Military Monday – Examining WWII Death Records For an Identified Soldier

It’s Monday and that means a new installment in the world of military records! As you read through this series, please keep in mind I’m discussing World War II records only. While there is a lot of overlap between other wars and records, the focus here is only World War II. Today we will begin a series focusing on the death record known as the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF.) This file was created when a soldier was killed or died in service. While I will not give you an exhaustive run down (that is coming this year though!) of every piece of paper that could be found in these files, there are many common elements of this record set. Every IDPF is created with some specific documents, however, depending on the circumstances of the death, different documents may be included. Contents will vary for a soldier who was identified, unidentified, or non-recoverable. We will start by examining a relatively short IDPF for James Privoznik, who was identified and killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Important! If your soldier died in service, you want to request this file. It will take at least six month to receive but it is well worth the wait. If you have very little information on your soldier to start with, the IDPF will provide a great deal of information to help your search.

Common Components of an IDPF

An Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) was created for every Soldier Dead upon receipt of remains by the GRS. Each form within the file usually contained, if the soldier was identified, the name, rank, unit, and serial number. While every file is somewhat different, it generally contained the following forms.

Report of Burial A Report of Burial contained the soldier’s name, serial number, rank, date of death, place of death, and a copy of his identification tag which was stamped onto the form using an addressograph machine. The report also contained the grave location of the soldier along with the man buried on either side of him, to help with identification purposes. At the time the report was created, if the emergency contact and religion information was available the information was also added to the report. A list of personal effects was to be included if any were found on the body.

Key Components of James’ Report of Burial

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Serial Number
  • Unit
  • Death date and location of burial
  • Cause of death

    IDPF - James Privoznik Report of Burial

    Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 200 Stovall Street Alexandria, VA 22332-0400, Report of Death for James F Privoznik, serial no. 36640529, dated 3 Feb 1945, stamped by Commanding Office of Graves Registration Company Mar 1945.

Battle Casualty Report The Battle Casualty Report had the usual service information in addition to the date of casualty, which could have been designated as Missing in Action (MIA) or Killed in Action (KIA), name of the next of kin and relationship to the deceased as well as the date notified of the casualty.

Report of Death The Report of Death was a form for the Adjutant General’s Office which listed the deceased’s usual information, branch of service, date of birth and death, date of active entry in service, where he was killed, emergency contact and beneficiary information. There was a section at the bottom of the form which allowed for additional information about the deceased. Usually some statement about when the evidence of death was received by the war department was included in this section. In some instances, there were duplicate or almost duplicate copies of this form in a file. In the case of James Privoznik, a second report was made a month after the first indicating a change in pay status. He had been made a Combat Infantryman per General Order #6, Headquarters, 358th Infantry. (Based on other research I know he was in the infantry the last 14 days of his life. Prior to that he was within the same division, the 90th, but was in the 790th Ordnance Group.)

Inventory of Effects The Inventory of Effects form described the items collected to be sent to the family. It was broken out by package number in case there were multiple packages to send to a next of kin. These were accompanied by a letter to the family regarding the remains.  There was a duplicate letter sent which had to be signed by the next of kin acknowledging the receipt of effects.

Disposal of Pay Records This was not a form, but a memo to the Adjutant General forwarding pay records. This memo contained the soldier’s name, serial number and rank. In some cases it also listed the job the soldier performed.

Letters from the Quartermaster General Letters from the Quartermaster General fill these files because they contain responses to letters written by family members regarding their loved one. The Quartermaster also sent informational circulars on the distribution of personal effects and the disposition of remains.

Request for Disposition of Remains The form was sent to the next of kin to complete so the government would know what to do with the remains of the Soldier Dead. The choices were:

  • To be interred at a Permanent American Military Cemetery Overseas.
  • To be returned to the United States or any possession or territory thereof for interment by next of kin in a private cemetery.
  • To be returned to [insert foreign country] the homeland of the deceased for interment by next of kin.
  • To be returned to the United States for final interment in a National Cemetery.
IDPF - James Privoznik Disinterment Directive

Source: United States Army, Individual Deceased Personnel File, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 200 Stovall Street Alexandria, VA 22332-0400, Disinterment Directive for James F Privoznik, serial no. 36640529, dated 3 Feb 1945, stamped by Commanding Office of Graves Registration Company Mar 1945.

Disinterment Directive The Disinterment Directive form contained the basic identifying information on the Soldier Dead: Name, rank, serial number, date of death, cemetery name and location of grave, name and address of next of kin, condition of remains, date disinterred and remains prepared. In James’ case, his mother chose to leave him buried in Luxembourg rather than be repatriated.

Key Components of the Disinterment Directive

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Serial Number
  • Burial Location
  • Next of kin information
  • Condition of remains
  • Date and location of reburial

Receipt of Remains The form was used for Soldier Dead repatriated, not buried in overseas cemeteries. This form was signed by the next of kin or funeral home receiving the remains when they arrived in the hometown.

Inspection Checklist The Inspection Checklist form was used before a shipping case containing a soldier’s casket was removed from the ship and train. If there was any damage to the case or casket, it would be repaired before the remains were shipped to the family.

Certificate The Certificate form was the request for reimbursement of interment expenses and transportation expenses born by the family of the Soldier Dead. The expenses were reimbursed by the U.S. Government.

Miscellaneous Most IDPFs contain letters from family members to the Quartermaster asking questions about personal effects or the location of their soldier. In many cases these letters are handwritten, not typed, so researchers get a copy of their ancestor’s handwriting.

Location of IDPFs For those killed while serving in the Army Air Corps – contact the NPRC in St. Louis. For all other service branches send a letter to:

Department of the Army
U.S. Army Human Resources Command
ATTN: AHRC-FOIA
1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Dept 107
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5504
 

Join me next week when we will look at some components of a soldier’s file who was unidentified. This is called an X-File. Why do we need to look at these? Because in many cases there are records about other soldiers (possibly yours) within these files. In addition, if the soldier was later identified, these X-Files were incorporated into the IDPF and you will learn a lot more about the cause of death. View James Privonzik’s entire IDPF.

Like what you’ve seen and want to know more? Sign up for my newsletter on my author website. For military research and writing services, or to book a lecture on military records, please contact me through my website Generations.

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© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL

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