Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “world war ii”

Merchant Marines: Speak up if you want a section

The other night I ran into someone who had a Merchant Marine in their story. They were curious about what resources were available. I told them that although I didn’t have anything in the Writer’s Guide about Merchant marines, I’d do a quick check on what was available in gov info sources. I thought what I found might interest you as well:

If there was interest, I could provide full annotations for these resources and maybe find some other resources related to the Merchant Marines. So, if you have an interest in having more resources on this topic, please leave a comment. Also indicate whether you’re more interested in current life as a Merchant Marine or in the history of Merchant Marines.


Office of Medical History (Army)

Office of Medical History (Army) – http://history.amedd.army.mil

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were some preventative measures taken by the US Army in the American Revolution?
  • When were US soldiers first vaccinated for smallpox?
  • What was considered typical care during the Civil War?
  • What were World War I base camp hospitals like?


This site is divided into a number of sections, but the most helpful will be:

Books and Documents – materials from Revolutionary times to the the Iraq War. Some representative titles are:

  • The Evolution of Preventive Medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939
  • Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 by Louis C. Duncun
  • Thesis: A Study of the Medical Support to the Union and Confederate Armies During the Battle of Chickamauga: Lessons and Implications for Today’s U.S. Army Medical Department Leaders by David A. Rubenstein
  • The U.S. Army Medical Department in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  • Women in the Army Medical Department in World War II
  • Battle Casualties in Korea: Studies of the Surgical Research Team, Volume II, Tools for Resuscitation
  • In Their Own Words: The 498th Air Ambulance Company in Iraq, 2003

Historical Art Work – Captioned images and photographs from WWI through the Iraq War. The Office of Medical History discourages the use of this imagery for commercial or partisan publications, but does not disclose their authority for prohibiting these uses.

Medal of Honor recipients – Short citations of medical personnel awarded the Medal of Honor.

AMEDD Unit Patches and Lineage – Patches and organization histories from Army Medical units.

As you might gather from the title of this resource, it will be most helpful in determining what level of field medicine is available to your military characters in a given period of time.

The Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM

The Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM – http://www.history.army.mil/books/www/WWINDX.HTM

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were the disposition of Iraqi forces in September 1990?
  • How were Patriot batteries used against SCUD missiles?
  • What were the specifications of Iraqi and US armament during the First Gulf War?


This work begins with a general background to Iraq and the Persian Gulf region from WWI to the time the book was written.

Then there are a set of chronological chapters taking the reader through the buildup (Desert Shield) and the actual war (Desert Storm). The narrative section is followed by three appendices on the Patriot missile system and specifications for American and Iraqi equipment used during the war. The online work concludes with lists of tables, maps, charts and illustrations.

World War II Maps – Military Situation Maps – 1944-1945 (Library of Congress)

World War II Maps – Military Situation Maps – 1944-1945 (Library of Congress) – http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/maps/wwii/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What maps would Eisenhower have referred to?
  • What were the disposition of Allied and Axis forces on _____?
  • Where can I find a detailed description of the Battle of the Bulge?


From the website:

The World War II Military Situation Maps contains maps showing troop positions beginning on June 6, 1944 to July 26, 1945. Starting with the D-Day Invasion, the maps give daily details on the military campaigns in Western Europe, showing the progress of the Allied Forces as they push towards Germany. Some of the sheets are accompanied by a declassified “G-3 Report” giving detailed information on troop positions for the period 3 Mar. 1945-26 July 1945. These maps and reports were used by the commanders of the United States forces in their evaluation of the campaigns and for planning future strategies. The collection consists of 416 printed maps and 115 reports, the originals of which reside in the Library of Congress’ Geography and Map Division.

This set would be most useful to people who wanted to accurately place military characters during the post D-Day Allied campaign. The collection is browsable by title, subject, place and date. The collection also claims to be browsable by creator, but this option simply gives you the 416 maps produced by Allied Forces. Army Group, 12th. Engineer Section.

The collection also features an interactive essay on the Battle of the Bulge, which may be useful to dramatists of that battle as well as showing how the maps can be used. As these maps were directly published by the US government, they may be freely used in your books. I say this even though the particular Rights and Reproductions page for this collection seems murkier than usual. Consult with an attorney if you want to be really sure, but I’d use these maps in a book if I needed them.

World War II era WAVES (Naval History and Heritage Command)

World War II era WAVES (Naval History and Heritage Command) – https://web.archive.org/web/20141026031220/http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/prs-tpic/females/wave-ww2.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did the acronym WAVES stand for?
  • What duties did the WAVES perform?
  • What did a WAVES uniform look like?
  • What values did WAVES recruiting posters invoke?


Website featuring many annotated photos and posters of the US Navy women known as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Site is divided into the following areas:

  • Recruiting and Training
  • Quarters & Meals
  • Recreation, Leisure & Good Deeds
  • Ship and Aviation Orientation
  • Transportation
  • Occupations – Aviation Related
  • Artworks and posters of wartime WAVES “Recruiting Posters for Women from World War II – The WAVES”.
  • Additional information Women in the U.S. Navy.

Each area has a textual overview up to several paragraphs. This site will be useful in describing WAVES characters and keeping them in era-appropriate occupations.

World War II Era Posters (Center for Military History)

World War II Era Posters (Center for Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/art/Posters/WWII/WW2.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Why did the army need lumber during World War II?
  • How did the army motivate the workers on the home front in World War II?


An unannotated page of 17 World War II posters put out by the US Army. May come in handy for setting the scene of stories of the era.

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944

Women Pilots with the AAF, 1941-1944, by J. Merton England and Joseph Reither (1946). 122 pages. – http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Studies/51-100/AFD-090529-109.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • When did women pilots start to fly with Army Air Forces (AAF)?
  • How were women pilots trained and did it differ from the training offered to men?
  • What tasks did women pilots perform?
  • How were women pilots perceived by their male counterparts and commanding officers?
  • When was the program of allowing women pilots terminated?


From the introduction:

This study describes the adoption of the program, the training of women pilots, the uses made of them, and the attempt to incorporate them into the Army. In connection with these topics, consideration is given to the administration of the program–including the differing ideas about how many women pilots there should be, how they should be organized, and how they should be directed.

The main text of the work is followed by a glossary, a bibliographical note, an appendix featuring commentary from reviewers and an index.

US Navy Ship Camouflage – World War II (Naval History and Heritage Command)

US Navy Ship Camouflage – World War II (Naval History and Heritage Command) – https://web.archive.org/web/20140707134751/http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-co-mk/camouflg/usn-wwii/31-33tp.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How were battleships camouflaged in World War II?
  • How were destroyers camouflaged in World War II?


A set of drawings and photographs showing how various Navy ships were painted camouflage in World War II. May aid in describing scenes from that era.

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History)

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/ww2-pic.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did a P-51 fighter look like?
  • What does antiaircraft tracer fire look like?
  • What did Japanese bucket brigades look like in World War II?
  • What could mail call in the Solomon Islands look like?
  • What did the USS Hornet look like while under attack from dive bombers?
  • Where can I find scenes of urban devastation like that of Osaka in World War II?


Although part of the larger set of US Army in World War II discussed elsewhere, the Pictorial Record volumes deserve their own entry for their usefulness to writers of stories set in this era. The three volumes in the series are:

  • The war against Japan
  • The war against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and adjacent areas
  • The war against Germany: Europe and adjacent areas

The aim of these volumes is clearly stated in the foreword to “The war against Japan”:

The photographs have been especially selected to show important terrain features, types of equipment and weapons, living and weather conditions, military operations, and matters of human interest. These volumes will preserve and make accessible for future reference some of the best pictures of World War II. An appreciation not only of the terrain upon which actions were fought, but also of its influence on the capabilities and limitations of weapons in the hands of both our troops and those of the enemy, can be gained through a careful study of the pictures herein presented.

Each volume is divided into sections with a brief historical essay that precedes a group of pictures with commentary. An excellent index in the back of each volume makes it easy to find pictures of weapons, aircraft, ships, locations, allied troops, bomb craters, blasted neighborhoods and more. Finally each volume has a list of abbreviations that may be helpful in understanding other materials besides these photographs.

In addition to serving as aids to describing war scenes, people, weapons and vehicles, the pictures in these volumes are public domain. You can freely illustrate your own work with these photographs, though it would be good to provide a credit back to the pictorial volume and the Center of Military History.

The PDF format of this series does make it harder to use the photographs. You might try using screen clipping tools built into Windows and Macs. From an examination of the volumes it was unclear where one might go to request the originals of these photographs. If anyone has insight into this, please leave a comment or use the “Contact Kari” link at the top of the page.

US Army in World War II (Series) (Center of Military History)

US Army in World War II (Series) (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/usaww2.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were Americans doing in both Iran and Iraq during World War II?
  • How did World War II affect the Caribbean?
  • Whom did Soviet Russians employ to clear rubble in occupied Berlin?
  • Where can I read about the successful Axis evacuation of Sicily?


This is literally an entire library related to US Army operations in World War II. From the forward to the US Army in World War II “Readers Guide”:

The United States Army in World War II series describes the organization, plans, and operations of the War Department and the Army, in the zone of interior and in all of the Army’s five theaters of operations from 1939 to 1945. Since the Army authorized the project in 1946, seventy-eight volumes have been or are being published representing an organized treasury of knowledge on the world’s greatest conflict. Behind them lies one of the largest masses of records and recollections ever produced. These documents, including those of the enemy, have been explored by professional historians, with the cooperation of a host of participants and with all the facilities and assistance that the Office of the Chief of Military History and its successor, the Center of Military History, could provide to ensure that this endeavor was as comprehensive, accurate, and objective as possible. The final result has provided commanders and staff officers, historians, and students-military and civilian alike-with an unprecedented professional guide to past experience as they seek light on the uncertain path ahead.

The series is subdivided into the following sections:

  • The War Department
  • The Army Ground Forces
  • The Army Service Forces
  • The Western Hemisphere
  • The War in the Pacific
  • The Mediterranean Theater of Operations
  • The European Theater of Operations
  • The Middle East Theater
  • The China-Burma-India Theater
  • The Technical Services
  • Special Studies
  • Pictorial Record

If you’re uncertain where to start, visit the series’ “Reader’s Guide.” It has summaries of all 78 volumes, which will give you some basic information and lead you to a specific volume for greater depth.

Most of the of the volumes contain maps, charts and illustrations. Others will have bibliographic notes for further reading. A number of the books in this series appear to be offered in both PDF and HTML. The Pictorial Record series and a handful of other books appear to be in PDF format only. This seems unfortunate in the case of the Pictorial Record series as it makes the public domain photographs harder to share.

Search Tip:

It is possible to search across HTML formatted books of the US Army in World War II books by typing in [(keywords) inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] into your favorite search engine. For example, searching [women inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] brings up over 300 results, including:

  • An escaped woman refuge bringing word of massed German equipment in the woods.
  • A picture of a Belgian woman salvaging grain in a gutted barn.
  • The Soviets use of women to clear rubble piles in occupied Berlin.

Searching [drowned inurl:books/wwii site:army.mil] brings up instances of troops drowned in battle and also instances of cut communications.

If you don’t get the results you expect, it may be the volumes you thought you were searching are not in HTML format.

Post Navigation