Replacing Lost Military Records

Military records, medals, awards, and decorations are an important part of a veteran’s service record, and are often cherished by veterans and family members. But service records are also essential for establishing eligibility for certain veterans benefits programs. The most frequently requested document form the National Archives is the DD Form 214, proof of military service. This is one of the most valuable documents you will ever own, as it opens the door to a variety of benefits, such as the GI Bill, VA Loan, and possibly health care and other benefits. If you lose your DD Form 214, you should replace it immediately, since it can take some time to get a replacement.

This article will show veterans, their family members, and the general public how to request a copy of military service records, including DD Form 214, medical records, or other service records you may wish to obtain a copy of. Please click the following link if you are seeking information on replacing lost medals, awards or decorations.

Who Can Request Military Records?

The government does not release full military service information to everyone who requests it. If the service member is still alive, he or she is the only person who can request the full service records, unless the veteran has given written permission to another individual, or the records are needed as part of a court order.

If the veteran is deceased, the full military service records may be requested by Next-of-Kin (NOK). If you are not the veteran or NOK (as defined below), then you are considered to be part of the general public. Members of the general public may request limited service records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Let’s take a look at who the government considers to be Next-of-Kin, and who the government considers to be the general public (remember, these limitations are in place to protect your privacy).

According to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Next-of-Kin includes:

  • For the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps & Coast Guard, the NOK is defined as: the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister.
  • For the Army, the NOK is defined as: the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild.
  • If you do not meet the definition of NOK, you are considered a member of the general public.

How to Replace Lost Military Service Records

Because the National Archives houses service records for millions of military veterans, you will need to provide them with some information to help locate your service records. If you are the veteran, most of this information shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with. It’s also important to note that the National Archives processes over 1.4 million records requests annually, so to streamline the process, they generally only provide veterans and family members with a copy of the separation documents or DD Form 214, which are required for most veterans benefits. If you need additional military service records or your medical records, you must specify this when you make your records request.

Request military service records from eVetRecs

Use eVetRecs to request military service records online

To request your service records, you will need to make an online request via the eVetRecs System or by sending in a signed and dated copy of the SF 180, Request Pertaining To Military Records which you can download from the National Archives site, of from

Here is a list of the basic information you will need:

  • The veteran’s complete name used while in service
  • Service number
  • Social security number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth (especially if the service number is not known).
  • All requests must be signed and dated by the veteran or next-of-kin.
  • If you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran, you must provide proof of death of the veteran such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary.

It is also helpful to include additional information when making your request, such as the reason for your request (if you need additional documents) or a deadline if applicable – this can be common when applying for benefits such as a VA Loan, military burial benefits, Aid & Attendance Benefits, or other benefits which may have a deadline. (The National Archives tries to process “emergency” requests within two business days, so try to be prepared when sending in your records request).

The National Archives Fire of 1973. The National Archives experienced a massive fire in 1973 which damaged or destroyed service records for 16-18 million Army and Air Force veterans who were discharged between 1912-1964. In some cases the service records can be reconstructed from alternate sources such as base or unit level records, though in some cases, some records are completely destroyed. Records which fall into this category can take several weeks or longer to research and complete. You can read more about this incident and the efforts of those at the National Archives to reconstruct the records in this article.

Where to request your military service records: Military records are maintained at the National Archives in St. Louis, MO. You can request a copy of your records online, or by mail or fax. Be sure to sign and date your request.

NPRC Mailing Address and contact info:
National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
NPRC Phone Number:314-801-0800
NPRC Fax Number: 314-801-9195

How Much Do Copies of Military Service Records Cost?

In general, a request for basic service and medical records is free for service members and next of kin, provided the request is for a non-archival service record. Military service records are considered to be archived 62 years after the service member separates from the military. Requests for a copy of a Official Military Personnel File that is archived wil be assessed a copying fee, which is $20 for a 5 page document, or a flat $60 fee for files which are more than 5 pages.

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Date published: November 29, 2011.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.




    • says

      Phil, The National Archives are generally the place where all official military records are maintained. If your records were destroyed in the National Archives Fire of 1973, then you may have to find another way to prove your service. It’s possible that records were maintained at a base or state level, or in another place. I recommend contacting former installations or the records management division of the state where you served (if you served in the Guard).

      Other than that, you may try to locate old tax returns pay stubs, or other official documentation that proves you served.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

      • PHIL GROSSKOPF says


        • says

          Phil, you will need to contact the National Archives for your records. If they were involved in the Fire of 1973, then you will need to try contacting the bases to see if they still have your records. Not all bases maintain records after a certain time frame. I don’t have a specific address or POC for individual bases. You will need to contact them for more specific information.

  2. Daniel Cutler says

    I remember, but cannot find, receiving mail indicating my discharge status was changed from “General under Honorable” to “Honorable”.

    Will this be modified on my DD-214 if I request a copy? If not, what document should I request?

    If my memory is incorrect, and my status has not changed, what form can I request for status change application?

  3. Sheri says

    Hi I am wondering if my husband is considered a veteran…He was in the National Guard for 6 years from 1971-1977 but never actually went overseas or fought in the war. He says he doesnt think he would be considered one since he never actually fought in combat. Is that true?? Thanks.

  4. Doc Rick says

    Dear Ryan,
    A great co-worker and Pharmacy classmate was put in for the NAVY CROSS near in time to the Khe Sahn battle. I worked for the VA Hospital for 5 years and learned much about the battle from first hand people!
    My friend recovered an injured Marine in a minefield (after sliding past 4 mines on a hill). He was later called into the General’s tent; given a cold beer and told he was being put in for the Navy Cross since the General actually saw his actions. The problem is “the paperwork got lost” and he was such a hero he didn’t care much about it. He cared more about getting a Christmas card from a Lt. he saved with a blown off left shoulder.
    My question is How do I get him his medal-for his family? Larry passed on 4 years ago and I would just like to do it for 1Family and 2 History. Thank You!
    Sincerely, Derfly

  5. Geraldo Callis says

    I was talking to someone in the VA hospital about the money we paid into our insurance if we service. Well I service from 1971 to 1991 but other then that man telling me in the VA hospital I have not seen or hear anything . Have you hear anything about this. If the army or government has money for me I can use it. Can you check into this for me . Geraldo Callis thinking you now

    • says

      Geraldo, I don’t know what he is referring to. Your best bet is to meet with a benefits counselor at the VA or at a Veterans Service Organization such as the VFW, DAV, American Legion, etc. They will help you understand which benefits you are eligible to receive. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  6. says

    I don’t understand why everyone didn’t do as they were required after service to put a copy of their DD-214 in their local County Court House. If I need a copy of mine that’s where I go.

    And as for Insurance – we didn’t pay anything in to it. It was life insurance and if you lived you don’t get anything back when you get out.

    I volunteered several years for the D.A.V. helping Vets get help through the V.A.

    And to Sheri above, Yes he is a Veteran. I spent 3 years in the Army and 6 years in the National Guard. no matter what they served in they are Vets.

    • says

      Gary, it is no longer required to file a copy of your DD 214 with your local county court house. In fact, some people recommend against doing it because it may be possible for people to look up your DD 214 and get personally identifying information such as your SSN, date of birth, and other details you wouldn’t want made public.

  7. Robert Boydston says

    After many requests over the years my records are still missing at the National Archives.
    Do you know if the National Archives keeps a record of who signed out a vet’s records and where they could have been sent to, such as, another agency?

    • says

      Robert, The National Archives doesn’t allow other agencies or people to “check out” someone’s records. If they have authorization to receive a copy, then the National Archives will give a copy to the individual or organization. They are very strict about who has access to records, and who does not. Even family members are limited to how much information they can receive without authorization from the veteran.

      Regarding the unavailability of your records – there could be an explanation. There was a massive fire at the National Archives in 1973. If you served before then, your records may have been damaged or destroyed. If this is the case, it may be nearly impossible to get your records replaced. I recommend contacting the National Archives and asking them why they cannot find your records, and request an answer in writing.

  8. cassie says

    I requested my records and got a reply that they do not have them. I got out feb 2012. Who do i contact now to get my dd214? My old base?

    • says

      Cassie, Thank you for contacting me. Some branches of the military may keep them at their main personnel office for several years before they get sent to the National Archives. I believe this is how it works for the Air Force. I recommend searching for your branch of service + Personnel headquarters, or some similar term. Or just visit the site if you know it. There should be a contact phone number and an email address. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  9. Mary Holmes says

    Hello. I’m unsure if you would be of any help with my situation. I was in the Air Force in 1993, and they took a military photo of myself and my squadron in basic training. Is there a way to retrieve those photos?

    • says

      Mary, I have no idea if these photos are maintained anywhere. You can try contacting the public affairs office at Lackland AFB. They should be able to let you know if those photos were maintained in any long-term records. Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  10. Hannah says

    Hello! I see that you marked next of kin for army to include the eldest grandchild. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that listed anywhere else. Can you verify?

    • says

      Hannah, Thank you for contacting me. Here is the reference: “For the Army, the NOK is defined as: the surviving spouse, eldest child, father or mother, eldest sibling or eldest grandchild” (Source). I hope this helps!

  11. none says

    Thank you for the article Ryan. I read some of the questions. For Air Force retired, they keep your records for about 10 years at AF Personel Center. Then to the archives in St. Louis. It has been in the news that over 1,800 veterans records have been destroyed or lost within the last 5 years from the National Archives. These records should be moved and stored somewhere safer as St. Louis has become a very bad area. If your records are gone, get an attorney and present all documents you have to them in an attempt to recover your military past. IRS records, SSA records will document your service employment. Statement from people you served with may help too. Medal certificates, training certs, everything. Keep your documents safe.

  12. Ted Lucero says

    I am trying to reconstruct missing parts of my records orders and citations for my ArCom and Bronze Star. Both missing from St. Louis. I’d like to look else where but don’t know where. Any help would be appreciated

    • says

      Ted, Thank you for contacting me. I don’t have a lot of information to go on. There was a large fire at the National Archives in 1973 (official National Archives page, more info at VA blog). If your records were in there, they may have been destroyed, or they may still be in the archives awaiting cataloging and treatment.

      Short of this, the best I can say is to go through your personal records to see what you can find. You could also try contacting your former units, or your parent branch of service to see if they still have records somewhere in their archives. That said, most units and service branches turn over records after a certain amount of time.

      I don’t have further information beyond this, and suggest looking for forums or other places where people may have written about their efforts to track down their missing military records. I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for your service!

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