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Tag: air force

After the fire: Peter Waters helps save water-damaged records

Today’s post comes from Sara Holmes, supervisory preservation specialist at the National Archives in St. Louis.

Just before 9 a.m. on the morning of July 16, 1973, the fire that had raged over five days was declared out. The firemen’s command post was taken down; engines cleared the scene; and 9700 Page Avenue—home of the Military Personal Records Center (MPR)—was returned to Federal control. Recovery work began, and consultants from the private and public sectors were called to St. Louis under the oversight of the General Services Administration.

Many problems were obvious from the start: there was no electricity; broken water lines continued to flood the building; staff had been placed on leave and needed a place to return to work; records requests still needed to be answered; the sixth floor appeared to be little more than rubble and ashes; and the millions of records in the lower floors of the building were still at risk for damage. It would take an additional week for staff to return to work in makeshift quarters and a contract to be awarded to demolish the sixth floor.

Not until demolition and removal of the collapsed roof and the damaged shelving occurred would staff realize how many records, even near the fire’s origin, had actually survived the fire. Pooling water allowed boxes on the lowest shelves to absorb water, while records that fell in to the aisles also received protection from the standing water. (National Archives, Record Group 64)

Not until demolition and removal of the collapsed roof and the damaged shelving occurred would staff realize how many records, even near the fire’s origin, had  survived the fire. Boxes on the lowest shelves absorbed pooling water, which protected them during

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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 ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

“Think, man, think. The formula or I pull the plunger!”

Congratulations to Hugh Ryon, whose caption suggested both the possibility of danger and the silliness of the pose! Check your email for a discount code for 15% in the eStore.

Your suggestions of spinning and vomit were not far off, gentle readers. And like Dorothy, this young man was probably trying to wish himself home when the photo was being taken.

This bizarre moment was a test given in the Air Force. The original caption read: “Subjecting the prospective American airman to the falling test. The sixth sense–that of equilibrium–is the function of the labyrinth of the internal ear. Underwood and Underwood., 03/19/1918 ”

This week’s photo also seems to be some kind of test, so coming up with a caption for this week’s test should be as easy as falling off a log. Give us your wittiest caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

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Escape and Evasion files at the National Archives

b-17

The B-17s, including this one, called the Big Yank, flew many raids from England into Europe (Roosevelt Library; ARC 195654).

Escape and evasion files are firsthand accounts of a military personnel’s escape from behind enemy lines. In World War II, thousands of U.S. troops crashed in Nazi territory and had to evade capture or escape from German prisons. The National Archives recently digitized 2,953 firsthand accounts of escape and evasion during the war.

Each account reads like a Hollywood script, and although each is a gripping tale of perseverance, there are some that stand out as truly remarkable. We here at POH have summarized and linked our 10 favorite tales, including emergency landings into soccer games, fake Nazi salutes, and Boy Scout disguises.

2nd Lt. John Dunbar – It was the Fourth of July in 1943 when Dunbar’s plane was shot out of the sky over La Pallice, France. After receiving assistance from local Frenchmen in the German-occupied territory he marched for 18 days through France dressed as a peasant. For five of those days he had no food. For the rest, he survived off beer and scraps of food that had fallen off carts along the road. Three weeks later he crossed the Pyrenees mountains on foot into Spain, where he was captured by the Guardia Civil and later released.

Sgt. William Davidson was taken … [ Read all ]