On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and her allies and entered a conflict that had raged since August 1914. Millions of American men and women served their nation in the Great War, including over forty-two thousand Floridians: thirty-five thousand eight hundred twenty-nine Floridians served in the U.S. Army, five thousand nine hundred sixty-three in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, and two hundred thirty-eight in the U.S. Marine Corps. Both the Navy and the Marine Corps were strictly segregated and did not accept black enlistees or officers. The Army took thirteen thousand twenty-four black enlistees and seven officers. Several thousand women served in the Navy, and several hundred in the Marine Corps, as reservist clerks for the duration (however, no record of women Marines from Florida has been found). Women served as Yeoman Class (secretaries) in the Navy and as nurses in both the Army and Navy, although gender is not usually noted on the cards.
Congress ordered that a service record for each person serving between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918 be created and provided to the Adjutant General of each state from which that person entered the service. This record took the form of a card that contained information digested from the service record dossier of each veteran. Clerks in the Department of War (Army) and the Department of the Navy (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) executed the work.
The cards were sent to the Adjutant General of each state. The Adjutant General of Florida directs the Department of Military Affairs and is the uniformed officer in charge of the National Guard units in Florida. The Department of Military Affairs is located at the St. Francis Barracks in Saint Augustine Florida.
The same card form (Form No. 724-1, A.G.O.) was used for members of both the Marine Corps and the Army. These cards contain a paragraph which states "Except the data contained on the first four lines and that relating to battle casualties and physical disability, this statement is prepared as far as practicable from the service record, and no effort has been made to compare data obtained from the service record with other records, except where an error or discrepancy is patent." The Navy card does not contain this statement.
For each person, the cards provide name; age; serial number; race; place of birth; and residence at time of entering service. some cards also provide the organizations/ships served (with dates of beginning and transfer); engagements; wounds/injuries sustained in action; time served overseas; discharge notations; and general remarks. The Navy cards note the sailor's rate as well as rank.
As noted previously the clerks made no effort to correct information unless the error was "patent" or obvious. Therefore, if there is a question as to the correctness or completeness of the information contained on any of these cards the individual's service record should be checked. These records are generally available from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis Missouri:
Digital copies of the World War I service cards may be downloaded from this web site at no charge.
Copies of the service cards are also available from the State Archives of Florida. For prices, consult the fee schedule. Checks should be payable to the Department of State, and mailed to:
Credit card orders can be placed by phone at 850.245.6700.
For further information on these or any other records in the State Archives of Florida, please contact us.