Military discharge papers---distributed to servicemen and women as a report called the Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty---contain a service history summary and all military separation details at the time of discharge. All military discharge records requests go through the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), a division of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, via a Standard Form 180 (SF-180) Request Pertaining to Military Records or the NPRC's online eVetRecs system.
Gather pertinent service information if available, such as name during service, social security number, date and place of birth, branch of service, service dates (entry/separation), service number and current status (deceased or retired). If requesting a deceased service member's file, obtain "proof of death" documentation (obituary, copy of death certificate or funeral home letter). If requesting for a legal case, obtain applicable case file information, such as the case number.
Fill out SF-180, or use eVetRecs. If requesting Army discharge papers dated November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960, or Air Force papers dated September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964, write "requesting service reconstruction from alternative sources" on SF-180 or on the eVetRecs signature page, as 16 to 18 million official military personnel files were lost in the NPRC fire of 1973. If requesting information from before World War I (1917) click the "Pre-WWI Records" link, and follow the instructions.
Mail your SF-180 and any supporting documentation to the applicable military records storage centre address to guarantee that your request arrives at the correct centre. If using eVetRecs, mail your signature page and supporting documentation to:
NPRC WEB 9700 Page Avenue St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
If your signature page doesn't print, write and mail the Service Request Number (SRN), your relationship to the veteran and these words:
"I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the information that I provided on the website (eVetRecs) related to the service request number listed above is true and correct."
Complete the form with your name (print/signature) and the date.
Fax your request, if not submitting via mail, attention "NPRC" for SF-180 to (314) 801-9195 or attention "NPRC Web" for eVetRecs to (314) 801-9049.
Prior to 1950, discharge papers had various alphanumeric designations, such as WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD and NAVCG 553. Since 1950, the military has used designation "DD Form 214," or "DD 214" (an active designation as of November 2009). The NPRC doesn't typically charge fees to veterans or their next-of-kin, but exceptions do exist for certain services. In addition, nonveterans should expect a fee, but NPRC doesn't provide a quote until after receipt of the application.
Never request an amendment of military discharge papers, other than typographical errors, from the NPRC. Instead, contact the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for instructions and/or contact information for the military department from which the records originated. Always note whether you're requesting a partial or entire file as the NPRC doesn't provide an entire file unless requested or as part of an exception. Exceptions include U.S. Marine Corps files, VA requests, legal cases requests and requests for files older than 62 years at the time of the request (NARA archived files).