Led Astray by Published Documents

Scholars and others use the series Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), the official documentary publication of American foreign policy, and other printed primary sources, as sources of easily-accessible documentation.  Strict reliance upon published documents, however, can lead one astray if the point you are trying to draw is not the same as that intended by the compilers of the publication.  Thus, it can be important to go back to the original sources.

A case in point relates to the timing of the U.S. public statement on the Japanese bombing of Chinese cities in 1937.  Japan’s indiscriminate bombing of Chinese cities in 1937 shocked the world.  The United States, through its embassy in Tokyo, made a government-to-government protest and subsequently made a public statement.  The League of Nations publicly condemned Japanese actions, too.

Following the documentation published in the special FRUS-like volumes on U.S.-Japan relations for the period 1931 to 1941 published in 1943, some writers have left out the government-to-government contact and set the chronology as follows:  a League of Nations committee publicly adopts a condemnatory resolution on September 27 and the next day, the United States, through the Department of State, publicly supports the League.  Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull (Secretary of State at the time of the events in question) followed this line in his 1948 book The Memoirs of Cordell Hull.  After noting the September 27 League adoption he wrote “In a statement the following day we at the State Department supported this finding . . . ” (p. 559).  John Dower, in his seminal book War Without Mercy, put it this way: “On September 28, 1937, one day after a resolution on the subject was unanimously adopted by an advisory committee to the League, the Department of State denounced Japan . . . ” (p. 38).

Unfortunately, Hull, Dower, and others who follow the printed documentation, have the chronology wrong.  While the U.S. did issue a public statement on September 28, and that statement did include a censure of Japanese actions, that was not the first U.S. public issuance with such criticism.  On September 22, 1937, even before the League of Nations took action, the U.S., through the Department of State, issued the following press release reproducing the text of the government-to-government note delivered by Ambassador Joseph C. Grew to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that same day (from Press Releases, 1912-1990, NAID 602158).  (Grew’s report on the delivery of the note is published in the special volumes on Japan.)  The September 28 statement merely repeated one sentence from the earlier release.

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Airplanes Over France, June 6, 1944

Airplanes filled the sky over Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.  D-Day.  Some planes dropped bombs; some planes towed gliders; some planes dropped paratroopers; some planes dropped . . . paper.  Paper in the form of propaganda leaflets.  The propaganda was aimed both at the French and at the Germans.

Two days after D-Day, William Phillips, then working in the U.S. Embassy in London, sent his colleague James Clement Dunn, Director of the Office of European Affairs in the Department of State, copies of several of those leaflets (now found in file 811.20200/6-844 of the Central Decimal Files, 1940-1944, NAID 302021).  Two examples of the leaflets follow.

The first example, addressed to the “Citizens of France” by Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, informs them that “The day of deliverance is coming.”  Among other things, this leaflet states (translated from selected portions of the text):

We will destroy the Nazi tyranny root and branch, so that the people of Europe are reborn in liberty.

-The courage and the immense sacrifice of millions who fought under the banner of the Resistance have already contributed to the success of our arms.

(Continuing translated text):

-The presence of the enemy among you has imposed the tragic necessity of aerial bombing and military and naval operations that have caused you so much loss and suffering. You have accepted these sacrifices with courage and in the heroic tradition of France, as it was the inevitable cost to which we all had to consent to achieve our goal: liberty.

-I am counting on your help for the definitive crushing of Hitlerite Germany and for the restoration of traditional French liberty.

-Once victory is won and France is liberated from the oppressor, the French people will be free to choose, as soon as possible under democratic methods, the government under which they want to live.

-The enemy will fight with the courage of despair. He will employ all means – no matter how cruel – to try to block our progress. But our cause is just, our arms powerful.  With our valorous Russian allies, we march towards certain victory.

The second example is aimed at German troops.  The front says “Four Front War” and illustrates the existence of the four fronts: the Eastern front (“Ostfront”), the Southern front (“Sudfront”), the Home front (“Heimatfront”), and the Western front (“Westfront”).  Note how the arrow showing the Cross-Channel attack points to Calais, not Normandy, apparently as part of the continuing misinformation campaign aimed at diverting German attention away from the primary landing area.


“Four Front War”


The second page says “East front . . . . Home front . . . . South front . . . . and now West front.”  The numbered paragraphs describe the reverses befalling Germany on the three fronts listed.  The leaflet closes with:







“Four Front War” reverse


Source and Notes:

William Phillips to James C. Dunn, June 8, 1944, file 811.20200/6-844, 1940-44 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

I thank my colleagues Ashby Crowder and Sylvia Naylor who provided the translations of the documents used to prepare this post.

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The Making of a FRUS Volume

The Historical Office at the Department of State recently published a history of the documentary publication now referred to as Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS).  The book, entitled Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable:” A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, also is available online.  The history describes the origins and evolution of the series and includes information on the production of the volumes.

A recently found document provides a good illustration of the early 20th century production process.  The FRUS volume for 1908 included Despatch No. 265 from the U.S. Embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia.  In that despatch, Secretary of Embassy Montgomery Schuyler reported the signing of a convention relating to the preservation of peace in the Baltic region.  The image below is how the document appeared in its published form.  While marked as an extract, there is nothing to indicate how much of the document is not included:


The original document follows.  As you can see, it is marked for the typesetter.  The word “Extract” is penciled in at the top of the first page, and directions to omit the final four paragraphs are penciled in the left margin of each page.  Finally, the document is stamped to indicate that it was published in the 1908 FRUS.

From the perspective of over 100 years, it seems clear that the more interesting parts of the despatch, the Ambassador’s analysis, were omitted.  But given that the volume was issued less than 4 years after the date of the document, that information was considered too sensitive for public release and only the fact of the signing of the convention could be published.

Today, of course, the producers of FRUS in the Historical Office compile and produce a manuscript from copies of the documents, so the originals will not include publication markings.  More importantly, when excisions are made in documents, readers are informed of the amount of text (number of lines or pages) that is omitted.

Source: Despatch No. 265, from Embassy Russia, April 25, 1908, Numerical File 25818, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.  Also available on roll 1172 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M862.

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From Scouting for Custer to Farming the Plains; The Life and Times of Hairy Moccasin as Seen in the Crow Indian Agency Records

Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver.

On February 28th, 1876, four Crow Indians enlisted in the U.S. Army as Indian Scouts at Fort Ellis Montana. Those four men: Curly, Goes Ahead, White Man Runs Him, and Hairy Moccasin, were under the command of Colonel Gibbons when on June 21, 1876 near Rosebud, Montana, they were turned over to Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The rest, as they say, is history.

With the battle (of Little Bighorn, or Greasy Grass) behind them, the four men returned to the Crow Indian Reservation to live out their lives, as one sees when working in the Crow Indian Agency files contained within Record Group 75 at the National Archives at Denver. Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is a rich collection that often paints a full, cradle-to-grave snapshot of Native American life. These diverse documents chronicle the work of the agencies managing Indian reservations across the country. To demonstrate this, let us examine the historical record of Hairy Moccasin following that fateful afternoon Custer ordered him away before the famous last stand.

We first catch up with Hairy Moccasin 15 years later in an 1891 tribal census from the Census Rolls and Tribal Enumerations, 1889-1920 (NAID 1756288). He is married to Quick and the pair have two sons – Fire Head and Kills the Mud Thrower. Quick’s 70 year old mother also lives with them.

1 (Census, series NAID 1756231)-res

Detail of 1891 Tribal Census, Household of Hairy Moccasin


As the records show, the next ten years would be a tumultuous time for the young family. In the below entry from the series Registers of Indians by Families, 1901-1904 (NAID 1184790), 48 year old Hairy Moccasin is now listed alone with two different children. According to birth and death registers also maintained by the agency, both Fire Head and Kills the Mud Thrower passed away in 1893. Quick gave birth to Bird Eggs and Mary Hairy Moccasin before her own death on August 16, 1901 at the age of 40. The tragedies seemed to pile on as Hairy Moccasin lost his new daughter on March 7, 1902, followed by the death of Bird Eggs on October 1, 1903. Within 12 months of this 1902 family register entry, Hairy Moccasin was all alone.

2 (Family Register, series NAID 1756231)-res

Detail, 1902 Family Registry



Five years later Hairy Moccasin filed claim on a parcel of reservation land, as noted in this reservation tract book (from the series Tract Books, 1884-1907, NAID 1910428). The patent was granted in December 1907 and later records will indicate he remained a farmer for the rest of his life.

3 (Tract Book, series NAID 1910428)-res

Detail, Reservation Tract Book


From a 1912 ledger in the Allotment Registers, 1907-1922 (NAID 1803560) we see an example of Hairy Moccasin’s “signature.” In the early 20th century it was found that many American Indians who could not write did not feel the traditional marking of an “X” was definite, personal, or binding when signing documents; as a result, the Bureau of Indian Affairs switched to using an individual’s thumbprint in some situations.

4 (Allotment Register, series NAID 1803560)-res

“signature” of Hairy Moccasin in an Allotment Register, 1912


In 1921 the Crow Indian Agency took an interest in ensuring that the veterans of the Indian Wars were accorded any due benefits and a flurry of correspondence over the next 20 years was sent between Montana and Washington DC – such as this 1921 letter from the Correspondence Files, 1910-1958 (NAID 1135936) discussing the pension applications of the scouts still alive, including Hairy Moccasin.

5 (Letter, series NAID 1135936)-res

Letter from the Crow Agency to Byington & Wilson, December 5, 1921


Any relief Hairy Moccasin might have received from a military pension was short lived, however, as only 11 months later he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 68. We also note here that at some point he remarried, now leaving behind a widow named Strikes First.

6 (Death Certificate, series NAID 1135936)-res

Death Certificate of Hairy Moccassin, 1922, Correspondence Files (NAID 1135936)

Even after death the record trail continues as the Crow Indian Agency approved, recorded, and saved wills of tribal members. Here is the final will of Hairy Moccasin, disposing of his land, horses, and finances (Copies of Wills and other Heirship Documents, 1911-1939, NAID 1807683).  While we now recognize Strikes First as the widow, there is nothing here indicating the relation, if any, of the other three beneficiaries.

7 (Will, series NAID 1807683)-res

Will of Hairy Moccasin


This is just one of the many stories that can be found in Record Group 75. Recognizing the tremendous historical value of these records, National Archives Research Services staff across the country have been working on a multiyear project to create a new website better detailing these holdings nationwide and how to find them. To access the website and learn more information about American Indian holdings at the National Archives, check out the webpage Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives.

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Golf Diplomacy, 1957

In April of this year, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, made a state visit to the United States.  In June 1957, Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, then Japan’s prime minister, made a similar visit to the United States.  That visit came to symbolize a renewal of the strength of the U.S.-Japan friendship after World War II.

Both President Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister Kishi had a passion for golf and as planning for the visit  began, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sent the following telegram (that he personally drafted) to the American ambassador to Japan, Douglas MacArthur II (the famed general’s nephew):


Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles, May 17, 1957

Ambassador MacArthur replied with the following message:


Telegram from Ambassador MacArthur, May 18, 1957

The President and Prime Minister played golf on the afternoon of June 19 at the Burning Tree Club at which time the following photograph was made:


President Eisenhower is second from the left; Prime Minister Kishi is wearing the dark shirt. The other gentlemen are not identified.


  • The telegrams come from file 033.9411 in the 1955-59 segment of the Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), part of RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
  • The photograph is Image 79-AR-4250-H from White House Photographs Taken by Abbie Rowe, 1941-1967 (NAID 520052) in RG 79: Records of the National Park Service.
  • A selection of documents about the visit is printed in Foreign Relations of the United States: Japan, 1955-57, Volume XXIII, Part 1.
  • For more on the overall U.S.-Japan relationship, see The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations throughout History by Walter LaFeber.

I appreciate the assistance of my colleagues Cathleen Brennan and Marcus Martin in securing a copy of the photograph.




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“In Motion Pictures We Do Not Actually Dynamite the Sheep,” A Brief Look at Hollywood’s Filming History with the National Park Service

Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver.

The United States National Park system, its scope and breadth unrivaled in the world, boasts hundreds of parks, monuments, sites, recreation areas, and even the White House within its purview. Saved from development and also federally managed, the most notable geological features within the United States have been preserved and in doing so has also created prime filming locations for Hollywood when unspoiled, natural scenes are required. Accorded its own category in the National Park Services’ (NPS) alphanumerical correspondence filing system, here are three examples of motion pictures filmed on park property that can be found in the National Archives at Denver holdings.

In September of 1949 a battle raged in No Thoroughfare Canyon at the Colorado National Monument; a battle, however, in which there were no casualties as it was a scene for the film Devil’s Doorway, released in 1950. In this first image we see the cast receiving instructions for the mock battle which took place ¼ mile inside the monument boundary. In the second image we see the filming commencing. According to the filming proposal, all scenes requiring structures such as a sheep farm were set up on leased land adjacent to the park.

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These filming requests typically contain the same documentation. There is an introductory letter in which the producer or location manager explains what will be done in the park. That is then followed up with the formal contract and deposit for damages. After the filming there is a letter from the park superintendent verifying everything was cleaned up and then oftentimes letters go back and forth clarifying the proper National Park Service byline in the film credits. In this letter from MGM Studios detailing the Devil’s Doorway filming, the producer takes the possibly unnecessary step to assuage the NPS that no sheep will actually be blown up in the park.

Letter from MGM Studios to Robert Rose, Administrative Records (NAID 602229), RG 79

Today Harrison Ford can be regarded as one of the leading actors of his generation, playing everything from the President of the United States to a swashbuckling space smuggler, yet in 1967 he was still just a struggling young actor when he received his first screen credit in Columbia Pictures A Time for Killing, originally entitled “The Long Ride Home.” Several scenes were filmed within Zion National Park, such as a covered wagon ambush on the second switchback below the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel as well as various scenes along the Virgin River near the Great White Throne parking lot. From the Zion National Park correspondence files (General Correspondence Files, 1950-1967, NAID 1048636) comes this stub for the $1,000 deposit check issued to the National Park Service to cover any damage. According to further correspondence the sites were cleaned up to the superintendent’s satisfaction so the original check was returned to Columbia Pictures.

Check stub for $1000 deposit, General Correspondence Files (NAID 1048636), RG 79

There have been many motion pictures with scenes filmed at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, the park standing in for everything from a cave in Africa in King Solomon’s Mines to a cave in the old west in Cave of the Outlaws. It appears that in the 1940s and 1950s the Carlsbad Caverns were the go-to cave set location for filmmakers, including director Terry Morse of the low budget science fiction film Unknown World.

Among the film permit correspondence files within the park records (General Correspondence, 1930-1969, NAID 939395) is this script excerpt, the part of which was filmed at the cavern and possibly sent along with the request to demonstrate what was being proposed. If you secure a copy of Unknown World this scene can be viewed at the 26 minute mark.

Excerpt from Script of Unknown World, Correspondence Regarding Carlsbad National Park, 1930-53, RG 79

Excerpt from Script of Unknown World, General Correspondence Files (NAID 939395), RG 79

In all three of these cases the records seem to indicate the experience was a good one for both the National Park Service and the film studio but this wasn’t always the case; for an example of when things don’t go according to the agreed upon filming proposal be sure to check out my previous Text Message entry “’North by Northwest’ Starring…Mount Rushmore?”

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The Best Prophet of the Future is the Past: September 11 – 1970, 1981, and 2001

Today’s post is written by Chris Naylor, Director of the Textual Records Division.

I recently opened a fortune cookie that contained a saying with special significance to me.  This phrase, “The best prophet of the future is the past,” originally attributed to Lord Byron, returned to me a few days later as I reviewed a document at the National Archives.

By September 1970, the Nixon Administration was becoming increasingly concerned about the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s (PFLP) targeting of airlines for violent attacks and hijackings as a means of furthering the organization’s agenda.  The PFLP had already hijacked an El Al flight from Rome, Italy in July 1968, opened fire on an El Al plane in Athens, Greece about to take off for New York on December 26, 1968, attacked an El Al jet in Zurich, Switzerland in February 1969, hijacked a TWA flight departing from Rome in August 1969, and attempted to hijack a TWA flight from Rome to New York on December 21, 1969.  In addition, the PFLP-General Command, a splinter group, attempted bombings aboard Austrian Airlines and Swissair Flights on February 21, 1970.  The Swissair Flight was destroyed killing all 41 passengers and crew in the first successful mid-air bombing conducted by terrorists.

On September 6, 1970 the PFLP simultaneously hijacked four commercial aircraft in Europe destined for New York City in what came to be known as the Dawson’s Field Hijackings.  Teams of two hijacked a Pan Am, a TWA, a Swissair, and an El Al flight.  The hijacking of the El Al flight failed when two El Al plainclothes security guards shot and killed a male hijacker and wounded a female.  The Pan Am flight ended when the hijackers released the passengers in Cairo, Egypt and blew up the plane.  The Swissair and TWA flights were diverted to Dawson Field, an abandoned British airbase in the Jordanian desert.  The 306 people, including passengers and crew, became hostages.  The PFLP demanded the release of numerous terrorists held in several countries in return for their release of the hostages and gave a clear message that they were targeting the United States in addition to Israel.

President Nixon recognized that the PFLP had carried out these hijackings as a dramatic method of attacking the foreign policy of the United States and was determined to have the U.S. Government take the lead on addressing this problem.  He spent the next several days discussing with his senior advisors various means to respond to this growing threat.  On September 11, the President issued a statement announcing several actions as part of a comprehensive antihijacking program, including:

  • The placement of specially trained, armed U.S. Government personnel on flights of U.S. commercial airliners.
  • Extension, under Department of Transportation auspices, of the use of electronic surveillance equipment and other surveillance techniques by U.S. flag carriers to all gateway airports and other appropriate airports in the United States and–wherever possible–in other countries.
  • The acceleration of ongoing efforts by the Departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Science and Technology, and other agencies to develop security measures, including new methods for detecting weapons and explosive devices.
  • To facilitate passenger surveillance, appropriate agencies of the Federal Government were to intensify their efforts to assemble and evaluate all useful intelligence and to disseminate such information to airlines and law enforcement personnel.
  • The State Department and other appropriate agencies were to consult fully with foreign governments and foreign carriers concerning the full range of techniques which they use to foil hijackers.

During the White House Press Conference on September 11, FAA Administrator John Schaffer and Assistant to the President Peter Flanigan discussed the program to inhibit further hijacking of U.S. airlines and answered several press inquiries (see document below).

Throughout the 1970s, the Federal Aviation Administration developed numerous new procedures to protect commercial aircraft from hijackers, including mandatory screening of all passengers.  On September 11, 1981, Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 108 went into effect, which extended and consolidated airline security requirements to provide for the safety of persons travelling aboard aircraft against hijackings and other criminal acts.

Excerpt from Civil Aviation Security Section of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary 15th Annual Report, Fiscal Year 1981.

Excerpt from Civil Aviation Security Section of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary 15th Annual Report, Fiscal Year 1981.

Over the next two decades however, airplane hijackings remained a threat to civil aviation.  On September 11, 2001, exactly thirty-one years to the day that President Nixon initiated his program to deal with airplane hijackings and 20 years to the day of the implementation of FAR 108, 19 al Qaeda operatives simultaneously hijacked four airplanes and carried out the most devastating terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in history.  In his Address to the Nation that evening, President George W. Bush assured Americans that “Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.”  These tragic events reawakened a national discussion of aviation security and began anew the U.S. Government’s efforts to develop government-wide programs to counter hijackings.

This blog continues with Part II – Cockpit Doors


  • Statement by the President and Press Conference of John H. Shaffer, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, and Peter M. Flanigan, Assistant to the President, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 11, 1970; File: 1970 – 8040 – Hijacking (NAID 663289); Subject and Correspondence Files, 1959-1982 (NAID 623341); Department of Transportation. Federal Aviation Administration. Office of the Administrator; Record Group 237; National Archives at College Park
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary 15th Annual Report Fiscal Year 1981, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. (TD1.1: 981)
  • Statement by the President in His Address to the Nation, White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 11, 2001. Retrieved May 2015
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The National Archives, the Fireman’s Insurance Building and the Carter G. Woodson House

64-NA-273A Center Market, looking southwest on 9th St., 1928a

RG 64, entry NA-273A. Center Market, looking southwest on 9th St., 1928

What do these three have in common? They all are properties within the District of Columbia, properties that appear in National Archives Textual series housed in Washington, DC.

Initially, I had hoped to trace the property ownership of the land upon which the National Archives Building in Washington sits through a few series, which name the owners of taxable properties in the city. Unfortunately for this project, the Center Market building and National Guard armory located on the block where the National Archives currently sits, were on a “reservation” which tends to be government property. Therefore there was little change in ownership, despite a change in use.

When at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. There is a popular coffee shop chain a few steps away from the National Archives Building. It sits in the Fireman’s Insurance Building at the corner of 7th Street and Indiana Avenue NW. In regards to real estate it sits on Square 458, lot 5. In the District of Columbia the different blocks are identified as squares, which are further divided into lots. That is, unless the square is a reservation. Once again and unfortunately for this project, the series I wanted to highlight ranged from 1883 to 1938, a time when Fireman’s Insurance owned the Fireman’s Insurance Building. No change in owner and no change in use.

For the sake of this project, which is to show potential researchers where they may find information about District of Columbia properties and their owners, I needed to find a property that changed hands more than twice between 1883 and 1938. I chose Carter G. Woodson’s office and home. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is considered to be the father of Black History month. He lived and worked at 1538 9th Street NW, which currently sits on Square 365, lot 819. Looking back at the Baist real estate map, the lot was letter C.

1937-38 General Assessment. RG 351, entry P 1.

1937-38 General Assessment. RG 351, entry P 1. Woodson’s name is highlighted.

Working backwards, let us begin with entry P1 from Record Group 351, General Land Assessment Files, 1902 – 1938 (NAID 4748936), noting that all the series explored are from RG 351. In the volume for 1937-1938 Carter G. Woodson is listed as the owner of Square 365, lot C. He is still listed as the owner in the 1923-1924 volume. Woodson purchased the property in 1922, and this is reflected in the 1921-1922 volume where Ida J. Heiberger is named as the assessed. From the 1914 to 1922 volumes, Ms. Heiberger is listed as the owner. In the 1902-1903, 1905-1906, and 1911-1912 volumes the assessed party was Jacob Xander. A little research using other tools such as newspaper, census databases, and other online resources reveal that for Dr. Ida J. Heiberger and Mr. Jacob Xander the 1538 Ninth Street NW building was not their residence.

In RG 351 entries P 28 A and B General Assessments, 1883 – 1903 (NAID 7861714) we can look at the years 1883 to 1900. For 1899-1900 the owner remained Jacob Xander. This changed sometime between 1897 and 1898, as a lawyer by the name of Saul S. Henkle is listed as the owner. Previously, between 1883 and 1890, the building was owned by his sister (according to the 1880 census) Clorinda S. Henkle. The city directories say she resided at 1538. Saul Henkle lived there for a few years with his sister, but never when he had ownership. If we wanted to look even further back we would have to look at PI-186 entry 47, Taxbooks, 1824-1879 (NAID 1488302) which cover the years 1824-1879.

Image from RG 351, entry P28.

RG 351, entry P28. Owner of 1538 9th St NW highlighted.

Other series were examined to see if there was anything more to be learned. RG 351 entry P 23 Records Concerning General Assessments and Plats, 1896 – 1897 (NAID 7868344) confirmed what we already discovered. Entry 22, Tax Assessor Card Files, 1905 – 1977 (NAID 7788693) yielded nothing, since there were no great changes to the building structure. Another tax assessment series, P 30, Field Assessment Books, 1889 – 1930 (NAID 12021790), provided basic tax related data but, gave no information about the owner.

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Leaks in the Department of State, 1963: Antecedents

An earlier blog post discussed the November 8, 1963, memorandum on the problem of leaks Under Secretary of State George W. Ball sent to President John F. Kennedy.  Since then, more documentation on what led to that memorandum has come to light.

By early September 1962, President Kennedy and Under Secretary Ball were discussing how to handle relations with the press.  To brief the Under Secretary and provide him with food for thought, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Robert Manning to sent Ball a long memorandum.

Memo from Manning to Ball, 1962

Memo from Manning to Ball, 1962

Among the points he made were (the following are all direct quotations):


  • [O]ccasionally top officials of the government display a certain lack of reality about (a) the degree to which we can expect the day-to-day coverage of foreign policy to reflect only the assessments and characteristics that we believe are the correct ones, and (b) the degree to which we react to individual stories or pieces of speculation we do not like.
  •  [I]n almost all instances where given stories or reports seem to raise serious problems for us, experience shows that a few hours or a few days later there was, in fact, no real cause for demonstrable concern. We too often allow ourselves to react when in fact the problem would disappear — or prove to have been non-existent — if we were to just relax and move on to other matters.
  •  [W]e have to give more thought to what can be done to protect the main objective, namely the pursuit of the national interest, from harm or mischief that can be done by ill-considered reporting or ill-considered talk and gossip by government officials.
  •  I would be deeply concerned — for the government, for the Administration and for the President himself — if this concern were to provoke us into oppressive practices or other inhibitions that would not solve the problem yet might very well hamper the ability of officials to get the information they need and use it for legitimate conduct of their duties.
  •  I might give a few opinions on what produces the kind of talk and gossip and bits and pieces of fact and fancy that make up a large part of the dialogue between officials and the press in Washington.
  •  There is no doubt . . . that the official State Department position is that within the limits of national security and national interests there is supposed to be direct dialogue between officiers [sic] dealing with policy and members of the press. . . . and it is in the interests of the competent men dealing with policies to take a direct responsibility for making those policies clear to responsible correspondents.
  •  People who talk to the press are supposed to be motivated by the simple purpose of the Department policy, namely to explain policies to the American people and to make a public use of the power of the press and of public discussion to help carry its policies forward.
  •  Often, however, those who talk are propelled by other impulses:


  1.  There are a few who get a simple personal enjoyment out of talking with newsmen, out of cultivating them, their acquaintance, their approval, and . . . out of the personal publicity and identity that can be attained by press, and . . . public attention.
  2.  There are the simply garrulous types who in fact enjoy being in the know and are apt occasionally to try to demonstrate this point. . . .
  3.  There are those who use the channel of the press to leak partial information on policies they oppose, in the hope that such publicity will defeat or amend those policies; or who, conversely, will talk prematurely in order to push a policy into the open and therefore closer to acceptance. . . .
  4.  There are those who in all sincerity believe they have all the facts at their command and that they have a mandate to make them clear and forthright within the confines of security practices and other restrictions.  This type represents the best and in my estimate should be protected should there be any attempt to bring the other types under control.
  5.  There is the person whose primary function is to talk to the press on behalf of the government in the role of information officer or public affairs adviser or spokesman or whatever you want to call him. Since this is the breed that includes . . .  myself . . . , I have a particular interest in promoting their worth and enhancing their value. . . .  I do feel strongly however that more has to be done about bringing this group or a representative of this group into the very middle of the most delicate situations. . . .   Once a correspondent knows he is talking with a person “who was there” and once he has come to trust that person, he is willing to stake his own reputation on the information he gets. . . . .


  • I do not believe that there are any simple mechanical ways in which the problem of leaks and unknowing conversations can be completely cured. I would be strongly opposed to any steps designed sharply to inhibit responsible officers from contacts with the press . . . [as they] would have unfortunate repercussions in the actual performance of officials in the Department.
  • It may be possible . . . to produce a sharper awareness of the problem and to get some useful result if you were to follow your idea of talking personally to officials . . . of the Department about the nature of this problem and the concern that is felt by you, the Secretary and the President.
  • [I]t would also be of immense help if some similar educational process could be applied to that area of the White House staff that maintains its own intimate and, frequently, very thorough intercourse with the press.


By the beginning of November, the Under Secretary had not responded followed up with the President on their conversations.  To spur action, Kennedy sent this note:

Note to Ball from President Kennedy

Note to Ball from President Kennedy


Ball referred the matter to the Bureau of Public Affairs.  After discussions with the Under Secretary on November 3 (a Sunday!), bureau personnel drafted an outline for a seminar on press leaks.  Ball rewrote and greatly expanded the outline (adding all of the illustrative quotations) before sending it to President Kennedy on November 8.

Source:  All documents quoted and displayed come from the file “Press Leaks” found in the Records of Under Secretary of State George Ball, 1961-1966, Entry A1-5175 (NAID 614703), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

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Department of State Records Relating to Turkish Atrocities Against the Armenians During World War I

Records on Turkish atrocities against the Armenians during World War I can be found in a number of different records groups holding records of the Department of State.

(1) RG 59: General Records of the Department of State contains significant documentation relating to Turkish persecution of the Armenians.  The primary source is the 1910-29 segment of the Central Decimal File (NAID 302021).  File “867.4016” (Internal Affairs of Turkey. Social Matters. Race problems.) contains the most important documentation.  This file consists of approximately 6000 pages of documentation.  Additional documentation that may provide useful context will be found in other files, particularly file “867.00” (Internal Affairs of Turkey. Political Affairs.).  This file consists of approximately 16,000 pages of documentation.

There is also documentation relating to Armenia during the short period of time that it was an independent country before incorporation into USSR.  File “860j.4016” (Internal Affairs of Armenia. Social Matters. Race problems.) contains about 2000 pages of documentation.  There are also about 100 pages of documentation in File “860j.00” (Internal Affairs of Armenia. Political Affairs.)

These records are available on microfilm:

  • 867.00 National Archives Microfilm Publication M353 rolls 4-19
  • 867.4016 National Archives Microfilm Publication M353 rolls 43-48
  • 860j.00 National Archives Microfilm Publication T1192 roll 1
  • 860j.4016 National Archives Microfilm Publication T1192 rolls 4-7

Records relating to Reparations from Turkey after World War I, the so-called “Turkish Gold” file, are in file “467.00R29”.  These records are not on microfilm.

Additional materials may be found in RG 59: Unindexed Retired Office Files, 1910-1944 (NAID 1079774).  Some of this material duplicates that in the Central Decimal File.  The 1919 file contains a copy of the “Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia” by MGEN James G. Harbord and “The Armenian Question: Before the Peace Conference.”  The 1920 file contains documentation relating to the U.S. attitude toward independent Armenia and includes a May memorandum entitled “America and the Armenians.”  The 1922 files contain the “Report of the Activities of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia, 1918-1922” and “A Memorandum . . . by American Committee for the Independence of Armenia Against the Proposal of an ‘Armenian Home’ in Turkey.” The 1928 files contain an August 1928 memo on “President Wilson’s Armenian Boundary Award.”  None of these records are on microfilm.

(2) Additional documentation can be found among the files of American diplomatic and consular posts in RG 84: Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State.  The records for the period 1912 into the 1940s are arranged according to a decimal filing scheme and bound into one or more annual volumes.  File “800” covers Internal Affairs/Political affairs, and File “840.1” covers Social Matters/People, including race problems, racial disturbances and their suppression, and massacres.  The records of the American embassy in Turkey, including the files of the post-World War I High Commissioner, for the period 1914-1925, include 23 volumes or parts of volumes for file “800” and 15 volumes parts of volumes for file “840.1”.  The records of the various consular posts in Turkey may contain additional documentation.  None of these records are on microfilm.

It is important to note two things, however.  First, some files on the Armenian issue were destroyed when the U.S. entered World War I.  In January 1919, the American Commissioner in Turkey reported that the embassy’s extensive files covering the Armenian deportations were destroyed upon the break in relations with Turkey to prevent any compromise of the identities of persons who provided information.  (see Despatch #19, January 9, 1919, file “800”, Embassy Turkey (Istanbul), RG 84.)

Second, the files in RG 59 and RG 84 contain significant overlap.  In addition to the reporting from diplomatic and consular posts and the Department’s replies thereto, the RG 59 files include internal Department of State documentation, as well as inter-agency communications, and communications with the public.  The post files, in addition to communications back and forth with the Department, may contain additional background documentation and communications with local officials and the local public.

(3) Another source of documentation is RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, organized to represent the United States at the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference.  Included are the records of The Inquiry, a group of experts called on to collect and report data on various issues relating to peacemaking.  There are approximately 35 documents relating to Armenia among the records of The Inquiry.  They are listed on pages 88-90 of the inventory of RG 256.  They are available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1107.  The General Records of the ACNP may also contain documentation relating to Armenia.  Documentation relating to the American Military Mission to Armenia (“Harbord Mission” is in File 184.021.  Those records have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M820.


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