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Archive for '- Spies and Espionage'

Monuments Men Coming to the National Archives

A new movie due for release next month tells the story of a special unit of Allied soldiers in Europe at the end of World War II. They were charged with finding and savings works of art and other cultural artifacts that the Nazis had seized.

Officially, this unit was called the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives (MFA&A) section, but unofficially, they were the Monuments Men. But you don’t have to wait until the movie, also called Monuments Men, is released to learn about them. Greg Bradsher, a senior archivist and a specialist in this period in history, tells one story of the Monuments Men in the latest issue of Prologue magazine.

Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II, April-May, 1945.

Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II, April-May, 1945.

Bradsher is a frequent contributor to Prologue and an archivist specializing in World War II intelligence, looted assets, and war crimes.
In his article, Bradsher provides an account of how U.S. soldiers found a cache of treasures and called in the Monuments Men.
The most unusual find was a group of four caskets—with the remains of Frederick the Great, Frederick William I, and President Paul von Hindenberg and his wife. What happened to them? Bradsher has the answer.

The movie has an all-star cast: Oscar … [ Read all ]

Flying Saucers, Popular Mechanics, and the National Archives

The reports were among the thousands of pieces of paper waiting to be processed in a group of 100 boxes. But a few pieces of paper—with schematics that looked like they were right out of a 1950s sci-fi flick—were destined for a featured article in Popular Mechanics.

But first the documents were spotted by Michael Rhodes.

The cover of USAF Project 1794.

The cover of USAF Project 1794.

Rhodes is an archives technician. His hands are the last pair—in a long chain of National Archives staff—to touch formerly classified documents before they are released to the public. Rhodes was working on part of the final push to clear a backlog of 366 million pages.

His assignment: finish processing over 100 boxes of Air Force records. He got to work.

As he checked each record to be sure that it was in good condition and ready to be released to the public, he noticed something unusual. The box of records didn’t seem to be in any order, just reports and more reports, but Rhodes, who is interested in aviation and aerospace history, noticed an odd detail.

“What caught my eye was the icon of the saucer-looking shape,” he explains. The icon—a blue saucer over a red arrow—was in the corner of test flight reports and contracts with a Canadian company. And the strangest record of all? A drawing that Rhodes says … [ Read all ]

Headhunters and diplomats in the Truman Library

Drawing of men parachuting from planes, John Paton Davies Papers, Truman Library

Today’s guest post is from Samuel Rushay, senior archivist at the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, who is featured in our newest “Inside the Vaults” video about the adventure of John Paton Davies.

“…I stood in the open door of that miserable [C-46, Curtis] Commando and decided—`Well, if nobody else is going to jump, I’ll jump.  Somebody had to break the ice.’  So I wheeled out and dove.” John Paton Davies (Excerpt from letter to Flossie [September 22, 1943], John Paton Davies Papers, Truman Presidential Library and Museum).

The date was August 2, 1943.

Twenty-one men, including John Paton Davies, second secretary of the American embassy in Chungking, China, and journalist Eric Sevareid of CBS, were aboard a C-46 transport plane.  Their mission was to carry supplies from India to China in support of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fighting the Japanese during World War II. They were flying over the “hump,” as mountainous Burma was known, when engine trouble developed, a not uncommon problem for the newly developed C-46.

In The American Journey of Eric Sevareid by Raymond Schroth, when it became clear the plane was going to crash, Davies maintained a calm demeanor and remarked, “Just kids, kids running this thing” (he was 35 years old), and jumped. He was the first person to leave the … [ Read all ]

The Pentagon Papers, now online after 40 years

"Honolulu Conference on the Vietnam War," February 7, 1966 (Photo by Yoichi Okamoto, LBJ Library)

If you opened the the New York Times this morning in 1971, you would have seen the first part of the secret “Pentagon Papers” that the newspaper published—without authorization from the government.

Today in 2011, the National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Presidential libraries will release the entire official Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force (commonly referred to as the Pentagon Papers).

Although the unauthorized publication of the Papers fueled opposition to the Vietnam War and provided historians with unique insight into the U.S. policymaking apparatus, today’s release will finally provide the American public with unimpeded access to this historic text.

The release will feature over 2,300 pages of previously undisclosed material not included in the Senator Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers, the most commonly referenced compilation of the Papers.

So what were the Pentagon Papers?

Following the 1954 Geneva Accords, the United States assumed a substantial role in the political and military development of South Vietnam. In order to prevent the new nation from falling into the communist sphere of influence in Southeast Asia, the Eisenhower administration provided the government of Ngo Dinh Diem with billions of dollars in economic and military aid. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson continued authorizing similar assistance prior the … [ Read all ]

Pennsylvania Avenue Hotline

Today’s guest post comes from David Coleman,  associate professor at the University of Virginia and Chair of the Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

On April 28, W.W. Norton will publish volumes 7 and 8 in the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson series. (The original tapes are in the holdings of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.) The volumes, which span June through July 4, 1964, were edited by Guian McKee, Kent Germany, and David Carter.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, the National Archives will host Dave Coleman, the editors, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Taylor Branch to discuss these latest books.

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Meeting with Thurgood Marshall, 06/13/1967 (ARC 2803439)

“That’s a good bill, and there’s no reason why you ought to keep a majority from beating it. If you can beat it, go on and beat it, but you oughtn’t to hold it up. You ought to give me a fair shake and give me a chance to vote on it.”
—LBJ to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, 6:24 p.m., June 22, 1964

 

Behind-the-scenes discussions between the White House and Capitol Hill can be an essential piece of the puzzle in understanding how and why legislation was passed, rejected, or changed, or even a government shutdown averted. But they’re typically

[ Read all ]