How to Search Still Photographs for World War II Navy Personalities

Finding veterans who served in the US Navy during World War II just became digital. At the Still Picture Branch we have multiple indexes to search for various branches of the US Military. Our index, 80-GX: Index to Photographs of Personalities in the General Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1941 – 1945 covers individuals included in our US Navy photographs during World War II.

Similar to our Army personality index (111-PX; See our blog here for more details), it is important to keep in mind that not every individual who served in the Navy during this time is included in the index. We have many candid photos of U.S. Military personnel but in most of them, there is no identification of the people shown. Keep in mind that these photographs were taken by combat photographers, who may not have had the time to write down every name of the individuals in the photo for the final caption. Typically, higher ranking individuals have photographs identified of them.

In addition, Military formal photographs–both individuals and groups–were taken by commercial photographers and offered for sale at the time taken. Unfortunately those photos never became part of official military records nor were they retained by the commercial photographers responsible for shooting the photos.

Outlined below is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to search the index 80-GX for individuals who served in the US Navy during World War II, including a few pre-World War II images, as well as select individuals from other military branches. Please note that if you do not find an entry in the index, that indicates that we do not have identifiable photographs for the person you are searching for.

How to Search 80-GX

First, we must find the series 80-GX: Index to Photographs of Personalities in the General Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1941 – 1945 in the online catalog. Simply navigate to the National Archives Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/, and enter “80-GX” in quotations into the search bar. Alternatively, you may also search the National Archives Identifier Number, 521015.

Next, click the result for the “Series” titled “ Index to Photographs of Personalities in the General Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1941 – 1945,” National Archives Identifier: 521015, Local Identifier: 80-GX.

After navigating to the series description, you may read the details about the series of records including how they are arranged and the “Scope and Content” note. To search the series, we will click the blue “Search within this series button.”

We will arrive at the listings of “File Units” within the index, 80-GX. File Units are groupings of multiple related records within one catalog entry or page. In this series, the File Units are grouped according to the box the physical records are located within. To search the index for the individual, simply find the File Unit that includes the last name within the alphabetical range. Then, review the index cards included within that File Unit, however, please note some cards may not be in order.

You’ll see some cards include only captions, while others may be “visual-aid” cards, meaning they have the image itself printed on the card. In either case, it is important to note the photographic identifier number on the card to find the photo itself. All photos found in this index correspond to our series of US Navy photographs, 80-G: General Photographic Files, 1943 – 1968.

For example, we will search for the last name “Christensen” in the File Unit “[Index to Photographs of Navy Personalities, 1941 – 1945]: Chol – Coffey.”

Once navigating to the File Unit, we can view all the index cards by clicking thumbnails below the overall image. Then, if we locate a card that we would like to see the photograph for, make note of the photograph identifier number stamped on the card. Typically, you can find the number stamped in the top corner. Some visual-aid cards will have the number in small print in the top left corner. For example, this card we identified as “Christensen, V.E.” has the photographic identifier number “281784” stamped in the top right corner.

Neptune party on USS ENTERPRISE. Pollywog V. E. Christensen, S2c., gives his shipmates a song or two on the flight deck.
Neptune party on USS ENTERPRISE. Pollywog V. E. Christensen, S2c., gives his shipmates a song or two on the flight deck. Local ID: 80-G-281784, NAID: 520663

Because we know all of the photos in the index are within the series 80-G, we can find this photograph as “80-G-281784.”

While not all of the photographs are digitized, you can try searching “80-G-[photograph identifier number]” in the online catalog to see if a copy is online. If you do locate an image that you would be interested in viewing, we invite you to our College Park Research Room to view the photo and any other related photographs as well.

If you have questions about still photographs, you may contact the Still Picture Branch at stillpix@nara.gov.

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