Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Tag: WWII

A WASP’s Story

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, an archivist at the National Archives in St. Louis.

The year was 1943, and Elizabeth “Betty” Maxine Chambers was a young mother and a widow. Betty’s husband, Army pilot Lt. Robert William Chambers, had died in 1942 when his P-38F Lightening aircraft crashed at Mills Field in San Mateo, California. Undaunted, Betty applied to be among the first female pilots in the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.

Elizabeth Chambers's WASP portrait from her official personnel folders (OPF).

Elizabeth ​”Betty” Maxine Chambers, WASP Class of 44-W-3. Photograph from her official personnel folders (OPF), held at the National Archives in St. Louis.

A native of Hollywood, California, Betty worked for the Walt Disney Company inking cartoon celluloid cells and for Universal Studios inking cells for “picture process work.” After the death of her husband, Betty and her baby moved in with her parents; she also acquired a more stable job as a telephone operator at Southern California Telephone Company.

Betty wanted more. Like more than 1,000 other women, she took to the skies to find it.

Betty and her comrades applied to an innovative civilian program designed to employ women to ferry wartime aircraft, serve as flight instructors, tow targets for live antiaircraft practice, transport cargo, and fly experimental aircraft. These female pilots relieved men from domestic duties so they could fight overseas in the war.

The WASP program … [ Read all ]

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.

World War II submarine veterans take part in a ceremony honoring their counterparts who lost their lives during the war. The ceremony is taking place as part of an observance of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 12/06/1991. NAI 6476472.

World War II submarine veterans take part in a ceremony honoring their counterparts who lost their lives during the war. The ceremony is taking place as part of an observance of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 12/06/1991. NAI 6476472.

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 … [ 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.”

The 90th Division discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine in Merkers, Germany., 04/15/1945

The 90th Division discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine in Merkers, Germany., 04/15/1945

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 … [ 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.

Artworks that were confiscated and collected for Adolf Hitler, seen here examining art in a storage facility, were designated for a proposed Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. (National Archives, 242-HB-32016-1)

Artworks that were confiscated and collected for Adolf Hitler, seen here examining art in a storage facility, were designated for a proposed Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. (National Archives, 242-HB-32016-1)

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 … [ 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.

Coffin of Frederick the Great was found draped with a Nazi flag  in the Berterode Mine, May 1, 1945 (National Archives).

The coffin of Frederick the Great was found draped with a Nazi flag in the Bernterode Mine, May 1, 1945. (Walker Hancock Collection, courtesy of the Monuments Men Foundation.)

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 … [ Read all ]