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    A Fire Destroyed Millions of Veterans’ Records. 50 Years Later, Families Are Still Seeking Answers

    A Fire Destroyed Millions of Veterans' Records. 50 Years Later, Families Are Still Seeking Answers

    The apocalyptic scene is still burned into Mike Buttery's memory 50 years later: Black smoke billowing from the top floor of the Personnel Records Center; bits of paper wafting through the as dozens of firefighters tried desperately to stem the inferno.

    “They'd hit it (the paper) with the water, and the water would knock it back up in the air, and then it would float around some more out there,” Buttery, then a janitor at the center, recalls of the wind-whipped paper swirling around the massive six-story building outside Saint Louis.

    As he watched from a safe remove, Buttery could only think of the millions of veterans — like himself — whose records were being consumed and “how in the world would they get their benefits.”

    “It immediately went through my mind that those people were losing whatever history there was of their of their service,” Buttery, who served with the in northern , said during a recent interview from his suburban St. Louis home

    The July 12, 1973, fire in Overland, Missouri, consumed an estimated 16 to 18 million personnel files, the vast majority covering the period just before World War I through 1963. It's believed to be the largest loss of records in one catastrophe in U.S. history.

    It is an event that dogged untold veterans, forcing them to fight once more — this time for benefits, medals and recognition they'd earned. It echoes to this day — in…

    Continue Reading This Article At Military.com

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