NARA Remembers 1973 Fire That Destroyed Many Military Records

I don’t know if my Dad’s records were lost in the big 1973 fire that destroyed many military records, and one day I will probably find out if they were or weren’t destroyed when I go to order copies from NARA. Based on the following, it’s probably a good chance the records were destroyed. NARA was able to use other sources to recreate some of the records destroyed so there’s a chance his records were recreated.

Branch Personnel and Period Affected Estimated Loss
Army Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 80%
Air Force Personnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)
75%

Here’s the link to the article I found: https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/archives-recalls-fire which links to the link above.

Here’s a good description of the fire from the first link:

The Fire:

Shortly after midnight, on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the NPRC’s military personnel records building at 9700 Page Boulevard in St. Louis, MO. Firefighters arrived on the scene only 4 minutes and 20 seconds after the first alarm sounded and entered the building. While they were able to reach the burning sixth floor, the heat and the smoke forced the firefighters to withdraw at 3:15am. In order to combat and contain the flames, firefighters were forced to pour great quantities of water onto the exterior of the building and inside through broken windows. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours; it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. The blaze was so intense that local Overland residents had to remain indoors, due to the heavy acrid smoke. It was not until July 16, nearly four and a half days after the first reports, that the local fire department called the fire officially out.

During the long ordeal, firefighters faced severe problems due to insufficient water pressure. Exacerbating the situation, one of the department’s pumper trucks broke down after 40 hours of continuous operation. Numerous times, the fire threatened to spread down to the other floors; but firefighters were successful in halting its advance. In all, it took the participation of 42 fire districts to combat the disastrous blaze. Due to the extensive damages, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.

If you have a relative who was discharged from the Army or Air Force during the time frame above, the fire may have destroyed their records. You should still check with NARA in case the records weren’t destroyed or NARA was able to recreate the records from other sources.

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