American World War II Association Historians Consortium
A United Voice for World War II Records
Morning Report Preservation and Access
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Last updated: November 16, 2011
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The first current objective of the American World War II Association Historians Consortium is:

Support
  • the recognition of the great historical value of World War II Morning Reports

  • digital publication on the Internet of the Morning Reports


Background and Current Situation

Until recently, the greatest tragedy in U. S. World War II research was the government's failure to recognize the extraordinary value of Morning Reports as historical records and not just as personnel records. Untile recently, the official position on the web site of the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, was explicitly clear in this highly erroneous statement: "Neither morning reports nor unit rosters contain historical information concerning battles or engagements." -- a statement that the Army still repeats verbatim on its own "Master Index of Army Records". Fortunately this situation has changed and the on the NPRC web site now has a better understanding of the Morning Reports.

In fact, as will be discussed below, the reality is that the World War II Morning Reports are an absolute gold mine of information about battles that simply does not exist in any other records. This fact has become more and more apparent to historians, both in published works (such as Keith E. Bonn's "When the Odds were Even") and by association historians (such as the 7th Armored Division and 80th Infantry Division projects to digitize and publish the complete WWII MRs of their divisions).

The NPRC (which is now an agency under the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA) has moved into a new state-of-the-art building, in which the proper storage conditions of the silver master microfilm reels -- which were damaged by improper storage at some earlier date -- are now assured and where researchers can view the films. There are more than just Morning Reports that must be moved into the new building, and staff budgeting and the sheer volume of paper to be moved and organized make for a very difficult time until the move is finally completed in Fall 2012.

At the suggestion of Timothy Nenninger, Chief of Modern Military Records at National Archives II (College Park, MD), in 2009, AWAHC contacted Footnote.com (now Fold3, a military-record-focused subsidiary of Ancestry.com) about digitizing the Morning Reports and making them available as part of their subscription service, providing that Footnote/Fold3 also gives free research access to anyone researching at any National Archives location. This method seemed to be an acceptable tradeoff of all of the factors involved, and there is now general agreement by NARA that Fold3 will eventually be allowed to digitize and publish the Morning Reports on the Internet. But the specifics of this will not even begin to be worked out until after the move into the new building is completed, thus probably in 2013. This is very good news, even if it is still years before the project will be done.


Historical Value of WWII Morning Reports

What the Morning Reports Contain
As the name states, the Morning Reports were to be turned in every morning. They are the only surviving records that go down to the Company level. All other surviving World War II records are at the Battlaion level or higher. While they do contain personnel information, they contain additional information that is of great historical value, particularly when trying to understand the details of a battle. The Morning Reports contain the following information. (The word "Company" is used, since that is the most common source, but the Morning Report reporing elements could be a Battalion HQ, a Battalion Medical Detachment, a troop, a battery, a Division HQ, a Corps HQ, etc.)


Other Values of the Morning Reports
For the diligent unit historian, the Morning Reports are a gold mine of historical information that can help in completely unanticipated ways. Thus any cataloging of ways that the Morning Reports have helped in the past must never be regarded as the complete list of their values. When interviewing a veteran, there is nothing so valuable as taking the fragment of what he said and then seeing what the Morning Report said. A nickname of a soldier can be nailed down as an accurately spelled surname or full name. A name that he had forgotten that appears on the MR can open the flood gates of the veteran's memories. And there is no other surviving official WWII record that could ever provide that information in the vast majority of cases. This and many, many more uses of the historical information that is contained in the Morning Reports make the MRs an extremely valuable resource, which simply has no subsitute. Their value is highly historical and goes far, far beyond their use as mere individual personnel records.

From a personnel standpoint, the Morning Reports are far and away the best source of information to reconstitute at least part of the individual personnel records of the millions of WWII veterans whose individual personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Other than the General Orders (which provide summary citations of a soldier's awards), the Individual Deceased Personnel File (for soldiers who died in the war) and the soldier's own discharge papers, there simply is no other source than the Morning Reports for reconstituting the destroyed individual WWII record for the vast majority of the troops.


Contact Us

Click here to contact Wesley Johnston, AWAHC President.

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