Saturday, March 2, 2013

Army Records ~ Remember to evaluate all sources!

As many of you are aware, there was a fire in 1973 that destroyed “approximately 18 million service members’ records at the National Personnel Records Center”[1].  Among those records were those of my Grandfather, John S. Hopkins.  There is always more than one side to the story, though, I remember my Grandpa saying that when they were flying home, one plane had men and the other plan had war records. The plane with the war records went down and they made it home.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide which story you like better.

Despite the tragic losses, we do have my Grandpa John’s Discharge papers, which is more information than the Army had on him.  But, while reading through them, there were some issues.  He always said he was in the 517th PIR Division and we had postcards with that return address. The Discharge papers had 531st PIR & 513th PIR on them.  So after diligent research with my Uncle, we discovered yes, there was a 517th PIR and a 513th PIR but there was no 531st PIR!  With the help of Don Gentry from the 517th  Parachute Regimental Combat Team Association, we petitioned the Department of the Army and the Board for Correction of Military Records for my Grandpa’s record to be corrected and his metals to be awarded.

Because we were able to provide John’s certificate of death, Enlistment Record & Report of Separation, as well as records from the World War II Prisoners of War, Record Group 389, we were granted a review of our case.  The board reviewed our case and made the corrections to John’s record, awarded additional medals that were due and gave us a wonderful historical record of the 17th Airborne Division.

We were then able to re-assemble my Grandpa’s uniform jacket with his medals for the family.


[1] "Record of Proceedings; Case of Hopkins, John S. (Deceased),'" Docket Number AR20070014427, 6 May 2008, Department of the Army, Board for Correction of Military Records, Arlington, Virginia.

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