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How can I obtain military records?

The individual military departments do NOT maintain files or records pertaining to individuals no longer on active duty. When an individual is separated from military service (because of retirement, discharge from active duty, or death) his/her Field Personnel File (containing all military and health records) is forwarded for storage to the National Personnel Records Center (Military), 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63172. The Records Center is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the U.S. Government. Their web site is http://www.archives.gov/research_room/obtain_copies/veterans_service_records.html.

An individual's complete service record is available to the former service member or, if deceased, to his/her next of kin (parents, spouse, or children). Limited information (such as dates of service, awards, and training) is available to anyone. Not available to the general public is information which would invade an individual's privacy, such as medical records, Social Security number, or present address.

The St. Louis Center receives many thousands of requests for service records each week, so please be aware that there may be a lengthy delay. The St. Louis Center will process requests with greater speed and accuracy if the requester uses a Standard Form 180, "Request Pertaining to Military Records." The form is available as a Portable Document File (PDF) (Click here.). If you do not have the reader software, it is available free of charge from the company which produces it, Adobe, (Please click here).

Also, the National Personnel Records Center is working to make it easier for veterans
with computers and Internet access to obtain copies of documents from their military
files.

Military veterans and the next of kin of deceased former military members may
now use a new online military personnel records system to request documents. Other individuals with a need for documents must still complete the Standard Form 180 that can be downloaded from the online web site.

The new web-based application was designed to provide better service on these
requests by eliminating the records center's mailroom processing time. Also,
because the requester will be asked to supply all information essential for
NPRC to process the request, delays that normally occur when NPRC has to ask
veterans for additional information will be minimized.

Veterans and next of kin may access this application at http://vetrecs.archives.gov.

If you are having trouble downloading the form, you may request one from our office by submitting a question on this system. If you want us to send you the form, please include your name and postal address.

Standard Form 180, which contains instructions, is also available from most veterans organizations or by writing to the National Personnel Records Center. If requesting the records of a relative, a requester should mention the relationship to the former member (brother, uncle, or other). There is no charge for this service to former service members or their next of kin. For others, a nominal fee is charged for research and reproduction costs. (In this regard, files at the Records Center are maintained as historical records only and are not updated to reflect current data on the former service member.)

Notes:

1) Contrary to published accounts, the Department has not published a "booklet on military records," but we hope the above information will be useful.

2) Of incidental interest for individuals compiling family histories: the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408, (telephone: 202-501-5400) provides assistance to those interested in genealogy. NARA normally charges a nominal fee for research and reproduction costs.

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