I was thinking about what to write for this month’s article and chose to look for D-Day resources on Ancestry and Fold3. I started with Fold3 with the idea there would be some reports that mention D-Day, and I found some in the WWII War Diaries, a collection with a large number of Naval reports. These reports come in typed format as they were created during the war.
Imagine my surprise to search for D-Day and find a First Army Report of Operations under the WWII War Diaries. Then imagine me more surprised to open the search result to see not a typed report from World War II, but a digitized book (minus the exterior cover of the book).
The document is called, Rep of ops in the invasion of Normandy, France, 10/20/43 – 8/1/44. When you view the report, notice the first page of the report is the interior of the book cover, showing a map. Then we have a title page, a page with the name of the report, the classification, and a table of contents. Technically, this is a book written from many different reports concerning the invasion of Normandy for the First Army.
It is important to read page 9, the introduction, to fully understand what this book was designed to do. It is also important to understand this book was written after the invasion of Normandy, using reports from various division and military branches, to compile this operations summary.
What makes this book different from operational reports written during the war? This book gives a different view of what took place with the Normandy invasion. It offered its writers an opportunity to look at what planners wanted to happen, what actually happened, and what could have been done differently (tactical lessons learned). The book also includes situation maps and photographs, which add a lot of historical context to a First Army soldier’s story and experience in the invasion.
Unfortunately, the book does not list the full reports with dates, where all of this information was obtained. Genealogists love sources and if this book would have had sources, researchers could track down each one that might help tell the story of their soldier. The books such as this, written after an invasion or after the war, are typically laid out like this one. Specific report sources are not usually listed. These books contain a summary and historical context of an invasion or battle.
Where can you find additional information? Remember, World War II research is a combination of online and offline research. I suggest searching Fold3 for different keywords related to what you seeking. You can also consult the finding aids at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, for unit records. Fold3 has digitized a lot of Naval and Marine Corps records, but they have not digitized much of the Army or Army Air Forces unit level records. I use the unit records daily in my work and they contain a lot of important details, maps, and photographs. These all add so much to a soldier’s story. Recently I discovered in a 30th Infantry Division unit history, which showed the exact roads the Division took when it left Omaha Beach after landing in France in June 1944. The paragraph was so well written you could follow the route today.
Remember to check all available sources to create the best history and story for your soldier. Then consider sharing it on your Ancestry family tree.
What surprising finds have you discovered searching Fold3 military records?