NARA Releases Military Records

Article excerpt

The military records of more than 1 million Americans, including famous entertainers, politicians, athletes, and military personnel, are now available to the public for the first time.

The National Personnel Records Center in Overland, Missouri, recently unsealed the first batch of what is expected to be "a mother lode" collection of interest to military historians, biographers, and genealogists. The center houses the military records of about 56 million individuals, beginning in the 19th century and extending into the 20th.

The following holdings were released in June:

* Navy enlisted personnel files for individuals who were separated from the Navy from 1885 through September 8, 1939

* Marine Corps enlisted personnel files for individuals who were separated from the Marine Corps from 1906 through September 8, 1939

* A select collection, about 150 at this time, of records of prominent individuals who have been deceased 10 years or more

Until recently, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was the physical custodian of these records, which were open only to the veteran, the next of kin, or the individual's service branch. In 1999 the Pentagon and NARA reached an agreement that would begin the process of systematically opening these records.

The agreement made "Official Military Personnel Files" a permanent series of records, transferred to NARA custody 62 years after the service member's separation from the military. That means that most World War II records, for example, will remain closed for several more years. In addition, because of a 1973 fire at the records center, some Army and Air Force veterans' files will be withheld until 2023. …