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So many of us have been in this anxiety-inducing position - you’re applying for a job with the federal government’s USAJOBS website and are required to submit your most up-to-date SF 50 along with your application package. But where is it and how do you get it?

 

These questions are especially crucial if you once worked for the federal government and left your agency or the federal government altogether.  But now your dream job has been posted on USAJOBS and you want to apply as soon as possible.  Since most of the job postings are only available for a brief time period, you will need all the required documents on hand as soon as possible.  Added to the dilemma is that the federal government creates the form, requires the form, and provides the form but all of that happens within different agencies, so it can be confusing to know where to turn for answers. 

 

While requesting a copy of an SF 50 has normally been a rather basic procedure, the Covid-19 pandemic has very much disrupted the process. Still, USAJOBS requires this form from current federal employees seeking new job opportunities and from previous federal employees wishing to return to federal service. The frustration people are feeling when they cannot put their hands on their SF 50 is real. Hopefully, the information here will make the process as straightforward as possible.

 

What is the SF 50 anyway?

 

The Standard Form 50, or SF 50, is well known enough to have its own Wikipedia page, yet it remains elusive for some reason.  This humble form, familiar at least by name to most every federal government employee, is essentially a Notification of Personnel Action specific to each employee. It contains a wealth of information, such as series, grade, and pay, about that employee, not to mention their personal identifying information, or PII, like their social security number and date of birth.

 

Once an employee begins working for the federal government, they will soon notice work emails saying that a document has been added to their electronic folder, and this is very often the SF 50. This happens whenever there is a change of information due to hiring, promotions, a grade increase, retiring, resigning or even getting a cash award - all these actions indicate a new SF 50 has been created and added to your personnel folder.  These forms are all available for employees to access through their agency’s internal network.

 

Sample SF 50
(Sample SF 50, courtesy of OPM.gov)

 

How do I get my SF 50 if I’m a current federal government employee?

 

If you currently work for a federal government agency, the good news is you should be able to access your SF 50 through your electronic eOPF folder using your agency’s internal network. If you are not sure how to do that, contact your agency’s Human Resources (HR) department for assistance.  If you know how to do that – instant SF 50!  Of course, this can only be done while using work computers or on an agency-provided laptop.  You cannot access your eOPF from your personal computer.

 

A reminder for current federal government employees: Should you leave federal service, be sure to get a copy of your final SF 50 while you still have access to your eOPF.  You never know when you might need a copy in the future!

 

How do I get my SF 50 if I have left federal service?

 

If you are no longer in the federal work service and did not get a copy of your SF 50 before losing access to your agency’s internal network, here is some information that should help you:

 

According to the Office of Personnel Management’s web page, OPM - Frequently Asked Questions, it typically takes 120 days from the date of separation for a former employee’s personnel folder to be transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Civilian Personnel Records Center, or CPR, which is located in Valmeyer, Illinois.

 

  • If it has not been 120 days since your separation, contact the Human Resources department of your former agency for help.
  • If it has been 120 days or more, submit a written request to the Civilian Personnel Records Center. 


NOTE: While some people use the SF 180 to request their SF 50, the SF 180 isn’t exactly set up for that purpose but is more for requesting military documents. When such requests come to the National Personnel Records Center, and the SF 180 indicates the need for the SF 50, those requests are forwarded to the CPR, therefore do not worry you used the SF 180 for that purpose.  Just note that there is no specific form for requesting the SF 50 and if using the SF 180, be sure to indicate you are requesting your SF 50 and sign the form before sending it.


It is perfectly acceptable to submit a written request on a sheet of plain paper if you are requesting your SF 50 and (this part is important) all the following information:

 

  • Your full name. Be sure to put the name used while in federal service even if it has changed since then.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your Social Security Number.
  • The name of the agency or agencies in which you were employed.
  • The dates of employment (approximate dates will work if you don’t have exact dates).
  • Where to send it – please note that at this time, SF 50s cannot be emailed for security reasons so be sure to include your mailing address or a safe fax number.
  • The purpose of the request, (e.g. employment). If it is an emergency, please state the reasons your SF 50 is urgently needed.
  • Most importantly, it must contain your signature!  Requests submitted without a signature cannot and will not be processed.  Why such a strict rule? Because your signature is considered your authorization for the release of your personal identifying information (PII).


There are 3 ways to submit your request:

  1. Mail it to the National Personnel Records Center, Annex, 1411 Boulder Boulevard, Valmeyer, IL 62295

    Or

  2. Fax it to 618-935-3014 or  618-935-3019
    Or
  3. Email it to cpr.center@nara.gov


If emailing your request, you must still submit a signature! Simply sign a sheet of paper saying you authorize the CPR to release your SF 50 and be sure to both print and sign your name. Then scan and upload that document or PDF to your email to the CPR.


Once the CPR receives your request, they will process it through all their systems to determine if they have a possible record.  If no record is found, they will send a negative response letter.  If a record is found, it will be sent to the address or fax number provided.


Common mistakes that slow down the process:

  • Not providing enough information.
  • No signature.

 

We know we already said that, but these two things are so important!

 

Very often, people resist providing all of the information needed to complete a request.  While it’s understandable to be hesitant to share PII to request an SF 50, please know that, much like the NPRC does when veterans request their military documents, the CPR needs this information for your security. It is the way to ensure the correct records are not only located, and match the information provided, but are also sent to the correct person and only the correct person. 

 

Please provide a thorough request with all the above-mentioned information and make sure you sign it, or it could slow down the process.

 

How long will it take?

 

Prior to the Covid pandemic, the CPR had a turnaround time of ten days, but they are unable to guarantee such a time frame now. The CPR is currently focusing on emergency requests only as they are working with a reduced staff. If your request is an emergency, please state that on your request and they will do all they can to assist you.

 

Emergency requests may be faxed to 618-935-3095 but must contain the reason for the emergency/urgency.  And yes, it can be urgently needed for employment reasons if time is of the essence for applying for a position.

 

If you do not have an urgent need for your SF 50, please be patient as the staff at the CPR are working on emergency requests. 

 

Also please know that your Official Personnel File is not filed in a large filing cabinet under your last name (or there would be 500 rows, all 10,000 feet long for former employees named John Smith alone).  The CPR uses a filing system based on other criteria, likely based on year and government agency, and searching for these records takes time and accuracy.  The CPR values your privacy and your records, so please know that they take the utmost care when pulling your records.  They are working as fast as they can for you under difficult circumstances!

 

How can I get an update on my request?

Email your inquiry to cpr.center@nara.gov

 

Which SF 50 should I use when there are so many of them? 

 

Be sure to read the job posting thoroughly to see what kind of SF 50 is required.  Very often, they will not accept an Award SF 50.  If you received a cash bonus and a new SF 50 was created to document that award, it’s best not to use that SF 50 when applying for new positions with the federal government.  Try to use the most recent and general SF 50 in your folder.

 

The CPR can be relied on to pull your final SF 50 if you are no longer in federal service; however, if you are accessing your eOPF yourself, just be aware that there are different types of SF 50s!

 

Summary

 

Hopefully, this information has removed some of the mystery behind the SF 50 and prepared you for what to expect if requesting it from the CPR.  It’s possible that the future will involve the CPR being able to securely send SF 50s digitally, or via email, much like the NPRC is beginning to do for veterans.  Until then, please continue to mail/fax/or email your requests to the CPR using the information provided here. 

 

If you want to know even more about the specifics of the SF 50, USAJOBS has a useful webpage with even more detailed information you can check out here, Reading your SF-50 to determine your service and appointment type.

 

Interesting Fact: Technically, the records are in a cave.  Yes, your former personnel file lives in a climate-controlled cave that is quite amazing inside.  Caves are common storage facilities in the Midwest and if you’re curious how the National Archives utilizes caves as storage facilities, check out our web page, The National Archives Goes Underground.

 

If this blog did not answer your question(s), please let us know what we left out and we’ll do what History Hub does best – find the answers for you! Finally, a special thanks to the CPR  Reference Branch Chief for her much-appreciated help with this blog. 

Introduction

The records below are the main series used for documenting military service in the US Army prior to the time period just before World War I. Questions about the records listed in this blog as well as other pre-World War I Army and War Department records may be directed to the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) via email at Archives1reference@nara.gov or posted on History Hub in the Military Records community.

 

Depending on the time period and individual circumstances, soldiers also may be documented in other types of records such as land grant files, pension files, medical files, casualty records, Military Academy records, prisoner lists, and unit records that are not listed in this blog.

 

For enlisted men of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after October 1912 and for officers of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after June 1917, there may be an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). OMPFs are not included in this blog. For more information about these records, see About Military Service Records and Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs, DD Form 214).

 

Any surviving records of pre-Revolutionary War service in colonial militias as well as service in state militias and National Guard units that were not called up for federal service may be in state archives. State archives may have additional records documenting the service of soldiers in state volunteer units that are also documented in records at the National Archives. The nature and availability of state military service records varies greatly from state to state.

 

Compiled Military Service Records

Compiled military service records (CMSRs) did not originate during the wars they document, but were compiled by the War Department beginning in the 1890s to produce a centralized record of enlisted men and officers whose military service was performed during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the federal interest. CMSRs were created for the Continental Army and many Revolutionary War-era state units, as well as volunteer forces from the post-Revolutionary period through the Philippines Insurrection. CMSRs were not constructed for officers and enlisted personnel of the Regular Army.

 

Compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. The exact information included varies from war to war and from individual to individual. They typically provide age at enlistment, rank, unit, date mustered in and mustered out, and basic military information. They may list a person's place of birth, where they enlisted, and a basic physical description. They sometimes note when a person was sick, absent, or deserted. If a person died while in service, that will be noted. The CMSR may contain an internal jacket for so-called “personal papers” of various kinds. These may include a copy of the soldier's enlistment paper, papers relating to his capture and release as a prisoner of war, or a statement that he had no personal property with him when he died.

 

NOTE: The CMSR does not identify parents or next-of-kin, and rarely indicates battles in which a soldier fought. Family information, where it is documented, is more likely to be in pension records.

 

Revolutionary War (1775 - 1784)

See The American Revolution: Research our Records for more information.

 

Service Records: Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93)


Index: Indexes to Revolutionary War Compiled Military Service Records in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93)


Post-Revolutionary Period (1784-1811)

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Units During the Post-Revolutionary War Period in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Post-Revolutionary War Period in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


War of 1812 (1812-1815)

See War of 1812 Resources in NARA for more information.

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the War of 1812 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the War of 1812 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Indian Wars (ca. 1815 - 1858)

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Indian Wars in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Indian Wars in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Mexican American War (1846 - 1848)See Mexican War: Search Records Online and Other Resources for more information.
Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Civil War (1861 - 1866)

Only Union records are listed in this blog. See Civil War for more information.

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94) [includes Veteran Reserve Corps and U.S. Colored Troops as well as state volunteer units]


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War, 1899 - 1927 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


See Also
Carded Records Relating to Civil War Staff Officers in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Not all records have been digitized
    • National Archives Catalog - Only a single record has been digitized and is available through the Catalog.


General Orders Announcing Brevet Rank Appointments of Volunteer Officers, 1861 - 1868 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Generals' Reports of Service, 1864 - 1872 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Letters Received, 1863 - 1894 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94): This series contains letters, reports, and related papers concerning the recruiting, organization and service of organizations in the U.S. Colored Troops, their officers, and servicemen. These records are in addition to the USCT records in the Carded Records series listed above.

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Not all records have been digitized
    • National Archives Catalog - 15 documents have been digitized and are available through the Catalog.


The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, which will be amended over time. The CWSS is a cooperative effort between the National Park Service and several public and private partners.

 

Spanish American War (1898-1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899-1903)

See Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection for more information.

 

Spanish American War

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection

 

Service Records: Carded Records Relating to Staff Officers of Volunteers in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, 1899 - 1927 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Philippine Insurrection

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Most records have not been digitized. As of August 2020, only a single record has been digitized and made available through the National Archives Catalog. No digitized records are available from digitization partner websites.


Philippine Insurrection Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Philippine Insurrection Service Records (Puerto Rico): Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Served in the Puerto Rican Regiment of U.S. Volunteers During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Regular Army (1798 - ca. 1917)

 

Officers

 

Pre-1863: There are no consolidated service records for Regular Army officers before 1863. One may examine the various correspondence series of the Adjutant General's Office in Record Group 94 and other military records for documentation relating to these officers.

 

1863 - 1917: Letters Received, 1863 - 1917 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94) in additional to recording relating to officers of the Regular Army, these records also includes files for officers of Volunteers in the Staff Corps commissioned by the President, and officers commissioned by brevet appointment in the Regular Army and Volunteer organizations.


See also: Statements of the Foreign Service of U.S. Army Officers, 1914 - 1915

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


1789-1969: Regular Army Officers are listed in the Official Army Register which is available through Fold3 as Army Registers, 1798-1969. Some editions are available free on HathiTrust.

 

Enlisted

 

1798 - 1912: Enlistment Papers, 1798 - October 31, 1912 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online:
    • National Archives Catalog - Only 2 records have been digitized.


1798 - 1914: Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798 - 1914 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Accessing Pre-World War I Army Service Records

 

National Archives Catalog
Many of the records listed above may be viewed using the National Archives Catalog. If you require assistance locating a particular file, you may ask about it on History Hub or email RDT1. If the Catalog is not working for you, please email Catalog@nara.gov.

 

In-Person Research
All of the records listed above as well as all the microfilm publications are located at the National Archives in Washington, DC. For some records, researchers may access the original papers. For other records, researchers must use the microfilm or the digital images of the records rather than the originals.

 

Some microfilm publications are available in one or more of our regional facilities in addition to the DC facility. You may use the Microfilm Catalog to look up information about additional microfilm publications, to include a list of locations where they are available.

 

Please be advised that as of August 2020, all NARA locations remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Archives will decide when to begin reopening our facilities based on guidance from the Federal Government, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). We are working diligently on our plans for the gradual reopening of our facilities across the country.

 

Please check NARA website for the latest information before planning a trip to a NARA facility. We also recommend that you email the staff at the location you are visiting prior to planning your trip.

 

Ordering Copies of Pre-World War I Service Records
To order copies of service records (except for OMPFs) not already available in the National Archives Catalog, please fill out a NATF Form 86 for the service records and mail the completed form to the address listed on the form. For more information see Requesting Copies of Older (pre-WWI) Military Service Records. There is a reproduction fee for this service.

 

Please note that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has suspended reproduction and digitization services until further notice due to COVID-19. Orders will not be serviced until operations can resume safely. NARA has also temporarily suspended the option for placing online orders using eservices.archives.gov. Once operations resume, document reproduction requests will be filled in the order in which they were received. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Accessing Records on Digitization Partner Websites
FamilySearch may be accessed with a free account. Ancestry and Fold3 both have options for free accounts, however most data collections on these websites are behind a paywall. The National Archives provides free access to AncestryInstitution and Fold3 at all NARA locations. As mentioned above, all NARA locations remain closed to the public due to COVID-19. Many public and university libraries also provide access to these websites to their patrons.

 

Over time, many of the digitized records currently only available on partner websites will be uploaded into the National Archives Catalog and made available to all for free.

Links for Additional Information about Pre-World War I Service Records

Selective Service System Classification & Registration Records for 1940 – 1975

 

General Information and Descriptions

 


 

All Selective Service System Classification and Registration Records: 1940 – 1975 have been consolidated from state holdings to the National Archives.  These dates cover men born 4/28/1877 – 3/29/1957. Men born between 3/29/1957 – 12/31/1959 were exempt from registering.  It is important to note that not all men who registered for the draft served in the military.

 

Registration Cards (SSS Form 101) were created to account for all men required to register for the draft.  Information found in these cards generally includes name, address, employer/educational institution, date and location of birth, and a person to contact for address updates.  For cards of men with dates of birth after 1922, additional information may include military service or the registrant’s alien registration number.

 

Classification Ledgers (SSS Form 102) chronicle the status of each man’s eligibility, exemptions, tests, entry, and final disposition from service.  The codes for these classification ledgers can be found on the Selective Service System’s website.  Supplementary information provided by registrants (medical records, school enrollment forms, or other documents supporting reasons for classifications) was not considered permanent record material and as such was not retained by the Selective Service Commission.  For example, the National Archives cannot provide documentation or a reason for why someone was classified as “4F”. 

 

Date of Birth Ranges of Draft Cards in NARA holdings:

 

WWII

  • 4/28/1877 – 2/16/1897 (Known as 4th Registration or Old Man’s Draft)
  • 2/17/1897 – 3/31/1929 (1st – 6th Registrations, except 4th)

Post War

  • 8/30/1922 – 1940
  • 1941 – 3/28/1957

 

Washington D.C. is considered a state in this series.  NARA has Draft Registration Cards for men born between 4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957.

 

In addition to holding the draft cards for states, NARA also has draft cards for the following territories:

Guam                   8/30/1922 – 3/28/1957

Canal Zone          4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957

Puerto Rico          4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957

Virgin Islands       2/17/1897 – 3/28/1957

 

The 4th Registration draft (Old Man’s Draft) cards were scheduled for destruction prior to the 1973 Fire.  The following states had already destroyed their collection of this date range before the National Archives took custody of the records:



North Carolina               Mississippi                    Maine

Alabama                         Florida

Georgia                          South Carolina

Tennessee                       New Mexico



How to access these records

 


 

To access draft registration cards or classification ledgers for 1940 – 1975, please fill out the ‘Selective Service System Records Request’ form and send it to:

 

National Archives & Records Administration

National Archives - St. Louis

ATTN: RL-SL

P.O. Box 38757

St. Louis, MO 63138-0757

 

For information on WWI draft cards, please visit our website, ‘World War I Draft Registration Cards’ where you will find a history on this series as well as how to access them.

 

You may find more information on this topic on the webpage ‘Selective Service Records’.

 

Draft Cards Online

 


 

As of February 2020 the WWII Draft Registration Cards from all states and territories held at the National Archives at St. Louis have been scanned and uploaded to Fold3 and Ancestry.com for a fee.  National Archives locations have public use computers where researchers may access both Fold3 and Ancestry for free.

A group of University of Virginia graduate students created a project using data from U.S. Navy deck logs—held at the National Archives at College Park and available via the online catalog—to pinpoint locations of various ships during the Southeast Asia conflict. The deck logs formed a chronological account of notable events occurring in and around a ship, reminded the officers of the deck of their duties, and checked on the activities of the officers. They also served as evidence in legal proceedings in naval, admiralty, or civil courts when necessary.

More important, the deck logs contained the coordinates of where the ships traveled during their time in service, information that can help prove a veteran’s exact location during the war.

The students used the information collected from the log books to create a database showing which ships were in the Agent Orange exposure zone, which was defined by legislation as within 12 nautical miles of a boundary off the coast of Vietnam. 

https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/students-create-tool-to-help-navy-vietnam-vets

NAID 26398321.png

NAID 26398321

 

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

 

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.

 

Links:

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) - Veterans and 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.

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) for the General Public

Explains the request process for non-next-of-kin researchers.  This page specifies what types information from personnel files can be released to the general public .



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).



U.S. Military Casualties, Missing in Action, and Prisoners of War from the Era of the Vietnam War

These databases can be searched using identifiers (names, service numbers, home county/state at time of service, etc.)  for individual soldiers and personnel.

 

Data about U.S. Military 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: archives2reference@nara.gov.  (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.

 

Links:

 

Groupings of Databases and Downloadable Data Files

Electronic Data Records Relating to Military Objectives and Activities During the Vietnam War

Data specific to Land Military Operations and Activities

Data specific to Air Military Operations and Activities (Navy air sorties included in this grouping)

Data specific to Sea Military Operations and Activities

 

Digitized Records

Navy Deck Logs Available in the National Archives Catalog (Arranged by vessel name)

               -Information about deck logs in the Vietnam era

-Information NOT Included in Deck Logs

Marine Corps Command Chronologies

The National Archives in Washington DC maintains military records from independence to the beginning of the twentieth century.  Review what records we have available in our facilities in this Prologue article.

 

When visiting Archives I, you are able to request the War Department’s Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs claims applications (also called pension applications) and bounty land application files.  Information needed includes the name of the soldier, his regiment, the state he served with, and the war that he participated in.  To request claims applications, you’ll also need the application or certificate number.  Some of this information can be gathered from the search engines of Ancestry, Fold3, and the Bureau of Land Management. Otherwise, you’ll need to come to the Archives to view the microfilmed indexes or order them online.  Please note, for active pensions that continued to be paid after 1934 there will be a C- or XC- number.

 

You should also check to see if the file has already been digitized on the National Archives Catalog.

 

In the building, you will complete our quadruplicate “Request for Military Records” form (NA Form 14027).  Regardless of which type of record you request you’ll need to fill out the top part of the form with your name, research card number, and date.  Then you’ll complete sections 10-16.  A request is need for each CMSR, pension, or bounty land application that you want to view. 

 

You’ll submit the form in our Microfilm Research Room after having it reviewed by a member of our staff. Pull times are the same as with regular records; Monday through Friday at 10, 11am, 1, 2, and 3pm.  You can request four records at a time or twenty a day.  Also, you should consider taking your records to the Innovation Hub to use NARA’s flatbed scanners for free scanned digitized copies.

After your records are pulled, they will be waiting for you in the Research Room on the second floor.  Remember to put your belongings in a locker before heading up to the room!

Please note, records that have already been digitized, which includes CMSRs from the Revolutionary War to the Spanish-American War and Pensions from the Revolutionary War and later will not be pulled in order to preserve these fragile documents.  Be sure to check on Fold3 to see what’s available before submitting your request. 

To submit your request online, visit the page “Requesting Copies of Older Military Service Records.”  NARA does charge a fee for this service.

When in doubt or if you’re confused, remember that the National Archives staff is here to assist you. 

From the Summer 2010 issue of "Prologue":

 

"A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude"