© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Old military records - stored in STL - opened

Elvis's induction record, which is among those military records that will be released this weekend (KWMU photo)

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – More than one million military personnel records stored in St. Louis will be opened to the public for the first time this weekend.

The trove of documents at the National Personnel Records Center cover U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel who served between 1855 and 1939.

The public can also see the files of an array of celebrities, from Elvis Presley to Charles Lindbergh.

Assistant archival programs director Bryan McGraw says greater access will give historians and everyday citizens broader insight into the past.

"For years in the historical and genealogical communities a lot of people have expressed interest in these records, and these historical documents really kind of give a picture that we are not even aware of," McGraw said.

One of the more famous Americans whose records are being released belong to actor Steve McQueen. He's known for his rebellious persona in such films as "The Great Escape." But the center's Bryan McGraw points out that McQueen deserted the Marine Corps in 1949.

"In a comment that he makes in his statement back to the authorities was, 'I enlisted,' you know. You didn't draft me, so I can kind of do what I want.' That's the implied thing there, which is consistent with the image we have of Steve McQueen."

The center will host an exhibition Saturday at 11 a.m.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.