What hurdles did you encounter in trying to get a personnel file on someone "famous"?
May 8, 2009 5:10 AM   Subscribe

Have you ordered a US military personnel file (aka "OMPF," or "201 file"), for someone famous that was "released" under the Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) program? How did that go? How long did it take? Did you have to go there in person?

[Since I'm expecting a flood of people chiming in to tell me how they got their grandfather's personnel file from WWII, just want to point out that I'm only interested in files of persons covered by the "famous-people" program that is the Persons of Exceptional Prominence. Due apologies if that seems elitist or snarky.]

I'm working on a writing project concerning someone famous, who served briefly in the military, and whose military personnel file was "released" in 2006 under this program from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. I'm familiar with procedures for ordering those files (via FOIA, form SF-180), which are all rather lengthy, expensive, and fraught with bureaucratic obstacles. So apart from how the procedures may be described on some website (which usually aren't followed in actual practice), I'd like to know how this worked out for you.

Did you obtain a file of someone famous? Did you do it by mail, or in person? How long did it take? Were the copies they made even legible, or would it be a better route to travel there and obtain a digital copy? Do they actually allow digital reproduction of these "famous" files?

posted by garfy3 to Law & Government (4 answers total)
You borked the link. It should be http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/spring/vips-military.html.
posted by pracowity at 5:57 AM on May 8, 2009

The info at that link is very clear: in person, via paper mail, or online.

I have heard from WWII researchers that the Archives has good people working there, but you can't count on their help since they're understaffed, and that they have a number of restrictions. (I believe a ban on copies of documents -- e.g., taking pictures with a digital camera -- has one exception: using their photocopiers. And you can bring in a pencil and notebook only.)(This may be out of date, though)

I have gone the paper mail route for a request on a similar topic, though I chickened out when they wanted like $250 for all the pages they found. (Taugh me to ask better questions!)

The electronic request form is new to me. Checking it out quickly, it says it's for veterans or their familites; perhaps there's an exception made for PEP requests.

I would fill out the form and drop it in the mail, unless you are local to the Archives -- or know someone who is.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:25 AM on May 8, 2009

Response by poster: Ooops on the link. Thanks for catching that pracowity!

wnestvedt - thanks for the ideas. as you hit on with your experience in the paper-mail route, I'm really looking for some tips and tricks here from experienced archival types.

i'm not local to this archive, and it is rumored to be a very difficult one to navigate once you travel there (raising someone on the phone has been near impossible). I plan on dropping the form in the mail to see what happens anyway, but am still open to any "inside" info experienced users might have about either ordering through the mail or visiting in person.
posted by garfy3 at 2:45 PM on May 8, 2009

just an aside, i was doing family genealogy research and tried to find my father's WWII military records. i had his SS#, service id # and other info. he was a commissiond Warrant Officer in the Army Quartermaster Corps but was always in the US. not like he ended up in an unknown grave.

sounds like an easy search, i paid $15. to a site that guanteed results. nada.

ironry: my father was an Army "Quartermaster" - supply and distribubtion. i was a Navy QM - navigation and stuff.
our service numbers differ by only one digit.
posted by lemuel at 8:53 PM on May 8, 2009

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