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Deep reporting on search for answers, half a century after fire destroys veterans’ records

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A massive blaze wiped out millions of military records, 50 years ago. AP journalists Allen Breed and Randy Herschaft brought new light to the story.  

With exclusive interviews with three janitors who witnessed the fire, and exhaustive historical research, Breed, a national writer, and Herschaft, a NIRC researcher, pieced together what happened. 

It was the first time any of the janitors had spoken to the media about the fire that had changed the course of their lives. Historical photos from the aftermath of the blaze complemented the fascinating tale. 

The fascinating story led to top engagement scores across AP platforms. It scored a 100 for reader engagement on the AP News site. KMOX Radio in St. Louis interviewed Breed about the story. 

The piece has also led to a couple of tips for follow-up stories about the fire’s ongoing effect on veterans’ benefits claims. 

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