Military Records at NPRC

Many Descendants may wish to obtain the military records of their fallen Rangers.
Many of you may also choose to memorialize your Ranger in some way.
The opportunity is there for you to do so by purchasing a stone in his honor at the Ranger Memorial at Fort Benning, GA.

Photo Courtesy of The Ranger Memorial Foundation
Click here to purchase a stone

Securing Military Burials and Honors

Military Honors include Honor Guard in dress blues, rifle salute, etc.

Information Sources:

  • Information and assistance may be easily obtained from a nearby Veterans Administration office or VA Hospital, and any VFW, or American Legion post. Burial and honors are at government expense. (Wives may be buried in the same plot at a National Cemetery). More information
  • Arlington National Cemetery is an option for Rangers across the country. Cost: none once inside the gate. More information

Securing Military Records

Before writing to obtain military records, there is one thing to be aware of: The 1973 Fire

On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at NPRC (MPR) destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files. Records of Personnel and Period Affected 80% of Army Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960. The affected record collections are described below.

No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available.

Press Release: Veterans Administration

Facts About the 1973 St. Louis Fire and Lost Records

The National Archives and Records Administration is the official depository for records of military personnel separated from the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. The records are housed in three locations: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Md., and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Mo.

The NPRC contains records relating to:

  • US Army officers separated after June 30, 1917, and enlisted Army personnel separated after October 31, 1912.
  • US Air Force officers and enlisted personnel separated after September 1947.
  • US Naval officers separated after 1902, and naval enlisted personnel separated after 1885.
  • US Marine Corps officers separated after 1895, and enlisted personnel separated after 1904.
  • US Coast Guard officers separated after 1928, and enlisted personnel separated after 1914.
  • Civilian employees of predecessor agencies (Revenue Cutter Service, Life-Saving Service and Lighthouse Service) of the US Coast Guard from 1864-1919.

The Fire

A fire at the NPRC in St. Louis on July 12, 1973, destroyed about 80 percent of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75 percent of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from "Hubbard" through "Z" discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964, were also destroyed.

What Was Lost

It is hard to determine exactly what was lost in the fire, because there were no indexes to the blocks of records involved. The records were merely filed in alphabetical order for the following groups:

World War I:

  • Army (September 7, 1939 to November 1, 1912)

World War II:

  • Army (December 31, 1946 to September 8, 1939)

Post WW II:

  • Army (December 31, 1959 to January 1, 1947)
  • Air Force (December 31, 1963 to September 25, 1947

Millions of records, especially medical records, had been withdrawn from all three groups and loaned to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire. The fact that one's records are not in NPRC files at a particular time does not mean the records were destroyed in the fire.

Reconstruction of Lost Records

If a veteran is advised that his or her records may have been lost in the fire, he or she may send photocopies of any documents they possess to the NPRC, particularly separation documents. This enables the NPRC to reestablish files by adding those documents to the computerized index and filing them permanently. Another helpful source to speed up the process is to contact your Congressman and solicit his help. Explain the records you desire are those of a World War II Ranger.

The address is:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100

Note: The NPRC states in its annual report and recommendations which will lead it to 2007 that the system is so clogged with paperwork and requests, that they can not handle them all. Individuals seeking their help may have to wait weeks, months, and sometimes years according to other sources!

Necessary Information for File Reconstruction

The key to reconstructing military data is to give the NPRC enough specific information so the staff can properly search the various sources. The following information is normally required:

  • Full name used during military service
  • Branch of service
  • Approximate dates of service
  • Service number
  • Place of entry
  • Last unit of assignment
  • Place of discharge

Alternate Sources of Military Service Data

In the event a veteran does not have any records in his or her possession, the essential military service data may be available from a number of alternate sources.

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains records on veterans whose military records were affected by the fire if the veteran or a beneficiary filed a claim prior to July 1973.
  • Service information may also be found in various kinds of "organizational" records such as unit morning reports, payrolls and military orders on file at the NPRC or other National Archives and Records Administration facilities.
  • There is also a great deal of information available in records of the State Adjutants General, and other state "veterans services" offices.

By using alternate sources, NPRC may often be able to reconstruct a veteran's beginning and ending dates of active service, the character of service, rank while in service, time lost while on active duty, and periods of hospitalization. NPRC is usually able to issue NA Form 13038, "Certification of Military Service," considered the equivalent of a Form DD-214, "Report of Separation From Active Duty," for the purpose of establishing eligibility for veterans benefits.