517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team
Trying to Find Info on a 517th Soldier?
If you are a soldier, friend or relative of the 517th PRCT, then you might be here because you are looking for information or history about a specific person. Although we do not have all the 517th records here on this web site, there is a chance that we might have some information to start your search. Here are the basic steps to finding some information. And come back occasionally, as we are adding more information all the time.
We have recently added the capability to Search the website. Go to the Search Page and enter the name of the person you are looking for. This will provide you the quickest access to any existing text-based materials or stories on that person. Notes: Many (most) of the older documents (e.g. the 1944 Christmas Roster), are posted as pictures (jpg or gif format), or as PDF files. These contain only "images" of documents and are not searchable text. Therefore, names and text strings in those documents will not show up in this search. Also, misspellings of names are common, so you should try various possible spellings.
Check the 1944 Christmas roster. Although not entirely complete, this contains a mostly accurate and complete roster as of December 1944. If you have a fast internet connection, you can just load each page, one at a time, and see if your person's name is there. This can at least verify that they were in the regiment, and it will identify which specific unit they were in. On most pages, the names are alphabetic within rank and are not too hard to find. This is important information in starting your search, as it is always helpful to know which Company/Battery/Unit they were part of. Then you can ask for information from other soldiers from that Company. If you know the Company assigned, then you can also find information about the activities and history of that Company from any of the published reference books and online documents. Cautions: Be aware that the 1944 Christmas roster only lists the names of soldiers who were with the 517th as of December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. If they left the unit earlier or joined later, then they probably will not appear in this document. New as of 5/10/2010: Thanks to Dieter Laes, the Christmas roster is now in a searchable pdf format. Just make sure that you check for alternate spellings, partial words, etc.
If the soldier was killed during the war, you can check several places. If they were killed before the Battle of the Bulge, you should check for a listing in the December 3rd 1944 Memorial Service booklet. Again, this will provide the name and Company designation.
All soldiers who were killed at any time during the war should also be listed in the 517th Honor Roll. This will provide a confirmation of the KIA, and most identify the rank, unit and location. Some listings are still missing the unit or location.
Once you know the Company of the soldier, you can read the history of the 517th and that particular Company/Unit in the books and reference material. The book which is most complete and widely available is the Battling Buzzards book by Gerald Astor. Most of the unit history is also now available online in the Paratrooper's Odyssey and other online documents. Be aware that soldiers were sometimes reassigned from one Company to another after training and also during the course of the war.
Once you know the Company/Unit for the soldier, this also makes it easier to search the Casualty Reports. This material, compiled from the actual morning records, shows which soldiers were killed or wounded or MIA, and the specific date. By knowing the unit and date, you will be able to look up where the unit was on that date from the various books. The casualty reports are not yet complete, but we are continually updating that material.
Whether or not the steps above help you to find the soldier, you can also ask other soldiers for information by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, do the above research first to identify the Company/Unit, and provide that information. Then it is easier to pass the request on to the soldiers from that specific outfit, who are most likely to remember him. Although many members have passed away, or we have lost contact with them, we are almost always able to contact one or two members from each unit.
You should also search through other sections of the website for existing stories and photos. The places to look are:
Soldier's Stories - This contains information on a few soldiers who have articles or items about them posted somewhere on the internet.
Photos - This contains photos and document sent in to us. We have tried to identify the Company for each photo.
Recollections - This is a collection of stories send in to us or appearing on previous Mail Calls. You can do a search within this page for the particular soldier by name or by the unit.
If you want some information on the locations of the actions of the 517th, you should check the Chronicle, a day-by-day summary of activities by Battalion.