Is There an FBI File Somewhere

I have decide it’s time to resurrect my attempts to find an FBI file on my father because I am convinced one must exist somewhere. Here’s my reasoning:

  • He was an American living in the Soviet Union—a Communist country– who was mounting a campaign to return to the United States after having lived there for ten years.
  • After getting off a Japanese ship in on June 22, 1941, he was approached by a man named Sullivan, who claimed to be a U.S. Intelligence officer. This is when Dad informed him that while he saw no troop movement while he was traveling across the Soviet Union on his way home, he was told by a Japanese police officer that Japan would soon bomb the United States.
  • For sixteen years after his return, he was in constant communication with his family who were living in the Soviet Union as well as the State Department and American Embassy in the Soviet Union for the purpose of trying to repatriate his siblings and mother.
  • Sometime in 1956, he was visited by the FBI at his New Jersey home after he refused to speak at a Lions Club meeting regarding his years living in Russia.

My father had called a local FBI office years ago with no success, and I attempted on two separate occasions to request his file under the Freedom of Information Act. In 2009, I contacted both the FBI offices in Washington, D.C. and then the Newark, N.J field office. The response was that “No records responsive to your FOIPA request were located by a search of the automated and manual indices,” and “We were unable to identify responsive records.”

After waiting the required two years to file again, I sent another request in December 2011 to the Record Dissemination Section in Winchester, Virginia, and again nothing. Two years later, I sat next to an FBI agent on an airplane who encouraged me to be persistent, stating that “if the FBI came to your house, and your father had family living in the Soviet Union at that time, then an FBI file does exist.”

In 2015, I was referred to the National Security Archives by author and Washington Post associate editor Steve Luxenburg. This agency contains, according to the L.A. Times “the world’s largest nongovernmental collection.”

I contacted that agency, and someone there searched for information on my father and then responded by stating that she could find no information on Dad, saying that “there is a serious problem with obtaining FBI files from earlier decades like the 1940s and 1950s.  Often, the FBI claims many of those files were lost or destroyed.” I was advised to contact the National Archives and then attempt another search with the FBI.

An inquiry to the National Archives suggested I contact the Winchester, Virginia Facility (sigh!) to try to determine the relevant file numbers so the archives could do a search.

That was a year ago. I remember feeling confused, but now that some time has gone by, I am going to try once more. Both the FBI agent on the plane and the woman at the National Security Archives suggested I request a “more thorough investigation.”



Dad did not give up on trying to bring his family home, so I owe it to him to give it another try!






About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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1 Response to Is There an FBI File Somewhere

  1. Keep searching – there simply must be a file. It’s just a question of breaking down the walls of bureaurocracy to find it. is there such a thing as an FBI historian you could contact who might be able to assist?

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