Finding Former Military Personnel In The U.S.
Inclusion of an organization or product in the following text does not denote that it carries an American Embassy, Brussels, U.S. Government, or U.S. Department of Defense endorsement. Please note, also, that this information is intended for those making inquiries from the Belgium.
It is difficult to trace someone in the United States when their whereabouts are completely unknown, as there are no central records of names and addresses available to the public. For those trying to locate former colleagues, friends or relations the following information may be of assistance. When writing to an agency or organization listed below, you should provide as much information as possible about the person you seek. At least the full name, date and place of birth should be given. For military personnel, the rank, serial number and branch of service should also be specified.
Active Military Personnel
Written requests for assistance in locating information on currently serving military personnel may be sent to the appropriate office listed below:
- Air Force Worldwide Locator
550 C Street W., Suite 50
Randolph Air Force Base
- Army Worldwide Locator
U.S. Army ELREC
8899 E. 56th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46249-5301
- Navy Worldwide Locator
Bureau of Naval Personnel
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-3120
- Marine Corps Worldwide Locator
Commandant of the Marine Corps
HQ, USMC, Code MMSB
Washington, DC 20380-1775
- Coast Guard Locator
G-MPC-S-3, U.S. Coast Guard
2100 2nd Street SW
Washington, DC 20593
The above locator offices may be able to forward correspondence to the individual’s base or unit. Correspondence for the missing service member should be passed – together with a brief letter of explanation – to the appropriate service locator. The letter to be forwarded should contain nothing of value and be in an unsealed, unstamped envelope bearing only the individual’s rank, full name, and, if possible, military serial number. You should note that a nominal fee, payable by credit card or International Money order, may be charged for this service. All of the above locator services operate websites on the internet, usually accessed via links with the Department of Defense DEFENSELINK web site, or relevant service’s homepage.
Former Military Personnel
The American Embassy, Brussels keeps no records of former members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
All Official Military Personnel Files of discharged or deceased personnel are maintained in the United States at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Requests for information on former service members must be directed, in writing, to that agency. Written requests for record searches must be made on the Standard Form SF180 (available to download from the NPRC website). Alternatively, the form will be mailed to you. When completing the form, you should provide the full name, details of military service, and the former service member’s serial (or social security) number, if known. Please note that certain restrictions imposed on the NPRC by the 1974 Privacy Act may make your search more difficult. The Act limits the disclosure of data from U.S. government files to the individual themselves or to those who can provide clear evidence of direct kinship to the individual being sought. In the case of children trying to locate their fathers, the NPRC is required to provide only the last known town and state – ie, not a full street address. In all instances only written requests, signed and dated, on the appropriate forms will be accepted. The address of the NPRC is:
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
Attn: Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Please note that addresses on record are often those furnished by the service member at the time of discharge and may well be some years out-of-date. You should note also that the NPRC is staffed and funded to deal primarily with queries from veterans themselves, and these queries receive priority. It is not unusual for general inquiries from abroad to take many weeks or even months to receive a response.
U.S. citizens wishing to re-establish contact with or information on former service friends mainly use military and veterans organizations’ publications. A brief notice placed therein reaches a wide audience and may well come to the attention of the individual themselves or a former member of the same unit. As well as the newsletters of individual veterans associations, letters are published in the following large-circulation publications:
- Army/Navy/Air Force Times
6883 Commercial Drive
Springfield, VA 22159-0160
- Air Force Magazine
1501 Lee Highway
Arlington, VA 22209-1198
- American Legion Magazine
700 N. Pennsylvania Street
PO Box 1055
Indianapolis, IN 46206
- The Retired Officer Magazine
201 N. Washington Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22314-2539
Letters written to the above publications should be brief and preferably typed. Do not send documents or photographs.
If the original address of the individual being sought is known, you can pursue local sources of information within the United States. Among the many possible avenues are: offices of vital records for birth, death or marriage records; high school reunion organizers and college alumni associations; Adjutant General’s Office in the person’s home state for data on personnel who served in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam; county and state Department of Veterans’ Affairs Offices in cases of Veterans’ benefits or hospitalization; local posts of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets, etc for information on local veterans; county Probate Offices for a will or Letters of Administration if he or she possessed property in the county and is now deceased; local newspapers, for articles obituaries, death notices, etc; state Offices of Vital Statistics for death records of service personnel who died while on active duty. Please note that the American Embassy, London, does not maintain addresses for the above offices.
Private organizations can provide guidance to assist in tracing relatives and friends. Two such groups are:
(Transatlantic Children’s Enterprise)
Norma Jean Clarke-McCloud
1H Bycullah Road
EN2 8EE (Send SAE)
Treasurer: Sandy Peacham
- War Babes
Mrs Shirley McGlade
15 Plough Avenue
Birmingham B32 3TQ (Send SAE)
Tel: 0121 608 5108
- GI Trace
Private detectives and tracing agencies in the U.S., can also assist, but they are often expensive.
The quickest and cheapest way of establishing contact with an individual is often by telephone. Some public reference libraries now hold U.S. telephone directories on CD-ROM and there are many internet websites providing access to phone listings. A number of these are to be found on Yahoo! However, it is worth remembering that many private individuals in the U.S. choose to be ex-directory.
Books & Newpapers
How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been In The Military, 5th Edition by Lt Col (Ret) Richard Johnson, (MIE Publishing, PO Box 17188, Spartanburg, SC 29301, price $23) details hundreds of ways to locate current and former service members of all branches, including National Guard and Reserve. It explains how to obtain copies of individual service records, rosters, muster rolls, after-action reports, and numerous other military records. Please note that Lt Col Johnson also runs a commercial detective agency specializing in the tracing of former members of the military.
Several general books covering U.S. forces in the U.K. during World War II have proved useful to researchers, as they occasionally detail the geographical location of specific units. Shirley McGlade’s Daddy, Where Are You?, a personal account of her search for her father, lists useful contact addresses. Further suggestions are given on the Military History – Books Information Sheet, available from the Defense Attaché Office on written request.
It may also be worthwhile writing to newspapers or specialist publications which circulate in the area where the missing person was last known to live.
General information on obtaining or contacting U.S. Publications is available on the Ready Reference section of this website.
The following organizations may be able to assist in cases of sufficiently compelling humanitarian need, and where the missing person is a close relative:
- British Red Cross
Tracing & Messages Section
International Welfare Dept
9 Grosvenor Crescent
London SW1X 1EJ
Tel: 020 7235 5454
112 Church Road
Tel: 01865 875000
- Adoptees’ Liberty Movement
Box 254, Washington Bdge Station
New York, NY 10033
Tel: 001 212 581 1568
Social Security Administration & The Department of Veterans Affairs
Both the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs will attempt to forward correspondence to missing persons, but only when a considerable monetary or strong humanitarian consideration is involved. You should send a letter intended for the missing person, along with a brief letter of explanation to the appropriate agency. The letter to be forwarded should contain nothing of value and be in a plain, unsealed, unstamped envelope bearing only the person’s full name and social security/ military serial number. If this number is not known, you should include other identifying information, such as date/ place of birth or parents’ names in the covering letter. Write to:
- Social Security Administration
30 North Green Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
- Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
In the case of the Social Security Administration (SSA), a $3 fee applies in cases involving a monetary purpose. An International Money Order in dollars should be enclosed and made payable to the ‘Social Security Administration’. The SSA will be unable to report whether or not the letter is actually delivered.
In addition to the internet locator services listed above, many hundreds of sites – official and unofficial, commercial and free of charge – exist to aid in tracing missing persons and family genealogy. Such sites include: the National Vet Archive; American Veteran Search; the Navy Memorial Foundation’s Navy Log; American Legion Library page, and many others. Keyword searches on military and locator or military and reunions will lead to dozens of sites, many with links to other avenues of research.
NB: Important Notice – It is not possible to trace the whereabouts of persons through U.S. immigration channels. Records of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service are protected by the Privacy Act and cannot be divulged to third parties.
We hope that success results from your efforts. Unfortunately, other than the preceding information, the Defense Attaché Office at U.S. Embassy, London cannot assist further with individual searches for current or former members of the military.