One was assigned in 1953; the other was assigned in 1973
There’s something incredibly embarrassing about blogging investigative research in real time, and that incredibly embarrassing something is this: with each new discovery, my earlier hypotheses will continue to be accessible to all until the internet ceases to be. And that means that all my mistakes, oversights, and rushes to judgment are posted in full-frontal view and there’s not a thing I can do about it.
Today I’d like to talk about Ron Tammen’s missing person number…or, rather, his missing person numbers…as in with an ‘s’…as in very, very plural.
I honestly cannot believe I missed this earlier.
Because I have a couple other deadlines to worry about, I need to write this up fast. Let’s do it as a quick Q&A:
Wow! Are you sure?
Pretty darned sure—sure enough to sit down and write this blog post when, as I said, I have some other stuff I need to get to tonight.
Remind us: which one is Ron’s missing person number…or numbers?
As you may recall, all FBI files begin with a classification number, from 1 to 281, and all missing person cases begin with the number 79. And the 79 number that’s written all over Ron’s FBI documents is 79-31966. That’s the one I’ve been reporting since Day 1.
Recently, I was going over his FBI documents again and I was focusing on the report written by the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Cleveland field office after receiving a phone call from Marjorie Tammen. At the top of page 1, written in small, neat penmanship, under the words “ATT: IDENTIFICATION DIVISION” is this:
Although I’m not 100 percent sure of the last two letters—I think they’re “Jh”—the number is unmistakable. The 79 has been left off—because why not? All missing person numbers begin with 79. The most important part of the number is 17699.
Are you sure that wasn’t the missing person number that Cleveland had assigned to him?
You’re correct that field offices would assign their own case numbers, but no, it’s not theirs. I know this because at the top of the memo in parentheses after the words “SAC, Cleveland” is the number 79-0-615 B. In Cleveland, they’d placed Ron’s file in their 0 file, which means that it was placed in the front of the missing person cases because it was a stand-alone report. There was nothing else available on Ron to warrant creating its own folder. Therefore, in Cleveland, Ron’s report was the 615th report in their missing person 0 file. (The “B” probably represents a subcategory of some sort.)
On June 2, 1953, when the FBI’s Identification Division received the report, they listed his case as MP# 17699— obviously, undoubtedly, and most assuredly under classification 79.
Your headline says that one missing person number was assigned in 1953 and the other was assigned in 1973. How did you figure that out?
Remember my July 4, 2022, post where I told you about a box of FBI missing person records that are now housed in the National Archives? I’d submitted a public records request to view those records as soon as they became available. Recently, they wrote to me with the names, dates, and case numbers of the people who are in that file, along with an estimate of the time it would take (they’re still processing orders from February 2014!) and dollars it would cost me ($760!) in order to view them all.
It’s a smattering of missing persons cases, comparatively. In the 1993 book “Unlocking the Files of the FBI,” by Gerald K. Haines and David A. Langbart, the authors stated that the FBI had on its books roughly 20,000 missing person cases in 1980. The number of case files in this box is 87, which is 0.4 percent of the total. None of the people we’ve come to know are in the box: no Ron, no Richard Cox, and not the two people I spoke of in my July 4 post—Charles McCullar, a 19-year-old man who disappeared in January 1975, or Dennis Martin, age 6, who disappeared in June 1969.
However, I started noticing how Ron’s, and Richard’s, and Charles’, and Dennis’ case numbers fit in with the rest of the people listed there. And the numbering system seems kind of chronological.
Oh, that’s good.
Yeah, well, hold on—it’s not perfect. God forbid that a numbering system should ever be perfectly chronological. But you can see patterns regarding when they assigned people’s numbers, including Ron’s two numbers. And I think it gives us a clue as to why they gave him the second number.
What sorts of patterns?
Included below is the table that NARA sent to me with the names of the people I plan to seek records on highlighted in yellow.
As you can see, the case numbers are listed in numerical order, and they’re also generally listed in chronological order. That means that the lower numbers are generally indicative of the older cases, which began in the 1930s (John Kallapure’s case is likely a typo and should probably read 12/36 instead of 12/16) and the higher numbers are of the more recent cases, which end in 1980. But there are distinct outliers, like Willie McNeal Love and Edward Theodore Myers.
When we insert the case numbers of our four missing persons into the table, here’s what happens:
Ronald Tammen #1: 79-17699
Missing 4/19/53; posted 6/2/53
Ron’s number 79-17699 is a little out of chronological order with his neighbors, and it’s weird that his number precedes those of people who went missing in the late 1940s and early 50s, including Richard Cox. Nevertheless, he’s still relatively in the ballpark of the year in which he disappeared.
Ronald Tammen #2: 79-31966
Date of Cincinnati report seeking comparison of Ron’s fingerprints: 5/9/73
Ron’s missing person number that’s written all over his FBI documents is 79-31966. This number appears where you’d predict him to be in the FBI’s ordering system, between Don L. Ray, who went missing in 12/72, and Ronnie D. York, who disappeared in 1/75. Ron’s number is only 7 digits higher than Mr. Ray’s, so it’s logical to conclude that he received it in 1973. Furthermore, it’s written on documents that are dated May 1973, shortly after the Cincinnati field office had sent a man’s fingerprints to FBI Headquarters to compare them to Tammen’s prints.
Richard Cox: 79-23729
Missing 1/14/50; posted 2/8/50
Richard Cox’s number 70-23729 is in the spot you’d expect him to be, between William H. Doyle, who went missing in 2/49, and George E. Robinson, who went missing in 12/50.
Dennis Martin: 79-31142
Dennis Martin’s missing person number is slightly out of order, between Melanie Ray, who went missing in 7/69, and Rosemary Calandriello, who went missing in 8/69. But it’s very close, and the discrepancy probably has to do with when his missing person notice was posted in comparison to the two women’s notices. Because there is so much written on Martin, I’m unable to tell when his number was officially assigned.
Charles McCullar: 79-32359
Missing 1/30/75; date in which the FBI was contacted 3/25/76
Although Charles McCullar disappeared in January of 1975, the FBI was first contacted regarding his disappearance on March 25, 1976. For this reason, his missing person number is exactly where you’d expect it to be—between Linda L. Dow, who went missing in 3/76, and Richard W. Miller, who went missing in 5/76.
What do you think this means?
Honestly? I think that sometime between June 2, 1953, and May 9, 1973, Ron’s original missing person number, number 79-17699, was retired. When the Cincinnati field office sent in the fingerprints of the man from Welco Industries, asking the Identification Division to compare them to Tammen’s, I think the folks in Ident were a little stymied.
Here’s my imagined reenactment:
Employee #1: Um, Cincinnati is asking us to compare these fingerprints to a college guy from Ohio who’s supposedly still missing. But I’m not finding his missing person number filed anywhere. It’s like…gone or something.
Employee #2: That’s really weird. What do you think we should do?
Emp #1: Can we give him a new missing person number?
Emp #2: Brilliant!
And so, sometime in the vicinity of May 22, 1973, I believe the FBI assigned Ron Tammen his new number, 79-31966. As we all know, shortly thereafter, on June 5, 1973, there was a lot more activity in Ron’s missing person case, as his documents were “Removed from Ident files.” After that, however, all activity on his missing person case ended.
Is there anything else we can learn from this?
I think this helps explain why the number 79-31966 is written in the same exact handwriting on all of Ron’s documents, even the earlier ones. I think the person who wrote “Removed from Ident files” also wrote his new missing person number on those documents in 1973.
It could also explain why the Cincinnati field office used Ron’s Selective Service violation case number (25-381754) to identify him as opposed to his missing person number, even though his Selective Service case had been canceled in 1955. I don’t think they could find Ron’s missing person number.
Oh, and this: I guess by now you know that I don’t think Ron was still considered missing by the FBI in 1973. What this new information tells me is that I think at least some individuals at the Bureau had indeed figured it out before the Cincinnati field office had sent in the Welco employee’s fingerprints. And I also think there’s a good chance that J. Edgar Hoover, who died in 1972, knew a lot more about Ron’s case when he was at the helm, even as he continued exchanging letters with Ron’s tortured mother and father. Granted, it’s just a theory.
Here’s the link to Ron’s FBI FOIA documents if you’d like to examine my theory further.
Okay, read it again, and what I just said will make no sense. I am hoping for a definite marker person who you know is on both the 53 and 73 listings, but not with the 79 prefix associated with the 53. That already excludes Richard Cox as your post says and I somehow didn’t comprehend.
It’s ok! It’s a confusing topic. I don’t know if such a person exists. All missing persons should have the 79 prefix. I think Jh (or whoever those initials are) just decided to leave off the 79 for this particular notation.
One thing I may be able to request is all missing person files from say 79-17690 thru 79-17710, thus encompassing Ron’s 1953 file number. They might give me a hard time, since I won’t have names to accompany numbers, and I have no idea if they’re deceased. But I can always ask…
Okay, I just spent a lot of time looking at this. My first read, I was tempted to post, “Okay, I need some time to consider this.” But I guess I’ve made enough of those posts, so I didn’t. Now that I’ve taken the time to do so, I still need more time. The only initial thought I have is trying to request records for people with missing numbers between Ron and Richard Cox and seeing what turns up.
Did Mr. and Mrs. Tammen separate or divorce sometime after Ron disappeared? If so, I don’t remember reading it or I have forgotten it which is entirely possible.
Thank you for your writing and for all of you due diligence. I thorougly enjoy this blog and I hope you are still writing the book about this.
Hi Viccki—thank you so much for your support! Mr. and Mrs. Tammen were still married when she died in April 1964. He was remarried in August 1965 to a woman named Kathryn Bull.
I’m still writing a book, though most of my time is spent doing the research right now. As you can imagine, it’s so much easier to write when the facts are there. But I’m very hopeful. Thanks again.
Oops! Sorry for the misspelling of your name, Vickki!