Missouri Digital Heritage :: Collections :: Soldiers' Records :: WWI - A Brief History

Soldiers' Records: War of 1812 - World War I

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World War I Military Service Cards: A Brief History

In April 1917, the United States entered World War I. Nearly 750,000 Missouri men registered for the draft. Over 156,000 served in all branches of the armed forces and more than 10,000 were wounded or killed in action. Missouri contributed military personnel to all branches of service during the war.

The United States Congress passed an act in July 1919 providing that a record of service for each soldier, sailor, and marine who served between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1919, be created and furnished to the adjutant general of the individual states. Clerks in the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy created these cards; the project continued into the 1920s.

The Army/Marine service card was referred to as Form No. 724-1, A.G.O. Paragraph five of the card, printed on the reverse, states: "Except the data contained on the first four lines and that relating to battle casualties and physical disability, this statement is prepared as far as practicable from the service record, and no effort has been made to compare the data obtained from the service record with other records, except where an error or discrepancy is patent." The Navy card does not contain similar printed material.

The Army/Marine service cards contain personal information such as name, serial number, race, residence, place of birth, and age or date of birth. The cards also include organizations served in (with dates of assignments and transfers), grades (with date of appointment), engagements, wounds or other injuries received in action, service overseas, discharge notations, and general remarks. Navy cards contain similar personal information, including name, service number, date and place of enlistment, age, home address, service dates and places, rate (rank), and remarks. In addition, a transcript code is available to assist in deciphering information from Navy service cards.

As noted above, all information was taken from original war records; if that record was incomplete, the resulting service card is also incomplete.

The collection of Missouri's World War I military service cards was maintained by the Missouri Adjutant General. The Adjutant General's office is part of Missouri's Department of Public Safety and is a civil office in support of the Missouri National Guard. The adjutant general keeps all records pertaining to the service of Missouri citizens in the military forces of the state and the troops furnished by Missouri to the federal government.

On April 15, 1986, Governor John Ashcroft signed Executive Order 86-08. This order transferred inactive, historic military records of the Missouri National Guard to the Missouri State Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State. The cards, as well as other military documents and correspondence, were stored at various National Guard facilities throughout the state.

In 1995, Archives staff proposed to create a database of information from the World War I military service cards. Such a database would offer enhanced access to the military records to interested family historians and scholars. That database was completed in 2002 and placed online at the Secretary of State's website.