I know the NPRC website says the percentages and year ranges of discharged military personnel records that were destroyed.

Is there a way of knowing the probability of destruction by specific dates of discharge or surnames of the Army servicemember?

1 Answer 1


The US Department of Veterans Affairs website advice on Reconstruct military records destroyed in NPRC fire says:

The Army between November 1, 1912, and January 1, 1960. The fire destroyed 80% of the records held for Veterans discharged from the Army during this time period. The fire didn't involve records for retirees and Reservists who were alive on July 12, 1973. (emphasis added)

"Retirees" refers to regular Army members in service for 20 years or more.

Apart from that information from the VA, the only surname range and discharge dates given out by the VA or NARA pertain to Air Force personnel, not for the Army. I suspect (but do not know) that the state of the burned Army records makes it difficult to determine any date ranges or surname records for the surviving Army records.

As session 15 of the 2014 Virtual Genealogy Fair at the US National Archives, archivist Theresa Fitzgerald gave an overview of what records are available in her presentation Vets and Feds in the Family Tree Military and Civilian Personnel Records. Handout 5 for the presentation says:

On July 12, 1973, a fire at the previous National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) location destroyed approximately 80% of Army records of personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and approximately 75% of Air Force records of personnel (surnames from Hubbard, James E. through Z) discharged between September 25, 1947, and January 1, 1964.

A complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. Duplicate copies of the destroyed records do not exist, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced.

The presentation covers what other records the NPRC could use to gather information about a veteran whose record had been lost.

This information is repeated on the page describing auxillary record groups from which the NPRC attempts to provide a reconstructed record of service.

However, a few years later, new efforts were underway to retrieve information ("content recovery") from the burned records. See A is for Archives, B is for Burn File: Accessing Burned Records at the National Archives at St. Louis (Session 4 of the US National Archives' 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair) by Preservation Specialist Ashley Cox, National Archives at St. Louis, MO. Presentation Slides and a handout are available for download.

The description for the program says, in part:

Ashley Cox will discuss which files were burned and their designation changed from non-archival to archival, making all burn files available for research relatively soon. In addition, she will cover what information was saved from the fire, the journey of records from archival storage to the research room, why time is needed for them to be available for viewing, and how to request them before visiting the archives.

During the pandemic, the NPRC has been concentrating on record work needed by living veterans and the research rooms have been closed to the public. Operating updates are posted on the NPRC's website. It seems likely that preservation efforts on the burned records has been put on pause or slowed down.

The presentation slides for the Burn file talk say that most of the burned files are before the early 1960s and will become archival in 2026 (based on a formula of 1964 plus the 62-year rolling window).

For more information, make a records request at the NPRC or make general inquires at the US National Archives via [email protected]. You could also try asking this question on NARA's History Hub, or searching History Hub for questions. These questions on History Hub list other record sets which can provide information:

Background information.

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