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/r/AskHistorians Guide on Finding Family Military Service Records and Military Identification

Hello everyone! We get a fair number of questions here the relate to family history, and specifically military service. There is often little that can be done however, aside from pointing someone in the right direction for their own research, so with that in mind, I've been working for the past few weeks on putting together a guide on retrieving military service records, as well as identifying from photos or uniforms just what Gramps or Grams was doing in the war. This guide will be permanently available on our Wiki (And don't forget to try /Genealogy too for these things!), but it is still a work in progress.
I'd first like to give a major shout-out to the users who helped me by writing out the procedures for several foreign countries I was unfamiliar with (See below), as well as all the flairs who offered their advice and critique. There is still more to add, so I welcome additions from countries that are not yet listed, or suggestions for how to improve sections already here, since I might have made a mistake or two. I'd especially welcome improved resources for the non-American Identification sections, as in many cases I was hard pressed to find quality material to include.
Anyways, without further ado, here you go!

United States

Requesting Records:

The US government makes available the basic records of service members to next of kin through the National Archives and Records Administration. The most common request is for the DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (or earlier, comparable document). As the next of kin, this can be requested online through the National Archives free of charge. Some records are made available online through the Archival Databases.
Be aware that, due to a fire in 1973, the records available are incomplete, with a significant amount of loss occurring for US Army records during World War II (Other branches were not affected). The government has done their best to reconstruct the data from other sources, but it is quite possible that a request cannot be fulfilled, so take that into account when you submit the request for a DD-214.
If you are not the next-of-kin (researching an uncle, for instance), since records that are 62+ years old are considered archival, they are accessible to the general public (which you count as if you are not a parent/spouse/child/sibling), but as a non-relation, require a fee, which varies with the amount of paperwork requested. Non-next of kin must use the SF-180 form to request the records. Full procedure can be found here.
For records of service prior to World War I, however, the process is slightly different, and while still ordered online, it is done through here, and there is a fee attached regardless of being related or not. An alternative, although not always guaranteed, is to go through a service such as Ancestry.com, which has digitized tons and tons of records and makes them available to their paying subscribers. You can often find muster rolls and other military records in their collection, spanning from the Revolution up through World War II. While there is a cost associated with the service, they offer free trials, and often open up the military records to free accounts on military holidays such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Rank Medals/Ribbons/Decorations
Army Army Insignia, see also Army Campaign, Service, and Personal Decorations
Navy Navy Insignia Navy Medals and Ribbons
Marines Marine Insignia Marine Awards and Decorations
Air Force See Army pre-1947 Air Force Insignia Air Force Awards and Decorations
Coast Guard Coast Guard Insignia USCG Awards (See also US Navy)

For Units and other Info, See Also:

US Army Branch Insignia, US Army Division Insignia, US Army Brigade Insignia, US Army Field Group and Field Army Insignia, Other US Army Insignia, Obsolete Badges and Awards, WWI Era Markings.
US Navy Badges, List of US Navy Ships, Naval Squadrons and Inactive Squadrons, WWI Era Markings.
US Marine Corps Regimental Insignias, USMC Badges
US Air Force Squadron Emblems, US Air Force Badges
US Coast Guard Units, Insignia, Badges, and other Information

Canada

Requesting Records

Library and Archives Canada holds records for Canadian military service dating back to the 1700s, and are working to digitize their records, with much of that from 1918 and earlier already accessible online here. Records from post-1918 are restricted, and may only be accessed under certain conditions, but is accessible to the veteran themselves, or next of kin if deceased. If you wish to request copies of military service files for post-1918, including World War II, you can find more information on the process here.
As with American records, an alternative, although not always guaranteed, is to go through a service such as Ancestry.ca, which has digitized tons and tons of records and makes them available to their paying subscribers. While there is a cost associated with the service, they offer free trials, and often open up the military records to free accounts on military holidays.
In the case of a person killed in action, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission includes a searchable database of all persons killed in action in the various British and Commonwealth forces during the World Wars, which includes some information.
The Red Cross files for the WWI prisoners are available on the ICRC.

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Rank Awards
Canadian Army Canadian Army Insignia Current Awards and Medals and Decorations
Royal Canadian Navy, for post-1950 see here Navy Ranks Current Awards and Medals and Decorations
Royal Canadian Air Force RCAF Ranks, see also Current Awards and Medals and Decorations

For Units and other Info, See Also:

Canadian Army Rank and Appointment Insignia, Canadian Army Cap Badges, and more! World War I Patches.
Royal Canadian Navy Trade Badges, Index of Ships, Fleet air Arm Crests
RCAF Crests, Logos and Insignia

United Kingdom

Requesting Records

Military service records from prior to 1920 are available through the British National Archives, specifically for World War I service, and for service through 1913. Much of the information is accessible online through Ancestry.co.uk or FindMyPast.co.uk, which do involve fees, although the sites offer free trial periods and periodically make military records free to everyone for certain holidays. Documents can be accessed free of charge by visiting the Archives, but copies do cost money, whether done in person or by request Be aware that some records may have been destroyed by during the bombings of London in World War II.
Post-1920 records are requested from the UK Government, and can be requested by the next of kin. The spouse of a service member may request the records if they are deceased (and the service member themselves), but all other persons pay a £30 fee.
In the case of a person killed in action, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission includes a searchable database of all persons killed in action in the various British and Commonwealth forces during the World Wars, which includes some information.
The Red Cross files for the WWI prisoners are available on the ICRC.

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Rank Awards
British Army Army Ranks, see also Current Awards, and Medal Ribbons
Royal Navy Navy Ranks Medal Ribbons
Royal Marines RM Ranks Medal Ribbons
RAF RAF Ranks, see also Medal Ribbons

For Units and other Info, See Also:

British Army Corps and Regimental Insignia, British Army Division and Brigade Insignia, Regiments c. WWI, WWII Era Formation Badges, Standards and Cap Badges. For Victorian Era Ranks.
Royal Navy and Royal Marine Badges, Royal Navy Badges and Insignia, Royal Navy Ships, Ship and Sub Badges, Fleet Air Arm Badges.
Royal Marine Unit Insignia, and Badges Generally.
Royal Air Force Badges and Insignia, Distinguishing Insignia, Squadron Crests, List of Squadrons, Air Historical Branch

Australia

Requesting Records

Australian military records can be found through both the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia. Records for more recent service are requested through the Department of Defense.
The Australian War Memorial provides for the searching of various rolls, and provides basic biographical information off of them, such as with this example or this one. Many of the records are digitized.
The National Archives of Australia holds service records from the through World War II. Boer War, World War I, and World War II records are digitized and can be viewed online. Navy Officers and Petty and Enlisted Men are digitized as well in a separate collection. To order physical copies of documents, select "Request a Copy" on the Item Detail Page in RecordSearch
Korean and Vietnam records are held by the Department of Defence. They are searchable, but the original documents are not digitiezed. Copies can be requested through the National Archives of Australia.
In the case of a person killed in action, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission includes a searchable database of all persons killed in action in the various British and Commonwealth forces during the World Wars, which includes some information.
The Red Cross files for the WWI prisoners are available on the ICRC.

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Insignia Awards
Australian Army Ranks Medals and Awards
Royal Australian Navy Ranks Medals and Awards
Royal Australian Air Force Ranks Medals and Awards

See Also:

"It's An Honour", "Researching Australian Military Service, Australian Campaign Medals, AIF Badges, Badges and Emblems
List of RAN Ships, Navy Badges
RAAF Squadrons and Crests, RAAF Squadron Badges.

New Zealand

Requesting Records

Archives New Zealand holds NZ Military files through World War II, collected into various series, which can be accessed on their website. Most documents through World War I are digitized, and original documents can be accessed in person at the Archives:
Archives New Zealand, National Office, Wellington 10 Mulgrave Street Wellington 6011 04 499 5595 [email protected] 
Copies may be made of the documents during your visit using personal cameras.
Many World War II Files are in the New Zealand Defence Force Archives, and are not all digitized. They can be accessed in person at the Archives, or copies requested by contacting them at:
NZDF Archives Personnel Enquiries Trentham Military Camp Private Bag 905, Upper Hutt 5140 04 527 5280 [email protected] 
Some digitized files can be viewed through the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
In the case of a person killed in action, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission includes a searchable database of all persons killed in action in the various British and Commonwealth forces during the World Wars, which includes some information.
The Red Cross files for the WWI prisoners are available on the ICRC.

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

Ranks and Awards

See British Rank Insignia. New Zealand Ribbons / Medals

For Units and other Info, See Also:

New Zealand at War, Veteran's Affairs
NZ Corps Badges, WWII Patches

Netherlands

Requesting Records

For records prior to 1900, the best sources are the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) and the National Archives (NA). The CBG website is easy to use; for the NA you may find contacting them by phone or mail easier. The Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) also may have some information, though "[w]hat the NIMH mainly has to offer is a wealth of general information about life in the military in the past". Note that the information provided here has been taken from the various NIMH pages available via the link above.
There are a few specialized databases, such as this one containing information concerning sea-voyagers (including soldiers) upon ships between 1700 and 1795 who sailed to the Orient, a database of Dutch soldiers in service of Napoleon 1810-1813, and Officers' name and rank lists (1725-1989) (the latter two only available in-person at the NIMH).
For records of people born after 1900 you have to contact the Semi-static Archives Services of the Ministry of Defence. This can only be done in writing. You need to include the full name and date of birth of the person you are looking for, as well as a copy of your own identity document. The address is:
Netherlands Ministry of Defence Afdeling Semi-Statische Archiefdiensten (SSA) (Semi-static Archives Services) P.O. Box 7000 6460 NC Kerkrade Netherlands 
There are separate records for members of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) born after 1900. These records are kept by the Stichting Administratie Indonesische Pensioenen (SAIP) (Foundation for Registration of Indonesian Pensions) (link in Dutch)
(Kudos to Polybios)

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

For World War II Era Army, Naval, and Air Force Insignia, see here. Additionally, many Dutch pilots flew in squadrons organized by other allied powers. For Dutch India Colonial Insignia. Handboek Onderscheidingen (Handbook Decorations [PDF, Dutch] includes pictures of all medals and ribbons awarded to Dutch military personnel.

See Also:

Orders, Decorations and Medals of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch Ribbons, Military Insignia
Ships of the RNN

France

Requesting Records

A lot of the records up to WWI have been digitalised and published on the sites of the Archives Départementales.
To find the man you're looking for, you need to know 1) his year of birth, 2) where he was living when he was 20.
Once you know that, you calculate his "classe", which is his birth year + 20 years. Then you find from which "Bureau" his location depended from (a few Bureaux were set in a different département). Using the "Tables alphabétiques", you find his "numéro matricule" (serial number), then in the "Registres matricules", you find his personal record using said number.
Records for people born after 1901 are not publically available, so you have to prove your close family link with the person, unless you can prove that he's been dead for more than 25 years.
Mémoire des hommes has databases for the soldiers dead during the 20th century wars and war burials. You can also find the regiment diaries for WWI, and part of the (currently being indexed) registries for Napoleon's army.
La base Léonore contains the files for the recipients of the Légion d'honneur who died before 1977. (Some files have been lost, though.)
The Red Cross files for the WWI prisoners are available on the ICRC.
(Kudos to snakeling)

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Ranks Awards
French Army Pre-1914, WWI Officer and WWI Enlisted, WWII Awards
French Navy Insignia Awards
French Air Force Insignia Awards

For Units and other Info, See Also:

Army Collar Insignia, Beret Insignias
Air Force Insignia

Germany

Requesting Records

For members of the former Wehrmacht, one can request all of their records with the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt). However, it is not possible to obtain records of surviving combatants without their permission. It is only possible to obtain information on members of the former Wehrmacht who died either in the field or in captivity, and then only with permission from the next of kin. There is an associated cost, depending on the difficulty and amount of records requested, but it is around 20€ to 30€.
The Federal Archive - Branch Office Ludwigsburg (Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, e-mail: [email protected]) houses data on units involved in war crimes, the scenes of these crimes, suspects and culprits, as well as persons who were mentioned in the investigations of said crimes. Therefore, it might be useful to check these archives if the searched person was part of units suspected of war crimes.
The Federal Archive - Department MA (Military Archives) houses files on :
However, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The Department MA has lost vast amounts of its files due to war. Most of the files are war diaries written by army commanders and files on the navy.
Department R (Reich) has the largest pool of documents (from almost all eras), but these are mainly of a civil administrative nature (justice, finance, etc.).
Kirchlicher Suchdienst is focused on persons from the former eastern territories, the Balkans or the Baltic states. It also has an archive of letters, including letters from war captivity. May be costy.
Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. an provide useful information when looking for war graves.
Additionally, the German Red Cross Tracing Service offers services that allow one to trace any missing person, be it civilian or military. This may not be the best place to look for military records, but it is a good start nonetheless.
(Kudos to ScanianMoose)

IDing Photos or Uniforms:

If you are looking to try and identify information based off of a uniform or from a photograph, these resources may prove to be of use.

Ranks and Awards

Branch Insignia Awards
German Army Deutsches Heer, Reichswehr, Heer Imperial, Third Reich
German Navy Kaiserliche Marine, Kriegsmarine Imperial, Third Reich
German Air Force Luftwaffe Third Reich
Waffen-SS Insignia Third Reich

For Units and other Info, See Also:

Badges, Insignia, and Other Stuff, Wehrmacht and SS Militaria
(1871-1918) German Army & Navy Uniforms & Insignia
Kaiserliche Marine Badges,
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