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) of Presidents George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson are in these holdings.

World War I Draft Registration Card for Joseph F. Keaton, the actor known as "Buster" Keaton.

“The OMPFs hold the stories of millions of individuals who defended our nation throughout the many wars of the 20th century. They contain such documents as enlistment contracts, duty locations, performance evaluations, award citations, training records, and the especially important Report of Separation (DD Form 214 or earlier equivalent),” writes Norman Eisenberg in “20th-Century Veterans’ Service Records: Safe, Secure—and Available.”

For genealogists, military files can hold valuable information: military service records, military pension records, and bounty land warrant application files. Sometimes the files hold detailed stories of wartime events.

Looking for a family’s military or civilian records? You can request copies of files in writing to be sent to you, or you can make an appointment to visit the research rooms and view the original files in person.

9 thoughts on “Archives Spotlight: National Personnel Records Center

  1. Trying to get some VA assistance for the first time in my life and I can’t get my DD-214.
    Told it was destroyed in the Records fire of 1973, but I wasn’t separated until Sept21, 1975?

  2. im trying to get a copy of my dads discharge paper. i have his ssn. but not his service number. can i still get it just with the information i have.

  3. i am trying to locate my dad’s dd214 so i can get an American flag from a funeral home. He
    served in the Korean war and was stationed at Biolxi, Miss in the early 1950’s. he served in the US Air Force. any help would be greatly appreciated. he passed away march 22, 2007.

  4. I served with the 2bn, 14th artillery, 197th Infantry Brigade, advisory team #2, USMACV attached with the 2nd ARVN division. I want to know what medal ribbon, commerative ribbons that were issued these units that can be worn by army vets of those units

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