WWII Navy Military Service Records (O.M.P.F.’s) at the National Archives
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WWII Navy Military Service Records (O.M.P.F.’s) at the National Archives

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WWII Navy Military Service Records

This article provides an overview of the military service records which are maintained in the official military personnel file (O.M.P.F.) of WWII Navy veterans. These WWII era military service records which are maintained at the National Archives are a vital tool for both genealogical research and the research of the military service of the individual WWII Navy veteran. This guide will provide a good starting point for you to begin researching the WWII era official military personnel file of your WWII Navy veteran. Let’s take a closer look at the military service records maintained in the WWII Navy official military personnel file (WWII O.M.P.F.)


A new recruit filled out an Application for Enlistment as the first part of the process of joining the Navy during WWII. The WWII navy enlistment document includes detailed biographical information and the results of a physical exam. Recruits also had to provide proof of age, and parental consent if they were a minor. The WWII Navy enlistment document provide a good source of family information for the WWII Navy veteran, and sometimes actual copies of civilian vital records.


If the WWII era naval recruit passed the physical exam and was accepted for enlistment, they signed the Shipping Articles. This contract was the formal agreement between the Navy and the naval recruit on their term of enlistment, including an Oath of Conduct. It also gives the first assignment location for the WWII Navy veteran.

WWII Navy enlistment shipping articles contract for a naval recruit.


A WWII Naval recruit selected a beneficiary for their standard life insurance policy upon enlistment. Most frequently this was a parent, but a spouse or sibling could be named. These single sheet forms were also filed when a beneficiary changed and sometimes renewed on re-enlistment. The WWII Navy O.M.P.F. beneficiary slips are useful for tracking changes in a family due to marriage, divorce or death.


Photos are found in almost all WWII Navy O.M.P.F.’s dated after WWI; some files from the earlier part of the century also contain them. WWII Navy Identification photos were taken in front of a height chart and contained the service number of the WWII Navy veteran. Most Naval identification photos are actually produced from an original negative kept in the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. brick folder. Due to the delicate nature of WWII era film negatives only Archive staff is allowed to handle them. WWII Navy veterans with longer careers can have multiple photos taken at different periods in times .

Photos of WWII navy veterans from the official military personnel file (OMPF) military service record maintained at the National Archives.


The WWII era Navy Service Book inside of the O.M.P.F. is a compilation of the service record slips issued to a WWII Navy veteran during their career. It consisted of two card-stock covers bound by tape, and later with two embedded prongs to hold papers as they were added. Unlike navy service record books from other branches, the WWII O.M.P.F. naval service record book was not pre-printed. Instead, it was constructed from a combination of standard forms and slips inserted as needed. The contents of this book form the spine of the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. file.

WWII service book for regular navy and naval reserve from a WWII veteran's official military personnel file OMPF at the national archives.


Certain documents are found in almost every WWII O.M.P.F. Naval Service Book. Each service record book begins with the Navy veteran’s enlistment information and a full set of fingerprints for quick reference and identification of the WWII Navy veteran.

WWII Navy veterans WWII service book from the official military personnel file at NARA


WWII naval personnel received transfer slips each time they were assigned to a new station with exact dates of departure and arrival. These slips allow us to track a WWII Navy veteran through time and pinpoint their location. Carbon copies of most of these slips are also found loose in the WWII navy O.M.P.F.

WWII navy veteran transfer slips from military service records inside of the official military personnel file OMPF


Enlisted WWII Navy personnel held a rate rather than a rank. Rate promotions were given after WWII Navy veterans received certification in special courses, for longevity, or for merit. Demotions were sometimes used as a disciplinary measure. Rate change slips were printed on blue paper to make them easy to find in the WWII Navy service book. Further descriptive information regarding the reason for a rate change is sometimes found on additional slips or among other correspondence in the O.M.P.F. of the WWII Navy veteran.

WWII Navy promotion from enlisted service records of naval WWII veteran's OMPF


All naval recruits and enlisted WWII Navy personnel were required to pass certain basic courses, such as swimming and small arms. Skill tests were conducted periodically and the results were recorded in the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. of the individual veteran. Specialty courses for specific jobs were offered both during basic training and during active duty. Certificates and marks earned can be found in several different military service records of the WWII Navy O.M.P.F.

Training and qualification in the WWII service records of WWII veteran navy official military personnel file at the national archives

WWII O.M.P.F. Naval Orders

While the basic details of veteran transfers are found on slips, complete sets of orders can also be found in the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Many times these transfer slips fill in details about furlough time periods, showing dates and the location a WWII Navy veteran spent leave time.

WWII orders from the navy service record book OMPF official military personnel file

WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Awards, Medals, and Commendations

Battle Credit was listed on slips and added to the WWII Navy Service Book. These slips frequently contain detailed descriptions of WWII combat participation, including dates and locations where the action took place. Lists of all awards a WWII Navy veteran earned appear on the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. service book slips as well.One unique Naval recognition was the Shellback. Earned by crossing the equator during active duty, it is always noted in the service book with the exact time, date, and coordinates.
Commendation letters were also kept in the file. The WWII Navy O.M.PF. award documents pair up with the service slips to give a full picture of the circumstances for which the WWII Navy veteran earned recognition.

awards and decorations from the WWII navy service records OMPF official military personnel file

WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Disciplinary, and Courts Martial Military Service Records

On board a ship during WWII most discipline for lesser infractions was handled in a deck court by the commanding officer of a vessel. A slip or notation would be added to the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. service book detailing the charge, the proceeding, and the outcome. For more serious offenses a separate courts martial would be held before a formal tribunal. These cases sometimes generated a separate courts martial file. The military service records inside of the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. usually detail the outcome of the trial, although a court transcript is not normally included.

WWII Navy Veteran Medical Records in the O.M.P.F.

The WWII Navy had its own network of medical personnel on ships and bases. WWII Navy veterans in need of treatment were sent to a Naval facility when possible. Copies of treatment reports can be found in some WWII Navy O.M.P.F.’s, often containing descriptions of injuries suffered by the WWII Navy veteran. WWII Navy veterans also have a completely separate WWII Naval medical file accessible to Next of Kin.

WWII Navy Casualty Records in the WWII Navy O.M.P.F.

In military terms, a casualty is an illness, injury or death.
The decks of WWII ships were a particularly dangerous place even in non-combat situations. When a ship was lost at sea, there were often delays in notifying family members of the status of their loved ones while the Navy sorted out survivors and conducted searches. For the survivors who were given new assignments, claim forms for lost equipment and personal items were completed. The belongings of missing and deceased WWII Navy personnel were forwarded to families.

WWII Navy military service records OMPF casualty records

WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Correspondence and letters

Naval WWII O.M.P.F.’s contain a fair amount of correspondence most of which is folded inside of the military service folder. The letters found inside of the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. would have remained with the base file after the service records were filed away. Handwritten letters from family members, telegrams notifying a family of injury or loss, and statements from WWII Navy personnel tell a very personal part of the story.

WWII letters from the family of a WWII navy veteran from the WWII navy official military personnel file at the national archives

WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Personal Items of Individual WWII Veterans

Some Navy files contain artifacts and personal items such as these Identification Cards. The WWII O.MP.F. identification photo cards were encased in plastic to prevent water damage, and fitted with a chain. While they served mainly as a convenient form of identification for WWII Navy veterans and were required to enter base and ship areas, they also functioned as a kind of dog tag in case of injury or death. Tangible, personal items such as these can be an exciting find when researching the WWII Navy O.M.PF. and its contents.

identification card from the OMPF of a navy veteran's military service records inside of the official military personnel file at the national archives.

WWII Navy O.M.P.F Summary of Service for Individual Sailors

The WWII era Navy used several forms to list condensed military service data. Large cards were kept with notes on education and skills developed by the WWI Navy veteran , with all assigned stations listed on the reverse. A Summary of Service is found in most WWII Navy O.M.P.F. service books, with a listing of each station included. These Navy forms are a good reference for further research into ships and stations.

summary of service WWII OMPF service records in the WWII navy official military personnel file

WWII Navy O.M.P.F. Honorable Discharge or Report of Separation

The Navy issued a Notice of Separation when a WWII Navy veteran left the service. This document within the WWII Navy O.M.P.F. serves as a basic outline of service from enlistment to discharge, and contains all the information required for proof of service. Like most military service records, this form evolved over time to contain as much detail as possible.
In order to qualify for demobilization post-WWII, Naval personnel were required to meet or exceed points based on multiple criteria. The point system was used to maintain enough WWII Navy personnel to handle troop transport and occupation duties. Interestingly, the WWII Navy also provided transitional assistance for WWII Navy veterans to move into civilian jobs and further education as part of the separation process after WWII.

separation documents from the military service record OMPF of a WWII navy veteran

I hope that this article has helped you to gain a better understanding of the different kinds of military service records you can expect to find inside of your veteran’s WWII Navy official military personnel file. If you are interested in researching a WWII navy veteran using their O.M.P.F. please visit out ordering page for military service records here: Request a WWII Navy Military Service Record.

Request Your WWII Navy Veteran’s Military Service Records

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