Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates



Contact Us

The Ike Jacket

Today’s post comes from Timothy Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. In honor of Veterans Day and those who have worn a uniform while serving their country, here’s the story behind the famous jacket now on display in our exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the Army’s World War II military uniform to be restricting and poorly suited for combat. Instead he had a standard issue wool field jacket tailored to be “very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking.” The resulting “Eisenhower jacket” or “Ike jacket,” as it came to be known, was standard issue to American troops after November 1944. This “Ike jacket” was worn by Eisenhower.

One of General Eisenhower's jackets is currently on display in the "Making Their Mark" exhibit at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

One of General Eisenhower’s jackets is currently on display in the “Making Their Mark” exhibit at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Ike urged theater-wide adoption of the shorter jacket in a May 5, 1943, letter to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff:

I have no doubt that you have been impressed by the virtual impossibility of appearing neat and snappy in our field uniform. Given a uniform which tends to look a bit tough, and the natural proclivities of the American soldier quickly create a general impression of a disorderly mob. From this standpoint alone, the matter is bad enough; but a worse effect is the inevitable result upon the general discipline This matter of discipline is not only the most important of our internal military problems, it is the most difficult. In support of all other applicable methods for the development of satisfactory methods we should have a neater and smarter uniform. I suggest the Quartermaster begin now serious work to design a better woolen uniform for next winter’s wear.

Ike’s argument won the day, and the “Wool Field Jacket, M-1944” debuted in the European Theater of Operations in November 1944. The iconic jacket continued to be issued to American troops until 1956, when a general phase out begin. The Ike jacket was gone from the Army inventory by October 1960, according to the US Army Center of Military History.

Buried in a plain Army casket and adorned in his namesake jacket, Eisenhower rests in peace in the Place of Meditation on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives (63-92)

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives (63-92)


The Louisiana Purchase Treaty on display in St. Louis

Today’s post comes from James Zeender, Senior Registrar at the National Archives.

On October 25, “The Louisiana Purchase: Making St. Louis, Remaking America” opened in St. Louis. The Missouri History Museum and the National Archives partnered to organize the exhibition, which features the original Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, on loan from the National Archives.

Other National Archives documents on display include Spain’s agreement with France to transfer the Territory to France, the act authorizing the President to take possession from France, the treaty between the United States and the Sauk and the Fox Indians signed at St. Louis in 1804, and six more related items.

James Zeender and Terry Boone of the NAtional Archives examine the Treaty between U.S. and Sauk and Fox Indians, signed in 1804 at St. Louis. (Photograph courtesy of the Missouri History Museum)

James Zeender and Terry Boone of the National Archives examine the Treaty between U.S. and Sauk and Fox Indians, signed in 1804 at St. Louis. (Photograph courtesy of the Missouri History Museum)

The exhibition explores treaty negotiations, the debate in Congress, the territory’s mixed culture and multilingual society, settler conflict with Native Americans, and the extension of slavery into the West.

Did you know the original Louisiana Purchase Treaty consists of three different documents? Each required a separate set of signatures and the private red wax seals of American envoys Robert Livingston and James Monroe and the French finance minister François de Barbé-Marbois.

The Treaty of Cession transferred 828,000 acres of land west of the Mississippi from France to the United States. In the two financial conventions, the parties agreed the United States would pay 11.25 million dollars to France and forgive 3.75 million dollars of French debts to American citizens.

Just a year earlier in 1802, France’s sale of the entire Louisiana Territory was unthinkable. Spain had just withdrawn the right of deposit at New Orleans from American traders, a right Spain had guaranteed to the United States in the Pinckney Treaty of 1795.

The 1800 Treaty of Ildefonso between France and Spain transferred the Louisiana Territory from Spain to France. At the time, Napoleon Bonaparte hoped to create a colonial empire in North America. President Thomas Jefferson, the leader of the young and militarily weak republic, was troubled by what these actions might mean in the near term and the future. Although his minister to France, Robert Livingston, already had instructions to purchase New Orleans, Jefferson decided to send fellow Virginian and confidant James Monroe as a special envoy to the French court to reinforce Livingston’s actions.

When Monroe arrived in Paris on April 12, 1803, Livingston had learned only the day before that there was a chance to obtain the whole of the Louisiana territory. Bonaparte was short of funds due to almost continuous wars with Great Britain, and his plans for retaking Haiti (lost the previous decade in a slave revolt) had failed miserably. He asked his finance minister, Barbé-Marbois, to see what he could get from the Americans for all of Louisiana.

The three quickly reached a deal and the treaty documents were soon prepared. The text was written out in French first and then translated into English. Although all were dated April 30, 1803, they were not signed until a day or two later. The hard work done, the treaty documents (including Bonaparate’s instrument of ratification) were put on a ship bound for the United States. The ship arrived in New York by mid-June, but the documents did not reach President Jefferson in Washington until July 4.


The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, signed in Paris, April 30, 1803. (National Archives Identifier 7891099)

 The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, signed in Paris, April 30, 1803. (National Archives)

The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, signed in Paris, April 30, 1803. (National Archives Identifier 7891099)

In a letter dated May 12, Monroe and Livingston wrote to Madison:

An acquisition of so great an extent was, we well Know, not contemplated by our appointment; but we are persuaded that the Circumstances and Considerations which induced us to make it, will justify us, in the measure, to our Government and Country.

Jefferson was both surprised and delighted at his country’s good fortune when the news reached him in Washington in early July. Yet he had constitutional qualms about his authority to purchase and obtain foreign land. He consulted with his Secretary of State James Madison and others about whether to pursue a constitutional amendment before ratifying the treaty. An amendment would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures. Although only 15 states existed at the time, getting the needed votes would still have been a dangerously time-consuming task.

Meanwhile, Livingston wrote from Paris that Napoleon was having second thoughts, giving Jefferson the push he needed to submit the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent, which came on October 20, 1803. Despite strong opposition from the Federalists, Congress quickly passed an act authorizing the President of the United States to take possession of the territory. Jefferson signed it on October 31, 1803. On December 20, a ceremony  at the Cabildo in New Orleans formally transferred the territory from France to the United States.

In his second inaugural address on March 5, 1805, Jefferson was able to look back with more perspective and wrote:

I know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger its union. But who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association, the less will it be shaken by local passions; and in any view, is it not better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren and children, than by strangers of another family? With which shall we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?

As you can imagine, the people of Louisiana living there at the time of the transfer were confused. Which laws were in effect; which would remain in effect; whose land claims would be honored?

In the new exhibition, curator Adam Kloppe wrote about “Esther,” whose life changed after the United States took over St. Louis:

Around 1784, an enslaved woman named Esther was brought to St. Louis by successful merchant Jacques Clamorgan. Eventually, Esther began a relationship with Clamorgan, becoming his confidant and business partner. By 1793, she was so involved with Clamorgan’s business that he gave Esther her freedom. For Esther, freedom meant she could work and acquire her own wealth. But for Clamorgan, it had been a business decision, and he intended to claim any property in Esther’s name. By 1797, Esther had caught onto his scheme and left him—taking her share of the property with her.

However, American rule changed everything. Clamorgan, taking advantage of new laws that hindered a woman’s ability to own property, challenged Esther’s claims and even forged documents to weaken her case. Soon, Esther was in court, fighting for the property that was rightfully hers. When she died in 1833, much of her property was still in limbo due to the changes wrought by the Louisiana Purchase (Courtesy of Missouri History Museum).

Native Americans would lose even more on a grand scale—sometimes their land and hunting grounds, sometimes their health and even their lives, and sometimes their cultural identity due to forced assimilation under the United States Government.

Terry Boone of the National Archives and Matt Gurley and Amanda Bailey of the Missouri History Museum prepare the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. (Missouri History Museum)

Terry Boone of the National Archives and Adam Kloppe and Amanda Bailey of the Missouri History Museum prepare the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. (Missouri History Museum)

On April 30, 1903, the city of St. Louis hosted the opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (or World’s Fair), 100 years after the treaty signing. According the Missouri History Museum, “The Fair boasted extravagant exhibits from fifty foreign countries and forty-three of the then forty-five states. Festival Hall, in the center of the Colonnade of States overlooking the Grand Basin, had a seating capacity of 3,500. Eight principal palaces surrounded Festival Hall.”

Cardinal James Gibbons gave the invocation on April 30, 1903, and was followed by President Theodore Roosevelt and former President Grover Cleveland.

The exposition was widely acclaimed, but it had one flaw in my estimation. As far as I can tell after examining State Department’s records here at the National Archives, the exposition did not have the original Louisiana Purchase Treaty.

Speeding ahead another 110 years, the city’s civic leaders organized a committee, named STL250, to celebrate the city’s 250th birthday. STL250’s plans were less grandiose than their 1903 predecessors, but the committee did aspire to represent the city in all its cultural and social diversity.

The National Archives was part of STL250 in the person of Bryan McGraw, the access coordinator of the National Personnel Records Center, located in St. Louis. A few years ago, Bryan reported there was interest in bringing the original Louisiana Purchase Treaty to St. Louis as part of the 250th celebration. At the time, nothing was concrete.

The Missouri History Museum soon volunteered to organize an exhibition around the treaty, and the project suddenly had wheels. We have made at least three important loans to the museum in the last decade, including over 30 documents for an exhibit on Lewis and Clark. These past partnerships had all proceeded smoothly, so we welcomed another opportunity to work with the museum.

We were soon in touch with Katie Van Allen and her colleagues. With their hard work for over a year and support from our National Archives team, the exhibition came together beautifully.

“The Louisiana Purchase: Making St. Louis, Remaking America” is open through April 19, 2015.

I want to thank all my colleagues at the National Archives and Missouri History Museum who made this exhibition possible.

From the National Archives: Chris Smith, Jim Gardner, Bryan McGraw, Jane Fitzgerald, Martha Grove, Natasha Currie, Terry Boone, Morgan Zinsmeister, Lisa Royse, Alexis Hill, Patrick Kepley, Karen Hibbitt, Michelle Farnsworth, Suzanne Isaacs, Maria Marable, Stephanie Greenhut, Miriam Kleiman, Laura Diachenko, Hilary Parkinson, Chris Isleib, Lee Johnson, and Bill Nenichka.

From the Missouri History Museum: Frances Levine, Katie Van Allen, Jody Sowell, Amanda Bailey, Matt Gurley, Katie Moon, and the rest of the Museum staff.

The National Archives and its Presidential Libraries loan items from their holdings to qualified institutions for exhibition purposes in order to make the nation’s records available to the public across the country and around the world. Loans include items of special interest to local and regional museums and their communities while also helping to foster civic literacy. Read more on the “National Archives on the Road” web page.



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 industry of America, can and will overcome any evil force on earth no matter how strong, or how long in power.”

In September, the German surrender documents were officially transferred to the National Archives. Due to the high demand for reproductions, the National Archives printed the German surrender documents in a facsimile publication, Germany Surrenders Unconditionally, which became a bestseller.

In celebration of Veterans Day and in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the National Archives is presenting a document display of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s Christmas message to his men besieged in Bastogne, Belgium.

The December 24, 1944, message recounts McAuliffe’s famous reply of “Nuts!” to the German demand to surrender. The documents will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from November 4, 2014 to January 5, 2015.

An A-File helps a journalist fill the gaps in her family story

October is American Archives Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting our staff around the country and their favorite records from the holdings in the National Archives.

Today’s staff member is Elizabeth Burnes, an archivist at the National Archives at Kansas City. Her favorite record is the Alien File of Miosche Slodovnik. Here’s Elizabeth’s story:

Researchers sometimes have the ”more is more” mindset as they track down documentation on their ancestors, but there are occasions where a single document can provide amazing insights. The Alien File (A-File) of Moische Slodovnik (A6316522) is a prime example.

A6316522 Page 1 - Application for Immigration Visa for Moische Slodovnik (A6316522), born 5/10/1898 in Poland.  [National Archives Identifier: 5349293]

A6316522 Page 1 – Application for Immigration Visa for Moische Slodovnik (A6316522), born 5/10/1898 in Poland. [National Archives Identifier: 5349293]

Moische’s great-niece, French journalist Annie Anas, had been researching her family history for about 15 years before she learned of his A-File. Growing up, Annie had learned that her grandparents died in the Auschwitz concentration camp and believed that the whole extended family met a similar fate. In 1973, Annie’s family by chance learned that Moische and two of his four children had successfully escaped the ghetto in Radun, Poland, after hearing that the Nazis planned to liquidate the ghetto on May 10, 1942.

Annie was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Moische’s children, and during the visit she learned that Moische had traveled into the United States following World War II. This fact would come into play many years later when Annie began researching her genealogy and ran into difficulties tracking down information about her family, specifically her great-grandmother’s maiden name. After extensive research, finding records of Moische’s immigration to the United States seemed like the only possibility to locate the family name. Her searches had produced very little about Moische until she came across an entry for his A-File in the National Archives Online Catalog.

The six pages of Moische’s file included an Application for Immigration Visa, on which Moische listed his parents, Yehuda Slodovnik and Yahka Goldberg. Success! Annie now knew her great-grandmother’s name and had a list of prior residences. Born May 10, 1898, in Radun, Poland, Moische had spent his life until World War II in his hometown. He then moved to the ghetto at Radun for a year, fled to hide in the woods of Poland for two years, and eventually spent time in Berlin, Germany, and a displaced persons camp at Eschwege, Germany, until National Refugee Service, Inc. paid his passage to the United States. Annie had no idea how Moische had survived or what became of him at the end of the war.

Annie wrote to me: “I was very excited to receive copies of the file. I wanted to get your answer very quickly because I supposed it was the last chance to get the family information I had been seeking for so many years. Since most of my family died in the Shoah, it is not easy work. Learning my great grandmother’s name, finding out about Moische’s life, and obtaining his photograph are all very important for me because there are not many testimonies of what happened during the Shoah in little shtetles.”


A6316522 Page 2 - Listing of prior residences, including two years in hiding in the woods of Poland, from the Application for Immigration Visa for Moische Slodovnik (A6316522).  [National Archives Identifier: 5349293]

A6316522 Page 2 – Listing of prior residences, including two years in hiding in the woods of Poland, from the Application for Immigration Visa for Moische Slodovnik (A6316522). [National Archives Identifier: 5349293]

Though Moische lived only one year in the United States before he passed away, his A-File remains, holding clues to the struggles he and his family faced during the Holocaust and providing new leads for family historians like Annie to continue their research.

A-Files were created beginning April 1, 1944, by INS to record the experience of aliens as they passed through the United States immigration and inspection process.  The files hold a wealth of data including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more.  The National Archives at Kansas City maintains over 450,000 A-Files for individuals born 1910 and prior. Each A-File available through the National Archives is name searchable in OPA.  To learn more about the A-Files and the record request process visit:

“In a Legendary Light”

We’re wrapping up our celebration of American Archives Month. Throughout October we teamed up the Academy of American Poets to publish original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the all the poets performing their original works, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel

Marilyn Monroe posing for the 3rd U.S.Infantry Division, 02/17/1954. (National Archives Identifier 531435)

Marilyn Monroe posing for the 3rd U.S.Infantry Division, 02/17/1954. (National Archives Identifier 531435)

Today’s poem, “In a Legendary Light” by Regie Cabico, was inspired by an image of Marilyn Monroe.

Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, Monroe endured a different childhood to become one of the most well-known sex symbols of the 20th century.

As a model, actress, and singer, Monroe dominated Hollywood during the 1950s and early 1960s.

This 1954 photo shows Monroe appearing with the USO Camp Show “Anything Goes.” She is posing before a group of enthusiastic fans after a performance for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division in Korea.

Monroe’s life was tragically cut short in 1962 when she died of a drug overdose.

This photo is just one of the millions and millions of photographs housed within the National Archives. Many photographs can be viewed in our online catalog and on our Flickr page.

In a Legendary Light

by Regie Cabico

I walk with simple people
who wish me to believe that I am not an instant…

I lock the door and hear a knock. An angel peeks
from the corner of a mirage…
says my mother is the gardenia

a nurse planted in her breast pocket

My father’s a secret gauze, crinkling,
the day I breathed…

I don’t thank Fate, nor count my muses
but give thanks to mathematics,
the number 7′s breathless proportions.

When I was a model, I spoke as a model.

When I was an actress, I spoke as a girl
enamored by sunless rooms and yellow bars of spotlights.

(If the camera won’t love you, who will?)

My nose was crooked like a long bridal veil
plink, plink, plink, I got married.

I knelt at the tabernacle of chaos.

plink plink, plink, I got married
and mistook vodka for water.
A gallon of sleeping pills and I dream of Neptune.

Playboy parts scattered like bones on glassy paper.
A centerfold, the portable trap of my vulgar self.

I pretended to be a baby chick locked to what its eye first seizes.
a quiet blonde shell without a libretto

whose skirt flutters in wild pentameters-
a GI’s obscene flag.

I consider myself a missionary to the suburbs,
like McDonald’s or a really long rope.

A dimestore magic trick in legendary light.

“May Day May Day” cries the tabloids,
the lack-luster pages of my weekly planner.

Housewives want to be me
but I’m only a glass bottle poised in a publicity still.

I’m just a woman. Bewildering June.
Norma Jean. Lightheaded and I have strange dreams.