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Do you have a Michigan ancestor who may have served in World War I? Is that service an unsolved mystery in your family history research? If so, you may know how difficult it can be to piece together a military history, given that a large number of records were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Archives Military Personnel Records Center.[1] The Archives of Michigan may be able to help you solve your mystery.


Bonus Payments to World War I Veterans

In 1921, the Michigan legislature passed a bill that provided for a payment of $15.00 per month of service to the state’s World War I veterans and nurses.[2] The state took out a $30 million loan to finance the bonus payments, and all payments were made by the end of 1932. Veterans had to apply to receive a payment, and their applications had to include their name, address, serial number, residence when they entered the service, date reporting for active duty, date of final separation and a certified copy of discharge papers or evidence of honest and faithful service if they hadn’t yet been discharged.[3]

The federal government issued service summaries for veterans to all state adjutant generals to help state-level officials validate applications under bonus programs like Michigan’s. According to the Report of the Adjutant General of the Army to the Secretary of War for the 1921 fiscal year, “the execution of this stupendous piece of work involve[d] the preparation of detailed statements of service of approximately 4,496,000 officers, field clerks and enlisted men.”[4]


[1]  <a href=”” target=”_blank”>The 1973 Fire: National Personnel Records Center</a>

[2]  An applicant’s period of service had to occur between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1919.

[3]  Michigan Department of Military Affairs, Record Group 84-107, Box 176, Folder 21.

[4]  <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Report of the Adjutant General…, 1920/21</a>

Unidentified American Soldiers in France, Circa 1917-1918
Unidentified American Soldiers in France, Circa 1917-1918

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