Prepared Remarks of Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. Time Capsule Ceremony, National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis County, MO
June 2, 2010
The Archivist was introduced by Jason Klumb, Regional Administrator of the General Services Administration.
Thank you, Jason, for that kind introduction.
I am honored, and very pleased, to be here today to participate in this historic event to commemorate the construction of new quarters for our National Personnel Records Center.
First, I want to extend a heartfelt "thanks" to our distinguished guests for being here with us.
I want to recognize Senator Kit Bond for his vision and support over the years to the National Archives—including helping us keep NPRC here in St. Louis County. Thank you, sir.
I also want to thank Senator Claire McCaskill, who could not be with us today, for the support she has given to NARA to help make this day a reality.
To Congressman William Lacy Clay Jr., in whose district we are gathered here today, I thank you sir for your continued support to the National Archives and particularly to the men and women of the National Personnel Records Center.
I also want to thank the General Services Administration under the direction of Regional Administrator Jason Klumb, and I’d like to single out Eric Gibbs, the GSA contracting officer for this effort, for the tremendous work to make this project happen.
Thanks should also go to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and to the St. Louis County Economic Council for their hard work to pull this deal together for the mutual benefit of all parties involved.
I am also grateful to the Molasky Companies for their vision and willingness to step in and take over this project when the financial uncertainties within our nation threatened its success. Thank you, gentlemen.
And, my thanks also go to Adrienne Thomas, Deputy Archivist, who could not be here with us today; to Tom Mills, Assistant Archivist for Regional Records Services and his staff; and to Ron Hindman, Director of the NPRC, and to his staff for the hard work needed to define the building requirements for this soon-to-be completed depository for our nation’s most requested records.
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We meet here today between two of the days each year when we honor military veterans: Memorial Day, and June 6, the anniversary of the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe in World War II.
Just as we honored this past weekend those millions of Americans who fought for our country, we will honor in a few days a special group of those who played a role in one of the most historically significant days in our nation’s rich military history.
On that date, tens of thousands of American servicemen flew bombing and strafing missions, shelled the coastline, parachuted behind enemy lines, and hit the beaches as part of the largest invasion force in the history of mankind.
It marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Europe and of the horrors that it brought.
The military records of the thousands of Americans who participated in this invasion, along with some 56 million more, will be housed in this building under construction behind us. This Center will be home to the personnel records of those who served our nation in uniform or as civil servants from the late 1800s through the end of the 20th Century.
Among them are Normandy invasion veterans:
There is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in overall command of the D-Day invasion as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and later our 34th President.
But there is also Private Carlton Barrett, a Medal of Honor recipient for repeatedly disregarding his own personal safety by rescuing drowning comrades, assisting wounded and acting as a guide along the length of Omaha Beach on D-Day.
There is General Omar Bradley, Commander of the Third Corps during D-Day, known as "the solider’s general," later chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s last 5-star General.
But there is also Sergeant Waverly Woodson Jr., who was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions as a medic on Omaha Beach as a member of the all African-American 320th Anti-Aircraft Balloon Battalion.
There is Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who declared, "We will start the war from right here!" in referring to the tenuous situation that was Omaha Beach in the first wave of landings.
But there is also Private First Class Melvin J. Neptune, who received the Bronze Star for leading his men inland from Omaha Beach under heavy German artillery fire as a member of the First Infantry Division.
These individuals, along with tens of thousands more, made the D-Day invasion a success. We owe them and the millions more who have served and continue to serve in uniform an incalculable debt of gratitude for preserving our freedoms.
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This is a historic day for the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Personnel Records Center, the state of Missouri, St. Louis County and those that call this area home.
With the construction of this state-of-the-art facility, we will have a building that will store the most requested records in the nation in the proper climate and physical conditions.
We will also have a facility that will allow the public to experience history first-hand in a modern research room and in public meeting spaces for conferences, workshops and education programs.
Visitors to this facility will have the opportunity to see Clark Gable’s separation document with the signature of his personnel officer, Captain Ronald Reagan. They can review a fitness report on General George S. Patton’s tremendous and famous leadership skills.
And they can see Elvis Presley’s Record of Induction—complete with his autograph.
Perhaps most important, they will be able to research the history of family members who served in the military or civil service to help them complete family histories.
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Today we are ceremoniously placing items in a time capsule for the new facility. The new NPRC is a perfect candidate for a time capsule, given the fact that so much history can be found within its holdings.
NPRC contains our history: the history of Indian agents who served in the Wild West, of Tuskegee Airmen who showed the nation that patriotism knows no color, and of the millions of 18-year-olds from nearly every town in America who answered the call to serve so that we could remain free.
All this and so much more of our families’ history will be stored here for years to come. Americans will travel here or write here to learn how a family member, a friend, or a legend served his or her country.
More than a million times a year, Americans contact the National Personnel Records Center for information and more than a million times a year the staff responds with its best effort to provide the critical information requested.
The NPRC staff is truly dedicated to providing the essential documents to our veterans and retired civil servants and their families in a timely fashion, day after day, week after week. On this special occasion, I want to salute these individuals who work so hard every day for the American people.
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Today we close a time capsule that signifies our generation’s commitment to preserving the historic record of federal service.
As we prepare to place the final documents in this time capsule, we do so with reverence and with pride for the millions who have served and for the staff of professionals who have made this day possible, from the technicians and staff of the NPRC, to the architects, designers, contractors, subcontractors, developer, government officials and community leaders who have helped create this project.
In this time capsule are many documents and mementos celebrating the history of the NPRC and its operations, along with facts, statistics and information about the year 2010 and the construction of this facility. The entire list of documents in the time capsule is in your program.
I thank our honored guests for their participation in this historic event for our agency.
We are asking a future generation to open this capsule in 2085, on the 100th anniversary of the National Archives and Records Administration’s becoming an independent federal agency. It is our sincere hope that those who open it will place the same reverence and value on the records of our American heroes as we do today.
Thank you all for coming.
During the placement of items in the time capsule, the Archivist placed a facsimile of the 1934 act to create the National Archives.