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Unbroken, Part II

Today’s post comes from Zach Kopin, intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

On May 28, 1943, a B-24 airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean leaving only three survivors. The survivors floated on the sea for 46 days with almost no food or fresh water. On the 47th day, they were picked up by Japanese sailors and imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

Does that story sound familiar? Chances are you heard it before.

The Army Air Force bomber, nicknamed the Green Hornet, was Louis Zamperini’s. A former Olympian, Zamperini was one of the crew who survived on the raft after their plane went down over the Pacific Ocean. His story has been featured in several books, most famously in Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 book Unbroken and a major motion picture of the same name, but he was not the alone on the raft. Both pilot Lt. Russell A. Phillips and tailgunner SSgt. Francis P. McNamara survived too.

Unlike Zamperini, however, neither Phillips nor McNamara received much notoriety from the incident. Instead, they have been largely ignored by historians and the public alike, merely a footnote on Zamperini’s biographic odyssey of herculean proportions.

At the time he and his comrades bailed out over the Pacific, Phillips was a 27-year-old first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. A native of Indiana, Phillips held a forestry … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: Unbroken

Today’s post comes from Zach Kopin, intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC. 

Certificate (copy) awarding the Purple Heart medal to Louis Zamperini, 10/12/1944. (National Civilian Personnel Records Center, National Archives)

Certificate (copy) awarding the Purple Heart medal to Louis Zamperini, 10/12/1944. (National Archives at St. Louis, National Archives)

On May 28, 1943, Army Air Force bombardier Louis Zamperini’s B-24 airplane went down over the Pacific Ocean. Given the size of the Pacific and the distances covered by U.S. bombers, recovering downed aviators in the Pacific Theatre during World War II was difficult, at best.

While some submarines on lifeguard patrols were able to rescue downed aviators, including George H.W. Bush, Zamperini and his crew were not among them.

Zamperini and his crewmates, pilot Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips and Francis “Mac” McNamara, survived the crash only to endure starvation, dehydration, Japanese fighter bombings, and shark attacks. After 33 days at sea, McNamara passed away.

During the 46 days at sea, the men drifted more than 2,000 miles into Japanese-controlled waters. On the 47th day, in sight of land, the Japanese captured Zamperini and Phillips. The two men were eventually separated, but both endured over two years of captivity and torture as prisoners of war before being released at the end of the war in 1945.

Having received no word of Zamperini for a year following the crash, the U.S. Government declared him dead and awarded him the Purple Heart for “wounds … [ Read all ]

Currently on Exhibit: George Washington’s First Annual Message

Continuing our celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress, the National Archives is displaying George Washington’s first annual address from January 6 to February 4, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC.

This version, from the first Journal of the House of Representatives, shows the final page of George Washington’s annual address (what we now call the State of the Union speech). With this message, delivered on January 8, 1790, Washington established the precedent of delivering a formal address to Congress, thus fulfilling the Constitution’s mandate for the President to  “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

In the message, Washington praised the accomplishments of the First Congress and gave a brief overview of his administration’s agenda. He emphasized the need to provide for the common defense; establish uniform systems of currency, weights, and measures; and promote education.

House Journal of the First Congress, Second Session, showing the final page of President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress, January 8, 1790 (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

House Journal of the First Congress, Second Session, showing the final page of President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress, January 8, 1790 (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

[ Read all ]

Surrender? Nuts!

Exhibition Hall of the National Archives with the German surrender documents on display, 1945. (National Archives History Office)

Exhibition Hall of the National Archives with the German Surrender Documents exhibition, 1945. (National Archives History Office)

On Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of World War II. That same day in the United States, President Harry S. Truman issued a proclamation announcing the war in Europe had ended.

Soon after, Archivist of the United States Solon Buck and President Truman, decided that the German surrender documents and the V-E Day proclamation should be shared with the American people as symbols of democracy and freedom.

Less than a month later, on June 6—the one year anniversary of D-Day—the National Archives held a ceremony in the Rotunda to open an exhibit of the surrender documents.

In attendance was U.S. Army General Anthony McAuliffe. McAuliffe was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops, who just six months before, defended Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. There he famously replied “Nuts!” to German demands that the U.S. force surrender to Germany.

General McAuliffe Unveiling the German Surrender Documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives, June 6, 1945. National Archives Identifier  4477175 )

General McAuliffe Unveils the German Surrender Documents in the Rotunda of the National Archives, June 6, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 4477175 )

During the unveiling ceremony, which was broadcast by radio, McAuliffe remarked that the documents were a testament that “the American soldier, bound to a just cause, and backed by the labor and … [ Read all ]

Virtual Genealogy Fair, October 28–30, 2014

Learn Genealogy from the Comfort of Your Own Home: The 2014 Virtual Genealogy Fair, October 2830, 2014

Today’s post comes from Rebecca K. Sharp, Archives Specialist at the National Archives in Washington, DC. 

Why did the chicken need glasses? Find out by tuning into "Patently Amazing: Finding Your Family in Patent Records" at 3:00 PM EDT on Thursday, October 30, 2014.   (National Archives Identifier 7460045)

Why did the chicken need glasses? Find out by tuning into “Patently Amazing: Finding Your Family in Patent Records” at 3 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Thursday, October 30.
(National Archives Identifier 7460045)

Was your ancestor a drayman (cart driver), a hod carrier (a laborer who carried supplies to stone masons or bricklayers), a huckster (peddler), an ostler (a groom or stable hand), or a spinster (an unmarried woman)?

Discover the answers to these questions and much more through genealogical research.

Whether you are beginning your research or are an experienced genealogist, tune in to the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Virtual Genealogy Fair.

This three-day online event will be held October 2830. It’s free, and registration is not needed. Real-time captioning will be available for all sessions through Streamtext.

Our speakers include staff from NARA research facilities nationwide highlighting the holdings of the National Archives at Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; College Park, Maryland; Denver, Colorado; Fort Worth, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, DC.

Guest speakers include the Historian from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and representatives from genealogical websites.

When Saying “I Do”… Find out more on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at Noon EDT.

“When Saying

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