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Military Service Records and Unit Histories: A Guide to Locating Sources

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress

Julissa Gomez-Granger
Information Research Specialist

Anne Leland
Information Research Specialist

15 June 2010


Congressional Research Service



Table of Contents




This guide provides information on locating military unit histories and individual service records of discharged, retired, and deceased military personnel. It includes contact information for military history centers, websites for additional sources of research, and a bibliography of other publications.

This report will be updated as needed.



Personnel Files of Discharged, Deceased, or Retired Veterans 1
  Military Service and Pension Records at the National Archives 1
Finding Unit Histories 1
Additional Sources for Research 3
Select Bibliography 3
Table 1. Military History Centers and Museums 2
Appendix. Standard Form 180 5
Author Contact Information 8




Personnel Files of Discharged, Deceased, or Retired Veterans


Military Service and Pension Records at the National Archives

The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), Military Personnel Records, holds most military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services from World War I to the present. Personnel records may be requested online at or by completing the Standard Form 180 (see Appendix) and sending it to the correct address listed on the back of the form.

Note that in 1973, a disastrous fire at NPRC destroyed approximately 16 million to 18 million Army and Air Force official military personnel files. In such cases where files were lost, NPRC uses alternate sources of information to respond to requests.

More information about obtaining military personnel files can be found on the NPRC website,, or by contacting the center at

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Tel: (314) 801-0816 congressional line
Tel: (314) 801-0800 public line

Older military personnel records (generally prior to World War I, depending on the service branch), are located at

National Archives and Records Administration
Old Military and Civil Records Branch (NWCTB-Military)
Washington, DC 20408

Finding Unit Histories

Unit records are preserved at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For unit records of World War I contact the Archives I Textual Reference Branch of NARA, Washington, DC 20408; telephone (202)-501-5430. For unit records of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Conflicts contact the Archives II Textual Reference Branch at NARA, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001; telephone (866) 272-6272.

NPRC has morning reports for the Army (from November 1, 1912 to 1974) and the Air Force (from September 1947 to June 30, 1966). In addition, NPRC has Army unit rosters from 1912 to 1974, with certain exceptions. For more information on unit rosters and morning reports, see the NPRC website at



Certain published unit histories can be found in the collections of the Library of Congress or military history centers of each branch (see Table 1).

Table I. Military History Centers and Museums

Center or Museum   Telephone Number


Air Force

U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency
600 Chennault Circle
Building 1405
Maxwell AFB, AL 361 12-6424


(334) 953-2395


Air Force Historical Studies Office
Research and Analysis Division
3 Brookley Avenue, Box 94
Boiling AFB, DC 20032-5000
  (202) 404-2264


National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433
  (937) 255-3286



U.S. Army Center of Military History
Collins Hall
103 Third Avenue
Fort Lesley J. McNair
Washington, DC 203 19-5058


(202) 685-4042


U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
950 Soldiers Drive
Carlisle, PA 17013-5021
E-mail: (research inquiries)
  (717) 245-3949


Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office (CG-09224)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street, SW
Washington, DC 20593-0001


(202) 372-4651


Coast Guard Museum
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
15 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320-4195
  (860) 444-8511


Marine Corps

Marine Corps History Division
3078 Upshur Avenue
Quantico, VA 22134


(703) 432-4874



Center or Museum   Telephone Number


Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
3800 Fettler Park Drive
Suite 104
Dumfries, VA 22025
  (800) 397-7585
(703) 640-7965


Merchant Marine

American Merchant Marine Museum
300 Steamboat Road Kings Point,NY 11024

(516) 773-5515



Naval History & Heritage Command
805 Kidder Breese Street, SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060


(202) 433-2210 main
(202) 433-4132 library


Source: Table compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

Additional Sources for Research

  • Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress
    The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.

  • Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator
    The database contains burial locations of veterans and their family members.

  • American Battle Monuments Commission
    The website contains databases of veterans interred or memorialized at overseas American military cemeteries and memorials.

  • Philippine Army and Guerilla Records at the National Archives
    The collection includes records of the Philippine Commonwealth Army of the United States Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE), including recognized Philippine Guerrilla forces (not the Army of the United States or Philippine Scouts) during World War II.

Select Bibliography

Beers, Henry Putney. The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America. Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 1998.



Center of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War. Washington: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1988. 3 v.

Controvich, James T. United States Army Unit and Organizational Histories: A Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003.

-----United States Air Force and Its Antecedents: Published and Printed Unit Histories, a Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.

DeBruyne, Nese F. Military Service Recors and Unit Histories: A Guide to Locating Sources. Congressional research Service, 2015.

Dinackus, Thomas D. Order of Battle: Allied Ground Forces of Operation Desert Storm. Central Point, OR: Hellgate Press, 2000.

Dornbusch, C. E. Military Bibliography of the Civil War. New York: New York Public Library, 1971.

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. New York: T. Yoseloff, 1959.

Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle, U.S. Army (Ground Force Units). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.

-----Vietnam Order of Battle. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.

U.S. Department of the Army. Office of Military History. Order of Battle of the United States Army Ground Forces in World War II, Pacific Theater of Operations: Administrative and Logistical Commands, Armies, Corps, and Divisions. Washington: Department of the Army, 1959.

U.S. Naval War Records Office. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1987. 30 v.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: GPO, 1880-1901. 70 v.



Appendix. Standard Form 180



1. General Information. The Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records (SF180) is used to request information from military records. Certain identifying information is necessary to determine the location of an individual's record of military service. Please try to answer each item on the SF 180. If you do not have and cannot obtain the information for an item, show "NA," meaning the information is "not available." Include as much of the requested information as you can. To determine where to mail this request see Page 2 of the SF180 for record locations and facility addresses.

Online requests may be submitted to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) by a veteran or deceased veteran's next of kin using eVetRecs at

2. Personnel records and Service Treatment Records (STR). Personnel records of military members who were discharged, retired, or died in service less than 62 years ago and STR's are in the legal custody of the military service department and are administered in accordance with rules issued by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, Coast Guard). STR's of persons on active duty are generally kept at the local servicing clinic, and usually are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs approximately 40 days after the last day of active duty. (See item 3, Archival Records, if the military member was discharged, retired or died in service over 62 years ago.)

    a. Release of information: Release of information is subject to restrictions imposed by the military services consistent with Department of Defense regulations and the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974. The service member (either past or present) or the member's legal guardian has access to almost any information contained in that member's own record. An authorization signature, of the service member or the member's legal guardian, is needed in Section 111 of the SF180. Others requesting information from military personnel records and/or STR's must have the release authorization in Section III of the SF 180 signed by the member or legal guardian. If the appropriate signature cannot be obtained, only limited types of information can be provided. If the former member is deceased, surviving next of kin may, under certain circumstances, be entitled to greater access to a deceased veteran's records than a member of the general public. The next of kin may be any of the following: unremarried surviving spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, or brother. Requesters must provide proof of death, such as a copy of a death certificate, letter from funeral home or obituary.

    b. Fees for records: There is no charge for most services provided to service members or next of kin of deceased veterans. A nominal fee is charged for certain types of service. In most instances service fees cannot be determined in advance. If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that detennination is made.

3. Archival Records. Personnel records of military members who were discharged, retired, or died in service 62 or more years ago have been transferred to the legal custody of NARA and are referred to as "archival" records.

    a. Release of Information: Archival records are open to the public. The Privacy Act of 1974 does not apply to archival records, therefore, written authorization from the veteran or next of kin is not required. However, in order to protect the privacy of the veteran, his/her family, and third parties named in the records, the personal privacy exemption of the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552 (b) (6)) may still apply and preclude the release of some information.

    b. Fees for Archival Records: Access to archival records is granted by offering copies of the records for a fee (44 U.S.C. 2116 (c)). You will be notified if there is a charge for photocopies of documents contained in the record you are requesting.

4. Where reply may be sent. The reply may be sent to the service member or any other address designated by the service member or other authorized requester.

5. Definitions and abbreviations. DISCHARGED - the individual has no current military status; SERVICE TREATMENT RECORD (STR) - The chronology of medical, mental health and dental care received by service members during the course of their military career (does not include records of treatment while hospitalized); TDRL - Temporary Disability Retired List.

6. Service completed before World War I. National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) forms must be used to request these records. Obtain the forms by e-mail from or write to the Code 6 address on page 2 of the SF 180.


The following information is provided in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552a(e)(3) and applies to this form. Authority for collection of the information is 44 U.S.C. 2907, 3101, and 3103, and Public Law 104-134 (April 26, 1996) as amended in title 31. section 7701. Disclosure of the information is voluntary. If the requested information is not provided, it may delay servicing your inquiry because the facility servicing the service member's record may not have all of the information needed to locate it. The purpose of the information on this form is to assist the facility servicing the records (see the address list) in locating the correct military service record(s) or information to answer your inquiry. This form is then retained as a record of disclosure. The form may also be disclosed to Department of Defense components, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS. U.S. Coast Guard), or the National Archives and Records Administration when the original custodian of the military health and personnel records transfers all or part of those records to that agency. If the service member was a member of the National Guard, the form may also be disclosed to the Adjutant General of the appropriate state, District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, where he or she served.


Public burden reporting for this collection of information is estimated to be five minutes per request, including time for reviewing instructions and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments regarding the burden estimate or any other aspect of the collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to National Archives and Records Administration (NHP). 8601 Adelphi Road. College Park. MD 20740-6001. DO NOT SEND COMPLETED FORMS TO THIS ADDRESS. SEND COMPLETED FORMS AS INDICATED IN THE ADDRESS LIST ON PAGE 2 OF THE SF 180.





Standard Form 180 (Rev, 09/08)



Published: Tue Jan 19 11:51:59 EST 2021