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Tag: national personnel records center

Facial Hair Friday: Presley, Presley is our cry!

Letter from from Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson to President Eisenhower (ARC 594359)

Do sideburns set your heart aflutter? It’s been 35 years since Elvis Presley died, but judging from the media coverage and chatter on Twitter with #ElvisWeek, his fan base is still enthusiastic. But the some of the most passionate fan letters about the bewhiskered singer can be found in the National Archives.

In 1958, Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson in Montana were beside themselves (“we will just about die!”) at the idea of Elvis having to take a razor to his sideburns as part of his patriotic duty when he was drafted into the Army in March 1958. They wrote to President Eisenhower, but unfortunately their favorite singer still had to serve—and groom himself according to Army regulations. The letter is now a part of the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Fans also bypassed the President and sent pleas directly to the First Lady, hoping she would be more sympathetic to their cause. But this letter to Mamie Eisenhower did not end up in the Eisenhower Presidential Library records. Instead, the First Lady’s office sent the letter to the Army, with the notation “Respectfully referred for appropriate handling.”

The letter went into Elvis’s Official Military Personnel File, or OMPF, where it became a part of the National … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Gone with the Wind

Clark Gable on the poster of the movie "Combat America"

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind. The National Archives has at least two connections with this movie, and one of them is a mustache.

The National Archives was given a copy of the award-winning and controversial film. It was given to the first Archivist in 1941 by Senator Walter F. George of Georgia and Eastern Division Manager Carter Barron of Loews. [UPDATE: The multi-reel 35mm technicolor print, which was accepted as a gift donation (we still have the accession dossier), was later destroyed in a 1978 fire at the National Archives nitrate vaults at Suitland.]

But in the end, it all comes back to the mustache–in this case, the trim but bristley lip hair of actor Clark Gable, who portrayed Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

It’s not the only movie connection with Gable. We have stills from Call of the Wild that came into our holdings as part of records from the National Parks Service. This movie is also notable in Clark Gable’s personal life–his offscreen affair with with onscreen lover Loretta Young resulted in a daughter, Judy Lewis. Young  hid her pregnancy from the public but later adopted Judy.

The National Archives also holds a copy of Combat America, a film … [ Read all ]

Hit the Road, Jack!

Today’s post is by Miriam Kleiman, public relations specialist at the National Archives.

Jack Kerouac (National Personnel Records Center)

Jack Kerouac—American counterculture hero, king of the Beats, and author of On the Road—was a Navy military recruit who failed boot camp.

Navy doctors found Kerouac delusional, grandiose, and promiscuous, and questioned his strange writing obsession.

I learned this in 2005, right before the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis announced the opening of more than 3,000 military personnel files—including those of some famous folks.

Working in public affairs at the National Archives is a challenge. We’re always trying to make what’s old seem new. Just yesterday someone asked, “What’s new at the National Archives?” I responded “Absolutely nothing, but I can tell you some neat new things about what’s old.”

The St. Louis records release gave us a chance to share some unknown gems about some very well-known people including Elvis, Clark Cable, and Jackie Robinson. Our colleagues in St. Louis sent us files to see what might interest the media, but most of the material didn’t qualify as newsworthy. It’s vision and dental records, physical exam notes, letters of recommendation, or names and addresses of next of kin.

Then, I found Jack Kerouac’s file. Thicker than the rest, it details his 10 days in basic training—and 67 under psychiatric evaluation. This, I thought, is NEWS! … [ Read all ]

NPRC helps solve headstone riddle at Arlington National Cemetery

Photograph of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 05/30/1961 (306-SUB-MON-166)

Photograph of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 05/30/1961 (306-SUB-MON-166)

When Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport uncovered the headstones of American veterans lying in a murky stream bed at Arlington National Cemetery this month, NARA’s National Personnel Records Center was solicited to help identify one of the partially legible grave markers.

Officials at Arlington National Cemetery were unsure how the stones got into the creek, to whom they belonged, and how old they were. It was possible the stones were engraved incorrectly and the discarded stones were used to line the stream bed. But it was also possible that these were the headstones of fallen veterans.

One headstone in particular offered some clues. With a design that was discontinued in the late 1980s, it offered some time frame as to when the markers arrived in the stream bed.

More important, there was a partially legible name on the marker. If the name could be associated with a veteran, it could explain where the headstones came from, when they were put there, and also help restore honor to one of America’s fallen heroes. The headstone only showed the rank of a Navy captain, and the name J (or L) Warren McLaughlin.

At the National Archives, veterans’ records from the 20th century are stored at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), located in St. Louis, MO.

The … [ Read all ]