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Reconstructing the Past: The National Personnel Record Center Fire of 1973

This month we welcome a special guest contributor to the Fold3 blog. Michael Strauss is an Accredited Genealogist and works at Ancestry ProGenealogists®.

On July 12, 1973, a catastrophic fire broke out in the National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. This facility housed the United States military personnel files. The fire broke out shortly after midnight, and firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes. Crews managed to reach the sixth floor of the complex, but the fire was so intense that it burned out of control for 22 hours. It took four and a half days to extinguish the flames fully.

After the fire was out, the NPRC was tasked with determining the fire’s root cause and deciding how to proceed with recovery efforts for records feared destroyed. Authorities could not determine the cause of the fire, and the staff immediately turned their attention to the records. Was anything salvageable?

B-File (or burnt file) discharge certificate for Burton Lancaster (courtesy National Personnel Record Center)

Military records lost in the fire

Between 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) records were either destroyed or damaged due to the fire.

The United States Army personnel records suffered the most from the blaze. Files for personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, were 80% destroyed.

The United States Air Force (founded on September 18, 1947, and separated from the Army) also suffered significant losses. Personnel records from September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964, were 75% destroyed. The loss began with surnames starting with James E. Hubbard.

Fortunately, the military personnel records from the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard were unaffected by the fire and remain intact.

What is considered archival?

Military personnel records are open to the public 62 years after a service member leaves the military. For genealogical research purposes, records of the Punitive Expedition of 1916, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War should have no restrictions. For any service members separated after 62 years, the records are non-archival and subject to access restrictions. Access is granted and understood to include an immediate family member.

Reconstructing lost records

Three commonly used record sets can be requested to reconstruct losses from the 1973 fire.

Burnt Files: These records called “B Files” survived the blaze but may have either fire and/or water damage, often around the edges of the papers. The staff at the NPRC requires additional time before patrons are allowed to examine the files.

Reconstructed Files: Following the 1973 fire, the NPRC reached out to veterans requesting copies of their original discharges and other personnel military papers. If no burnt file exists and the veteran supplied copies of their relevant papers, the record center will provide copies.

Pvt. Gandolfo Scarnici (photo courtesy of Virginia M. Scarnici)

Auxiliary Files: If the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) was destroyed and no burnt file or reconstructed file can be ordered, the NPRC will provide copies of the final payroll forms for the veteran at the time of discharge. These files are typically a few pages in length.

Examples of Auxiliary Files for Pvt. Gandolfo Scarnici. He served in the Headquarters Company of the 55th United States Infantry (courtesy of the National Personnel Record Center)

How can Fold3® help you reconstruct a military history when personnel records have been destroyed?

Fold3® has several collections that can help you reconstruct the military history of your ancestor. Valuable sources for the Mexican Punitive Expedition and World War I include service numbers, military units, records of events, and troopships. The following collections can prove very helpful in finding that information:

United States Army Morning Reports 1912-1939

United States Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists

Other sources for WWII research include unit histories, photo collections, and Memorials. In addition, the following collections can help reconstruct service numbers, dates of enlistment, admission to military hospitals, and missing aircrew personnel.

World War II Army Enlistment Records

United States World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954

United States Army Missing Air Crew Reports, World War II

Requesting copies of records

Patrons can request copies of OMPF files online at: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records or by visiting the NPRC research room by appointment. If you cannot visit the facility, patrons can also employ contractors to request copies of files on their behalf. The other option is to mail in Standard Form #180 filled out (which is a PDF fillable and printable form). This form can be found online at: https://www.archives.gov/files/standard-form-180.pdf and should be mailed to:

National Personnel Records Center
(Military Personnel Records)
1 Archive Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138

Fold3® has nearly 600 million records to help you reconstruct your ancestor’s military history. Start searching our archives today!

168 Comments

  1. […] *  Reconstructing the Past: The National Personnel Record Center Fire of 1973 by Michael Strauss on Fold3 Blog. […]

    • Karen Bowman says:

      Thank you for this information. Several years ago I requested info from NARA re my uncle, Bkr 3rd Class Robert Leland Whiteley, who died during the battle of the Coral Sea when the USS Lexington was sunk. I gave them all the info I had (birthdate/place, USN service #, death date/place, mother’s name, etc.) They said they found no record of him. My brother has his Purple Heart; I have the telegram sent to Robert’s mother. What now? He’s not a figment of my imagination!

    • SFC Chester V Ogan, USARNG retired says:

      My father’s files are among those burned and lost. He is Corporal Reginald Treloar Ogan. Because we have his discharge papers and several letters he wrote and received while seeking a service related injuries. He received a medical discharge 16 MAR 1945 at Santa Ana Air Base. His ultimate death may have been a result of those injuries. Is anyone besides myself interested in those preserved records?

    • Charles J Gallagher says:

      For Karen Bowman. I have come across two similar examples of a sailor on a ship with no record. In one case I found him in a file of those buried at sea. In the second case. There was a plaque in Hawaii of 25 or so sailors who died when their ship sank.

    • Her Highest Majesty Daceia C Frazier says:

      Thank you for enlightening my mind focusing on Ancestry miltary records. My father was in the Korean War and had addictive tendency after returning causing practioners to not understand how to help him.

  2. Carl H. Bloss says:

    I requested information a few years ago, but could only get back a certificate of discharge. Does this mean nothing else survived? or Is there more available now? Conscripted into Army in 1957/ served through 1959. Health records could confirm a lightning strike affliction at Fort Hood in 1957. Was told health records not available or at a cost TO ME! CHBloss

  3. Dean L. McLeod says:

    Thank you for this detailed and informative essay on military records survival. Although I’m not actively seeking these records at this time in my life, you have provided a real service to the thousands of people who have given up on such sources.

  4. Theron P. Snell says:

    Other sources I used when writing a Ph.D thesis on cultural changes within an Army Engineer Company:

    –Try the county clerks of the veteran’s county of residence for copies of WWII discharge papers
    –The VA has medical files that trace a WWII service person from duty station to duty station, wounds etc
    –Local newspapers for the war period including induction notices, wounds or honors, shipment home

  5. Dee Rowan Eva says:

    I have some records for my father when he was in the Civilian Conservation Corps and his World War II Army discharge papers as well as my grandfather’s discharge papers from World War I. How can I share them with the National Personnel Record Center?

    Dee Eva
    [email protected]

    • Everett E. Gilman, Jr. says:

      Dee, I also have original documents for the CCC and US Army WWII for my late father.
      I attempted to obtain information on the Purple Heart he was awarded and on the injuries he suffered. I mailed a letter to the National Personnel Records Center as directed by a Michellle Patton of the NARA Office in St. Louis, MO on 5/23/2022 and a follow up email to her on 7/6/2022 with no response.
      I have to say, I have been trying for many years to obtain this information with no success and very disappointed in these organizations.

    • Dee Eva says:

      Hi Everett,

      I too, contacted them several years ago offering to send copies (or possibly the originals) to them for their records but received no reply. I did scan them and post them on Ancestry. I hope they’re searching Ancestry because a lot of people have done the same thing and the documents are readily available.

    • Robin G says:

      Dee

      I have my late mother’s almost entire military history file. I contacted NARA and they said they would accept them, but because they could not authenticate them, they would never be made publicly available.

      I offered to upload to a FB group for one place she was stationed and they ripped my head off for trying to upload personal info because it had serial numbers. First of all, this was from the 1950s and there are no social security numbers, just serial #s. And she was pretty young when she joined so everyone would be in their 90s. Sure, some of these people will still be alive but you can’t do anything with a serial #.

      Robin

  6. Susan G. Boyle says:

    What about records of Vietnam War draftees/veterans, 1966-1967? Are they safe and available to veterans?

    • Leslie Hiatt says:

      I just received my dad’s Vietnam papers back from St. Louis and half of what I got back was what I sent them. The rest was pages either blank or so faded that you cannot read them.

  7. Sandra L Stewart Miller says:

    I had asked for my dad’s files and was told they were lost in fire. But when my step-mother passed there was paperwork that passed on to me Re my Dad’s service in World War II. Not sure if you want copies or if I there is possible more information Thai could obtain. . He was in Italy then went to Normandy as I was told and he was a mechanic. He obviously didn’t come up on the beaches, and survived, but if there is anything else to know about what he may have done over there I’d like to know. Thank you.

  8. Milano Deborah says:

    I have my father’s discharge papers. I offered copies to Archives for THEIR records but never heard from them.

    • Everett E. Gilman, Jr. says:

      Yes these organizations are a big disappointment for sure. I had the same issues but will never give up.

  9. Greg Edquist says:

    My Dad asked a number of times for his medical records. He was in the Army, WWII. Hospital was in Ft. Lewis. He had spinal meningitis after basic training. Sorry Sir, no records. Luckily we still have the Western Union Telegraphs regarding an illness. Nothing else was available to him during his years in the Army.

    • Brenda carlson says:

      Reading your comment made me go back and read your name.
      It reads exactly like mine and my father’s.
      Our military lived through hell to save our country and now they disrespect them and their families. I wrote for records and they charged me $25.00 to tell me everything was lost. I would have paid about anything to receive a copy of any record on my father.
      Brenda Carlson

    • Brenda Carlson says:

      See below also. My father almost died from spinal meningitis as well. I’m not sure which hospital he was in though. He suffered off and on throughout his life. It was awful.
      Brenda

  10. Karla Gigerich Gainey says:

    If the loss began with surnames starting with James E. Hubbard, explain why, when I requested records for Edward Gigerich, I was told that they were lost in the fire.

    Sounds like someone needs to get their lies straight.

    • Everett E. Gilman, Jr. says:

      You are so correct! These organizations that supposedly assist survivors of WWII Soldiers have failed us on so many counts. I recently found original documents for my late Father that had been packed away for decades and have tried to provide them to the Archives…with no success or responses.

  11. I requested my husband’s service records to include DD214, all special orders, medical records and training records. He said he went to Korea but his DD 214 show no foreign service. The US Army’s records keeping leaves something to be desired. Also, his training records showed no atomic training in Nevada. I found I had to submit a request to the U. S. Justice Department because they are in charge of those list of attendees, and it may take a year to get proof that he attended on site atomic training. If you attended atomic training during military service between 1945 and 1962, you may be intitled to funds. To receive form to request compensation call the Department of Justice, 1-800-729-7327 (for veterans exposed to atmospheric nuclear tests)

  12. mam says:

    I requested records for my mother who was a WAC attached to the Mediterranean Allied Air Force (MAAF) in Italy during WWII and was informed no records existed. Only received a form with years of service. Her name was Buchholz. She did have copies of some of her records.

    • Everett E. Gilman, Jr says:

      Would you like me to search for her with my ancestry.com account?
      Please email her info DOB place of birth full names DOD & place etc

  13. Jean Hoffmann says:

    I like the idea of posting veteran’s documents on Ancestry so they are accessible to anyone searching an individual.

    • Debra Thacjer says:

      I agree I cannot find nothing on one of my uncle’s
      2 brothers went to Vietnam. Found some information on one but nothing on Reuben.

  14. Susan Cullen Schwartz says:

    Wouldn’t it be a good Idea if there were some accountability measures created for the rebuilding of records? Perhaps we might track how many citizen contributions to the records were logged in versus the number that were followed up and subsequently made publicly available? I’d be willing to send my submissions in all over again if it would help at this point, but I have lost faith that anything ever happens to what we submit. When I am dead, no one will ever know what my father did for us in WWII. 1Lt Myles Bernard Cullen [01294628]

  15. Timothy Kline says:

    I have tried 3 times to get my fathers records from the Korean war, First they said there were none, Then I told them he was federalized from the Minnesota National Guard, and they told me to contact the state. I did, and they had hardly anything on him, one form said he joined the national guard at 14! When I requested the second time and told them he was federalized for Korea and his record would be there, the response was “They were destroyed in 73”. It seems the standard answer to all requests. They are either lazy, or do not know how to locate records..

    • Andrew Keller says:

      I tried to request my own records and was given their favorite excuse of, “They were destroyed in the 1973 fire.” Not possible as I wasn’t born until 1974.

    • LINda mullen says:

      all the records after “G” were destroyed, not filed by date but alphabetically

  16. Andrew Rindsberg says:

    I ordered my father’s Army Air Force records from World War II, for a considerable fee. When the copies arrived, I realized why the charge was so high. It was eerie to see that one edge of each page had been burned away. Evidently the only thing keeping the pages from being completely burned was that they had been shelved so tightly that air couldn’t enter between the pages. I read about the fire; the building was designed without sprinklers and it took days of pumping water into the building to put the flames out. The papers were soaked and mold set in before they could be dried out again. So to fill my order, someone had to put on a respirator to poke through moldy papers that had been partially burned away to find my dad’s file, retrieve it, and copy it. It wasn’t like opening a neatly organized file drawer. — Anyway. The file itself contained pretty dry information, and a lot of it was concerned with payroll. It showed when and where my dad was for the duration of his service, corroborating the stories that my mom and dad had told me. It showed when he was promoted and how he was transported from place to place. It was, in other words, historical gold, and I was glad to have it. I have some of his other papers here at home and I’d be glad to submit copies to the Veterans Administration for their records, if I could find out how to do so.

    • DONALD J. WELCH says:

      Having worked at McDonnell Douglas Corp, St. Louis, sometime after the fire, many boxes of water soaked files were brought to the company and put into a vacuum chamber whereby a vacuum was pulled, to extract moisture. This was the same chamber used to test the space crafts under space like conditions. Have no idea how many files were subjected to this process, but there was an effort made to save many files.

    • Patty Swan says:

      Mr Rindsberg, who/ where did you contact to get the papers? I’ve been trying for years. Even asked if could come into the STL office to search myself and was told no. I’m looking for his WWII debrief papers for his time as POW/MIA in Italy in 1944. He retired in Mid 1964. Thank you for any assistance you can provide. My personal email is [email protected]. Kindest regards, Patty Swan

    • Sheryl Swilling says:

      Mr Rindsberg:
      Whom/where did you contact to obtain the records? My biological father was in the Army Air Force during WWII, and although I found his discharge info, I’ve been unable to trace where he was, and when. My personal email is [email protected].

      Thank you.
      Sheryl Swilling

    • Andrew K. Rindsberg says:

      Thank you, Mr. Welch, for an interesting story. To add to my preceding comment: I submitted the request through the website of the National Personnel Records Center at least ten years ago. If I remember right, the procedure took a few weeks. They apparently shut down operations during the pandemic and reopened last March. You should be able to find information and the request form here:
      https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/military-personnel
      I see that several people want to donate original documents or copies to the Center, which would be the logical place to hold them. Scan them first. (The idea of posting scanned copies in public trees on Ancestry is a good one.) You might consider getting advice from a local genealogical or historical society. Also, some military units, such as the Mighty Eighth Air Force, have museums associated with them. Please do find a home for these unique records rather than discarding them.

  17. Peggy S Perry says:

    My uncle’s records were supposedly destroyed in that fire. He suffered during his service in post war Germany but could not get proper treatment or a pension. “No proof you were in the service” he was constantly told. They did finally start giving him medical treatment at the VA but never explained why he could get that but needed more proof for a pension. I told him it sounded like a great way for the government to save money on pensions.

    • Jared Reary says:

      Do not attempt to come to the NPRC facility we are still closed to the public only private professional researchers are allowed with an appointment. No one from the general public will be allowed to enter. You can however fill out your forms online or mail them in or drop off your SF180 at the facility that is the only options.

  18. Pam D. says:

    Three years ago a 74-y-o woman, same age as me, contacted me through Ancestry.com. She was identified as my 2nd cousin. Her mother had had a wartime relationship in 1944 in California with a man she would never tell my cousin about. When her mother died, my cousin began searching. Luckily she and I were related to someone on my father’s side who I’d already connected with. So I began looking at my father’s 18 first cousins. Four males had served in the military, one after WWII. Of the three remaining, two were in the Army, one in the Navy. A request to the National Archives for records on the former two of course got us the reply that those records had been destroyed. But the request for the Navy veteran info returned a huge stack of detailed records. From those it was clear that he was her biological father. She has since connected with her three half-siblings, now in their 70’s and early 80’s. What a trip it was doing this research and how happy my cousin and I are that the NPRC could help.

  19. James Jones says:

    I was researching my father’s Army records and received his discharge from the Army in 1948 and all it says about his war records is “prior to 1945 military service”. He got discharged in Sept. ’45, was out about a month, couldn’t find a job so he reenlisted. They have his 1945-1948 records but nothing about his service in Europe during the war. I find that odd.

    • Sylvia Gibson says:

      Both my parents were in the US army during WWII. They met in Wiesbaden Germany in 1945. I have pictures of my dad in bootcamp in 1944 and with mom in Wiesbaden in 1945. Dad was with the Signal corps and one of many who were sent to the front lines at The Bulge with infantry. There is no record of this enlistment. When he got back to the US after the war, he re-enlisted and stayed with the Signal Corps & retired after 26 yrs and was sent to both Korean War and Vietnam. I have Mom’s enlistment papers from the state of Pennsylvania, not the federal gov. Mom was one of 47 WACs who was with Gen. Bradley, Eagle Rear.

    • Irene Barnes Butler says:

      Hi James. It is possible based on those time frames and the known deployment that he served as one of the enlistees known as “Merrill’s Marauders” who were more or less our early version of the special forces. Records were sparse for a few reasons: Kept light for mobility behind Japanese lines, a mule carrying records was hit by Japanese artillery and more records were washed away in heavy rains. The mission was responsible for getting supplies to the front lines, by marching and fighting 600 miles through the northern jungle in Burma on the Ledo Road. Look up the original name of “Galahad” Good luck to you sir.

  20. Jim Koucherik says:

    I have been looking around for more information on my dad, Joe Koucherik. I have his DD214, and there are a few books out there. He served in Company F, 157th Infantry Regiment , 45th Infantry Division. I was told all his records were lost in the fire, but I’d like a little more info on what his company did. He was originally in the 157th Colorado National Guard, and was in the 45th from it’s reorganization at Ft Sill OK. I would like to see if more details exist on his company that he was in from Ft Sill to Southern France in 1945. I have also been looking for info on his Brother, Andrew Koucherik, he served in the fifties during Korea. I have been told all his records were lost in the fire. I would at least like to find out what unit he served with and where. Sometimes I feel the 1973 fire is a good excuse to not spend time looking, I feel bad about thinking that, but it is very frustrating how millions of people just disappear from our records. i am a Vet and I know all the papers we had to fill out, and there must be some papers around somewhere. Thanks for any info you can help me with.

    • Robin G says:

      I have not used Golden Arrow Research but I have heard they are very good at finding military records, and reasonably priced. A shame that it has to come to paying, though. Have you requested VA records? Not sure there would have been any, of course. Did you do a formal request through NARA for the records on your dad? No one has records on my mom but I have almost everything from her own stash of papers.

      You could also Google their names and units, or look at FB for reunion groups for info on the unit missions.

    • Jerry. Neumann says:

      My name is Jerry Neumann. My uncle was in the 157 infantry of the 45 regiment in 1945. His name was John Wesley powers kla 1/1/1945. If you would like to communicate my email is [email protected].

  21. Jim Koucherik says:

    I have another family member that I found on ancestry, Frank Lochnikar. He was a person no one in the family was aware of, but I did find he was born in 1901, in Austria and came to the US as a boy with my other uncles. He served in the US Navy in 1914 to 1916 and was medically discharged, with a pension. I have sent in a records request 3 or 4 times now, and I have never received a reply. It would be interesting to find out what ship he served on and how he might of got hurt. All of his brothers have passed and none of my cousins have ever heard of him, so it is an interesting mystery I would like find out more about. Anyway I don’t understand why I never get an answer, even no info, but I have found a little information about his life. Thank you for any info you can help me with.

  22. LINda mullen says:

    MY FATHER WAS 1ST LT DALE R GARRELS AND HE WAS IN THE ARMY AIR FORCE. MY STEP FATHER SENT US HIS RECORDS BEFORE HE DIED AND THERE ARE REFERENCES TO A NUMBER OF FOLKS SERVING WITH MY FATHER. WE ARE CURRENTLY MOVING BUT IF THERE ARE NAMES AND DATA YOU CAN’T FIND ELSEWHERE, SEND THEM TO ME AND I WILL SEARCH THE RECORDS THAT WE HAVE AND SEND YOU ANY COPIES WE CAN MAKE NO CHARGE ONCE WE GET OUR LOAD AND CAN PUT OUR HANDS ON THE RECORDS.

    • Paul Berndt says:

      Hi LINda,
      I have a suggestion for you.
      First some background: My dad was in the Army and had several photos of where he served and the men he served with, including names. I’ve had some success with searching for them in Ancestry Trees. I’ve contacted a couple of the tree owners and they were happy to get copies of the photos. One of the contacts had a few records of her grandfather’s service and it turned out that he served with my dad. My dad was a Sgt. and lead a machine gun group. This is fulfilling for me to find and share what I have.
      My suggestion is that you look for the people for whom you have records, it is more efficient and may result in finding more of them.
      Take care in your move, it can be hectic,
      Paul

  23. Richard Guy Slater says:

    I was in the Army from 17 July 1968, until 4 June 1971. I took a break in service for about two months, re-enlisted in august 1971 and was medically retired on 7 November 1986.

    I have requested, on two separate occasions, my records from the 68 – 71 enlistment, and have gotten the response that those records were “lost in the fire of 1973.”

    That’s too easy an answer for the NARA to give, and results in people, like me, wondering if the Government Employees are just to danged lazy to do the job they were hired to do?

    That might be something a Congressional Office could be looking into.

    • LINda mullen says:

      The records were filed alphabetically not by date the records from “H” to “Z” were the ones that burned

    • Vonnie Cronenwett says:

      Hi Richard, my biological father served in the army and was stationed in Germany. Do you have any names and lists?
      Elmer Eugene Larsen DOB 7-20-1942

  24. Mary J Turek says:

    I requested my father’s records from WWII and they finally sent me a letter saying his records were destroyed in the fire. I requested my husbands from the Korean War and they were partially burned but they sent me what they had. I also was able to get the records of 2 of my brothers that served during the Vietnam War and received all of those.
    But, I for one would not help Fold 3 do anything. They want you to make a memorial for your loved one and then when you go back to see what you have put in, along with pictures, they want you to pay for it. I wouldn’t waist my money or time with Fold 3.

  25. Lynda says:

    My father’s and uncles’ records were destroyed.

  26. Everett E. Gilman, Jr. says:

    I am so disgusted seeing so many families told the same line of BS…especially the alphabetical issue on what was destroyed. The funding for NARA should STOP as our tax dollars support this poor excuse of a Federal Agency.
    I am sorry so many people have been subjected to this deplorable organization. They should be ashamed of themselves!

    • Robin G says:

      I have received many documents on various ancestors from NARA, with some of the reps going the extra mile on my requests. Although they, like any large organization, have issues, I find them and the service they provide to be quite valuable.

    • Everett E Gilman says:

      You are fortunate! And as you can see not many are!

    • Andrew K. Rindsberg says:

      Based on what I’ve read, the records were stored by surname in alphabetical order, and the fire began “in the middle of the alphabet” — cause unknown, but it may have started with something as simple as a lit cigarette left in a wastebasket. When the records center was built, the designers had to choose whether or not to include water sprinklers in case of fire. They gambled that fire was so unlikely that the risk of water damage would be higher than the risk of fire, so they decided against including sprinklers. And the records held in the facility were, for the most part, unique, other than some copies held by discharged servicemen. So when the fire happened, it spread rapidly, was hard to put out, and resulted in severe water and mildew damage to an irreplaceable archive. The archivists managed to salvage most of what was left, but sorting and handling partly burnt, water-damaged, moldy files is no easy task. Bear in mind that the staff could have thrown up their hands and trashed the lot instead of digging in and dealing with it as best they could.

  27. Jackie Easterling-Shelby says:

    My father, George Quinton Easterling, served in the army during the Korean War. I was able to get some of his records because if a Congressmans help. Everytime I requested them, the answer was burned up in the fire if 1973 NARA employed lots of college students and they didn’t care about the records or where they were filed because nanagement gave such unrealistic daily quotas that were impossible to meet.

  28. Cliff O says:

    I enlisted (USAF) in ’61, re-enlisted in ’65, but lost my copies of my discharge papers. When I contacted NPRC to get copies, I was told papers from my first enlistment were destroyed in a fire but I did get a copy of the second. I still have some paperwork from my first enlistment that shows I was on active duty but I think it fairly outrageous that a document center of that magnitude let so many files be destroyed by accident.

  29. Beth Barlow says:

    I was told a few years ago that my fathers records had been destroyed in a fire. I have a few papers but am having a hard time piecing things together.
    His name was Dennis Edward Dwyer ( 1914 – 1991). He served in the Army’s 211th. He served in the anti aircraft balloon barrage during WWII in Vallejo, Ca.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Beth

  30. Kim D Haller says:

    Thank you! This is a great work.

    • Everett E. Gilman, Jr. says:

      Hi Beth, I looked your Dad up on Ancestry.com and noticed you have a family tree there also.
      I did find information on his parents, wife DOB/DOD; US WWII Army Enlistment Record dated 20 June 1941 at Fort Benjamin, Harrison, Indiana….Service#35162106, Branch: (?) Immaterial – warrants Officers, USA; Birth Certificate; Marriage License. I also checked Family Search and Fold3 but didn’t find anything different and minimal information.
      You may very well have these documents, but if you wish I could email them to you with attachments. I wish I could have discovered more for you.

  31. lynn just says:

    I was told the Record Center was looking for copies of any service records l we might have. Is this true? I do have some material I found while looking through boxes from the basement. I am not certain if this is the type of info they might want. When I did request record information several years ago, I was told my dad’s records were destroyed. Would the center be interested in what I have?

  32. novelview says:

    Since the NARA has lost these records, and some of us have those records, what should we do to preserve them? Tom

    • Dee Eva says:

      Hi Tom,

      I scanned mine and posted them on Ancestry.com for each member of the military for which I have documents. That gives others an opportunity to find them if they’re looking for that specific person.

      Dee

    • Paul Berndt says:

      Dee, very nice of you to post these. Even if Fold3 charges for access, the records are now posted. Websites and information of this magnitude is not easy nor possible without some expenditure. Volunteer efforts rely on people giving of their time and equipment to keep them going and often end up failing.

  33. Gwendolyn BLACKMAN says:

    My uncle was killed, in Italy, on Dec. 27, 1944. I would like to know exactly where he was killed and the battle.

    • Joe Viola says:

      Gwendolyn, have you checked Find a Grave? There are several cemeteries in Italy for Allied troops. Since you know when he was KIA, if you can find where then you could possibly determine which campaign he was a part of. Good luck in your search.

  34. Richard Rotenberry says:

    Sad. You would have thought that a building of this Importance would have contained a ” fire sprinkler system”. Leave it to our know all, see all government experts to cover your bases. Right…!

    • Elizabeth Allan says:

      I worked in a commercial record storage company for 20 years, including storage of VA medical records. We of course feared fire, but feared water more because of the problem with mold that starts immediately with a lot or even a small drip of water. I don’t know when the St. Louis warehouse was built, so I can’t speak to its construction or fire prevention engineering.

      Note that record storage can be in boxes or on open shelving up to 20 feet high. A single box will hold up to the equivalent of 4 reams of paper. In my experience, people who work in such environments are extremely careful in their work, but pulling files and refiling them can result in misfiles as it is done by human beings – so it is understandable that files get lost or in the wrong box. Surely you’ve misfiled paperwork in your own house! Also note that the files/boxes are usually not stored in strict alphabetical order or you’d have to keep shifting the boxes as new names were added. That may explain why some names before/after ‘Hubbard’ are or are not available.

      BTW, my mother was an Army Nurse in WWII and her records were lost in the St. Louis fire too.

  35. Leslie Caspell says:

    Although this seems to be an American service record problem, may I make a suggestion. I had an uncle KIA in France shortly after the DDay invasion. I located his unit’s war diaries on the website of his unit, (The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry) although not mentioned by his name, it gave an accounting of the day of his death. He was one of four killed while rooting out a machine gun nest in an abandoned mine shaft. It is certainly a sad thing to lose the records of those who sacrificed so much

  36. Bruce Hal Miner, Ph.D. says:

    As Mr. Rindsburg noted, the fire started by affecting the middle of the alphabet, then “M” would qualify. I’ve searched for my grandfather many times, always answered with “no record found”.
    This fire must explain it.
    My Grandfather was: Lt. Colonel Clyde Coleman MINER. He served in the Spanish-Am. war in Cuba, with Gen “black-Jack Pershing chasing Pancho Villa on the border, and in WWI in eastern France.1917-1918. I hope this helps someone to find him. I have his sword, many photos of him, and his diary of those three services.

  37. Greg Hudson says:

    I requested records from an ancestor who fought in The Civil War and was told “we need his SSN in order to process the request”.
    I guess I’ll never get those records.

    • Michael Ryan says:

      For Civil War records try the US National Archives. The NARA only has records from abut 1912 and newer.

  38. James D. Calder says:

    Thanks for the update re the St Louis fire. I filed a detailed request re: my uncle’s service in the US Coast Guard, 1942-1945 in the S. Pacific on LST 68. Pandemic apparently delayed all requests and now am told to file new request since original was lost. His name was James Ignatius Callaghan, a BM2 buried in a small town cemetery in New England. I have his SSAN and CG #, ship logs and related CG info for each of his ports of call but I would now like to receive his personnel records in order to complete a family honor history. He died in 1997. How best to proceed with acquiring records? Thanks very much for all your good work, so essential to families. I served as well but in the USAR, 1966-1973.

  39. Richard Allen Debord says:

    it is a shame that we have better military records of our ancestors that fought in the civil war than our fathers that fought in WWII

  40. Sandy Nelson says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I wondered why I could not find information about my uncle’s service as a pilot in the Army in WW II on either Fold3 or Ancestry.com. The mystery is now solved. Like many families, we at least have pictures of him in uniform and letters from him.

  41. GEORGE henderson says:

    GEORGE HENDERSON WAS STATIONED AT LORING AFB BETWEEN 1956 AND 1959.
    HE WAS IN THE 42SN FMS, WORKING ON AIRCRAFT REFUELERS. AT THAT TIME HE WAS AIRMAN 1ST CLASS. IN 1959 HE WAS TRANSFERED TO A BASE IN TEXAS.

  42. Nancy Parish Towns says:

    I’m glad someone is finally doing something to help with this absurd slight that our WWII veterans have suffered. My father, Lt. William Walter Parish, joined the Army soon after High School in 1932 and served 13 years until he was medically discharged in 1945. He received a severe head injury during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and another head injury when his evacuation hospital in England was destroyed by a Buzz-Bomb. He was unconscious for 5 weeks from the multiple concussions and had neurological problems and PTSD for the rest of his life. With the help of his wife and father-in-law, he returned to civilian life in 1945 and did well running the family’s hardware store. When he became an old man in the late 1970s, his medical issues exacerbated and he applied for VA help. He was denied any assistance because his records had burned in 1973. The VA would not accept his personal copies of his orders or his officers’ commission papers as proof that he was a soldier. He had his Congressmen and both U.S. Senators write letters to the VA on his behalf to no avail. He died in 1996 at the age of 81. He was both deaf and blind from head trauma and 2/3 of his lungs were gone due to the explosive chemicals that he had inhaled in the bombings. He never received 1 dime of medical or financial assistance from the VA. Surprisingly, he remained a life-long patriot and was very active in the American Legion. Ironically, out of the blue in the 1980s, he received a package containing 3 Bronze Stars for Valor and a Certificate acknowledging his combat service. He was also buried in the National Cemetery at Bushnell, Florida. His tombstone is etched with the 3 Stars. My mother died at the age of 91 in 2005. I inherited a full banker’s box of documents, correspondence, and photographs that they sent to the VA to try to obtain help. If the photos can help someone else, I’ll be glad to share. They only have last names for identification, however.

  43. Fawn M. Steely-Kline says:

    I’m doing family genealogy on both sides of my family. I’m looking for my grandfather’s Bernard William Francis Bies DD-214 military records & medals if he had any of them.

  44. DONALD E CKARK says:

    i HAVE MY AIR FORCE RECORDS I WAS IN JUNE 1959 TO JUNE 7 1963. STATIONED AT CHANUTE AFB RANTOUL, ILLINOIS

  45. Stacey Feland says:

    God bless you for your help. My father just passed and I want to know more about his time in the Army. 3rd infantry Korean War. My daddy had a lot of wounds and was a prisoner of war. He swim through a poop sewer and he made it out alive. His birthday is 4/1/1929 North Dakota is where he was from Duane Keith Feland Sr. I appreciate all you do. My daddy passed 4/6/2021 and he didn’t even get a proper military burial. He deserves one!!!

  46. Dale Holley says:

    Hi, all military families,
    When looking for a service members, start local
    (Hometown) upon return many not all registered
    with courthouse or local veterans organizations.
    Then if no results, especially National Guard try
    State resources, finally if injured during service
    the Veterans Administration, and lastly any correspondence with other Veterans you found
    In home record/ files kept by the individual? Sometimes this is a resource to pull from, family
    Friends, or pictures, and official documents in their possession at death, these are all possibly and sometimes the only proof you have or get?
    Good Hunting as always,carry On!!!

  47. Linda Newman says:

    I went to a talk at a Genealogy Society meeting. One of the points the speaker made was EVERYTHING was in triplicate (at least) and just because records were burned in the St Louis file there was a possibility of tracking down the copies elsewhere. It was a number of years ago and I don’t remember exactly the other places you could try to locate the copies, but I am sure there are suggestions and tips out there. Sometimes you have to come at problems sideways to find a solution.

  48. Marguerite Wolff says:

    St Louis tells me that my father’s records were lost in the fire. Surely there is duplicate information somewhere. He was with the Third Armored Division and I think he landed at Normandy on Day 2. I have his DD0214 which indicates that he earned a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and a Silver Star with no information as to how/why these were awarded. Also, for a period of time he he held the rank of Sgt but was discharged as a Pvt with no explanation for the demotion. He was hospitalized in England after being injured but I can find no information about this; he also spent several months at the VA Hospital in Colorado Springs during the Spring of 1945. Could you please give me some guidance as to how I might be able to track down some of the answers ? Thank you.

  49. L. DiDonato says:

    There are more than one way to skin the cat. It requires some imagination and some luck. I used to represent veterans before I retired.
    If they were wounded and there are no personnel records try Army Hospital records.
    VA decides that an Air Policeman couldn’t have shot at VC or NVA in Vietnam try their efficiency reports (glowing report from his commander )
    Try Adjutant General or equivalent office for copies of awards. Try friends for affidavits.
    Support units used a Department of the Army form to record what happened during the workday. It’s been a long time since I retired and I’m not sure of the form number or title. Think it is something like staff duty officer journal
    It is used to provide a legal record of what happened in a unit.
    Morning reports are loaded with details. Wounded KIA, AWOL, deserted , in hospital etc.

    You gotta play the cards you are dealt.

  50. Carol Landrum says:

    What a nightmare. When my father filed for compensation as a POW IN Germany during WWII we were told his records had burned in this fire.
    WE had to prove he had been a POW! Luckily he had kept his German dog tags & letters sent to his mother marked MIA & KIA.
    My advice, be persistent. It took us 2 1/2 years and I finally started calling weekly. Be the squeaky wheel.