Military records are a rich resource for genealogical and historical research. They are advanced records, meaning that unlike vital records that push the door wide open with a neatly packaged birth and death dates, military records sometimes require you enter through the side window! Once you find records, they provide a rich and powerful narrative of military service. At Fold3, we find similar questions posed repeatedly by researchers and hope to answer a few of them here:
Military Records for Service After 1957: Due to the Privacy Act, these records are only available to the veteran or next-of-kin from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). On Fold3, we have selected records and photographs from recent wars along with powerful content available on personal Memorials.
The 1973 Fire at the NPRC: On July 12, 1973, a massive fire broke out at the NPRC in St. Louis, MO. It burned for 22 hours and destroyed 16-18 million military files. Records affected included 80% of Army files for Personnel discharged between November 1912 – January 1960; and 75% of Air Force files for Personnel discharged September 1947 – January 1964. No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained. These lost records certainly present a roadblock, but other available record sets can help you construct a military history.
For example, if you are searching for a WWII veteran, you might search for records like Unit Histories, Missing Air Crew Reports, Draft Registration Cards, WWII Diaries or Air Force photos. Keep in mind that until 1947, the US Air Force was part of the US Army (United States Army Air Force – USAAF).
Navy Muster Rolls recorded the movements of troops on transport ships even if they didn’t serve in Navy; and if you know the infantry regiment or battalion your ancestor served in, that information can also open research avenues.
Amazing records are available in our collections of Casualty Lists, European Theater Army Records or user-contributed information found on Memorial pages among others. In addition, soldiers were asked to file discharge documents in the county where they resided. Contacting county records departments might also unlock a roadblock. Good luck with your military records research! Fold3 has over five hundred million military records available online to help. Visit Fold3 today!