Now Available Online: Burial Cards of World War I Soldiers

Today’s post is written by Suzanne Zoumbaris, an Archives Specialist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

On November 11, 1918, before hostilities ended, the 313th Infantry Regiment continued to fight along with other Allied units on the front of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. At 10:59 a.m. only one minute before the Armistice came into force Private Henry Gunther was killed in action. He is credited as being the last American solder to be killed during World War I.

When an individual died during World War I a burial card was created. These cards are a great source of information that contain the name of the individual who died, the unit that they were assigned to, and information regarding the nature of their death. The burial card for Pvt Gunther confirms that he was killed in action November 11, 1918. It also provides information as to his burial arrangements, next of kin, disinterment, and shipment of his remains.

Burial Card pg 1
Burial Card for Pvt Henry Gunther, front (NAID 109037714), Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, RG 92
Burial Card pg 2
Burial Card for Pvt Henry Gunther, reverse (NAID 109037714), Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, RG 92

As part of a recent digitization project this series of burial cards is now available in NARA’s online catalog in the RG 92 Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers (NAID 6943087). These records are arranged alphabetically by name of soldier. To see the digitized records, click on the link “104 file units” when viewing the series description (link above).

This is one of only a few series in NARA’s custody related to World War I records where it is possible to search knowing only the name of an individual. Once a unit has been identified from the burial card it is possible to locate various unit records. While unit records do not generally list names of individuals or contain personnel information, occasionally someone may find information such as general orders that have citations related to an individual’s service.

General Order No. 29 issued May 8, 1919 within records related to the 313th Infantry regiment provides a citation for Pvt Gunther where he is recognized for gallantry in action and meritorious services.

General Orders
General Order No. 29, 313th Infantry Decorations, Records of the 1st-338th, 559th Infantry Regiments (NAID 604387), RG 391

Operations reports for the 313th Infantry Regiment provide details as to what the unit orders were for November 11, 1918 as well as statistics listing that there was one individual killed and seven wounded.

We are pleased to announce that our colleagues at the National Archives at St. Louis plan to start a multi-year project to digitize the series Correspondence, Reports, Telegrams, Applications, and Other Papers Relating to Burials of Service Personnel, 1/1/1915-12/31/1939 aka as “Burial Case Files” in RG 92 (NAID 595318).  The records contain correspondence, Graves Registration Service forms, headstone applications, Gold Star Mothers’ itineraries, and other pertinent information relating to the burial of members and veterans of the United States military, mainly the U.S. Army. Of the approximately 218,905 files, 30,922 files pertain to soldiers who died during World War I. The World War I files will be digitized first and will be made available in the National Archives Catalog on a rolling basis.

For other related records that were recently digitized, please see The Unwritten Record’s post on the Initial Burial Plats for World War I American Soldiers.

Today (Nov 8th) at 1pm EST, join Dr. Mitchell Yockelson for a Facebook Live on World War I, in commemoration of Veteran’s Day.


Source Notes:

  1. Burial Card for Pvt Henry Gunther, NAID 109037714; Entry NM-91 1945; Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, 1917-1922, RG 92: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General
  2. General Orders No. 29, 313th Infantry Decorations, Box 3162, Entry NM-93 2133 – Records of the 1st-338th, and 559th Infantry Regiments, (NAID 604387) RG 391: Records of U.S. Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821-1942
  3. Chapter IV pages 3-4, 313th Infantry Regiment Report of Operations Sept 25 – Nov 11, 1918, Box 20, Entry P 1241-79 – Records of the 79th Division, (NAID 301641) RG 120: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I)

11 thoughts on “Now Available Online: Burial Cards of World War I Soldiers

  1. Thrilled to see this series on-line, but are all of them done yet? I went to where I would find James Calhoun and you only see the thumbnails. Thanks.

    1. They do eventually load if you wait long enough. Make sure you select “load all” thumbnails.

      What I did was find the section that I wanted, then pull up a thumbnail, select “extract” and look at the picture in the new tab. It took around 30-40 minutes of moving around in the thumbnails but I was able to eventually find the soldier I was looking for.

  2. I had the same problem, however, if you click on the little box with the arrow (download full image), it will pop up as in another tab. Hope that helps!

  3. What does the line “Photograph No.” refer to? Is it a photograph of the grave or the person? Would this photograph be included in the case files which are being digitized by NARA in St. Louis? Thanks!

    1. We have checked for a corresponding photographic series with the Still Pictures Branch at Archives II and the National Archives at St. Louis (which holds the “Burial Case Files”). Unfortunately, we have not located the photographs. The photos referenced on the cards may relate to a series of cemetery photographs in the Program and Administrative Files of the Army. We will continue to research this matter and provide an update as we are able.

      1. I have in my possession a scanned digital copy of a photograph of the grave of my great uncle, Grant W. Smith, which was located in the American Cemetery, Romagne – Sous – Montfaucon, Meuse, France. The photograph was sent to my great uncle’s parents sometime during 1919, after their son’s remains were disinterred from one of the graves in which he and several other members of his unit (Co. F, 167th Infantry) were initially buried; these graves were very near where they were killed on July 15, 1918. The photograph bears a number (D-10871) that corresponds to the photograph number listed on my great uncle’s burial card. My great uncle’s remains were disinterred again in 1921 and sent back for reburial in Ringgold, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised.

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