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History: Strategy in World War II: Primary Sources

A guide to library research


What makes a source

Depends on the topic;
it can be complicated. 
Talk specifics with your advisor.

Very basic, simplistic definition:
What is a primary source?

Useful Tips

Browse footnotes and bibliographies of books, encyclopedias, and articles for information about primary sources. 

Search the Library Catalog for primary sources--both unpublished manuscripts and modern editions in print and online, sometimes in translation, of original primary medieval sources. Use the guided keyword search with terms like:

personal narrative

Selected German military documents in translation

This is a nice collection of 24 volumes of material, partly in English translation. Its organization is challenging. Email me for help with it.

World War II German military studies: a collection of 213 special reports on the Second World War prepared by former officers of the Wehrmacht for the United States Army / Donald S. Detwiler, editor, Charles B. Burdick and Jürgen Rohwer, associate editors. (Olin Library D757 .W92 volumes held: 1-15;v.19-24)

Another similar collection is a series called Foreign Military Studies, produced by the Historical Division at the Headquarters of the European Command immediately after the War.  They are not available online, and the Cornell Library has very few of them. Try Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan using the request button through Worldcat Local. Here are the titles. Catalogs were published which list the titles of manuscripts by topical subject compiled as part of the Foreign Military Studies Program after World War II. Manuscripts were written by German officers about their wartime experiences. Each citation lists: title, manuscript number, and whether it is available in German, English, or at OCMH.

German sources in German



By the German Military Research Office (Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamt). Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg Hrsg. vom Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamt. (Olin Library  DD256.5 .D475) 14 volumes.  Published Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1979-2008.

Table of contents Bd. 1. Ursachen und Voraussetzungen der deutschen Kriegspolitik / von Wilhelm Deist ... [et al.] Bd. 2. Die Errichtung der Hegemonie auf dem europäischen Kontinent / von Klaus A. Maier ... [et al.] Bd. 3. Der Mittelmeerraum und Südosteuropa / von Gerhard Schreiber, Bernd Stegemann, Detlef Vogel Bd. 4. Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion (2 v.) Bd. 5. Kriegsverwaltung, Wirtschaft und personnelle Ressourcen / von Bernhard R. Kroener, Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans Umbreit (2 v.) Bd. 6. Der globale Krieg / von Horst Boog ... [et al.] Bd. 7. Strategischer Luftkrieg in Europa, Krieg im Westen und in Ostasien 1943-1944/45 Bd. 8. Die Ostfront, 1943/44 Bd. 9. Die deutsche Kriegsgesellschaft, 1939 bis 1945 (2 v.) Bd. 10. Der Zusammenbruch des Deutschen Reiches 1945 (2 v.) Notes Col. maps on lining papers. Bd. 7, 9-10 lacks series statement. Includes bibliographies and indexes.

What is Microfilm?


Fabulous archival primary source material has been filmed over the years, but using it will take some getting used to.  Ask for help with microfilm, microfiche, or microcards at a reference desk!

A sense of what it is and how you use it: Using Microfilm

Published Sources

How to find published, translated sources such as memoirs, letters, etc.

Start in the Cornell Library Catalog's Advanced Search

Recommended Search #1

In box 1
type= World War 1939 Ital*
(the asterisk means that the system will search both Italy and Italian and Italians); Use the pulldown menu and set it to subject

In box 2
type= personal narratives.
Use the pulldown menu and set it to subject.



Recommended Search #2

Instead of personal narratives, use the word sources as a subject. In a library catalog, the word source refers to primary sources. It might be published, translated, edited sources, or books about sources, or collections of excerpted translated sources. All are very helpful.


Government & Military Source Collections

Combined Armed Forces Library Digital Library Includes World War II Operational Documents.

US Army Center for Military History Some full text documents. Excellent bibliography.

U.S. military intelligence reports, Italy 1918-1941 (Olin Library Microfilm 6149) 9 reels Guide to reels

U.S. military intelligence reports, China, 1911-1941 (Kroch Asia Library Microfilm 8787) 15 reels Guide to reels

U.S. military intelligence reports: France 1919-1941 (Olin Library Microfilm 6999) 12 reels Guide to reels

U.S. military intelligence reports: the Soviet Union, 1919-1941  (Olin Library Film 5989)  10 reels Guide to reels

U.S. military intelligence reports : surveillance of radicals in the United States, 1917-1941 (Olin Library Film 5785) 34 reels. Guide to reels

The Western European and Mediterranean theaters in World War II : an annotated bibliography of English-language sources (Uris Library A.D. White Z6207.W8 S573 2009) 

Tapping Hitler's generals : transcripts of secret conversations, 1942-45 Translated from the German. (Olin Library D810.S7 N3713 2007)

Digital National Security Archive

Declassified documents obtained through extensive use of the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) covering US foreign and military policy since 1945.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) daily reports

Created by the U.S. intelligence community to benefit policy makers and analysts, FBIS Daily Reports offer foreign views and perspectives on historical events from thousands of monitored broadcasts and publications. Translated into English from more than 50 languages, these comprehensive media reports from around the globe include news, interviews, speeches and editorial commentary. This comprehensive, fully searchable edition of the FBIS Daily Reports covers such topics as political, military and social issues, economics, science and technology for eight world regions from 1941-1996.

Foreign relations of the United States: electronic facsimile. Some years may not be available. Also available through the Department of State

ProQuest congressional publications A comprehensive collection of historic and current congressional information. Includes full text of congressional publications, hearings, finding aids, a bill tracking service, public laws and other research materials.

U.S. Congressional serial set (Online) 1817-1980 Full text of all the reports, documents, and journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Still in progress.

Finding Guide to U.S. Government Documents at Cornell

Finding British Sessional Papers at Cornell

Studies in social psychology in World War II ... prepared and edited under the auspices of a special committee of the Social Science Research Council. P [Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1949-50] Four volumes. Social Science Research Council (U.S.) United States. Army Service Forces. Information and Education Division. Contents: v. 1. The American soldier: adjustment during Army life, by S. A. Stouffer and others.--v. 2. The American soldier: combat and its aftermath, by S. A. Stouffer and others.--v. 3. Experiments on mass communication, by C. I. Hovland, A. A. Lumsdaine and F. D. Sheffield.--v. 4. Measurement and prediction, by S. A. Stouffer and others. (Library Annex, Mann, and Uris U22.S93)


United States

Stars and Stripes (European and Pacific Editions) online through the library's genealogy database Ancestry
Finding it is tricky. Once you’re in Ancestry, scroll to the bottom of the page, click on “all databases.” In the next screen, type Stars and Stripes as a title.  Once you’re in, you don’t have to enter names, you can search simply by keyword on a term you’re interested in.

Index to contemporary military articles of the World War II era, 1939-1949. (Uris Library Z6207.W8 B37 2005)

American Historical Newspapers Online

ProQuest historical newspapers. The New York Times (1851-2003), the Wall Street Journal (1889-1989), the Washington Post (1877-1990), every page from every issue in PDF files.

Periodicals Index Online (formerly PCI) Covers 1770-1993. Index. The scope is international, including journals in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and other languages.

Readers' guide retrospectiveComprehensive index of the most popular general-interest periodicals published in the United States 1890 through 1982.


The Times digital archive, 1785-2006 Full-text and full-image articles from the Times of London for the years 1785-2006.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service Official US government English translations of radio and television transcripts and newspaper articles from around the world. Begun in the 1940s on microfiche, see Locating FBIS Microfiche in Olin Library.

Paper of record. Historical archive of full-page newspaper images. Included are selected issues of selected newspapers from Australia, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom and United States of America. Many of these titles date from the early 1800s to the mid 1900s.

The Belgian underground press in World War II [In French; on microfiche]. 560 microfiches. Olin Library: Microfiche 1104 + 1 guide


National Archives and Records Administration:

Guide to the Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States (and Alphabetical Index)

US Military Documents from WWII as well as other confiscated records are not typically available online, but many are available on microfilm and may be able to be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan (may take 2-3 weeks). Some have to be viewed on site in D.C. or elsewhere. Some have been published in part elsewhere. Ask a Librarian for help.

Microfilm Catalog

NARA catalog  (hint: Subject Access Terms- World War II agency) will lead to such things as:




Kroch Rare and Manuscript Collections
The Rare and Manuscript Division is located in an underground addition attached to Olin Library. It houses unpublished sources from a variety of periods.

Harvard's Nuremberg Trials Project

Nuremberg trials archive, 1933-1946 (Cornell Law Library Rare Books). Description: 145 v. Summary: Documents relating to the prosecution of the 24 major defendants in the first trial of Nazi war criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, held from November 1945 to October 1946. Includes many documents obtained or generated by the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the United States Office of Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality (OCC). Includes 90 v. of trial transcripts in English and in German, and 55 v. of investigative, procedural, and legal documents, including interrogation reports, translated testimony, affidavits, and first-person written statements (many of them original handwritten documents) of witnesses, defendants, and prisoners of war; OSS- and OCC-generated analyses and English translations of captured German documents; photographs (including several of Hitler in his early life); maps, charts, and film inventories created or produced by the OSS or OCC; OSS biographical reports of persons, mostly Germans, believed to be implicated in the Nazi war effort; extended studies of major figures like Hitler, Himmler, and Goering; OSS research & analysis reports on topics related to the historical, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as the conduct, of the Second World War, including Germany’s economic preparations to wage aggressive war, Nazi alterations of various areas of German law, Nazi paramilitary and military organizations, and concentration camps, etc.

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