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Access to Military Service and Pension Records


Attention: There is a rumor circulating among veteran service organizations that Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) at the National Personnel Records Center will be digitized and then destroyed. This rumor is NOT TRUE.

Neither the Department of Defense (DoD) nor the National Personnel Records Center intend to destroy any OMPFs stored at the Center. The purpose of any electronic scanning would be to reduce the handling of fragile records during the reference process or to reduce the time necessary to locate and answer an OMPF inquiry.

The National Archives and Records Administration preserves and protects OMPFs because they are permanently valuable records that document the essential evidence of military service for the veterans of our nation.   More...

What's New?

  • If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, you may now use eVetRecs to order copies of military records (or use the paper form, SF-180).

  • Ordering online is available to order copies of:
    • Federal military pension applications for military service from the American Revolution up to before World War I.
    • Bounty-land warrant applications for Federal military service before 1856.
    • Compiled military service records for regular forces up to before World War I.

Introduction

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the official repository for records of military personnel who have been discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Paper copies of military service and pension records can be ordered by mail from the facility which holds the records (see below).

Note: Individual military records are not online. However, sample military service records have been digitized and can be found in the Online Catalog.

The two main repositories for records relating to military service are:

Military Records Holdings in Washington, D.C.

The National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., holds records relating to:

Branch of Service Dates
Volunteers Military service performed by persons serving during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the Federal interest, 1775 - 1902
Regular Army Enlisted personnel, 1789 - October 31, 1912
Officers, 1789 - June 30, 1917
Navy Enlisted personnel, 1798 - 1885
Officers, 1798 - 1902
Marine Corps Enlisted personnel, 1798 - 1904
Some officers, 1798 - 1895
Coast Guard Persons who served in predecessor agencies to the U.S. Coast Guard: the Revenue Cutter Service (Revenue Marine), the Life-Saving Service, and the Lighthouse Service, 1791 - 1919
Confederate States Persons who rendered military service for the Confederate States government in its armed forces, 1861 - 1865
Veterans Records Claims files for pensions based on Federal military service, 1775 - 1916 and
Bounty land warrant application files relating to claims based on wartime service, 1775 - 1855

Ordering Copies

To order military service records from Washington, D.C., order online or the NATF Form 86.

Copies of military pension claim files for military service from the American Revolution up to before World War I and bounty-land warrant applications for Federal military service before 1856 can now be ordered online, as well as through NATF Form 85.

Military Records Holdings in St. Louis, Missouri

The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, holds military personnel files of later military service records.

Branch of Service Dates
U.S. Army Officers separated after June 29, 1917
Enlisted personnel separated after October 31, 1912
Note: Many records were destroyed by fire in the St. Louis Center in 1973.

Personnel records of Army members discharged/retired after September 30, 2002, are retained in electronic format by the Army. NPRC has access to the Army's electronic system and will respond to requests for those records.
US Air Force Officers and enlisted personnel separated after September 24, 1947
Note: Many records were destroyed by fire in the St. Louis Center in 1973.

Personnel records of Air Force members discharged/retired after September 30, 2004, are retained in electronic format by the Air Force and are not transferred to NPRC.
US Navy Officers separated after 1901
Enlisted personnel separated after 1884

Personnel records of Navy members discharged/retired after December 31, 1994, are retained in electronic format by the Navy and are not transferred to NPRC.
US Marine Corps Officers separated after 1904
Enlisted personnel separated after 1905

Personnel records of Marine Corps members discharged/retired after December 31, 1999, are retained in electronic format by the Marine Corps and are not transferred to NPRC.
US Coast Guard Officers separated after 1897
Enlisted personnel separated after 1905
U.S. Coast Guard predecessor agencies Civilian employees of agencies such as Revenue Cutter Service, Lifesaving Service, and Lighthouse Service, retired after 1919.

Ordering Copies

To order records from St. Louis:

Access to Military Service Records is limited. See Services for Veterans, Next-of-Kin, or the Veteran's Representative for more information.

For more information about researching military service records, see:

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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