A few weeks ago I did a little web searching on a mission to see if it would be possible to acquire duplicates of any or all of my grandfather’s service medals. He fought as a member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Pacific Theater in WWII and I know he had been awarded (at least) a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor. Long, long ago, my great-grandmother — an evil, wicked woman — caught my uncle playing with the medals and threw them into a fireplace.
I learned that on July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files.
It is estimated that the personnel files of 80% of all Army veterans discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960 and 75% of all Air Force veterans discharged between September 25, 1947 and January 1, 1964 were lost.
“No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available.”
“In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster.”