WWII—the world at war again.

WWII—the world at war again.

Just 21 years after the last global war, the world was drawn into an even greater conflict. More than 100 million soldiers—including 16 million Americans—fought in WWII. As records become public, our collections have grown to include millions of names and photos. Find your family’s place in history’s most devastating war.

Just 21 years after the last global war, the world was drawn into an even greater conflict. More than 100 million soldiers—including 16 million Americans—fought in WWII. As records become public, our collections have grown to include millions of names and photos. Find your family’s place in history’s most devastating war.

Search World War II (1941–1945) Military Records

Search World War II (1941–1945) Military Records

Scroll through our timeline of events to learn more.

  • 1 Sep 1939

    Germany invades Poland Nazi Germany invades Poland, prompting Britain and France to declare war on Germany. The United States declares neutrality on September 5. The Soviet Union will invade Poland from the east on September 17, and on September 29 Germany and the Soviet Union will divide up Poland.

  • 10 May 1940

    Germany invades Western Europe Germany invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. On the same day, Winston Churchill becomes British prime minister. The Germans will enter Paris on June 14 and will occupy most of France for the next four years.

  • 10 Jul 1940

    Battle of Britain Germany begins a long series of air assaults on Great Britain. The initial targets are transportation centers and aircraft factories, but on August 23 the Germans bomb Central London. The British retaliate by bombing Berlin on August 25. During a four-month campaign known as the Battle of Britain, the Germans will fail to disable Britain’s air defenses. The British will continue to launch intermittent air attacks on German cities — most notably Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden — for the rest of the war.

  • 22 Jun 1941

    Germany invades the Soviet Union In violation of the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact—a treaty of non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union — Hitler launches a massive assault, known as Operation Barbarossa, on the Soviet Union. Germany is now fighting a war on two fronts.

  • 7 Dec 1941

    Japanese attack Pearl Harbor Japan launches a surprise air assault on the U.S. air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sinking four battleships, destroying 188 aircraft and killing 2,402 Navy personnel. The following day the United States and Britain declare war on Japan. On December 11, Germany declares war on the United States.

  • 13 Jan 1942

    German U-Boat offensive The Germany Navy launches a series of nighttime attacks along the Atlantic coast of the United States, sinking 348 ships over a four-month period. During this time the U.S. Navy manages to sink only two German submarines (U-Boats).

  • 10 Apr 1942

    Bataan Death March Japanese troops on the island of Bataan, in the Philippines, force 76,000 Allied prisoners to walk 60 miles in scorching heat without food or water to a POW camp. Of the 12,000 Americans who begin the march, more than 5,000 will die during the 10-day ordeal.

  • 4 Jun 1942

    Battle of Midway Following on the heels of the first Allied victory against the Japanese — in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 — the Battle of Midway is a turning point in the war in the Pacific. The United States achieves a dramatic win, destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers.

  • 7 Aug 1942

    Battle of Guadalcanal The U.S. Marines make their first amphibious landing in the Pacific, invading Tulagi and Gaudalcanal in the Solomon Islands. More than 7,000 Americans will die during a brutal but ultimately successful six-month campaign.

  • 8 Nov 1942

    Allied Invasion of North Africa Operation Torch begins, as British and American troops land in Morocco and Algeria. Over the next year, the Allies will wrest control of North Africa from the Axis powers, allowing the Allies to use North Africa as a staging ground for the invasion of Italy in July 1943.

  • 6 Jun 1944

    D-Day: Allied Invasion of France The Allies launch the largest amphibious invasion in history, landing 175,000 troops on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. Known as Operation Overlord, the invasion is the beginning of an 11-month campaign to free Western Europe from Nazi control.

  • 23 Oct 1944

    Battle of Leyte Gulf The Allies deal the Imperial Japanese Navy a debilitating blow during a four-day battle — the largest Naval battle of the war — in the Leyte Gulf near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar and Luzon. During this battle Japanese Kamikazi pilots launch the first air suicide attacks against U.S. ships.

  • 16 Dec 1944

    Battle of the Bulge Hitler launches a massive counter-offensive in the Argonne Forest in eastern France, creating a “bulge” in the Allied lines. During 12 days of intense fighting, 19,276 Americans will die — more than in any other European battle of WWII.

  • 19 Feb 1945

    Invasion of Iwo Jima U.S. marines land on Iwo Jima, a volcanic island where the Japanese have built an immense network of heavily fortified underground bunkers, with the goal of capturing two strategically important airfields. It will take 110,000 marines five weeks to neutralize the island’s 18,000 Japanese defenders, at a cost of 6,821 American lives.

  • 1 Apr 1945

    Invasion of Okinawa The Allies launch the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific War, invading the Japanese island of Okinawa. The ensuing 82-day battle will claim 12,513 American lives, making it the third deadliest battle in U.S. military history (after the 1918 Battle of Meuse-Argonne and the 1944 Battle of the Bulge).

  • 12 Apr 1945

    Franklin Roosevelt dies U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies in Warm Springs, Georgia, less than three months into his fourth term as president. Vice President Harry Truman becomes commander-in-chief and learns about the secret program to develop an atomic bomb. The same day that Roosevelt dies, the U.S. 89th Infantry liberates the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald—the first of dozens of concentration camps that U.S. troops will discover during their march through Germany.

  • 30 Apr 1945

    Demise of Hitler and Mussolini Nine days after Soviet troops arrived in Berlin, Hitler commits suicide in his underground bunker, thus avoiding the fate of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was executed by Italian partisans on April 27.

  • 7 May 1945

    Germany surrenders Germany’s top military leaders surrender unconditionally to the Allies. The following day the world celebrates Victory in Europe Day.

  • 6 Aug 1945

    Atomic bombing of Hiroshima Hoping to preempt an invasion of Japan that might have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives, the United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. About 80,000 Japanese civilians are killed instantly. Japan refuses to surrender. Three days later the United States launches an atomic assault on Nagasaki, killing almost 74,000 people.

  • 15 Aug 1945

    Japan surrenders Reeling from the shock of the U.S. atomic bomb attacks on August 6 and 9 and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria on August 8, the Japanese government agrees to an unconditional surrender. President Truman declares August 15 to be Victory in Japan Day. The formal surrender ceremony will take place on September 2 aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri.

U.S. Involvement in
World War II (1941–1945)

U.S. Involvement in
World War II (1941–1945)

WWII's roots lie in the end of WWI—beginning with a treaty that left Germany destitute and hungry. Adolf Hitler easily charmed the German people with ideas of a greater Germany—which ultimately extended into the occupation of other nations and led to full-scale world war that would involve more than 70 nations and claim more than 40 million lives worldwide.

The United States again resisted joining the war until attacked on the home front by Japan. The next day America declared war. By war's end, more than 16 million U.S. service members had become involved with the worldwide conflict that claimed more than 400,000 battle and non-battle related deaths and some 670,000 non-mortal woundings.

The Ancestry
World War II Collection

The Ancestry
World War II Collection

In our collection of WWII military records, Ancestry has more than 120 million records from documents created during and around WWII, roughly 1936–1946. Although the majority of WWII records are not publicly available, Ancestry has gathered together enlistment records, draft registration cards, POW records and more.

Let us help you discover your story.

Let us help you discover your story.

Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more.

Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more.

Featured Collections

Featured Collections

U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940‑1947
Over 36 million World War II draft registration cards from multiple registrations filled out by men aged 18–44.

U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942
Over 10 million draft cards of men aged 45-65 who registered for the fourth WWII draft in 1942.

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942‑1954
Hospital admission cards for U.S. Army personnel during WWII and the Korean War.

WWII United News Newsreels, 1942‑1946

U.S., Navy and Marines Awards and Decorations, 1942–1994

Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), 1941‑2011
Find images of all gravestones and memorial from the final resting place of more than 13,000 service personnel who died during WWII.

WWII U.S. Navy Muster Rolls, 1938–1949
This collection of more than 33 million records give facts about WWII enlisted Navy personnel, like occupational specialty and service number.

WWII Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941‑1945
An index of 30,000 records containing the names of prisoners of war, plus their ranks, service numbers, units and prison camp information.

WWII Missing in Action or Lost at Sea
More than 80,000 names of military personnel reported Missing in Action or Lost at Sea during World War II.

Stars and Stripes Newspaper, Pacific Edition
Images of the Stars and Stripes newspaper distributed to U.S. servicemen and women in the Pacific, 1945‑1963.

U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records
Collection of more than 8 million names of U.S. Army enlistees during WWII, 1938–1946.

Young American Patriots Military Yearbooks
Photos and short biographiess of approximately 60,000 soldiers from Young American Patriots, a commemorative yearbook series published shortly following World War II.

Stars and Stripes, European Edition
Images of the Stars and Stripes newspaper distributed to U.S. servicemen and women in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa from 1942‑1964.