Monday, January 25, 2010

US Air Force records from WWII

This blog focuses on my mother's father, Cortland Hopkins. He served in the US Army from 1943 to 1946. My father's father also served at the end of the war. Harold Brozyna (pictured at left) was a US Air Force radioman aboard a weather reconnaissance B-17. With Harold's discharge papers in-hand, I decided to research his unit, the 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron. If you are looking for info on a particular unit, then here's what you do:

Unit histories and supporting documents of the Army Air Force and Air Force are held at the Air Force Historical Agency. This agency is located on Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Their website offers one-page fact sheets for the various commands, divisions, squadrons, etc. (click on "Organizational records"). To obtain copies of full WWII records I emailed: AFHRANews (insert at symbol) (You may also phone at 334-953-2395) My request simply detailed the unit, defined a date range, and provided my mailing address and contact info. On August 31, 2009 I wrote:

"I am interested in copies of World War II Operation reports (or other documents) for the 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron, Long Range, Weather under the command of the 311th Photo Wing, Mapping and Charting, Army Air Force June 1945 – July 1946"

On December 22 I received a package from the USAFR Historian. It included several photocopied documents, plus a catalogue of their full holdings on the squadron. To receive more documents I would need to purchase microfilm print-outs.

I was very pleased with the Air Force Historical Agency's easy process. Four months passed between my request and the receipt of the package, but long processing times are to be expected of a government office. I really appreciated how attentive the AFHA staff is. When there was a delay due to computer problems, they let me know. When I called them on the phone a real person answered, as opposed to the recording offered by the National Archives.

So! I hope this post helps someone out there. I placed my own WWII Air Force research on hold until I finish my 519th Port Bn. book, but I will add one future post about the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. Among my papers were six proposed drawings for the unit insignia. I'll scan them in and share.

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