The Virtual Wall, memorializing Vietnam casualties since 1997
This web site is not affiliated with US National Park Service. See bottom of page.

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(on a separate page)

Veterans and next-of-kin may now
request records via the National Archives web site.

Below is a copy of the National Archives page.
Click here for the National Archives web site

National Personnel Records Center
(St. Louis, MO)

Access to Military Records by the General Public
(including genealogists who are not next-of-kin of the subject of the request)


Limited information from Official Military Personnel Files is releasable to the general public without the consent of the veteran or the next-of-kin.  You are considered a member of the general public if you are asking about a veteran who is no relation to you, or a veteran who is a relative but you are not the next-of-kin.  Next-of-kin is defined as the unremarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.

The type of information releasable is intended to strike a balance between the public's right to obtain information from Federal records, as outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the veteran's right to privacy as defined by the Privacy Act.  Information will not be released if requested for unethical purposes.

The type of information releasable to the general public is dependent upon the veteran's authorization.

* With the veteran's authorization.
The veteran (or next-of-kin if the veteran is deceased) must authorize release of information which is not available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  (In some cases the veteran may already possess military documents that contain the information you are seeking.)
The authorization must
  1. be in writing;
  2. specify what additional information or copies that NPRC (MPR) may release to you; and
  3. include the signature of the veteran or next-of-kin.
(A sample authorization is included for your review.)

* Without the veteran's authorization.

Limited amounts of information can be released from a record to a member of the general public. This is the information available under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act:
  • If the veteran is living:
    • Name
    • Service Number
    • Rank
    • Dates of Service
    • Awards and decorations
    • Place of entrance and separation

  • If the veteran is deceased additional information is available:
    • Place of birth
    • Date and geographical location of death
    • Place of burial

Preparing Requests for Information from Official Military Personnel Files.
Federal law [5 USC 552a(b)] requires that all requests for records and information be submitted in writing.  Each request must be signed (in cursive) and dated (within the last year).  FOR THIS REASON, NO REQUESTS WILL BE ACCEPTED OVER THE INTERNET.  Certain basic information is needed to locate military service records.  This information includes the veteran's complete name used while in service, service number or social security number, branch of service, and dates of service.

The Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, although not mandatory, is the recommended method to send a request for military service information.  This form captures all the necessary information to locate a record. Provide as much information on the form as possible and send copies of any service documents that you may have.  Requests may also be submitted as a letter, containing the basic information listed above.

A Note From the Virtual Wall (TM): If you are not able to download form SF 180, The Virtual Wall will send the form by US mail if you tell us your name, address, & zipcode.

Follow the instructions for preparing the SF 180.  Check the table to determine the location of the record and submit your request to the appropriate address.

Do not use the addresses on the SF 180 for sending requests related to the issuance or replacement of medals and awards.  Military Awards and Decorations provides the correct mailing addresses for submitting correspondence for issuance or replacement.

Most requests for limited information are processed without cost.  However, it is possible that a fee may be charged if the researching, processing, and photocopying become excessive.  If your request involves a service fee, you will be notified as soon as that determination is made.

Response Time.
Response time varies dependent upon the complexity of your request, the availability of records, and our workload.  Please do not send a follow-up request before 90 days have elapsed as it may cause further delays.

Military Personnel Records Main Page

Honoring our losses since 1997

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Last updated on 08/13/2005