FDR and the GI Bill of Rights
June 22 marks the 70th anniversary of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights. Although World War II was far from over, FDR was determined to plan ahead for a smooth transition to peace, both abroad and at home. The President proposed to Congress a way to level the economic impact of the war’s end and to integrate returning veterans back into American society.
The result was the GI Bill. Now widely credited with creating the post-war middle class, the GI Bill of Rights provided returning veterans with educational benefits, work training, hiring preferences, and subsidized loans for buying homes, businesses and farms. It continues today to be one of the lasting legacies of the Roosevelt administration.
“With the signing of this bill a well-rounded program of special veterans’ benefits is nearly completed. It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.”
President Franklin Roosevelt’s Statement on Signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, June 22, 1944
Seventy years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-day invasion of Normandy.
Also known as the GI Bill of Rights, it offered World War II veterans grants and loans for college and vocational education, unemployment insurance, and low interest loans for housing. The bill had unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944.
The act put higher education, job training, and home ownership within the reach of millions of World War II veterans. By 1951, nearly 8 million veterans had received educational and training benefits, and 2.4 million had received $13 billion in Federal loans for homes, farms, and businesses.
The GI Bill is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from June 6 through July 14.
Today is International Archives Day! Across the globe, our colleagues are working to preserve your history.
Here are two of our favorite images that show the importance of archives for everyday citizens.
The 12th Armored Association met at the National Archives at St. Louis for their 67th annual reunion in 2013. Veterans of this famed World War II division came to the National Personnel Records Center for a tour of the facilities. Preservation staff met with the vets and their families to explain the work being done to treat records damaged in the 1973 fire.
Preservation staff also explained how they treat records salvaged from the USS Arizona. Mike Pierce, in the white coat, explained the unique damage that occurred to the personnel records on board the Arizona as a result of the attack.
Image and text via the preservearchives.tumblr.com/ To order a military record, go to: http://go.usa.gov/jdBJ
For many years, Edith Lee-Payne had no idea that her photograph was in the National Archives—or that she was one of the most iconic faces of the March on Washington.
In August of 2013, she saw her own face on display for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. “I’ve been in history all these years,” declared Edith Lee-Payne after seeing the photograph taken by Rowland Scherman.
You can learn more about her story in our blog (http://ow.ly/ogFwY) and in a video (ow.ly/odrhQ )
Diary of a Sergeant
Harold Russell is an anomaly in film history. When Russell was cast in the classic film, The Best Years of Our Lives, he had practically no acting experience. Despite being the only person to win two Academy Awards for the same performance, Russell had no desire to be an actor. Moreover, Russell’s rise to stardom came in spite of two iron hooks that substituted for hands. In fact, his cinematic success was because of them.
On June 6, 1944, as thousands of U.S. troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, Sergeant Harold Russell was stationed in Mackall, North Carolina. While performing a routine demonstration, a faulty fuse caused a brick of TNT to explode prematurely. Russell lost both hands in the blast. He was given the option of choosing plastic hands or iron hook prostheses. For practicality purposes, he chose the latter.
Russell was equipped with a figure-eight harness; the mechanism allowed him to open his right hook by moving his left shoulder and left hook by moving his right shoulder. Russell endured a rigorous course of occupational therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Through therapy and perseverance, Russell relearned daily life skills such as buttoning a shirt, opening a door, and drinking from a glass. He joked that he could pick up everything but a dinner check.
Keep reading at Media Matters » Diary of a Sergeant
On February 9, 1918, 90 year-old Civil War veteran Alexander Walter had to register—as an enemy alien:
Alexander Walter was also a Civil War veteran who lived in the National Military Home in Leavenworth, KS.
He was born May 18,1828, in Hanover, Germany. He had to fill out this registration form in 1918—at the age of 90.
After war was declared by Congress in April 1917, non-naturalized “enemy aliens” were required to register with the Department of Justice as a national security measure. A Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917, meant that “all natives, citizens, denizens or subjects of the German Empire” age 14 and older who were “within the United States” needed to register as “alien enemies.”
The National Archives at Kansas City has a collection of the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits for the state of Kansas. These documents are full of valuable information for researchers.
To learn more, go to today’s post on the Pieces of History blog.
Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, watches the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War, 11/13/1982
Remembering the sacrifices made by veterans of all generations on Veterans Day.
Sgt. Thomas Shaw: Buffalo Soldier & Medal of Honor Recipient
Did you know Thomas Shaw, the subject of yesterday’s post, was a Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery?
This record, dated September 26, 1871, is the Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance of Thomas Shaw, who, at the age of 25 re-enlisted to extend his service in the U.S. Army. The enlisting official certifies that Mr. Shaw was “entirely sober” when he enlisted and “duly qualified” to perform the duties required of him in the Army.
Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance for Thomas Shaw, 9/26/1871
From the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office
POW/MIA Recognition Day
"A returnee looks through the window aboard a C-141 Starlifter aircraft. The aircraft is being used to evacuate prisoners of war to Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, 01/01/1973"
Established by an Act of Congress, POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the 3rd Friday in September in honor of prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
POWs (recently repatriated in the UN POW exchange) pose for a group photograph with their flight nurses at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. 09/05/1953. They are proudly displaying the American flag which was hand made by them during their long imprisonment at a Communist POW camp. Officer shown kneeling in front of the group is identified as Maj. David F. Macghee, 137 El Central St., Moorestown, N.J. Maj. Macghee, a B-29 pilot of the 371st Bomb Sqd., was captured on 10 November 1950 after his plane was shot down by flak and MIGs. His B-29 was the first B-29 to be shot down in the Korean conflict.
Honoring her husband’s service
This certificate authorizes pension payments of 8 dollars per month to Helena Potter. Helena was the widow of Civil War veteran Private Warren Potter, Company D, 156th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry. Helena’s payments were to begin August 8, 1893, and “continue during her widowhood.”
From the Widow’s Pension File of Helena Potter from the Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Purple Heart Day
On August 7, 1782, General George Washington ordered the creation of
the Badge of Military Merit, the predecessor to the Purple Heart.
"Adam T. Raczhowski, 89, receives the Purple Heart from Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr. nearly 66 years after he was hospitalized following a gas attack on his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 308th Infantry, 77th Division, on August 18, 1918, in the Vesle Sector near Chateau Thierry, France. Raczkowski did not realize the Purple Heart was authorized for gassing as well as flesh wounds. With him are his wife Anna and Representative Nancy L. Johnson, Republican-Connecticut, 03/21/1984"
Decoration Day, 05/30/1911
Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? Shortly after the Civil War, a group of Union veterans called for a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers on May 30. The date was perhaps selected because flowers were in bloom all across the U.S. by late May.
In 1888, Congress declared Decoration Day a federal holiday in the District of Columbia so that veterans in federal employ could honor their fallen comrades and not lose a day’s pay. Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day as the holiday expanded to commemorate veterans of all wars.
In 1968, Congress passed a law that named and moved several federal holidays. Included in H.R. 15951 was the official declaration of Memorial Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.