“The Nighthawks” visit the Clinton Library

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts highlighting our “Archives Across America.” Today’s post comes from John Keller at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Marine One landing at the Wall Street Landing Zone in New York City on May 8, 2000. (Clinton Library Identifier P82039-16)

Well sort of visit. . . .  “The Nighthawks,” better known as Marine Helicopter Squadron HMX-1 (Marine One), virtually visited the Clinton Library via requests by former Marines who served during President Clinton’s administration.

The Marine Security crew are the Marines who stand at attention every time the President, First Family, and staff embark and disembark the President’s helicopter.

The Clinton Library, as well as other Presidential Libraries, hold many images in its audiovisual (AV) collections of the President and his administration departing, flying, and arriving on Marine One. In May 2017, the Clinton Library AV staff received a photograph request from a former Marine One Security crew member. We had no idea the domino effect this request would have.

We processed the request as we have done all other photo requests. We gathered detailed information from the requester and used our search systems to track down the photo for the former Marine.

President Clinton approaching Marine One on his departure from Greeleyville, South Carolina, on June 12, 1996. (Clinton Library Identifier P41227-23a)

We scanned photo negatives and produced high-resolution images and delivered them to the requester through email. Little did we know that several weeks later, this same requester and many of his former colleagues gathered for an HMX-1 reunion celebration. This reunion included hundreds of former Marines who served on HMX-1 over many years of service.

President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton arrive at the Wall Street Landing Zone in New York City on the night of September 20, 1998. (Clinton Library Identifier P66646-03)

We learned quickly as the requests started to come in that the former Marine we assisted communicated to his colleagues that the Clinton Library was the home of many photos that included Marine One personnel.

The requests quickly flooded in, and we stayed busy researching, communicating, scanning, and delivering high-resolution images to the former Marines.

In the course of two months, we received and handled approximately 43 photo requests from former Marine One crews. The AV staff scanned approximately 228 high-resolution images from primarily 35mm film negatives.

While working on these requests, we became aware that one of the requesters created a Facebook page named “HMX-1 Lift/Drop.” Through this page many of his former Marine One colleagues learned of the Clinton Library, the Presidential Library system, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

President Clinton poses for a photo with the Marine Detachment and HMX-1 crew in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 10, 1999. (Clinton Library Identifier P70657-16)

The pages users shared the photos that they obtained from us, and many of their colleagues began requesting photos at the various Presidential Libraries for the time period that they served. Many of the Marine One personnel who were active on the Facebook page served with HMX-1 over several Presidential administrations.

This 2017 style of “spreading the word” exemplifies the power of social media and how it aids in making access happen. We are still receiving these types of requests, and we will probably continue to get them for many years.

To further engage the public, we uploaded digitized White House Television video recordings of Marine One arrivals and departures on our Clinton Library YouTube channel.


The process of serving these Marines shows our commitment to engage and provide our records to the public. This experience in part was another example of how NARA helps veterans connect to their military service and history.

Visit the National Archives American Archives Month web page for more information about our events and activities throughout the month. 

And don’t miss our #AskAnArchivist sessions every Tuesday in October from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. Follow us on Twitter @usnatarchives for more information.

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