When a WWI veteran was killed or died in action during the pre-WWII period from about 1917 through 1939, a WWI I.D.P.F. or ‘burial file’ was created. This post will examine how the WWI I.D.P.F. can be useful for research purposes, what kinds of records you will find in your veteran’s file, and also how you can access your veteran’s I.D.P.F. casualty file. The WWI I.D.P.F. provides details about the death and the disposition of the deceased WWI veteran’s remains after he became a casualty during the war. Paperwork such as correspondence to and from the deceased WWI veteran’s family, beneficiary records, service records, and eye-witness reports on the events leading to the veteran’s death are just some of the wide variety of important documents that can be found in the WWI I.D.P.F. The WWI I.D.P.F. or ‘burial file’ can be an excellent resources for both understanding the military service of the deceased veteran as well as for researching one’s family history. This is especially true since almost all WWI Army military service records were destroyed in the 1973 fire. The WWI I.D.P.F. can provide you with alternate resources for accessing records that are vital to researching your WWI veteran. This post will cover some of the more common kinds of documents that you will find in the WWI I.D.P.F. of deceased WWI veterans. My hope is that this post will provide you with an idea of how useful these records can be for those researching a WWI veteran who was killed or who died in the service. If you wish to obtain a WWI I.D.P.F. from the National Archives please place your order here: Obtain a National Archives WWI I.D.P.F.
WWI I.D.P.F. disposition of remains. The Quartermaster Corps maintained death and burial records for individual WWI veterans who were killed or died during WWI. The death/burial reports provide information on the unit to which the deceased WWI veteran was assigned, as well as when and where the veteran was killed in action or died in the service.
WWI I.D.P.F. grave location form. WWI veterans who were killed in the field were often buried in temporary graves. The Quartermaster Corps, which was tasked with exhuming the deceased WWI veteran for later relocation, recorded the burial site and created the paper trail as a way to maintain a chain of custody for the veteran’s remains. The grave location form relays a number of details which are helpful for researching deceased WWI veterans. The grave location form includes details on where the deceased WWI veteran was initially buried, the date of death, unit to which the WWI veteran was assigned, and details on the temporary grave marker (often a wooden cross).
WWI I.D.P.F. report of disinterment and reburial. When a family wished to have the remains of their deceased WWI veteran returned to the United States, the Quartermaster Corps was tasked with exhuming and repatriating the WWI K.I.A. veteran’s remains to the homeland. This process, typically carried out after the veteran had already been buried in an overseas cemetery, generated a paperwork trail which includes the disinterment and reburial form. Typically the disinterment form shows the condition of the remains and the exact location where the deceased WWI veteran had been buried overseas. In cases where the remains were still somewhat intact you might also find dental diagrams to help ensure proper identification of the deceased WWI veteran’s remains.
WWI I.D.P.F. correspondence. Correspondence was also placed inside the WWI I.D.P.F. as a way to document communication with the deceased WWI veteran’s family and the military agencies involved with the identification/transfer of remains and burial of the WWI veteran.
WWI I.D.P.F. burial/death investigation records. When there was some question as to the burial site or circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased WWI veteran, an investigation would have been carried out. The WWI era records detailing this investigation, including reports and even diagrams would have been placed in the WWI veteran’s file.
WWI I.D.P.F. national cemetery consignment. In cases where the deceased WWI veteran’s remains were transferred to the United States for re-burial, you will find paperwork within the WWI I.D.P.F. detailing the transfer. The cemetery consignment documents show where the deceased WWI veteran was previously buried and where his remains were being transferred. In addition to showing us where the veteran was to be buried, the cemetery records also provide us with information on the next of kin.
WWI I.D.P.F. grave markers. In some instances the actual identification tags or grave markers were removed from the temporary grave and placed inside of the deceased WWI veteran’s file. Some of these identification tags are believed to have been nailed to the temporary graves of deceased WWI veteran ensuring that the identity of the WWI K.I.A veteran would not be lost. Note that only the WWI veteran’s serial number is visible on this identification tag which was most likely worn down due to exposure to the elements at the initial burial site.
Here is another example of a make-shift grave marker which was created in lieu of an identification tag. One of the benefits of using an independent research service to digitally scan these records (Golden Arrow Military Research for example), is that you will be able to see all of the paperwork-and artifacts- within the WWI I.D.P.F. exactly as they appear in person (rather than the rather dull photocopies sent out from the archives).
WWI I.D.P.F. eye-witness accounts. Some WWI I.D.P.F. burial files also contain eye-witness accounts testifying to what occurred on the date that the individual deceased veteran lost his life.
Being able to access records describing what happened to your deceased WWI veteran can help you to fill in some of the blanks left in your family history as a result of the 1973 fire. Ideally, the information describing the events which led to the death of the individual veteran would be found inside the official military service record of your WWI veteran. Since this is not possible in most cases due to the 1973 fire, the WWI I.D.P.F. serves as a alternate resource for discovering this information.
WWI I.D.P.F. receipt of remains. The transfer of the deceased WWI veteran’s remains can often provide a wealth of genealogical information. You can see that this family member has included a list of the deceased WWI veterans parents, brothers and sisters.
WWI I.D.P.F. mothers pilgrimage records. After the war, mothers and widows of deceased veterans were invited to make a pilgrimage to Europe to visit the resting place of WWI veterans buried overseas. This was offered as a way to provide some solace to the relatives of the veterans who gave their lives during the Great War. Many of the records pertaining to this trip were preserved and placed in the WWI I.D.P.F. This includes correspondence, travel records, medical records, photographs and more.
Here is an invitation letter which was sent out to the mother of this veteran inviting her to join the pilgrimage in Europe.
Note that this document from a WWI I.D.P.F. shows travel details for this veteran’s mother, even providing the hotel at which she stayed in New York prior to departure-and the name of the companion with whom she roomed on the ship while sailing overseas.
After reading this post you should have a general idea of the wide variety of records you may find within the WWI I.D.P.F. It should be noted that each WWI I.D.P.F. is unique to the individual WWI veteran who was killed or died in the service during the Great War. Any number of records can be found inside the WWI I.D.P.F., which can open up the possibility for further genealogical/military research, and also help you to solve mysteries surrounding your family history. If you think that the WWI I.D.P.F. might be useful for your research, please contact Golden Arrow Military Research. This established research organization has research specialists on-site at the National Archives and they can provide you with digital scans of your deceased veteran’s WWI I.D.P.F. and military service records. You can access your individual deceased veteran’s WWI I.D.P.F. here: Obtain a WWI I.D.P.F.