The Civil and Old Military Records Branch, National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408 (phone 202-357-5444) has custody of records relating to naval officers from 1798 to 1902 and enlisted men from 1798 to 1885. Naval service records of the Revolutionary War period are fragmentary, including only such information as the serviceman's name and rank, the name of the vessel on which he served, and the dates of his service or the dates on which he was paid. Abstracts of service performed by most commissioned Regular Navy officers, volunteer naval officers of the Civil War period, some noncommissioned officers, and a few professors and teachers at the U.S. Naval Academy were compiled by the Navy Department. These abstracts, covering the period 1798 to 1924, usually provide the date of the officer's appointment, the date and nature of changes in rank, as well as the date and nature of the termination of his service. Prior to 1885, the Navy Department did not assemble any compilations of service for enlisted men. Records pertaining to such service are scattered among many files, registers, returns, reports, and other related records held by the National Archives.
The National Personnel Records Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138 (phone: 314-801-0800) has custody of the official individual personnel records of Navy commissioned officers separated after 1902 and Navy enlisted personnel separated after 1885. These records include the full name of the serviceman, next of kin, date of enlistment, date retired, units with which he served, and any medals and awards to which the veteran was entitled, as well as other details. Information from these records is available to the veteran, or if deceased, to the next of kin. Contrary to rumors, the 1973 fire did not destroy Navy or Marine Corps records.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the public has access to certain military service information without the authorization of the veteran, or the next-of-kin of deceased veterans. Examples of information which may be available from official military personnel files without an unwarranted invasion of privacy include: name, service number, rank, dates of service, awards and decorations and place of entrance and separation. If the veteran is deceased the following may also be available: place of birth, date and geographical location of death and place of burial. A separate request should be sent for each veteran. If signed by the next of kin, the relationship to the veteran must be specified and proof of death presented. In order to get information on an individual's naval career, please fill out the Standard Form (SF) 180 available in pdf format and follow the instructions. If the individual's service number is unknown, it can usually be located by specifying the individual's name, his command, and when he served in a letter to the Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road College Park, MD 20740. That office can usually discern the service number from the command's muster rolls or the list of officers in the deck log of a ship, if the individual served between 1941 and the 1970.
Veterans or next of kin of deceased veterans can order copies of their military records directly on line from the The National
Personnel Records Center. Veterans are entitled to one set of their medals
and awards. To request his medals, a veteran should send in a separate completed Standard
Form (SF) 180 to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Naval Liaison Office, Room 5409, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100. Please write "Do not open in mailroom" on the outer envelope.
Information is also available on obtaining official medical records of retired service personnel and dependents as well as hospital and some ship sick call logs, which are held by the National Personnel Records Center. Information from these records is available to the veteran, or if deceased, to the next of kin. A separate request should be sent for each veteran. If signed by the next of kin, the relationship to the veteran must be specified and proof of death presented. In order to get information from medical records and/or sick call logs, please fill out Standard Form (SF) 180 mentioning you want medical records, and send it to the National Personnel Records Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138. The form can also be submitted by fax to (314) 801-9195. More information is available on the National Personnel Records Center's website at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
For recently retired personnel for the first fifteen months after discharge, transfer to the fleet reserve, or retirement,any personnel questions should be sent to Commander, Naval Military Personnel Command, Washington, DC 20370, while medical questions should be directed to Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Personnel Center, New Orleans, Louisiana 70149.
Generally after 15 months, all questions should be referred to National Personnel Records Center as described previously. However, there are two exceptions, questions about identification cards, qualifications status, mobilization, changes of address and changes in the status of dependents should go to Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Personnel Center, New Orleans, Louisiana 70149. Any questions on retirement pay should be sent to Commanding Officer, Navy Finance Center, Retired Pay Department, Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building, Cleveland, Ohio 44199.