The National Archives and Jefferson Davis’ Cloak, Shawl, and Spurs

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

The Civil War was swiftly coming to an end on April 3, 1865, when the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, his wife Varina, and their children abandoned Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. On April 9, as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering his Army, Davis was attempting to avoid capture by the Union forces, apparently desiring to eventually make his way across the Mississippi River to lead southern forces that had not yet surrendered. Five weeks later, after traveling through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and into Georgia, on May 9, Davis and his party made camp near Irwinville, believing they were still one step ahead of their pursuers. But the pursuers, members of the First Wisconsin Regiment of Cavalry and Fourth Michigan Regiment of Cavalry, were nearby, ready to pounce on the Davis party the following morning.

Early on the morning of May 10, the camp was awakened by the sound of gunfire and very quickly it was surrounded by the Union cavalrymen. The Confederates did not fire a shot. In a somewhat confusing situation, Davis attempted to escape. In a letter of June 5, 1865 to Montgomery Blair, Varina Davis wrote that when her husband saw the Union soldiers, “I pleaded with him to let me throw over him a large waterproof raglan which had often served him in sickness during the summer season as a dressing gown and which I hoped might so cover his person that in the gray of the morning he would not be recognized. As he strode off, I threw over his head a little black shawl which was around my own shoulders, seeing that he could not find his hat.” She added “He attempted no disguise, consented to no subterfuge.” In his Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881), Davis wrote that as the Union forces arrived he impulsively reached for what he thought was his raglan and threw it over his shoulders, either anticipating that he would need to keep warm if he escaped, or using it to hide his light-colored gray suit against the dark forest. By mistake, he had picked up his wife’s raglan because it was “so very much like my own as to be mistaken for it. As I started, my wife thoughtfully threw over my head and shoulders a shawl.” It should be noted that in the 1860s, both men and women wore shawls. In fact, President Abraham Lincoln often wore one over his shoulders during chilly weather.

Davis escaped into the woods and was quickly captured. Besides seizing Davis’ cloak, shawl, and spurs, the Union soldiers took possession of three of his pistols, a bullet mold, two toothbrushes, a plug of tobacco, and other sundries. Very quickly a story circulated that Davis attempted to escape into the woods wearing his wife’s clothing.

Davis would be imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He demanded a trial as the best forum for proving the constitutionality of secession, and the government requested numerous delays to prepare its case. He was released from custody on bail in May 1867. Bail was posted by, among others, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Horace Greeley, and Gerrit Smith, the radical abolitionist who helped to fund John Brown in 1859. Although an indictment for treason against Davis was finalized in March 1868, the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson further delayed the case.

That summer Congress adopted the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Section 3 provided:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

This certainly applied to Davis, who had served as an army officer, member of Congress, and Secretary of War.

The U.S. Circuit Court, Virginia, finally heard preliminary motions in December 1868, when the defense asked for a dismissal claiming that the 14th Amendment already punished Davis by preventing him from holding public office in the future and that further prosecution and punishment would violate the double jeopardy restriction of the 5th Amendment. The court divided in its official opinion and sent the question to the United States Supreme Court. Fearing the court would rule in favor of Davis, President Johnson released an amnesty proclamation on December 25, 1868, issuing a pardon to all persons who had participated in the rebellion.

Most of the items that had been taken from Davis were sent back to him between 1874 and 1880.  He would die in New Orleans on December 6, 1889, most likely of pneumonia.

In 1914, the Davis pistols were obtained by descendants of the former Confederate chief executive. On April 26, 1915, the Army Judge Advocate General responded to a request from the Assistant Secretary of War for an opinion regarding the Attorney General’s opinion of January 7, 1914, whether the War Department was authorized to turn over to Jefferson Hayes-Davis, a shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs worn by Davis at the time of his capture. E. H. Crowder, the Judge Advocate General, wrote that the articles were in the possession of the War Department and Jefferson Hayes-Davis was the grandson of Jefferson Davis and had requested the return of the articles on behalf of the next of kin of the former owner. Crowder wrote:

In the opinion referred to the Attorney General considered whether the Secretary of War had authority to return to the executor of Jefferson Davis’ estate on the written order of all of his next of kin, a couple of pistols and accessories captured by Union soldiers in June, 1865, and sent to the War Department where they had remained thereafter, and it was held in substance that inasmuch as such property was never condemned and forfeited under the Confiscation and Abandoned Property Acts, the owner retained an interest in them, and that by reason of the President’s proclamation of amnesty and pardon of December 25, 1868, the owner’s title and right of possession thereto were revived and upon the latter’s death passed to his personal representatives, to whom the Secretary of War was authorized to surrender the property.

Crowder wrote that he was unaware of anything indicating that the principle governing the property then under consideration was different. He observed:

I do not think the fact that the shawl, waterproof cloak and spurs were worn by Jefferson Davis at the time of his capture, while such may not have been the case with respect to the other property heretofore surrendered, makes any difference in principle or affects the question of the Department’s authority to surrender them. Accordingly, you are advised that it is the view of this office that under the Attorney General’s opinion of January 7, 1914, the Department is authorized to return to Jefferson Davis’ personal representatives the shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs referred to.

For whatever reason, the shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs were not returned. They continued to reside at the War Department. But thirty years later that would change. In May 1945 the War Department offered the items to the National Archives. The National Archives, for some reason, accepted them. In retrospect, the National Archives and War Department probably should have determined, as was the case thirty years earlier, that the articles were private property and should be given to the Davis family. Or, the War Department could have off-loaded the artifacts on the Smithsonian Institution.

Not long after the National Archives received the articles, the Historian of the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy wrote Senator Harry F. Byrd about the Davis shawl, which she believed was in a safe at the War Department and requested that the Virginia Daughters of the Confederacy were desirous of having it presented to them to place in the Confederate Museum at Richmond, Virginia. Upon receiving this request Senator Byrd wrote Robert P. Patterson, the Secretary of War, forwarding the request and asking advice with respect to the matter. Byrd’s letter was forwarded to the Adjutant General who wrote the Judge Advocate General, requesting information on which to base a reply. The Office of the Judge Advocate General informed the Adjutant General that in its opinion the shawl “must be considered to be private property.” They enclosed a copy of the 1915 memorandum and indicated that research had disclosed that no authority existed for the presentation of the shawl to the Virginia Daughters of the Confederacy to place in their museum, in accordance with their desire. With this information in hand, and after informal coordination with the War Department Records Office of the National Archives, the Acting Adjutant General wrote the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of War with summary information regarding the shawl and enclosed a letter for him to send to Senator Byrd advising him that the shawl must be considered the private property of the next of kin of Jefferson Davis and that no authority had been found under which it could be presented to the museum.

At the end of November 1945, the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of War wrote Senator Byrd that the shawl had been delivered to the Secretary of War on May 24, 1865, and had remained in the War Department until May 9, 1945, on which date it was transferred to the War Department Records Office of the National Archives. Senator Byrd was informed that it was the opinion of the War Department that the shawl must be considered the private property of the next of kin of Jefferson Davis, “and for this reason, we do not have the authority to present it to the Confederate Museum at Richmond.”

Jefferson Davis’ private property would remain in the National Archives until the eve of the centennial of the Civil War. On February 9, 1961, the General Services Administration (which oversaw the National Archives and Records Service – the predecessor to the National Archives and Records Administration) announced that the Jefferson Davis cloak, shawl, and spurs would be, at the request of Davis’ heirs, including Jefferson Hayes-Davis, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, turned over to “Beauvoir,” the memorial to the Confederate President near Biloxi, Mississippi. The items now repose there.

In signing S. J. Res. 16 “Restoration of Citizenship Rights to Jefferson F. Davis” into Law (Public Law 95-466) on October 17, 1978, President Jimmy Carter stated:

In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted from resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment.

Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded. Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.


This blog is based primarily on records found in File 000.4 Historical (9 Oct 45), Adjutant General Decimal File, 1940-1945 (NAID 895294), Records of the Office of the Adjutant General, 1917-, Record Group 407.

Clint Johnson’s Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis (New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008).

Also useful were:

Michael P. Musick’s “War in an Age of Wonders: Civil War Arms and Equipment,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, vol. 27, no. 4 (Winter 1995)

“U.S. Will Yield Garb of Jefferson Davis,” The New York Times, February 9, 1961, p. 37

“Memorial to Get Davis’ Clothing,” The Washington Post, February 10, 1961, p. B3.


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A President Complies with Federal Regulations: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Form TFR-500

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor, archivists at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Midway through World War II it became apparent that the United States Government had increasing need for comprehensive financial information on American property interests in foreign countries, particularly enemy and enemy-dominated nations. This need arose from the so-called “freezing controls” administered by the Treasury Department to military phases of the war, and to preparations for peace negotiations.

The Foreign Funds Control (FFC), established in the Office of the Secretary, Treasury Department in April 1940 immediately after the invasion of Norway and Denmark by Germany, had taken a census of foreign assets in the United States in 1941. In 1943, the FFC was given a new responsibility for taking the so-called census of American-owned assets in foreign countries to provide the needed data.

This 1943 census of American-owned assets in foreign countries was one of the many activities of the FFC in carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of the Treasury in the financial warfare program of the United States Government. In the beginning the FFC had been responsible for placing restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, on the export or withdrawal of gold, silver, coin and currency, on transfers of credits, securities or any other evidences of ownership or of indebtedness involving property of the countries or nationals of the countries that had been invaded by the German and Russian armies. After the United States entered the war, the FFC was responsible for severing all financial and commercial intercourse between the United States and any countries outside the Western hemisphere that directly or indirectly benefited the Axis, for the prevention of all financial and commercial transactions between the United States and any other American republic that directly or indirectly benefited the Axis, and for stopping all financial and commercial activity on the part of persons or corporations in the United States whose influence or activity was deemed inimical to the security of the Western Hemisphere. With the increase in its functions the FFC was formally established as a separate administrative unit of the Department on September 11, 1942, with the status of a bureau and with a director as its head.

To carry out the census of American-owned assets in foreign countries, the FFC utilized the central office and field organization that had been developed in the activities of its Licensing and Enforcement Divisions in “freezing” assets of enemy and enemy-dominated nations, in preventing the use of frozen or “blocked” assets by the Axis, in licensing transactions in such assets, and in investigatory work. Interagency representatives of the Departments of State and Commerce, the Board of Economic Warfare (late the Foreign Economic Administration) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System all reviewed the reporting forms and instructions to ensure that the census would serve the needs of the whole Government as well as to eliminate the necessity for recurring or overlapping demands on investors and others in the nation. The proposed forms and instructions also were discussed with representatives of banks, industry, and insurance companies to insure that accurate and useful data could be obtained economically and expeditiously.

The census of American-owned assets in foreign countries on the TFR-500 forms was announced on June 3, 1943, through the issuance of Special Regulation No. 1, under Executive orders 8389, as amended, and 9193. Detailed instructions concerning the reporting requirements were stated in Public Circular No. 22 which was issued on July 1, 1943, and amended from time to time. These forms were obtainable in the central office in Washington and in the field at Federal Reserve Banks, and outside the continental United States from the Government officials in the territories and possessions or United States consuls.

The basic requirements as to liability for filing the Form TFR-500 reports were very broad but certain exceptions and exemptions were provided. According to Public Circular No. 22, reports were required to be filed by “(1) every person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States having at the close of business on May 31, 1943, any interest whatsoever, direct or indirect, in any property in a foreign country on such date and by (2) every person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States with whom any foreign organization was allied on May 31, 1943.” The word “person” was defined to include an individual, partnership, association, corporation, or other organization. The following were considered as subject to the jurisdiction of the United States:

Any citizen of the United States whether in the United States or in a foreign country. Any corporation or other organization created or organized under the laws of the United States, or any state, territory, district, or possession there of; Any individual resident in the United States on May 31, 1943, including any individual continuously within the United States for 3 months next preceding that date; and, Any person not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to the extent that on May 31, 1943, such person had any branch, office, or representative within the United States.[i]

Newspapers throughout the country spread the word about this new federal requirement. The Chicago Tribune ran an article on July 16, 1943 entitled, “TFR-500, It’s a Form You Should Know.” Many banks also took out ads in newspapers around the country in late October 1943 to remind U.S. citizens of their responsibilities and to offer the bank’s services in completing the forms. These bank ads, titled “To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries,” stated:

The U.S. Treasury is seeking to ascertain as nearly as possible the total American stake all over the world.  It believes with this information available that the government’s hand will be strengthened on all war fronts, at the peace conferences and in the post-war world-wide economic readjustments.

Under the law, holders of foreign property ARE REQUIRED to file reports of their holdings on Form TFR-500 by DECEMBER 1, 1943.

If you have any foreign investments—dollar bonds, bank balances, real estate or other tangible property—and have not yet filed your report, we would be happy to assist you in obtaining the proper forms.

The Chicago Tribune added that failure to comply with the reporting requirement could result in a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison, or both.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt compiled with the regulations and submitted his Form TFR-500 on February 12, 1944. He reported his property on Campobello, a small Canadian island located at the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, adjacent to the entrance to Cobscook Bay, and within the Bay of Fundy. His parents, who summered at Campobello’s hotels, later purchased land and built a cottage. From 1883, when he was one year old, until he was stricken by polio in 1921, Roosevelt spent every July, August, and part of September on the island. Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor, and their children sailed, canoed, golfed, hiked, and picnicked in a beautiful and rugged outdoor environment.

Eleanor and the five children visited Campobello during the summer of 1925, but convalescence and his involvement in active politics (including being Governor of New York for four years) prevented Roosevelt returning during the 1920s and early 1930s.

In June 1933 after a grueling first hundred days in office, President Roosevelt decided he needed a good vacation. He sailed on the schooner Amberjack II from Marion, Massachusetts on June 18, bound for Campobello. He was at the helm for much of the trip. He returned again for brief visits in late July 1936 and mid-August 1939.

On August 20, 1964, with Prime Minister Lester Pearson and President Lyndon Johnson in attendance, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park opened.  The Park is jointly owned and managed by both Canada and the United States, created by a treaty that honors the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The focal point of the Park is the Franklin D. Roosevelt summer cottage, reported on the TFR-500.


Case Files of Individual Summary Reports, 1943-1945 (NAID: 6850899; Entry NC-8 1); RG 265 – Records of the Office of Foreign Assets Control

“TFR-500, It’s a Form You Should Know.” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1943.

“To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries.” Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma), October 24, 1943.

“To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries.” The Star-Democrat (Easton, Maryland), October 29, 1943.


[i] Certain overall exceptions were made to the foregoing general provisions, to the extent that the person came within the following categories on or after May 31, 1943, and remained therein until the final reporting date: Citizens of the United States in enemy or enemy-occupied territory.  Members of the armed forces of the United States serving outside the continental United States, and Officers or employees of foreign governments and members of immediate families of such persons, provided they were not citizens of the United States.

Subsequently (as of March 23, 1945) citizens of the United States in enemy or enemy-occupied territory were required to report as soon as consular offices were opened in such territory.  Special forms, all bearing the TFR-500 number, were provided for different classes of reporters. Series A-I was for the use of individuals, series A-II for corporations and other organizations, series A-III for executors, administrators, or trustees, and series A-IV for custodians and nominees in this country who held property for persons not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Each of these forms called for data with respect to the reporter and for a summary by countries of the reporter’s foreign property.

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The Department of State and the Battle Against Thalidomide

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a long-time medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), died recently.  Her obituaries describe a long and distinguished career at the FDA but highlight her role in preventing the approval of the drug Thalidomide for use in the United States.  When used by pregnant women, that drug caused fetal death or birth with serious deformities.

Unmentioned in the discussion of Dr. Kelsey’s successful effort to block use of Thalidomide in the U.S. is the role of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.  In late October 1961, at the request of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (parent department of the FDA), the Department of State sent an instruction to the field “clarifying the responsibilities of the Food and Drug Administration and defining the type of information desired from foreign countries.”  Among other things, it noted that the FDA was interested in the development of new and unusual foods and drugs and “[i]nformation on foods, drugs, devices, and cosmetics that have caused injury . . . .”  Such reports were to be marked “Attention FDA” to ensure proper distribution.

Just one month later, the U.S. embassy in Bonn, West Germany, reported the withdrawal of four drugs containing Thalidomide because they allegedly caused deformities in children born to mothers who used them during pregnancy.  The report also noted the establishment of a commission of experts to determine if there was a relationship between the drugs and the deformities.

In late December 1961, the Scientific Attaché in the embassy in Bonn submitted the following comprehensive and scientific report, written by Dr. Herman Chinn, the deputy Scientific Attaché.

According to a contemporary Department of State publication, Dr. Kelsey credited this despatch as a key document in her case against Thalidomide.


  • Department of State Instruction GW-3697, October 26, 1961, file 411.0051/10-2661
  • U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Despatch 722, November 29, 1961, file 411.0051/11-2961
  • U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Despatch 857, December 22, 1961, file 862a.554/12-2261

All in 1960-63 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

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Foreign Diplomats and Domestic Discrimination

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the establishment of numerous newly independent nations in Africa and Asia.  This led to an influx of foreign diplomats from countries not previously represented in Washington.  At that time, the Nation’s Capital was still very much a Southern city and the non-Caucasian diplomats assigned there, and in other U.S. cities, did not always receive a friendly welcome.  Such treatment of African and Asian diplomats presented a serious obstacle to improving relations with those countries, especially as the so-called Third World became a focus of Cold War competition.

One instance of this was brought home to U.S. officials in September 1960, during a visit by W. Averell Harriman, former Governor of New York, to Nigeria.  During the visit, American Consul General John K. Emerson hosted a formal dinner in Harriman’s honor.  In his official report on the event, Emerson noted that Nigerian Federal Minister of Information T. O. S. Benson “told Governor Harriman with considerable fervor of the humiliation” experienced by Nigerian officials in New York City and Washington, DC.  In a subsequent informal letter to his counterpart in the Department of State, Emerson noted that “Benson apparently spoke rather violently” to Harriman.  Furthermore, Emerson noted that Benson seemed un-American, the clear implication being that this was because of the poor treatment experienced by Nigerian officials in the U.S.

In late January 1961, less than two weeks after assuming his position as Secretary of State in the new administration of President John F. Kennedy, Dean Rusk personally drafted the following letter about the issue of discrimination faced by foreign diplomats and sent it to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.  He also sent a copy to Ralph Dungan, a Special Assistant to the President.

Rusk enclosed a six-page memorandum entitled “Housing for African Diplomats” prepared under the previous administration.  That document described the obstacles faced by African nations in locating chancery and ambassadorial residences as well as staff housing.  It ascribed part of the difficulty to a general reluctance by the real estate industry to deal with diplomats because of diplomatic immunity when dealing with issues of damage or destruction of property, but also described in great detail clear examples of straight-up racial discrimination.  The memorandum also described efforts by the Department to deal with the issue by working with the local real estate industry, albeit not always successfully.  It concluded that the Department’s actions had created an awareness of the issue and a desire by the DC government, the real estate industry, community groups, and individuals to make African diplomats welcome.  While the memorandum described the issue specifically in terms of representatives from Africa, its author noted, “We should however keep in mind that the diplomatic representatives of most Asian and some Western Hemisphere countries face similar difficulties, although perhaps to a lesser degree.”  While the original letter and the copy sent to Ralph Dungan are in the files of the Kennedy White House now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, no answer by Kennedy has been located.

As described in his memoir As I Saw It, Rusk dealt with the issue throughout his eight years as Secretary of State.  Diplomats were asked to report their difficulties to Chief of Protocol Angier Biddle Duke.  Duke and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen Williams then called on the embassies of affected diplomats to listen to their complaints.  Departmental officials also met with local business men and women to press the case.  The Department of State, led by Dean Rusk, recognized that the issue was larger than just the impact on foreign diplomats; the changes needed to be extended to U.S. citizens, too.  Rusk, therefore, put the full weight of the Department of State behind efforts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (NAID 299891) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 299909).  Nevertheless, the issue persisted throughout Rusk’s tenure as Secretary of State, especially in the area of housing.


  • Consulate General Lagos to Department of State, September 7, 1960, Despatch 133, file 811.411/9-750, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • John K. Emerson to Theo C. Adams, September 16, 1960, file 811.411/9-1660, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Secretary of State Dean Rusk to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, January 31, 1961, file 601.0011/1-3161, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Also see: Papers of John F. Kennedy: Presidential Papers: White House Central Files HU 2/FG 216 (District of Columbia): Executive and Papers of John F. Kennedy: Presidential Papers: White House Staff Files of Harris Wofford: Alphabetical File, 1956-1962: Civil Rights Miscellaneous, 1960-January 1961.

I greatly appreciate the assistance of my colleagues Cate Brennan and Michael Desmond, Stacey Chandler, and Karen Abramson of the John F. Kennedy Library.

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The Monuments Men in June 1945: The Evacuation of Siegen Completed

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

The Monuments Men (the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Specialist Officers) were busy during June 1945 locating and overseeing some 600 emergency repositories containing cultural property and providing for the evacuation of some of that property to more suitable storage locations. As was seen in a previous post, the Siegen copper mine repository was partially emptied on May 26 and treasures were taken to the Cathedrals in Cologne and Aachen. The remainder of the repository would be emptied in June and taken to Marburg.

The Marburg Central Collecting Point, under Captain Walker Hancock, with Military Government Detachment F1C2, set up primary operations in the relatively vacant Staatsarchiv building and space in the Jubilaeumsbau, a mile away at the opposite end of town. Before the dissolution of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in mid-July and the division of western Germany into zones, it served as a central collecting point for items recovered in repositories in the Rhineland, Westphalia, and the Hessen areas, as well as, occasionally, for objects from more remote places. It contained relatively few looted objects.

One of the first major collections brought to Marburg was that from Siegen. Once Hancock had time to deal with the contents of the mine at Siegen and had the Staatsarchiv in suitable condition, he, and MFA&A Lieutenants Lamont Moore and Stephen Kovalyak, decided to evacuate to the Staatsarchiv the remaining holdings at Siegen. There, on Saturday, June 2, twenty-three American army trucks arrived to carry the items to Marburg, some fifty miles from Siegen. This time, unlike their May 26 trips to Cologne and Aachen with four trucks, it was a much larger load, and one infinitely more difficult to handle, and it had to be put aboard the trucks on Sunday, June 3. There was one additional challenge, beyond civil laws and Military Government regulations, standing in Hancock’s way: Siegen was depopulated on Sundays. Everyone capable of walking went into the country in search of food. No men were in the streets for Kovalyak to commandeer. Kovalyak called for volunteers at a nearby Displaced Persons camp full of Russians and told them that he was about to move a large collection of stolen pictures back to Moscow, and added the offer of a K-ration apiece to every man who would help. He returned with a truck full of Russians. They did a willing and efficient job in moving the priceless works of art through the long slippery tunnels and into the trucks without damage. While Kovalyak supervised the move in the tunnel, Moore and Hancock remained in the trucks with the packing materials, padding and lashing into place the objects as they were lifted aboard, while Herr Etzkorn, the guardian of the Siegen repository, checked them off on the inventory. The load consisted of 44 cases from the Landesmuseum, Bonn; 13 cases of paintings from Suermondt Museum, Aachen; 1 case, Hoven Klosterkirche; 1 case, Haus Thyssen; 5 cases Metz Cathedral Treasure; 8 cases from Essen; 21 cases from Cologne; 6 cases from Siegburg; 517 unpacked paintings from Aachen, Essen, Munster, Cologne, and Wuppertal; 56 pieces of sculpture from Aachen, Cologne, and Essen; 8 stained glass panels; 2 choir books; 1 filing cabinet; 1 cabinet from Sinzenich; 2 frames; 2 suit cases; and 9 miscellaneous boxes and parcels. They were transported to Marburg on June 4.

When the trucks arrived from Siegen, Hancock found that civilian labor was almost unobtainable and they were not allowed to use military drivers for the purpose of unloading. So he appealed to the city jail for help. Under military guard, the work crew appeared to be young boys who had violated the curfew or stolen cigarettes, and a few middle-aged offenders.

Once the items were unloaded, the five cases containing treasures from the Cathedral of Metz were opened and the contents inventoried. Dampness in the mine had caused mold growth in all five cases. Thick mold on the vestments made immediate cleaning imperative. This was done by a German specialist in ancient textiles.   

Hancock also received assistance from MFA&A Specialist Officer 2nd Lt. Samuel L. Ratensky who had been assigned to him on June 1, and MFA&A Specialist Officer 2nd Lt. Sheldon W. Keck (formerly an art conservator from the Brooklyn Museum of Art), who was assigned to him in mid-July.

John Nicholas Brown, the Cultural Advisor to General Eisenhower for the MFA&A Program, accompanied by Mr. John Walker, Curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., representing The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, came to Marburg in mid-July to inspect the work of the MFA&A officers and the buildings taken over as collecting points. They held a long conference. Hancock, Keck, and Ratensky and Brown would subsequently report that many of the paintings from the mine at Siegen had been affected by mold and needed immediate attention. One of Keck’s first tasks was to remove the mold on some artwork that came from Siegen. He did so successfully.

In August when Lt. Moore, Lt. Kovalyak, and Lt. Thomas C. Howe, Jr., USNR, came to Marburg, Hancock showed them the Metz Cathedral treasure in Staatsarchiv. Howe would later write, “It was one of the greatest collections of its kind in the entire world. Its intrinsic value was enormous; its historic value incalculable.”

Hancock wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, Seventh U.S. Army on August 13 that because of the condition of the Metz objects, it appeared inadvisable to repack them and allow them to remain for a long time in the cases. He suggested that steps be taken toward arranging for the return of the property to Metz. About the same time, General Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a proposal to return at once to each of the countries overrun by the Germans at least one outstanding work of art. This was to be done in his name, as a gesture of “token restitution,” symbolizing policy with regard to ultimate restitution of all stolen art treasure to the rightful owner nations; this would be an earnest display of American good will. They would be sent back from Germany at the expense of the US Government.

On August 24 the United States Forces European Theater alerted the Commanding General, Western Military District, that as a token of the first restitution of works of art to the French Government it was desired that the highest priority be set for the earliest possible return of the 73 cases of Strasbourg Cathedral stained glass (then in Heilbronn salt mine) and the Metz Cathedral treasures (then in Marburg) to their respective cities of origin. Five days later Eisenhower directed the Commanding General, Western Military District, to prepare the Strasbourg Cathedral glass and the Metz Cathedral treasure for immediate delivery against proper receipt to appropriate French Authorities, making all arrangements directly with them. Within two weeks the items were on their way. The Strasbourg glass was turned over to the French on September 17 and the Metz treasure a few days later.


Army message, signed Eisenhower, notifying that Strasbourg Cathedral Glass and Metz Cathedral treasure are on their way.

Sources from the National Archives:

K Deposits (Collecting Points Repositories Collections [2 of 2], General Records, 1938-1948 (NAID 1560051) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 3 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

Miscellaneous Reports [1945-1946] [1 of 2], General Records, 1938-1948 (NAID 1560051) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 16 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

July 1945 (Greater Hesse) Monthly Report on Monuments Fine Arts and Archives Western Military District-Seventh United States Army, Activity Reports, 1945 (NAID 1561462) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 32 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

Public Archives: Siegen Depot, Records Relating to Status of Monuments, Museums, and Archives, 1945-1951 (NAID 2435815) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 62 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947).

October 1945 (Greater Hesse) Monthly Report on Monuments Fine Arts and Archives Western Military District-Seventh United States Army, Activity Reports, 1945 (NAID 1561462) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 32 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

28.1 Collecting Points-Marburg, General Records, 1938-1948 (NAID 1560051) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 21 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

312.1 Miscellaneous Correspondence, RD&R Division USGCC 1945, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949 (NAID 6923852) Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260.

SHAEF/G-5/751, Public Monuments-Fine Art, Numeric File, Aug 1943-Jul 1945 (NAID 610059) Secretariat, G-5 (Civil Affairs) Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 331.

AMG 228 (CC) MFA&A Correspondence: US Group CC Br Element CC, Subject File, Aug 1943-1945 (NAID 612714) Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 331.

400C-Restitution Fine Arts, January-September 1945, Classified General Correspondence, 1945-1949 (NAID 1717994) Records of the U.S. Political Advisor for Germany, Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the United States, Record Group 84.

The following published sources were used:

Thomas C. Howe, Jr., Salt Mines and Castles, pp. 118-119, 232, 233, 243.

Walter Hancock, “Experiences of a Monuments Officer in Germany,” College Art Journal (vol. V. No. 4, May 1946), p. 306-308.

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Foreign Policy Aspects of Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

By Executive Order 9981 (NAID 300009), dated July 26, 1948, President Harry S Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces of the United States.  Given the stationing of large numbers of American forces overseas after World War II, that move potentially had ramifications for U.S. relations with host countries.  With that in mind, on September 14, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson wrote to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

Johnson noted that Department of Defense (DOD) policy called for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”  He explained that in order to implement the policy in some areas, his Department needed “a formal expression of [Department of State] views” on segregation polices for troops stationed in a number of countries.  Specifically, the Department of Defense needed to know if the Department of State saw “political objections to the stationing of individual Negroes or non-segregated units in”:

  • Azores
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • France and French-controlled territories
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Italy
  • Labrador
  • Latin American Republics
  • Libya (Tripolitania)
  • Newfoundland
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Republic of the Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom and British-controlled territories, including the British Zone of Germany

The Department of State responded with the following letter:


Letter from Under Secretary of State James Webb to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, 10/17/1949

 The Department of State’s suggestion for inter-governmental consultation before sending individual African Americans or integrated units to Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and British territories in the Caribbean raised concerns in the Department of Defense and the military services.  In order to clarify the situation, Maj. Gen. James Burns, Secretary Johnson’s assistant for foreign military affairs wrote to Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk on February 13, 1950.  Rusk was known to be in favor of assignment without regard to race.  Burns’s letter noted that “Negro personnel have in fact [already] been stationed in some of those areas [noted in the Department of State’s earlier letter].”  Furthermore, the Department of Defense wanted to follow its normal practice and continue transferring military personnel to the excepted areas “without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Rusk, on behalf of the Department of State, responded as follows:


Letter from Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk to Maj. Gen. J. H. Burns, 3/1/1950

 Subsequently, Secretary of Defense Johnson issued a policy statement to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.  He explained that the Department of State “endorses the policy of freely assigning Negro personnel or Negro or non-segregated units to any part of the world to which U.S. forces are sent” and was prepared to support DOD.  It went on to state that since some governments had indicated an unwillingness to accept African American servicemen, before sending such personnel to countries “where no U.S. Negro personnel are now in fact stationed” Johnson directed the services to inform him before beforehand so that the host country could be consulted through the Department of State.


  • Letter from Secretary of Defense to Secretary of State, September 14, 1949, and Letter from Under Secretary of State James Webb to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, October 17, 1949, file 811.22/9-1449, 1945-49 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Letter from Maj. Gen. J.H. Burns to Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk, February 13, 1950, and Letter from Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk to Maj. Gen. J.H. Burns, March 1, 1950, file 711.551/2-1350, 1950-54 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Also see Morris J. MacGregor, Jr.’ Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965, Washington, USGPO, 1981, especially chapter 15.
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The Monuments Men in May 1945: Buxheim and Neuschwanstein

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

Schloss Neuschwanstein, two miles east of Fussen, a picturesque little town, some 80 miles south of Munich, in southern Schwabe, Bavaria, had been a central Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) repository for looted cultural property. A considerable bulk of this material, including the most important, had since been removed to other repositories, most notably to the salt mine at Alt Aussee in Austria. Still, it contained a large amount of ERR loot which if not the very best was still important – pictures, furniture, a large amount of silver and fine jewels.

Rose Valland, who had kept an eye on the acquisition and disposition of cultural property in Paris by the Germans, made information available to Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Specialist Officer 1st Lt. James J. Rorimer (formerly of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City) in a document listing several German repositories for storing looted cultural property. Concerning Fussen, the document, which was entitled “List of Known caches of French Artwork in Germany,” stated:

Fussen-caches in Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Augsburg, near Fussen. This group of caches, which has existed since the beginning of 1941, is much the largest. This is where most of the works of art, taken by the Germans during ’40, ’41, ’42, ’43 were brought.

A large number of artworks belonging to the principal collections of Rothschild, David-Weill, and Veil-Picard are kept there.

The archives and inventories of the Rosenberg Department were also drawn up in Fussen.

Valland had also informed Rorimer that at Buxheim, in the vicinity of Memmingen, there were “two repositories activated in 1943 for storing the overflow from Fussen. A considerable number of paintings had been shipped to these repositories.”

While awaiting an opportunity to deal with the treasure locations Valland had identified, Rorimer was busy with handling other protection and salvage matters during the early spring. He would soon be joined by T-5 John D. Skilton, Jr., former curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Skilton had arrived in England in early June 1944 and was assigned to Civil Affairs work on the continent. Finally, in March 1945, he was assigned to MFA&A work with the Seventh U.S. Army, and that same month moved into Germany, where he operated alone for quite awhile until Rorimer showed up. When he joined up with Rorimer they first dealt with the mine at Heilbronn and then moved on to Augsburg.

Shortly before the surrender of Fussen to the Seventh U.S. Army, Rorimer notified the proper authorities to be prepared to safeguard the castle at Neuschwanstein as soon as the troops entered the region. Not long afterwards, on May 1, word reached Rorimer, Seventh U.S. Army MFA&A, that the castles near Fussen (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) had been taken.

On the morning of May 3, Rorimer and Skilton prepared to set out for Fussen and the nearby castle at Neuschwanstein. Their first problem was to find some sort of vehicle in which to make the journey from Augsburg. A Red Cross worker placed his jeep at their disposal for a few days. The jeep, marked with red crosses, was an attraction all by its self – wherever they went American soldiers crowded around to ask for coffee and doughnuts. “Our route,” Skilton wrote, “led us through some magnificent scenery in the more isolated sections of Bavaria. Snowcapped mountains, little villages and deep forests stimulated and heightened our anticipation as to what we might find.”

The route from Augsburg took them some 50 miles southwest to Memmingen. There they stopped and learned that a couple of miles away in the Carthusian monastery at Buxheim activities had taken place in connection with shipments of works of art from France and other countries. They set out immediately for Buxheim. 

As they entered the monastery they found an incredible collection of loot. In one of the rooms they found an item marked on the back in red with the collection number of the former owner David-Weill, and just below this in black, the letters ERR, followed by numbers. According to Skilton, this was, as far as he knew, the first time a member of the MFA&A staff had actually seen the ERR marking. The corridors were stacked with pre-19th Century furniture. There were ethnographical materials from Russian museums – Kiev in particular. In one enormous hall there were piles upon piles of oriental rugs, tapestries and textiles. Many bore tags with the names of the original owners. They found 72 packing cases with 158 paintings, including those by Boucher, Nattier, Watteau, Fragonard, Delacroix, Goya, David, Lebrun, Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Renoir. Another apartment was set aside as a complete studio-laboratory for the restoration of works of art. There Rorimer acquired two binders with listings of all the paintings that had come to the ERR main restoration center at the monastery. They went to the Military Government detachment having Buxheim within its jurisdiction and explained the importance of the monastery as a repository of stolen art. They also arranged that the security guard already stationed about the monastery should remain until it was decided what would be done with the stored objects.

The next morning they set out on the 45-mile drive from Buxheim to the “the fairy-like castle of Neuschwanstein.” Planned by Ludwig II, the mad King of Bavaria, the castle, Skilton observed, occupied “the entire summit of a lofty peak rising abruptly from the valley floor like an island in a sea of mist-hung mountains.” At Fussen, they met with the Public Safety officer of the local Military Government detachment and then continued on their way to the castle.

“If we had been astonished at Buxheim,” Skilton wrote, “we were overwhelmed by the stupendous collection at Neuschwanstein.” At the castle, according to Rorimer, “Works of art were everywhere, most of them marked with Paris ciphers. Confusion indicated that this repository was being emptied when the Nazis had vanished a short time before the arrival of our troops.” Besides the confiscated paintings from France, there were 1,300 paintings which had been sent there by the Administration of Bavarian Castles. These were from the Munich museums, the Munich Residenz, and the private collections of the royal Bavarian Wittelsbach family, and had been deposited there before the place was used by the ERR. “In several of the rooms,” Rorimer wrote, “we found the art libraries of Paris collectors. Thrown behind and between the books were rare engravings, drawings, and paintings.” He added: “We were guided to a hidden, thick steel door; this one locked with two keys. Inside there were two large chests of world-famous Rothschild jewels and box upon box of jewel-encrusted metalwork. There were also rare manuscripts and more than a thousand pieces of silver from the David-Weill and other collections.” “There were,” according to Skilton, “rooms and rooms crammed with huge crates which had never been opened. Others overflowed with objects already removed from their case… In some places there were double and triple tiers of shelves laden with objects.”

As Rorimer looked through the castle, he later wrote, “I passed through the rooms as in a trance, hoping that the Germans had lived up to their reputation for being methodical and had photographs, catalogues and records of all these things. Without them it would take twenty years to identify the agglomeration of loot.” Fortunately the Germans did have such documentation and Rorimer and Skilton would find them.

They would find rooms set apart for the conservationists and a photographic laboratory. In one of the rooms of the castle used as an office by the ERR, they found the files of the art-looting task force, as well as an extensive library of art reference books. In filing cabinets they found ERR catalogues and individual records of the 203 private collections from France, including those of the Rothschilds and David-Weill. The private catalogues of the individual collectors, often the only record of their art possession, had been taken with the collections. These books gave the details of the shipments to the other ERR repositories. They also found 8,000 negatives and individual catalogue cards for the 21,903 recorded confiscations.

ERRfilesNeuschwanstein Castle

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) File Cabinets in the Castle at Neuschwanstein.

In two coal stoves there were charred documents. Rubber stamps in one stove had not been consumed and were helpful in locating additional information. Rorimer and Skilton discerned that the lettering on the rubber stamps indicated that they were used to indicate the location of other repositories. Works of art were first stamped with the ERR cipher and then with other letters representing the names of the repositories where they were to be stored throughout the war. A corresponding stamp appeared on the card index as well.

After two days at the castle, Rorimer and Skilton left, but not before ensuring for the security of the castle and its contents. Rorimer, after a quick trip to Berchtesgaden to inspect the Hermann Goering loot, returned to Neuschwanstein, accompanied by Lt. Charles Kuhn, USNR, MFA&A, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and Australian Lt. Col. Aeneas John Lindsay McDonnell of the SHAEF Mission to France. At Fussen, Rorimer acquired from ERR staff member Dr. Gunther Schiedlausky, additional documentation, including summaries of the ERR activities in France and elsewhere, as well as originals and some copies of letters and orders from Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, and others.  This documentation would contribute to the better understanding the ERR operations and would facilitate restitution activities. The restitution of the treasures of Neuschwanstein, as will be seen in a future post, directly to France, would begin in October 1945. Skilton would be there to help.

Among the textual records used in writing this blog were ones from the following files:

  • H Relations, Other Headquarters, General Records 1938-1948,(NAID 1560051) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260 (Roll 2 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).
  • 7c [Miscellaneous MFA&A Reports] 1945, General Records 1938-1948, (NAID 1560051) Property Division, Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) OMGUS Headquarters Relating to the Central Collecting Points, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Record Group 260 (Roll 13 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).
  • ETO-Monthly Reports for May and June [AMG-159], MFA&A Field Reports, 1943-1946 (NAID 1537270) Records of The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239 (Roll 72 of NARA Microfilm Publication M-1944).

Additionally, the following published sources were used:

  • John D. Skilton, Jr., Memoirs of a Monuments Officer: Protecting European Artworks (Portland, Oregon: Inkwater Press, 2008), pp. 81-88, 90-93.
  • James J. Rorimer, Survival: The salvage and protection of art in war (New York: Abelard Press, 1950), pp. 163-164, 181-186, 189-190.
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The Monuments Men in April 1945: Siegen, Finally

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

On March 31, 1945, the 12th Army Group reported that probably the most important repository in the area immediately ahead of the forces under its command was at or near Siegen, some fifty miles east of Cologne. It noted that information about this repository suggested that it may be an elaborate installation with large holdings from German collections and some loot taken by the Germans in occupied countries.

Indeed, as has been seen in previous blog posts regarding the Monuments Men, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) specialist officers had been for quite some time aware of the Siegen copper mine repository. They awaited the opportunity to place it under control and facilitate the disposition of its contents.

On April 1, the U.S. 8th Infantry Division began an attack of Siegen. Within days Siegen would be taken. The first question asked of the then burgomaster of Siegen by the American officer in command of the troops entering the city was “Where are the paintings?”

Captain Walker Kirtland Hancock, the MFA&A officer with the First U.S. Army at the end of March, learned that American troops were preparing to assault the German forces and occupy the whole town. He had Lt. George Stout, USNR, the MFA&A officer with the 12th Army Group (former chief of conservation at Harvard’s Fogg Museum and considered America’s greatest expert on the techniques of packing and transporting), come from Verdun to his headquarters at Bad Godesberg (five miles south of Bonn) to help him explore the repository at Siegen. On April 2, as they were leaving, Hancock received a call from the Civil Affairs Detachment at Aachen requesting that he take Vicar Stephany of the Cathedral of Aachen to Siegen. The Bishop of Aachen had urged that he be sent to ascertain the condition of the cathedral treasure which was hidden in the mine. They met up with the Vicar in Bonn and then their trip was made by a roundabout route, on the only road not under constant shellfire. As they reached Siegen there were still pockets of resistance in the surrounding hills and intermittent small arms fire was audible.

Siegen they found had been solidly bombed for three months and for the preceding fortnight battle had raged in the streets. The debris in the streets made it impossible to drive to the entrance of the mine. They left their jeep and proceeded on foot through the mostly empty and desolate town to the mine entrance which was on a hillside. There they were greeted by people packed together having sought shelter in the mine. As they proceeded deeper into the mine more people were found hiding. As they moved down the passage they were greeted by sulphurous fumes and hot temperatures. The atmosphere was heavy with moisture and water dripped from the ceiling in several places, and the floor was wet. Eventually, after more than a quarter of a mile, they came to a locked door. When they knocked on it they were greeted by a man who knew the vicar and let them in. From there they continued down a passageway that led into another, and were greeted by people who appeared to be the guardians of the treasures. A mechanically secured door was opened and revealed a room that had been walled and vaulted with brick and floored with concrete, the size being about 200 x 30 x 12 feet. Inside were wooden racks, filled with paintings and sculpture that were crowded into every bit of available space in a long brick-vaulted gallery that was divided into fourteen bays. Using lamps for light, they could discern more than four hundred paintings, perhaps as many as five or six hundred. There were works by Cezanne, Cranach, Delacroix, Fragonard, Gauguin, Hals, Lochner, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens (whose birthplace was Siegen), Van Dyck, and Van Gogh. There were also stacks of cases from the museums of Bonn, Cologne, Wuppertal, Essen, and Munster.  Other cases contained church treasure from Essen, Cologne, and Siegburg. There were six cases containing the treasure of the Aachen Cathedral and the Cathedral Metz treasure. Herr Etzkorn, the guardian, told them that the ex-Oberburgermeister of Aachen had tried in mid-March to have the cases removed, but there had been insurmountable difficulties at the last minute before the battle in extricating from the mine the immense, heavy cases containing the wrought gold and silver shrines in which reposed the relics of Charlemagne and the robe of the Virgin. The Aachen cases also contained the beaten-silver bust of Charlemagne which contained part of the Emperor’s skull; the 10th century processional cross of Lothair; a great ancient cameo of Augustus; a 12th century gold and enamel shrine of St. Heribert of Deutz; and various other Gothic reliquaries and medieval vessels. They also saw forty boxes from the Beethoven house in Bonn, one of which contained the manuscript of the Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony. The area also contained the great wooden doors, ca.1065, carved with scenes from the life and death of Christ, from the mid-11th century Romanesque church of St. Maria im Kapitol in Cologne.    

During the visit they found that great damage had been caused by the dampness in the mine. The heating system, designed to reduce the humidity, had been operated from the adjacent factory which had been destroyed by bombing. Many of the pictures and polychromed statues were coated with mold, and they noticed some flaking of paint from the wooden panels. After the inspection they returned to Bad Godesberg by way of Bonn, where they dropped off the vicar, where he was to find transportation back to Aachen. At this point Hancock and Stout could do little about the dampness in the mine nor find more suitable storage areas. Hancock would soon be off to Marburg where he would establish the first Central Collecting Point and Stout would be involved in the excavation of the contents of the Merkers Mine.

The 12th Army Group reported on April 19 that the First U.S. Army uncovered in tunnels of a mine under Siegen the most important repository of works of art known to exist in Western Germany. On April 28 the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) issued a similarly worded report.

On May 1 the Commanding Officer of Military Government Detachment H2E3 informed the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, 75th Infantry Division, that the mine at Siegen had art treasures from Aachen, Cologne, Bonn, Essen, Munster, Metz, and other places. There were, he noted, about 500 paintings, many by noted artists; many wooden sculptures; the original score of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony; and many gold items. Additionally the repository contained the doors of the St. Maria im Kapitol in Cologne; a gold copy of the Charlemagne statue in Aix-La-Chappelle; and, the golden reliquary built to hold Charlemagne’s forearm bones. He indicated that storage area had no electric or steam heat to keep the dampness away from the valuable paintings. He reported that there were a technical expert from the Museum of Aachen and his assistant present to oversee things and that a guard was being maintained by two members of the German police force and a guard maintained by the 440th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, attached to the 75th Infantry Division. On May 3 the Detachment H2E3 commander sent the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5 Section, 75th Infantry Division a report on contents in at Siegen. He noted that the art treasures were under the care of Capt. Barrett of the British Army, who requested that a SHAEF MFA&A officer visit the site and supervise the removal of these treasures, as they were rotting due to the lack of steam heat and electricity. Immediately the 75th Infantry Division requested XVI Corps send a MFA&A specialist officer to Siegen. The XVI corps quickly forwarded the request to the Ninth U.S. Army for such action it deemed necessary.

Shortly before VE-Day (May 8) 2nd Lt. Lamont Moore, MFA&A officer, Ninth U.S. Army received a telegram at Ninth U.S. Army headquarters stating that Siegen was his headache. On May 9, Captain Everett Parker Lesley, Jr., MFA&A Specialist Officer, Fifteenth U.S. Army, was informed by Stout that arrangements were being made for the movement of the repository at Siegen. Atmospheric and security conditions at the repository made the movements of the objects imperatively necessary. On May 10 the Commanding General XVI Corps requested removal of the Siegen holdings to more suitable housing. The Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, Ninth U.S. Army asked for Stout’s technical aid in evacuating the repository at Siegen. Stout on May 14 was ordered on temporary duty to Ninth U.S. Army. He left the 12th Army Group on May 16.

In the meantime, on May 15, Capt. Lesley reported that the first plan, of removing the endangered contents of the Siegen mine repository to the fortress at Ehrenbreitstein (on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz), was abandoned because it would have been very difficult to arrange for the movement and billeting of civilian experts qualified to look after the objects from one administrative area to another.

After inspecting the Siegen repository Stout drew up an evacuation procedure and an estimate of requirements: transport, personnel, and additional equipment such as electric wiring and loading platforms. Details were discussed with Military Government officers, 75th Infantry Division and 291st Infantry Regiment officers, and with the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, XVI Corps. Tentative arrangements were made through G-5, Fifteenth U.S. Army to provide suitable housing for the works near Bonn. Verbal authorization of transport and procurement of other necessary means for the removal was given by Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, Ninth U.S. Army.  Stout left Siegen on May 19, hastened by instructions to proceed to headquarters of the Third U.S. Army for temporary duty to inspect German art repositories in the area of that headquarters, especially that at Alt Aussee, Austria.

By May 20, a supposedly well-designed and equipped bunker at Bonn that had been identified by Capt. Lesley was approved by the Fifteenth U.S. Army as a new repository for the Siegen treasures. The bunker had not yet been inspected (and when it was it was found unsuitable) and in the days following, Moore had determined that the roads from Siegen to Bonn were in such bad condition that it seemed unwise to subject the treasures to the excessive vibration unavoidable on either route to Bonn. The evacuation of Siegen was momentarily at a standstill.

Hancock traveled to Siegen on May 23, arriving there at 6pm. Moore was already there. Over dinner they discussed the possible courses of action. Humidity in the mine had already caused so much damage that the restorer of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum (Cologne), who had come to inspect the art works, estimated that ten men would require ten years to remedy it. They were aware Lesley had identified a bunker at Bonn to receive the works of art, and a working party had been ordered out to unload them. But there were good bunkers above ground in Siegen itself.  They believed if the paintings and other objects were to be moved it should be to a place where there would be light to arrest the mold and room for the restorers to begin their preservation treatment. Above-ground storage in Siegen seemed the best course of action. They called Headquarters and cancelled the order for twenty trucks which were to have come the following day to take the treasures to Bonn. That evening, MFA&A Lieutenant Steve Kovalyak arrived from Weimar to help with evacuation activity. Kovalyak had worked with Hancock and Stout earlier that month in the evacuation of the treasures found at Bernterode.

The following morning, May 24, Hancock, Moore and Kovalyak visited the mine. They met with Etzkorn, the custodian whom they had met six weeks previously; two men from the Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Colonel Stone, in command of the occupying American unit; the engineer officers; and British Military Government officers, then in the process of taking over the administration of the area. They learned that there could be no electric power in that part of the city for a long time to come. Portable generators powerful enough to provide anything more than lighting were unobtainable. No heating or ventilating system could possibly be contrived under the circumstances. Thus installing electric fans as a temporary fix was not possible. They then made the rounds of the bunkers above ground, and found an acceptable one which, however, had entrances too small to admit the larger objects. By dusk they were perplexed about what to do.  Obviously, they believed, the paintings would have to be moved without further delay-somewhere, almost anywhere. But they had given up their transport. Late that evening, Stone told them that somehow 19 trucks with French drivers had arrived to carry art. According to Hancock, the possibility of quickly moving the paintings had unexpectedly reappeared. They believed that at worst they could use the trucks to carry the art to the bunkers above ground in Siegen. Four of them could take the objects that were too large to go through the entrances directly back to Aachen and Cologne where the battered cathedrals would still provide shelter. They determined the largest cases could all be disposed of in one trip. They consisted of the Aachen cathedral treasure, treasures from Cologne churches and the great oak doors from St. Maria im Kapitol. Once they were moved it would be easier to move the other items, provided they could find the men to help them.

On the morning of May 25, Stone informed them that he had received a message that the trucks were to be used for the transportation of displaced persons. Hancock still believed that at least four of the trucks could be used for the art movement, and on this assumption, he had electric lights strung in the mine and a small generator set at the entrance. A work crew of civilians was commandeered and after lunch Hancock had them carry the heavy cases to the entrance preparatory to leaving. He sent Kovalyak to get four trucks. By 5pm, when the civilian labor had to be released, no trucks had arrived. As Hancock dismissed the workmen four trucks drove up.  Against rules of the local military authorities, Hancock put the civilians to work loading the great cases. They worked willingly enough, but only half the cargo was aboard the trucks when the problem of the evening meal had to be faced, so he sent them back to their families, and did not plan on disobeying the rules to have them work at night.There were still two trucks to load. Unless an early start could be made the following morning, Saturday, the weekend would delay them three days- too long to tie up military transport for any reason- especially in view of their questionable right to the use of this transport in the first place. So Hancock turned to Kovalyak to find help for the loading. He returned with the entire Siegen police force, which finished the load. They took advantage of the convoy to Cologne and Aachen to add to the cargo at the last minute some boxes from the Schnütgen Museum of Cologne and a set of modern copies of crowns and other regalia of the ancient Holy Roman Empire.

Their hurried decision and impromptu preparations had not sufficiently allowed for one very essential item of the arrangements. Aachen and Cologne were then in the Fifteenth U. S. Army area. Correct procedure required clearance with the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, of that Army before anything could be brought in from another army. Hancock believed weeks would have been required to get clearance by mail through normal army channels. During the evening of May 25, they attempted to make contact with the Fifteenth U.S. Army headquarters. “We decided,” Hancock later wrote, “there could not now be any turning back and that our departure would take place in the morning despite the consequences.”

On Saturday May 26 the convoy got an early start. They took along a guard in a weapons carrier supplied by Col. Stone. Kovalyak and Etzkorn came with Hancock, but Moore was left behind to struggle with arrangements for the next move. Their trip was halted several times at towns where there were military units that might have telephonic communications with the Fifteenth U.S. Army, but despite these efforts no contact was made and they arrived at Cologne at 2pm. The officers of the Military Government detachment expressed no interest in shrines and Romanesque doors. Their only suggestion was that if they would wait until Monday they might be able to get some help for unloading through the Burgomaster’s office. Hancock had his group drive to in front of the Cathedral, the only building within sight that was completely standing. It contained a bunker where the Cologne treasures could be safely stored. Meanwhile Kovalyak rounded up some local men and boys to help. Hancock did not ask him how he had done it nor remind him of the warning they had received against impressing civilians into work on weekends. The items were unloaded. At dusk they headed out to Aachen, some forty miles away. There they had no trouble finding volunteers to handle the heavy cases, and they were soon installed in the safety of the Hubertus Chapel of the Cathedral.

Page 30-res

“Report on the Evacuation of the Repository in Siegen, Germany” describes the items moved to Cologne and Aachen on May 26, 1945. General Records, 1946 – 1948, RG 260 (NAID 1560051)

A month later a report indicated that the move had been made in an irregular manner by a local official without proper authority. Fortunately, no repercussions were forthcoming. By the time the report was made, Hancock had removed the remaining items from Siegen to the Marburg Central Collecting Point.

Among the textual records used in writing this blog were ones from the following files:

    • ETO-Monthly Reports for May and June [AMG-159], Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Branch (MF&A) Field Reports, 1943-1946, (NAID 1537270) Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), RG 239 (Roll 72 of NARA Microfilm Publication M-1944).
    • 312.1 Miscellaneous Correspondence, RD&R Division USGCC 1945, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949 (NAID 6923852) Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.
    • Reports: Weekly Summary reports, May 1945-May 1947, General Records, 1945-1952 (NAID 2431774) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 15 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947).
    • Public Archives: Siegen Depot, Records Relating to the Status of Monuments, Museums, and Archives, 1945-1950 (NAID 2435815) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 62 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947).
    • AMG 214 MFA&A: General Correspondence, Subject Files, Aug. 1943-1945 (NAID 612714) Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
    • AMG 292, 12 Army GP, Subject Files, Aug. 1943-1945 (NAID 612714) Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
    • 17.16, Jackets 10 and 11, Historical Report-12th Army Group-May 1945, Numeric-Subject Operations File, 1944 – 1945 (NAID 611522) Historical Section, Information Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.

Additionally, the following published sources were used:

    • Walter Hancock, “Experiences of a Monuments Officer in Germany,” College Art Journal (vol. V. No. 4, May 1946), pp. 289-293, 300-306.
    • The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Report of The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1946), pp. 129-130.
    • Thomas C. Howe, Jr., Salt Mines and Castles, (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1946), pp. 118-119.
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On the Road Again: Presidential Visits to the West, Part III

Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives in Denver. This is the last part in a three part series. Read parts one and two.

For a president who was only in office a few short years before his untimely death, President John F. Kennedy certainly got around – we hold in our collection photographs detailing official visits to Great Falls and Billings, Montana; Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Pierre, South Dakota; Pueblo, Colorado; Los Banos, and even Redding, California – where the presidential helicopter made a dramatic landing on the crest of the Whiskeytown Dam. In the interest of space it was difficult to settle on just one image to share, especially with such a photogenic president, so this 1962 Bureau of Reclamation photograph of Kennedy touting the Fryingpan-Arkansas Reclamation Project in Colorado will have to suffice (from RG 115, Photographs, NAID 2525008). Pausing for applause, we see a flowered “key to the city” in front of the podium and the stage is lined with frying pans, a nod to the Fryingpan River which the reclamation project involved. Accounts reported that 100,000 people lined Colorado Highway 50 to see the motorcade while 18,000 braved the August heat to hear the president declare that “a rising tide lifts all of the boats” in that the dam would pay dividends far beyond the arid land of eastern Colorado.

9 JFK  (NAID 2525008, Box 238-res

Dedication of Fryingpan-Arkansas project. President Kennedy receiving applause during his address at Pueblo Colorado, August 17, 1962


Given his outsized western persona, surprisingly enough we have yet to come across any pictures of Lyndon Johnson while he was president in our holdings. His wife Lady Bird makes several appearances, from her 1964 “Land and People Tour” of Utah where she dedicated the Flaming Gorge Dam, to 1966 when she returned to Utah to dedicate the Glen Canyon Dam. The only Lyndon Johnson photograph we have found in our holdings is actually one that dates back to his vice presidential tenure.  On June 6th, 1962, Vice President Johnson delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy and handed out diplomas to the 298 graduates. In this photograph from our RG 461 U.S. Air Force Academy holdings (Construction Project Study Files, 1954-1971, NAID 568045) we see Johnson congratulating several graduates. According to the Chicago Tribune the Vice President was briefly held up in Washington, DC and so was a half hour late arriving; his helicopter landed on the academy parade grounds just as the cadets were getting into formation for the ceremony.

9.2 LBJ (NAID 568045, Box 171)-res

[Vice President Lyndon Johnson congratulates Cadets]

We do not come across another presidential photograph taken in our region until 1993 when President Bill Clinton was joined by Pope John Paul II to address students at the World Youth Day festivities in Denver, the first and only time World Youth Day has been held in the United States. President Clinton and his family greeted the Pontiff at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport and after speaking to the assembled crowd the pair flew to Regis University for a private visit. This photograph, found from the Historical Files (NAID 607674in our Record Group 338 Records of U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Organizations (World War II and Thereafter) Fitzsimons Army Hospital files, is one of several taken at the airport that day.

9.3 William Clinton (NAID 607674, Box 104)-res

[President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II, 1993]

This summer, choose your own POTUS Vacation with 13 of our Presidents. Your first destination is @USNatArchives on Instagram.


Additional Sources

John F. Kennedy

Remarks at Pueblo, Colorado, 17 August, 1962

When JFK VIsited Colorado

Lyndon B. Johnson

Late for Commencement

Bill Clinton

Pope Meets President Clinton


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On the Road Again: Presidential Visits to the West, Part II

Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver. This is part two in a three part series. Read Part I.

In 1930 Secretary of Interior Ray Lyman Wilber visited southern Nevada to inaugurate the construction of a long planned dam on the Colorado River. Known until then as Boulder Dam, Wilber announced a new name, one in honor of a man who had been an accomplished engineer in his own right before a long tenure of government service which in part involved advocating for the dam. That man was President Herbert Hoover.

Two years later on November 8, 1932, Hoover lost the presidency to Franklin D. Roosevelt. This photograph found in our Bureau of Reclamation holdings (RG 115, Public Relations Photographs, NAID 562813) was taken only four days later and shows President Hoover’s first, and last, official visit to the dam that bore his name. The ignominy continued when in 1933 the newly installed Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes reversed course and changed the name back to Boulder Dam. It stayed as such until 1947 when President Harry Truman signed a resolution restoring the name we know today, Hoover Dam.

5 Herbert Hooover (NAID 562813, Box 221)-res

BCP 1439 A Boulder Canyon Project, Nevada President Herbert Hoover, and official party in tunnel #2 during inspection tour of Boulder Canyon Project. 11-12-32, Bureau photo by B.D. Glaha

On October 2, 1937, the population of Mason City, Washington swelled as nearly 6,000 cars poured into the town, prompting police to close the highway leading in. The occasion? As seen in this photograph, people were hoping to catch a glimpse of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he toured the Grand Coulee Dam construction site, a project that he had set in motion as President. In his remarks that day:

“There is another phase that I was thinking about this morning. When the dam is completed and the pool is filled, we shall have a lake 155 miles long running all the way to Canada. You young people especially are going to live to see the day when thousands and thousands of people are going to use this great lake both for transportation purposes and for pleasure purposes. There will be sail boats and motor boats and steamship lines running from here to the northern border of the United States and into Canada.”

In 1942 as the dam gates were closed that lake was created – covering 125 square miles and indeed reaching all of the way to the Canadian border. While he was never able to return and see it, five days after his death the reservoir was renamed the Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake in his honor.

6 FDR (NAID 562813, Box 340)-res

 Grand Coulee dam. President’s visit. No caption.

On October 1, 1952, while on a nationwide train tour stumping for the Democratic Presidential ticket, President Harry Truman and his daughter Margaret arrived in Kalispell, Montana to dedicate the Hungry Horse Dam on the South Fork Flathead River in Montana. There are several photographs in our Bureau of Reclamation holdings chronicling the visit but this is one of the more entertaining, a jocular moment which shows the President throwing the switch to signal the start of first power production at the Hungry Horse Power Plant. This was the climax of the dam dedication ceremony held at the Flathead County High School gymnasium. Earlier in the day at the dam site Truman visited with workers and, according to the Missoulian newspaper “showed off his knowledge of civil engineering, asking some pointed questions about the building of the dam.”

7 Harry Truman (NAID 562813, Box 220)-res

Following his dedication speech, President Truman closed a switch on the stage of the Flathead County High School gymnasium to signal operators at the Hungry Horse Power Plant to throw the first generator on the line. Power from the Hungry Horse Plant began flowing into the northwest power pool at 11:35 AM, October 1, 1952. Standing with the President (left to right) are Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman and Donald C. Treloar, President of the Flathead Valley Citizens Committee which sponsored the dedication program. October 1, 1952

General Dwight D. Eisenhower had a deep Colorado connection, with his marriage to Mamie Doud and birth of son John both occurring here in Denver. Photographs of him show up in several places in our collection: while visiting the Hoover Dam during the 1952 campaign, on a 1954 air tour of reclamation project sites, and during his convalescence at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital after his 1955 heart attack. But in this photograph, found in our Record Group 461 Records of the U.S. Air Force Academy holdings (Construction Project Study Files, NAID 568045), we see President Eisenhower visiting one of his administration’s lasting accomplishments – the U.S. Air Force Academy.

President Eisenhower signed into law the creation of the Academy in 1954 and five years later he visited the newly constructed campus in Colorado Springs, Colorado where he spoke to the cadets assembled in the dining hall. In this, one of several images we hold from that day, we see the president arriving in Colorado.

8 Dwight Eisenhower (NAID 568045, Box 170-res

[President Eisenhower arriving at the Air Force Academy, 1959]

This summer, choose your own POTUS Vacation with 13 of our Presidents.  Your first destination is @USNatArchives on Instagram.

Additional Sources

Posted in Civil Records, History, NARA beyond DC/MD | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment