Researching a US Veteran

Researching a US Veteran. The secret is SF180.

So, you have a great medal from a US Service member, and you want to know more about this person. You need to contact the National Archives!

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).

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

* The National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.

AND...

* The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

The National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., holds records relating to:
Branch of Service Dates of Service
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

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 of Service
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 and are not transferred to NPRC.
U.S. 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.
U.S. 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.
U.S. 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.
U.S. 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:

 

* If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, use eVetRecs (or use the paper form, SF-180).
* All others, use Standard Form 180.

For more information about researching military service records, see:

* NARA's Genealogy page

* An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service


Access to Military Records by the General Public, including genealogists who are not next-of-kin

Limited information from Official Military Personnel Files is releasable to the general public without the consent of the veteran or the next-of-kin. You are considered a member of the general public if you are asking about a veteran who is no relation to you, or a veteran who is a relative but you are not the next-of-kin. Next-of-kin is defined as the unremarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.

The type of information releasable is intended to strike a balance between the public's right to obtain information from Federal records, as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the veteran's right to privacy as defined by the Privacy Act. Information will not be released if requested for unethical purposes.

The type of information releasable to the general public is dependent upon the veteran's authorization.

With the veteran's authorization.

The veteran (or next-of-kin if the veteran is deceased) must authorize release of information which is not available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (In some cases the veteran may already possess military documents that contain the information you are seeking.) The authorization must 1) be in writing; 2) specify what additional information or copies that NPRC (MPR) may release to you; and 3) include the signature of the veteran or next-of-kin.

Without the veteran's authorization.

Limited amounts of information can be released from a record to a member of the general public. This is the information available under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the public has access to certain military service information without the veteran's authorization (or that of the next-of-kin of deceased veterans). Examples of information which may be available from Official Military Personnel Files without an unwarranted invasion of privacy include:

1  Name
2  Service Number
3  Dates of Service
4  Branch of Service
5  Salary*
6  Assignments and Geographical Locations
7  Source of Commission *
8  Military Education
9  Promotion Sequence Number *
10  Awards and decorations (Eligibility only, not actual medals)
11  Duty Status
12  Photograph
13  Transcript of Court-Martial Trial
14  Place of entrance and separation
15  Rank and Date of Rank

If the veteran is deceased.
1  Place of Birth
2  Date and geographical location of death
3  Place of burial


Items marked with an asterisk are rarely available in the records maintained by NARA.

Preparing Requests for Information from Official Military Personnel Files:

Federal law [5 USC 552a(b)] requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing. Each request must be signed (in cursive) and dated (within the last year). Certain basic information is needed to locate military service records. This information includes the veteran's complete name used while in service, service number, social security number, branch of service, date of birth, place of birth, and dates of service.

To request military service records, veterans and the next-of-kin of deceased veterans may use vetrecs.archives.gov. For all others, use the Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. Although not mandatory, 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. Requests may also be submitted as a letter, containing the basic information listed above.

Follow the instructions for preparing the SF 180. Check the table to determine the location of the record and submit your request to the appropriate address.

Note: Do not use the addresses on the SF 180 for sending requests related to the issuance or replacement of medals and awards. Military Awards and Decorations provides the correct mailing addresses for submitting correspondence for issuance or replacement.

Costs:

Most requests for limited information are processed without cost. However, it is possible that a fee may be charged if the researching, processing, and photocopying become excessive. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made.

Response Time:

Response time varies dependent upon the complexity of your request, the availability of records, and our workload. Please do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed as it may cause further delays. 

 Source: The National Archives.