Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anniversary of The Great Military Records Fire

Many of us have parents or grandparents who served during World War I or II. Some of us have the information and military records that these people saved. Others have only found out or gotten interested in their service after these people have passed on. Many of the papers have been lost or discarded long ago.

There is a simple solution- just send away to the National Archives for them. Or is there? For most of the branches of service, this can be the answer. However, if they belonged to the Army, Army Air Force or Air Force between 1912 and 1963, you are likely out of luck. These records were housed at the National Personnel Records Center in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The fire from the VA website
Why is this fact important? Shortly after midnight, 43 years ago today, on July 12, 1973, a fire started in the top floor of this building. What a fire it was! It swept through the entire 6th floor taking with it most of these records as well as causing damage to the 5th floor. It was two days before they were able to reenter the building after the fire was out. It is estimated that between 16 and 18 million official records went up in flames that night. For the Army this was 80% of those discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960. For the Air Force it was 75% of those discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964. There were no copies. There were no microfilms. These records are gone.

Since then the government has used what they call auxiliary records to try to reconstruct the basic record of each person whose records were destroyed. However, for many people the details of their service during this time period is gone forever.

I have tried to retrieve copies of the service records for my grandparents, Marion and Alice (Jennings) Wooster in the past, but was unsuccessful. At the time I didn't know why they couldn't be found. They both served during WWI, Marion in the Calvary of the Army and Alice in the Army Nurse's Corp. Marion additionally served during WWII in the SeaBees, part of the Army.

Alice about 1919
Marion about 1922

No comments: