History Repeating Itself: Mail Fraud Case 8011

Today’s post was written by Jessica Lee, a summer intern in the Reference Section, Civil records team at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about an interesting fraud case I discovered in the records of the Fraud Order Case Files, 1894-1951 (NAID 2660896).  That file pertained to the “White Wizard”, a man from Tacoma, Washington, who sold horoscopes though the U.S. Mail.

As with my previous blog, the name of the accused party stood out: “Prince Richard, Onikoyi of Ikoyi” of Lagos, Nigeria.  My first thought was that this couldn’t possibly be anything like the infamous scam on the Internet, where a supposed member of a foreign royal family emails an individual asking for financial assistance in exchange for which said individual will supposedly receive even more money.

Upon delving into Fraud Case 8011 (by Order No. 39606 on January 17, 1949) more, I found myself returning to the saying “everything old is new again.”

To understand the procedures when dealing with mail fraud, the general charge against the named parties was “conducting a scheme or device for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.”  Once the Postmaster General brought this charge against someone, postmasters were essentially forbidden to deliver any money orders, letters, and other mail matter to said party and were directed to return these materials and/or inform senders that the delivery of these materials has been forbidden.

In this instance, the Senior Trial Examiner assigned to the case, James C. Haynes, Jr., submitted a “Finding of Fact and Recommendations to the Postmaster General for the Issuance of a Fraud Order” on January 13, 1949.  According to Haynes’ report, Prince Richard wrote to people in the United States and requested “that various sums of money and articles of clothing be sent him,” and in return he would “send items of jewelry and other articles of Nigerian production.”  Prince Richard also claimed “that he is related to a Nigerian potentate, that his ‘palace grounds’ are at 107 Victoria Street, and that he has three stores in Nigeria which sell African products.”

Haynes went on to say that, based on evidence collected by the Office of International Trade of the Department of Commerce and by the American Consul General in Nigeria, Prince Richard was in reality “a sixteen-year-old youth who has no stores of merchandise as he represents, that he is in no sense related to Nigerian royalty, that his title of ‘Prince’ is but a figment of his imagination, … and that his correspondence with the persons solicited in the United States always ceases as soon as the money or articles sent to ‘Prince Richard’ have been received by him.”  Based on Haynes’ recommendation, a fraud order against Prince Richard was issued by the Postmaster General several days later.

I found a similar fraud case (No. 8104, by Order No. 40903, issued on July 1, 1949) concerning one “Prince Bil Morrison” of Lagos, Nigeria was charged.  Haynes wrote that Prince Bil Morrison “solicits various sums of money and articles of clothing to be sent him, in return for which he promises and pretends that he will send the donors items of Nigerian ivory, diamonds, and jewels.”  This time, the perpetrator was “a fourteen year old Nigerian youth, who in no sense is entitled to the royal title of ‘Prince,’ but who used that title, according to his admission to Nigerian police officials, ‘just for fun’s sake’.”

Post Master General Letter about Nigerian Prince

Hayes further explained that Prince Bil Morrison was really “one of a number of young Nigerian school boys” and that the Nigerian police “have stated officially that this practice has become so widespread that in their opinion, only by notices in the American press will the public be made aware of the fact” that this was occurring.  As happened in the case with Prince Richard, Haynes recommended that the Postmaster General issue a fraud order against Prince Bil Morrison.

Unfortunately, neither case file includes anything that indicates what may have become of either “prince”, but it is amazing that given the growth of Internet fraud in recent years, it looks like history does repeat itself.

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An Unsuspected Foe: Shark Attacks during World War II

Today’s post was written by Megan Dwyre, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Several species of shark have been known to attack a swimming man. Your chances of encountering one of these are not great…– Extract from “Survival on Land and Sea.”[1]

“Shark Attacks”, a 1944 survey conducted by the Coordinator of Research and Development, U.S. Navy, Emergency Rescue Equipment Section, explains that prior to December 14, 1942, the Navy considered sharks an insignificant danger to personnel. A survey of available records revealed “only two, or perhaps three, authentic instances of shark bite.” In addition, existing information suggested that sharks were wary of strange objects and would likely be driven away by loud commotions (e.g. explosions), which typically accompanied wartime events where men would be thrown into the sea.[2]

The wartime shark attack cases that constitute Part 1 of the survey seem to suggest otherwise. They recount, often in graphic detail, the harrowing experiences of a few soldiers who were attacked by sharks and lived to tell the tale.

One such case was that of Lieutenant Arthur George Reading, who survived a plane crash over the South Pacific in May 1943, only to spend the next sixteen hours in the water fighting away sharks – first with binoculars, then with his hands and feet. While trying to attract the attention of planes flying overhead, the crash’s other survivor, Aviation Radioman 1st Class Everett Hardin Almond, felt something strike his foot – he had been bitten. Lt. Reading recounted that, soon after, “there were more than five sharks around and blood all around us.” Realizing the wound was severe, Almond heroically offered his life jacket to Reading, although Reading refused to accept it. Sadly, Almond suffered a number of subsequent attacks and was killed. Reading recalled that by sunset that evening he had given up hope. Fortunately, around midnight he spotted a Yard Patrol (YP) boat, which came to his rescue.[3]

Because many shark attacks followed ship sinkings, it is impossible to determine the exact number of shark-related deaths during World War II. Reading’s story, and the other cases contained in the report, likely provide only a glimpse of the horrors inflicted by this unsuspected foe.

The records cited above can be found in “Shark Attacks,” Coordinator of Research and Development, U.S. Navy, Emergency Rescue Equipment Section, 1944, Research Data: Shark Attacks (NAID  6946057), Subject Files, 10/30/1941-1954, Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force (Air Staff), Record Group 341.


[1] Extract from Survival on Land and Sea, reprinted in “Shark Attacks,” page 5.

[2] Technical Note No. 89-42, Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics, reprinted in “Shark Attacks,” pages 3-4.

[3] “Attack on Air Crash Survivors, South Pacific, May 1943. One Fatality,” Case 1, Part 1, “Shark Attacks,” pages 6-12.

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The Kümmel Report

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

Dr. Alfred Hentzen, on the staff of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, was mobilized into the German Army in mid-1942.  While serving on the Intelligence Staff of a Panzer Division in North Africa, he was captured by the British on May 12, 1943, his fortieth birthday.  Three years later, in London, he was interrogated by John M. Phillips, the head of the London Desk of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Art Looting Investigation Unit and Denys Sutton, Secretary to the Commission for the Protection & Restitution of Cultural Material (the Vaucher Commission).

Hentzen told his interrogators that he worked on a special project in 1940 with Dr. Otto Kümmel, a specialist in East Asia art and the history of weapons. Born on August 22, 1874, Kümmel studied at the Universities of Freiburg, Bonn and Paris. He began his career in 1901 as a volunteer at the Museum of Applied Arts in Hamburg. During the next eighteen years he worked at the Zeughaus, Berlin; the Municipal collections of Freiburg; Museum of Ethnology, Berlin, of which he became the director in 1919. In 1932 he joined the Nazi Party and in 1934 he was appointed Director General of the Berlin State Museums.  He also served as the Director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.

Hentzen said that in September 1940, together with Kümmel and Dr. Niels von Holst (Head of the branch office of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum) he arrived in Paris on a secret mission. Their aim was to compile a catalogue of those works of art taken by France from Germany during the Napoleonic Wars and those sequestrated by the French authorities at the outbreak of the war in 1914.  This, he said, was an amplification of the research begun by Dr. Karl Wilkes of Düsseldorf and Dr. Rudolf Brandts of Bonn which had been published in 1939 as Denkschrift und Listen über den Unstraub der Franzosen im Rheinland seit 1794 (Memorandum and lists of the art theft of the French in the Rhineland since 1794).  Their task, Hentzen said, had been commissioned by the German Ministry of Propaganda with a view to advancing German claims for restitution at the Peace Treaty with France. Their research work was mainly carried out at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and consisted of investigating catalogues of sales and museums and the gazette of the Hôtel Drouot, the large auction house in Paris that opened in 1852.  Von Holst was responsible for the Napoleonic period; Hentzen for the 1914 period; and Kümmel for the general editing.  Hentzen also went to Brussels in order to compile lists of Belgian and Dutch collections taken by the French.  This research, which was later published in mimeographed form took three months to complete, and necessitated three visits to Paris.

The report, which was commissioned by the Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery and the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, was completed by Otto Kümmel on December 31, 1940.  It lists art works and other historically relevant objects, including paintings, prints, textiles, coins, furniture, and other objects that they claimed fell into foreign hands since 1500 without German permission or based on questionable legal acts.  The list did not include books, manuscripts, maps, sheets of music, archival materials, military trophies and weapons.

The report consists of three main parts:

  • Part I lists works whose location is known. It is thereunder subdivided according to the significance of the works (works and collections of special artistic and historical significance, works of lesser prominence and works of local significance).
  • Part II lists works whose whereabouts are unknown (and thus it is unknown if they still exist).
  • Part III lists works owned by German nationals that were confiscated as a result of the World War and subsequent Versailles and St. Germain Treaties.

The description of each item on the list typically includes title/description of object, name of artist (if known), and location.  For works in the possession of museums, only a catalog number is cited.

On May 5 elements of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division entered Berchtesgaden.  As soon as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment occupied Berchtesgaden, Technician Thrid Grade (T/3) George Allen, with the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), 101st Airborne Division, proceeded there to open the Division (MIS) Counterintelligence office.  He was soon assisted by CIC Special Agent Eric Albrecht, who had been sent to the division on detached service.  On May 8, Albrecht found copy No. 1 of the Kümmel Report on the Obersalzberg, the mountainside retreat situated above Berchtesgaden, perhaps at or near the Berghof (Adolf Hitler’s residence).  That same day, Capt. James J. Rorimer, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Specialist Officer with the Seventh U.S. Army arrived at Berchtesgaden.  Not long afterwards Albrecht gave Rorimer the recovered Kümmel Report.

In early 1946, Rorimer would leave military service and return to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Instead of sending the copy of the Kümmel Report to the Heidelberg Document Center operated by the Seventh U.S. Army, he took it home with him.  Had he turned it over to the document center, which in turn transferred it to the Munich Central Collecting Point as a reference tool, or retained it as part of its captured records collection, the report would have subsequently been accessioned by the National Archives.

In 1949, Rorimer contacted Ardelia Hall, Arts and Monuments officer of the Department of State, about turning his copy of the Kümmel Report over to the Department of State.  Following up on their conversations, Lawrence S. Morris, Acting Chief, Division of Libraries and Institutes, wrote Rorimer on April 28, 1949, that arrangements were being made to transfer the Kümmel Report.  Morris informed Rorimer that the “report will remain in the custody of the Department of State or other appropriate government agency.” On April 28, Ardelia Hall requested that arrangements be made for an official Department courier to pick up the report from Rorimer.

Rorimer wrote Morris on May 2 that he had turned over to the Registrar’s office of the Metropolitan Museum the report for delivery to an official Department of State courier.  According to the museum’s website a photostatic copy was made from the original typescript at the Department of State.  It is this photostatic copy that can be viewed on line.

The exact date of transfer from the museum to the Department of State is not certain, but by March 1950 it was in the Department of State files.  At the end of that month the Chief Curator of the National Gallery, John Walker, had his secretary call Ardelia Hall and ask that the Kümmel Report be “deposited in the National Gallery of Library of Congress.”  Hall told the secretary that she had use for the report and believed it was not for public use.”  Hall added that if Walker wanted to see it, she thought that might be arranged, but that she could not transfer it.  The secretary said the National Gallery of Art was buying a photostat from the Metropolitan Museum.

On January 29, 1962 the original copy of the Kümmel Report was transferred from the Department of State to the Library of Congress, to whom we refer researchers when they request the report.


  • John M. Phillips, Head, London Desk, OSS Art Unit and Denys Sutton, Secretary to the Commission for the Protection & Restitution of Cultural Material, Report on Preliminary Interrogation of P.W. Alfred Hentzen (ID668), Held at London on 22-23 June 1945, n.d., File: Personalities-Miscellaneous, Subject File, 1940-1946, NAID 1537311 Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll No. 89.
  • Decimals 862.403/5-249 and 862.414/4-2949, Central Decimal File 1945-1949, NAID 302021, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
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The White Wizard Approaches (To Defraud You)

Today’s post was written by Jessica Lee.  She’s a summer intern in the Archives 1 Reference Section, working with the Civil records team.

One of the projects I have been assigned this summer is to help create a finding aid for the
approximately 10,000 fraud cases housed at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC in Record Group 28 (Records of the Post Office Department), Entry 50, Office of the Solicitor: Fraud Order Case Files, 1894-1951 (NARA Online ID Number 2660896).  In order to provide better access for researchers I have been noting the names of the parties who were charged, the date, and the location.  Of the 540 cases I have gone through so far, some cases brought charges against only one person or company; while others charged well over two hundred.  Because of the scope of this project, I do not have the luxury of time to flip through every file and learn about every case, but once in a while something in a folder will make me pause and examine it more closely.  In one particular case, it was the name of the party accused in Case No. 6232 (by Order No. 7379 on June 24, 1935): “White Wizard,” of Tacoma, Washington, that drew my attention.  To my disappointment, the accused party was not your friendly neighborhood Gandalf, nor even your unfriendly neighborhood Saruman.
Normally after a complaint was filed, the Postmaster General would conduct an investigation.Scam Letter from White Wizard

If he deemed it appropriate, a charge of mail fraud would be brought against the accused. The general charge against the named parties was “conducting a scheme or device for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.” Once charged with mail fraud, a “fraud order” would be issued. This directive would forbid postmasters from delivering any money orders, letters, and other mail matter to said party and then directed them to return these materials and/or inform senders that the delivery of these materials has been prohibited. At that point, an administrative hearing was usually held to determine the facts of the case and for the accused to present his side.

According to this case’s file, the “White Wizard” scheme was operated by S. Bannister, and involved “the sale of so-called horoscopes and answering of personal questions” via the mail. In one advertisement included in the file, White Wizard claimed to be a “nationally known psychologist and philosopher” who offered “[his] new Astrological Readings” at a “special low price” which would tell customers “the exact days and dates, month by month, when the planets are in favorable or unfavorable aspect for your business and social affairs.” Interested parties were instructed to send an “exact birth date” and the $0.50 cost of a complete reading. According to the government CPI inflation calculator, $0.50 in 1935 is the equivalent of $8.63 today.

The solicitor bringing this case forward, Karl A. Crowley, wrote that White Wizard, or the man behind it, “does not claim to have any supernatural powers, that questions submitted to him are answered solely from a common sense standpoint,” that “a good percentage of the questions are answered by his stenographers without any assistance from him,” and that “readings” were purchased “in quantities in advance,” one for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Crowley concluded that, because White Wizard did not (1) answer all questions submitted to him; (2) did not furnish correct answers; and (3) did not furnish a personal reading “prepared especially for each remitter,” he found this to be “a scheme for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises” and so recommended a fraud order be issued.

Crowley also noted that White Wizard attempted to “justify his use of the mails in this scheme” by stating his security of “a third class permit under which he mailed the printed matter sent to remitters in this scheme,” but that White Wizard did not assert that he “asked for or obtained a ruling” from the post office as to “whether or not the scheme proposed to be conducted by him through the mails would be in violation of the postal fraud statutes.” Crowley went on to state that postmasters “are prohibited, by Section 602, Postal Laws and Regulations, 1932, from giving opinions in such matters,” and he was “satisfied that no such opinion was given the respondent.”

According to Crowley, on June 20, 1935, the day set for White Wizard’s hearing, no one appeared “in behalf of the respondent.”

All of the above information was submitted in Crowley’s memorandum to the Postmaster General, and on June 24, 1935, the Postmaster General issued Fraud Order No. 7379 against White Wizard.

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The End of the Beginning: The United States Breaks Relations with Cuba, 1961

The recent announcement that the United States and Cuba will establish embassies in each other’s capitals signifies the beginning of a second era of formal relations between the two countries.  The first era lasted from 1902, when the U.S. sent its first diplomatic representative to independent Cuba, until January 1961, when the U.S. terminated diplomatic relations.

On January 3, 1961, in a 1 a.m. telegram, the U.S. embassy in Cuba reported receipt of a diplomatic note from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations indicating that the size of the American diplomatic and consular presence in Habana must be cut to 11 persons within 48 hours.  Daniel Braddock, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Cuba, reported that a staff of that size could not maintain a useful operation and recommended breaking relations.  President Dwight Eisenhower held a meeting at 9 a.m. the same day to discuss how to respond to the Cuban note.  Even though there was some sentiment to move with more deliberation, President Eisenhower decided to break relations and ordered Secretary of State Christian Herter to take that action as soon as possible.

Late in the day on January 3, Edwin Vallon, the head of the Department of State’s Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs, requested that the Cuban Charge d’Affaires Dr. Armando Florez-Ibarra, come to the Department.  The following document describes what took place.

Memo of Conversation regarding Break in Diplomatic and Consular Relations between Cuba and the United States, Jan. 3, 1961

After that, the Department telegraphed the text of the note handed to Dr. Florez-Ibarra to the American Embassy in Habana.

Thus ended 59 years of formal U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations.


  • The memorandum and telegram are from Decimal 611.37 from the 1960-63 segment of the Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
  • A convenient source of more documentation is Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume X: Cuba, 1961-1962 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1997).
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The Best Prophet of the Future is the Past, Part II: Cockpit Doors

This post was written by Chris Naylor, Director of the Textual Records Division.

The devastating Germanwings plane crash on March 24, 2015 has reinvigorated the dialogue surrounding airplane cockpit doors, an issue of paramount concern both in 1970 as well as in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I recently wrote a blog post about President Nixon’s announcement of a program to deal with airplane hijackings on September 11, 1970. During this same period, members of Congress and concerned citizens were writing to the White House and federal agencies to express their views on the issue of hijacking as well as to offer suggestions on various means of dealing with this issue in the future. For one, the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) was very concerned for the safety of crew and passengers aboard airplanes.

By 1970, there had been several incidents that revealed the vulnerability of access to the cockpit from the passenger cabin. On May 5, 1964, a deranged passenger shot both pilots aboard Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 resulting in the death of all forty-four people aboard. This was not the first attempted murder-suicide aboard a commercial airplane, nor would it be the last. In recognition of this threat, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began requiring the locking of the door separating passenger and flight crew compartments on large commercial airplanes in August 1964. However, the FAA understood the limitations of this rule due to the fact that the flight crew required access to the passenger cabin several times during flight which provides opportunities for an unauthorized person to enter the cockpit as well as the potential to gain access through threat of violence to passengers or crew.

During another incident on March 17, 1970 an armed passenger entered the cockpit of Eastern Airlines Flight 1302 en route from Newark, New Jersey to Boston,Massachusetts and ordered the pilot to fly the plane out to sea. When the captain attempted to turn the flight back to the mainland, the hijacker, John J. Divivo, shot the pilot and copilot. Although mortally wounded, the copilot disarmed Divivo and shot him twice. The pilot, who had been shot in both arms, fought off another attack by Divivo, then landed the plane at the original destination. Had it not been for the heroism of the pilot, Captain Robert Wilbur Jr., and the copilot, James Hartley, this flight would have ended in disaster.

Following the Eastern Airlines incident, the ALPA began a concerted effort to push for a secure cockpit concept with the FAA. The FAA files from 1970 contain numerous documents relating to ALPA inquiries relating to the strengthening of cockpit doors.

On September 5, 1970, Dr. Constantin Paul Lent wrote a letter to Vice President Spiro Agnew regarding how to prevent hijackings. Dr. Lent was a mechanical engineer who can be viewed as a visionary and “outside the box” thinker for his prolific writing on rocketry and space travel beginning as early as the 1930s as well as his filing of numerous patents relating to these subjects. Dr. Lent offered the following proposal: “A simple way to prevent highjackers for passing their orders to the aviator is to build a solid wall across the entry door leading from the passenger cabin to the cockpit so as to separate the two and not permit passage.” He included an article he had written for the Summer 1970 issue of his journal Rocket-Jet Flying, which explained how hijackings could be discouraged by using this approach. The article provided the following solution: Provide the pilot’s cabin with its own lavatory facilities and a food compartment. In this manner, there would be no need for physical contact between the flight crew and passenger cabin during the flight, which would eliminate the possibility of hijackers gaining access to the cockpit.

Dr. Lent concluded his letter to the Vice President with the following:

Please communicate this plan to the heads of the various aviation firms and airlines to take effect immediately so as to prevent future highjacking of aircraft. This practice of highjacking could cause huge financial defisits [sic] and may also become in time the cause for another World War.

Sohmer Letter-res

Letter from Arthur Sohmer to Dr. Constantin Lent, Sept 25, 1970

Dr. Lent’s letter was forwarded to the FAA for their consideration and was docketed as comments for the FAA advance notice of proposed rule making (Notice 70-28, 23 July 1970, Docket #10460) which solicited comments concerning bulletproof bulkheads and other cockpit arrangements to enhance security on large passenger carrying airplanes.

On October 21, 1970, the acting FAA administrator provided the Secretary of Transportation with a requested summary of the comments received for the FAA advance notice of proposed rule making.  In general, the airline industry comments were against the proposals.  On the other hand, non-professional comments were overwhelmingly in support of bulletproofing the cockpit, with particular mention of the argument for complete isolation between the flight deck and passenger cabin. It was noted, however, that the responses did not appear to be very helpful.

The implementation of mandatory passenger screening in 1973 lessened the sense of urgency regarding cockpit security.  In time the aviation industry adopted the FAA-approved Common Strategy approach to accommodate the demands of hijackers aboard a plane in order to try to get the plane to land safely, rather than any strategy to counter hijackings mid-flight.  The Common Strategy was based on decades of experience that hijackings could best be resolved once the plane had landed, but would be ineffective in any situation where the hijackers had no intention to land the plane.

Thirty-one years after the ALPA demanded immediate action and Dr. Lent provided his proposal on securing the cockpit to thwart hijacking attempts, access to the flight deck continued to remain a vulnerability on commercial airplanes.  Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the security of flight deck doors became a major concern as a result of the relative ease with which the hijackers on the four planes were able to enter the cockpits and take control of the planes.  In fact, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 passed shortly following the 9/11 attacks included requirements for the strengthening of flight deck doors as well as the locking of the doors while the aircraft is in flight except when necessary to permit access and egress by authorized persons.

To this day, aviation security experts continue to assess options for improving cockpit security.  Dr. Lent may not have realized it at the time, but his vision of a secure cockpit with a lavatory and food compartment would not only protect from hijackers in the passenger cabin, but would also avoid the necessity of a pilot leaving the cockpit, as occurred on the Germanwings flight as well as other known instances of pilot murder-suicide aboard commercial airplanes.


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June 18, 2015.  The bicentennial of the battle of Waterloo, one of the most important events in early nineteenth century European history.  At that battle, an Anglo-Allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Blucher and defeated the French army commanded by Napoleon.  The battle put an end to the so-called “Hundred Days” marking the period between Napoleon’s return from exile on Elba to the restoration of King Louis XVIII on the throne of France.  It also marked the end of twenty years of European conflict in which the United States was both directly and indirectly involved.

Earlier this year I worked with Dr. Stephen Randolph, The Historian of the Department of State, to locate American diplomatic reporting about that event.  One of the documents we located in the series, Despatches from Diplomatic Officers, 1789-1906 (NAID 603720) is the July 25, 1815, despatch by U.S. Minister to Great Britain John Quincy Adams (this document can be found on roll 15 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M30).  Adams had only recently presented his credentials as the new U.S. diplomatic representative in Great Britain when the United States and Great Britain renewed diplomatic relations after the War of 1812.

Among other things, the report, in Adams’s distinctive handwriting, includes brief mentions of the defeat and the battle, notice of Napoleon’s surrender, a comment on the powers performed by Louis XVIII, and reaction of the French people to the restoration:

  • ”The external combination against Napoleon has again overpowered him, probably as before with the assistance of internal treachery.”
  • “After having been defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, he abdicated again the Imperial dignity, and finding it impossible to escape, surrendered himself by going on board the British Ship of War Bellerophon, Captain Maitland.”
  • ”Louis 18th has again been restored, or rather permitted by the Allies to issue Proclamations and Ordinances as king of France – In other respects the allies treat France as a conquered country – levying contributions; taking possession of public property; and appointing Governors in the Provinces overrun by their arms.”
  • ”No act of any sort, expressive of the consent of the French People to be ruled by the Bourbon family has appeared. On the contrary manifestations of the strongest repugnancy against them are daily occurring under the half a million of foreign bayonets by which they have been restored.”

Despatch No. 6 from American Legation Great Britain to Department of State, July 25, 1815



The newspaper clippings mentioned are not among the Department of State records preserved in the National Archives.

Unlike present-day reporting, which is almost immediate, Adams’s despatch did not arrive in the Department of State until September 10, 1815, making for a period of 47 days in transit.

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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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