Arizona Veteran seeks help finding military records

Posted: Updated:

On July 17, 1973 a disastrous fire broke out on the sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.


Up to 18 million military files were destroyed, and Prescott Valley Veteran, Dennis Reed Winfrey believes his could be one of them.

“A lot of my records have black splotches on them, I'm guessing that's from that fire because they would've been in there at that time,” Winfrey surmises.

He enrolled in the Army in 1970, three years before the fire.

Winfrey spent much of his enlistment in Germany, before being released to join a now disbanded unit of the army reserves, once located in east Phoenix.

“Next thing you know I'm back in the United States playing weekend warrior instead of full time warrior,” he said.

His weekend warrior duties ended in 1973 when Winfrey was honorably discharged from the Army, but he  now says that final year of service might as well not have happened.

“At the end of my year, I was done, and I have no record of that year,” he explains.

After asking as many as a dozen government agencies for his reserve records from 1972 to ‘73, Winfrey did get plenty of paperwork, but nowhere in his kitchen table full of documents is proof of his last year of service.

And whether his records did in fact burn in the fire in 1973 -- he's not sure -- but he is determined to find out.

“Those records have to be someplace, so maybe with 3 On Your Side maybe it gets to someone who says hey I know that guy I remember he was in the reserves,” Winfrey said.

3 On Your Side contacted the NPRS in St. Louis which says just because Winfrey’s documents were housed at their facility at the time of fire, doesn't mean they were destroyed by it.

NPRS claims the fire destroyed about 80% of the records for Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960.

Winfrey was enlisted in the 70's, but says the singed documents he has been able to obtain prove his records couldn't have been far from the flames.

“Whether it was destroyed, I don't know but I know. I don't have it and I'd really like to kinda get it,” Winfrey said.

Although, obtaining the record means he could take advantage of early retirement, he says it's more than that.

“I'm past that part now,” Winfrey continued, “That is still a goal but that's not my priority goal, my priority goal is dog gone it I did the time, I want the records.”

Veterans having trouble obtaining their own records are urged to contact Army Human Resources Command Customer Service. The number is 800-318-5298, and the National Personnel Records Center Military Personnel Records customer service number is 314-801-0800. Veterans' records are retired to the National Personnel Records Center.