A. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds US military records through the early 1900s, including Spanish-American War records and some World War I records. Some World War I records were destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973. An article from NARA’s journal Prologue at http://www.nara.gov/publications/prologue/ww1serv.html describes World War I records that still exist.
To request records from 1775 through 1916, use NATF Form 86; for records from 1917 on, use Standard Order Form 180.
Request NATF Form 86 by e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail from the National Archives and Records Administration, Attn: NWCTB, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20408-0001. Give your name and mailing address, the form number and the number of forms you need (limit five per order).
Form 180 is available from the National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132.
When filling out the forms, note that some information is required and some isn’t; state what you know. Begin by requesting a military service record for your grandfather for the Spanish-American War. If that isn’t found, request one for World War I. If NARA finds a service record for either war, then request a pension record.
According to NARA’s Web site, the fee for ordering military records is $17.
Don’t be discouraged if NARA takes a long time to respond. Due to the anthrax problems in 2001, some of the mail was held up, so the archives may have a backlog.
General Information Leaflet 7, “Military Service Records in the National Archives,” is available from the Product Development and Distribution Staff (NWCP), National Archives and Records Administration, Room G-7, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408
To learn more, see the section about military records on NARA’s genealogy page at www.nara.gov/genealogy/genindex.html.