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Frequently Asked Questions

  • The Center of Military History does not maintain or compile lists and photographs of current and former unit commanders and senior NCOs. Units or individuals wishing to locate information on former unit leaders are encouraged to consult the following official and unofficial sources:

    • Organizational History File – Currently active U.S. Army units should start by consulting their Organizational History File, which per AR 870-5, paragraph 6-6 (Military History: Responsibilities, Policies, and Procedures) unit commanders are responsible for establishing and maintaining. The Organizational History File is the location where units should keep the documentary evidence of its history, heritage, and traditions. Some Organizational History Files for inactive units are available at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.
    • Master Index of Army Records – The Master Index of Army Records lists the locations where official US Army records and photographs are located. Unit Morning Reports (maintained by the US Army until 1974) are particularly helpful for compiling a list of unit commanders because unit commanders were required to submit them every morning. For information after 1974 researchers will need to consult official unit records, provided they were properly retired. Please be aware that the location and disposition of such records will vary by time period and conflicts.
    • Published Unit Histories – Some U.S. Army units have published semi-official unit histories which frequently contain lists and photographs of senior unit personnel. The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center maintains a large collection of such unofficial materials. A local library should also be able to assist with locating published unit histories which can often be borrowed by Inter-Library Loan.
    • Press Releases and Newspaper Articles – Announcements of change of command ceremonies for larger units are frequently published in installation and/or local newspapers and on social media websites.
    • Branch and Unit Associations – Many branch and unit associations maintain historical information and/or have members who might be of assistance.
  • Personnel records are maintained for officers who served after 1 July 1917, and enlisted personnel in service after November 1912 and who are no longer in service, by the National Personnel Records Center. Information concerning the required procedures and forms is available through their website at www.archives.gov/facilities/mo/st_louis/military_personnel_records.html. Records for individuals who served prior to those dates are in the custody of Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB), National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408. The National Archives can be contacted electronically using the form at www.archives.gov/global_pages/contact_us.html.

  • Donation to Veterans' Organizations
    Public Law 80-421 (U.S.C. 2572) authorizes the Secretaries of the Military Departments to donate or loan certain types of surplus military equipment to recognized, selected recipients. The following organizations are authorized to acquire, through donation or loan, obsolete or condemned combat material, books, manuscripts, works of art, drawings, plans and models for historical, ceremonial and display purposes:

    • Veterans organizations. Requests for loan or donation of property submitted by posts or local units of recognized veterans' organizations shall include the written approval of their national headquarters, if they are organized in that manner.
    • Soldiers Monument Associations
    • State Museums
    • Incorporated Museums
    • Municipal Museums
    • Sons of Veterans Reserves

    Requests for Army equipment should be addressed to as follows:

    U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command
    ATTN: AMSTA-LCL-IWD, M/S: 419D
    6501 East 11 Mile Road
    Warren, MI 48397-5000
    Telephone: (586) 467- 6307
    Email: usarmy.detroit.tacom.mbx.ilsc-donations@mail.mil
    .
  • The U.S. Army Military History Institute maintains an extensive collection of unit histories. Bibliographies for such histories can be accessed online at MHI/AHEC's unit history bibliographies. Once a history has been identified you can contact your local library to inquire about interlibrary loan possibilities. You may also wish to investigate out-of-print bookdealers in your area if you wish to see about purchasing such items.

  • You should start by identifying the unit with which your relative served. If you already have that information, then you should check for unit histories or look into the official records created by the unit itself. If you do not know the unit to which they were assigned, then you should try and obtain a copy of your relative's personnel records to determine that information.

  • Operational records of United States Army organizations created prior to 1940 are in the custody of the Military Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408. Requests regarding records created during World War II and the Korean War should be addressed to the Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Operational records of United States Army units that served in Southeast Asia are also in the custody of the Textual Reference Branch of the National Archives. You maybe able to access additional information about these holdings from the National Archives and Records Administration website at www.archives.gov.

    Information relating to operational records created since 1954 by those United States Army organizations that did not serve in Southeast Asia may be available through the DA Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Office,7798 Cissna Road, Suite 205, Springfield, VA 22150-3166. You may be able to access additional information concerning policy related to these records on the website at https://www.rmda.army.mil/

    Certain Unit Rosters and Morning Reports are also in the custody of the National Personnel Records, information about these collections can be found at www.archives.gov/facilities/mo/st_louis/military_personnel_records/morning_reports_and_unit_rosters.html.

  • U.S. Army photographs and motion pictures created prior to 1988 are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, Maryland 20740-6001. You maybe able to access additional information about these holdings from the National Archives and Records Administration website at www.archives.gov.

    Official photographs and videos pertaining to the U.S. Army within the most recent eight-year period are in the custody of the Defense Visual Information Center,

    1363 Z Street Center,
    March Air Force
    Base, CA 92518-2727

    .
  • The Force Structure and Unit History Branch, U.S. Army Center of Military History can provide some information on an organization's entitlement to HQDA recognized unit decorations. Many unit awards announced in U.S. Army Human Resources Command permanent orders are posted to the CMH website as a courtesy Soldiers, veterans, and units. However, the official proponent for Army awards is the Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

  • For individuals still in the Army, the Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, is the proponent. Information concerning procedures to request such information can be found on the Awards and Decorations Branch website.

    For individuals no longer in the Army, requests should be directed to the National Personnel Records Center. Information concerning procedures to request such information can be found on the National Personnel Records Center website.

  • The proponent for all heraldic items, flags, patches, insignia,etc., is

    The Institute of Heraldry
    9325 Gunston Road, Room S-112
    Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-5579.
    The website for the Institute is at www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil.

  • The American Battle Monuments Commission is responsible for the maintenance of permanent American military burial grounds in foreign countries.  You can get additional information from the Commission's website at www.abmc.gov/.

  • The Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command has proponency for this program within the Army. Information related to the certificate can be found on the Awards and Decorations website.

  • The U.S. Army Center of Military History does not maintain such information, and the release of personnel information is strictly governed by the Privacy Act.  You might find the information you are seeking by placing an advertisement in a veterans magazine, which do have special reunion columns.  Another possibility would be to use one of the free "People Finders" search engines available through the internet.

  • The historical offices for the other services and their websites are as follows:

  • The terms D-day and H-hour are used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate the day and hour of the operation when the day and hour have not yet been determined, or where secrecy is essential. The letters are derived from the words for which they stand, "D" for the day of the invasion and "H" for the hour operations actually begin. There is but one D-day and one H-hour for all units participating in a given operation. It is unnecessary to state that H-hour is on D-day.

    When used in combination with figures and plus or minus signs, these terms indicate the length of time preceding or following a specific action. Thus, H-3 means 3 hours before H-hour, and D+3 means 3 days after D-day. H+75 minutes means H-hour plus 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    Planning papers for large-scale operations are made up in detail long before specific dates are set. Thus, orders are issued for the various steps to be carried out on the D-day or H-hour minus or plus a certain number or days, hours, or minutes. At the appropriate time, a subsequent order is issued that states the actual day and times.

    The earliest use of these terms by the U.S. Army that the Center of Military History has been able to find was during World War I. In Field Order Number 9, First Army, American Expeditionary Forces, dated September 7, 1918: "The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient."

    D-day for the invasion of Normandy was set for June 6, 1944, and that date has been popularly referred to by the short title "D-day."

    Source: The General Service Schools, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Combat Orders (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: The General Service Schools Press, 1922).

  • The use of gun salutes for military occasions is traced to early warriors who demonstrated their peaceful intentions by placing their weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective. Apparently this custom was universal, with the specific act varying with time and place, depending on the weapons being used. A North African tribe, for example, trailed the points of their spears on the ground to indicate that they did not mean to be hostile.

    The tradition of rendering a salute by cannon originated in the 14th century as firearms and cannons came into use. Since these early devices contained only one projectile, discharging them once rendered them ineffective. Originally warships fired seven-gun salutes--the number seven probably selected because of its astrological and Biblical significance. Seven planets had been identified and the phases of the moon changed every seven days. The Bible states that God rested on the seventh day after Creation, that every seventh year was sabbatical and that the seven times seventh year ushered in the Jubilee year.

    Land batteries, having a greater supply of gunpowder, were able to fire three guns for every shot fired afloat, hence the salute by shore batteries was 21 guns. The multiple of three probably was chosen because of the mystical significance of the number three in many ancient civilizations. Early gunpowder, composed mainly of sodium nitrate, spoiled easily at sea, but could be kept cooler and drier in land magazines. When potassium nitrate improved the quality of gunpowder, ships at sea adopted the salute of 21 guns.

    The 21-gun salute became the highest honor a nation rendered. Varying customs among the maritime powers led to confusion in saluting and return of salutes. Great Britain, the world's preeminent seapower in the 18th and 19th centuries, compelled weaker nations to salute first, and for a time monarchies received more guns than did republics. Eventually, by agreement, the international salute was established at 21 guns, although the United States did not agree on this procedure until August 1875.

    The gun salute system of the United States has changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the "national salute" was defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union--at that time 17. This salute was fired by all U.S. military installations at 1:00 p.m. (later at noon) on Independence Day. The President also received a salute equal to the number of states whenever he visited a military installation.

    In 1842, the Presidential salute was formally established at 21 guns. In 1890, regulations designated the "national salute" as 21 guns and redesignated the traditional Independence Day salute, the "Salute to the Union," equal to the number of states. Fifty guns are also fired on all military installations equipped to do so at the close of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.

    Today the national salute of 21 guns is fired in honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-elect of the United States. It is also fired at noon of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.

    Gun salutes are also rendered to other military and civilian leaders of this and other nations. The number of guns is based on their protocol rank. These salutes are always in odd numbers.

    Source: Headquarters, Military District of Washington, FACT SHEET: GUN SALUTES, May 1969.

  • Both place names appear in print and are in a sense correct. The confusion arises because the local name for the area, Pointe du Hoc, is an old Norman name while the Parisian French spelling is Pointe du Hoe.

    For information on the unit's operations at Normandy, see Pointe du Hoe, 2d Ranger Battalion, 6 June 1944, extracted from Small Unit Actions, part of the American Forces in Action series.

  • How many U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they?
  • As a matter of policy, unless an official announcement of known facts is issued, the Center of Military History refrains from sanctioning claims involving "firsts" or the "most" because they often are difficult to substantiate and frequently are contested by other claimants..

  • What is the difference between artillery shrapnel and shell fragments?
  • Elvis Aron Presley entered the United States Army at Memphis, Tennessee, on March 24, 1958, and then spent three days at the Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Reception Station. He left active duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey, on March 5, 1960, and received his discharge from the Army Reserve on March 23, 1964.

    During his active military career Mr. Presley served as a member of two different armor battalions. Between March 28 and September 17, 1958, he belonged to Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. During this assignment he completed basic and advanced military training.

    Mr. Presley's overseas service took place in Germany from October 1, 1958, until March 2, 1960, as a member of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor. For the first five days of that period he belonged to Company D of the battalion, and thereafter to the battalion's Headquarters Company at Friedberg.

    While in Germany Mr. Presley wore the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 3d Armored Division..

  • Naming Army Installations

    The naming of posts started as a tradition when the Army was young. In the Continental Army, many posts and camps were named by the commander or supervising engineer for high ranking officers, including those still living; for example, Fort Washington on the New York and Fort Lee on the New Jersey sides of the Hudson in 1776, Fort Putnam at West Point, or Fort Mifflin below Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Forts were also named for fallen heroes, such as Fort Mercer, built in 1777, on the New Jersey side of the Delaware opposite Fort Mifflin, named in honor of Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer who fell at Princeton in January of that year.

    For much of the Army's history in the 19th Century, the naming of posts was still mainly a local prerogative. For example, War Department General Order Number 79, dated 8 November 1878, left the naming of installations to the commander of the regional Military Division in which the installation was located. Although not always, the names of installations usually reflected a local influence, such as Fort Apache in Arizona, established in 1871, and the Chickamauga Post in Georgia, established in 1902. In the 1890s, the then Quartermaster General, Maj. Gen. Richard N. Batchelder, recommended that the War Department assume responsibility for naming installations, but that did not become policy until World War I when the massive general mobilization saw the establishment of numerous installations of various sizes and functions. The names usually, but not always, reflected some regional connection to its location, and usually with a historic military figure significant to the area: for example, Camp Lee near Richmond, Virginia, and changing the name of the Chickamauga Post in Georgia to Fort Oglethorpe.

    In the years between the World Wars, it became the common practice for the War Department to entertain recommended names for posts from installation commanders, corps and branch commanders, and the Historical Section Army War College, as well as from outside the Army. Public opinion and political Influence sometime weighed heavily on the decisions. For an example of the latter, when in 1928 the Army renamed Fort George G. Meade in Maryland as Fort Leonard Wood, the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress held up the Army's appropriation bill until the service agreed to restore the name of the Pennsylvania-born general. The regional connection, however, cannot be overemphasized. Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, for example, was originally named Camp Alfred Vail, in honor of the Army's then chief Signal Officer, when the installation was established as a Signal Corps training facility in 1917, but changed to Fort Monmouth, for the 1778 battle fought nearby, when it became a permanent installation in the 1920s.

    The War Department better defined the criteria when it established the policy for "naming military reservations in honor of deceased distinguished officers regardless of the arm or service in which they have served" in a memorandum dated 20 November 1939.

    Shortly after World War II, in 1946, the Army established the Army Memorialization Board. Governed by Army Regulation (AR) 15-190, Boards, Commissions, and Committees: Department of the Army Memorialization Board, it assumed responsibility for deciding on the names of posts and other memorial programs and the criteria for naming them. The regulation stated that all those individuals memorialized must be deceased and fall within one of five categories:

    1. a national hero of absolute preeminence by virtue of high position,
    2. an individual who held a position of high and extensive responsibility (Army and above) and whose death was a result of battle wounds,
    3. an individual who held a position of high and extensive responsibility and whose death was not a result of battle wounds,
    4. an individual who performed an act of heroism or who held a position of high responsibility and whose death was a result of battle wounds, and
    5. an individual who performed an act of heroism or who held a position of high responsibility and whose death was not a result of battle wounds.

    On 8 December 1958 , AR 1-30, Administration: Department of the Army Memorialization Program superseded AR 15-190 , and removed responsibility for naming installations from the Memorialization Board and transferred it to Headquarters, Department of the Army. In turn, AR 1-33, Administration: Memorial Programs superseded AR 1-30 on 1 February 1972. This revision retained the same memorialization criteria and categories as the previous regulation, but added a list of appropriate memorialization projects for each category. For example, it would be appropriate to name a large military installation after a person in category two, while it would be appropriate to name a building or a street after a person in category five. The final decision on naming a post was still made by the Headquarters, Department of the Army. The 15 January 1981 revision of AR 1-33 named the Army Chief of Staff as the responsible individual for the naming of installations.

    The current AR 1-33 became effective on 30 June 2006, and redefined and expanded the categories of individuals to be memorialized, and listed appropriate memorialization programs for each category. The naming of installations is now the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). The Director of the Installation Management Agency is responsible for the naming of streets, buildings, and facilities on all military installations except medical installations, where the Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command has the approval authority, and on the United States Military Academy, where the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy has the approval authority.

  • Details regarding Project HORIZON can be found in the following study prepared in 1959.

  • Also See Reference Topics for frequently researched topics