Decades after the Roswell Incident people are still fascinated by it. Last October we wrote about National Archives moving image holdings relating to Project Blue Book and unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
In addition to Project Blue Book we also have records relating to the alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) conducted several interviews in the early 1990s as well as researching textual records during the investigation into the crash, culminating in the publication of The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert in 1995.
In 1997 the Air Force released a follow-up report titled The Roswell Report: Case Closed. Both reports are available in the series Moving Images Relating to “The Roswell Reports” Source Data Research Files, 1946 – 1996(Local Identifier: 341-ROSWELL / National Archives Identifier: 566658). The Air Force also produced the video Roswell Reports in support of the textual report. This video provides great background information on the Roswell incident and subsequent investigation.
We also have audio interviews with USAF personnel and alleged witnesses to a UFO crash in the series Sound Recordings Relating to “The Roswell Reports”, 1991 – 1996 (Local Identifier: 341-ROSWELLa / National Archives Identifier: 566843). The USAF interviewees discuss the dropping of anthropomorphic, or crash test, dummies from high altitude balloons to study freefall characteristics and improve parachute design.
One of the interviews is with Colonel Dan Fulgham, who was in a May 1959 parachute accident with Colonel Joseph Kittinger, Jr. and Colonel William Kaufman in New Mexico. The accident resulted in serious swelling of Fulgham’s head and discoloration of his face. Some people believe that the stories of the 1947 Roswell Incident and the injured men from the 1959 accident got confused and the two stories turned into the one that we hear today. You can hear about the accident in the two recordings below.
Interview with Col. David D. Fulgham, USAF (Ret.), May 26, 1995 (Local Identifier: 341-ROSWELLa-6)
Images of Fulgham’s injuries can be seen in Roswell Reports (above).
In 1939, the Fourth of July coincided with Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium. A day usually reserved for parades and fireworks was transformed into one of the most solemn, heart-wrenching, and inspiring moments in the history of sports. It was here, before 62,000 fans, that Gehrig proclaimed he was the “Luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Just a few months before Gehrig’s speech, the Yankees opened their season against the Boston Red Sox. Between the two teams, there were 11 future Hall of Famers and many other notable all-stars. The reliable Gehrig manned first base as he had done for over two thousand consecutive games. The series also marked the debut of a young ballplayer named Ted Williams. It was the only time Williams and Gehrig would face one another. Newsreel cameras were there to capture the event:
Opening Day, April 20, 1939. Universal Newsreels: UN-11-765
Opening Day program from the Universal News Production Files: UN-11-765. Pages 6 and 7 show the lineups for the two teams. (To navigate, click the arrows to advance through the program. Click on the image to open a new window with a larger image.)
After a few games into the season, Gehrig’s performance had noticeably declined. On May 2, Gehrig took himself out of the lineup for the first time in 2,130 consecutive games. Unbeknownst to him, he would never play again. Once again, newsreels were there to capture the moment:
Universal News UN-11-768.
The script from the production files reads: “In spring training camp, Lou Gehrig felt sure he could benefit the Yankee lineup, but the veteran first baseman voluntarily benched himself in Detroit before the Yankee-Tigers game! Thus ends a phenomenal series of over two thousand straight games. But he hopes to comeback in warmer weather. We hope he does!
Soon after Gehrig’s streak came to an end, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease he is synonymous with to this day. After hearing the news, the Yankee clubhouse made arrangements to honor their longtime all-star.
On July 4, 1939, the Yankees played a double header against the Washington Senators. Between the two games, players, coaches, and other notable figures came out to shower Gehrig with gifts and kind words. The Yankees also began a new baseball tradition as they retired Gehrig’s number 4 uniform.
Gehrig almost did not speak. As the ceremony came to an end and the microphones were being hauled away, the “Iron Horse” decided to say a few words. As Gehrig fought away tears, he made one of the most iconic speeches of all time. Newsreel cameras were on the scene:
Universal News: UN-11-786
It seems appropriate that Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day fell on Independence Day. In his famous Declaration, Thomas Jefferson ascribed that “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Despite his grim diagnosis and tragic decline, Gehrig embraced Jefferson’s unalienable rights. As he famously said, “I may have gotten a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”
This Fourth of July marks the 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. Both reflect the essence of what it means to be an American.
In an effort to provide information on recently declassified motion pictures and sound recordings the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch will publish a quarterly list of newly declassified records.
This quarter’s list includes sound recordings relating to former Marine Sergeant Jon M. Sweeney who was a prisoner of war (POW) in Southeast Asia from February 19, 1969 to August 31, 1970. The catalog entry for this series (National Archives Identifier: 12005668) is not currently live in our catalog, OPA. We apologize for the inconvenience and will provide a link to this entry as soon as possible.
From April 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 the following records were declassified.
CORVUS LAUNCH 1954 (N-1930)
CORVUS (LAW MP77-119, E PRINT) A-7209
CORVUS (LAW MP BID 113D – 114D) A-7209
LARK INTERCEPT, 1951
S-7284 SPARROW I STAGE #5
S-3329 XAAM-N-2 SPARROW 1, 1953
Preliminary Evaluation Test of AN/URQ-5 (XN-1)
SEA SPARROW FILM REPORT (T-4850)
OPERATION BULLPUP EVAL. REPORT (CA. 1959) J-33412
CORVUS (ENC #3) T-8872
CORVUS (ENC #2) 1955
Mine Drops 6/15/56
BOAR [J12] 2/20/53
THE TRITON MISSLE, 1957 [J12] 07/06/59
SUBROC REPORT #1, NOL [X5/2-3] 04/10/59
HAWK GUIDANCE FLIGHTS [X11/2] 1956-57
HAWK [X11/2] 10/02/56
HIGHLIGHTS OF SIDEWINDER TEST PROGRAM 9/53-7/54 [S78-1 (126)-1] 11/16/54
HIGHLIGHTS OF SIDEWINDER TEST PROGRAM 9/53-2/54 [S78-1 (126)-2]
SIDEWINDER, HIGHLIGHTS OF TESTS [X11] 11/01/55
PROJECT X-55, SIDEWINDER, US NAVAL ORDNANCE TEST STATION [S78-1 (126)] 07/09/54
TAPE # 8 SWEENEY, INT # 8 & PART OF INT # 9, HANOI, 17 JUL 70
TAPE # 9 SWEENEY, CONTINUATION OF INTERVIEW # 9 TO END OF TAPE, HANOI, 17 JUL 70
TAPE # 10 SWEENEY, BEGINNING OF INTERVIEW # 10 TO END OF TAPE, HANOI, 17 JUL 70
TAPE # 11 SWEENEY, BEGINNING OF INTERVIEW # 6 TO END OF TAPE HANOI, 17 JUL 70
TAPE # 352 SWEENEY, STATEMENT, 1 SEP 70
Descriptive information for declassified records can be accessed by searching for the item number, ex. “341-IR-38-56”, in NARA’s Catalog (OPA). You may also search on the Declassification Project Number (NND), if you know one. For example, searching on the declassification number “NND 64803” returns entries that are part of Declassification Project 64803. A list of declassified textual records can be found on the National Declassification Center’s web page.
This week, we’re featuring a speech President Harry S. Truman made June 28, 1947, at the closing of the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Truman called for the government to protect not just civil liberties, but civil rights. The “recent events” Truman references in the speech included horrific acts of violence against African-American veterans. In December, the President’s Committee on Civil Rights presented their report outlining the current state of civil rights and the role the federal government should take to achieve greater equality. In January of 1948, President Truman issued executive orders to end segregation in the federal work force and the military.
From the release sheet:
TRUMAN ASKS EQUALITY. Washington: Pres. Truman, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial before the vast throng of Americans, demands that we fight harder to provide equality for all our citizens. He calls for end of racial barriers.
Truman’s speech marked the first time that the President of the United States addressed the NAACP.
You may view the complete newsreel, which also includes stories of political unrest in France, senior citizens descending on Washington to support the Townsend Plan, and a plan for universal military training here.
About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:
The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.
In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).
While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.
Films from the National Archives can be found all over the world. Clips from our collection end up in documentaries, television shows, museums, classrooms, and living rooms. But sometimes, they end up in places you would not expect. When dealing with archival film, you never know what you’re going to get…
In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Forrest Gump, I have scoured NARA’s holdings to find a few examples of archival footage that made its way into the movie. The actual historical significance of each clip is paired with its “Gumpized” version.
1. George Wallace Speaks at the University of Alabama
On June 11, 1963 George Wallace blocked the doors of the University of Alabama to protest the school’s first African American students. In his “School House Door” speech, Wallace argued that the federal government had no authority to intervene in statewide education. President Kennedy eventually federalized the Alabama National Guard and Wallace acquiesced. The event did, however, bolster Wallace’s popularity. This clip comes from Universal Newsreels, one of the most widely used collections in the Motion Picture department.
In Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks is inserted next to Wallace’s podium. Forrest curiously watches as the chaotic day unfolds. Forrest then rushes to the aid to one of the new students, Vivian Malone, when she drops her book. Forrest picks up the book, smiles for the camera, and goes to class like any other day.
2. Medal of Honor Recipient
In the original footage, President Johnson awards five men with the Congressional Medal of Honor. The third man to receive the award, Sgt. Sammy Lee Davis, is replaced by Forrest in the film. In reality, Sgt. Davis received his award on November 19, 1968. A year earlier, Davis saved the lives of three fellow soldiers amidst heavy fire from Viet Cong forces. He now goes by “the real Forrest Gump.” The clip below comes from the Army Library Copy Collection, 1964 – 1980 (Local ID: 111-LC-56387).
Forrest Gump loosely reflects Davis’ story. Forrest receives his Medal of Honor after saving his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. Upon receiving the award, LBJ asks Forrest where he was shot. Forrest then pulls down his pants to show the president his “buttocks.”
3. Ping Pong Diplomacy with Richard Nixon
The original archival footage features a young man named Pelton Stewart. Stewart met Nixon in 1971 to be recognized as the Boys Club of America, “Boy of the Year.” The archival footage seen here comes from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. It is part of the Naval Photographic Center Film collection.
In the movie, Forrest is recognized as the U.S. Ping Pong team’s “Player of the Year”. After receiving the award, the president recommends that Forrest stay at the Watergate hotel. Unfortunately for Forrest, people in the office building across the street are looking for “a fuse box or somethin’” and their flashlights keep him awake. He suggests that maintenance man check it out.
4. Birth of a Nation
When Birth of a Nation debuted in 1915, most films were about 10-15 minutes in length and cost $200-300 to produce. Birth of a Nation was a staggering 3 hours long and cost over $100,000 to film. Although the film was a prolific piece of cinema, the deeply racist plot line led to the revitalization of the Ku Klux Klan. A copy of D.W. Griffith’s classic film is preserved at the National Archives.
Forrest Gump is named after Confederate Army general, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest claims that the general started a club called the Ku Klux Klan and rode around wearing his bedsheets. In the image above, Tom Hanks is seen donning Klan regalia. As Hanks rides off to join other Klan members, he is superimposed onto footage from Birth of a Nation.
Special thanks to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum for providing footage for this blog.
All still images were taken from: Forrest Gump (1994), Paramount Pictures.
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