Featured document: Tuskegee Airmen

“Members of the 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Forces, famous all-Negro outfit, who are rapidly making themselves feared by enemy pilots, pose for a picture at the Anzio beachhead. In the foreground, head bared, is 1st Lt. Andrew Lane.” (NARA ID 520624)

At the start of World War II, African Americans serving in the Armed Forces were segregated into all-black units. They were also limited in the types of positions they could hold—blacks in the U.S. military did not fly planes.

On April 3, 1939, Congress passed legislation expanding the Army Air Corps (the precursor to today’s Air Force). Among the act’s provisions was the creation of training programs located at historically black colleges to prepare African Americans for Air Corps service.

On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced they were creating the 99th Pursuit Squadron. (Fighter planes were then called “pursuit planes,” hence the name Pursuit Squadron; during the war the term was replaced with “fighter squadron.”)

What made the 99th Pursuit Squadron different was that it was to be an all-black flying unit trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. War Department officials selected Tuskegee because it had an airfield and civilian pilot training program.

“Tuskegee Airmen” became the nickname for the World War II Army Air Forces units that were made up predominantly of African American pilots and maintenance crews.

Address of welcome to Army Air Corps cadets in front of Booker T. Washington Monument on the grounds of Tuskegee Institute, August 1941. (National Archives Identifier 531132)

From 1941 to 1946, nearly 1,000 African Americans completed training at the Tuskegee Institute as pilots, and many went on to serve with distinction during the war.

Despite their service to the country, the U.S. military remained segregated until 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order desegregating the U.S. military.

On March 29, 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal. During the ceremony, President George W. Bush acknowledged the men for their contribution to winning the war and saluted them for their service to the nation.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen, a special exhibit will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from January 7, 2016, through March 2, 2016.

Pilots of a U.S. Army Air Forces Fighter Squadron, ca. February 1944. (National Archives Identifier 535763)

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Protecting the Bill of Rights: the Mosler Vault

Progress on installing the vault in the Exhibition Hall, November 7, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167771)

Progress on installing the vault in the Exhibition Hall, November 7, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167771)

In April 1952 Congress ordered the Library of Congress to transfer the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to the National Archives.

The two documents were to go on public display in the National Archives Building along with the Bill of Rights, which was already at the Archives.

While the Archives exhibition hall had been specifically designed to display the two documents, it did not have a safe place to store the documents when they weren’t on exhibit.

The National Archives contracted with the Mosler Safe Company to construct a vault beneath the exhibition hall’s floor. At that time, an estimated 70 percent of all banks in the United States used Mosler safes and vaults.

Archives officials announced they would unveil the documents on Bill of Rights day that year.

This did not give the company much time.

Mosler Safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167779)

Mosler Safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167779)

Working under the looming deadline, Mosler engineers, technicians, and machinists worked around the clock to design and build a vault worthy of protecting the nation’s most valuable documents.

The company constructed the vault in Hamilton, Ohio, then brought it to Washington, DC, for installation.

The vault was made of steel and reinforced concrete. It was located about 20 feet beneath the floor of the exhibition hall. Built during the Cold War era, the vault was designed to be fireproof, shockproof, and bombproof.

During visiting hours, the three documents were displayed in then state-of-the art cases.

Every night, at the press of a button, the elevator gently lowered the documents in their cases through the floor into a 50-ton safe where they sat overnight.

The next morning, the elevator would again raise the documents for public viewing.

The two center pages of the Constitution, which were not exhibited, were also stored in the vault.

Vice President Nixon, Senator Bricker, and Mr. Mosler view the scale model of the shrine and safe, June 29, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 3493223)

Vice President Nixon, Senator Bricker, and Mr. Mosler view the scale model of the shrine and safe, June 29, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 3493223)

During the dedication ceremony on December 15, 1952, President Harry Truman said America’s treasured documents are “as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man could devise.”

The Mosler Company also gave the National Archives a scale model of the vault, which was on display in the National Archives for many years.

The National Archives no longer uses the Mosler vault to protect the Charters of Freedom. The major renovation of the National Archives Building in the early 2000s included a complete overhaul of the security system safeguarding the Charters.

Read more about the transfer of the documents in the blog post “Carting the Charters.”

Mosler safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167793)

Mosler safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167793)

 

Caption for Charters of Freedom display of the scale model. (National Archives Identifier 12170126)

Caption for Charters of Freedom display of the scale model. (National Archives Identifier 12170126)

Posted in - Cold War, - Constitution, - Declaration of Independence, National Archives History, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Exhibit: Abolishing Slavery

On December 6, 1865, with Georgia’s ratification of the 13th Amendment, slavery throughout the United States became illegal.

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Preserving Slavery, March 2, 1861. (National Archives Identifier 4688370)

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Preserving Slavery, March 2, 1861. (National Archives Identifier 4688370)

Just a few years earlier, in 1861, Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin proposed—and both Houses of Congress passed—a constitutional amendment that would have done the exact opposite.

Corwin’s amendment read, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

This would have been the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Before it could be ratified, however, 11 Southern states seceded to form the Confederacy.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, was a step toward abolishing slavery. But it didn’t apply to the loyal border states, and it exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under control of the Union Army.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed another slavery-related amendment.

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the United States Constitution Abolishing Slavery, January 31, 1865. (National Archives Identifier 1408764)

Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery, January 31, 1865. (National Archives Identifier 1408764)

This one read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

To make it part of the Constitution, three-fourths of all the states—including those still in rebellion—had to ratify the amendment.

Within a month, 18 of the 27 needed states quickly ratified the amendment, although after the Lincoln’s assassination in April the ratification process stalled.

To force the issue, President Andrew Johnson instituted a requirement that any state that wanted readmission to the union first needed to outlaw slavery. This prompted enough states to act, and on December 6, 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the amendment.

On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William Seward certified the amendment, proclaiming the 13th Amendment had been adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution as of December 6, 1865.

In celebration of the anniversary of the enactment of the 13th Amendment, California’s Certificate of Ratification will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from December 3, 2015, through January 6, 2016.

Fun Fact: Both President James Buchanan and President Abraham Lincoln signed their respective joint resolutions proposing the amendments. Their signatures, however, were unnecessary as the Supreme Court had ruled in Hollingsworth v. Virginia (1798) that the President has no formal role in the constitutional amendment process.

William H. Seward, Secretary of State ca. 1860-1865. (National Archives Identifier 528347)

William H. Seward, Secretary of State ca. 1860-1865. (National Archives Identifier 528347)

Posted in - Civil War, - Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, News and Events, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Indian New Deal”

Today’s post from Eric Rhodes, intern in the National Archives History Office, highlights the National Archives’ Native American holdings in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with two unidentified Native American Men, c.1935. (National Archives Identifier 519179)

John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with two unidentified Native American men, ca.1935. (National Archives Identifier 519179)

In the 1930s, in an effort to remedy the hardships Native Americans had faced under U.S. policy, Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) John Collier took advantage of the reformist spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency to change the course of U.S.-American Indian relations.

American Indian policy in the late 1800s undermined native culture by forcing Native Americans to assimilate into the European-American lifestyle.

Native children were taken away from their families at a young age to off-reservation Indian boarding schools.

Moreover, the Dawes Act of 1887 instituted the practice of allotment—the division of tribal land into personal tracts—which destabilized native communal life.

Collier, a prominent activist for Native American rights, was well aware of the negative effects these policies had on Native American communities.

Albuquerque Indian School in 1885, Relocated from Duranes to Albuquerque in 1881 (National Archives Identifier 292865)

Albuquerque Indian School in 1885, relocated from Duranes to Albuquerque in 1881. (National Archives Identifier 292865)

In 1923 Collier became the Secretary of the Indian Defense Association (IDA). During his tenure at the IDA, the Institute for Government Research released the Meriam Report, which detailed the poor condition of tribal economies and the utter destitution in the Indian country.

According to the report, the average national per capita income in 1920 was $1,350 while the average Native American made only $100 a year.

The Meriam Report implicated U.S. Indian policy in helping to create such poverty.

Collier set out to reform Indian policy after President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to serve as the head of the BIA in 1933. The Collier era saw a dramatic change in the direction of U.S. American Indian policy, and that change would be initiated by the “Indian New Deal.”

Instead of the goal of immediate and total assimilation, Collier set about to preserve what remained of American Indian culture. As an initiative of the Indian New Deal, he hired anthropologists to document Indian languages and ways of life.

Memo from John Collier to Senator Thomas O’Malley Regarding Justifications for Senate Bill 2571 (what would become the Johnson-O’Malley Act), February 26, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 559808)

Memo from John Collier to Senator Thomas O’Malley regarding justifications for Senate Bill 2571 (what would become the Johnson-O’Malley Act), February 26, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 559808)

Indian Agencies hired photographers to capture Native American culture.

Collier also helped establish the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, tasked with promoting and preserving Native American material culture.

The Arts and Craft Board established a system of authenticating products and enacting marketing strategies which led to some economic development for certain Native American groups during the country’s most severe depression.

The Indian New Deal also forwarded the cause of Native American education. Curricular committees serving Native Americans began to incorporate the languages and customs that had been documented by Government-funded anthropologists in their newly bilingual syllabi.

While the Government continued to mandate that Native Americans attend Federal schools, it subsidized the creation of 100 community day schools on tribal lands.

The Johnson-O’Malley Act of 1934, which Collier helped to steer through Congress, offered states Federal dollars to support their Native American education, health care, and agricultural assistance programs.

Navajo CCC workers build a diversion, Navajo Nation, Tuba City, Arizona. The Civilian Conservation Corps’ incorporation of Native American laborers provided much needed relief during the Depression. (Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives)

Navajo CCC workers build a diversion, Tuba City, Arizona. (Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives)

To ease unemployment, thousands of Native Americans were employed under a separate division of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This division, which was popularly abbreviated as the CCC-ID, allowed Native Americans to work on public works projects on their own reservations.

The Indian New Deal’s premiere piece of legislation was the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA).

The IRA abolished the allotment program detailed in the Dawes Act and made funds available to Native American groups for the purchase of lost tribal lands. It required that Indians receive preferential treatment when applying to BIA jobs on the reservation. Finally, the IRA called for a referendum on home rule and self-governance, asking tribes to vote to establish new tribal councils.

While it was not a wholesale success, the Indian New Deal was integral in changing U.S. Government policies toward American Indians.

Visit our website to learn more about the historical records relating to Native Americans in National Archives’ holdings.

The first page of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. (National Archives Identifier 7873515)

The first page of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, June 18, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 7873515)

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The Montgomery Bus Boycott

In commemoration of the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, today’s post comes from Sarah Basilion, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Rosa Parks, 1995. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

Rosa Parks, 1965. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

Sixty years ago, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black woman, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, public bus.

On December 1, 1955, Parks, a seamstress and secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was taking the bus home after a long day of work.

The white section of the bus had filled, so the driver asked Parks to give up her seat in the designated black section of the bus to accommodate a white passenger.

She refused to move.

When it became apparent after several minutes of argument that Parks would not relent, the bus driver called the police. Parks was arrested for being in violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code, which upheld a policy of racial segregation on public buses.

Parks was not the first person to engage in this act of civil disobedience.

Diagram of the bus showing where Rosa Parks was seated. (National Archives Identifier 596069)

Diagram of the bus showing where Rosa Parks was seated. (National Archives Identifier 596069)

Earlier that year, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She was arrested, but local civil rights leaders were concerned that she was too young and poor to be a sympathetic plaintiff to challenge segregation.

Parks—a middle-class, well-respected civil rights activist—was the ideal candidate.

Just a few days after Parks’s arrest, activists announced plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The boycott, which officially began December 5, 1955, did not support just Parks but countless other African Americans who had been arrested for the same reason.

E. D. Nixon, president of the local NAACP chapter, called for all African-American citizens to boycott the public bus system to protest the segregation policy. Nixon and his supporters vowed to abstain from riding Montgomery public buses until the policy was abolished.

Photograph of an empty bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  (National Archives Identifier 7452358)

Photograph of an empty bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (National Archives Identifier 7452358)

Instead of buses, African Americans took taxis driven by black drivers who had lowered their fares in support of the boycott, walked, cycled, drove private cars, and even rode mules or drove in horse-drawn carriages to get around. African-American citizens made up a full three-quarters of regular bus riders, causing the boycott to have a strong economic impact on the public transportation system and on the city of Montgomery as a whole.

The boycott was proving to be a successful means of protest.

The city of Montgomery tried multiple tactics to subvert the efforts of boycotters. They instituted regulations for cab fares that prevented black cab drivers from offering lower fares to support boycotters. The city also pressured car insurance companies to revoke or refuse insurance to black car owners so they could not use their private vehicles for transportation in lieu of taking the bus.

Police report from Rosa Parks’s arrest, December 1, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 596074)

Police report from Rosa Parks’s arrest, December 1, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 596074)

Montgomery’s efforts were futile as the local black community, with the support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., churches—and citizens around the nation—were determined to continue with the boycott until their demand for racially integrated buses was met.

The boycott lasted from December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested, to December 20, 1956, when Browder v. Gayle, a Federal ruling declaring racially segregated seating on buses to be unconstitutional, took effect.

Although it took more than a year, Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat on a public bus sparked incredible change that would forever impact civil rights in the United States.

Parks continued to raise awareness for the black struggle in America and the Civil Rights movement for the rest of her life. For her efforts she was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the executive branch, and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the legislative branch.

To learn more about the life of Rosa Parks, read Michael Hussey’s 2013 Pieces of History post Honoring the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

And plan your visit to the National Archives to view similar documents in our “Records of Rights” exhibit or  explore documents in our online catalog.

Copies of documents relating to Parks’s arrest submitted as evidence in the Browder v. Gayle case are held in the National Archives at Atlanta in Morrow, Georgia.

A recreation of the bus Rosa Parks rode the day of her protest. (National Archives Identifier 7718884)

A photo of a recreation of the bus Rosa Parks rode the day of her protest housed in the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee. (National Archives Identifier 7718884)

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Was Ike a secret New Dealer?

Today’s post is from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue magazine, the quarterly of the National Archives.

Was Dwight D. Eisenhower—the architect of the allied victory over the Nazis in World War II and our President during the peaceful 1950s—a secret New Dealer?

Eisenhower, elected President as a Republican in 1952, brought in with him a Republican-controlled Congress. The GOP lawmakers were eager to dismantle the social welfare programs that were started and became embedded in government during the 20 years of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and Harry S. Truman’s presidencies.

In fact, President Eisenhower affirmed programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

77-18-6

Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1919

 

Eisenhower’s position on FDR’s legacy is revealed in “Eisenhower, the Frontier, and the New Deal: Ike Considers America’s Frontier Gone, Embraces, Adds to FDR’s Legacy” an article in the Fall issue of Prologue magazine, the flagship publication of the National Archives.

Author Tim Rives draws much of this story from exchanges of letters between President Eisenhower and then-retired Brig. Gen. Bradford G. Chynoweth, a long-time friend.

Eisenhower had known Chynoweth since they were junior officers in Panama after World War I. “Ike” and “Chyn,” as they called each other, spent many an hour debating the state of the nation and the direction it ought to take.

Decades later, Eisenhower had moved into the White House and Chynoweth was retired and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. By then Chynoweth was a “radical Republican” and the two renewed their friendly debates by letter.

111-sc-149416 BG Chynoweth 1924 (1)

Bradford G. Chynoweth in 1924

 

Chynoweth urged his friend to go along with the conservative Republicans who then controlled Congress to and were eager to dismantle the New Deal.

“Chyn” agreed that social problems needed a new approach, but he added: “Why jump to the extreme New Deal view that the only way to find new approaches is from the Government?”

Still, Eisenhower resisted, Rives writes, and wrote his old friend: “It seems to me that no great intelligence is required in order to discern the practical necessity of establishing some kind of security for individuals in a specialized and highly industrialized age. At one time such security was provided by the existence of free land and a great mass of untouched and valuable natural resources. These are no longer to be had for the asking.”

Eisenhower, with the help of a Democratic Congress for his last six years, expanded Social Security, retained agencies created in the New Deal, started the Interstate highway system, and established federal student loans.

Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, says there was another reason: “Eisenhower embraced the reforms as a political necessity. The New Deal had won broad acceptance from the American public.” The article contains more details of the Ike-Chyn relationship.

This article is one of three written for in the issue that focus on Eisenhower on the 125th anniversary of his birth. You can read all three online on our Prologue website.

 

Posted in - Cold War, - Presidents, Prologue Magazine | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flight of a Sadako Crane

Today’s post comes from Ben Jordi, Public Affairs Specialist in Strategy and Communications, at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Growing up, Clifton Truman Daniel never talked to his grandfather, Harry S. Truman, about his role in the war or the atomic bombings. “Our family met like any other family: on long weekends and holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. And you were always careful about showing an interest in history or Grandpa would be sure to give you a lengthy history lesson,” says Daniel of his grandfather.

The Truman Presidential Library is filled with history lessons. One such lesson revolves around the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and three days later, on August 9th, another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The aftermath of the bombings left nearly a quarter of a million people dead. Survivors of the bombings were called hibakusha; literally translated as “explosion-affected people.”

"Sadako Crane" donated to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library by her brother, Masahiro Sasaki. The crane is about one inch tall and made from a cellophane wrapper.

“Sadako Crane” donated to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library by her brother, Masahiro Sasaki. The crane is about one inch tall and made from a cellophane wrapper.

When Daniel’s son Wesley was 10, his social studies teacher, Rosemary Barilla, did a series of lessons centered on the children’s book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.  “I came home one night to find Wesley wearing a kimono with sushi and green tea laid out on the coffee table behind him,” recalls Daniel. “The book had appealed to him because there was no happy ending. It was realistic.”

The book tells the true story of two-year-old Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. Nine years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sadako was diagnosed with radiation-induced leukemia.

As she received treatment in the hospital, Sadako followed a Japanese tradition that promised one wish to anyone who folded 1,000 origami paper cranes. Despite folding more than 1,300 tiny paper cranes and wishing for life, Sadako died on October 25, 1955.

Over the years, Daniel has met American veterans who thank him for his grandfather’s choice, a choice they believe saved thousands of American service members’ lives. He also began meeting and speaking with atomic bomb survivors. In 1994, he met Japanese exchange student Shizuka Otani, whose grandfather died in Hiroshima.

After reading a Japanese article written about Daniel, Sadako Sasaki’s brother Masahiro Sasaki called Daniel in 2005 to ask if he would be interested in working together. “I was standing in a woodland clearing in Wisconsin, talking to Masahiro through a translator about his work donating Sadako’s cranes as gestures of peace and healing. It was a little surreal,” says Daniel.

In 2010, Masahiro and Daniel finally met when Masahiro donated one of Sadako’s cranes to the 9/11 Tribute Center in New York City. “Yuji took a tiny paper crane from a plastic box and dropped it into my palm,” recounts Daniel. “He told me it was the last crane Sadako folded before she died. At that point, he and his father asked me if I would attend the memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Since then, Daniel has worked on a number of programs related to the bombings. He and his son Wesley have collected a series of first-person hibakusha stories, which will eventually be added to the Truman Library’s collection. Seedlings from trees that survived the bombings are being grown at Powell Gardens in Kansas City, to eventually be used to create a memorial garden at the Truman Library. In 2013, when Daniel and Wesley visited Masahiro Sasaki in Fukuoka, they carried a wreath of 1,000 cranes folded by children in Rosemary Barilla’s class at Jamieson Elementary in Chicago. Masahiro laid the wreath at Sadako’s final resting place.

On November 19th, Masahiro will presented one of the last origami cranes folded by Sadako to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Truman’s eldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, and Rosemary Barilla, Wesley’s social studies teacher, attended. Sadako’s nephew, Yuji Sasaki, sang Inori (Prayer). The paper crane will become a permanent part of the Truman Library’s collection.

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On Display: The Refugee Act of 1980

The Refugee Act of 1980 is now on temporary display in the West Gallery of the National Archives Building. 

At the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees were admitted to the United States through Presidential action. The law at the time restricted refugee admissions, and many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement.

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

The Refugee Act of 1980 raised the annual ceiling for refugees to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President. The law changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.

Page one of “A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes,” (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, page one (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Signature page of “A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes,” (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Signature page of The Refugee Act of 1980, approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government.

 

Posted in - Presidents, The 1970s, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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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