How to Find Your Father's War Records

by Celestine Candida

Thousands of people research their family history, and for a father who fought in a war, his military service record may be as important as his birth certificate, death certificate or marriage license. When looking into the military background of a relative, the document that you need to obtain is the DD Form 214-Report of Separation. This form can be used to prove military service or can be a helpful tool when conducting genealogical research. The National Personnel Records Center provides this service free of charge. The NPRC contains military personnel and health records for veterans and their next of kin. Next of kin is defined as an unmarried widow or widower, son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of the deceased veteran.

Finding Your Father's Military Records

Collect all the necessary information needed for the request.

Go to the National Personnel Records Center web site to begin. The address is http://archives/gov/veterans/military-service-records/get-service-records.html. You can either continue online or download the standard form SF-180 to mail or fax.

Include in your request the reason you want this information. Is it needed to apply for veterans’ benefits, preparation for retirement or for a family history?

State whether this is an emergency. This would only apply to the veteran being buried in a national cemetery or a funeral service being conducted by a non-Veterans Administration/private funeral home.

Mail your signed and dated request to the National Archives' National Personnel Record Center. The address: National Personnel Record Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100. It also can be sent via fax at (314) 801-9195

Check the status of your request after 10 days by email at Provide the request number (if available), name, address, phone number of the requester and branch of service.

Writing a letter, visiting the NPRC or hiring a researcher is another way of obtaining a person's military records. Be advised that when looking on the Internet, some companies will let you look up the name, but they will charge to get the information.

Items you will need

  • Veteran’s compete name used in service
  • Service number
  • Social Security number
  • Branch of service
  • Date of service
  • Date and place of birth
  • Death certificate, if veteran is deceased


About the Author

Celestine Candida is an English instructor at a community college in Southern California. She also writes middle school history and literature curriculum. Her interests in writing are history, film and education. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in English from Loyola Marymount.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images