Veteran Records Destroyed by Fire in 1973

21 June 2019, updated 17Jul2019

Vicki’s note – some information that I ran across today while trying to help my veteran sister by wading through the quagmire bureaucracy that is the Veteran Affairs:

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Veteran Records Destroyed by Fire in 1973

On July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis destroyed records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army and Air Force.

Records Held for Army Veterans

The fire destroyed 80 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Army between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960.

Exceptions:  Records for retirees and reservists who were alive on July 12, 1973, were not involved in the fire.

Records Held for Air Force Veterans

The fire destroyed 75 percent of the records held for Veterans who were discharged from the Air Force between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet.

Reconstructing Your Records

If your records were destroyed in the fire, there is a specific request that we submit to the NPRC for any additional service records.  This request provides information that allows the NPRC to research for other types of documents.  The NPRC can attempt to reconstruct portions of the service treatment records from the Surgeon General’s Office using unit records and morning reports, and by looking at extracts from military hospital admission records provided by the Surgeon General.

 

Updated 17Jul2019:

Towards Reconstruction:

As part of the reconstruction effort, the NPRC established a “B” registry file (or Burned File) to index the 6.5 million recovered records. So too, the NPRC established a separate temperature controlled “B” file area to protect and safeguard the damaged records. Later, in April 1974, the NPRC established the “R” registry file (or Reconstructed File) to further assist with reconstruction efforts. Since then, staffers have placed all newly reconstructed records into the “R” registry file and stored them in an area separate from the “B,” or burned, files.

In the months following the fire, the NPRC initiated several new records recovery and reconstruction efforts, including the establishment of a new branch to deal with damaged records issues. As many military personnel records had been partially or completely destroyed by the fire, the new branch’s central mission was to reconstruct records for those requesting service information from the NPRC. While some staffers sought to recover such information from documents and alternate sources outside of the NPRC, others searched through the center’s organizational files for records to supplement the destroyed OMPFs.

These alternate sources have played a vital role in the NPRC’s efforts to reconstruct service files. Some of the more important records used by the NPRC to supplement damage files include: Veterans Administration (VA) claims files, individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers (MPV) from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System (SSS) registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), as well as medical records from military hospitals, entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records. Many work hours were spent making these sources usable. Efforts included: the transfer of records to the NPRC, screening projects and securing access to VA computer records.

In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster. In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction effort took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today’s NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country’s military and civil servants.

3 thoughts on “Veteran Records Destroyed by Fire in 1973”

  1. I have my father’s original military records and I know that his records were destroyed in the fire. Should I provide copies of his records and sent them to some depository?

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    1. Hi Shirley,
      Thanks for your question and concern. I finally took the time to try and find an answer,
      From NARA:
      https://www.archives.gov/faqs

      Does NARA purchase old, historic pictures or accept them as donations?

      NARA does not add to its holdings through purchase. We may accept offers of donations when the documentary materials involved are closely related to Federal records already in our custody. When documentary materials don’t have a close Federal connection, we direct potential donors to other appropriate archival facilities.

      I have a document that may be a Federal government record. I wonder if it should be in the National Archives. What should I do?

      Occasionally, a document in private hands actually belongs in a government archives. If it is a Federal, congressional, or presidential record, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) may be interested in recovering the document. Learn more about missing or stolen documents. NARA also has tips online for identifying historical U.S. government documents.
      If you know of a document that you believe is a Federal record and belongs to the National Archives you can also contact us via e-mail at MissingDocuments@nara.gov.

      The best answer is, I don’t know if the NARA would want Veteran Records from private citizens to replace ones damaged in this fire. The rest of the link to that NARA article mentioned how they have been able to recreate most of the lost records form other resources. Please contact the sources above, and let us know what you find out.

      Vicki Ruthe Hahn

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  2. (Edited comment from Susan Park) “Thanks for the information Vicki. I left the Air Force on …1972. Hopefully they are still intact somewhere. Makes you sick to think that 75 % of those records were destroyed. I hope you have luck with your sister’s records…”

    Reply – Susan, the rest of the link to that NARA article mentioned how they have been able to recreate most of the lost records from other military and government resources.I guess I had better add that the this Posting!

    If one writes me an email thru this BLOG site – it goes into my BLOG comments list for my approval.
    If one writes directly to “statelinegenealogyclub@yahoo.com”, the email goes to my private email address for my business.

    The BLOG comment email and the business email are the same address. So I filtered out Susan’s personal message (as friends) from the part of her email that is a comment on this Posting.

    Vicki

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