The 1973 National Archives Fire, a severe blow to the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, was a disastrous fire that occurred at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 12, 1973. The United States National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government charged The United States of America —commonly referred to as the The National Personnel Records Center is an agency of the National Archives and Records Administration and is divided into two large Federal Records Centers located in St Events 1191 - Saladin 's garrison surrenders ending the two-year Siege of Acre. Year 1973 ( MCMLXXIII) was a Common year starting on Monday (link will display full calendar of the 1973 Gregorian calendar. NPRC, the custodian of military service records, lost approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files as a result of the fire.
The affected record collections included:
On the morning of the National Archives Fire, a very small number of U.S. Navy, United States Coast Guard, and U.S. Marine Corps records were out of their normal file area being worked on as active requests by employees of the National Archives and Records Administration who maintained their offices on the 6th floor of the building. The United States Army Reserve is the federal reserve force of the United States Army. When the NPRC fire began, these Navy and Marine Corps records were caught in the section of the building which experienced the most damage in the fire.
The exact number of Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire is unknown, since such records were being removed only for a few days while information was retrieved from the record and were not normally stored in the area of the building which experienced the fire. Estimates indicate that the number of affected records was no more than two to three dozen. Since such records are considered "special cases", the present policy of NPRC is to state that there were no Navy and Marine Corps records destroyed in the fire.
The exact cause of the 1973 National Archives Fire was never fully determined. An investigation in 1975 revealed that the affected floor, where the fire had started, had been under extreme temperature with little or no ventilation. It was speculated that air pressure on the floor had reached such a level that, combined with the very high temperatures in the enclosed space, the brittle and dry records began to spontaneously combust. The investigation also did not rule out embers of cigarettes as a possible cause, which were present in several trashcans.
The 1973 fire destroyed the entire 6th floor of the National Personnel Records Center. Damage from the fire can still be seen today. In 1974, a massive reconstruction effort was begun to restore the service records which were destroyed. In most cases where a military record has been presumed destroyed, NPRC is able to reconstruct basic service information, such as military date of entry, date of discharge, character of service, and final rank.