U.S. Military Personnel Records

Department of Defense Form DD-214 has been issued to U.S. military servicemen and women upon separation from active service, beginning in the 1950's. The term "DD-214" is often used generically to mean any "separation papers" or "discharge papers", no matter what form number was used to document active duty military service. If you need some help locating military service records for any American veteran -- yourself, a relative, or other person -- the suggestions on this page should help.

Administrative record keeping during World War II, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 3 February 1944
Administrative record keeping during World War II, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, VA, 3 February 1944.

Today in WW II: 6 Jan 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt gives Four Freedoms address to Congress. More 
6 Jan 1941 German Luftwaffe launches the first attacks against British convoys bound for Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
6 Jan 1942 Facing overwhelming odds, Gen. MacArthur all US and Filipino troops withdrawn into the Bataan Peninsula for a final defense of the Philippines.
Visit the Olive-Drab.com World War II Timeline for day-by-day events 1939-1945! See also WW2 Books.

20th Century American Military Personnel Records

The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. NPRC-MPR also stores medical treatment records of retirees from all services, as well as records for dependent and other persons treated at naval medical facilities. Information from the records is made available upon written request (with signature and date) to the extent allowed by law.

Records maintained at NPRC-MPR in St. Louis, MO are basically the records of service starting in the 20th Century, but here is a table of more specific information on the categories of veterans records held there:

Branch of Service Dates
U.S. Army Officers separated after 29 June 1917
Enlisted personnel separated after 31 October 1912
Note: Many records were destroyed by fire in the St. Louis Center in 1973.
US 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.
US Navy Officers separated after 1901
Enlisted personnel separated after 1884
US Marine Corps Officers separated after 1904
Enlisted personnel separated after 1905
US 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.

The NPRC-MPR has made it easier to obtain records is you are in one of these two classes of people making a request:

  • You are the veteran
  • You are the next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, defined as:
    • Surviving spouse who has not remarried
    • Parent
    • Child
    • Sister or brother

If you fall into one of the two classes liste, you may now use eVetRecs on-line to order a copy of your military records. Just click on the link and follow the instructions to create a customized order form to request information from your, or your relative's, military personnel records.

Request Pertaining to United States Military Records: Standard Form 180

If you do not fit into one of the categories who can use the on-line system, you must use the U.S. Government Standard Form 180, the "Request Pertaining to Military Records". You can download the form along with instructions for filling it out at this link:

More information about SF-180 and the process of filing the request is available on this Vererans page from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Please Note: All SF-180 requests must be in writing, signed and mailed to this address:

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100

Older U.S. Military Personnel Records

Records of military service prior to World War I are in Washington, DC at the National Archives Building. These holdings include:

Branch of Service Dates
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 - 31 October 1912
Officers, 1789 - 30 June 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

To order military service records from NARA in Washington, use Order Online! or the NATF Form 86. 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.

U.S. Military Service Number and Social Security Number

Service numbers and social security numbers are used as part of the identifiers used to store and locate records. When requesting records, use these guidelines:

  • Social Security Number (SSN). Always include the veteran's social security number on a request.
  • Service Number (SN). Also include the veteran's service number on a request if service was during the period when service numbers were assigned as personal identifiers.

The U.S. military services discontinued using the service number as an identifier and began using the social security number on the following dates:

Branch of Service Date of Changeover
Army and Air Force 1 July 1969
Navy and Marine Corps 1 January 1972
Coast Guard 1 October 1974

More information about U.S. Military Personnel Records

The US Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Government's Human Resources agency, has this page of information and links specially for Veterans.

For an overview of records at the National Archives relating to military service, go to the linked page.

Note: Thanks to WW II vet Bill Wynne for suggesting this page.