WWII Casualty Records: Understanding the WWII Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.)

 

 

The WWII Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) was created during the war if a veteran was killed or died in the service and it is a vital tool for researching members of the U.S. Military who became casualties during WWII.  If you are researching a veteran who was killed in action you will need to make sure that the WWII I.D.P.F. is included as part of your investigation. This is especially true if you are researching a WWII Army/Air Corps veteran whose military service records were destroyed in the 1973 archives fire (since many of the records in the WWII I.D.P.F. can be used to reconstruct the service history of the individual WWII veteran). In this post we are going to examine the importance of the WWII I.D.P.F. for researchers, and also how you can access your veteran’s file.

 

The WWII I.D.P.F. includes information such as:  The veteran’s cause of death, the unit to which the veteran was assigned, and records pertaining to the burial of the deceased WWII veteran. Additionally, you will find a number of informative family records inside of the WWII I.D.P.F. which can be helpful for conducting genealogical research. The WWII I.D.P.F. can be used in conjunction with a number of military service records housed at the National Archives to help genealogy researchers understand exactly what happened to WWII veteran’s who became casualties during WWII. Bear in mind that each service-member’s experiences during WWII is unique to that specific veteran- so, similar to the research of National Archives military service records, there is no telling what kinds of details you can uncover when you request your veteran’s WWII I.D.P.F. from the National Archives.   In this post we are going to explore some of the more common kinds of records which can be found in the WWII I.D.P.F.’s maintained at the National Archives which will give you an idea of how valuable these records can be as part of the research process.

 

The WWII I.D.P.F. report of death. It is common for their to be a report of death maintained within the WWII I.D.P.F. which will provide basic information on the service and death of the individual WWII veteran who became a casualty during the war. This includes details such as the branch of service, cause of death, date of birth, date of death, unit to which assigned when killed, information on the next of kin, home address and much more. The report of death can be useful not only for understanding when, where and how the WWII veteran became a casualty, but also for gleaning details about the veteran’s family.

 

 

WWII Army I.D.P.F. report of death of KIA veteran casualty

 

The WWII I.D.P.F. Burial report. The WWII I.D.P.F. burial is included within the WWII I.D.P.F. of  deceased WWII veterans whose remains were recovered and buried overseas. The burial report contains a great deal of information surrounding the circumstances of the deceased veteran’s death, place of initial burial, unit assignment, rank, burial plot, and many other details.

 

report on burial of WWII veteran casualty from WWI I.D.P.F.

 

If the WWII deceased veteran’s remains could not be identified in the field, the K.I.A. soldier would have been fingerprinted. The fingerprinting process would have been part of the larger overall post-war investigation which the Quartermaster Corps Graves Registration section would have undertaken. Further details were also added to the reverse of this form to help ensure that the deceased veteran was properly identified. Note that even the deceased veteran’s uniform insignia was recorded on the example pictured below as a way to help with the identification process.

 

WWII I.D.P.F burial records -casualty identification

 

WWI I.D.P.F. dental records. Dental records are also common, especially when the identity of the deceased WWII veteran were in question.

 

WWII I.D.P.F. dental records casualty identification

 

WWII I.D.P.F medical surveys. Medical records covering a variety of periods of the deceased veteran’s military service are also fairly common since certain medical documents would have have been used to help verify the identity of the individual. Needless to say, these medical surveys can provide a wealth of data to the genealogy researcher including information on prior medical conditions, illnesses, vaccinations, weight, height, eye color, and more.

 

Medical survey enlistment WWII I.D.P.F. Air Corps

 

WWII I.D.P.F. finding of death of missing person. In the case that the veteran’s remains were not recovered, the War Department may have waited a significant amount of time before declaring the veteran had been killed in action. The military was sensitive about contacting the family without concrete proof that the soldier had been killed. Note that the report pictured below was created in 1946 almost three years after the soldier was declared missing.

 

WWII I.D.P.F missing person finding of death-casualty

 

WWII I.D.P.F. disinterment directives. Some WWII veterans who died in the service were initially buried in overseas cemeteries. When the family requested that the body be transferred back to the United States a disinterment directive was created as a way to provide a paper trail showing custody of the deceased WWII veteran’s remains.  These records were then placed inside the WWII I.D.P.F.

 

WWII I.D.P.F. disinterment directive transfer of remains

 

WWII I.D.P.F. prisoner of war records. Some deceased  WWII military personnel who lost their lives while prisoners of war may also have P.O.W. paperwork relating to their time in captivity, including burial records created by their enemy captors prior to the Allied victory.

 

I.D.P.F. WWII burial report from prisoner of war

 

WWII I.D.P.F. list of personal effects. When a soldier was killed during the war their personal items would have been returned to the next of kin. Families were very eager to receive their loved one’s belongings after being notified that he or she was deceased.

 

 

WWII I.D.P.F. correspondence. The letters which are maintained within the WWII I.D.P.F.’s are probably the most valuable element of the deceased personnel file for researchers. Correspondence, often handwritten by family members, can shine light on details which are often lacking in the more technical reports created by the military bureaucracy. These letters add a human element to the research and are often very moving. The correspondence can, among many other details, provide us with insight on the impact that the death of the deceased veteran had one had on the KIA veteran’s family at the time.

 

Family letter from WWII I.D.P.F. KIA casualty

 

Family members sometimes took it upon themselves to investigate many of the details surrounding the death of their veteran by contacting the military, government officials, or survivors from their deceased veteran’s unit. All of this correspondence was inserted into the I.D.P.F. of the deceased veteran.

 

WWII I.D.P.F. letters from family investigating casualty

 

WWII I.D.P.F. investigation of death. In cases where the deceased WWII veteran’s body was not recovered or when there was some question about what exactly had occurred at the time of death, the military would have initiated an investigation. These reports can help us to better understand exactly what occurred at the time the deceased WWII veteran was killed.

 

Investigation casualty report from WWII I.D.P.F.

 

WWII I.D.P.F. combat reports. Occasionally, if there was an investigation into the death of the deceased WWII veteran for example, combat after action reports may have been placed in the WWII I.D.P.F. -providing details about unit location and engagement with the enemy at the time he became a casualty. These records can provide a fascinating look at the day to day activity within the combat unit when the deceased WWII veteran was killed.

 

WWII I.D.P.F. after action combat reports

 

WWII I.D.P.F. photographs. Period photographs may also be maintained inside the WWII I.D.P.F. for a variety of reasons. These are not typically photographs of the individual WWII veteran, but rather photographs of his resting place in the U.S. or overseas sent to family members as a way to provide solace to the grieving relatives.

 

WWII period photo of grave-site from I.D.P.F.

 

While the records featured in this post provide some examples of documents which are more commonly found within the WWII I.D.P.F., each individual veteran has a completely different story. This means that there is no telling where your research journey will take you when you request your veteran’s WWII Individual Deceased Personnel File. The records which are contained in the WWII I.D.P.F. can be instrumental for both understanding the military service of the deceased veteran, as well as for conducting genealogical research of one’s family history. If you are interested in obtaining a WWII I.D.P.F 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 requested WWII veteran’s I.D.P.F. and military service records. You can access your deceased veteran’s WWII I.D.P.F. here: Obtain a WWII I.D.P.F. One of the benefits of using an independent research service to digitally scan these records is that you will be able to see all of the paperwork-and artifacts- within the WWII I.D.P.F. exactly as they appear in person (rather than the rather dull photocopies sent out from the archives).  Best of luck on your research journey!

Author: Geoff

Geoff Gentilini is the lead researcher at Golden Arrow Research. He specializes in the research of military service records from all branches of the U.S. Military. For help obtaining military service records you can fill out a request form here: Research a Military Service Record

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