Native American Heritage

Filling out forms for enlistment in the Navy, ca. 1940, National Archives Identifier: 285826

Other Sources for Military Service History

In addition to Official Military Personnel Folders and pension files and pre-World War I service files, consider these possible sources to learn more about an individual’s military service.

Records Relating to Indians in World War I and World War II, c. 1920-1945

These records relate to American Indians in World War I and World War II. Visit the National Archives Catalog for the full archival records description: National Archives Identifier 2123779. The records are arranged in three parts.

  • The first part contains a report on American Indian participation in World War II; articles on Navajo code talkers and American Indians at Iwo Jima; and lists of American Indians who were wounded in action, missing in action, prisoners of war, or decorated (all of which appear to be working drafts).
  • The second part is a general file on World War I, containing a report on "The Indian's War Activities," statistical sheets, a standardized form used to respond to inquiries, and listings of New York American Indians.
  • The third part, by far the largest, consists of standardized forms recording the participation of individual Indians in World War I.

Contact the National Archives at Washington, DC for more information.

Correspondence and Files Relating to American Indians in the Military

Many Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offices collected information on service members within the tribe, for local publicity as well as to ensure the tribal members received due benefits from their service. These files include discussion of enlistments, the selective service, benefits, training, service statistics, decorations, and in some limited cases even photographs of servicemembers. These files were organized within the Bureau of Indian Affairs decimal code classification system under the 600 series, “Military Activities,” but are often unorganized beyond the general military topic. One such example is found within the Blackfeet Agency correspondence files, National Archives Identifier 7329400 at the National Archives in Denver.  In addition to the decimal files, there are also subject files that include records pertaining to the military, for example: the Colorado River Agency’s Subject Files at the National Archives in Riverside, National Archives Identifier 6212773.

While the records kept vary greatly from agency to agency, contact the National Archives facility that holds the records for the tribe you are researching to inquire as to what they may have on tribal members in the military.

Examples of Military Records from the BIA

Visit the Indian Scouts and Code Talkers page to learn about special military units American Indians have served in throughout history.

A Note About Privacy Restrictions

Documents that are less than 75 years old may contain personal information about individuals who are still living. These records may be restricted under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Exemption (b)(6), and must be screened by National Archives staff before being released to researchers. Personal information may be redacted. Learn more about FOIA.