22 July 2011

When Military Records Have Been Destroyed

I've been researching my maternal grandfather, Woodrow Lee Land, in an effort to find out as much about him as possible. He is deceased and unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to know him while I was growing up. Aside from a couple of photographs, census records, and the usual vital records, I still don't know much about him.

I did, however, discover that he served in the Army during World War II, so I requested copies of his military records through the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. I just received a letter from them today stating that his records must have been destroyed by fire on 12 July 1973.

This particular fire destroyed most of the records for Army military personnel for the period 1912 through 1959, and also Air Force personnel with surnames ranging from Hubbard through Z for the period 1947 through 1963.

The archivist who sent me the letter did let me know that there is an available record for my grandfather: his Final Pay Voucher.

Upon reading this, my initial thoughts were that a pay voucher wouldn't be likely to provide me with very much usable information, but the archivist went on to explain that World War II Single Name Final Pay Vouchers typically provide researchers with an astounding amount of information, including:

  • Name
  • Serial number
  • Grade or rank
  • Home address (generally valid for 3 months following discharge)
  • Unit assignment at discharge
  • Place and date of entry
  • Place and date of discharge
  • Previous organization
  • Character of service
  • Discharge authority
  • Years of service
  • Signature of veteran
In addition, the following information may also be available:

  • The remarks section might include information such as payment allotments and previous transfers
  • Army component
  • Indication of overseas service (date arrived U.S.)
  • Mustering-out pay ($300 indicates at least 60 days of active service, part of which was served outside the continental U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii; $200 indicates at least 60 days of active service within the continental U.S.; $100 indicates less than 60 days of active service). Receipt of mustering-out pay (or MOP) is an indication of an honorable discharge.
Included within the package that was sent to me was a request document for a Final Pay Voucher for my grandfather. In order to receive a copy, I will need to complete the form and send it (along with $20) to the National Archives and Records Administration in St. Louis, MO.

While the fee seems a bit steep to me, I already know that I'm going to send them a check. Right now, it's my best chance of obtaining some detailed information about him.

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