Veterans’ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What is the difference between archival and Federal (non-archival) records? Read more...
- Was my record destroyed in the 1973 Fire? If so, what information is available to me? Read more...
- What is the NPRC doing today to safeguard and make available records damaged in the 1973 Fire? Read more...
- I've heard that the records of historically significant individuals, such as Presidents and famous military leaders, are available for research. What are these records, and how can I access them? Read more...
- How can I get a copy of my DD Form 214, Report of Separation (or equivalent form)? Read more...
- What form do I use to request information from military service records? Read more...
- What information do I need to include in a request for military service records?
- How can I get my medals or those of my family? Read more...
- I've heard that the NPRC will be scanning my military records and destroying the original documents and that I can have the paper file if I request it. Is that true? Read more...
- There is an ongoing "myth" that "10 million medical records" were found. Are these duplicates of the records that were burned? Read more...
- Are military personnel and health records stored at any locations other than NPRC? Read more...
- My great grandfather served in the Civil War (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, etc.). How do I obtain information concerning his military service? Read more...
- How can I locate someone who is currently serving on active duty in the Armed Forces? Read more...
- Where can I call for help or immediate assistance? Read more...
- Is the NPRC open to public visitors? Read more...
- How does the National Archives protect the privacy of veterans records? Read more...
- How can I get an address roster to get in touch with old service buddies? Read more...
- How can I learn about benefits for dependents and families? Read more...
- How do I apply for my Cold War Recognition Certificate? Read more...
- How do I get a blueprint, plan or drawing for a military vehicle such as a ship, plane or tank? Read more...
- How do I get casualty information for various wars?
- Can I get a list of soldiers from my city/state/etc. who fought in a specific war? Read more...
- What records would be useful for genealogical research? Read more...
Archival Records, FAQ
In 2004, NARA together with the Department of Defense (DOD) developed a schedule making the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) permanent records of the United States. This schedule mandates the legal transfer of these files from DOD ownership to NARA ownership 62 years after the service member's separation from the military. Separation from service is defined as discharge, retirement or death in service based on a rolling date. For example, if today's date is January 1, 2013, then the discharge, retirement or date of death must be January 1, 1951 or before to be considered archival. Archival records are no longer the property of the agencies that created them, in this case the Military Service Departments, but are records of the National Archives, open to the general public. See Archival Records to access these records.
Records of individuals who left service less than 62 years ago are non-archival and are maintained under the Federal Records Center program. Federal (non-archival) OMPFs are subject to access restrictions, and only limited information or copies of documents from these records may be released to the general public within the provisions of the law. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act provide balance between the right of the public to obtain information from military service records and the right of the former military service member to protect his/her privacy. See Federal Records Center Program to access these records.
Based on a rolling date of 62 years, all military personnel records will eventually become permanent archival records.
Of Note, beginning in 2009, NARA signed agreements with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that transferred ownership of the Official Personnel Folders (OPF) of certain former Federal civil employees from OPM over to NARA. As a result, the records of many former Federal civil servants whose employment ended prior to 1952 are now open to the public (see Archival OPFs).
On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the NPRC destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (see 1973 Fire). The records affected:
|Branch||Personnel and Period Affected||Estimated Loss|
|Army||Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960||80%|
|Air Force||Personnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964 |
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)
No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any 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. However, in the years following the fire, the NPRC collected numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information.
Working with burned records, or "B-files," is one of the core missions of the Preservation Program. Within the Preservation Lab, technicians provide file review, assessment and treatment for the burned records. Learn more
In 2004, NARA together with the Department of Defense (DOD) developed a schedule making the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) permanent records of the United States. This schedule mandates the legal transfer of ownership of these files from DOD to NARA 62 years after the service member's separation from the military.
In addition, this schedule also allows for the transfer of OMPF's of "Persons of Exceptional Prominence" (PEP) as soon as ten years after the individual's date of death. This "early" opening of the records to the public is based upon the desire of the National Archives and the DOD to make the records of historically significant individuals available for research. PEP records document the military service of Presidents, members of Congress and the Supreme Court; famous military leaders; decorated heroes; celebrities; and other cultural figures. Learn more
Military Personnel Records, FAQ
The DD Form 214, Report of Separation, is filed in the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). Most veterans and their next-of-kin can request copies of their DD Form 214 and other 20th Century military and medical personnel records online, via eVetRecs.
Please use the Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. Although not mandatory, using the SF-180 is the recommended method to send a request for military service information. This form captures all the necessary information to locate a record. Provide as much information on the form as possible and send copies of any service documents that you may have. Most veterans and their next-of-kin can also request copies of their DD Form 214 and other 20th Century military and medical personnel records online, via eVetRecs.
Certain basic information is needed to locate military service and medical records. For example, if you are requesting an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), you must include:
- The Veteran's complete name, as used in service
- Service number and/or Social Security Number
- Branch of service
- Dates of service
- Date and place of birth may be helpful, especially if the Service Number is unknown
- For records affected by the 1973 Fire, also include:
- Place of discharge
- Last assigned unit
- Place of entry into service, if known
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) does not issue service medals; that is a function of each military service department. Requests for the issuance or replacement of military service medals, decorations and awards should be directed to the specific branch of the military in which the veteran served. However, for cases involving Air Force and Army personnel (with some exceptions), the NPRC will verify the awards to which a veteran is entitled and forward the request along with the record's verification to the appropriate service department for issuance of the medals. See Military Awards and Decorations for instructions and addresses for submitting requests.
No, the NPRC does not intend to destroy paper Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs). We are expanding our use of information technology for request and record tracking, but the purpose of any electronic scanning will be to reduce the handling of fragile records during the reference process or to reduce the time necessary to locate an OMPF. It is our responsibility to preserve and protect Official Military Personnel Files, as they are permanently valuable records documenting the essential evidence of military service for the veterans of our nation. We will send only photocopies of documents when we respond to requests.
No, they are not duplicate records. This source of records contains approximately 7.8 million summaries for admissions to medical treatment facilities. They contain limited medical information which may be sufficient to support certain claims for veterans' benefits. See Alternate Record Sources (check back later for more information) for a more detailed explanation of the types of records used to reconstruct service and medical information lost in the 1973 Fire.
Yes. Please see Records Location Table for a listing of various military personnel and health records locations, categorized by branch of service, current status and applicable dates.
Generally, military service records prior to the 20th century are at the National Archives and Records Administration, Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB), Washington, DC 20408. See Requesting Copies of Older Military Service Records for more information. You may also wish to contact the National Archives Inquire mailbox.*
We receive records of former military members only after they have been separated (discharged, released, retired, etc.) from the military service. Therefore, we are unable to provide locator services for members still serving on active duty. Each military service has an office which deals with the world-wide location of active service personnel. See Locating Veterans and Service Members for links to military locator services.
- National Personnel Records Center:
Status Check: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For other veterans-related questions:
- Department of Veterans Affairs:
- Department of Veterans Affairs:
- For general inquiries, please call us toll free at:
- 1-866-272-6272 or 1-86-NARA-NARA
TDD lines: For College Park, MD: 301-837-0482
- 1-866-272-6272 or 1-86-NARA-NARA
Individuals who wish to visit the NPRC because they have a strong interest in viewing records in person may request an appointment in the NPRC's Research Rooms: the Archival Research Room and/or the Federal Records Center Research Room (see Visitors and On-Site Researchers for additional information).
The National Archives values the privacy of our veterans very highly and we actively protect their files stored here from disclosure to unauthorized individuals. Read more about the Privacy and Security of Veterans and Military Personnel Records at the National Archives.
We cannot release personal information about a veteran, and we lack the resources and current information to forward letters or correspondence to veterans. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs and certain military branches may be able to forward some messages to veterans or active service personnel. See Locating Veterans and Service Members for links to veteran locator services.
A variety of important benefits and services are available to veterans and their families from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies. While the National Archives does not provide these benefits, we can help you obtain the copies of Military Service Records or other proof of service which you'll need to prove eligibility. See also Veterans' Benefit Resources.
The NPRC, upon request, will provide copies of DD-214s (or equivalent) or SF-50s to authorized requesters. These documents may be used to apply for the Certificate. Click here for more information regarding Cold War Recognition Certificates.
The NPRC does not have the application form available, nor will we be able to supply the certificate itself. For more information concerning the application process visit the Cold War Recognition Certificate web page.
The National Archives holds over 15 million maps, charts, aerial photographs, architectural drawings, patents and ships plans - constituting one of the world's largest accumulations of such documents. These holdings are arranged in 190 record groups, which reflect the origins of the records from specific Federal departments and agencies. For information on accessing these types of materials please see Cartographic and Architectural Records.
Some casualty records are available for the Vietnam Conflict, the Korean War and World War II. See Research in Military Records for more information.
Visit Research in Military Records to begin your search.
For Military Personnel Records: military service records, military pension records and bounty land warrant application files would all be useful. Please visit Genealogy Research in Military Records for additional information.
For Civilian Personnel Records: If your family member was employed by the Federal Government, the Official Personnel Folder (OPF) would be a primary source for research.
See Records Location Table for contact information
* Please see our Privacy Statement
"NARA ensures, for the Citizen and the Public Servant, for the President and the Congress and the Courts, ready access to essential evidence."