Guide to the Research Collections

- WORLD WAR II, 1939-1945
- Histories


Official histories form an extensive group which ranges from those published during the war by the German War Office to the records of the Allied forces published after the war, such as the American Forces in Action series published by the Historical Division of the Department of the Army, and similar publications of the Netherlands, India, Norway, England, New Zealand, and other nations. There are published works of scholarship such as Samuel Eliot Morison's History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II (1947-62) and primary source material such as the hearings before the Joint Committee of Congress on the Pearl Harbor attack. The public documents collections of the library provide access to numerous other materials of a similar nature. Under the heading "Business Histories," for example, are found the accounts of surveys made by the Strategic Bombing Survey to provide surveys of targets to determine the effects of bombing, etc. Another category relates to the official state histories of the conflict such as New York's Empire State at War, by Karl Drew Hartzell. An interesting feature of the holdings are contemporary German accounts, both official and unofficial.

Shortly after the war a decision was made to collect records of the conflict as written and illustrated by men who were in combat and close to service operations. By 1950 more than 1,000 titles had been acquired from all branches of the services of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, consisting of regimental and unit histories, pictorial logs, yearbooks, and the like. Additional collecting was undertaken for other countries, primarily England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Included are many scarce items published in the field and usually issued for the members of the service unit only. Over 2,000 entries in the Public Catalog cover the subject; Australia receives 50, Canada 100, France 70, Germany 100, England (including India) 300, New Zealand 24, and the United States 1,300. Regimental histories for the USSR are almost nonexistent in the holdings, although there are some for Polish, Czechoslovakian, and other national regiments from Eastern Europe. The American histories have been listed in bibliographies based on the library's holdings.6

Personal narratives of the war are unusually extensive. There are approximately 3,300 entries in the Public Catalog under this heading, of which 400 to 500 each pertain to American, French, and German accounts; there are 660 English, accounts, and about 200 Polish personal narratives. The range is extensive, from descriptions by such high commanders as Churchill, Eisenhower, and Guderian to the "G.I. Joes."

Casualty lists are also represented, such as the records of the Imperial War Graves Commission of Great Britain and the Honor List of Dead and Missing issued by the U.S. War Department. Town and county histories are important sources for more specific lists of local inhabitants engaged in the war; in some cases separate lists covering a United States community have been published. These are usually located in the American History Division or the Local History and Genealogy Division. Additional sources of service lists and obituaries are the memorial volumes of colleges and other institutions.

In the official histories of the war published by the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, all of which are in the holdings, there is additional material related to the Pacific Theatre. The China Handbook (1937-43) published by the Chinese Ministry of Information gives a comprehensive survey of the major developments in China during six years of war. To cite a few other examples, the regimental histories of most European countries, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, the United States, and other countries are an excellent source of information. There are, however, few regimental histories from Asian countries, except for those of a few Indian regiments. Personal narratives of the war, again, are mostly those of Westerners, although there are some post-war accounts in the Asian languages, as in Haruka naru sanga ni ("In distant climes"; Tokyo, 1948), which contains the diaries of Tokyo University students who fell in battle.

Under the heading "China--History--Invasion of, 1937-1945" are found some 400 entries covering all aspects of that conflict including aerial operations, most of these materials in Western languages. Among the standard accounts by Edgar Snow, Theodore H. White, General Joseph Stilwell, Freda Utley, Chiang Kai-shek, and others in English or in translation, are a few studies in the Chinese language such as Chang Sha Kai's True Account of the Changsha Campaign (Kweilin, 1940).