The basics of researching your relative's military records
This website often gets requests on how to find information about veterans who served in the 83rd Division. In most cases, the best place to begin your research is by checking with all family members who may have saved letters, V-mail, military documents, and other materials that pertain to the veteran. Obtaining military records from the U.S. Government can be difficult, because most WWII Army records were destroyed in a huge fire at the National Archives in St. Louis in 1973. However, there are numerous National Archives websites that can provide provide help in researching the WWII records of veterans. The following are two of the more important pages:
The most important source of 83rd Division records and documents at this time is the 83rd Division Documents website at http://83rdinfdivdocs.org/. This site has a very large collection of 83rd Division records. When you go to this site, carefully check all of the menus on the left hand side of this page, especially the Units and Documents listings.
How to obtain the Individual Deceased Personnel File for veterans who were killed in action
If you are related to a veteran who was killed during the war, you have a much better chance of obtaining records, because the Individual Deceased Personnel Files are stored in Alexandria, VA, and were not lost in the fire. Following is information on how to go about obtaining the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) for your relative.
The IDPF is the file that contains all of the correspondence between the Army and the deceased's next of kin regarding burial and disposition of personal property. There should also be a form reporting the death, with a brief listing of cause. These will be the most detailed records that you will be able to obtain. Some of the files may contain additional information (maybe a map or report if the death was investigated), but this is most probably the exception rather than the rule.
The following is the information provided by the U. S. Army Human Resources Command: If a relative was killed overseas during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, the death/burial record (also known as Individual Deceased Personnel Files) can be obtained by submitting in writing a letter to the following address:
Department of the Army
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept. 107
Fort Knox, Kentucky 40122-5504
Enclosed in the letter the requestor should cite the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provide full name of the relative, service number, and date of death (or whether the death was during WWII, Korea, or Vietnam).
Return mailing address is required. Please allow up to 20 weeks for the research process. FOIA fees are waived for requests from family members for death/burial records on their loved ones.
Simply write a short letter requesting his file under the Freedom of Information Act. Provide as much information as you have about him--full name and rank, serial number, date of death, Division and Infantry Regiment. In the request mention that you are willing to pay for the cost of reproducing the documents (they normally don't charge for this, but I've been told that under the Freedom of Information Act you have to make the statement). If there is a living next of kin (son, daughter, brother, sister, widow), he or she should make the request--it might speed the process a little.
It generally takes at least a couple of months to get the file. If they tell you the file is unavailable, try again later. Several files are stored in the same box, and the box with his file may have been pulled for someone else.
At least one of the records in the file should identify his unit down to the Company level.
Note: The information on this page is far from being comprehensive. Much more information about WWII military research is available on the Dad's War Website. Another excellent source of research information is Jonathan Gawne's book, Finding Your Father's War. Also, check the 83rd Division Resources page for lists of 83rd Books and other information.