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Tag: veterans records

Death Takes No Holiday: Full Military Honors at Arlington in 2014

[Today's post comes from Rod Ross, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives. While researchers come to Rod every day to learn from his knowledge of congressional records, he recently had to consult an Archives colleague for an unusual task outside the office.]

Arlington National Cemetery (330-CFD-DF-SD-03-18020; National Archives Identifier  6606577)

Arlington National Cemetery (330-CFD-DF-SD-03-18020; National Archives Identifier 6606577)

Sometime in 2014—because Arlington National Cemetery has a substantial backlog, causing delays of eight or nine months—I expect to attend a funeral of someone I barely knew in life, Odis Frederick Quick (1916–2013).

I live in an apartment house in Southwest Washington, DC. Not long ago, I received an email asking me if I knew Odis Quick, who “lives or lived” in the building. The writer was renting an apartment in the coop but wanted to buy. She had seen mail piled up in front of a unit and wondered if it might be available.

On Saturday, August 17, I asked at the front desk if they knew the status of the Quick apartment. The woman there did indeed know.

Odis Quick had died in a hospice in mid-May, and his body had been taken to a funeral home, where it remained. Mid-May to mid-August—that’s unbelievable, I thought. The woman at the desk said that a fellow resident in my building, Bob McIntosh, had been with Odis in the … [ Read all ]

Burned and brittle records are in good hands

Over 5,000 requests for veterans’ military personnel records are received every day at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.

Donna Judd spends each day carefully searching for valuable information for veterans in the documents left burned and brittle by the 1973 fire at the NPRC building. She looks for separation documents so that veterans can get benefits, and she sifts through damaged files to find information for medals.

“One record could take 5 minutes, another record could take 5 hours,” she says.

The fire that swept through the sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, damaged and destroyed millions of documents. These records are needed—often urgently—by veterans in order to claim health benefits, receive medals, or secure a military burial.

As the fronts of boxes burned away, records spilled to the floor, providing further fuel for the fire.

As the fronts of boxes burned away, records spilled to the floor, providing further fuel for the fire.

When a request for a damaged record comes in, the file is pulled and then sent to a triage area where the Preservation staff assesses its condition. If the record is heavily damaged, it remains with the Preservation team. If it’s damaged but the information could be retrieved with care, the record will go to Judd.

An average of 200 to 250 records arrive in her office every week. Judd and another staff member, Jeannette Crowder, and three … [ Read all ]

Burnt in memory: Looking back at the 1973 St. Louis fire

This blog post is condensed from the article “Burnt in Memory,” by Marta G. O’Neill and William Seibert, from the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue.

By the time it was daylight on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, one thing was painfully clear: the loss of records to fire and water was staggering.

The fire had swept through the top floor of the building just after midnight. At its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting it. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours.

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The Military Personnel Records Center after the July 1973 fire. Vast numbers of personnel records for veterans from 1912 to 1963 were destroyed or damaged by fire and water.

About 73 to 80 percent of the approximately 22 million individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) stored in the building were destroyed. The records lost were those of former members of the Army, the Army Air Force, and the Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963.

Up on the sixth floor, reinforced concrete columns had sheared off, causing the roof to collapse. Metal shelving and metal filing cabinets were bent and twisted by the fire’s heat. Bricks of ash remained where cubic foot boxes of records once sat. Aisles between shelving rows were filled with debris up to three feet deep, and several … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: National Personnel Records Center

If you have served in the military or worked for the Federal Government, your personnel file is held at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. More than 34 million files  are held in this facility, filling 2.3 million cubic feet of records on 385,000 shelves. There are 6.2 billion feet of paper in the military records alone.

The National Personnel Records Center building (shown under construction in 2011) includes 29-foot-high shelves for storing records. (Photo by Lenin Hurtado.)

About 600 full-time staff work in St. Louis. In 2011, the NPRC  received 1,093,522 written requests for records, about 3,000 requests per day. They have received about 889,283 so far in 2012.

This part of the National Archives provides vital services to veterans. Former servicemen and women can use the documentation in their files to receive veterans benefits (form DD-214), help with replacement medals, or receive a military burial.

Not all the records in the NPRC are held in the permanent archives. Records with a discharge date of 1950 or earlier are archival records and are open to the public. But records from 1951 are non-archival, so they are restricted for privacy. Usually only the veteran or the next-of-kin can access these files.

For historians, each pre-1950 archival records is a possible treasure chest. The Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) … [ Read all ]