Military Records - How to replace lost military records or conduct historical research (2023)

Table of Contents
  1. Who can request military records?
    1. Requests for military records of next of kin
  2. How to replace lost military service records
  3. The 1973 National Archives Fire - Some military records were permanently destroyed
  4. Request military records for historical research
    1. Request military records for individuals of exceptional importance
    2. Additional references for historical military research
  5. Does the military have photos of me in uniform?
  6. Where to request your military service records:
  7. How much do copies of military service records cost?
  8. Replacing military awards, decorations and dog tags

Records of military service, medals, awards, and decorations are among themimportant part of a veteran's service recordand are often treasured by veterans and family members. But service records are also essentialproof of military serviceor to determine eligibility for certain veteran benefit programs.

The most frequently requested document from the National Archives is theDD Form 214, Proof of Military Service. This is one of the most valuable documents you will ever possess as it opens the door to a multitude of benefits such as: If youlose your DD Form 214, you should replace it immediately as it may take some time to get a replacement.

This article shows veterans, their family members, and the general public how to request a copy of military service records, including DD Form 214, medical records, or other service records that you may want a copy of. Please click on the following link if you are looking for information on thisReplacement for lost medals, awards or awards.

Who can request military records?

The government does not give all military service information to anyone who asks. If the service member is still alive, he or she is the only person who can request the complete service records, unless the veteran has given written permission to another person or the records are required pursuant to a court order.

If the veteran is deceased, full military service records can be requested from Next-of-Kin (NOK). If you are not a Veteran or NOK (as defined below), you are considered part of the general public. Members of the general public may request limited service records through theFreedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In some cases complete military records are released for persons of exceptional importance. These are typically veterans who are in the public eye because of their military or post-military careers. Almost anyone can request military records for these veterans (more on this below).

Requests for military records of next of kin

Let's take a look at who the government considers family members and who the government considers the general public (remember these restrictions are in place to protect your privacy).

According to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Next-of-Kin includes:

  • For the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the NOK is defined as: unmarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister.
  • For the Army, the NOK is defined as: the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling, or eldest grandchild.
  • If you do not meet the definition of NOK, you are considered a member of the general public.

How to replace lost military service records

Because the National Archives hold service records for millions of military veterans, you need to provide them with some information in order to locate your service records. If you're the veteran, most of this information shouldn't be too difficult to find.

It is also important to note that the National Archives handle over 1.4 million requests for records annually. To streamline the process, they generally only provide veterans and family members with a copy of the separation documents or DD Form 214 required for most veteran benefits. If you require additional military service records or your medical records, you must indicate this when requesting your records.

Military Records - How to replace lost military records or conduct historical research (1)

To request your service records, you must submit an online request through the eVetRecs system or send a signed and dated copy of SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records, which you can download from the National Archives website

Here is a list of the basic information you will need:

  • The veteran's full name as used on duty
  • Service Number
  • social security number
  • branch of service
  • dates of service
  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
  • All applications must be signed and dated by the veteran or family member.
  • If you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran, you must provide evidence of the veteran's death, e.g. a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home, or a published obituary.

It is also helpful to provide additional information with your request, e.g. B. the reason for your request (in case you need additional documents) or a deadline if applicable – this can be common when applying for benefits such as a VA loan.military funeral services,, or other services that may have a deadline. (The National Archives attempt to process “emergency” requests within two business days, so try to be prepared when sending in your records request).

The 1973 National Archives Fire - Some military records were permanently destroyed

The National Archives experienced a massive fire in 1973 that damaged or destroyed the service records of 16 to 18 million Army and Air Force veterans who were discharged between 1912 and 1964. In some cases, the service records can be reconstructed from alternative sources such as base or unit level records, although in some cases some records are destroyed entirely. Records that fall into this category may take several weeks or more to research and complete. You can read more about this incident and the efforts of National Archives staff to reconstruct the recordsIn this article.

Request military records for historical research

Individual military records are generally private and limited to the member or next of kin. However, some military records are released. This can be general information for various campaigns, casualty records, various statistics, records of orders, awards and decorations, specific combat operations, records of POWs and MIAs, selected photo archives and much more.

Most of the information in these reports is aggregate information that would be useful to researchers, authors, and those with a historical interest in military operations. Here is a link toData and information found online. Other information is kept in the archives and is available to historical researchers. Note that some of this information has not yet been transferred to digital medium and is only available through archival research.

Request military records for individuals of exceptional importance

Many military veterans have lived prominent lives. In these cases, the National Archives often make these records available to researchers. This can include famous veterans such as military heroes, presidents and other politicians, sports stars, celebrities, business people, cultural figures, entertainers and more. These records may be available upon request. Note: A corresponding fee may apply.More info.

Additional references for historical military research

These resources may also be helpful:

Does the military have photos of me in uniform?

That's a great question and I'm not sure. The military keeps some of these records, but not all. My photo was taken on my basic training flight and should be part of the Air Force's historical records. I probably had my picture taken in uniform during basic training, but to be honest I can't remember. If so, then it could be part of my historical record if it was an official photo. However, if the photo was taken by a commercial photographer, it is unlikely to be stored in any government archives.

I know that my photos from officers' school fall into this latter category. The photos were taken by a contractor who was commissioned to take photos of our flights and us as individuals. We had the option to purchase photos in either paper or digital format. But that was a contract between us and the company. These were not official military photos, so they will not be part of our official military archive.

Whether or not your photograph is retained by the military depends largely on when and where you served, whether or not you took official photographs, and the policies of each branch of service at the time the photograph was taken.

I wish I could tell you that everyone has an official photo on file, but I doubt that's the case. I recommend contacting the National Archives or your agency's archives department to see if they have official photos of you in uniform.

Where to request your military service records:

Military records are kept in the National Archivesin St.Louis, MO. You can request a copy of your documents online or by post or fax. Be sure to sign and date your request.

NPRC mailing address and contact information:
National Center for Personnel Records
Military Personnel Files
1 archive drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
NPRC Phone Number: 314-801-0800
NPRC Fax Number: 314-801-9195

How much do copies of military service records cost?

Generally, a request for basic service and medical records is free for service members and dependents as long as the service record is non-archivable. Records of military service are considered archived 62 years after the serviceman's separation from the military. Requests for a copy of an archived Official Military Personnel File are subject to a copy fee, which is $20 for a 5-page document or a flat fee of $60 for files longer than 5 pages.

Military Records - How to replace lost military records or conduct historical research (2)

Many veterans seeking copies of their military records may also wish to attempt to replace lost or damaged military awards and decorations or their old dog tags. Each of them has a different process that is explained in the following articles:

  • How to replace lost military medals, awards and decorations.
  • Replacement Dog Tags - Where to Get Them and What You Need to Know Before You Buy.
Military Records - How to replace lost military records or conduct historical research (3)

About the author of the post

Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner and entrepreneur. He served on active duty with the USAF for over six years and is currently a member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan founded The Military Wallet in 2007 after retiring from active military service and has since written about finance, small business and military performance topics.

be depicted in; characterized in:Ryan's writing has appeared in the following publications: Forbes,, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA , Go Banking Rates and many other publications.

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