Using the online eVetRecs at the National Archives website http://www.archives.gov/veterans/ I ordered a World War I service record for my grandfather, Allen Lee Millard Gooch. I knew my chances of getting a file were slim because in 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), including 80% of personnel discharged 1 Nov 1912-1 Jan 1960.
Indeed, I received a reply to my request that said my requested records were part of the 1973 fire. I was sad. Then, amazingly, I received a thick packet with much, or possibly all, of my grandfather’s file with copies of the “burned” records! Here is a page:
This record–an “Application for Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge Certificate”–proves that you never know just where you will find some of the best information. This record provides us with:
- Full name
- Place/date of enlistment and discharge
- Military unit
- Physical description
- City and State of birth
- Approximate birth year
- Probable residence after discharge
This is only one of many pages in this record, and the others are equally interesting. I may post some more soon.
This record also proves you should never give up just because you are told a repository burned. Yes, the records burned, but hey—not entirely!! Let’s hear it for the 42 fire districts that responded to the alarm and battled the blaze for 2 days.
I received an unexpected bonus one day when a box containing replacement medals for my grandfather’s WWI service arrived in the mail: A Purple Heart, a WWI Victory Medal, and a medal for his participation in the battles of Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel. What a treasure! I will post photos soon.
To learn more about the Military service records and Official Military Personnel Files go to http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/about-service-records.html
Pre-WWI military records can be ordered here: