The military has kept diligent record of those who have served since the American Revolution. This allows them to keep in touch with their veterans, and offer them benefits for their service. For veterans of wars in the 20th century, their records were stored in a suburb outside of St. Louis for decades until a tragic summer night in 1973. Today, Patriot Angels will cover the fire that continues to affect veterans today.
The Military Personnel Records Center
A part of the larger National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, the MPRC was created in 1956 as a way to handle the merging of records from various agencies that were in the process of dissolving. These records detailed the service of millions of Americans who served from 1912 to the early 1970s. The MPRC was to serve as the go-to source for all of the materials a veteran would ever need to prove their service and to get a copy of their military records.
The building was constructed during a period of great debate in the archive and library field. As larger archives and record facilities were being built, there was increased attention being paid as to how to mitigate the potential effects of fire on the paper records. Some argued that the use of sprinklers in the building would only serve to further damage any documents already affected by a fire. Others believed that that the risk of unmitigated fire was far greater than any potential damage a sprinkler could bring. Ultimately, the MPRC was constructed with no fire stopping measures of any kind, including a sprinkler system. This would prove to be a disastrous decision.
The July 12, 1973 Fire
A little past midnight on July 12, the Olivette Fire Department responded to a call at the MPRC. Despite the combined efforts of more than 40 emergency response groups, the fire continued to burn unabated for 22 hours. The fire continued to smolder for another two days, and finally, on July 16th, the fire was declared out. The cause of the fire was never determined, but many attribute it to a carelessly disposed of cigarette butt by a lazy employee.
The Cost Of The Fire
While no one was harmed in the blaze, the fire did consume millions of service records. Years after the fire, the Federal government finally concluded that 80 percent of the U.S. Army personnel discharge records from November 1st, 1912 to January 1st, 1960 were destroyed, and 75 percent of the U.S. Air Force personnel discharge records from September 25th, 1947 to January 1st, 1964 were lost as well. Today, veterans still struggle with this tragic event, as many have lost any trace of their service. In some cases, the NPRC is still able to reconstruct the service records of a veteran.
If you or a loved one is struggling to get the VA benefits you know they deserve, connect with the Patriot Angels. We specialize in the VA Aid and Attendance pension, and can help you find the long-term care that you or a loved one needs. Connect with the Patriot Angels today.