Records of the Office of Strategic Services (RG 226): Sources and Methods Files
OSS entries 210-220: Sources and Methods Files ("Previously Withdrawn Material")
Notice to researchers: All of these records received extensive preservation and holdings maintenance in 2008-2009. Documents were repaired, refoldered, and reboxed - which resulted in global changes to all box numbers and box locations. However, the records now have fuller descriptions and added finding aids.
In 1997 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) transferred to NARA approximately 617 cubic feet of Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Strategic Services Unit (SSU) records (in eleven series: HMS/MLR entries 210-220) that represent the main body of documents that the CIA had previously removed from the OSS and SSU records released to NARA between 1975 and 1996.
The CIA withheld these documents as an artificial "Sources and Methods" file under exemptions provided to it by the National Security Act of 1947 and the Freedom of Information Act. In general these withdrawn records displayed little organization or arrangement.
These withdrawn records fell under the following exemptions:
- An official or unofficial cover sponsor (a corporation, cultural institution or organization, or a key individual therein)
- An operative's identity, the true name of a spouse or other relative, operational contacts, or cover activity and contacts
- Previously unacknowledged confidential intelligence sources, or clandestine foreign contacts
- Other information which, if released, might create the perception that the U.S. willingly reveals information identifying its confidential sources of information.
The records document sources and methods in matters of intelligence, operations, weaponry, personnel, and organizational activities of the OSS during and immediately following World War II. Most of the records were created during the 1942-1945 period, but there are records pre-dating 1942. Although there is a substantive quantity of records for 1946, only a few documents post-date 1946. For more information, see the Sources and Methods Files ("Previously Withdrawn Material") Scope and Content Note in the National Archives Catalog.
There are three types of finding aids to the records:  NARA-prepared select document lists,  a NARA-prepared database, and  the CIA's OSS DARE printouts. Copies of these finding aids are available in the Textual Research Room and online. The NARA-prepared finding aids are the most current sources of information. They provide, among other information, entry numbers, current box numbers, and Withdrawn Numbers (WN#) for individual documents or files. Each WN# is a unique number assigned to a specific document or file when it was withdrawn by the CIA (in rare instances there are instances of duplicate WN#). The minimum amount of information needed to locate and/or request a specific document or file is entry number, box number and WN#.
Researchers should begin with the select document lists provided below, supplemented by the two other finding aids cited above, to ensure complete coverage of relevant records on a particular subject. There is a select document list for each individual entry 210-220. They are arranged numerically by box number. The lists provide titles or descriptions of documents, often with excerpts from those documents, and the WN#. Researchers should note the following points about using the select document lists:
- Because the records are unarranged, they do not lend themselves to "research by mail," unless a specific entry number, box number and WN# are already known. They need to be used in the Textual Research Room, and even then researchers should be well aware that they will encounter some difficulties in locating precise documents.
- All of the entries received extensive holdings maintenance in 2008-2009. This resulted in the re-foldering and the re-boxing of almost all of the records, rendering all previous box identifications inaccurate.
- The listings of select documents below did not contain WN#s when they were originally compiled. A project to identify and add many of the WN#s took place in 2009.
- The select document lists may not include every box in a series, and not every document in every box is included. Records relating to individuals, or small groups of agents, sources, and trainees were generally omitted--particularly for people in foreign countries. These types of records included administrative correspondence, payroll and personnel records, student records, and vetting requests.
The NARA-prepared database lists most files and many of the individual documents in all of the entries. Among the information provided in the database are the entry number; WN#; new box number; old box number; stack location; the organizational site and office where a document or file originated, or was collected; the type of document described; and, less frequently, a brief listing of either an operation's code name, the name of a document's recipient or creator, or a document's subject. The database is available in several different arrangements of this information in order to aid researchers in finding relevant records.
The CIA-prepared OSS DARE Printout describes most of the documents in the 1997 accession of "previously withdrawn records." Among the information provided on the DARE printout is: WN#. Job number: identifies to which of the series of withdrawn records a document or file belongs. Document number: registers a document or files' place within the original folder. Researchers can use the number to verify they are examining the exact document described in the DARE printout. Unit, Branch, & Category: reflects the OSS organizational sites, offices and types of documents being described. Day, Month, and Year: reflect the date of origin of the document or the initial date of documents in a file. Document Title: refers either to the exact document title or a summary description (provided in parenthesis). This information is useful to verify the correct document.
RG 226, entries 210-220, the OSS Sources and Methods Files ("Previously Withdrawn Material") begin at the following locations in Stack 250: