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Robert 'Bobby' Darnell (USN) Memorial Page

Military Records at NPRC
General Dwight D. Eisenhower encourages troops
of the 101st Airborne prior to D-Day

Before you get started on an all out and fruitless search
for your relative's military records you need to consider this:

The 1973 Fire

On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at NPRC (MPR) destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files. The affected record collections are described below.

Personnel and Period Affected
Est'd Loss
Personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960
Air Force
Personnel discharged, September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)


No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no 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.

Press Release: Veterans Administration:

Facts About the 1973 St. Louis Fire and Lost Records

The National Archives and Records Administration is the official depository for records of military personnel separated from the United States Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. The records are housed in three locations: The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Md., and the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Mo.

The NPRC contains records relating to:

US Army officers separated after June 30, 1917, and enlisted Army personnel separated after October 31, 1912.

US Air Force officers and enlisted personnel separated after September 1947.

US Naval officers separated after 1902, and naval enlisted personnel separated after 1885. US Marine Corps officers separated after 1895, and enlisted personnel separated after 1904.

US Coast Guard officers separated after 1928, and enlisted personnel separated after 1914. Civilian employees of predecessor agencies (Revenue Cutter Service, Life-Saving Service and Lighthouse Service) of the US Coast Guard from 1864-1919.

The Fire

A fire at the NPRC in St. Louis on July 12, 1973, destroyed about 80 percent of the records for Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75 percent of the records for Air Force personnel with surnames from "Hubbard" through "Z" discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964, were also destroyed.

What Was Lost

It is hard to determine exactly what was lost in the fire, because:
There were no indices to the blocks of records involved. The records were merely filed in alphabetical order for the following groups:

World War I:
September 7, 1939 to November 1, 1912
World War II:
December 31, 1946 to September 8, 1939
Post World War II:
December 31, 1959 to January 1, 1947
Air Force
December 31, 1963 to September 25, 1947

Millions of records, especially medical records, had been withdrawn from all three groups and loaned to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire. The fact that one's records are not in NPRC files at a particular time does not mean the records were destroyed in the fire.

Reconstruction of Lost Records

If a veteran is advised that his or her records may have been lost in the fire, he or she may send photocopies of any documents they possess to the NPRC, particularly separation documents. The address is National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. This enables the NPRC to reestablish files by adding those documents to the computerized index and filing them permanently.

Alternate Sources of Military Service Data

In the event a veteran does not have any records in his or her possession, the essential military service data may be available from a number of alternate sources.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains records on veterans whose military records were affected by the fire if the veteran or a beneficiary filed a claim prior to July 1973.

Service information may also be found in various kinds of "organizational" records such as unit morning reports, payrolls and military orders on file at the NPRC or other National Archives and Records Administration facilities.
There also is a great deal of information available in records of the State Adjutants General, and other state "veterans services" offices.
By using alternate sources, NPRC may often be able to reconstruct a veteran's beginning and ending dates of active service, the character of service, rank while in service, time lost while on active duty, and periods of hospitalization. NPRC is usually able to issue NA Form 13038, "Certification of Military Service," considered the equivalent of a Form DD-214, "Report of Separation From Active Duty," for the purpose of establishing eligibility for veterans benefits.

Necessary Information for File Reconstruction

The key to reconstructing military data is to give the NPRC enough specific information so the staff can properly search the various sources. The following information is normally required:

Full name used during military service
Branch of service
Approximate dates of service
Service number
Place of entry into service
Last unit of assignment
Place of discharge

(Editor's Note: The NPRC reports in its annual report and recommendations which will lead it to 2007; that, the system is so clogged with paperwork and requests that they can not handle all the requests. Individuals seeking their help may have to wait, weeks, months and sometimes even years according to other sources!)
Source:  NPRC Record Center St. Louis, Mo

Bobby Darnell Memorial Page/Good Friend/Vietnam Service/Left this world too young in 1971/And  is Forever missed & Never Forgotten

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