Foreign Service Friday! The Operations Memorandum

Today’s post is written by archivist David Langbart, who works primarily with diplomatic records.

Researchers who use Department of State records may be interested to know a bit more about the types of documents used by Foreign Service Posts to communicate with the Department of State. This is the fourth in a series of postings that describe the different types of documents used between 1789 and 1976 (the last year for which the National Archives has accessioned Department of State central files). Earlier postings covered despatches, telegrams, and airgrams. The last entry will discuss official-informal letters.

In the post-World War II period, the Department established the Operations Memorandum (OM) and the WIROM. OMs traveled via surface or air, much like despatches and airgrams, while WIROMs, due to their urgency, were transmitted electronically.

OMs and WIROMs dealt with routine operational and administrative matters. The Department directed that OMs and WIROMs not be used to discuss, formulate, or change policy. Nor were they to be used as a simple transmittal form.