About Military Service Records and Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs, DD Form 214)
If you've been discharged from military service, your personnel files are stored here at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). We are 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.
If you are a recently separated veteran, records can be found online via the VA eBenefits portal. However, most veterans and their next-of-kin can obtain free copies of their DD Form 214 (Report of Separation) and other records several ways:
Military personnel records are primarily administrative records and can contain information such as:
- duty stations and assignments
- training, qualifications, performance
- awards and medals
- disciplinary actions
- emergency data
- administrative remarks
- separation/discharge/retirement (including DD Form 214, Report of Separation, or equivalent)
- and other personnel actions.
Detailed information about the veteran's participation in military battles and engagements is NOT contained in the record.
Most Official Military Personnel Files contain both personnel and active duty health records, but this practice was discontinued by the service branches beginning in 1992. See Military Medical and Health Records for more details.
The National Archives' National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) stores records of individual military service pertaining to former service members who no longer have a service obligation. Included are records of veterans who are completely discharged (with no remaining reserve commitment), or who are retired or have died. Records are usually transferred to NPRC within six months after these events. NPRC does not have records of members who are still in the active or inactive reserves or in the National Guard. The records of each military service department on file at NPRC are listed under Location of Military Service Records.
In an effort to expand access to and ensure the preservation of the records, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) together with the Department of Defense (DOD) developed a schedule, signed July 8, 2004, 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.
As part of the initial transfer, the records of 1.2 million veterans who served with the United States Navy and Marine Corps were opened to the public in July 2005. In addition, 200 OMPFs of "Persons of Exceptional Prominence" (PEP files) - such as Presidents, members of Congress and the Supreme Court; famous military leaders; decorated heroes; celebrities; and other cultural figures who served in the military - were also made available to the public for the first time (see below for additional information).
In November 2007, NARA opened to the public 6.3 million OMPFs of former military personnel who served in the United States Army (including Army Air Corps and Army Air Forces), Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. In September 2009, marking the 62nd anniversary of the creation of the United States Air Force, NARA accepted the first block of Air Force records into its custody.
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 archival records, open to the general public.
Records of Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP)
The 2004 NARA and DOD 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.
As part of the initial transfer of records, a selection of approximately 200 records of Persons of Exceptional Prominence who had been deceased ten years or more were opened to the public. Additional records of eligible individuals have been added (and will continue to be added) as transfer agreements are reached with the respective military service departments. To date, approximately 500 individual PEP records are open to the public. See PEP Records for access.
Additional information on the contents of Military Service Records and Personnel Files:
- Content of the Official Military Personnel File
- Special Notice to Veterans and Family Members regarding requests for copies of military personnel and/or medical files
DD Form 214, Discharge Papers and Separation Documents
A Report of Separation is generally issued when a service member performs active duty or at least 90 consecutive days of active duty training. The Report of Separation contains information normally needed to verify military service for benefits, retirement, employment, and membership in veterans' organizations. Information shown on the Report of Separation may include the service member's:
- Date and place of entry into active duty
- Home address at time of entry
- Date and place of release from active duty
- Home address after separation
- Last duty assignment and rank
- Military job specialty
- Military education
- Decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign awards
- Total creditable service
- Foreign service credited
- Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)
The report of separation form issued in most recent years is the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. Before January 1, 1950, several similar forms were used by the military services, including the WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and the NAVCG 553.
To get copies of DD Form 214, Discharge Papers or Separation Documents: