Thursday, August 28, 2014

July 12, 1973 Fire at the Army Record Center in St, Louis,

...a day that will live in infamy....

December 7, 2011,, St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents, by Art Holliday,

Burnt in Memory: Looking back, looking forward at the 1973 St. Louis fire, Prologue (Spring 2013)

Painstaking Effort To Save The Past, Korean War Veteran's File Is Pulled From Ashes of 1973 Overland Fire, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 8, 2012
Preservation technicians with the National Personnel Records Center handle thousands of documents from a military records held in the center's burned files at the new north St. Louis County location. Millions of military personnel files were destroyed at the agency's Page Avenue building in a 1973 fire. An ambitious effort to restore millions of files that survived the fire is underway.

Fire Damage At The Military Personnel Records Center St ...
Jul 12, 1973 - reporting on the fire at the Military Personnel Records. Center in St.Louis, Missouri, and the status of fire protection at other General Services ...

KSDK-TV - St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents

Special Commemorative NPRC New Building Publication, St. Louis Post Dispatch, October 2011

Personnel Records Are Consolidated at New Location in St. Louis, Prologue Magazine, Fall 2011

National Personnel Records Center fire- Wikipedia

National Archives 1973 NPRC Fire Information Page,

July 12, 2013, MissouriNet, 40 years ago today: St. Louis fire destroys millions of military ...
The fire destroyed up to 18 million records of veterans that served ... The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis after the 1973 fire.

November 13, 2008,, Veterans Still Burned Over 35 Year Old Fire : VetsFirst
On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) in St. Louis destroyed ...


Affected records[edit]

The losses to Federal military records collection included:
  • 80% loss to records of U.S. Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960[2]
  • 75% loss to records of U.S. Air Force personnel discharged September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964, with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.[2]
  • Some U.S. Army Reserve personnel who performed their initial active duty for training in the late 1950s but who received final discharge as late as 1964.
None of the records that were destroyed in the fire had duplicate copies made, nor had they been copied to microfilm. No index of these records was made prior to the fire, and millions of records were on loan to the Veterans Administration at the time of the fire. This made it difficult to precisely determine which records were lost.[2]

Navy and Marine Corps records[edit]

On the morning of the National Archives Fire, a very small number of U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps records were out of their normal file area being worked on as active requests by employees of the National Archives and Records Administration who maintained their offices on the 6th floor of the building. When the NPRC fire began, these Navy and Marine Corps records were caught in the section of the building which experienced the most damage in the fire.
The exact number of Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire is unknown, since such records were being removed only for a few days while information was retrieved from the record and were not normally stored in the area of the building which experienced the fire. Estimates indicate that the number of affected records was no more than two to three dozen. Such records are considered "special cases", and no accounting could be made of which records were affected, so the present policy of NPRC is to state that there were no Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire and to treat these records as records that had been lost in ordinary circumstances.

Damage and reconstruction[edit]

The 1973 fire destroyed the entire 6th floor of the National Personnel Records Center and greatly affected the 5th floor with water damage. Signs of the fire can still be seen today. A massive effort to restore destroyed service records began in 1974. In most cases where a military record has been presumed destroyed, NPRC is able to reconstruct basic service information, such as military date of entry, date of discharge, character of service, and final rank.


December 7, 2011,, St. Louis facility has many Pearl Harbor documents, by Art Holliday,

St. Louis (KSDK) - It was 70 years ago Wednesday that Japanese bombs sank the U.S.S. Arizona during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Many of the crew members' personnel records survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona. The records were in a file room, one deck below the main deck of the warship.

Those records have been here in St. Louis for decades at the National Personnel Records Center. And the race is on to save as many of them as possible.

Of the 2,400 people killed, 1,177 perished on the Arizona.

"There is something about touching a record of a serviceman who was in the U.S.S. Arizona," said preservationist Sara Holmes. "It's touching a piece of history."

In fact, many pieces of history. Many of them among the 1,100 who died when Japanese warplanes fired armor piercing bombs, sinking the battleship Dec 7, 1941. Somehow these records survived the attack,

"Paper can really show it's resilience even when it's been heavily damaged," said Holmes.

"We actually have a conservation effort underway to try to restore, to try to mend some of the documents that were recovered from the Arizona," said Director of the National Archives St. Louis Brian McGraw.

At the brand new National Archives building in Spanish Lake, in the preservation laboratory, Holmes tries to rescue history's paper trail.

"This may not have been totally submerged but you have damage from humidification of at least being near the water where the paper fused to the cover of the booklet itself," said Holmes.

Like a detective, Holmes carefully examines the documents.

Inside this service record booklet are 70-year-old pebbles.

"So a little bit of Pearl Harbor that got tossed into the records and has stayed there all these years," she said.

For McGraw, these documents represent the price of freedom.

"That's something we should never forget 6:36 because we enjoy the freedoms today because of that," said McGraw.

It's still unclear how many U.S.S. Arizona personnel files survived the Pearl Harbor bombing. Many of them are still filed amid millions of other navy records. The goal is to gather, restore, and preserve the Arizona documents, photograph and digitize them, and keep them in a vault.


June 24, 1988, AP - New York Times, Duplicates of Lost Files Found in Veteran Cases,

The Veterans Administration today announced the discovery of 10 million military medical records that duplicate some lost in a 1973 fire and said it would review disability claims that were rejected because of the lost files.

Thomas K. Turnage, administrator of the agency, called the development ''very important'' but said that because the agency had become aware of the records only last week officials had not yet determined how many people would be affected.

''It opens up new vistas for us,'' Mr. Turnage said. ''People who before had difficulty establishing a basis for their disability compensation, or the degree of it'' may end up with different ruling, he said. Duplicates From 1940's and 1950's

A fire at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Mo., destroyed or seriously damaged 18 million military personnel records. The lost records spanned the years 1912 through 1959 for United States Army personnel and 1947 through 1963 for United States Air Force personnel with surnames from Hubbard through the end of the alphabet.

The duplicate records cover the years 1942 to 1945 and 1950 to 1954, so will primarily affect veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

The records were collected by the National Research Council, a private research organization, during the 1950s as part of its analysis of Army hospital records. A researcher at the council came across the records and notified the National Archives, said Jill Brett, a spokeswoman for the archives. Veterans' Difficulties Cited

John Sommer, the director of the American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, whose office helps veterans with their disability claims, said the development could affect thousands of former servicemen.

''We've handled many cases where there were no records because of the fire and it's very difficult to develop additional evidence on which to try to get these claims allowed,'' Mr. Sommer said in an interview.

''You'd be amazed at the number of people, World War II veterans in particular, who waited until they retired to file a claim with the VA, and then found the records had been destroyed,'' he said. ''Many of them felt they just didn't want to take anything from the government. ... Then, as they aged, they decided to file a claim and discovered their records had been burned.'' Immediate Review Planned

The administration said it would immediately begin reviewing disability claims rejected because of the lost records. The agency said it also expected many veterans to come forward seeking information about their claims. It said those people should contact their VA regional offices.

Veterans applying for monthly disability benefits as a result of an injury or illness suffered while on active duty must have verification of their claims.

Ms. Brett said the duplicate records are on computer tapes created by the council from punch cards prepared by the office of the Surgeon General from hopspital admissions. She said the archives paid the council $8,662 for the tapes and would adapt them for cross-referencing. #3.5 Million Files for 1944 The records were not listed by the military officer's name, but contained the officer's serial number, grade and rank, age, date and place of admission as well as disease and diagnosis, Ms. Brett said.

About 3.5 million files turned up for the year 1944 alone, Mr. Turnage said, covering about 2.4 million people. For 1945, 2 million files were discovered, covering about 1.4 million people.

But officials cautioned against the notion that millions of veterans would be affected by the discovery. R.J. Vogel, the chief benefits director for the Veterans Administration, said that most of the veterans who made disability claims did so during their initial years after service and probably would have filed claims before 1973.

Most likely to be affected by the discovery of the records are people with an injury suffered during active duty which was aggravated over the years, such as a back or heart ailment, Mr. Vogel said.

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