Gloria Detleff has kindly granted me permission to reprint this guide to visiting the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis:
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2008 20:12:02 EST
Subject: [MO-STLOUIS-METRO] NPRC - Records Center St. Louis
To: StLouis-MO-L@rootsweb.com, MO-STLOUIS-METRO-L@rootsweb.com
Recently another list member put an article on the list about getting military records at the Records Center on Page Ave. in St. Louis County. I recently went through the process, and am outlining below what you need to do & can expect when you go there to obtain military records.
1. When entering the Records Center, you must have a photo ID- everyone in the vehicle must have one. The guard will ask you to put your vehicle in park and then will look under your vehicle with a long-handled mirror before allowing you to continue to the Records Center section. Don't park in a numbered parking place.
2. If you haven't filled out the form already, get the "Request for Archival Record at NPRC" form and fill it out. Information you will need to fill out the form:
Military person's full name
Military service number [this is a GREAT thing to have]
Service branch and status
Whether enlisted or officer
Date & place of birth
Home address or state of residence prior to service.
Note: If you don't have the service number, it will take them a lot longer to find your person and they might not find him/her at all. The more info you have the better, especially if the name is common.
3. Submit the form and then make an appointment to come back and look through the records they find for you. If there is a question of finding the military person, you will need to give contact info so they can reach you before making an appointment for research.
4. Allow 2 to 2.5 hours for each person's file that you want to look through. You can make copies of anything in the file, but the personnel in the Archival Research Room must remove all paper clips and staples for you. You have to leave your coat, purse, notebook, etc. in a locker outside the research area. Before you can go into the Archival Research Room, you have to go through a screening like at the airport. Women have to put their purses on a conveyor belt-- everyone has to empty their pockets of keys, etc. and walk through a metal detector. You also have to show your photo ID again. You can't even bring in your own notepaper. You have to use their yellow notepaper and a pencil to make notes. Copies are twenty (20) cents a page unless the archivist has to make the copies-- then they are more expensive.
5. If you order a file via the mail, you will get everything in there, and that can be quite expensive. From what was in the files I looked at, believe me when I say that you don't want to do that. There were pages & pages of monies taken out for bonds, insurance policies, etc.
6. FYI, I was looking in the file for a list of medals and ribbons that were earned by my Marine ancestor but did not find one. Perhaps they didn't do it that way in WW II?
7. Give the archivists plenty of time to find your military person(s). Remember that the data that’s accessible to the public grew from 1 million files to 8 million files or thereabouts just like that November. They are still working out the kinks. I suggest planning on dropping off the request one day and coming back the next day or in 2 days if they need the extra time to find your person(s).
National Personnel Records Center Archival Research Room
Military Records Request