Prologue Magazine

Fall 2011, Vol. 43, No. 3

Federal Files on the Famous—and Infamous

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, Director of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women's Army Corps), World War II, received the Distinguished Service medal. In 1953 she was appointed as the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. (111-SC-135-720)

The collections of personnel records at the National Archives include files that document military and civilian service for persons who are well known to the public for many reasons.

These individuals include celebrated military leaders, Medal of Honor recipients, U.S. Presidents, members of Congress, other government officials, scientists, artists, entertainers, and sports figures&emdash;individuals noted for personal accomplishments as well as persons known for their infamous activities.

The military service departments and NARA have identified nearly 500 such military records for individuals referred to as "Persons of Exceptional Prominence" (PEP). Many of these records are now open to the public earlier than they otherwise would have been (62 years after the separation dates) as the result of a special agreement that allowed these records to be transferred to NARA ownership as early as 10 years after the veterans' dates of death.

These archival records include persons as diverse as Spiro Agnew and Arthur Ashe, Humphrey Bogart and Frank Capra, Henry Fonda and Alex Haley, Lyndon Johnson and Charles Lindbergh, George S. Patton and Jimi Hendrix, Grace Hopper, and Beatrice Arthur.

Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom: Air Force pilot, Korea, 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. An original NASA astronaut (1959) and one of seven original Mercury astronauts. Second American in space. Died in pre-launch test for the Apollo I mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida, January 22, 1967. The large version of the image shows Grissom with fellow Apollo I astronauts Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Many of these files are now being digitized in order to ensure their preservation and to make them more widely available. Digital copies of PEPs can be purchased on CD/DVDs. The price of the disc depends on the number of pages contained in the original paper record and range from $20 (100 pages or less) to $250 (more than 1,800 pages). For more information or to order copies of digitized PEP records only, please write to pep.records@nara.gov. Archival staff are in the process of identifying the records of prominent civilian employees whose names will be added to the list.

Other individuals whose records are now available for purchase on CD are:

Creighton W. Abrams, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Desi Arnaz, Joe L. Barrow, John M. Birch, Hugo L. Black, Gregory Boyington, Prescott S. Bush, Smedley Butler, Evans F. Carlson, William A. Carter, Adna R. Chaffee, Claire Chennault, Mark W. Clark, Benjamin O. Davis.

Also, George Dewey, William Donovan, James H. Doolittle, John F. Dulles, Merritt Edson, Milton C. Eisenhower, Earl H. (Pete) Ellis, James V. Forrestal, Benjamin D. Foulois, Clark Gable, Virgil I. Grissom, Leslie R. Groves, John Hamilton, William Hasley, Oveta Hobby, Lafayette R. Hubbard (Navy), Lafayette R. Hubbard (USMC), Edouard J. Izac.

Also, John F. Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, George C. Kenney, John L. Kerouac, Husband E. Kimmel, Ernest J. King, Mary Klinker, Alan W. Ladd, John A. LeJeune, Curtis LeMay, Douglas MacArthur, Terrance (Steve) McQueen, Charles McVay, Alton G. Miller, Doris Miller, William L. Mitchell, Victor Morrow, Audie L. Murphy, Chester Nimitz, Richard M. Nixon, Joseph H. Pendleton, Tyrone E. Power, Elvis A. Presley, Joseph Pulitzer, Lewis Puller, Eddie Rickenbacker.

Also, Jackie Robinson, Knute K. Rockne, Elliott Roosevelt, James Roosevelt, John A. Roosevelt, Barry Sadler (Army), Barry Sadler (USAF), Lance P. Sijan, Eddie Slovik, Carl Spaatz, Joseph W. Stilwell, Albert L. Sullivan, Francis H. Sullivan, George T. Sullivan, Joseph E. Sullivan, Madison A. Sullivan, Maxwell Taylor, Alexander Vandergrift, and Alvin C. York.

Gen. Benjamin O. Davis: The U.S. Army’s first African American general officer. Here he watches advancing troops while standing at the windshield of an amphibious vehicle on a beachhead somewhere in France in the summer of 1944. (111-SC-192258-S)

Clark Gable: Film actor, most famously as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939). First lieutenant in U.S. Army Air Corps, then First Motion Picture Unit in Hollywood. Promoted to major, May 1944. His separation papers were signed by Capt. Ronald Reagan. (44-8A-286)


Grover Cleveland Alexander: A National League pitcher. Served in France (1918) as a sergeant with the 342nd Field Artillery. Pitched for Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. Earned 373 career wins and won pitching's Triple Crown in 1915, 1916, and 1920. (Library of Congress)

Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer appointed in August 1941 to oversee construction of the Pentagon and in September 1942 to direct the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Later promoted to lieutenant general. (208-PU-83S(2))


Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle: Led attack of 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya. Awarded the Medal of Honor and later promoted to general. (342-FH-4A-7724)

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

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