Request Your Ancestor’s Military Discharge Papers

By Editors of Family Tree Magazine Premium

Looking for your ancestor’s United States military discharge papers? You can request the DD 214 from The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The DD 214 form is the Report of Separation from United States military, and the records may contain valuable information about your ancestor’s service, including:

  • enlistment
  • duty stations and assignments
  • training, qualifications and performance
  • awards and medals
  • disciplinary actions
  • emergency info
  • administrative remarks

Military records of people who left service less than 62 years ago are non-archival and have restricted access to the veterans or next of kin. However, records of discharge prior to 1955 are considered archival and open to the public. Keep in mind, there may be some information that may still fall under The Privacy Act of 1974.


Archival records may be obtained by requesting copies using the form SF 180. If you are the veteran or next of kin, you can request via an online form. You can download the form through the National Archives.

In order to request those records, you’ll need the following information:


  • name used during service (last, first, full middle)
  • social Security number
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • service, past and present, including Active, Reserve, and State National Guard
  • date entered
  • date released
  • officer or enlisted
  • service number (if possible)
  • Is this person deceased?
  • year in which the forms were issued to the veteran

There may be a fee for requesting the copies of the records.

Reconstructed Records

Not all records of our World War II ancestors are available, thanks to the disastrous file in Saint Louis in 1973. Files that burned include an estimated 80 percent loss of US Army personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 and January 1, 1960. Some Air Force and Army Reserve, as well as a small number of Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps records were also caught in the fire.

These records have no duplicate copies, nor were they preserved on microfilm. A complete listing of the records lost is not available. However, efforts continue even today to restore and reconstruct the information in those lost records.

Learn more about accessing military records at NARA here.

Get Your Free Essential Genealogy Research Forms

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter and receive 10 research forms as a special thank you!

Get Your Free Genealogy Forms

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Trace your military ancestors with the Genealogist’s Military Records Field Manual!

This PDF download contains great strategies for finding your ancestors who served in the military, including how to research Civil War ancestors, find military service records and interpret draft registration cards.