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My Personal Experience Obtaining Military Records

In an effort to complete the picture of my dad’s war service, I decided to obtain his military records and asked for his entire file. I requested his records online through eVetRecs on September 10, 2014 and mailed the signature verification that day. I was given a maximum wait time of ninety days, so I expected to hear something by at least December 9, 2014.

December 9, 2014 came and went without any word on my request. I hoped this was a good thing, that there was so much information in my dad’s military file that it was taking longer than usual.

On January 21, 2015, an archives technician from the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) mailed me a letter. The letter began:

The complete Official Military Personnel File for the veteran named above is not in our files. If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.

My heart sank, but I kept reading. The letter continued:

Fortunately, there were alternate records sources that contained information which was used to reconstruct some service record data lost in the fire. However, complete records could not be reconstructed.

Ah, some hope. Not much, but some.

We have located a file created during our reconstruction attempts for the veteran named in your request. This partially “reconstructed” file is a record in the legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Access to this record will be granted by providing a copy of the documents in the file. A reconstructed file typically contains limited service data from some of the alternate records sources, working notes from the reconstruction efforts and miscellaneous correspondence or unofficial documents sent to the NPRC with previous requests for information.

Hmmm… At this point, I was not sure how much information they had, but they did have something. And my curiosity was getting the better of me. I really wanted to know exactly what information they had.

The charge for reproducing this reconstructed file is shown on the attached ‘Order for Archival Reproduction Services’ form.

The total cost listed on the Order for Archival Record Reproduction Services was $70.00. Now I was confused. They didn’t have much information, but what they had was worth $70.00. Could this be something interesting, or could it be not much more than I already knew. I had failed to note on the website when I initially made the request – or maybe I did note it and had forgotten by the time I received the letter – that the fee schedule for five pages or less was $25.00, and six pages or more was $70.00.

Please return this form with your payment within 30 days. Once payment is received, the photocopies will be mailed to you. If payment is not received within this period, we will assume that you no longer desire a copy of this reconstructed file and your request will be closed automatically without further notice.

Now they’re getting to me. My take:  We don’t have much info for you, but what we have is worth $70, and you have to decide quickly if you want it or not, or else you can start this process all over again at a future date. And then there’s this…

Please keep in mind that the record may contain few military documents and NPRC will not refund your payment if the photocopies you receive do not contain the information you seek.

Oh, now what to do. I tried to translate what this cryptic letter meant. We don’t have anything interesting for you. We have something juicy that’s worth $70.00. Couldn’t they just tell me exactly what they had so I could make an informed decision? Obviously not. They had to tease me into paying up front to find out what was in this treasure chest. Of course…

As an alternative to purchasing copies of the file, you may view the original reconstructed file in our archival research room located at the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138.

How much would it cost for me to travel to St. Louis? Much more than the $70.00 fee for having my dad’s records copied and mailed to me. On February 3, 2015, I mailed back the form and a check.

To be continued: Records received.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

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