I wrote an article about the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) which contained information on how to request it, what it contained, and how to share information with organizations who honor our war dead. Several people were confused about the difference between the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), also known as the military service file and the IDPF. This article will clarify what those files are, where they are located, what they contain, and how to obtain copies.
Difference between the two files:
OMPF: Created for every single service man or woman in every branch of the military.
IDPF: Created for only those who were unrecovered and still considered Missing In Action or those who died in the war.
Official Military Personnel File (OMPF)
What: Also known as the military service file, the OMPF is the record of a soldier’s service from enlistment and induction until discharge or death. Some files are quite lengthy if a soldier was in service for many years. Other files are short because the soldier was inducted during the war years and served a very short time, or was Killed In Action.
These files contain, but are not limited to the following:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates for the soldier, sailor, or Marine and sometimes members of his family. I have even seen adoption records in a file.
- Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Merchant Marine OMPFs have photographs of the sailor or Marine taken upon after induction. These photographs are also found in the IDPF if the man or woman died in service or is still Missing In Action.
- Next of kin information can be found through vital records, insurance papers, beneficiary papers and next of kin designation papers. This is great information if you are a grave adopter in Europe and are trying to locate living relatives.
- Educational records and letters of recommendation.
- Training information.
- Medical and dental information.
- Service information: Training places and dates; type of training received; scores for tests and training; dates of service overseas; medals and citations earned.
- Death information if the soldier died while in service.
- Often the files contain handwritten letters from family members, especially fi the soldier died in service.
Where: The OMPF is held at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. These files are available to anyone if a soldier died or was discharged on this date 62 years ago. So at the time of this article posting on my website, this means any OMPF for soldiers who died or were discharged by 17 July 1954, is available to anyone to request. You can read more about records access here.
History and Confusion: There is a lot of confusion of the OMPF – does it exist or did it burn? In 1973 there was a devastating fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Approximately 80% of the Army, Air Corps/Army Air Forces/Air Force, and National Guard (under the authority of the Army during WWII) burned. Is that the end of the story? NO!
NPRC gets thousands of requests for OMPFs and other records every week. The facility holds records from WWI, WWII, Federal Employee Records, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and other records. The service files are not the only thing held there. Many researchers receive letters that say, “All the records burned.” Sometimes that really isn’t the case. I have copies of complete files and some files which are burned around the edges (or have mold or water damage.) Some files I have are partial and contain only bits of information.
Obtaining Records: If you work with a researcher, you have a much better chance of getting information out of NPRC. We are able to request and stay on top of whether or not there is a service file. My team is also able to ensure we at some point see a file that does exist. Case in point, last year my researcher at NPRC requested a Navy file for a client. NPRC found it, processed it and sent it to the wrong department in May. It was November before we saw the file and that is only because we stayed on top of the progress of locating it. Anyone who would have requested it by mail would never have received it most likely or it would have taken much longer than 7 months. NPRC also sometimes pulls the “right name but the wrong file.” This happened a couple years ago and my researcher caught the error and was able to save me hundreds of dollars in copy fees. We are also able to locate Morning Reports, Monthly Reports, Payroll, Air Force Award Cards and other recofds held there.
You do have the option to go to NPRC in person to conduct research. And you can send in Form 180 to request a copy of the OMPF. When you send this form in, the OMPF is the only thing they will sear€ch for you. Often you will pay $25 for a Final Payroll Record and a sheet that says the soldier served. This is a far cry from the available information there if you go there or work with a researcher.
Types of File Codes if the File was Affected by the Fire:
“P” File is a Final Payroll File. These are typically what NPRC charges you $25 for. You get the Final Payroll Record which has little information on it and usually a sheet stating the soldier served.
“B” Burned File. This file means the file is partially in existence and has damage. You never know exactly what remains until you see the file.
“R” Reconstructed File. This file means a few pieces of information were located to reconstruct enough information to prove service. If the soldier has an IDPF, often some of those papers come from this. I’ve also seen Final Payroll, and items family members sent to NPRC (newspaper articles, copies of letters, copies of the Separation and Discharge Papers, etc.)
Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF)
The IDPF is a file created for every soldier, sailor, or Marine who was listed as Missing In Action (MIA) and never recovered or who died in service. These files were never at the NPRC in St. Louis and therefore not part of the 1973 Fire of what was destroyed. These files are currently held by the Army Human Resources Command (AHRC) in Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
To learn more, please read the post about the IDPF to learn the specifics on this file.
There are many researchers seeking information on our deceased soldiers and many organizations and foundations which use the files to honor service men and women. One such foundation, the Stichting Verenigde Adoptanten Amerikaanse Oorlogsgraven (Foundation United Adopters American War Graves,) runs the Fields of Honor Database in the Netherlands. The Fields of Honor Database has a mission to compile information and photographs, in their free online database, for all those buried or listed on the Wall of the Missing at ABMC cemeteries in Margraten, Netherlands, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium, and Ardennes, Belgium. You can help them accomplish this mission by contacting them and sharing your soldier’s information.
Books To Guide Your Research:
If you live in Europe and have adopted a soldier’s grave or his name on the Wall of the Missing, this foundation is also selling my research book, Faces of War: Researching Your Adopted Soldier.
If you live in the U.S. and need assistance researching, check out my books, Volumes 1 and 2 of Stories from the World War II Battlefield, which are the only ones available which teach you step-by-step how to do WWII research. Need more assistance? Contact me to discuss a project. I am taking new clients at this time and there is no wait list.
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