Before Christmas, I received an early Christmas gift from an unlikely source. I’ve been trying to research the 315th Squadron’s history using primary sources. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a website dedicated to the 315th. When you google the 315th, there are many links devoted to the famed 315th of the RAF; the Polish squadron that served with distinction during the Battle of Britain.
However, since going to Sicily, and building a P-40F for a 1943 group build, I’ve been learning and researching as much as I can on the Army Air Force’s 315 squadron. As I can tell, they most probably served and participated in the invasion of Sicily. The plane I’m building is Lt. Richard Lander’s “Gwenn.”
One great site for research is ArmyAirForces.com, a site that “exists to help you research the United States Army Air Forces of World War II, the individuals who served in it, and the units these brave men were assigned to.” There are all kinds of links to help researchers find specific information, like: Missing Air Crew Reports (MACR), Accident Reports, Personnel Records, Unit Histories, etc.
I found a link buried in the Unit Histories section that talked about a private organization that has set up a searchable index of Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) documents. That searchable index can be found at http://airforcehistoryindex.org. Here, you are able to search over 550,000 documents.
Better yet, if you click on the “obtaining documents” link, you will find instruction on how to obtain the information on cdrom.
Another great link are the forums at ArmyAirForces.com. Here, you will find a sub-forum for every unit that served with other researchers both looking for and point people towards research and information. Also, there are forums for reunion announcements, surviving planes, amongst others.
So, how does this fit in with an early Christmas present? Back in August, I emailed the contact looking for two sets of records, both on the 315 Squadron. Two days before Christmas, I received a cdrom in the mail of a .pdf document of one of the reels. Woohoo! Now, I ordered two documents knowing that one document was listed as very poor/unreadable in parts. Sadly, that was the document that arrived. However, I’m waiting, and hoping that the second arrives. Were these documents unclassified, thereby taking extra time? I have no idea. But if the second comes, it will be like having a second Christmas.
I wholeheartedly support and recommend these services to other researchers. They are great references for finding and obtaining information. And it beats driving to Washington D.C. or Virgina to manually retrieve records.
I hope this helps fellow researchers.