5 Things Learned from an NPRC Archivist

If an archivist ever has time to chat, take advantage of it! They know so much that any information will either enhance what you know or inform you of something you did not know.

  1. No matter what you have read about destroyed records, always ask an archivist. Some records were able to be restored.
  2. Navy and Marine Corps files from WWI and WWII should be undamaged.
  3. Even if you are the next-of-kin, once a military file moves into archival status (discharge date of 1954 or prior), there is a fee to obtain it. You can always view the file in person at the NPRC, and photograph or copy it yourself.
  4. The burial case files may contain a lot of genealogically significant data. In WWI, bodies of fallen soldiers were relocated. After the war, each family was surveyed about whether or not they wanted the body of their soldier returned to the U.S. There were also Gold Star mother trips sponsored by the government to allow mothers and wives to visit the grave of their fallen soldier in Europe.
  5. You can request your own military records in person at the NPRC and they will be mailed to you, free of charge. (Submit form SF-180.)

The NPRC recommended contacting them six weeks before your visit. Time is needed to check the holdings, and if you need filmstrips you have to make an appointment to reserve a machine.

Here’s a link to information about Official Military Personnel Files, but remember that there are other non-OMPF holdings.