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United States Military Academy Library

Luzon: Primary Sources: Operational Documents (Military Unit Records)

Introduction to Operational Documents (Military Unit Records)

Allied forces during World War II created, produced, and distributed a prodigious amount of paper records. Units wrote, typed, reproduced, and distributed all kinds of documents before, during, and after operations. These include written plans, orders, unit histories, periodic records of activity during operations in the field, and after action reports. These are among the most important documentary primary sources for the operational history of the U.S. Army in World War II. Even before the war was over, the U.S. Army, the War Department, and other government agencies began plans to preserve these records.  Efforts to preserve and make them available continue and likely will for a long time to come. Today they are available from a number of different sources. Your instructors have gathered some for you to use, and some of the links below can lead you to others.


Even a cursory study of the contents of the repositories listed below will reveal overlap among holdings. That is, one may discover the same or similar records held in more than one institution. In some cases, the overlap is not complete, nor is the extent of the overlap readily apparent.  The sheer amount of records produced and extent of their distribution -- necessitated by the size of the war effort itself -- belies any easy effort to identify precisely which records exist only in one place. 


While this reality offers many advantages for the researcher, it also calls for additional effort -- you must scrutinize the contents of each digital archive carefully, read bibliographic citations, summaries, and descriptions carefully so that you can identify and select which sources you believe will be most relevant for your research. Do not hesitate to consult your section instructor or library staff with any questions.

Operational Documents from the National Archives

During semesters when the Luzon campaign is the subject of the HI 302 History of the Military Art research paper, the History Department faculty may make available to you digital copies of archival records from various U.S. Army units involved in Liberation of Luzon that are now held in the National Archives of the United States.  When this is the case, consult your course documents.

Operational Documents at the Donovan Research Library

Operational Documents at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Digital Library (CARL)

The Combined Arms Research Library (CARL)  Digital Library contains a great deal of primary source material on the campaign in Luzon.  Holdings are subdivided into several collections:  CARL's World War II Operational Documents includes after-action reports, training memoranda, and other records created during and shortly after the campaign to liberate the Philippines.  Although it contains many documents available in the sources provided on the Gemini Drive, do NOT discount its value.  Careful searching can reveal additional unit records that could help a researcher further shape an argument.  Keyword searching by "Luzon", by "Manila", "Corregidor" or other geographic locations, etc. or by unit names [or a keyword search combining such terms] may be useful. (Consult an order of battle to identify particular subordinate units of a larger formation whose operations you are studying, and search by those unit names.) 

Orders of Batttle for the United States Army in World War II

When searching for unit records, make certain that you understand the hierarchical organization of the various units involved in the liberation of Luzon.  For example, if your topic requires you to examine some phase of the operations of the 11th Airborne Division, you should learn which subordinate units were assigned to it and to which higher-level organizations it belonged.   Then search collections of unit records for documents related to those subordinate units.  To learn this kind of information, consult an Order of Battle.  Two examples are listed below (the first avaiable online).

1st Cavalry Division records on microfilm at USMA Library [partially digtized]

The USMA LIbrary holds a large body of operational documents (after-action reports, periodic reports, journal files, et. al.)  of the 1st Cavalry Division from World War II on microfilm.  These are valuable archival sources documenting the unit's service in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II, including the campaign in Luzon.

Microfilm is a type of photographic format that was used during the mid and late twentieth centuries to store large amounts of paper documents.  Microfilm is usually in the form a long strip of photographic exposures stored on reels, that one views with the use of a microfilm reading/printing machine consisting of an assembly of lens and lights. Today many historical documents that were formerly microfilmed have been digitized.  A great many, however, have not been digitized yet, making microfilm as a format for historical documents still relevant.  Owing to the move to remote teaching and temporary limitations of on-site services, the microfilm version of the 1st Cavalry Division records is available by appointment only until further notice. The catalog record describing it, however, is still of use to researchers as it can acquaint them with the contents of the collection (see below).

The USMA Library is in the process of digitizing its microfilm holdings of the 1st Cavalry Division records.  Many records relevant to the division's service in the Luzon campaign are already available digitally.

For a description of the overall collection of 1st Cavalry Division records, consult the catalog record of the collection as a whole:   In the catalog record you will find a link to the reel-by-reel inventory of the microfilm, which you can in turn use to learn which individual documents are available digitally.


For the ones that are not yet digitized, you must use the physical microfilm. For assistance, make an appointment using the link below.


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