How to Get A Copy of Military Service Records

Did you lose your military service records? Perhaps you need information to help someone get a loan or retirement benefits. Or maybe you just want to know more about the parent you didn't get to know - either way, this article will tell you how to get invaluable information and how to replace missing military service records.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with internet access
  • Personal information about the person
  • Word-processing software or pen and paper
  • Patience


    • 1
      File Form SF-180

      Send a letter or Form SF-180 and request the military service records you need.

      If you are the next of kin, you probably will not need a lawyer to get military service records. Simply address a letter to "the National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63132" requesting the service records you want. Your letter must include specific information, such as first, middle and last name of the person, social security number, date of birth, and branch of services as well as the dates of service. List the places where active duty occurred, if known. For completeness, file Form DD-214 - Certificate of Separation from Active Duty. This form can be retrieved or completed on the National Archives website. See resource section for link to specific requirements.

    • 2

      Visit the National Archives in person.

      You can make an appointment to visit the National Archives and conduct onsite research for the records personally. Facility space is limited so you are urged to contact the appropriate authorities and make an appointment. Also, if you are not researching a next of kin, additional permission maybe required so call first.

    • 3

      Contact your State or County Veterans Administration office.

      Depending on the information you need, your local VA office might be able to assist you. At a minimum, obtain the SF-180 form or information on how to get the service records you need.

    • 4

      Hire an independent researcher.

      Too busy to do research yourself? Hire a specialist. There are several people who conduct records searches for a modest fee. These people are a great investment if conducting genealogical research. See resource section for link.

    • 5
      Request records using eVetRecs

      Request records online.

      Go to the National Archives website and make an electronic request. You can file electronically using the eVetRecs system. This is the best way as it means the archivist will not have to transfer your written request to the electronic system which is less opportunity for human error if the request have to be manually entered.

    • 6

      Before starting, get the information needed to complete the form.

      A major piece of information requested on the form is the complete name used by the person during the time of military service. This includes the person's first, middle and last name. People may change the spelling of their name over time. For example, "Browne" may have been changed to "Brown". Make sure the name submitted on the form is spelled the same way the person spelled it back then or how it is listed on the birth certificate if you have one. Other information needed include 1) their social security number, 3) date and place of birth and 4) places served during active duty (e.g. Korea, Japan, Hawaii, etc.). You may not have all of the details if you're searching for information on a parent or someone you didn't know well, but make sure you give as much and all the information you have to help the archivist locate the records.

    • 7

      Request any other documents you want or need.

      Depending on your reason for requesting the Certificate of Separation, you might want other service records as well. List these in section 2 of the form. If you don't know what they are, state "any and all records available for Cpt. John Doe".

    • 8

      Give the reason you are requesting the documents.

      Section 3 of the form request an explanation for your wanting this information; however it is strictly voluntary. Most times, this information is given to next-of-kin or a legally appointed person. A separate section explains the requirements for public access to military service records.

Tips & Warnings

  • Providing an explanation can better assist the archivist in getting the information you need. I found this personally to be true. As my father died when I was a young child, obtaining his military records was my way of learning more about him. Because of this explanation, the archivists sent me pictures and other information that they felt would be helpful in my quest. Additionally, they sent me free replacement medals for my father's years of service.
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