United States Vietnam War 1964 to 1972
- 1 Getting started with Vietnam research
- 1.1 Service Records
- 1.2 Draft Records
- 1.3 Unit Histories
- 1.4 Casualty Records
- 1.5 Prisoner of War Records
- 1.6 Awards
- 1.7 (Additional Heading)
About 58 thousand of the 7 million American service men and women who served in Vietnam died.
Getting started with Vietnam research
Official Military Personnel Files
The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis maintains Vietnam War Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF).
Access to Non-Archival Military Service Records is limited. Non-Archival records are those of service members who separated from the military less than 62 years ago. See Access to Non-Archival Records for more information. Records of individuals who left service more than 62 years ago are considered Archival Records and become records of the National Archives open to the general public.
Order records from the National Personnel Records Center, in St. Louis at the Start your Military Service Record Request page at the National Archives website.
On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the NPRC destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files. The affected record collections are described below.
|Branch||Personnel and Period Affected||Estimated Loss|
|Army||Personnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960||80%|
|Air Force|| Personnel discharged, September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)
No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. Nevertheless, NPRC uses many alternate sources in its efforts to reconstruct basic service information to respond to requests.
In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act, creating the country’s first peacetime draft and officially establishing the Selective Service System. The draft continued from 1948, during both peacetime and war, to 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon signed legislation officially ending the draft. The Selective Service registration requirement was later suspended in April 1975. However, in 1980, President James E. Carter resumed Selective Service registration in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Selective Service System remains in place today.
In addition to WWII Draft Records, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO maintains Post-WWII through Vietnam Era Selective Service Records, for all men born before 1960. Please note: Men born from March 29, 1957 – December 31, 1959 were not required to register with Selective Service because the registration program was suspended when they would have reached age 18. The requirement to register with Selective Service was reinstated in 1980 but only for men born January 1, 1960, or later.
How to Order a Draft Record
Copies of WWII though Vietnam era (men born April 28, 1877 to March 28, 1957) Selective Service Records may be obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, in St. Louis, for a fee.
Written requests should be mailed to: National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
Please note: Selective Service Records for men born after January 1, 1960 are maintained by the Selective Service System.
Information in a Draft Record
For men who registered for the draft prior to 1976, the only Selective Service System information available is that of the individual Draft Registration Card (SSS Form 1) and Classification History (SSS Form 102) records.
All other individual draftee files from that period were destroyed by the Selective Service System in 1978, in accordance with approved records retention schedules. Physical examination and test results, medical letters, laboratory work and other medical documentation that may have been included in these files no longer exist.
The individual Draft Registration Card (SSS Form 1) may contain information such as: name, Selective Service registration number, age, date and place of birth, ethnicity, place of residence at time of registration and basic physical description.
The Classification History (SSS Form 102) may contain: name; date of birth; classification and date of mailing notice; date of appeal to the board; date and results of armed forces physical examination; entry into active duty or civilian work in lieu of induction (may include date, branch of service entered and mode of entry, such as enlisted or ordered); date of separation from active duty or civilian work; and general remarks.
For information regarding official military unit histories, contact:
U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency
600 Chenault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424
Telephone: (334) 953-2395
U.S. Army Center of Military History
103 3rd Avenue
Fort Lesley J. McNair, DC 20319-5058
Telephone: (202) 685-4042
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command
Washington Navy Yard, Bldg 57 (3rd Floor)
Washington, DC 20374
Telephone: (202) 433-3224
U.S. Marine Corps History Division
3078 Upshur Avenue
Quantico, Virginia 22134
Telephone: (703) 432-4877
U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20593
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Fold3) (free) - Casualties listed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
State-level Casualty Lists
The National Archives prepared these state level casualty lists by creating extracts from the Korean War Extract Data File and the Vietnam Conflict Extract Data File, both as of April 29, 2008, of the Defense Casualty Analysis System (DCAS) Files, part of Record Group 330: Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The lists are based on the "home of record - state" data provided by the serviceman or woman upon last entrance into military service. "Home of record" does not necessarily refer to the place of birth, residence of next of kin, place of longest residence, nor other common uses of the term "hometown." Full casualty records may be retrieved online through the National Archives' Access to Archival Databases resource.
The Military Index
Most of these casualties are documented in the Military Index, a FamilySearch file. This index includes those who died or who were declared dead from 1950 to 1957 in Korea and from 1957 to 1975 in Southeast Asia. The index gives birth and death dates, country of death, cause of death (air, ground, or sea), town and state of residence at time of enlistment, race, religious affiliation, marital status, service number, rank, and branch of service.
- The Military Index is available at the Family History Library and at most family history centers. For more information on this index on www.FamilySearch.org , see the publication Military Index, Third Edition, January 1995. Series FS, Number 2. The following are additional records that contain information on deaths and casualties:
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Directory of Names. Washington, D.C.: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 1984. (FHL book 973 M2vv.) Arranged chronologically by the date the death was reported. The directory gives name, rank, branch of service, birth date, death date, city and state of residence, whether missing in action, and the panel and line numbers where the name is inscribed on the memorial.
Prisoner of War Records
POW's and MIA's
Records of U.S. Military Casualties, Missing in Action, and Prisoners of War from the Era of the Vietnam War are available through the National Archives.
The National Archives has an online searchable database, entitled "Records on Military Personnel Who Died, Were Missing in Action or Prisoners of War as a Result of the Vietnam War," documenting the period 6/8/1956 - 1/21/1998.
- Records relating to American prisoners of war and missing in action from the Vietnam War, including lists and descriptions of the record groups covering the Vietnam War that are held by the National Archives are also found in the FHL US/CAN Book 973 J53s.
The names of the 2,504 Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War are on the Tablets of the Missing at the ABMC Honolulu Memorial. For a photograph of an inscription of a close friend or relative, write:
American Battle Monuments Commission
Courthouse Plaza II, Suite 500
2300 Clarendon Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
Telephone (703) 696-6897
- Missing Vietnam Military Resulting from Hostile Forces
- Missing Vietnam Military NOT Resulting from Hostile Forces
- Vietnam Service Awards (Fold3) (free)
- Vietnam War, Awards and Decorations of Honor, 1965-1972 (Ancestry) ($)
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