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History: World War II

A guide to library research

Government & Military Source Collections, in print and microform formats

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

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

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

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

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


Motion picture still patrol boat

BBC Archive A collection of freely available high-quality documentaries on World War II containing contemporary footage and interviews.

Government & Military Source Collections, online


United States


Published Primary Sources

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

Start in the Cornell Library Catalog's Advanced Search

Recommended Example 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 Example 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.


National Archives and Records Administration

Archival Collections at Cornell

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)

A similar collection is 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.  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 primary sources in German

Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection

Nuremberg trials - Wikipedia


The Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection collection consists of nearly 150 bound volumes of Nuremberg trial transcripts and documents from the personal archives of General William J. Donovan (1883-1959). The Donovan papers contain both original statements from the defendants in German and typed translations in English prepared by the Allies.

The searchable transcripts reveal information about a wealth of topics and experiences.



Jewish people with armed Nazi guards

Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Repositories of sources relating to the Holocaust also touch on many other topics.