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Archive for '- World War II'

Frances Perkins aided the von Trapp Family Singers

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the History Office at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Gertrude Ely to Frances Perkins, March 12, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 6600095)

Gertrude Ely to Frances Perkins, March 12, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 6600095)

In 1938 the von Trapp family singers were in danger.

Baron von Trapp, a heroic Austrian sea captain in World War I, declined a commission to serve in the naval forces of the Third Reich.

His eldest son, Rupert, likewise declined a request to serve as a doctor for the Nazis.

Finally, according to daughter Agathe von Trapp’s memoir, the singing family “refused in unison” an invitation to sing on the Munich radio in honor of Hitler’s birthday.

In 2005, Prologue magazine published an illuminating account of “The Real Story of the von Trapp Family,” which relied on immigration and citizenship records held in the National Archives at Boston.

Documents at the National Archives at College Park—in Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins’s immigration correspondence—build upon this story. These documents suggest that Perkins was instrumental in the immigration case of the von Trapp Family Singers.

Memorandum to the Commissioner of Immigration, March 15, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 6600095)

Memorandum to the Commissioner of Immigration, March 15, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 6600095)

In 1933, less than two months after the Nazis seized power in Germany, Perkins became Secretary of Labor. As Secretary, she oversaw the Immigration and Naturalization Service throughout the 1930s. Perkins’s immigration correspondence includes a … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: The American Debate about Alcohol Consumption During World War II

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

In March 2015 the National Archives opened “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” a new exhibit that explores the complex love-hate relationship between America and alcohol.

The exhibit’s curator, Bruce Bustard, has written, “These two different views of alcoholic beverages run throughout American history. Sometimes they have existed in relative peace; at other times they have been at war.”

Some of the documents not only represent the war of opposing views regarding Prohibition, but they also highlight the debate over alcohol consumption within an even larger conflict—World War II.

On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the repeal of the 18th Amendment, ending the prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States. Although the American government concluded its legal war on alcohol, the American people remained divided.  This friction—documented in the exhibit—continued throughout World War II.

"Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy." Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

“Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

One such document is a 1943 petition to Congress for the return to Prohibition, titled “Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” By associating alcohol with Hitler—at the height of World War II—it is evident that the 19 petitioners, both men and women, considered alcohol an evil.

Within the opening of their appeal, the authors … [ Read all ]

The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

Original Coke Bottle Patent,  November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Original Coke Bottle Patent, November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same.

To distinguish its product from competitors, in 1915 the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition among glassmakers to design a new bottle that was distinctive in both look and feel.

The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, sought inspiration from Coca-Cola’s ingredients. However, the bottle’s fluted contour shape was instead modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The Coca-Cola Company adopted the Root Glass Company’s bottle design in 1916, but the original prototype was never manufactured because it was top-heavy and unstable.

The first commercial “Coke” bottles debuted with a wider base and slimmed-down, contoured shape. This silhouette became so unmistakable that in 1961 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave it trademark status.

See the original patent in person at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 4 through July 29, 2015, in the West Rotunda Gallery and from October 29 through December 2, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery.

And check out the post, “Inventing in Congress: Patent Law since 1790” to learn more about the history of patent law in the … [ Read all ]

Hitler’s Final Words

This post comes from Greg Bradsher’s latest article “Hitler’s Final Words” in Prologue magazine. Bradsher is a senior archivist at the National Archives and a frequent contributor to Prologue.

A little after 11 p.m., Gertrude Junge, the 25-year-old secretary to Adolf Hitler, woke from a one-hour nap, and, thinking it was time for the nightly tea with her boss, headed for his study.

“Have you had a nice little rest, child,” her boss asked her as he shook her hand. “Yes, I have slept a little,” she replied.

Getting any sleep in Hitler’s bunker, deep underground in Berlin, might have been difficult that night in April 1945.

Russian troops were only about 1,000 yards away, and the war was all but lost by then. The head of Hitler’s dreaded SS, Heinrich Himmler, was already negotiating with the Western Allies. The Third Reich was almost over.

Adolf Hitler and eva Braun, ca. 1942. They married in Hitler's Berlin bunker on April 29 and both committed suicide on April 30, 1945. (242-EB-27-15E)

Adolf Hitler and eva Braun, ca. 1942. They married in Hitler’s Berlin bunker on April 29, and both committed suicide on April 30, 1945. (242-EB-27-15E)

But the dictator had something else on his mind at tea time.

“Come along,” he said to Junge, “I want to dictate something.”

They went into the conference room next to Hitler’s quarters, and Junge began to uncover the typewriter she usually used to take down his dictation.

Not this time, however, as Greg Bradsher recounts … [ Read all ]

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 ]