If you’ve arrived at our site because you are related to, or knew someone who served with the 87th, and would like to find out more about their experiences, the “research room” is a good place to start. Here we’ve attempted to assemble the most useful resources in one spot.
If you are aware of other resources or suggestions which would be useful here, please contact us.
The first step is to assemble all the documents and artifacts you have. Listed below are some of the most common and useful sources of information from which to start your research.
Army Serial Numbers
The Army Serial Number, or ASN, can be very helpful in finding information about a soldier. This can be found on the discharge, and also on the dog tags (see below). Various details can be derived from a soldier’s ASN. A good article covering this is How to Decode a WWII US Army Serial Number.
This is the single most valuable document for starting your search, as it provides a wealth of information. Some of the information included on the discharge is as follows:
- Physical characteristics (height, weight, eye color, hair color)
- Home address
- Serial number
- Rank (at discharge)
- Highest rank attained
- Organization in which he served
- Decorations and citations
- Military occupational specialty (MOS)
- Battles and campaigns
If you don’t have a copy of the discharge, don’t despair. There are several avenues you can pursue to get a copy of the discharge, or at least some of the information contained in it. Here are some recommendations:
- Make a request to the The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) for the information. It is helpful to have the soldier’s serial number. This can also be found on their dog tags (see below). Unfortunately, there was a fire at the NPRC in 1973 that destroyed about 80% of the U.S. Army Personnel files for soldiers discharged between 1 November 1912 to 1 January 1960.
- The Army recommended that servicemen take a copy of their discharge to the local county clerk or county recorder, so this would be a good avenue to pursue.
- Check with the local and state historical societies where the service member resided when they were inducted or discharged.
- Check with state and local libraries as well.
- Medical records contain useful and interesting information. Request a copy of their Service Medical Records (SMR) at your Regional Veteran’s Administration office.
Dog tags from 1940 through July 1943 contained the following:
- Serial number, tetanus inoculation, and blood type
- Name of next of kin
- Street address of next of kin
- Town and state of next of kin, and religion code
In July 1943, the next of kin information was removed.
Other Sources of Information
- Letters and correspondence: Letters written overseas were heavily censored. It’s interesting to note that it was typically an officer at the company-level who read and censored correspondence.
- Hometown newspapers: Local newspapers loved printing stories, letters, and photographs of local men who were serving their country. The information may not provide a lot of specifics, but can be useful in piecing together your puzzle.
- Photographs: Photographs of the soldier in uniform may show patches and insignia which would indicate the division and regiment in which they served.
AN HISTORICAL AND PICTORIAL RECORD OF THE 87th INFANTRY DIVISION IN WORLD WAR II, 1942-1945
Published in 1946.
Reprinted by the 87th Infantry Division Association, 1988.
Approx. 600 pages.
This is available as a free download from this web site, and is an excellent record of the 87th’s involvement in World War II.
After the war, each outfit of the division published a history book with narrative and photos detailing their action during the war. These books were made available to those who served in that unit, and you can sometimes find original copies for sale on auction sites, such as eBay. The original 87th Infantry Division Association later published a history book that combined all the individual unit histories into a single volume.
Thanks to Craig Stiegemeier and his parents, Billy (H-347) and Bernice for scanning the history book so it could be made available in electronic form.
The Golden Acorn News
Published from 1942 through 2008
The Golden Acorn News for the above years are available for download from this web site.
The Golden Acorn News, often called the GAN, was the division newsletter. Those published during the war are sometimes referred to as the “combat” GAN. After the war, the original 87th Infantry Division Association revived the GAN. In the early years of the association, it mainly served to publish news about members, and to provide information about previous and upcoming conventions/reunions. In later years, veterans began contributing a large number of articles with personal stories about their service in the 87th, and these issues are particularly treasured.
The Legacy Association continues this tradition by publishing The Golden Acorn News Legacy Edition, and these are available to current members of the association. Please consider joining our organization.
Thanks to Tom Hewlett for his dedication in assembling a complete collection of GANs, and subsequently having them scanned.
FINDING YOUR FATHER’S WAR: A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army
By Jonathan Gawne
Leading military historian and researcher, Jonathan Gawne, explains and shares the techniques he uses to research archives, libraries, veteran associations and myriad other sources of information to track down the wartime career of an individual. The author describes this as “What I did, and what you can do to find out what ‘he’ did in the army.” I found a copy at my local Barnes and Noble. It’s also available online at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
U.S. ARMY HANDBOOK 1939 – 1945
By George Forty
Published in 1998 by Barnes and Noble Books
This is a superb reference book detailing the organization, structure, and equipment of the US Army during WWII. Please note that since this volume is published by Barnes and Noble, that’s probably the only place you’ll find it. You can also order it online.
SNAFU: SAILOR, AIRMAN, AND SOLDIER SLANG OF WORLD WAR II
FUBAR: SOLDIER SLANG OF WORLD WAR II
By Gordon L. Rottman
Published in 2007
Originally published in 2006 under the title FUBAR: SOLDIER SLANG OF WORLD WAR II, this survey of WWII service member slang is broken into three parts: American, British, and German slang. It it further subdivided by service branches. This is not only a very useful reference, but also fun to skim. Available through bookstores, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
National Personnel Records Center
The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century.
American Battle Monuments Commission
The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) is the guardian of America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials and honors the service, achievements and sacrifice of U.S. Armed Forces.
ABMC’s commemorative mission includes:
- Designing, constructing, operating and maintaining permanent American cemeteries in foreign countries.
- Establishing and maintaining U.S. military memorials, monuments and markers where American armed forces have served overseas since April 6, 1917, and within the United States when directed by public law.
- Controlling the design and construction of permanent U.S. military monuments and markers by other U.S. citizens and organizations, both public and private, and encouraging their maintenance.