerals," in the subject section (11 albums), five general albums of World War II funerals, followed by six albums containing a mixture of wartime and postwar material, arranged alphabetically by the last name of the notable individuals being buried

      4. "Medical Corps," in the branch of service section (44 albums), arranged by alphabetical subheadings, including "First Aid," "Hospitals, Field," and "Hospitals, Ships"

      5. "Quartermaster Corps" in the branch of service section (4 albums), under subheadings "Exhibits, Cemeteries" and "Graves Registration"

      6. "Arlington, Virginia, National Cemetery," in the U.S. geographic section (90 albums)

      7. "Belgium, Malmedy," in the overseas geographic section (2 albums)

    The subject index (111-SCY) consists of 3- by 5-inch cards that have entries under numerous headings relevant to American casualties and burials. Among the most important headings are the following:

      1. "Casualties" [general] (.5 in.)

      2. "Casualties, American Dead" (.3 in.). Although no names are given on the cards, most have solid identifying information, such as place, time, and/or military unit designation.

      3. "Casualties, American Wounded" (1.0 in.). Information on the cards is similar to the previous category.

      4. "Cemeteries" (6.75 in.). Approximately .5 inch of cards are in a "general" subcategory; the remainder are arranged alphabetically by name of country (including the U.S.). Most cards contain an indicator of a more precise location than country.

      5. "Burials" (1 in.). Information on the cards is greatly varied, but the name of the deceased is sometimes given, and the time of the photograph and nationality of the deceased are often given.

      6. "First Aid" (2.25 in.)

      7. "Funerals" (3 in.). Information is very similar to that given on the card in the previous category.

      8. "Graves" (3 in.)

      9. "Quartermaster, Graves Registration" (.25 in.)

      10. "Wounded" (2 in.). Information is very similar to the two previous categories. The two subcategories, "Wounded, World War II" and "Wounded, American," both contain World War II-related information.

    It should be remembered that the cards described directly above index records of events from long before World War II through the Korean war. The measurements given are of the total cards in the categories. It is very difficult to determine what proportion of those deal with World War II events. Certainly well over half do, but a more exact determination is impossible because of the quantity of records.

    Also included is a separate personalities card index for the 111-SC prints--111-PX. Most of the World War II coverage is provided in Part I of that index. As in the case of the Navy personalities index (see page 40), the vast majority of the 111-PX entries pertain to the most prominent military officers, recipients of military awards, and famous civilians.

  • Record Group 117--Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission

    The series, photographs and booklets relating to World War I and World War II cemeteries and memorials in foreign countries and the U.S., 1971-1988 (117-AM), consists of 47 items, including views of World War II cemeteries and memorials in Belgium, England, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Philippine Islands, Tunisia, New York City, San Francisco, and Honolulu. The photographs are arranged by war and thereunder alphabetically by name of cemetery.

  • Record Group 127--Records of the U.S. Marine Corps

    The series, photographs of World War II and post-World War II Marine Corps activities, ca. 1939-1958 (127-GW), consists of 52,164 prints documenting the full range of Marine Corps activities in the Pacific. The vast majority of the images are from World War II campaigns. The photographs are arranged by geographic location and thereunder by Marine Corps-created subject codes. A key to the codes is available. Over 1,500 casualty-related images, scattered throughout the series, can be found under codes corresponding to headings such as "Wounded," "Dead Marines," "Cemetery, Funeral," "Cemeteries and Graves," "Evacuation of Wounded," and "Medical Facilities in the Field." Most of the prints in this series have corresponding negatives in the central Marine Corps negative series, 127-N.

    Approximately3,000 prints selected by the Marine Corps as representative of corps activities in World War II and the Korean war comprise U.S. Marine Corps photographic reference file, ca. 1940-1958 (127-GR). Images are divided into three broad categories--General Subjects, World War II, and Korea--and are arranged thereunder by narrower subject categories. Within the World War II section are scattered casualty shots found under their respective geographic headings, plus a larger concentration (approximately 80 items) filed under "Wounded." Most of the prints have corresponding negatives in the central Marine Corps negative series, 127-N.


    Note: Compiled by Benjamin L. DeWhitt. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 1993.

    Web version prepared 1999. Additions and changes incorporated in the Web version are between brackets [] and in italics.

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