Tracy Bray contacted us recently and wondered if she could bring her father and family for a special visit to the National Archives in Washington. It was a surprise for her father, Harry Edward Neal Jr. The documents have special meaning to all of us and especially to the Neal family. Mr. Neal’s father, Harry Edward Neal, was the Secret Service Agent in charge of getting those precious parchments into protective custody at Fort Knox during World War II.
Photo of Harry Edward Neal
The Charters had not yet been transferred to the National Archives and were housed at the Library of Congress. Other documents slated for this secret mission included The Gutenberg Bible, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, and the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta which had been on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.
Agent Neal’s detailed report to Frank J. Wilson, Chief of the Secret Service, is fascinating. An armored truck “under suitable guard” moved the material from the Library of Congress Annex to Union Station where a drawing room and adjoining compartments on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train leaving at 6:30 p.m. on the 26th of December 1941.
A wonderful letter from then Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, captured the emotion of the moment in his letter of thanks to Henry Morgenthau, … [ Read all ]