Locating military records, especially if you're trying to track down a family history, can be a necessary part of finding out about your past. However, there are several places you can look, and a number of different services that will offer to assist your search (usually for a fee). Finding military records free of charge isn't hard, but it can be a time consuming and tedious process.
Establish all the information you can about the person for whose records you're searching. His name, date of birth, when he enlisted, when he retired and any other pertinent information will only assist you in finding records more easily.
Contact the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, located at 9700 Page Avenue in St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. This location is where a great number of military personnel records are stored. You will need to mail a standard Form 180, which is a request for military records, to the center to make your request. Again, the more information you provide the center with, the more likely they are to find the records you want. Having this search conducted is free.
Wait for the records you requested to be sent to you. Call or email the Records Center (see References) in order to check the status of your request if more than 90 days pass without a response. Include your mailing address, since not all email can be answered electronically due to veterans' privacy laws.
If the records you seek are before the year 1900 (such as Revolutionary War records), the National Personnel Records Center won't have them. You'll need to check with historical societies and other agencies that will reach back that far in history.
If you don't want to deal with government bureaucracy, there are websites such as GovMilitaryRecords (see References) that will perform record searches for you. There's usually a membership fee that has to be paid for these services, however.
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