1973-2023 50th anniversary of the fire that destroyed many military veterans records at NARA

It was July 12, 1973, FIFTY years ago this week. A fiftieth anniversary is usually called a Golden Anniversary. There is nothing golden about what happened at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

A fire broke out in the National Personnel Records Center at 9700 Page Avenue in St. Louis. It destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs).

Burned records, records saturated with the water as the firefighters tried to save it all. A major disaster for veterans, families of veterans, NARA, and for historical researchers, including genealogists.

“The veterans’ records most affected were of U.S. Army, Army Air Force, and Air Force personnel. The fire destroyed more than three-quarters of these documents. These records are critical to support veterans seeking benefits, like health care, home loans, and military funerals.”

A small segment of records were saved, others have been somewhat restored by specialists, and many other records are used in the journey to document those who had served.

Read this informative, sobering, and somewhat hopeful article on the NARA website https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/2023-nprc-fire-anniversary. It includes another photo of the horrific damage.

© 2023, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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