Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Now, maybe it’s happened to you: that “needle in a haystack,” “home run,” unbelievable find that blew you away, and brought joy to a researcher. We archival folks live for that moment.
Let me share with you one such moment from my career. During busy times in the Still Picture Branch, the processing staff can be called upon to help answer reference letters, or staff the research room. One day in early 1995, I was asked to help with the backlog of letters.
This one from Mr. Evan Evans looked promising:
A 90mm antiaircraft gun? No problem! We have tons of photos of various artillery pieces and vehicles in our files. Or so I thought.
I spent half the day trying to track down a decent shot of the antiaircraft gun Mr. Evans requested, and I came up empty. Then I read through his letter again. He and his gun crew set a record for downing 12 Japanese bombers over Rendova? Maybe they had been photographed after their feat; the military services are always on the lookout for a good story to tell the folks back home.
In the summer of 1942, the Allies’ war against Japan was in dire straits. China was constantly battling the occupying Japanese forces in its homeland, supplied by India via the Burma Road. Then Japan severed that supply artery. Planes were flown over the Himalayan mountains, but their payloads were too little, and too many pilots crashed in the desolate landscape to continue the flights.
The Allies were desperate to find a land route that would reconnect China and India. The task fell to two OSS men—Ilia Tolstoy, the grandson of Leo Tolstoy, and explorer Capt. Brooke Dolan. To complete the land route would require traversing Tibet, and to traverse the hidden country required the permission of a seven-year-old boy, the Dalai Lama.
When the two men arrived in Lhasa, the remote capital of Tibet, these spies were received as ambassadors. A military brass band played, and they were treated as guests of honor in a city that only a few decades earlier had forbidden Westerners to enter.
They came carrying a message from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On December 20, at 9:20 in the morning, they were granted an audience with His Holiness. As a further sign of his respect for these two emissaries, the … [ Read all ]
Posted by Rob Crotty on February 8, 2011, under - Exploration, - Spies and Espionage, - World War II, Rare Videos.
Tags: american history, Brooke Dolan, CIA history, dalai lama, Ilia Tolstoy, Ilya Tolstoy, National archives and records administration, national archives blog, Office of Strategic Services, OSS, prologue blog, spy history, tibet, world war 2, ww2
Strafing and bombing missions over Japanese-held islands? Aerial dogfights? Classified destinations in the Pacific? All in a day’s work for the Fighting Lady. This vintage film captures life aboard the Yorktown aircraft carrier during World War II.… [ Read all ]
Posted by Rob Crotty on October 13, 2010, under - World War II, Rare Videos.
Tags: aerial dogfights, color film, fighting lady, mariana islands, NARA, naval history, panama canal, world war 2, World War II, ww2, yorktown