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Tag: WWII

The National Archives at St. Louis thanks WWII Navy veteran Paul Wittmer

The National Archives at St. Louis staff extended a special thanks to World War II U.S. Navy Veteran Paul Wittmer on April 14.

During World War II, Wittmer served on six war patrols on the USS Tinosa SS-283. He was part of the crew responsible for the capture of the famed Japanese I-401 submarine taken at the end of the war and returned to Pearl Harbor from Japan.

The I-401 was the largest submarine in the world at the time. It was designed with an air-tight airplane hangar on board so it could surface and launch three torpedo bombers in attacks against enemy vessels or land targets. To prevent this technology from falling into the hands of the Soviets, the I-401 and the only other submarine of its kind to enter service, the I-400, were sunk near Pearl Harbor.

Despite his age, Wittmer has faithfully made his standing Tuesday research room appointment since 2007.  His tireless efforts have culminated in a six-volume publication titled United States Submarine Men Lost During World War II, which honors U.S. submariners killed in action during World War II. Each profile contains a small bio with information on dates of service, military photographs, hometown info, and the ship that each man served on until his death. Fifty-two U.S. submarines were lost during the war.

Wittmer, who worked alone for the bulk of the project, combed … [ Read all ]

Greg Bradsher: Monuments Men expert at the National Archives

Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men, the book on which the film was based, will speak at the National Archives tonight at 7 p.m. You also watch online at Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/usnationalarchives. Edsel and a panel will discuss his books as well as the recent film adaptation. The panel includes our senior archivist Greg Bradsher.

The Monuments Men opened in theaters on February 7, but its origins began at our very own National Archives nearly 20 years ago.

Senior archivist Greg Bradsher has been at the National Archives for 37 years. Early in his career, he processed and appraised records relating to Holocaust-era assets. For him, the story of the Monuments Men is a massive treasure hunt spanning the globe.

“In the mid- to late-1990s, Holocaust-era assets suddenly became a hot topic,” Bradsher recalled. ”At the time, I was the Assistant Branch Chief to Research Services at Archives II, so they asked me to become an expert since I already had the knowledge to deal with different researcher interests.”

His expertise came in handy when then-researcher Miriam Kleiman came to Archives II in March 1996 looking for records related to Swiss bank accounts during the Holocaust. Naturally, Bradsher was tapped to assist her. (Kleiman is now working at the National Archives as a Public Affairs specialist and occasional blogger.)

“Within weeks, the Senate had hearings … [ Read all ]

Nazi Art Looter’s Diary, Long Missing, Found and Online for the First Time

Don’t miss Robert Edsel at the National Archives on February 19 at 7 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Today’s blog post comes from Miriam Kleiman of the National Archives Public Affairs Office.

The new Monuments Men blockbuster film opens with Herman Goering gleefully viewing looted artwork at a Parisian art museum.  The biggest art theft in history–the Nazi’s systematic and looting of more than a million items–was spearheaded and managed by Alfred Rosenberg.  For the first time, anyone (who reads German) can read Rosenberg’s diary and peek inside the mind of an architect of Nazi policy and the top art looter of the of the Nazi Regime.

Rosenberg’s diary was collected for possible use as evidence at Nuremberg, where prosecutors noted its importance: “Perhaps foremost among the prize acquisitions [of the captured records] was the neatly crated collection of all the personal and official correspondence of Alfred Rosenberg…” Rosenberg was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in 1946.

The bulk of his diary vanished shortly afterwards and has been recovered only recently with the help of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Justice. The diary was transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on December 17, 2013, and is now available online.

Alfred Rosenberg headed the Third Reich’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the main agency for the … [ Read all ]

You won’t see this in the Monuments Men movie

As the recently-opened movie Monuments Men plays around the country, there’s one macabre story you won’t see on the silver screen.

It’s about the remains of German leaders, including Frederick the Great and Frederick William I.

The Germans had hidden the caskets containing the bodies of the Fredericks and former Weimar President Paul von Hindenburg and his wife in a mine in a remote area to conceal them from the approaching Russian troops. But the war ended, and U.S. troops made it to the mine first and found the caskets. They were in a room divided into different compartments hung with brilliants flags.

Capt. Walker K. Hancock, an officer specialist with the Monuments Men, described the scene: “Crawling through the opening into the hidden room, I was at once forcibly struck with the realization that this was no ordinary deposit of works of art. The place had the aspect of a shrine . . . all suggested the setting for a modern pagan ritual.”

Naval Reserve Lt. George Stout, one of the foremost experts on art conservation, later described the casket in an oral history interview with the Archives of American Art in 1978. In the movie, Clooney’s character is based on Stout.

Along with the caskets were treasures from the Hohenzollern Museum in Berlin, including items used at the 1701 coronation of King Frederick … [ Read all ]

“I was a gunner and a gun captain on a 90MM-AAA gun during World War II…”

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.

So I checked out series 127-GW, under the heading Rendova . . . and what do you know?

Needless to say, … [ Read all ]