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The U.S.M.C. Official Military Personnel File (O.M.P.F.)
This article takes a close look at the documents commonly found in a US Marine Corps Official Military Personnel File (or U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.). While the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. is primarily useful for discovering a U.S.M.C. veteran’s military service details, it contains a surprising amount of information that can help to further your personal family research. This includes military records covering the U.S.M.C. veteran’s service such as Units, Battles, Awards, and Promotions. Family records in the files often show names of family members, their relationships, addresses, and medical records. Personal records in the files often include photographs of the U.S.M.C. veteran, locations where the U.S.M.C. veteran served, deployment dates, and correspondence. Let’s briefly look at each of the different kinds of military records found in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records of individual Marines.
U.S.M.C. Enlistment Records in the O.M.P.F.
The U.S.M.C. enlistment document was the first form completed when a recruit entered the service and this military record is found in almost every U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record. Valuable information from the enlistment form includes a physical description of the recruit, family details, and current address at the time of enlistment. As you can see from this example, the physical description of the U.S.M.C. veteran in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. was very thorough, recording their eye color, hair color, complexion, and height among many other details.
The U.S.M.C. Service Record Book
The U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service record book is the heart of a Marine Corps Personnel File. Roughly 4×10 inches, it accompanied the Marine everywhere to record events. Each service record book consists of pre-printed pages for pay, stations, personal information, and qualification entries. Other papers in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service record book were pasted directly into the booklet as needed. Occasionally information in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service record books is permanently obscured by these glued portions. For the safety of the documents, this glue is not usually removable.
Marine Corps military service records are generally intact and unaffected by the 1973 fire which occurred at the Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. While every individual U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. contains the same basic components, there are differences based on the time the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. was produced.
A WWI-era service record book is usually thinner than a WWII-era service record book. Earlier service record books covered a shorter time period, while WWII service record books allowed space for three-year military enlistments. Added bulk is in the form of extra blank pages and some expanded detail. WWII era U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service record books generally include more pasted slips and military records copies as well.
The U.S.M.C. service record books are simple tape or thread binding construction with heavy card-stock covers. Rarely do the service record books in the U.S,M.C. O.M.P.F. lie completely flat, making them a challenge to photograph safely. When viewing a scan of a U.S.M.C. service record book expect to find some distortion on the pages of the military records.
U.S.M.C. Personal Records in the O.M.P.F.
Personal military records found in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. allowed for accurate and rapid identification of the Marine. The meticulous physical description and fingerprints which appear in all U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.’s are still used today for identifying the remains of Marines who are missing in action. The personal military records found in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. are essential for genealogy researchers because they contain such a great amount of detail on the individual veteran.
U.S.M.C. Conduct Military Records
When a U.S.M.C. veteran was moved to a new unit, his officer notated a conduct record which details the general performance level of the Marine. Historical military service clues can also be found on these U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records. Some U.S.M.C. officers went on to become famous and well-researched figures in the Marine Corps. If your Marine served with a well-known historical figure, it’s possible that more detailed information on their time in the Marines is readily available. For example, the commanding officer of this Marine’s unit was Clifton B. Cates, one of the most distinguished U.S.M.C. officers of WWI.
U.S.M.C. Discipline Records in the O.M.P.F.
Record of offenses and punishments are found on the pages of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service book. Discipline was swift, with the vast majority handled by the immediate commanding U.S.M.C. officer. Common punishments were extra duty, docked pay, and rank reduction. A summary courts-martial can appear in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records, while a more formal proceeding before a tribunal may be recorded as a separate case file. As you can see in this example record, a Marine who left his post without permission risked being demoted in rank as well as losing portions of his pay. More serious crimes often led to even harsher punishment for enlisted Marines.
U.S.M.C. Battle and Campaign Military Records
This service record book also contains details of a Marine’s battle engagements and service credit. Wounds received in action and commendations can appear on the military records in this portion of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. file. Battle and engagement slips that were inserted inside of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. provide us with a detailed description of the exact dates that a U.S.M.C. veteran was in combat and where he saw action.
U.S.M.C. Training and Skills Records in the O.M.P.F.
All Marines were required to be proficient with basic weapons. The arms training military records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. offer a record of extra skills acquired from special training courses. The skills acquired during military training were then used in determining duty assignments for the U.S.M.C. veteran. Training slips can also be found tucked elsewhere in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records. As you can see, this Marine was qualified as a combat swimmer during WWII.
U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. Pay and Financial Records
U.S.M.C. veterans were generally paid on a regular schedule determined by their station. Active deployment and combat conditions sometimes caused a delay in payments for U.S.M.C. veterans. Military pay records which are normally very thoroughly documented inside of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record can be used to confirm a Marine’s unit and location at a specific time.
U.S.M.C. Photos in the O.M.P.F.
Upon enlistment, a Marine was fingerprinted for identification. Starting in the early part of the Twentieth century U.S.M.C. veterans were also photographed. While these photos are found in almost all post-WWII era U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F military records, many earlier U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.’s also contain a picture of the U.S.M.C. veteran. U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.military records of Marines who served long term usually contain more than one photo taken at different points in their career.
U.S.M.C. Veteran Vital Records in the O.M.P.F.
Both certified and original copies of vital records are sometimes found among the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records. Birth certificates and marriage licenses were presented for benefit changes and proof of age. Death certificates were issued by the Marine Corps and these were also placed among the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F military records. There are many more records inside of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. which document important family details making these military files a rich source for genealogy researchers.
Beneficiary Documents in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
A U.S.M.C. veteran selected a beneficiary for their standard life insurance policy upon enlistment. Most frequently this was a parent of the Marine, but a spouse or sibling could be named. These single-sheet military records were also filed when a Marine wished to change their beneficiary. Military beneficiary records are useful for tracking changes in a family due to marriage, divorce or death, and all U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records contain copies of these beneficiary documents.
Insurance and Financial Records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
Each Marine was offered a standard military war risk insurance policy. They could choose to augment the policy by purchasing extra coverage during their military service. Additionally, U.S.M.C. veterans could elect to have a portion of their pay directed to the support of a family member or toward the purchase of war bonds. These military records within the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. give us a glimpse into the U.S.M.C. veteran’s responsibilities and family situation outside of the military.
Correspondence and Letters in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
A wide variety of letters appear in a U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record. Handwritten letters frequently appear stored with copies of official U.S.M.C. responses. The subjects vary widely, as do the writers. Family and friends requesting news or providing information are common, as are clergy or professionals writing on behalf of the U.S.M.C. veteran’s family. These are among the most personal of records in a U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record. In this letter from a U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F., a Marine attempts to locate the next-of-kin of a friend who was killed in action during WWI. Letters such as these can help us to gain a better understanding of the wartime experiences of individual Marines.
Medical Records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
U.S.M.C. medical records are often found inside the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record. U.S.M.C. medical records can include physicals, field hospital routing slips, and physician reports. Medical records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. also provide locations where treatment was given to the individual Marine. Typically, U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. medical military records detail a medical discharge or wounds received in action. More complete medical records are found in the separate military medical files of individual Marines.
Casualty Records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
In military terms ‘casualty’ refers to illness, injury, loss or death. Each event generated various types of records commonly found in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military record. Notification letters, telegrams, hospital receipts, and more within the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. offer details of casualties. If you are seeking military records pertaining to a U.S.M.C. veteran who is killed in action, the burial and death records inside of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. are the place to start. For Marines who were killed in action, further information can also be found in a separate burial case file (essentially a widow’s pension) or death XC pension file.
U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. Unit and Field Orders
Orders are frequently included in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. folders. These military unit records document status changes such as promotions, special assignments, or separation from the military service for U.S.M.C. veterans. Unit orders often contain lists of U.S.M.C. veterans who served in the same unit. Unit records within the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. can be used as potential leads for further research.
Travel and Furlough Records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
A Marine’s time in the military was fully accounted for, including time off. Military travel records included in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. can be used to pinpoint locations and dates. For those interested in researching family history or genealogy, tracing the steps of your individual marine during the service period can be an incredibly useful tool for documenting their life story.
Summary of Military Service in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
These military summary of service records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. provide a comprehensive look at a Marine’s service details. The larger cards were used for reference during the U.S.M.C. veteran’s active duty and include military records showing education, civilian occupation, family, personal interests and skills. Military service summaries in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records contain rich detail about a Marine’s pre-enlistment life. The U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. summary slips were provided as a record of service for post-discharge use. This Marine’s U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. contains military records documenting his civilian education, including the actual courses he took in school as well as hobbies he enjoyed outside of the classroom.
U.S.M.C. Rank and Promotion Military Records
Documentation of a Marine’s rank changes appears in multiple military records of the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. Always noted in the U.S.M.C. service book, additional military records covering promotions can be found in certificates and orders. Enlisted U.S.M.C. personnel historically form the bulk of the Marine Corps, either as volunteers or draftees. Non-Commissioned Marine Corps Warrant Officers are drawn from enlisted ranks, based on time and experience. Commissioned officers enter the U.S.M.C. as officers, after completing post-secondary education. Battlefield promotions from enlisted to Marine Corps officer were rare, and also temporary unless permanently confirmed. Both the highest and final ranks for U.S.M.C. veterans appear on the U.SM.C. O.M.P.F. separation records.
Medals, Awards and Commendation From U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.’s
In addition to notations in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. service book, separate detailed awards records are often found in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. military records. These U.S.M.C. awards records can provide a detailed description of heroics performed in combat as well as the medals to which the U.S.M.C. veteran was entitled for gallantry in action.
Separation Records in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F.
A Marine received several forms upon separation from the service. The most important form given to U.S.M.C. veterans when they left the service was the Report of Separation. The U.SM.C. O.M.P.F. report of separation contains a brief summary of enlistment, training, battle credit, military occupational specialty, and personal details. The military separation records which are contained in the U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. were used to determine access to military benefits when active duty ended.
Request Your U.S.M.C. Veteran’s O.M.P.F.
For those interested in contacting the National Archive directly to request a U.S.M.C. O.M.P.F. (not recommended due to length waits and government red tape) you can visit their web page here: USMC OMPF requests archival research