Want To Request Family Members’ Military Records Here’s How It Works
Posted March 18, 2015 5:00 a.m. EDTUpdated July 13, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT
Dotson, a producer at WRAL-TV, filed a records request to see what medals her grandfather had received. What she found led to a sweet surprise for her family, especially her father.
The National Personnel Records Center holds the historical records of nearly 100 million veterans and responds to more than 1.4 million records requests each year, according to the National Archives.
The vast majority of those records are on paper and not available online. They can be used for things such as proving military service or as a tool in genealogical research.
Dotson wanted to find out more about her late grandfather, Jack, who served in the Army in World War II, Korea and North Africa. He retired as a sergeant major and died in 1998.
She learned that her grandfather was in the military police and was awarded more than a dozen medals, including a Purple Heart and two bronze stars. She was able to order the medals and surprise her father with them last year as a belated Fathers Day gift.
Requesting military records can be time-consuming but is worth the wait, according to Dotson, who said she started researching how to get her grandfathers records in August 2013.
How to request military records, awards and decorations
How To Apply And Application Assistance
Provided below is information and links regarding benefits and services potentially available to you. We strongly recommend, if you are considering requesting services or submitting an application to the VA, that you contact your County Veterans Service Office. Their Service Officers specialize in assisting veterans and their family members with claims, applications, and appeals to the VA.
Please visit our County Veterans Service Offices web page to obtain your County Veterans Service Office\’s contact information.
More Project Recover Links
Project Recover is honored to help bring recognition to those who served and sacrificed and closure to their families. The following are some other articles you may find helpful and interesting as you research your familys MIA and getting military records.
- Finding Heaven Can Wait Family Shares MIA Research This Project Recover article reveals the steps that the Kelly Family Research Team took to research the possible location of the downed B-24, Heaven Can Wait. After five years of research, they turned their findings over to Project Recover which located the B-24 in October 2017.
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Access To Military Records By The General Public
Limited information from Official Military Personnel Files is releasable to the general public without the consent of the veteran or the next-of-kin. You are considered a member of the general public if you are asking about a veteran who is no relation to you, or a veteran who is a relative but you are not the next-of-kin. Next-of-kin is defined as the unremarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.
Search For Family And Friends
When did the member serve?
Choose one of the following:
All First World War records are open on Library and Archives Canada website.
Search records of those who died in service between 1939 and 1947, including those killed in action, those who subsequently died of injuries related to service, and those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service.
Send an ATIP Online Request to LAC.
Library and Archives Canada keeps records for those who were in:
- the regular forces between 1919 and 1997, including Permanent Force, Second World War and Korea -OR-
- the reserves between 1919 and 2007 -OR-
- the Newfoundland Militia who served in the Second World War .
Service records from this time are protected because they contain personal information.
Send an ATIP Online Request to DND.
DND keeps records for those who were in:
- the regular Canadian Forces between 1 January 1998 and today AND is either:
- currently serving,
Write A Letter To Request Records
If you are not able to obtain a SF-180, you may still submit a request for military records. Requests must contain enough information to allow us to identify the record from among the more than 70 million on file at the National Personnel Records Center . For example, if you are requesting an Official Military Personnel File , please include as much of the following information as possible:
- The veteran’s complete name used while in service
- Branch of service
- Dates of service
- Date and place of birth may also be helpful, especially if the service number is not known
- If the request pertains to a record that may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
- Place of discharge
- Last unit of assignment
- Place of entry into the service, if known.
Please submit a separate request for each individual whose records are being requested.
Please Note: Next-of-kin must provide proof of death of the veteran, such as a copy of the death certificate, a letter from the funeral home or a published obituary.
Additional information is required if you are requesting clinical or medical treatment records .
Official Unit Records And Published Unit Histories
- Official government records documenting the operations of individual units are also preserved at the National Archives and Records Administration.
- Unit records for World War I can be found in Archives I Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408 telephone -501-5430.
- Unit records for World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars are in the custody of the Archives II Textual Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 telephone -713-7250.
- Contact the National Archives and Records Administration for information on unit records pertaining to the Persian Gulf War.
- Some published unit histories are available in the general book collections of the Library of Congress or at the military history centers maintained by the various branches of service.
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What Information Youll Get
Service records date from:
- 1750 for Foot Guards
- 1920 for the RAF
- 1926 for Royal Navy including Royal Marines
Each service record may include:
- surname, first name, service number, rank and regiment or corps
- place and date of birth
- date they joined and left the armed forces
- date of death, if they died in service
- good conduct medals
- details about their career, for example the units they served in
You can only get details about their career 25 years after the date they died unless you have consent from their immediate next of kin.
In some cases little or no information is available about someones military service. For example, Home Guard records may only include their personal details from when they enlisted.
Your request might be refused if it could harm the security or operations of the armed forces.
What If Im Not The Veteran Or Next
- It depends on the date the service member separated from the military. Military personnel records are open to the public 62 years after they leave the military. Records of any veteran who separated from the military 62 years ago can be ordered by anyone for a copying fee . See Access to Military Records by the General Public for more details.
But what if it’s been less than 62 years?
- Records of individuals who left service less than 62 years ago are subject to access restrictions and only limited information or copies may be released to the general public within the provisions of the law. The Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act provide balance between the right of the public to obtain information from military service records and the right of the former military service member to protect his/her privacy. See Federal Records Center Program to access these records.
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How Can Military Records Help In My Genealogy Research
Military records can often provide valuable information on the veteran, as well as on all members of the family. For example:
How do I begin?
There is no simple explanation for how to begin research in military records. Your research path will depend on aspects such as: what branch of service your ancestor was in, which conflict, what dates, whether Regular Army or a volunteer unit, whether your ancestor was an officer or enlisted personnel, and whether there was a pension application.
The approach to researching records of enlisted men and women, officers, and for the different branches of the military is described in this article: An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service.
Read more about beginning research in military records in the Prologue article, An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service.
Archival Vs Federal Military Records
The opening of these records is part of the ongoing transfer of all OMPFs from the ownership of the military services to the legal custody of NARA, 62 years after the service member’s separation from the military. Separation from service is defined as discharge, retirement or death in service based on a rolling date. For example, if today’s date is January 1, 2016, then the discharge, retirement or date of death must be January 1, 1954 or before for the record to be considered archival. Archival records are no longer the property of the agencies that created them, in this case the Military Service Departments, but are records of the National Archives, open to the general public. See Archival Records to access these records.
Records of individuals who left service less than 62 years ago are non-archival and are maintained under the Federal Records Center program. Federal OMPFs are subject to access restrictions, and only limited information or copies of documents from these records may be released to the general public within the provisions of the law. The Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act provide balance between the right of the public to obtain information from military service records and the right of the former military service member to protect his/her privacy. See Federal Records Center Program to access these records.
Based on a rolling date of 62 years, all military personnel records will eventually become archival records, open to the general public.
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How To Find Military Service Records
There are two ways to obtain these records:
Need help? Phone LAC at or send an email to .
Let’s get started!
United States World War Ii Records: Draft Registration
On September 16, 1940, the United States Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This law instituted a national draft that required all men ages 2165 to register. Men who were selected were required to serve for at least one year. When the United States entered the war,the draft was extended.
There were seven draft registrations during World War II. They included the following:
Draft Registration 1: October 16, 1940 men ages 2131were required to register.
Draft Registration 2: July 1, 1941 men registered who had reached age 21 since the last draft registration.
Draft Registration 3: February 16, 1942 men ages 2021and 3544 were added to the register.
Draft Registration 4: April 27, 1942 men ages 4565,who were not previously eligible for military service, were now required to register. This registration is sometimes referred to as the Old Mans Draft.
Draft Registration 5: June 30, 1942 men ages 1820were required to register.
Draft Registration 6: December 10, 1942 men who turned 18 since the last registration were added to the register.
Draft Registration 7: November 16December 31, 1943 men ages 1844 who were United States citizens living abroad were required to register.
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Where To Search For Military Records
The Air Force official site and the federal official site USA.gov list multiple resources for those who want to locate or get more information on a military member past or present. Use of some of these resources may depend on whether you seek to correct a military record or simply access it.
- Names and dates of awards/decorations
- Any units where individual was assigned
- Dates of service
- Military occupation
It is VERY IMPORTANT to include the reasons why you seek the information and your relationship to the service member where applicable. If you are not a relative its important to mention that. Some military record services may have a fee associated for those who are not family members.
The National Archives record-keeping policy for service member records includes a reminder that Files at the Records Center are maintained as historical records only and are not updated to reflect current data on the former service member.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
Request Military Service Records
Recent military service and medical records are not online. However, most veterans and their next of kin can obtain free copies of their DD Form 214 and the following military service records any of the ways listed below.
Looking for records?
How can I check on the status of my request?
Allow about 10 days for us to receive and process your request before checking your request status.
Please indicate whether you know your request number using the buttons below:
You may also telephone the NPRC Customer Service Line : 314-801-0800. Note: Our peak calling times are weekdays between 10:00 a.m. CT and 3:00 p.m. CT. Staff is available to take your call as early as 7:00 a.m. and as late as 5:00 p.m. CT.
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How To Request Service Information
The National Archives online program eVetRecs is the preferred and fastest method for requesting service information. Provide as much information as possible in the comments field. Should you prefer to submit your request using a SF180 then provide as much information as possible and send the form to:
|National Personnel Records Center|
Reasons For Your Records Request
If you are researching a book, film, script, or other media, you should contact Public Affairs FIRST. Private inquiries may be handled differently, but call first.
You may also wish to try searching for prior books written about the unit youre looking for information onyou can search Amazon.com but dont forget that there are also good resources in the local area in the form of the reference desk at the public library.
If there is a state library in the area with a reference desk, that may actually provide the best source of reference desk-type information compared to the local public library, but your experience may varytry both.
The author of this article worked for a time on a state library reference desk and can vouch for this as a good resource to get startedits definitely worth the time to call in many cases.
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Military Awards And Decorations
The NPRC also provides information and guidance on how to request military awards and decorations online and by mail for veterans and their NOK replacing certain military medals and obtaining a Cold War Recognition Certificate.4 This is available for the records of a servicemember who separated before or during 1956. For records for individuals who separated after 1956, these records can be requested through FOIA. The general public may also purchase a copy of the veteran’s OMPF to determine the awards due and obtain the medals from a commercial source. Individuals can request information on military service medals, decorations and awards online: .
National Personnel Records Center
Coast Guard Personnel Service Center4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 900 Stop 7200Arlington, VA 20598-7200
Once Ive Signed In To Milconnect How Do I Request My Dd214 Or Other Military Records
Follow the steps below to submit a military records request.
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What Are Military Records
Military records were created by the Australian Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defence. They were created for management and administration purposes.
The most useful military record for family history is the personal service record or file. These files document an individuals military career. Often this is the only official documentation about a person who served in the armed forces. The content of service records and the amount of detail varies with each conflict.
Apply Online For Raf Records
You can apply online if any of the following are true:
- youre the persons immediate next of kin
- the person died more than 25 years ago
- the person died less than 25 years ago but you only want basic information about them – for example, the date they joined and left the armed forces
You cannot apply online if the person was in the Royal Navy , British Army or Home Guard.
To apply online, youll need a:
- digital copy of the death certificate of the person youre requesting the records of in the correct format
- debit or credit card
You will not get the record as soon as you have applied online. Your request will be sent to the relevant military service.
You can apply by post if any of the following are true:
- youre their immediate next of kin
- the person died more than 25 years ago
- you have the consent from the immediate next of kin
- you do not have the consent from the immediate next of kin and would like limited information only
Download and fill in a request for information form. If your request is for a Home Guards record, fill in the Home Guard form only. Otherwise, the form you need depends on whether youre the deceased persons next of kin or not.
Download and fill in a search form. The form you need depends on which military service the person was in.
Send both forms, with the £30 fee for each separate service record, and any supporting documents to the address on the search form.
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