Ever wonder what the Preservation Programs at St. Louis does?…Watch this!!!
A Scrap of Silk Tells an Airman’s Story:
On June 29, 1944, 16 American planes were flying a mission against the Japanese along the Laodoho River in the Hunan Province in China. After several followed a road away from the river, one of the planes crashed into a building and then skidded across the rice fields, breaking apart and burning.
Over a year later, the Changsha Search Team reported finding the grave of an unidentified pilot. The team recovered the engine numbers and serial plates of the carburetor and radio compass and noted that “A Chinese Flage [sic] Identification which was worn on this fliers [sic] jacket, number 12331, has been found.”
Foreign pilots were issued a rescue patch called a hu chao after they become advisers to the Chinese Air Force in 1937. The hu chao depicted the Chinese National Flag, the chop (stamp) of the Chinese Air Force Headquarters, and text in Mandarin or Cantonese that read: “This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and provide him medical care.”
Lt. James Vurgaropulos carried just such a chit. James was born on February 22, 1919, in Lowell, MA, to Greek immigrant parents. He was a pilot in the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force when his plane went down on June 29, 1944, apparently killing him instantly. He was 25 years old.
Promoted by election
Election Results from Company F of the 15th Texas Dismounted Cavalry Regiment, 3/9/1864. National Archives Identifier: 3854693
War Department Collection of Confederate Records
Electing junior officers such as lieutenants and captains to higher ranks was common among state troops of both the North and South. This report from Confederate 1st Lt. W. L. Harris of the 15th Texas Dismounted Cavalry certified the results of an election held on March 9, 1864, to fill two vacancies in Company F. The men elected Sgt. William A, Brady and Pvt. Joseph B. Lyas to be lieutenants.
Before “Your Show of Shows”: Sid Caesar and the Coast Guard
Pioneering entertainer Sid Ceasar passed away earlier today, February 12, 2014. Learn about his early experience in the Coast Guard’s “Tars and Spars” troupe during World War II in this post from our archival blog “The Text Message:”
Not long ago, an Archives I reference staff member came across a Muster Roll for the USCG unit “Tars and Spars”–a touring entertainment troupe created to bolster the morale and support of World War II USCG personnel. In reviewing the document, the third name on the list was unmistakably recognized as a name synonymous with early television comedy: Sidney Caesar.
Record Group 26 (Records of the U.S. Coast Guard), Entry 108A: Military Muster Rolls, 1941-1949, File: “Headquarters Muster Roll, Sept. 1945”
A graduate of the Julliard School of Music, Caesar played saxophone in the 1930s with several prominent Big Bands including those led by Claude Thornhill, Charlie Spivak, and others. In 1939 he joined the Coast Guard and was assigned to play in military shows. After routinely displaying his comic wit with other band members, “Tars and Spars” show producer Max Liebman brought Caesar out of the orchestra and put him in the limelight of the show’s comedy sketches.
The series of Military Muster Rolls 1941-1949 (entry 108A) in the Records of the US Coast Guard (Record Group 26) serve as roll call lists of the personnel assigned to units in the Coast Guard, and each “muster” or roll call was taken once a month. The Muster Roll for the “Tars and Spars” for September 1945 documents that Sidney Caesar served the Coast Guard in the rank of Seamen 2nd Class. Caesar left the Coast Guard soon after this muster and went on to star in several Broadway and Silver Screen revues based on the comedy sketches of the “Tars and Spars” shows. Later, Caesar ventured into a new medium, creating and starring in the classic TV program “Your Show of Shows.”
Other famous people have served in the US Coast Guard including actors Lloyd Bridges, Humphrey Bogart, Buddy Ebsen, and Marlene Deitrich. For Sid Caesar, however, serving in the Coast Guard proved to be his big break.
Edgar Allan Poe: January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849
Edgar A. Poe, From the series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes
Literary icon Edgar Allan Poe was born 205 years ago on January 19, 1809.
Among the holdings at the National Archives are records from Poe’s military career. Frequently in debt, he joined the Army at age 18 in 1827 during one of his bouts of financial difficulties. His enlistment papers show the master of fiction at work, falsifying his name (“Edgar A. Perry”) and age (22, four years older than his real age at the time). The paper also described him as being 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown hair, gray eyes, and a fair complexion.
Poe’s military career fared little better than one of his doomed characters. While he managed to get a coveted appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was eventually court-martialed and dismissed within seven months.
Traveling through Lambert-St.Louis International Airport this holiday season? Be sure to check out the temporary display from our St. Louis colleagues!
Preservation Programs at St. Louis Takes Off at Lambert Airport!
When walking to the baggage carousel to claim your luggage, do you ever look at displays or advertisements along the way? Do you learn something new, or do you just walk on by? The St. Louis Preservation Programs and The National Archives at St. Louis hopes that their display at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will cause a traveler to STOP, and discover something new!
Two 29 foot-long display windows across from the baggage claim at Terminal One (the main terminal) will exhibit images and information about NARA’s preservation and archival programs in St. Louis. A brief history of the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Record Center, photos of staff at work and a diagram of the steps to recovering a burned record inform viewers about the work undertaken at the St. Louis Preservation labs. In addition, images of prominent military and civilian employees from the past, along with a listing of archival holdings, entices viewers to learn about NARA records available to the general public.
The display will be up from October 1 through December 30. If you’re traveling to or through Saint Louis soon—take a second to peruse the windows and find out about another amazing Saint Louis treasure!
Remembering Pearl Harbor: Personal Stories Salvaged from the USS Arizona
Personal Story Saved from the USS Arizona: 72 Years Later
A big challenge in preserving paper is dealing with the consequences of how records were maintained during the time they were actively used. Navy personnel records are difficult ones. Folded in thirds to fit into “jackets” or “bricks,” as the expandable brown folders are called, pages get torn, creased, and scrunched, requiring treatment. In the case of career Seaman 1st class Walter Lewis Hampton, the record is one hefty assemblage of papers spilling out of the small folder. Enlisted in 1925, Hampton served on the USS Henderson, the Arkansas, and the Wyoming, among others, before reporting for his final duty in December 1940 when he joined the USS Arizona.
Hampton’s sizable record contains a very special segment of documents - the Service Record kept on board the Arizona itself. This portion of his record was maintained to keep at close hand information on his enlistment, service, training, and physical description while at sea. It was among the records salvaged by the Navy after the loss of the USS Arizona on Dec. 7th, 1941. As Archives staff identifies records damaged aboard the Arizona, they are brought to the Paper Lab.
Hampton was among the missing after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He left four children and a wife who had initiated divorce proceedings on the grounds of years of abandonment. Although bearing the scars of the attack, his service record still details his personal description. Brown hair, blue eyes, a ruddy face, and tattoos—a kewpie doll, sailor boy, Red Cross nurse, pig, and rooster. This personal information is all perfectly maintained despite the bloom of heat from the center of the booklet, or accretions of dirt along the edges of the pages that still remain from long ago blasts. For these special documents, not only the information they contain but the remnant damage of battle itself preserve an important piece of history.
Donna Judd spends each day carefully searching for valuable information for veterans in the documents left burned and brittle by the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
She looks for separation documents so that veterans can get benefits, and she sifts through damaged files to find information for medals.
“One record could take 5 minutes, another record could take 5 hours,” she says.
To read the full story of how Donna helps veterans claim their benefits even when the files have been damaged, go to today’s blog post: http://go.usa.gov/jrVA
A few minutes past midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire broke out at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in the suburbs of St. Louis. At risk was an untold amount of information about Americans who had served in the armed forces in the 20th century
Bad fortune struck minutes past midnight on the night of July 12, 1973, when a fire alarm sounded at the North Central County Fire Alarm System. The time was 12:16:15 a.m.
By the time the fire reached its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting it. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours. Four days later, on the morning of July 16, fire department officials declared the fire out, but it was several more days before all hot spots were extinguished.
via Prologue: Burnt in memory: Looking back at the 1973 St. Louis fire
July 12, 1973 is a dark day in the history of the National Archives. A massive fire tore through the top floor of the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, destroying or damaging thousand of military personnel records.
Forty years ago this week, a devastating fire tore through the top of floor of the National Archives in St. Louis just after midnight. This photo shows the tremendous heat that warped shelves. The ashes on the shelves are the remains of cubic foot cartons of records.
At its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting the blaze. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours.
About 73 to 80 percent of the approximately 22 million individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) stored in the building were destroyed. The records lost were those of former members of the Army, the Army Air Force, and the Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963.
The work of recovering veterans’ information and repairing their documents continues 40 years on. Two Records Reconstruction Teams handle about 2,300 fire-related reference requests each week.
To learn more about the fire and how it has affected the National Archives, our staff, and the veterans we serve, go to: http://go.usa.gov/jCka
“Scott Levins, the Director of the National Personnel Records Center, recently received a letter of thanks from the folks at JPAC, mentioning the names of 32 men missing since the Korean War who had been identified, thanks to the efforts of this center, and could now be sent home for burial.
Some of the names listed were the names of young men whose records I had processed.
Sometimes, I take a quick look at the ages of the men and women whose records I am working on. I realize that most of them are less than half my age. I’ve had a good life so far. Sometimes, their lives ended just when it should have been beginning.”
—excerpt from Why I Do What I Do, by Michael Pierce, preservation technician at the National Archives at Saint Louis.
Our mission is to preserve, protect, and make available the records of the Federal government, and this includes the millions of files of veterans, living and deceased.These records are housed at the National Personnel Center in St. Louis, and can be accessed by veterans to received benefits, or by families and researchers.
To learn more about these records, watch this video.
Image: A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier. In the background a corpsman methodically fills out casualty tags, Haktong-ni area, Korea. August 28, 1950. Sfc. Al Chang. (Army, 111-SC-347803)
From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on www.Fold3.com.
On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.
Remember: All National Archives collections on Fold3.com can always be viewed for free at a computer at any National Archives facility nationwide.
The photo and paperwork above come from the compiled military service records of former slave Edmund Delaney. Read his story on the Prologue blog.
Jimi Hendrix: November 27 1942 - September 18, 1970
Today would have been the 70th birthday of pioneering guitarist Jimi Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix). His creativity and nonconformity are also reflected in his US Army enlistment documents, such as this security questionnaire on which Hendrix takes a novel approach to filling in check boxes. (Not surprisingly, Hendrix’s subsequent Army career was less than stellar).
Veterans, We Salute You!
Veterans Day has special meaning for us at the National Archives where we hold the almost 112 million individual personnel files and medical records of the men and women who have served in the military. Housed in St. Louis, Missouri and Valmeyer, Illinois, more than 800 staff process, protect, and service those records to ensure that veterans and their families can receive the benefits due to them, can document family histories, and can received replacement medals and awards. More than 5,000 requests are received each day and I am so proud of the dedication the staff brings to their work, often going the extra mile to ensure that our veterans get what they need.
Read the full post on the AOTUS blog