Military Records Lost: 1973 St. Louis Fire

David Magann

Often we see clients who have had military records lost and sometimes those records are attributable to the fire in St. Louis, but more often or not, the records do still exist and need to be requested from another location. The following may clear up what was lost in the great fire and what form to submit for the military records request:

A fire at the NPRC in St. Louis on July 12, 1973, destroyed about 80 percent of the records for Army
personnel discharged between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. About 75 percent of the
records for Air Force personnel with surnames from “Hubbard” through “Z” discharged between
September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964, were also destroyed.

What Was Lost:

Exactly what was lost in the fire is difficult to determine, because there were no indices for the exact
records involved. The records were merely filed in alphabetical order for the following date groups:
World War I: Army September 7, 1939 to November 1, 1912
World War II: Army December 31, 1946 to September 8, 1939
Post World War II: Army December 31, 1959 to January 1, 1947; Air Force: December 31,
1963 to September 25, 1947

Millions of records, especially medical records, had been withdrawn from all three groups and loaned
to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) prior to the fire. The fact that one’s records are not in
NPRC files at a particular time does not mean the records were destroyed in the fire.

Generally, to request military records Form SF 180 needs to be completed and sent to the appropriate custodian. See the form for the custodian address. The SF 180 form can be submitted online however we send them U.S. Certified Mail in writing.