Records on people who served in the military are available from the U.S. government.
However, you have to formally request the records. Only very basic information is available online at websites that have posted data on military service.
The main federal government depository for military records is the:
See the U.S. National Archives web page on Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) – for the General Public
The records are kept at the National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis. Requests for records can be made there in writing.
Military Records Online
A few websites have compiled military service records data into searchable databases.
This site has 20 million military service records, searchable by name.
The data often only includes the branch of the military in which the person served, whether they are on active duty, the person’s pay grade and a state. The data comes in part from government records and in part from information supplied by service members or veterans.
You’ll need to register to use the site, but it’s free.
The National Archive has searchable online databases for WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, with records of people who were killed, wounded or taken prisoner in each, as well as people who enlisted for World War II, and people who received awards or decorations in the Vietnam War.
At this government site you can submit an online request to verify that someone is currently in the military, but you’ll need the person’s birthdate or social security number.
About this Tutorial
This tutorial was originally written by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class, and later modified for public use.