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
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center maintains an extensive collection of unit histories. Researchers will need to contact the USAWC Library for access to reference bibliographies or for research assistance in accessing unit history information. Researchers may contact their local public library to initiate interlibrary loan for materials listed on a reference bibliography. Otherwise to schedule a research visit or to ask for more advice, researchers may contact the Library Reference staff at: Research & Instruction, 717-245-3949 ; AskRidgway@usawc.libanswers.com.
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 theAwards 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., isThe 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:
- Naval Historical Center at http://www.history.navy.mil/
- Air Force Historical Support Division at https://www.afhistory.af.mil/
- Air Force Historical Research Agency at https://www.afhra.af.mil/
- U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center at https://www.usmcu.edu/Research History-Division/
- U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office at http://www.uscg.mil/history/
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Details regarding Project HORIZON can be found in the following study prepared in 1959.
- Project HORIZON Volume I: Summary ans Supporting Considerations (PDF format - 17Mb)
- Project HORIZON Volume II: Technical Considerations and Plans (PDF Format - 33Mb)
Also See Reference Topics for frequently researched topics.