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Tag: World War II

The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times

 

Roosevelt addresses the crowd at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from the White House South Portico on December 24, 1941. Churchill can be seen on the right. (FDR Presidential Library)

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 … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: San Francisco

The National Archives is on the West Coast, too!

The National Archives at San Francisco (located in San Bruno, California) contains over 55,000 cubic feet of Federal records from the 1850s through the 1980s. The records come from northern and central California, Nevada (except Clark County), Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Trust Territory was administered by the United States from 1947 to 1994 and comprised what are now the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.

The Leo J. Ryan Federal Building in San Bruno, California, is 12 miles south of San Francisco and holds the regional archives and research facility, a Federal Records Center, and a records management center.

Those interested in the history of Alcatraz and its inmates should know that the National Archives at San Francisco holds case files, identification photographs, and warden’s notebook pages for most listed inmates from 1934 to 1963. Before 1934, Alcatraz housed a military, rather than a Federal, prison. The National Archives only holds the Federal prison records. The inmates are listed online both alphabetically and numerically.

Warden’s notebook page with a mug shot of Robert Stroud, “The Bird Man of Alcatraz,” so called because he enjoyed rearing birds at Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas before he was transferred to Alcatraz. ARC Identifier

[ 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.

Lt. John F. Kennedy's PT-59, photographed in an unspecified location near Vella Lavella and Choiseul, played a key role in the diversionary mission at Choiseul Island in early November 1943. (John F. Kennedy Library)

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 … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest: July 12

"A clever idea, however the frivolity came to a swift end when Doolittle arrived for a surprise inspection."

It’s been hot here in Washington, DC.

So hot that a plane got stuck in “soft spot” in the asphalt of the runway at Reagan National Airport just across the river in Alexandria, Virginia.

So hot that our brains melted and we could not choose a winner from last week’s caption contest. So we turned to the freshest, youngest brain we could find in the office. Our new intern, YouTube whiz and future Pieces of History blogger Nikita Buley, agreed to pick the winner.

Congratulations to Tom! Check your email for a discount code for 15% off in our eStore.

So were these men hauling a plane off an overheated runway? Well, although it looks hot, the answer is no. Instead, it turns out that life does imitate art. These men are the actual crew of the place, and they are imitating the images of themselves on the plane!

According to the original caption: “B-29 Men bombed Tokyo. The crew of ‘Waddy’s Wagon,’ fifth B-29 to take off on the initial Tokyo mission from Saipan, and first to land after bombing the target. Crew members, posing here to duplicate their caricatures on the plane, are : Plane C. O., Capt. Walter R. ‘Waddy’ Young, Ponca City, Okla., … [ Read all ]

An Orphan of the Holocaust

Michael Pupa, age 12. (National Archives)

His parents were victims of the Nazis when he was only four, and he and his uncle spent two years hiding in the forests of Poland, waiting until the end of World War II.

But the ordeal of Michael Pupa was far from over. He became a “displaced person,” or DP, moving from one DP camp to another until 1951, when Michael, by then 12, and his cousin were flown to the United States and sent to a home for refugee children, then to foster homes in Cleveland.

Michael Pupa’s story does have a happy ending, and it is told in a new exhibit that opens at the National Archives on Friday, June 15, called “Attachments: Faces and Stories from America’s Gates.”

Curator Bruce Bustard says the exhibit draws from millions of immigration case files in the National Archives holdings to tell a few of these stories from the 1880s through World War II.

“It also explores the attachment of immigrants to family and community and the attachment of government organizations to immigration laws that reflected certain beliefs about immigrants and citizenship,” he says. “These are dramatic tales of joy and disappointment, opportunity and discrimination, deceit and honesty.”

Of the individuals chosen randomly to be included in the exhibit, only Michael Pupa is alive, and he and his family … [ Read all ]