Fifty years, ago, today…
Shortly after midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the National Personnel Records Center’s Military Personnel Records Building, [a branch of the NPRC], in St. Louis County, Missouri. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours and it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. Due to the extensive damage, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.
The National Archives focused its immediate attention on salvaging as much as possible and quickly resuming operations at the facility. Even before the final flames were out, staff at the NPRC had begun work towards these efforts, as vital records were removed from the burning building for safekeeping.
“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC fire was an unparalleled disaster. In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction efforts took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and, the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today’s NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country’s military and civil servants.”
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero
The estimated loss of Army personnel records, for those discharged from November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1950, was about 80 percent. In addition, approximately 75 percent of Air Force personnel records, for those discharged from September 25, 1947, through January 1, 1964, were also destroyed in the catastrophe [all records after the last name Hubbard].
Archives Recalls Fire That Claimed Millions Of Military Personnel Files
National Archives News