Frank Capra’s Security Clearance

Today’s post is written by Jacob Lusk, Archives Specialist in Textual Reference at the National Archives in College Park, MD. 

Though best known for such classic films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), director Frank Capra also led a distinguished career with the United States Army. He served as a second lieutenant during World War I and then, after enjoying years of success in the film industry, enlisted again in the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Image of Frank Capra standing at podium.
Frank Capra speaking at the World War II Film Festival in the National Archives Theater. 12-7-70. (NAID 23856225)

After World War II, Capra continued to provide services to the Army. In 1951, he was invited to participate in Project Vista, a top-secret study on warfare technologies overseen by military personnel and scientists at the California Institute of Technology. Given the nature of the project, Capra applied for an interim security clearance in June 1951. To his surprise, the Army’s G2 Security Division found “derogatory information” about Mr. Capra that warranted an initial denial of his clearance. Capra was deeply offended by this outcome and its implications.

Image of Letter from Frank Capra to the U.S. Army Intelligence Department, Loyalty Security Board. September 11, 1951.
Letter from Frank Capra to the U.S. Army Intelligence Department, Loyalty Security Board. September 11, 1951. File: Capra, Frank, Records Regarding Individuals (NAID 6171653). Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence. Record Group 319: Records of the Army Staff.

None of the records in our holdings confirm the final outcome of Capra’s security clearance, but Project Vista concluded just a few months after he penned this letter.


Interested to see more about Frank Capra? Here’s his Official Military Personnel File, all 602 pages of it, available in the National Archives Catalog!

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