Morning reports

Fire at National Personnel Records Center, 1973. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fold3.com, in partnership with the National Archives, recently launched a new collection, U.S. Morning Reports 1912-1946. This collection is a huge opportunity for genealogists studying their military ancestors during World War I and World War II. It is currently only about halfway digitized. The records appear to be complete through 1939.

What’s a morning report? It’s a daily report produced at the company level that indicates any changes in assigned personnel. It may indicate if someone was hospitalized or absent. The details include the name of the soldier, their rank, service number, as well as any notations on status.[1]

I first became acquainted with morning reports a few years ago when I was researching my paternal grandfather, Michael Doherty. He served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. He served in the 179th Infantry, 45th Division, better known as the Thunderbirds. I knew that the impact of the 1973 fire was going to hinder my efforts to find some of his records.

On 12 July 1973, shortly after midnight, a fire was reported at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in Saint Louis, Missouri. The fire was burning on the sixth floor of the building. Firefighters couldn’t enter the building until two days later. The fire was officially declared burnt out on July 16.[2].

Firefighters couldn’t enter the building until two days later.

It is estimated that 80% of Army and 75% of Air Force Official Military Personnel Records (OMPF) were destroyed in the fire. The OMPF contains details about enlistment, training, promotions, awards, performance, assignments, disciplinary action, and discharge records.[3] It is a consolidated file that is a goldmine of information. The NPRC has been working on reconstructing the records that did survive the fire. This is approximately 6.5 million records in their Burned or “B” Registry File.[4]

While the damage is huge and heartbreaking, we must remember that not all records were destroyed. According to the National Archives, more than 100,000 reels of morning reports for the Army (1912-59) and Air Force (1947-59) were removed from the building.

Up until the announcement that the morning reports were being digitized was published online on Fold3.com, you needed to hire a researcher to go to the NPRC building to review the morning reports on microfilm. I did so a few years back when I was preparing a RootsTech presentation using my grandfather as a case study for World War II.

Morning report example, 179th Infantry, 45th Division, Hq Co. Click on image to expand it.

I pored over the morning reports compiled by the researcher and was able to learn more about my grandfather’s service in the European theater. He started three miles south of Venuvio, Italy on 31 May 1944. The 45th division went through southeastern France. I saw a record of my grandfather’s promotion from Private to TEC5 in March 1945. The division eventually ended up in Munich, Germany.

I know that before reaching Munich, grandfather participated in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp on 29 April 1945. The morning reports in my possession do not seem to capture this event. I will need to re-examine the records when they are fully digitized to see if there is mention of it. Some morning reports include a record of events that occurred.

To search this collection, you can enter the name of the unit or the company. Then you can search by date to narrow down the results. You will not find a morning report every day for your soldier unless there is a change in status (such as being absent, sick, or injured, a promotion, etc.). There are index reels that cover 1912-46.[5]

I hope this post helps give you hope that not everything was destroyed in the 1973 fire. The morning reports can help you rebuild a portion of your soldiers’ military file and place them in the battles in which they participated. I’m excited to learn what discoveries genealogists can find about their veteran soldiers in this new collection. What did you find in the morning reports?

Notes

[1] U.S., Morning Reports 1912-1946, Overview Page, Fold3.com, https://www.fold3.com/publication/1141/us-morning-reports-1912-1946.

[2]  The 1973 Fire, National Personnel Records Center, https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/fire-1973.

[3]  What is an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)?, https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/ompf-background.

[4] The 1973 Fire, National Personnel Records Center, https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/fire-1973.

[5] Jenny Ashcraft, “Introducing Our Collection of Morning Reports,” Fold3 blog, 25 April 2022, https://blog.fold3.com/introducing-our-collection-of-morning-reports/.

About Melanie McComb

Melanie McComb is a genealogist at NEHGS. She is an experienced international speaker on such topics as researching in Prince Edward Island and using newspapers and DNA in genealogy. Readers may know Melanie from her blog, The Shamrock Genealogist. Melanie holds a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York at Oswego. Her areas of interest are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Kansas, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. She is experienced in genetic genealogy, genealogical technology, social media, military records, and Irish and Jewish research.

14 thoughts on “Morning reports

  1. My father was also in the 45th Division and my efforts to research his military service have been stymied. I believe he landed at Anzio ( that’s what he told me), know that his group went up through Italy and France and into Munich. He never mentioned being at Dachau but he was part of a party that raided Hitler’s apartment in Munich and he sent back a barrel of items from there to my mom in Maine and that was covered in the local paper. Our house burned in 1947 and his army discharge papers and some of the items from Hitler’s apartment were lost but others were at our summer camp and I still have them. I used your link to Fold3 and found the basic information of where he enlisted and his serial number and year born, which I already knew, but can’t find anything else. I am a member of ancestry.com of which Fold3 is a part but can’t seem to find any more information on Ancestry. Do you have any suggestions about how to access more information? Thank you.

    1. Thanks for sharing information about your father. I’m sorry to hear that many of his records were lost. You can contact your state adjutant general’s office to ask for a copy of his discharge papers. I would check back when the morning report database is more complete to find out more details on his service in his unit.

  2. As soon as FOLD3 announced the release of the digitized mornining reports (but not yet indexed), I prepared a monograph of my grandfather’s company’s service while in Europe during The Great War. He served in the Yankee Division, 26th Division, 104th Infantry Regiment, Company L. The records added daily details not found in the regimental history and especially not in the Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, American Expeditionary Forces: Divisions. I am grateful for the work done by dedicated volunteers to place information at our finger tips.

  3. Thanks, Melanie. I recently came across company “Morning Reports” published by a local researcher on a Civil War artillery battery in Illinois. Can you confirm that Civil War “Morning Reports” can be accessed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C?

    1. Yes, these records are part of Record Group 94 – the Adjutant General’s Office. The series is called Regimental and Company Books of Civil War Volunteer Union Organizations, 1861 – 1867. They’re housed at Washington, D.C. You can learn about this collection at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/577134. Depending on the unit, there may be some published records online. Here’s one example: https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/records/item/273320-redirection.

  4. My paternal grandfather served in the Army during World War II as a fiscal officer in the Chemical Warfare Service at both Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver and at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. His family was able to be with him. My grandfather put together a scrap book that included some daily reports and mementos of his time there. I particularly remember seeing one report announcing the death of President Roosevelt. Do the records cover the morning reports for every military installation? I’m glad to see that the records pertaining to my grandfather’s period of service in the Army survive, as well as those pertaining to my dad’s service in the Air Force.

    1. Can you please clarify what you mean by military installation? There are different events covered in the morning reports. While researching my grandfather’s company, I found one that related to D-Day. Thanks for sharing about your grandfather. That’s quite a treasure to have that scrapbook!

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