INFORMATION FOR PERSONS SEARCHING FOR AN AMERICAN SERVICEMAN FATHER
In 1989, ‘War Babes’ a British based organisation, established in the 1980s to assist adults born to American servicemen during World War II, took out a class action against the American Defence Department who were refusing to release information about GI fathers.
On November 16, 1990, the War Babes organisation settled its lawsuit against the U.S. government. This summarises the results of the settlement and provides an outline of how it can be used to search for your father if he is an American veteran or serviceman.
1. Summary of the court settlement
The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration ("NARA") and Department of Defence ("DoD"). The National Personnel Records Centre ("NPRC"), a division of NARA, possesses all inactive records on former federal and military personnel. The DoD has legal authority over military personnel records, sets the policy for the NPRC, and decides appeals of decisions by the NPRC not to release information.
The Settlement contains essentially three provisions:
The National Personnel Records Centre (NPRC) will follow specified search procedures to look for records when a request for information about a veteran from a member of War Babes or ‘similarly situated individual’ is received;
The NPRC and DoD agree to disclose the city and state and date of whatever addresses are contained in the records of the GI being sought (if he is deceased, they will release the entire address); and
For members of War Babes or WW2 children, the NPRC will forward a letter on your behalf to your father by certified mail, return receipt requested (meaning it only will be delivered if your father signs for it).
To make use of these procedures you should:
Send a letter addressed to:
National Personnel Record Center
ATTN: Dr. Zussblatt, Room 360
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63138-1002
Your letter should ideally start with reference to the War Babes case and that you are a child of an U.S. GI from WW2 (or whatever war or time period is relevant) and are seeking your father. State his full name, including any alternative spellings and his service number or social security number if you know it, his branch of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps), and approximate dates of service. You may include other information if you think it is helpful (e.g. he was a lieutenant; he was at D-Day, etc.). You should request all information the NPRC possesses concerning him which is releasable under the Freedom of Information Act and/or the Court Settlement with War Babes.
The NPRC will search for records of your father and the following information (if available) will be released under a War Babes Request:
DATE OF BIRTH:
DATES OF SERVICE:
CITY/STATE OF RESIDENCE, DATE OF ADDRESS:
ASSIGNMENTS & GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS:
SOURCE OF COMMISSION:
MILITARY AND CIVILIAN EDUCATION LEVEL:
PROMOTION SEQUENCE NUMBER:
DECORATIONS & AWARDS:
RECORD(S) OF COURTS-MARTIAL TRIAL:
PLACE OF ENTRY AND SEPARATION:
IF DECEASED: PLACE OF BIRTH: LAST KNOWN ADDRESS: DATE & LOCATION OF DEATH: PLACE OF BURIAL:
The following information will be released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):
DATES OF SERVICE:
ASSIGNMENTS AND THEIR GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION:
SOURCE OF COMMISSION:
MILITARY EDUCATIONAL LEVEL:
PROMOTION SEQUENCE NUMBERS:
DECORATIONS AND AWARDS:
RECORDS OF COURTS-MARTIAL TRIALS:
PLACE OF INDUCTION AND SEPARATION:
IF VETERAN IS DECEASED:
PLACE OF BIRTH:
DATE AND GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF DEATH:
PLACE OF BURIAL:
There are, however, several instances where they may be unable to locate records: e.g. if you lack a first or last name; or if you lack a service or social security number. In addition, if his name is too common and too many records are listed on the computer, they will not look through the records by hand. The Settlement requires them to search by hand when there are five or fewer responsive records. Also, many records were lost in a fire in 1973. However, we are hopeful that, because of the lawsuit and the successful Settlement, greater efforts to search will be made, and many more records will be found than in the past. Be aware that the NPRC receives thousands of similar requests, and a search for records normally takes about six to eight weeks, including mailing time.
If the NPRC locates records that contain an address, and you wish to have a letter forwarded to your father, you may send the NPRC the sealed letter for forwarding. It will be forwarded within one week, and you will be notified of the date it was forwarded, and the response received (i.e. whether the man signed for it). You will also receive a copy of the returned envelope (with the address deleted) if the letter is returned as undeliverable. In such a case, the NPRC will retain your sealed letter in its files, in the event that the veteran or his family seeks his records in the future.
If you cannot get information from the NPRC, you may wish to contact the following:
1 Department of Veterans Affairs
(Formerly named Veterans Administration)
Records Processing Centre
P.O. Box 5020
2 Department of Veterans Affairs (National H.Q.)
Office of Public Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue
Washington D.C. 20420
Or, write to the particular V.A. regional office where you believe your father might reside. Send the V.A. a letter similar to the one to the NPRC.
The V.A. is likely to have records if your father or his family has been receiving any veteran’s benefits. However, you should be aware that the V.A. is not the same agency as either the NPRC or DoD, and the Court Settlement with the latter two agencies