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This post is also featured on our Rediscovering Black History blog.

At the outbreak of World War I, William H. Hunt was serving as the U.S. Consul in St. Etienne, France.  In addition to his official duties, Hunt was also a true American pioneer.  In 1914, he was one of the very few African Americans serving in the Department of State, the Diplomatic Service, or the Consular Service in a professional capacity.  Even more notable, he was not serving at a post in the Caribbean or in Africa.

OPF.William H. Hunt_Photograph.1911

[Source: William H. Hunt, Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO]

William Henry Hunt was born near Nashville, Tennessee on June 28, 1864, even as the American Civil War still raged.  He received his education in the public schools of Nashville, at the Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, and spent one year at Williams College before entering the business world as a clerk for Price, McCormick Co. in New York City.  In 1898, he became a clerk in the U.S. consulate in Tamatave, Madagascar.  His professional career began with appointment as a vice consul at Tamatave in May 1899.  When the consul there, Mifflin W. Gibbs, resigned, he urged President McKinley to appoint Hunt in his stead.  The President and Department of State took that advice and Hunt was appointed consul at Tamatave in August 1901.  Hunt married Gibbs’s daughter Ida in 1904.

In 1904, Hunt sought transfer to a less remote post with a better climate and greater level of work.  Hunt was appointed as consul in St. Etienne and entered into service there in November 1906.  He remained in that city for over 20 years, until the U.S. closed the office in 1927.  In last six years of his career, Hunt held the following postings:

●Consul at Guadeloupe, May 1927

●Consul at St. Michaels, Azores, September 1929

●Consul and Second Secretary of Legation at Monrovia, Liberia, January 1931

●Detailed to the Department, August 1932

Hunt retired on December 31, 1932, and died on December 20, 1951.

123 H 911[42a[Source: Department of State to U.S. embassy Paris, January 15, 1927, file: 123 H 911/42a, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives, College Park, MD]

The fact of Hunt’s background was ever present in his personnel file.  The summary sheet of his serviced is headed “WILLIAM H. HUNT, of New York.  (Colored).”  There are also the following comments over time:

●1913: Mr. Hunt is a well educated colored man.

●1915: The only possible objection to him and the only obstacle in the way of his promotion to a more important post is the fact that he has negro blood.

●1921: The only possible objection to him is the fact that he has negro blood. . . . Good personality for a colored man.

●1921: Seems a very creditable member of his race.

●1923: For a colored man, Mr. Hunt’s personality in all respects deserves to be rated as excellent . . . were it not that his colored blood restricts his usefulness to certain posts and countries where no prejudice against such blood exists. . . . He should not be sent to a country where any race prejudice exists.

●1925: The fact that he has negro blood in his veins cannot but detract, however, from cultural standing; . . . . standing is greatly handicapped by the fact of his wife’s racial extraction which is more evident than in his own case.

●1926: The fact that he has negro blood in his veins cannot but detract, however, from cultural standing; . . . . standing is greatly handicapped by the fact of his wife’s racial extraction which is more evident than in his own case.

●1926: The Board will remember that Mr. Hunt is colored. [In reference to a new assignment.]

●1927: As the officer and his wife are colored, he is not very mobile and must be rated low as to post utility. . . . it is possible to assign him to only a limited number of posts.

When he went to Madagascar, Hunt already read, spoke, and wrote French.  After working in the French colony and in France for an extended period of time, Hunt became quite fluent with the language.  Indeed, he was so immersed that when he visited the Department of State on his first return visit to the United States in 17 years in November 1921, one official noted “that he has some difficulty expressing his thoughts in English.”

Hunt was not a standout performer.  His ratings varied over the years, generally in the fair/good range, but he sometimes came in for severe criticism for the small number of reports the lack of comprehensiveness in those he did submit, and a lack of initiative.   It was also noted that his reports were not very well written.  On the other hand, he was considered tactful, courteous, prompt, accurate, industrious, and generally made a favorable impression on the local population wherever he served.  He was quite prominent and popular in St. Etienne.

Sources: William H. Hunt, Official Personnel Folders-Department of State (NAID 3752654); Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO; Appointment Cards, file “2313″ in the 1906-1910 Numerical File (NAID 654171), and file “123 H 911” in the 1910-29 and 1930-39 segments of theCentral Decimal File (NAID 302021), all part of RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

I greatly appreciate the assistance of my colleagues Ashley Mattingly and Tina Ligon.



In January 15, 1958, Willard S. Irle, a member of the New York Stock Exchange sent President Dwight Eisenhower a letter with ideas about the preservation of world peace.  Irle suggested a “three-pronged program” consisting of the establishment of (1) a universal language, (2) a universal monetary system, and (3) a universal system of weights and measures.

President Eisenhower sent Irle’s letter to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, indicating that Irle appeared to be “a very serious fellow” and requesting that the Department of State “give him a thoughtful answer.”  The President specifically asked that Dulles’ deputy, Undersecretary of State Christian Herter “or somebody like that,” answer the letter.

Secretary Dulles forwarded the President’s note and Irle’s letter to Under Secretary Herter under cover of the following note:

John Dulles Mocks Himself

 

For those of you who cannot decipher the Secretary’s scrawl, it reads:

To C.A.H.

I could almost answer this myself – but perhaps my answer would not be consider[ed] by Mr. Irle to be “thoughtful”

JFD

Herter, signing as “Acting Secretary” in Dulles’s absence, responded on February 1, with a two-and-a-half page letter prepared in the Department’s Public Services DivisionThe letter thanked Irle for his “thoughtful comments and suggestions” and made the following points:

● the U.S. Government did not support a world-wide language program because of differences in educational systems and the problem of illiteracy around the world.  The letter did note, however, that the UN and private organizations were interested in the idea.

●the creation of a universal monetary system was problematic as evidenced by problems encountered by the International Monetary Fund in its work.  Nevertheless, the U.S. Government planned to continue working through the IMF to achieve that organization’s goals.

●noted that the U.S. had been participating in the activities of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures since 1878, and that organization’s primary objective was to promote standardization of the basic units of weights and measures.

Source: President Eisenhower to Secretary of State Dulles, January 20, 1958; Secretary Dulles to Under Secretary Herter, January 20, 1958; Acting Secretary Herter to Willard Irle, February 1, 1958 all in File 600.001/1-2058, 1955-59 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.  Irle’s letter was returned to President Eisenhower and is now on file in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Papers as President, Administration Series, Christian Herter (3).

I thank my colleagues Karl Weissenbach and Mary Burtzloff at the Library for their assistance.

 



Noted broadcast journalist Richard C. Hottelet died on December 17, 2014.  He was a great journalist and notable presence on television.  I am old enough to remember reports ending with “Richard C. Hottelet, CBS News.”  The obituaries published in the wake of his death have focused on his journalistic career, and rightfully so.  It is worth noting, however, that Hottelet served his country as an employee of the Office of War Information (OWI) between stints as a practicing journalist.  OWI was responsible for formulating and implementing information programs to promote, in the United States and abroad, understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.

After working for OWI stateside, Hottelet moved to the OWI office in London where he served as an Assistant Representative of the Overseas Operations Branch.  Among the files of the Department of State are a few documents relating to Hottelet’s posting to London.  Included with the initial communication from OWI to the Department, is a brief biographical statement.  Oddly, that document does not mention Hottelet’s imprisonment by Nazi Germany from March to July 1941 on suspicion of spying.  Hottelet left OWI and joined CBS News in time to cover the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.  He became known as one of the “Murrow Boys,” a group of journalists hired by Edward R. Murrow.

103.916602[387.1

103.916602[387.2

103.916602[387.3

103.916602[387.4

103.916602[387.5

103.916602[387.6

103.916602[387.7

 

Source: File 103.916602/387, July 31, 1942 and subsequent, 1940-44 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.



Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park. 

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

During August and September Galland lobbied unsuccessfully against the plane being used as a bomber. During September, 72 were produced as bombers and only 19 as fighters. Galland was, however, able to organize a small fighter test group with a few Me-262s. In  September an American daylight raid on the Messerschmitt works at Augsburg and the neighboring airfield of Lechfeld, resulted in the I/KG 51—which was being refitted with Me-262s—and Galland’s test group being subject to the attack. Six Me-262 fighters were all that they could send up to meet the attackers. They were unable to prevent the 60 Me-262s, which were to be used as “Blitz bombers,” from being destroyed on the ground.

At the beginning of October, apparently on orders from Hitler, Major Walter Nowotny, one of Germany’s most successful fighter pilots on the eastern front, and his Me-262 fighter unit—now a Gruppe—were posted to the airfields of Achmer and Hesepe, near Osnabrück, athwart the main American bomber approach route. Nowotny, who had replaced Thierfelder after his death, soon recognized that much training would be necessary before he could expect to lead his team with any prospect of success. Luftwaffe Command, however, demanded operations forthwith. The daily sorties they could put up against the enemy formations and their fighter escort numbered a mere three or four. Yet, in the course of a month, these few jets knocked out between 22 and 50 aircraft. By the end of October, they themselves had been reduced from 30 to three serviceable planes—less as a result of enemy action, nearly all owing to technical problems and pilot errors.

During October, 65 Me-262s were produced as bombers and because of the growing necessity to have more fighters attacking the ever increasing Allied bomber formations, 52 were produced as fighters.It was this necessity that prompted, in October, aircraft production concentrating almost solely on fighters, with seven new types coming into production (Me-262, Ar-234, Ta-154, Me-163, Do-335, Ju- 388, and He-162).

Also, because of their relative success, Hitler was convinced that the Me-262 was really an excellent fighter plane, and in November he permitted the formation of the first jet-fighter wing.

On November 8, five Me-262s of Nowotny’s unit took off from their bases near Osnabrück to battle the American bombers, which day after day had been subjecting the jet airfield to fight-bomber attacks. So much so that the Me-262s had only been able to take off and land under the protection of a whole Gruppe of Fw-190s and concentrated flak. Nowotny shot one American plane and then reported one engine failing, and shortly thereafter he was attack by a flock of P-51s, and either was shot down or crashed. In either case he died.

Around the middle of November there was to be a two-day discussion under the chairmanship of Goering at Gatow airfield in the western outskirts of Berlin. All highly decorated unit commanders, including the heads of bomber, fighter, and reconnaissance commands, were to be present. Goering told them he wanted their help to give the Luftwaffe back its reputation. He said:

“The German people expects that because we have failed – failed disgracefully. This is the Luftwaffe’s darkest hour. The nation cannot understand why it is that the Allied bombers can come waltzing over the Reich as they did on the very day of our party congress and the fighters do not take off – because of fog, or because they are not ready, or because they are indisposed….”

He forbade any repetition of “fruitless wrangling” regarding the question of whether the Me-262 should be used as a fighter or as a bomber since his decision to give the plane to his vastly more experienced bomber pilots was already of long standing.

Goering said they were on the threshold of the battle that will win us the war [undoubtedly a reference to the Ardennes counteroffensive]. Then saying that commitments prevented him from leading the discussion, he was having the General of Bomber Pilots take his place. And as he was leaving he said he would like to break the news that the General of Fighter Pilots had been promoted to the rank of Generalleutnant. “My dead Galland, I share your delight.” Then he left.

The heads of the fighter, reconnaissance, and bomber commands reported in a few words on the situation in their respective departments. They were largely devoted to the weaknesses, the stoppages, the things that were no longer functioning. The night fighters were doing more than their sting, but they were short of aircraft and their organization was in a bad way. According to Steinhoff, the daytime fighter defenses against the mass attacks of the four-engine bombers was so hopeless a prospect as to be hardly worth taking about. “The ban on discussion of the Me-262,” according to Steinhoff, “made things even more futile.”

Next the General of Bomber Pilots talked about the notion of mass bombing England. “We knew, every one of us, that nothing could be done that would make any difference, nothing that might have diverted the ineluctable course of events.”Even if a tentative effort had been made to build a proper aircraft—a long-range four-engine strategic bomber—it would have been too late. As for the fighters capable of escorting a German bomber formation to the island and back, they simply did not exist. “The Jagdwaffe [the Luftwaffe Fighter Force] was not even capable of providing effective air defense over the Reich.” Still, according to Steinhoff, they talked of a bomber offensive against England, as if there was really a commander somewhere who had the air power to strike blows and who was just waiting for the order to let loose.

The fighter pilots, a tiny minority among the participants, followed the discussion in a mood of “baffled amazement.” Then they were told that there would be a fresh discussion on political commitment, faith in the Fuhrer and victory. A so-called National-Socialist Guidance Officerattached to bomber command gave a political pep talk. During the discussion Galland sent Steinhoff a note that read “Under pressure from the Fuhrer the Reichsmarschall has given permission for the first jet-fighter group to be set up. Do you want to command it?” Steinhoff sent the note back with two words “Many thanks!”

Steinhoff rushed back to his Fighter Group to hand over the unit to his successor. The ground and operations staff of the new group, Fighter Group 7, were already in Brandenburg, waiting for him. The ground staff were from a bomber group that had been disbanded; the pilots came from flying schools or from other fighter or bomber units. The three wings of Fighter Group 7 were based at Brandenburg, Parchim, and Kaltenkirchen, just north of Hamburg. The group subsequently came to include the experimental fighter unit that had been commanded by the late Nowotny – the man, Steinhoff believed, who had done so much to prove that the Me-262 was a first-class fighter aircraft.

The first machines began to arrive. They came in sections on long railway trucks from the south of the Reich. The mechanics, assisted by a team from the Messerschmitt works, started assembling them. The wing commanders who took the young pilots in hand and trained them were all successful fighter pilots with front experience but even they did not really have enough experienceagainst four-engine bombers. Only Nowotny’s old experimental unit—now the third wing of the group—had been in numerous aerial engagements to work out combat tactics for jet fighters.By the end of November they were in the air, training in flights of three and in small formations. It took six weeks before Steinhoff felt that a unit was taking shape; that is, before they were able to start proper formation training, and he could report that, within limits, they were ready for action.

Colonel Günther Lützow, at that time commander of the 4th Air Division, came to see how they were getting on. He was, according to Steinhoff, impressed by the technical breakthrough represented by the 7 Fighter Group having gotten the Me-262 ready for combat duty, and said they were on the threshold of a new era in the battle against the four-engine bombers. Lützow said that Galland had not seen Goering for weeks. His attempts to have the Jagdwaffe made the sole focus of their air-armament effort had evoked no reaction. The intrigues about his person appeared finally to have undermined Goering’s and Hitler’s confidence in his continued fitness for the post of General of Fighter Pilots, and it looked as if his dismissal was only a matter of time.

Towards the end of November Steinhoff received a message asking him to meet Galland the next day in Parchim, where one of the wings of 7 Fighter Group was organizing. When they met, Galland, after listening to Steinhoff’s report on the unit, abruptly vented his ill humor by accusing Steinhoff of not getting the unit on its feet fast enough and not acting rigorously enough, and told Steinhoff to get his group flight fitted out first and show what the aircraft could do in action. Steinhoff said he would. Galland calmed down and said, forget it. Then he complained about Goering. And before leaving he told Steinhoff to be careful of criticizing his superiors, because he was on the black list and that if it was any consolation, Galland went on, that he was on the list was well.

Meanwhile, it was only at the beginning of November that Speer and Saur succeeded in persuading Hitler to allow the Me-262 to be produced and used as a fighter.During November, 101 Me-262s were built as fighters and during December the number increased to either 124 or 125. During those two months none were produced as bombers.

But of the Me-262s produced as fighter during the last quarter of 1944, the number that actually went into combat was small – probably only 40 actually saw combat. Even those that were flown were relatively ineffective because of poorly trained pilots. The others were non-operational for lack of proper maintenance and failure to provide an adequate pilot training program. Because the fuel quota for the Luftwaffe was cut back drastically, Steinhoff hardly had enough fuel even to allow the minimum number of flying hours needed to train halfway competent pilots. Many of the aircraft were lost through forced landings or damaged during landings, as some rolled off runways because of brake problems. Others were taken out of operation awaiting replacement engines.

The Allies were meanwhile still flying day and night in December. Galland’s Fighter Reserve had by now reached respectable proportions and he intended to decimate a major formation of four-engine bombers by a properly coordinated attack using prop fighters in conjunction with their jets. A difficulty facing him, however, was the Me-262’s limited range and flying time. On the other hand its climbing capacity meant that it could take off very late and, the bombers flying relatively slowly, could contact the enemy with great precision.

Steinhoff reckoned to fly their first big operation in early January, since the winter high that usually sets in around that time promised the ideal kind of weather for their plan. To enable Galland to make the best possible use of his fighter power while the bomber formation in the Reich’s air space, he decided to move Steinhoff group to the west of the country. The idea was that the jets should have first go at the enemy in order to scatter the fighter escort and shake up the bomber formation, thus making thing easier for the prop fighter groups of the Fighter Reserve, which would attack further east. With the object of finding two or three airfields suitable for jet fighters, Steinhoff drove west a few days before Christmas to have a look at fields around Soest, north of the Ruhr district, and on the Lower Rhine.

Just as Steinhoff finished his tour, around Christmas, he was informed that a new commander had been appointed in his place, and that further duties would be determined in due course. Steinhoff, knowing it probably would not do much good because Galland himself was on the way out, went to see Galland about his situation. After listening to Steinhoff said “You know yourself I can’t do anything for you. No one up there listens to me any more anyway.”  Galland ended the conversation by stating “’We lost this war long ago,’ he said somberly.”

In all, before the end of the war a grand total of 1,308 Me-262s were said to have been built, although thanks to Hitler’s order that this type should be used as a fighter-bomber, only a small percentage of them became operational owing to the delays caused by the execution of the necessary modifications.And Hitler’s insistence upon the use of the Me-262 as a bomber delayed its production and operational use as a fighter by six months, thereby depriving Germany’s air defense of a new and effective weapon.

The full-citation version of this post can be found here.

Archival Sources:

European Survey Published Reports and Supporting Records, 1937-1945 (Entry I-10 6, NAID 560340), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Interrogation Reports and Transcripts of Interrogations of German Industrial, Military, and Political Leaders, April-July 1945, “USSBS Interrogations,” (Entry I-10 31, NAID 561363), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Published Sources:

Bekker, Cajur. The Luftwaffe War Diaries (New York: Ballantine Books, 1973).

Galland, Adolf. The First and The Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1957).

Messerschmitt, Dr. Willi. “The ME-262: Development, Experience, Success, and Prospects,” in David C. Isby, ed., Fighting The Bombers: The Luftwaffe’s Struggle Against the Allied Bomber Offensive (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2003).

 

 



It might surprise some to learn that government bureaucrats have a sense of humor and that it occasionally appears among the records preserved in the National Archives.  One such instance was recently located in the files of the World War II-era Office of War Information (OWI).  That agency was responsible for formulating and implementing information programs to promote, in the United States and abroad, understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.

In December 1942, even as the U.S. and its allies made slight progress towards victory in World War II, one official in OWI’s News Bureau prepared a report with the subject “SANTA CLAUS.”  The memorandum dealt with rumors “concerning the alleged appearance of a man in whiskers who . . . come down many chimneys bringing gifts to hundreds of American homes” and provided an analysis of the known “facts.”  Those facts touch on wartime shortages, the Allied alliance, and morale, among other things.  Only reading the original can do justice to the imagination of the writer.

santa.claus.rg.208.1 santa.claus.rg.208.2

Source: Memorandum, December 24, 1942, file Santa Claus, Correspondence of the Chief, News Bureau, Entry NC-148-175, (NAID 895707), RG 208: Records of the Office of War Information, National Archives.  (This document was brought to my attention by my colleague Andreea Vlaicu, who suggested that I prepare this blog post.)

 

The staff of the Textual Records Division sends best wishes for all the Holidays and a Happy New Year!

 

 

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