To request your WWII Navy veteran’s service records click here: Request WWII Navy Military Service Records
WWII Navy Veteran Photographs
For those conducting research of an ancestor who was a WWII Navy veteran, finding a period photograph is a top priority. Luckily, almost all of the WWII Navy official military personnel files (or O.M.P.F.) for enlisted WWII sailors contain a period photo of the individual WWII Navy veteran. The WWII Navy official military personnel files are stored at the National Archives and can be viewed in person at the archival research facility by appointment. In this article, we will explore the images of the WWII Navy official military personnel file in more detail and also discuss how to access the WWII photo of your Navy veteran
The photos of WWII Navy veterans provide a snapshot in time and allow us to get a glimpse of our ancestors in uniform during the war. Most of the photos of WWII enlisted Navy veterans were taken upon their enlistment in the Navy. While the photographic images inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel file were created as a way to document and identify individual WWII sailors at the time, today they are a wonderful tool for both genealogists and those wishing to document the WWII military service of individual sailors as well.
The WWII identification photos which are maintained inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel file are mostly photo negatives. These WWII-era negatives were typically inserted into a small envelope and placed inside of the Navy brick O.M.P.F. folder for storage. Photos were normally taken in front of a height chart, enhancing their usefulness for the purposes of identifying the individual WWII Navy veteran. The height chart in the background does sometimes lead to a bit of a ‘mug-shot’ feel to some of the images. It is important to keep in mind that the photos taken of individual WWII Navy veterans were maintained by the navy as a way to properly identify naval personnel (rather than as a way to create a lovely portrait for the enjoyment of family historians- 75 years in the future).
Years ago, the photo negatives inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel files were transferred to paper using the print function of a standard microfiche reader. Today, upon request the National Archives can create digital images from the photo negatives inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel file. If the original negative within your WWII Navy veteran’s military personnel file is in good condition then you will find that the digital reproduction is wonderfully sharp and clear. It should be noted that from time to time the Navy clerks stapled the photo negatives inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel file to keep the tiny negatives from falling out. Any photo negative that was damaged in some way will not create a good digital image and may require further digital enhancement to repair the damage. If for example the WWII Navy photographer did not have their camera properly focused the image can appear to be slightly blurry. Most of the photos inside of the WWII Navy official military personnel files are in good condition and create clear digital copies.
Some WWII Navy veterans who remained in the service over long periods of time do have multiple photos in their official military personnel files which were taken at different times. Having multiple photos inside of your WWII Navy veteran’s service record can enable you to see how their appearance changed over time.
In some cases, the WWII Navy official military personnel file will not have a photograph of the WWII Navy veteran. There are a number of reasons that your WWII Navy veteran’s official military personnel file might not contain a photo. Since the WWII Navy brick O.M.P.F. was carried from ship to ship and station to station with the naval veteran, a WWII Navy veteran who was aboard a ship that sank during WWII would have been lost along with all of the paperwork and images in their official military personnel file. The photo negatives are small and often were left loose inside of the Navy official military personnel file folders. Sometimes when a photo negative is missing from a WWII official military personnel file it is simply because it slipped out of the personnel folder at some point and was lost.
For researchers interested in learning more about archived images from WWII, the National Archives has a good write up on it’s WWII photographic collection here: WWII Period Photos at the National Archives
To request your WWII veteran’s Navy photo you will need their full name, date of birth, and serial number if known. If you are unable to travel to the archives to view a WWII navy official military personnel file in person, it may be useful to hire a company that specializes in this work such as Golden Arrow Research. In most cases hiring an expert to scan your ancestor’s WWII Navy official military personnel file and WWII period photo is less expensive than the cost of travel and lodging to do the work yourself. The high-quality scans of your WWII Navy veterans service records which a company like Golden Arrow Research can provide you with are also a draw for hiring a company to do this kind of work. High-resolution digital scans of your veteran’s complete WWII Navy official military personnel file will allow you to view the records and images in their military service records as if you were handling them in person at the National Archives yourself.
In addition to period photos of WWII Navy veterans, the 20th Century official military personnel files of navy veterans stretching as far back as WWI (or earlier) can also include period photos of veterans. Pre-WWII photographs are not as common as those for WWII and later, however you never know what you will find inside of the official military personnel file of your Navy veteran. The best way to find out what is inside of their file is to order the military service records of your WWII Navy veteran. Happy hunting!