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Archive for '- World War II'

A wedding gift for (history) lovers

Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s special, matrimonial edition of Ask an Archivist comes from the Netherlands, and we thought it would be fun to post it in honor of the Eisenhowers’ 97th wedding anniversary.

“My friends Jerom and Natasja are getting married and I would like to give them something special. Since they are both lovers of American history and trivia, I’d love to give them some unexpected knowledge. I am writing a large group of American museums to ask if they could send me an anecdote, a factoid or a bit of trivia that surprises their visitors when they tour the museum; something that makes them laugh, think or realize a connection to American history they hadn’t known before. Would you please send me a contribution as well?” – Lambert Teuweissen

Wedding gifts run the gamut from appliances to zeolites (always appropriate for the love-besotted mineralogist in one’s life), but the gift of historical knowledge? Genius!

We think this is the first time that staff have been asked to contribute to the launch of a happy marriage, but we are confident that we can meet the challenge. This might be the start of a wedding registry service for history lovers if it goes well!

While that remains … [ Read all ]

Eisenhower and (Tank) Driver’s Ed

Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s Ask an Archivist query comes from Pennsylvania.

“Did Eisenhower teach Patton how to drive a tank at Camp Colt in Gettysburg?” Anonymous

Captain George S. Patton knew how to drive a tank by the time Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of Camp Colt. In November 1917, Patton visited a French light tank training session in the forest of Compiegne where he drove a Renault tank and fired its gun. He was so interested in the machine that his instructors had to find a mechanic to answer his questions.

After taking a course at the army’s first tank school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Eisenhower was ordered in November 1918 to report to Camp Meade, Maryland. There he joined the 65th Engineers and organized what would become the 301st Tank Battalion. In March he was told that the battalion would go to France and that he would be in command. To his disappointment, he was sent to Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was placed in command of the Tank Corps. He was temporarily promoted to lieutenant colonel in October and was told he would leave for France in November to command an armored unit. The armistice was signed before he could … [ Read all ]

The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times

 

The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941. FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.  But after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the ceremony would take place at all. With firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.

Plans for this “more homey” event had been set in motion the previous December. A few days before the ceremony, the Roosevelts had an idea. At the 1940 tree-lighting ceremony, FDR raised the issue to the crowds gathered on the Ellipse, “Next year the celebration must take place on the South End of the White House, where all can see the tree,” and “all you good people” would be invited to the gardens of the Executive Mansion to hear the President deliver his message.

A few months later, FDR wrote a memo to Col. Edward Starling,  the head of the Secret Service detail: “I was not fooling and I think the proper place for the tree is right next to the fence at the south end of the White House … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, was the first Presidential library built in the United States. President Roosevelt led its conception and building, and he is the only President to have used his library while in office.

FDR decided to build the library in order to preserve the documents he had written and collected throughout his life. Before Roosevelt, Presidential papers were considered the property of the President. The documents were taken from the White House by the President when he left office and were later sold, scattered, or kept privately within families. Some Presidential records eventually landed in the Library of Congress, but not many, to the frustration of historians. The Roosevelt Library and all succeeding Presidential Libraries preserve Presidential papers for the public and educate the public about the past. The public is welcome to use the research rooms at all 13 Presidential Libraries.

But the library doesn’t only hold President Roosevelt’s official papers.

While the library undergoes a major renovation to bring its infrastructure up to the Archives’ preservation standards, the museum is presenting the largest photography exhibit ever assembled on the lives of the Roosevelts. “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives” includes nearly 1,000 images of their childhoods, family life, and political careers, as well as candid film shot by the Roosevelt family and audio … [ Read all ]

John F. Kennedy and PT Boat 59

Today’s post is written by archivist Dr. Greg Bradsher.

When one thinks about President Kennedy’s naval career in World War II, what most often comes to mind is his command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109.

Thanks to the 1963 movie PT 109, adapted from the 1961 book PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II by Robert J. Donovan, Kennedy’s wartime exploits with PT-109 were well-publicized and became part of the Kennedy legend (see Stephen Plotkins’s “Sixty Years Later, the Story of PT-109 Still Captivates” in the summer 2003 issue of Prologue.)

What few people realize is that after the loss of PT-109, Kennedy was given command of another boat: PT-59. Actually, the last scene in the movie PT 109 shows Kennedy and this boat sailing off into the sunset to begin new adventures on his path to the White House.

The story of Kennedy and PT-59 begins on the morning of August 2, 1943, in the Solomon Islands, when PT-109. Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy, USNR, was in command when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and sunk. Kennedy and the surviving crew members were rescued on August 8, and Kennedy was then sent to Tulagi Island to recover.

But Kennedy was eager to get back into the fight, and he was soon was assigned to command PT-59. He reported … [ Read all ]