- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

Psychedelic-guitar man Jimi Hendrix, soul singer Marvin Gaye, Desi “Ricky Ricardo” Arnaz and actor Steve McQueen, newsman Edward R. Murrow, “Dragnet” detective Jack Webb — military veterans all.

Who knew?

The nation now will be afforded some unique insight into these former servicemen and 144 other “persons of exceptional prominence” who served in the military.

For the first time, their official service records will be opened to the public, the National Archives & Records Administration announced yesterday. The records of 1.2 million enlisted men and women who served in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from 1885 to 1935 also will be made public.

The roster includes Elvis Presley and folk singer Barry Sadler, actors Clark Gable and Vic Morrow, pilots Eddie Rickenbacker and Charles Lindbergh, boxers Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis, plus baseball heroes Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Hank Greenberg.

“These records are full of history, but they’re also very personal. They contain biographies, performance reports, duty assignments, nominations for medals,” said Barry McGraw, director of archival programs at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).

Located in St. Louis, the facility houses 2 million cubic feet of the nation’s civil service and military records — the equivalent of eight football fields.

“Some of these records are just a few pages long, some quite lengthy. They begin with the moment this person entered the service to the moment they left it,” Mr. McGraw said.

The list includes the records of World War II matinee idols Alan Ladd, Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, and bandleader Glenn Miller — or “Alton G. Miller,” as he is listed.

“Public figures must have been deceased at least 10 years before we can release their records,” Mr. McGraw said. “For the general public, they must have been released from the service for at least 62 years.”

Records of celebrated military and sports heroes and famous political names are up for grabs. There are, for instance, 10 Roosevelts, three Kennedys and one Grant — as in Ulysses S. Grant III, who served in the Army.

Former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, U.S. Air Force, and Gen. George S. Patton, U.S. Army, also are included.

The NPRC, which receives 5,000 inquiries a day for information on military records, will open the collection Saturday with the help of Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Rep. William Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat.

The center has a few sensitivity protocols in place.

“Sometimes there are personnel actions, records of inappropriate behavior, medical files and so forth which could embarrass a family,” Mr. McGraw said.

“For an individual who would be less than 100 years of age, we can screen out those items,” he said. “If that person would have been over 100 years, then it’s all open to the public.”

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