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This is the first post in a four part series about conducting research in the records of agencies specifically responsible for U.S. foreign relations. It is derived from information on the NARA web pages devoted to that topic. Please visit Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

The United States has played a key role in world affairs since its founding. The Department of State is the senior cabinet-level department in the U.S. government and is the agency designated to lead in the overall direction, coordination, and supervision of American foreign policy and foreign relations. However, records relating to your topic might be found among the files of other agencies, too. Since World War II, a community of agencies has evolved to deal specifically with foreign policy issues. In addition, many other agencies have taken on important roles in American national security affairs. The subject and focus of your research will determine the most appropriate records for you to use.

Much policy development takes place in the White House and is documented in the files of the Presidents and their extended staffs. The records and files of all Presidents since Herbert Hoover are located in the Presidential Libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration. In addition to White House files, the Libraries hold the files of the National Security Council and its staff and other high-level organizations.

Congress also has a role in American foreign policy. The Senate provides advice and consent to all treaties, and many committees have oversight on issues relating to foreign affairs. Of most importance are the records of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The work of other committees also may touch on foreign relations matters and Congress has established numerous temporary committees and sub-committees to study special issues and matters relating to U.S. foreign affairs.

You may reach the web pages here.

Tomorrow: Getting Started

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

In 1912 David C. Preyer wrote in his book The Art of the Berlin Galleries that the then Royal National Gallery did not until 1896 make any effort to add foreign works to its collection.  In taking the reader through a tour of Gallery V of the museum, which contained principally the work of French Impressionists, he pointed out one work by Edouard Manet, titled “In the Conservatory.”  He wrote that it showed a man and a woman, M. and Mme. Guillemet, “friends of the artist, whom he posed on the veranda of his studio in the Rue d’Amsterdam before a group of exotic plants.”  “It is,” he observed, “a beautiful painting, of vibrating colour, rich, pure paint, simple composition, with the whole picture based upon two or three values.”[1]  This painting, also known as “The Greenhouse” and “Wintergarden,” had been given to Berlin’s National-Galerie as a gift by the Berlin Friends of Art in 1896.[2]  After the Nazis took over Germany, there were some who apparently considered selling French Impressionist works, including Manet’s work, from German museums.[3]

National Archives Identifier 575184

In The Washington Post this past week was a photograph of American soldiers in the mine at Merkers, Germany, looking at the Manet painting.  The caption read: “U.S. soldiers examine the painting Wintergarden by French Impressionist Edouard Manet, stolen by the Nazi regime and hidden in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany.” Actually this piece of art work, as all others stored and recovered at Merkers, were German-owned, not looted.

Yet, newspapers, articles, and other published sources for decades have labeled the painting as looted.  They did so based on an erroneous caption on the Signal Corps photograph at the National Archives.  But it does not take much effort to know that the paintings evacuated from Berlin’s museums to Merkers in March 1945, were not looted.  There are numerous articles and books that explain what art works were taken to Merkers and what happened to them. See for example my article “Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure,” in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 31 No. 1 (Spring 1999).

The art works recovered at Merkers in mid-April 1945 were moved by the U.S. Army to the Reichsbank in Frankfurt.  In late August they were moved to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, a repository primarily for German-owned property.

At Wiesbaden Manet’s Wintergarden (like the other German-owned art works) were recorded on Property Cards, documenting accessions and transfers.  The Manet work was assigned the accession identification WIE 0/199, with the presumed owner being listed as Berlin’s National-Galerie. The cards erroneously indicate that the painting had been deposited at Merkers in March 1944, when it was actually in March 1945. The cards show the painting arriving at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point during August-September 1945 and leaving in November 1945, with the location on August 31, 1946, being Washington.  Manet’s work was sent in November 1945, along with some 200 other German-owned art works, to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Art and other museums.  The catalogue for the exhibit very carefully listed how the German museums received the art works, to dispel any belief that any of the works had been looted. The property card for its accessioning shows that it returned to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point on May 5, 1949 and left again on May 31, 1949. The latter date was when the work was returned to the German Government.   It is on display today at the Alte Nationalgalerie.

The property cards are part of the series Records Relating to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point Property Accessions, 1945–1949 (NAID 2431627) and Records Relating to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point Property Transfers, 1945–1948 (NAID 2431631), Record Group 260, and are available on rolls 102 and 114 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947.


[1] David C. Preyer, The Art of the Berlin Galleries: Giving a History of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum with a Critical Description of the Paintings therein contained, together with a Brief Account of the National Gallery of XIX Century Art (Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1912), pp. 259, 265.

[2] Masterpieces from the Berlin Museums Exhibited in Cooperation with the Department of the Army of the United States of America 1948-1949 (Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1948), p. 63.

[3] Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War (New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 1995), p. 33.

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

This past weekend saw the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during World War II.  The invasion was memorably portrayed in the movie The Longest Day (1962) and in episodes of the mini-series “Band of Brothers.”  By all accounts, this year’s celebratory events were a grand success.

The same cannot be said about the 10th anniversary celebration in 1954, at least from the American perspective.  The French planners of the events had invited President Dwight Eisenhower, who had been the Allied commander of the invasion, to attend, but the press of business kept him in Washington.  He designated Henry Cabot Lodge, then serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as his representative and to lead the American delegation.

The celebrations stretched over two days.  On June 5, activities focused on honoring the British and Canadian contributions to the invasion.  Events on June 6 honored American participation in the invasion.  The weather was terrible (cold and rainy); the traffic and parking even worse; Ambassador Lodge and the American military officers attending did not receive the respect they expected; and the events were not well planned or coordinated.  This is all described in the detailed report by the U.S. Consul in Cherbourg.  His report is reproduced in the following ten images.

This record is from File 851.424/6-1154 of the Central Decimal Files (National Archives Identifier 302021), RG 59, General Records of the Department of State.

Today’s post is written by Scott Ludwig, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, which was part of the larger Operation Overlord and the first stages of the Battle of Normandy, France (also referred to as the Invasion of Normandy) during World War II. It was a crucial event in the war and a culmination of years of Allied strategy and planning.  The success of D-Day allowed the opening of the Western Front of the War.

Here at the National Archives and Records Administration we have extensive holdings related to D-Day throughout the various archival units.  The Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park has created a webpage that features some of the records in our holdings and provides a link to the Online Public Access (OPA) Catalog that has a lot more.

Records Relating to D-Day at the National Archives

Records highlighted on this D-Day page were created both during and after the war and cover a wide array of topics, including the famed meteorological reports that helped decide what day the invasion would take place and Eisenhower’s “Order of the Day” message and messages related to the dissemination of it. There are also invasion planning files, naval operations files, reports communications and correspondence files from various levels of command.  Further there are also battle participation awards files and anniversary commemoration files as well as the background files for Gordon A. Harrison’s “Cross Channel Attack”, the comprehensive 1951 US Army publication on D-Day.

The webpage also includes a United News Video Clip on D-Day that is available to watch. There are also a variety of links to other National Archives resources and other US Government agencies on the page.

This new webpage is a great starting point for anyone interested in D-Day and finding out about relevant resources at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Today’s post is written by Megan Dwyre, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park

“Hans Smit Duyzenkunst lent his bicycle for the evaders transport, but never got it back. He request you politely for an other bicycle.”

Hans Smit Duyzenkunst Claim

Hans Smit Duyzenkunst Claim

While working on a reference request, I came across this claim from the file for Hans Smit Duyzenkunst in the series Case Files of Dutch Citizens Proposed for Awards for Assisting American Airmen, 1945-1947 (National Archives Identifier 5709392), informally known as the “Dutch Helper Files.”[1]

The case files, compiled by the Award Branch of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service, Escape and Evasion Section (MIS-X), contain information on civilians in formerly occupied areas of Western Europe who aided Allied servicemen in escaping and evading the enemy during World War II. Some civilian helpers were part of organized escape lines, while others were simply friendly citizens who crossed paths with Allied servicemen in need.

I returned to the case file and discovered that Hans was part of an organized escape line, described as “the group Hoogland.” According to his file, in addition to giving his bicycle, Hans provided temporary shelter and food to approximately eight evaders and personally transported them to subsequent sheltering addresses.

The aid he provided could have brought dire consequences to Hans. According to MIS-X, retribution for underground activities was particularly vengeful in Holland, where “pilot-helping was considered from the start of the occupation as serious an offense as espionage,” and likewise punishable by death.[2] A 1943 bulletin on escape and evasion stressed this fact – “Anyone who helps, risks death,” instructing would-be evaders to protect any helpers “with the greatest care.”[3] Despite such risks, the only thing Hans requested in his claim was a replacement bicycle. The case file notes that he received a Grade 5 award, but I wondered – did he ever get the bicycle?

According to the case file, Hans’ award was decided at Conference No. 10 on October 19, 1945. Representatives from the British and American offices attended weekly joint conferences to discuss and confirm award grades. Agreement was necessary to ensure that helpers would “not be given the impression that one country prized their work more highly than the other.”[4]  I searched the series Minutes of Conferences Concerned with Granting Awards to Dutch Citizens for Assisting Allied Airmen, 1945-1947 (NAID 5709386) and located the minutes of Conference No. 10, which confirmed that Hans received a Grade 5 award. A “+” symbol appears next to his name, with the explanation that those helpers “will receive one bicycle from the American Section at helpers’ own request.”[5] It seems that Hans’ polite request was fulfilled.

[1] “Smit Duyzenkunst, Hans,” Entry UD 183, Case Files of Dutch Citizens Proposed for Awards for Assisting American Airmen, 1945-1947; Records of Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army, Record Group 498 (NAID 5709392)

[2] Holland Office, 6801 MIS-X Detachment, Military Intelligence Service, U.S. Army to HQ 6801 MIS-X Detachment, 28 June 1946, “Continuation of history of the Holland Office. Period January 1, 1946 to June 30, 1946,” Page 7; Entry UD 126, MIS-X General Correspondence Files, 1942-1947; RG 498 (NAID 5687139)

[3] “Bulletin No. 5 – Evasion and Escape,” Page 3; HQ ETOUSA Office of Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, MIS Detachment Bulletins on Security – Evasion – Escape, Set No. 27, 1943; Entry UD 148, MIS-X Security Bulletins, 1943-1946; RG 498 ( NAID 5694231)

[4] “Operations History of the 6801 MIS-X Detachment 2 May 1945 – 1 January 1946,” Pages 18-19; Entry UD 126, MIS-X General Correspondence Files, 1942-1947; RG 498 (NAID 5687136)

[5] “Minutes of Conference No. 10 – 19.10.45,” Entry UD 178, Minutes of Conferences Concerned with Granting Awards to Dutch Citizens for Assisting Allied Airmen, 1945-1947; RG 498 (NAID 5709386)