Military Personnel Records Center
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The Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC-MPR), located at 1 Archives Drive in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, is a branch of the National Personnel Records Center and is the repository of over 56 million military personnel records and medical records pertaining to retired, discharged, and deceased veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
The Military Personnel Records Center also stores over thirty-nine million auxiliary military records to include casualty indexes, unit reports, some military pay records, and the medical treatment records of retirees from all services, as well as records for dependents and other persons treated at naval medical facilities.
The earliest records on file at MPRC are enlisted Navy records from 1885, Coast Guard records from 1898, Marine Corps records dating from 1905. Army records date from 1917, and Air Force records from 1947. Older military records, from the Spanish–American War, Civil War, and earlier periods, are maintained at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C..
In May 2011, the Military Personnel Records Center began its relocation to a new modern facility in the CDP of Spanish Lake, Missouri. A complete move from the Overland location to Spanish Lake was concluded fall of 2012.
The Military Personnel Records Center was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, and opened in 1955 after three years of construction. The facility was designed to replace the much older Army Personnel Records Center which was an active military installation of the United States Army and housed discharged and retired Army records dating back to the Spanish–American War.
From 1955 to 1964, the Military Personnel Records Center was used mainly by government agencies requiring information from military service records. Veterans during this time period normally could not obtain service record information, except by way of personally visiting the facility. This had changed in 1965, when photocopy machines became widespread at the Military Personnel Records Center making it easier to reproduce service records upon request from all interested parties.
In 1968, control of the Military Personnel Records Center converted to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), then referred to as the National Archives and Records Service (NARS), and the building became known as the "National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records" (NPRC-MPR). Its sister organization, the Civilian Personnel Records Center (NPRC-CPR) was established in Overland, Missouri. Between 1965 and 1973, the Military Personnel Records Center gradually became overwhelmed with the volume of records requests it was receiving and developed a bad reputation as being non-customer friendly. Veterans would typically wait anywhere from six months to two years to obtain records, and in many cases the records provided were incomplete or not the correct records which were requested. There was also no recourse or quality assurance during this time period, leaving complaints on records requests largely unanswered.
The 1973 fire
On July 12, 1973, the entire sixth floor of the Military Personnel Records Center at 9700 Page, was destroyed along with over sixteen million military service records. Shortly after the fire, a discussion was held within the General Services Administration (which then operated the facility) to close down the Military Personnel Records Center in lieu of a new facility. This did not come to pass, however, and instead a large "Reconstruction Project" was begun to restore the records destroyed in the fire.
The reconstruction effort of the Military Personnel Records continues to this day with daily accessions of "Recon Records" which are created to replace a service record destroyed in the 1973 fire. Reconstruction Records are created through use of alternate records sources such as pay records and records from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
From 1975 to 1996, the Military Personnel Records Center operated through a complex system of paperwork forms with little computer automation. The 1980s saw serious complaints against the facility to the extent that the military service departments began procedures to hold their own records rather than have such records sent to the Military Personnel Records Center.
In 1985, control of the Military Personnel Records Center was handed over from the General Services Administration to the National Archives and Records Administration. By the 1990s, efforts were underway to correct problems which had resulted in complaints against the facility and to reduce the huge amount of backlogged requests for military records.
In 1995, the first major computer tracking facility was introduced at the Military Personnel Records Center and employees began receiving training on all types of service records, whereas before different offices handled records only from a particular branch of service.
In 1999, a one million-plus dollar computer system, known as "Siebel" was introduced at the Military Personnel Records Center, thus changing the agency into a paperless system. MPR's internet request site came online in 2000 allowing veterans or other parties to request military service records over the Internet.
Most of the records on file at the National Personnel Records Center are considered property of the U.S. military and record requests are normally only honored from veterans, next-of-kin of deceased veterans, and certain agencies of the federal government. The general public may request records information under the Freedom of Information Act, but not copies of entire records or personal information regarding former military service members.
Requests for information to the Military Personnel Records Center number approximately 4000 letters per day. In the fall of 2004, an Internet hoax stated that the Military Personnel Records Center was destroying paper copies of all records in lieu of computer scanning. National Archives officials stressed that all records are permanently archived, meaning that they will never be destroyed and always maintained as historical documents. Despite this statement, the number of requests to NPRC-MPR rose considerably, causing a significant backlog in record copy responses. As of 2005, Internet notices and public announcements stemmed requests resulting from the "record destruction" rumor and the Military Personnel Records Center is back to a standard response time of approximately ten days for simple requests and as long as three to six months for complex requests requiring extensive research.
After 1995, the Department of the Navy began retaining personnel records of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and ceased retiring these records to NPRC. Such records are now kept on file in Millington, Tennessee (for the Navy) and in Quantico, Virginia (for the Marine Corps). The Air Force and Army ceased retiring records to the Military Personnel Records Center in 2002 with the last Coast Guard records officially retired in 2004 although some USCG records as late as 2008 are still being sent to NPRC.
Between 2007 and 2008, the Army began giving NPRC access to its electronic military service record system (called "DPRIS") and most Army cases are now again answered directly by NPRC although, for problems concerning electronic Army records, veterans are advised to contact the United States Army Human Resources Command (HRC) directly.
Between 1992 and 1998, the Department of Veterans Affairs began a project to receive military health records upon a service member's discharge, release, death in service, or retirement from the military. As of 2000, all military health records are now retired to the Department of Veterans Affairs instead of to the Military Personnel Records Center.
In 2005, a large number of Marine Corps and Navy records - which had been housed at the Military Personnel Records Center as Department of the Navy records - were transferred to the legal custody of the National Archives. The records in question consisted of enlisted Navy and Marine Corps personnel who were discharged or retired prior to 1939 and were reclassified as public access, much the same as Civil War and Spanish–American War records which are maintained in Washington, D.C..
Between 2006 and 2007, the category of archival records was extended to any record where the veteran in question was discharged, retired, or died more than 62 years from the current date. Known as the "62 year rule" this also applied to the Reconstruction Records of the NPRC fire related records holdings. As of 2008, the 62 year rule of archival records applies to any record in NPRC's possession with the exception of Navy Medical Records, Inpatient Clinical Records (i.e., Hospital medical files), and certain records considered "organizational" such as rosters, pay records, and unit history information.
As of 2009, with the first Air Force records from 1947 becoming public archival records, every branch of service now has some type of archival record on file at NPRC. The first records of the Korean War will become archival in 2012, the earliest Vietnam War records will become archival in 2023, while records of the Persian Gulf War will not become archival until 2053.
The new Archival Records became open to unlimited access by the general public with all requests for information to such records responded by providing a copy of the entire file. Those seeking these records were required to pay a fee, whereas the "Non-Archival Records", that is the bulk of MPRC's holdings, are provided free of charge.
As part of the Archival Records program, a number of notable persons records were also transferred to the custody of the National Archives and open to general public access. Some records include:
- Desi Arnaz
- Henry H. Arnold
- Joseph Barrow (Joe Louis)
- Humphrey Bogart
- Benjamin O. Davis
- William J. Donovan
- James Doolittle
- James Forrestal
- Clark Gable
- Alexander Haley
- Curtis Lemay
- Burt Lancaster
- George S. Patton
- Elvis Presley
- Douglas MacArthur
- Marc Mitscher
- Eddie Slovik
The headquarters of the U.S. Army Human Resource Command is currently located on the same lot as the former MPRC records center building in Overland. The two buildings are physically connected by large access hallways. The General Services Administration also maintains a third, much smaller building, which is connected to the National Personnel Records Center and serves as a cafeteria and recreation facility.
In 2005, the BRAC project announced the closure of the Army Human Resource Command, however HRC continues to operate a large number of offices out of its St. Louis headquarters, even though most of HRC has now transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
- a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report "Military Service Records and Unit Histories: A Guide to Locating Sources"
- http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/ website
- http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/index.html Online and offline DD-214/personnel records request forms