Skip to comments.The painstaking effort to recover millions of burned military service records
Posted on 08/06/2013 12:08:33 PM PDT by Timber Rattler
Forty years ago this summer, firefighters in St. Louis arrived on the scene of what would become an archive catastrophe unparalleled in U.S. history a disaster that to this day is affecting military veterans and their families.
Minutes after an alarm sounded on July 12, 1973, the firefighters reached the National Personnel Records Center, which held millions of official military files spanning the 20th century. They reached the burning sixth floor, but after a couple of hours had to withdraw because of the flames and heat. The inferno burned out of control for 22 hours, and it took two days before fire officials could even re-enter the building. The smoke was so thick and harsh that residents living in the area had to remain indoors for days. After 4½ days and millions of gallons of water poured into the building the fire department declared the fire extinguished.
The calamity ultimately destroyed the records of about 18 million veterans, including roughly 80 percent for Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960 and 75 percent of Air Force personnel discharged between 1947 and 1964.
The documents had never been microfilmed, nor did any duplicates exist. No cause of fire was ever determined.
(Excerpt) Read more at stripes.com ...
Yes...the Korean guys have a few years to go, so there are more of them.
I got the same advice from a WO3/4? at BCT Fort Dix...2d or 3d day. Excellent advice and I kept most everything for 27 years.
Actually since writing that I’ve found some information that gets me down to his battalion. From there it should not be too hard. I’m curious as to the type of combat they were in. According to my aunt he had a case of PTSD when he got back, along with so many other guys. Following the example of his WW II peers, he just manned up and moved on. He was dreaming about it right up until his death though from time to time, which was 75.
Shortly before I retired, a few years ago, I could access my online records and download/print performance reports and other documents. Due to my position, I could also pull copies of anyone on base.
Not a bad site if anybody is researching the 45th Div: http://rreahard.tripod.com/koreawar.htm
IIRC, the census prior to 1890’s were stored in vaults designed to protect against fire. But they were full and the Feds hadn’t built additional safe storage. 1890’s was stacked outside the vaults; the older stuff inside them was preserved. You’d think that all those Progressive administrations between 1890 and 1921 would have spent the pittance required for more quality storage. But they couldn’t be troubled to be competent. And they learned nothing in the next 50 years.
Since I retired, I’ve shredded most of the promotion and other orders. I also shredded or burned the old LESs that I kept since 1972. BTW, I had BCT at Ft Dix too.
I have it all in a box. I wouldn’t put it past these knuckleheads to some day require some proof for this or that benefit. There are many dedicated people in PERSCOM but there are also plenty of quota filling do nothings.
I did keep the microfilm printout of all the records I got rid of, other than some hard copies with original signatures.
That’s another way to do it. Just as long as you have some proof; I’ve seen so much nonsense out of PERSCOM I don’t trust them.
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