According to a article in “The American Legion Magazine” – February 2007 issue, there has been several fires in our nation’s archives thru the years destroying millions of records.
A 1800 a fire at the War Department destroyed historical
records of the nation’s first decade.
In 1836 a fire at the US Patent Office destroyed models and blueprints of inventions that formed the technological backbone of the nation.
In 1851 a fire at the US Capitol destroyed
invaluable art & other relics.
In 1890 a fire at the Census Bureau destroyed the entire Decennial Census.
In July 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis destroyed an estimated 16-18 million personnel files, military life histories, enlistment & discharge records. This fire destroyed about 80% of the Army records for personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960. Also Army Air Force and Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard through Z discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964. Officials have never determined what exactly was lost in the fire because there were no indices to the blocks of records.
Multiple safeguards in place in the nation’s archives including sprinkler systems and firewalls limit the loss to less then 300 cubic feet of records. With two fires in a Washington, DC center in the last ten years, the safeguards confined the loss to far fewer than 300 cubic feet.
The National Personnel Records Center will attempt to
reconstruct a veteran’s records only if asked by the veteran
or by the next of kin of a deceased veteran. [Mother,
Father, Sister, Brother, Soon, Daughter, Husband or Wife]
and given sufficient information.
Request for information may be submitted online at
Or sent to:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Ave
St Louis, MO 63132-5100
Information that should be submitted include:
Full name used
Date of birth
Branch of service
Approximate dates of service
Place of entry into the service
Last unit of assignment
Place of discharge
If unknown some of the information may be available from the VA or state veterans service officer.
are sometimes filed at the county courthouse where a veteran
lived and will supply most if not all of the above
Contributed by Mildred Smith