The National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center maintains military personnel records, and the center accepts requests online or by mail, as of 2015. Military personnel records are only available to the service member or the service member's next of kin or authorized representative.
Requesting military personnel records requires some information, such as the person's full name, Social Security number, service number and date of birth. The branch of service, such as Army or Navy, is also important. The file may still be located if some of this information is lacking, but with more information the likelihood of locating the records increases. This is especially true of older records, particularly if the requested record is one of the 16 to 18 million records damaged or destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Archives. This may apply to records for service personnel who served between 1912 and 1964. Reconstruction of some records may necessitate additional information.
The National Archives website publishes many older records. Interested parties request unpublished records by mailing or faxing Standard Form 180 to the NPRC-MPR. Only requests in writing are considered. Next of kin may need to provide proof of death prior to the release of records.