Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good Source for World War I Overseas Research

A sample of AEF veteran names and assigned duties
American Expeditonary Forces (AEF)
If you are researching the American Expeditonary Forces (AEF) Air Service for WWI, then you probably already know of the Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919 collection. If you aren't familiar with Gorrell's History visit Fold3.com (formerly Footnote.com). The AEF Air Service was responsible for the employment of AEF aviation units that included observation balloons as well as airplanes and this extensive historical collection holds many treasures for the family researcher.

"WWI was the first war in which air power was a strategic force." And for this reason, Maj. Gen. Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, instructed Col. Edgar S. Gorrell, Assistant Chief of Staff of the Air Service, to gather all information that would "assist in establishing Army aeronautics on a sound basis for the future." The AEF maintained an air service from 1917 to its demobilization and return to the United States the summer of 1919 resulting in a 282 bound collection of historical narratives, reports, photographs, administrative and technical documents, and tactical activities of the Air Service in the American Expeditionary Forces.

Fold3.com pg 162
Women Workers in the AEF
We are mostly familiar with the AEF female nurses, but what about the other 6000 women who served with the AEF forces? Jennifer D. Keene author of World War I outlines the roles of Army female civilian volunteers and clerical staff workers, as well as highlighting the roll those who enlisted as yeomen and marines in Naval and Marine Corp Reserves. In the Women Support Staff Roles section (pg 188) Keene discusses many other roles women played in the AEF. 

Genealogical Interest (extracted from Fold3.com)
There are rosters, photographs of personnel, and even obituaries of pilots killed in action ensconced amongst the lengthy historical narratives, copies of administrative and operations. Even  reports by downed American aviators who were prisoners of war are can be found along with AEF copies of the newspapers.

Beginning Research
The Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919
NARA microfilm publication may be found in the 58 rolls of Record Group 120 or you may wish to do the online Fold3.com search.  

A good place to begin your research is to become familiar with the holdings. The descriptive pamphlet for Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919, Publication M990, provided by the National Archives will help the researcher focus their search.

Table of Content
Take a gander at the rich holdings in this collection:  Series A: Early History and General Organization of the AEF Air Service and Series B: Air Service Activities With the French, British, Series C: Tactical Units and Italians; Series D: Tactical History;  E: Squadron Histories; Series F: Balloon Section;  Series G: Photographic Section; Series H: Mechanics Regiments; Series I: Paris Headquarters and Supply Section; Series J: Training; Series K: Technical Section; Series L: Miscellaneous Sections of the Air Service (included AEF newspapers); Series N: First Army Material (Some documentation included in these volumes duplicates documentation included in the volumes of series C and E); Series O: Weekly [Statistical] Reports; Series P: Third Army; Series Q: Air Service Liquidation; Series R: Investigation of Damage Done by Allied Bombing.

Kathleen Brandt

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