Elvis' military records and millions others get new home

6:20 PM, Oct 13, 2011   |    comments
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By Mike Rush

St. Louis (KSDK) - It's a place where you can look at Elvis Presley's fingerprints, peruse JFK's military papers as well as documents from Jackie Robinson and even "Golden Girl" Bea Arthur.

They're all stored at the National Archives at St. Louis.

"The National Personnel Records Center is the central depository for the 20th century period for people that served in the military and civil service, which is about 100 million individual files," said Bryan McGraw with the National Archives at St. Louis.

The records date from about 1841 to the early 2000's. After that they went digital. They'll now be stored in a state-of-the-art building in North St. Louis County.

The goal is to preserve the records but also make them available to the public. There are even a few Cardinals in the group.

"For those who are true baseball fans, the name Grover Cleveland Alexander will bring home some fond memories," said McGraw. "He is, of course, a hall of famer, served in World War I. We have his record. We also have the selective service draft card from Stan Musial."

But much of Musial's records, along with millions of others, were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the center's previous site on Page Avenue.

"About 80 percent of the records for people that served in the army from 1912 to the 1960's were damaged in the fire," said Kevin Pratt with the National Archives at St. Louis.

Sixteen million records were damaged or destroyed. Teams continue to try to rehabilitate papers impacted by the fire or by age.

People usually use them to verify eligibility for veteran's benefits or to research relatives.

"I've seen on many occasions an individual moved to tears standing at a photo copier or looking at a record learning something about grandpa or a relative or their dad that they didn't know," said McGraw.

The St. Louis facility processes 4,000 - 5,000 records requests per day.



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