The Records Fire

Forty years ago, on July 12, 1973, a massive blaze engulfed the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. Although no one was injured in the horrific fire, it destroyed an estimated 16 million to 18 million files, including 75 percent of all Air Force records for personnel discharged between Sept. 25, 1947, and Jan. 1, 1964, according to the National Archives. Roughly 80 percent of Army records for personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912, and Jan. 1, 1960, also were destroyed. The fire is still taking its toll on military families, as the lost records were quite literally one of a kind and irreplaceable. It has sadly become common for military retirees and their family members to run into a dead end when attempting to research or access service records. For our complete coverage, continue to The Records Fire, an article that will appear in the upcoming August issue of Air Force Magazine.