Veterans’ Military Records–We’ve Got Them

In honor of Veterans Day, today’s post comes from Sarah Basilion, an intern in the National Archives History Office. 

Robert Digges Wimberly Connor, First Archivist of the United States, October 21,1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167705)

Robert D.W. Connor, First Archivist of the United States, October 21,1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167705)

The National Archives is one of the best places to research U.S. military records.

As the official repository of military personnel records, the National Archives allows researchers to view documents and records related to the military both online and in person. Researchers can also look through general military records, view architectural and cartographic records, or conduct research on specific wars.

This, however, was not always the case.

Before there was a National Archives, the Department of War was the main repository of military and war records.

After the National Archives was created in 1934, it repeatedly attempted to obtain records held by the department, but by 1936 the department would only transfer small amounts of records.

The first Archivist of the United States, Robert D.W. Connor, was concerned. He knew that the military records held by the War Department were being kept in poor conditions that could irreparably damage the documents.

Photograph of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of War Harry Woodring, and John N. Garner, September 14,1932. (FDR Presidential Library, National Archives)

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Woodring, and John N. Garner, September 14,1932. (FDR Presidential Library, National Archives)

He also recognized the value such records could have when publicly available to researchers.

After negotiations with the War Department failed, Connor appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 and asked him to intervene.

Roosevelt stepped in, contacting Secretary of War Harry Woodring, explaining that putting the records in the Archives would offer safer storage options for the important documents and ease the workload of War Department employees.

After months of negotiations, the Department of War agreed to transfer historic military records that were not needed for present military operations.

Photograph of War Department Files Located on the Third Floor Ramp in White House Garage, August 26, 1935. (National Archives Identifier 18519624)

Photograph of War Department Files Located in White House Garage, August 26, 1935. (National Archives Identifier 18519624)

At the National Archives the records were kept in better storage facilities, and staff could repair any damage incurred from poor storage conditions.

Since then, the National Archives has been the official repository for records of military personnel who have been separated from service from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

Military records are now accessioned into the National Archives 62 years after the service member’s final separation, retirement or death in service from the military. This is the date the records are open to the public.

This date is rolling. So, for example, today’s date minus 62 years equals the date a record is open to the public. Records not yet archived have access restrictions. Prior to archiving, the veteran, or his/her next-of-kin (NOK) as defined by the Defense Department (surviving spouse or children) are the only individuals for which complete access to the record is granted.  All other family members and the public have to wait until the record is archived.

U.S. Army, Public Information Division releasing information about Private Elvis Presley's basic and advanced training, with approximate date of assignment to 3rd Armored Division in Germany, May 28, 1958. (National Archives Identifier 299789)

U.S. Army, Public Information Division releasing information about Private Elvis Presley’s basic and advanced training, May 28, 1958. (National Archives Identifier 299789)

A researcher can bypass this wait-period if they obtain permission from either the veteran, the NOK if the veteran is deceased and/or the respective military service department, or if the record is from a “Person of Exceptional Prominence (PEP).” PEP records can be made accessible ten years after the individual’s date of death.

Currently available PEP records include those of former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy; actor Mickey Rooney; singer Elvis Presley; writer Jack Kerouac; and baseball player Ted Williams. A complete list can be found here.

Military records prior to the early portions of the 20th century are held at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Though it varies by branch of military service, generally 20th century military personnel records are held in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri.

The NPRC stores more than four million cubic feet of holdings, and is the central repository of records relating to the nation’s military and civil service personnel. Once the record is archived it transfers to the holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis, which is co-located with the NPRC.

Photograph of the 1973 Fire at the Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, July 12, 1973. (National Archives Identifier 7386461)

Photograph of the 1973 Fire at the Military Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, July 12, 1973. (National Archives Identifier 7386461)

On July 12, 1973, a fire consumed the sixth floor of the NPRC’s military records building at the former location at 9700 Page Avenue, destroying or severely damaging decades of military records. Approximately 16-18 million records were destroyed.

Since the fire, National Archives staff have worked diligently on requests to reconstruct a basic service information for veterans whose original file was destroyed or damaged in the fire. The Records Reconstruction Teams handle such requests.

Today, veterans, family members, researchers, and government officials access thousands of military records a year. These records are valuable in genealogy and history research, and are used by the government in an effort to find military personnel who were missing in action or prisoners of war. In the near future, the current military personnel records, which are electronic, will be accessioned into the holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.

Go here to research the National Archives Military records online, or visit this webpage to plan your research visit.

To request information from your military file in St. Louis, go here.

Thanks to Trevor Plante and Bryan McGraw for their assistance with this article. 

 

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Herald of the Storms: Isaac Cline

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, an archivist at the National Archives at St. Louis.

Photograph of Isaac Cline. (National Archives at St. Louis)

Photograph of Isaac Cline. (National Archives at St. Louis)

During a time when formal scientific weather forecasting was in its infancy, Isaac Cline was a man with a penchant for predicting disasters.

Born in 1861, Cline was a perpetually driven man who joined the U.S. Signal Corps’s weather service in 1882. In 1891, when meteorologists were transferred to Department of Agriculture, Cline moved to the newly created U.S. Weather Bureau.

Cline had a medical degree from the University of Arkansas in 1885, a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University in 1896, and a passion for the study of weather conditions. He spent years observing and writing about the affects of weather and climate on people’s health and mortality.

In 1895 Cline shifted his focus to the practice of more accurately predicting temperature readings to benefit crop production. He also began to focus on disaster prediction, and during the Spanish-American War (1898) he established a storm-warning system along the Mexican coast to help protect the U.S. Naval fleet from hurricanes.

In April 1900, while Cline and his expectant wife, Cora May Ballew Cline, were living in Galveston, TX, with their three children, he successfully predicted the rupture of the Colorado River dam in Austin, TX, saving countless lives.

That September he predicted another impending disaster: a hurricane headed for Galveston.

Although he was unable to acquire cooperation from the central Weather Bureau office in Washington, DC, Cline followed his instinct and warned people housed along the beach and in lower elevations to relocate to higher ground.

Because the weather preceding the storm had been fair and many of the people in Galveston were enjoying vacations, not everyone heeded Cline’s warnings.

On September 8, 1900, a devastating category four hurricane hit Galveston. Over 6,000 people lost their lives, including Cline’s wife and unborn child. Cline later estimated that death toll would have been double had he not detected the oncoming storm and issued a warning.

Cline’s personal loss can be seen in the documents contained within his official personnel folder.

Weather Bureau Report, May 31, 1900. (National Archives at St. Louis)

Weather Bureau Report, May 31, 1900. (National Archives at St. Louis)

A personnel report for May 1900 lists his marital status, dependents, and next of kin: he listed his wife and daughters.

His report from November 1900 lists his marital status as “single (widower)” and his dependents as “three little daughters…”

Twenty days following the hurricane, Cline was “most highly commended” for alerting people to move to higher ground and for not leaving his post during the storm although “under great personal peril.”

In 1901 Cline and his daughters moved to New Orleans, where he remarried and served as District Forecaster. He was ultimately promoted to Principal Meteorologist.

He continued to collaborate with the Mexican Meteorological Service and served as Supervising Forecaster for the district which included Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

His passion for improving storm warning systems was a driving force through his career.

Weather Bureau Report, November 30, 1900. (National Archives at St. Louis)

Weather Bureau Report, November 30, 1900. (National Archives at St. Louis)

In 1903 Cline warned the citizens of New Orleans about an impending flood and encouraged the construction of a temporary levee extension, which saved the city from disaster. He also warned of a hurricane that hit New Orleans in 1915, and additional floods in 1912 and 1927.

Although he wanted to continue working, Cline was required to retire after 53½  years of service. He petitioned to extend his career, citing his ability to predict tropical storms and his desire to contribute to the development of the hurricane warning system.

Due to his age and length of service, however, he was forced to retire on January 1, 1936.

Isaac Cline’s official personnel folder documenting his extraordinary career is at the National Archives at St. Louis and is open to the public. Please visit our website to learn more about requesting this and other official personnel files of former civil servants.

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The Plot to Kill President Truman

Today’s post comes from Eric Rhodes, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Harry S. Truman, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 7865606)

Harry S. Truman, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 7865606)

Assassins’ bullets have claimed the lives of four United States Presidents, and several other Presidents survived attempts on their lives.

It is not widely known, but Harry Truman was the target of such a conspiracy.

Thirteen years before the Kennedy assassination, on November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to take the President’s life. And President Truman’s Missouri-bred “Show Me” instinct might have gotten him killed. The buck certainly would have stopped there.

The day before the attempt, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola boarded a train to Washington from the Bronx in New York. They carried with them two pistols and the goal of bringing national attention to the cause of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PRNP).

Founded in 1922, the PRNP had lobbied for Puerto Rican independence from the United States with both the pen and the sword. By 1950, the party’s charismatic president, the Harvard-educated Pedro Albizu Campos, had come to favor the latter. Campos orchestrated a series of armed uprisings against U.S. military attachés on October 30, 1950, in six Puerto Rican towns.

The nationalist assault culminated with the attempted assassination of Harry Truman by Collazo and Torresola, both activists in the New York chapter of the party.

The Shell of the White House during the Renovation, May 17, 1950. (National Archives Identifier6982099)

The shell of the White House during the renovation, May 17, 1950. (National Archives Identifier 6982099)

It is believed that they made the decision to assassinate Truman, and to face certain death at the hands of the Secret Service, after hearing reports about U.S. military reprisals against nationalists in Torresola’s home town of Jayuya, Puerto Rico on October 31, 1950.

Torresola, an experienced gunman, acquired a P38 and a German Luger for their infamous labor. He had to teach Collazo how to wield the pistol before departing New York, as the latter had little experience with guns.

The two would-be assassins awoke in a rundown hotel near Capitol Hill on November 1. They donned their new chalk stripe suits, stuffed the pistols into their waistbands, and did what any first time visitors to DC do: they went sightseeing.

After spending the morning touring the U.S. Capitol Building and its environs, Collazo and Torresola hailed a taxi and told the cabbie to take them to the President’s residence at the White House.

But the haberdasher-turned-POTUS was not, in fact, living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

 “Diagram of assassination attempt on President Truman at Blair House,” November 2, 1950. (International News Photo, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

“Diagram of assassination attempt on President Truman at Blair House,” November 2, 1950. (International News Photo, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

An hour before, Harry Truman had crossed Jackson Place to have lunch with his beloved First Lady, Bess. For almost two years, the Trumans had been living in Blair House, traditionally  the President’s guest house for official visitors, while the White House underwent a major renovation.

They would spend the vast majority of President Truman’s second term there. Around 2 p.m., President Truman retired to his suite on the second floor of the Blair House for his customary afternoon nap.

Approximately 15 minutes into Truman’s slumber, Collazo and Torresola exited their cab at 15th street. They strolled past and surveyed the front of Blair House. There were four men outside the building’s front door, which stood behind two guard booths. It was time to strike.

Collazo, a well-known bibliophile and family man—and not much of a shot—sneaked up behind White House police officer Donald Birdzell and pulled the trigger. Owing to Collazo’s inexperience with firearms, the gun did not fire but snapped noisily. It took a second pull at the trigger to successfully land a bullet in Birdzell’s right knee.

The gunshot alerted members of the Secret Service, who quickly emerged from Blair House and fired bullets into Collazo’s chest as he was ascending the steps of Blair House. Collazo was incapacitated.

Oscar Collazo Lying Wounded at the Entrance to Blair House, November 1, 1950. (Copyright Life Magazine, Getty Images, courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

Oscar Collazo Lying Wounded at the Entrance to Blair House, November 1, 1950. (Copyright Life Magazine, Getty Images, courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

In the interim, Torresola strafed across the eastern edge of the building, ambushing White House policeman Leslie Coffelt. Brandishing his Luger, Torresola deftly lodged three bullets in Coffelt’s torso.

Coffelt would shortly become the first and only member of the Secret Service to die protecting the President from an assassination attempt. After emptying the rest of his clip into two other guards, Torresola stood by to reload.

Less than 30 seconds into the longest gun battle in Secret Service history, Give ‘Em Hell Harry popped his head out of the second-story window to see what all the commotion was about.

Had members of the Secret Service not promptly yelled at him to “get down” (he complied), or had Torresola not been reloading at this precise moment, the President may have met an early end.

The mortally wounded Coffelt was not yet out of commission. With a final burst of energy, he leveled his pistol at Torresola’s temple and squeezed. The failed assassin was killed instantly, and the plot to kill Truman was thwarted. Coffelt would go down in Secret Service history as a hero.

The entire exchange lasted for less than one minute, but this episode would have lasting ramifications for Presidential security procedure.

The telegram giving orders to the Governor of Puerto Rico to commute Collazo’s death sentence, July 24, 1952. (Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

The telegram giving orders to the Governor of Puerto Rico to commute Collazo’s death sentence, July 24, 1952. (Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

In 1951, in the wake of the assassination attempt, Congress passed legislation that increased the purview of the Secret Service’s protection to include the President, his family, the President-elect, and the Vice President. The attempt on Truman’s life was the event that created the modern Secret Service as we know it today.

In 1952, a week before his scheduled execution, Truman commuted the Collazo’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Firmly believing that he was never in danger, Truman expressed that the thing he hated most about the case was that three young men, “one of them killed, and two of them badly wounded,” had ended up as casualties. He was of the opinion that it was “all so unnecessary for a thing like that” to have happened.

President Jimmy Carter later commuted Collazo’s sentence to time served. Collazo died in Puerto Rico in 1994.

Many thanks to Randy Sowell of the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, for sharing his great expertise on Truman’s assassination attempt.

President and Mrs. Truman at Arlington National Cemetery, attending funeral services for Private Leslie Coffelt,, November 4, 1950. (National Archives Identifier 200242)

President and Mrs. Truman at Arlington National Cemetery, attending funeral services for Pvt. Leslie Coffelt, November 4, 1950. (National Archives Identifier 200242)

Collazo's daughter’s letter to Truman thanking him for sparing her father's life, July 25, 1952. (Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

Collazo’s daughter’s letter to Truman, thanking him for sparing her father’s life, July 25, 1952.
(Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

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The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: Managing the Materials of a Modern Eight-Year Presidency

We’re wrapping up our American Archives Month series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens!

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

President Reagan Speaking at Podium during his trip to California at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Reagan speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, held on November 21, 1988, President Reagan proclaimed, “But I believe that scholars of good will . . . will judge our efforts well. But as for us, at present we can only say this: we have done our best and we pray it has been enough.”

At its conception, the future Reagan Library was faced with three major questions:

Where would the library be located?

How would this new institution cope with being the first to adhere to the rules of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1978?

And how would the director and staff manage the papers and gifts of a modern Presidency that lasted two full terms (the first since 1961)?

Last Page of President Reagan’s Groundbreaking Ceremony Speech for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Last Page of Reagan’s groundbreaking ceremony speech, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Just as the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library had settled at the University of Texas at Austin and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library partnered with the University of Michigan, by 1984 the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation reached an agreement with Stanford University.

While the Foundation and Stanford continued to plan the location of the National Archives’ 10th Presidential institution at Stanford University, by the spring of 1987 the project came to a screeching halt.

Due to growing pressures between the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, whose trustees wanted a public affairs center at the university, and the student and faculty’s resistance to the idea that this addition might limit the university’s independence, the foundation withdrew from the project.

With less than two years left before the end of President Reagan’s second term, the foundation scrambled to secure another location, surveying multiple sites around California.

By November 1987, the Presidential materials once again had a future home, but this time in Simi Valley, California. The President and First Lady selected a site that was surrounded by mountains and had a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Developers donated 100 acres for the project, and one year later construction on the library began.

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan Breaking Ground for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan breaking ground for the Reagan Library, November 21, 1988. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

With a new site confirmed, the next step was to secure a director. This director would carry the unprecedented responsibility of managing materials under the Presidential Libraries Act of 1978. Former University of Southern Californian Administrator and former White House Official Ralph C. Bledsoe stepped up to the task.

In 1991, staff writer for the LA Times Kenneth R. Weiss wrote, “It promises to be a thorny, if not thankless job.” Within months of his appointment, Bledsoe had already received multiple subpoenas and requests by the public regarding access to materials.

One year after the Reagan Library’s dedication, 6.7 million Presidential pages were made available under Bledsoe’s supervision.

While the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library worked to meet the demand of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1978, they also tirelessly confronted the struggle of processing too many documents with too few employees.

Former Presidents and First Ladies at Reagan Library Opening, November 4, 1991 (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, National Archives)

Former Presidents and First Ladies at Reagan Library Opening, November 4, 1991. (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, National Archives)

Since President Dwight Eisenhower left office in 1961, Ronald Reagan was the first President to serve a full two-term, eight-year Presidency. This fact, accompanied by the new age of electronic records and the documentation of a modern Presidency, meant the library inherited an extraordinary amount of materials.

The library took on the task of absorbing what today is over 60 million pages of documents, over 1.6 million photographs, a half million feet of motion picture film, tens of thousands of audio and video tape, and over 40,000 artifacts.

In his 2011 testimony to Congress, Duke Blackwood, current Director the Reagan Library, revealed that the library processes more than 1.5 million documents each year.

While the library has made substantial progress in its archival process, problems persisted. For instance, in 2007, library officials came under fire when they revealed that they struggled to accurately catalog artifacts. Blackwood explained that many of these problems stemmed from the complicated transfer of materials from the White House staff to the archivists at the library.

President Reagan Talking on Telephone in his State Room on a Trip to Nevada Aboard Air Force One, June, 25, 1986. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Reagan talking on the telephone in his state room on a trip to Nevada aboard Air Force One, June, 25, 1986. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

There’s no missing one particular object, however. On September 8, 2001, President Reagan’s dream of retiring Air Force One at the library came true. Four years later, the plane was open for visitors to explore.

Although the Reagan Library encountered both triumphs and setbacks, it paved the way for processing Presidential papers in the modern era.

To learn more about President Reagan, plan your visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

And for further information about President Reagan, visit the library’s website and explore the online resources.

President Reagan Poses with Mikhail Gorbachev by the Piece of the Berlin Wall at Library, May 5, 1992. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President Reagan poses with Mikhail Gorbachev by the piece of the Berlin Wall at library, May 5, 1992. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

The Reagan Library Memorial Site Where President Reagan was Buried, June 11, 2004. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

The Reagan Library Memorial Site where President Reagan was buried, June 11, 2004. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

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The Creation of the Nixon Library

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Alley Jordan, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, CA. (Courtesy of the Nixon Foundation)

Richard Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, CA. (Courtesy of the Nixon Foundation)

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was established on July 11, 2007, on a nine-acre plot of land in Yorba Linda, CA, where Nixon was born and buried. The city of Yorba Linda is 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

To populate the library, records came from the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation, a private library, and the National Archives and Records Administration, a Federal agency.

According to the Nixon Library, “The Nixon presidential materials collection contains approximately 4,000 separate recordings of broadcast video, nearly 4,500 audio recordings, 30,000 gifts from foreign heads of states, American citizens, and others, 300,000 still photographs, 2 million feet of film, 46 million pages of documents, and 3,700 hours of recorded presidential conversations.”

Watergate Government Exhibit One: Photograph of the Watergate Complex. (National Archives Identifier 304965)

Watergate Government Exhibit One: Photograph of the Watergate Complex. (National Archives Identifier 304965)

After the Watergate scandal caused Nixon to resign, he wanted to secure his tapes and confidential materials from criminal prosecution. This resulted in the Supreme Court case U.S v. Nixon.

The case addressed the question of whether the “executive privilege” clause of the Constitution granted the President immunity from judicial review.

After Nixon left office in 1974, he signed an agreement with the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA)—which then oversaw the National Archives—giving the former President control over his Presidential materials, including the tapes, as well as the right to destroy the tapes after five years.

Congress, however, intervened and passed the Presidential Recording and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA).

The act required Nixon to give all of his materials to the Federal Government, and they would be housed at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

The act further required that all materials relevant to the abuse of government power and Watergate were to be processed and released to the public before the release of other materials.

Nixon sued under the argument that PRMPA was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from illegal searches and seizures of personal property from the Federal Government.

A 20-year legal battle followed. Ultimately, the courts ruled the Government had authority to seize the materials, although Nixon was entitled to compensation. Since Nixon was deceased by then, his estate was awarded an $18 million settlement in 2000.

The library's grounds encompass the house that Nixon's father, Frank, built in 1912. (Photo Courtesy of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation)

The library’s grounds encompass the house that Nixon’s father, Frank, built in 1912. (Photo Courtesy of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation)

Karl Weissenbach, Director of the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff from 1993 to 2005, said that “it was a contentious and stressful era. You had different people with different agendas trying to tell you how to provide access to the tapes and papers, but we had to adhere to the law and the regulations. Most of our work centered on responding to various legal challenges that focused primarily on access to Nixon’s White House tapes and textual materials. We spent a lot of time responding to lawyers’ requests for materials for the various lawsuits.”

Ironically, Nixon’s attempts to keep his Presidential information hidden from public view, such as high-profile court cases and a deal with the head of GSA, made the public even more aware of his attempts to cover up his actions.

In 2004, Congress agreed that Nixon’s Presidential materials no longer had to remain in the Washington, DC, area. This amendment to the PRMPA opened the way to moving the material to California, effectively merging the Nixon Library with the National Archives’ Presidential library system.

For more information on the Nixon Presidential Library, read James Worsham’s  Fall Prologue Magazine article.

 

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Ernest Hemingway and the JFK Library

The JFK Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

The JFK Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Alley Jordan, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Designed by I. M. Pei, the John F. Kennedy Library stands in Boston, Massachusetts. The library was originally supposed to be close to Harvard University in Cambridge but the site was moved to South Boston. Ground was broken on June 12, 1977, and the building was officially dedicated on October 20, 1979.

Among the library’s many Kennedy materials rest, strangely enough, manuscripts of the great American author Ernest Hemingway. The library’ Ernest Hemingway Collection contains 90 percent of Hemingway’s manuscripts.

Ernest Hemingway standing in his home at the Finca Vigia in Cuba, 1953. (Ernest Hemingway Collection, JFK Library)

Ernest Hemingway standing in his home at Finca Vigia in Cuba, 1953. (Ernest Hemingway Collection, JFK Library)

Hemingway and JFK bore no strong connection with one another. In fact, the JFK Library’s possession of the Ernest Hemingway Collection came about by sheer happenstance.

Following the Cuban Revolution, which began in 1953 and lasted until 1959, Hemingway left Cuba—his home for 20 years—and returned to the United States.

When Hemingway died in 1961, much of his materials were still in his home in Cuba, called Finca Vigia.

After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, relations between Cuba and the United States were especially tense. But President Kennedy’s intervention allowed Hemingway’s widow, Mary Hemingway, to enter the country in order to retrieve the writer’s personal effects from Finca Vigia.

Ernest Hemingway and actress Lauren Bacall having espresso in Pamplona, Spain, 1959. (National Archives Identifier 192696)

Ernest Hemingway and actress Lauren Bacall having espresso in Pamplona, Spain, 1959. (National Archives Identifier 192696)

In 1964, through journalist William Walton, a mutual friend of both the Kennedys and the Hemingways, Mary Hemingway contacted Jacqueline Kennedy and offered to donate the writer’s materials to the future library.

According to the JFK Library, “The donation was settled in 1968, and four years later Hemingway materials began arriving at the library in Bonwit Teller shopping bags, cardboard boxes, and dented trucks with French and Cuban labels. The Hemingway papers were first opened for research at the library’s temporary facility in 1975.”

The official Hemingway Room at the JFK Library was opened in 1980 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Hemingway’s son Patrick.

The Hemingway Room evokes rooms in the Finca Vigia with Hemingway’s original belongings, such as a lionskin rug, the author’s personal library, and original artwork.

Among the many manuscripts of Hemingway in the library rests hundreds of photographs of the author from his travels around the world.

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph. (National Archives Identifier 192693)

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph. (National Archives Identifier 192693)

Included are Hemingway’s 1923 passport, photographs of him and his beloved cats in Cuba, portraits of him in Italy, and childhood photographs.

Hemingway left his effects in Cuba as revolution erupted, and his home remained intact even after President Kennedy’s death.

At the JFK Library, visitors can not only celebrate and explore one of America’s Presidents, but they can also explore the papers and mementos of preservation of a beloved American writer.

Learn more about the Hemingway Collection at the JFK Library’s website and in Prologue.

Replica of Hemingway’s study in Cuba at the JFK Library in Boston. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

The Hemingway Room at the JFK Library in Boston. (Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library)

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Lady Bird Johnson: The Mastermind Behind the LBJ Presidential Library

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Library, March 15, 1971. ((LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Library, March 15, 1971. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

At the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library dedication on May 22, 1971, President Johnson proclaimed, “We have papers from my four decades of public service in one place for friend and foe to judge, to approve or disapprove.”

Only two and a half years after he  left office, President Johnson’s library and museum opened for students and researchers. What facilitated this quick transition from Presidential office to Presidential library?

More like “who.”

Soon after President Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964, Lady Bird Johnson began planning the early foundations of a Presidential library.

When a reporter asked President Johnson if anyone in his family was involved in the planning, the President responded, “I did not have to designate anyone. Mrs. Johnson appointed herself.”

President Johnson’s White House Daily Diary, November 9, 1968. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

President Johnson’s White House Daily Diary, November 9, 1968. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

Within weeks of President Johnson’s victory, the First Lady had already solidified a location for the library.

By simply mentioning to William H. Heath, chair of the Board of Regents at the University of Texas at Austin, that she and the President were considering potential sites for a Presidential library, she was almost immediately presented with an unprecedented proposal.

In February 1965, Heath proposed not only to donate land from the University of Texas but also to provide the funds to construct President Johnson’s library and establish a Johnson School of Public Affairs on campus.

While previous Presidential libraries depended on extensive fundraising efforts to finance their institutions, the Johnsons could focus their efforts elsewhere.

Lady Bird Jonson, Harry Middleton (far left), Juanita Roberts, and others meet to discuss plans for the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, November 9, 1968.  (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

Lady Bird Jonson, Harry Middleton (far left), Juanita Roberts, and others meet to discuss plans for the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, November 9, 1968. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

With the location of the library already established, Lady Bird Johnson’s next step was to explore the functions of the other Presidential libraries. Exploring the Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower libraries, Lady Bird observed both the museum displays and the extent to which the Presidential papers were available and used.

Taking in the designs and displays of the other libraries, the First Lady set off to find the most suitable architect for the job. In order to find the best candidate, Mrs. Johnson toured Yale and Princeton Universities and embarked on an architectural tour of New York City.

Narrowing the list to three potential architects, the First Lady presented the candidates to President Johnson.

Upon meeting the President’s approval during a day-long visit to the Johnson ranch, Gordon Bunshaft was hired to be the architect of the LBJ Presidential Library. Working tirelessly for the President, Bunshaft completed his final designs in the summer of 1966, and by the end of 1967, construction began on the new institution.

Lady Bird Johnson at a Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation Board Meeting, June 30, 1981. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

Lady Bird Johnson at a Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation Board Meeting, June 30, 1981. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

Once Lady Bird Johnson had solidified the future library’s location and architect, her efforts transitioned to planning the museum exhibits.

For the entire year in 1968, Lady Bird Johnson hosted planning meetings at the White House, often discussing designs with Bunshaft, Heath, Archivist of the United States Dr. Wayne Grover, various other leaders, and sometimes even President Johnson himself.

Perhaps the First Lady’s most significant contribution to the LBJ Presidential Library displays was her push for an exact replica of Johnson’s Oval Office. Although Bunshaft initially resisted this idea, President Johnson believed that this replica would greatly attract the public, and it was added to the overall design.

With plans in order, the majority of President Johnson’s papers and material objects were moved from Washington, DC, to Austin, TX, from December 26, 1968, to January 15, 1969.

Two and a half years after this move, the LBJ Presidential Library was officially opened to the public, and soon after, an education center was established.

Lynda Johnson Robb, Lady Bird Johnson and Luci Baines Johnson attend the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson at the LBJ Library, May 4, 1990. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

Lynda Johnson Robb, Lady Bird Johnson, and Luci Baines Johnson attend the 25th-anniversary celebration of the inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson at the LBJ Library, May 4, 1990. (LBJ Presidential Library, National Archives)

After the President’s sudden death in 1973, Lady Bird Johnson continued to dedicate her time to the library. Although President Johnson wished his secret White House tapes to be closed for 50 years after his death, with Mrs. Johnson’s approval, these recordings were processed and opened to the public in the early 1990s.

Leon Moed, an architect who worked closely with Bunshaft on the project, reflected: “Lady Bird was really the client for all intents and purposes. LBJ trusted her, and she rolled up her shirt-sleeves and got down to work.”

To learn more about President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, plan your visit to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, TX.

And for more information about President Johnson, visit the library’s website and explore the numerous online resources.

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Hoover Library: Honoring Iowa’s only President

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, ca. 1970. National Archives Identifier: 23856239)

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, ca. 1970. (National Archives Identifier: 23856239)

Herbert Hoover opened his Presidential library on August 10, 1962, nearly 30 years after he left the Presidency.

This was the National Archives’ fourth Presidential library.

The three preceding libraries belonged to his three successors. This was because at the time Hoover was President, there were no laws or guidance governing Presidential records.

Hoover originally planned for all his papers to go the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University, his alma mater. However, in the late 1950s Hoover’s relationship with Stanford became strained.

In 1958, Hoover’s friends began to raise funds for a small museum in his birthplace—West Branch, Iowa.

As his conflict with Stanford worsened, Hoover decided to take advantage of the recently passed Presidential Libraries act and donate his personal and Presidential papers to the National Archives. He expanded the museum in West Branch into a larger archival and research facility.

His papers related to his relief work remained at the Hoover Institution.

Former Presidents Harry S. Truman and Herbert Hoover move through the crowds of people attending the dedication of the new Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, IA, August 10, 1962. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives.)

Former Presidents Harry S. Truman and Herbert Hoover move through the crowd of people attending the dedication of the new Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, IA, August 10, 1962. (Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, National Archives)

The library was dedicated on Hoover’s 88th birthday. In the dedication ceremony, former President Harry S. Truman spoke, saying, “I feel sure I am one of his closest friends and that’s the reason I am here.”

While belonging to different political parties, the two men became friends during their post-Presidencies.

During the ceremony, Hoover also received two honorary degrees for his lifetime of public service.

Since then, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library has been committed to preserving and making available records related to Iowa’s only President.

While it is the smallest Presidential library, over the years more than 150 collections have been acquired, accessioned, processed, and opened to the public.

Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover grave site, ca. 1970 (National Archives Identifier: 23856259)

Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover grave site, ca. 1970 (National Archives Identifier: 23856259)

Today the library’s holdings cover a variety of subjects important to Hoover including agricultural economics, atomic energy, commercial aviation, political journalism, government efficiency and reorganization, isolationism, and U.S. foreign policy, in addition Hoover’s papers as President.

The library is located within the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, a 187-acre park administered by the National Park Service.

Both Herbert and his wife, Lou Henry, are buried on the site.

Visit their website for more information on the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

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Eisenhower Library: From Life to Legacy

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170294 )

Photograph of the Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170294 )

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower left the White House in 1960, he almost immediately began work on his Presidential library in his hometown of Abilene, KS.

His involvement with his library continued until the end of his life, when the library’s staff took over the responsibility of preserving his legacy.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library holds documents of President Eisenhower’s administration, as well as manuscript materials from General Eisenhower’s military career.

As early as February 1961, a small staff of archivists and a photographer worked to arrange 11 million pages of manuscript material that was pouring in from the White House. They also received books, photographs, and sound recordings.

The formal building dedication took place on May 2, 1962.

In March 1969, the library changed dramatically when President Eisenhower died.

Portrait of Dwight Eisenhower  which hangs in the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. (Eisenhower Library)

Portrait of Dwight Eisenhower, which hangs in the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, KS. (Eisenhower Library, National Archives)

Radios and television networks broadcasted his funeral on the grounds of the library.  His death caused an upsurge in interest in his life and administration.

Also after his death, archivists and librarians could no longer use President Eisenhower’s expertise and memories to arrange collections.

Since Eisenhower’s death, the library has worked to acquire more manuscript collections, as well as museum objects. Representing President Eisenhower’s life, his library holds invaluable cultural and military artifacts from his era.

Since President Eisenhower was especially interested in the American West, his library holds an extensive collection of western art.

The Western History Conference is a biennial event that attracts hundreds of western history scholars to visit the Eisenhower Library.

The manuscript collection has expanded to contain 19.5 million pages. Documents from his Presidency include the papers of key players in his administration.

In addition to manuscript materials, the printed materials and audiovisual holdings contain “rare and exotic” volumes, which had been gifts to the President. These items include rare artwork, as well as signed books from Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, and many American statesmen.

Nearly 50 years after his death, the Eisenhower Library shares his legacy with millions of visitors and researchers every year.

Visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library’s website to learn more about our 34th President.

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas at night, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170296)

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas at night, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170296)

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The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library: The 30-Year Journey

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Photograph of Harry S. Truman in his Office at the Truman Library, July 1961. (National Archives Identifier 6233777)

Photograph of Harry S. Truman in his Office at the Truman Library, July 1961. (National Archives Identifier 6233777)

In the 1960s, if one called the Harry S. Truman Library, the former President himself may have answered.

Although Truman was apprehensive about constructing a “shrine” to himself—especially while he was still living—he understood the importance of preserving his Presidential papers for future scholars and administrations.

However, because the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library was the only precedent, the Presidential Libraries Act was still not law. The slow process of construction and planning a library meant that Truman’s papers were without a permanent home for years.

In January 1953, most of Truman’s papers were moved in 12 trucks from Washington, DC, to the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, MO, where the archival process of sorting through his papers began.

Even after the move, however, the President and First Lady Bess Truman continued to be overwhelmed by the volume of records.

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt, February 18, 1953 (National Archives Identifier 4708859)

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt, February 18, 1953 (National Archives Identifier 4708859)

On February 18, 1953, President Truman wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt that there were papers and significant items in two places in Kansas City and in an office in the Federal Reserve Bank Building.

Truman continued, “I don’t know whether we will ever get on top of it or not.”

While the Trumans struggled to manage papers at home, archivists attempted to organize papers while coping with yet another upcoming move.

In the fall of 1954, because new judges were added to the courts in Kansas City, the Truman papers were forced to relocate to the Memorial Building in Independence, MO.

Archivist Philip D. Lagerquist recalled, “It wasn’t really a satisfactory place, because rooms were lined with wood, and we were right next to the furnace room.”

Nearly two years after their first move from Washington, DC, Truman’s Presidential papers still had no home.

Photograph of Harry S. Truman Library, ca. 1960 (National Archives Identifier 12170023)

Photograph of Harry S. Truman Library, ca. 1960 (National Archives Identifier 12170023)

Between April 22 and 24, 1957, after almost two and half years in the Memorial Building, the majority of Truman’s papers were moved into the new Truman Library. While the museum opened to the public on September 15, 1957, Truman’s Presidential papers could not be accessed until May 11, 1959—six years and four months after their original move.

Still, though many of the White House files were transferred to the National Archives for public use, documents that Truman regarded as his personal papers remained under his control until his death.

Although Truman may have been active in the progress of the library—providing tours and working with students—by keeping many of his office’s most significant documents closed to the public, he ensured that the institution’s focus was not on him but rather the historical atmosphere during his Presidency.

Photograph of Truman with a School Group at the Harry S. Truman Library, 2/27/1962. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Photograph of Truman with a School Group at the Harry S. Truman Library, 2/27/1962. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Following President Truman’s death in 1972, Benedict K. Zobrist, newly appointed Director of the Harry S. Truman Library, worked to maintain good relations with the Truman family and to accession and process any materials not originally donated to the library.

Raymond Geselbracht, former special assistant to the director of the Harry S. Truman Library, wrote that the first director of the library “thought the papers that Truman kept in his office suite were probably not very important and would disappoint historians when they were opened for research. This proved wrong.”

Within Truman’s office files were significant papers on policy, particularly foreign policy, and even many personal writings.

Photograph of Bess Wallace Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Earl Warren, Herbert Hoover, Basil O’Connor and Harry S. Truman at the Dedication of the Harry S. Truman Library, 7/6/1957. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Photograph of Bess Wallace Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Earl Warren, Herbert Hoover, Basil O’Connor, and Harry S. Truman at the Dedication of the Harry S. Truman Library, 7/6/1957. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Soon, the research room in Independence was bustling with researchers.

Upon Mrs. Truman’s death in 1982, the library inherited yet another round of invaluable materials.

Now, the National Archives not only possessed documents from his early life, but also 1,300 letter exchanges between the former President and First Lady, found in the Truman home at 219 North Delaware Street in Independence.

Geselbracht concludes, “Truman’s life passed suddenly from being one of the most poorly documented among Presidents to one of the best documented.”

Nearly 30 years after President Truman’s papers were first moved in 1952, the collection, now including his personal and private papers, was now complete.

To learn more about President Truman and his papers, plan your visit to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO.

And for more information about President Harry S. Truman, visit the library’s website and explore the numerous online resources.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum dedication, July 6, 1957.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum dedication, July 6, 1957.

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