When researching individual veterans, researchers have two types of records to pull information from: personnel records and operational records.
Personnel files for individual soldiers- stored in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO- will often contain service dates, rank, death date, and potentially background information about medals received. Generally, personnel records will not include information about what a soldier did or where they were located during their time in service.
Unit and ship records are helpful for understanding the movements and activities during the Vietnam War. Although unit and ship records usually don’t include names, they can give context to information found in personnel files and explain what that ship or unit was doing during the war.
Personnel records can be requested online through the National Archives eVetRecs portal. Most Vietnam-related personnel records are not considered archival,* so full personnel files are only served to the veteran, the veteran’s next-of-kin, or a researcher with written permission from the veteran/next-of-kin.
Explains the request process. See links on the left side of the page for more information about military personnel files and the request process. Next-of-kin is specified as: un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister of the veteran.
In addition to personnel files, the National Archives hosts a number of searchable databases where researchers can locate information for specific individuals through Access to Archival Databases (AAD).
These databases can be searched using identifiers (names, service numbers, home county/state at time of service, etc.) for individual soldiers and personnel.
Includes the Vietnam Experience Study Files, which tracked selected Army personnel who served in 1967 and 1968, and a database containing information concerning some of the awards and decorations given to U.S. military personnel and allied foreign military personnel.
*Military personnel records accessioned into the National Archives become archival 62 years after the service member's separation from the military. So, as of 2017, the records of personnel discharged after 1955 are not open to the public.
Unit and Ship Records
Archival operational military records from the Vietnam War era are held in the National Archives in College Park, MD. Some of these records are available online (see below). For assistance with Vietnam-era operational military records, contact the College Park reference unit here: firstname.lastname@example.org. (For tips on the reference request process, check out this History Hub blog post: What to Expect When You're Requesting.) You can get started learning about the National Archives’ Vietnam-era records on archives.gov.
Groupings of Databases and Downloadable Data Files
Data specific to Air Military Operations and Activities (Navy air sorties included in this grouping)
Navy Deck Logs Available in the National Archives Catalog (Arranged by vessel name)