“Let’s Make a Movie:” The Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and the documentary Onore al Merito (To Whom Honor is Due), 1946

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

During World War II, over 100,000 Italians helped at least 10,000 Allied escapees and evaders, by providing material and financial assistance to them in their efforts in avoiding being seized by the Germans and Fascists, as well as their efforts to reach the Allied lines.  In late April 1944, in Bern, Switzerland, Ignazio Silone (pseudonym of Secondino Tranquilli), an Italian author and Socialist Party leader, talked to Allen Dulles, head of the Office of Strategic Services in Switzerland, about an idea for a movie about the Italian helpers.  Dulles cabled his bosses in London and Washington:

The following is for Washington: 475 [Silone] is wiring Harper Bros. in New York that he is readying a story as the foundation for a movie depicting the brotherhood existing between Americans and Italians as shown by the experiences of escaped Britishers and Americans who were both helped and hidden by northern Italian peasants. Because of the psychological value of such a movie as well as my wish to help 475, would appreciate it if Harpers could be discreetly contacted, on basis of 475’s direct wire, in an effort to discover, if the material can be delivered to them, whether they would be interested. [1]

The movie was never made.  But the idea for such a movie did not end.  Lt. Col. Hugo Graham De Burgh, O.B.E., the commanding officer of the Allied Screening Commission (Italy) and a former escapee himself, in early 1946, was interested in discussions taking place in Rome about the possibility of a movie being made about the Italian helpers, those they helped, and the work of the Commission.  In fact, he may have begun such discussions. He probably discussed the matter with Renzo Lucidi, an Italian film maker, who, with his wife Adrienne, was amongst the foremost helpers in Rome during the war, and after the liberation of Rome, worked for a year for the Allied Screening Commission (Italy).  In 1946, Lucidi was, as a film editor, working with producer John Stafford, on the British-Italian thriller film Teheran. Continue reading

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John Foster Dulles Enters Duty as Secretary of State

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

John Foster Dulles became Secretary of State on January 21, 1953.  By the time he attained that position, Dulles had amassed considerable foreign policy experience both in and out of government.  The grandson of Secretary of State John W. Foster and the nephew by marriage of Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Dulles graduated from Princeton University in 1908.  His governmental work included time on the staff of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at the end of World War I, serving on the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in the late 1940s, and leading the negotiation of the peace treaty with Japan at the end of World War II (1950-52).  Out of government, he worked at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, where he handled many foreign issues, and in 1944 and 1948 he was the chief foreign policy adviser to Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican candidate for president.

Upon entering into office as Secretary of State, Dulles issued the following memorandum to the Department of State and the Foreign Service.

Dulles Statement

Memo from John Foster Dulles to the Department of State and the Foreign Service, Jan 22, 1953.

Source: John Foster Dulles Memorandum to the Department of State and the Foreign Service, January 22, 1953, file US: Government, 1947-1955 (NAID 2647582), Central Subject Files, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, RG 84: Records of Foreign Service Posts, U.S. National Archives.   Also released to the public as Department of State Press Release No. 40, January 22, 1953

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The Council of National Defense: Now a Little Known or Appreciated World War I Federal Agency

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

Among the wonderful sources at the National Archives for the study of World War I are the records of the Council of National Defense (Record Group 62). This Council touched the lives of every American, whether they realized it or not. The records, contained within one thousand boxes, provide a wealth of information about gearing up for war and about the home front during the war, particularly efforts for the mobilization of industries, resources, and the people of the United States for the effective conduct of the war.

The Council of National Defense was established by section 2 of the Army Appropriation Act of August 29, 1916 (39 Stat. 649), to coordinate industries and resources for the national security and welfare. The Council was to investigate and make recommendations regarding the availability, production, and increase of war supplies and transportation. It was the first of the large emergency Government agencies of World War I and became, in turn, the parent organization of most of the other special war agencies. The Council and an Advisory Commission, to be nominated later, were headed by a Chairman, and the administrative duties were exercised by a Director and a secretary.

The Council consisted of six Cabinet members: the Secretaries of Agriculture— David F. Houston, 1916-20, and Edwin T. Meredith, 1920-21; Commerce— William C. Redfield, 1916-19, and Joshua W. Alexander, 1919-21; the Interior— Franklin K. Lane, 1916-20, and John Barton Payne, 1920-21; Labor— William B. Wilson, 1916-21; the Navy— Josephus Daniels, 1916-21; and War— Newton Baker, 1916-21.  Secretary of War Baker was Chairman of the Council.

The Council had its first meeting on December 6, 1916.[1] The Council nominated to the President for appointment to an Advisory Commission seven persons, “each of whom shall have special knowledge of some industry, public utility, or the development of some natural resource, or be otherwise specifically qualified.” The Advisory Commission was to advise and assist the Council in the execution of its functions and to create relations that would render possible the immediate concentration and utilization of the resources of the Nation. The seven members of the Advisory Commission, appointed by the President on October 11, 1916, were Bernard Baruch, financier; Howard E. Coffin, vice president of the Hudson Motor Co.; Hollis Godfrey, president of the Drexel Institute; Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor; Franklin H. Martin, secretary-general of the American College of Surgeons; Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co.; and Daniel Willard, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The Advisory Commission had its first meeting on December 6, 1916, and Godfrey served as Chairman of the Advisory Commission until March 3, 1917, when he was replaced by Willard.

Walter S. Gifford, chief statistician of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., served as temporary Director from December 7, 1916, to March 3, 1917, becoming permanent Director on the latter date. Gifford was succeeded in October 1918 by Grosvenor B. Clarkson, who was followed by Herbert N. Shenton in March 1920 and by Emmons K. Ellsworth who served from November 1920 until June 1921. Baruch served as secretary pro tempore of the Council and the Advisory Commission for the first two meetings on December 6 and 7, 1916, until he was succeeded by D. Dana Bartlett on December 16, 1916, who served as temporary secretary until Clarkson became permanent secretary on March 3, 1917. Upon Clarkson’s appointment as Director, in October 1918, the position of secretary was abolished and the Director assumed its duties. Gifford, Clarkson, and Advisory Commission member Coffin had served together in 1916 as secretary, assistant to the Chairman, and Chairman, respectively, of the U.S. Naval Consulting Board’s Committee on Production, Organization, Manufacturing, and Standardization. This body, which was better known as the Committee on Initial Preparedness, not only served as a model for the Council of National Defense but, on the Committee’s termination during the winter of 1916-17, provided many of its personnel to committees created by the Council and Advisory Commission.


Council of National Defense and Advisory Commission. Seated left to right, Secy. David F. Houston, (Agriculture) Secy. Josephus Daniels (Navy) Secy. Newton d. Baker, (War) Secy. Franklin K. Lane (Interior) Secy. Wm. B. Wilson (Labor), Standing: Grosvenor B. Clarkson, Secy, Julius Rosenwald, Bernard N. Baruch, Daniel Willard, Dr. F.H. Martin, Dr. Hollis Godfrey, Howard E. Coffin and W. S. Gifford, Director. (NAID 26432759)

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Department of State Visa Records in the National Archives

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Among the more popular genealogical-type records among the files of the Department of State are those relating to visas. Except for a brief time during the American Civil War (1861-1865), alien visitors did not require visaed passports in order to enter the United States. The practice of requiring all aliens to obtain visas from U.S. officials abroad before departure for the United States began in 1917 as a war measure during World War I. That procedure was continued under an act of May 22, 1918 (40 Stat. 559), amended in 1921 (41 Stat. 1217). U.S. consuls were directed to refuse visas to aliens whose entrance might threaten the public safety and were required to warn applicants for visas who were liable to be legally excluded from the United States upon their arrival at ports of entry. Under the Immigration Act of 1924, which continued the quota system for immigrants to the United States established in 1921, consuls were responsible for denying visas to applicants inadmissible under that system.

Visa activities in the Department of State were at first handled by the Visa Office, established as part of the Division of Passport Control by a departmental order in August 1918. In November 1919, a subsequent departmental order made the Visa Office a separate unit; 11 years later, under another order, the Visa Office became the Visa Division. In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act, established in the Department of State the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs and raised the Visa Division to the status of an Office within that Bureau.

Records of headquarters-level visa operations are found in RG 59: General Records of the Department of State. Certain file categories in the Department’s central files were assigned for use by the visa organization but the records were kept separate from the main series of the Department’s central files. Recordkeeping for files relating to visa matters now in the National Archives falls into three main periods of time: Continue reading

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The Dunkirk Story, May-June 1940, and A French Perspective

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

During early May 1940, British, French, Dutch, and Belgian forces were fighting to stem the German advances, which had begun May 10, into France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. During May 11, much of the Dutch Army was put out of action and four days later it surrendered.  By May 18, the German Panzer divisions, having regrouped round Saint-Quentin, instead of heading in the direction of Paris, started to swing north towards the Channel.  They reached the coast at Noyelles, near Abbeville, on May 20, and soon took Boulogne and Calais. At the former city, the Royal Navy was able to evacuate at least 1,400 soldiers, before the city surrendered; the Germans capturing 5,000 Allied troops, the majority of whom were French.

The British on May 19 begin considering the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from mainland Europe, and Vice Admiral B. H. Ramsay, Flag Officer Dover, was put in charge of the transport for Operation Dynamo, the code name given the evacuation.  On May 21, following an unsuccessful BEF counterattack, and with dwindling supplies and the imminent collapse of the Belgian forces, the French First Army and four British divisions moved back to Dunkirk, a northern French seaport close to the Belgian frontier. On May 23, because of the British retreat from Arras, a planned counteroffensive was postponed.  That day British generals in France came to the conclusion that an evacuation by sea was probably going to be necessary.

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Documents of Loss: Dave Tatsuno’s Records in the San Francisco Branch Evacuee Property Files

Today’s post is written by Jana Leighton, an Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives at College Park with support from Kaitlyn Crain Enriquez, Archives Technician in the Still Pictures Branch at the National Archives at College Park.

In February of 1942 the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank was tasked with the role of fiscal agent for properties and goods (other than farms and farm machinery) of Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Japanese Americans affected by the evacuations from the west coast of the United States of America after the attack on Pearl Harbor through to 1946.[i] This role was initiated by Executive Order 9066 that allowed the Secretary of War to designate military areas and order evacuations of persons deemed a threat to national security. The records from Record Group 210: The Records of the War Relocation Authority in the series San Francisco Branch Evacuee Property Files, 3/18/1942-6/30/1946 reflect several of the Bank’s tasks. Many of the records depict the Bank assisting evacuees in the disposition of property holdings, protecting them from fraud, forced sales, and unscrupulous creditors, in addition to arranging for orderly liquidation of business and property interests while coming under the authority set out by the establishment of the War Relocation Authority.[ii]

A significant portion of the records contained in the series is correspondence and interviews. The correspondence between bank representatives and concerned parties, as well as reports and interview forms, provide a picture of what was being dealt with throughout the evacuation process. Photographs from Record Group 210’s series Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, 1942 – 1945 (NAID 536000) provide faces to some of the names seen within the documents.


San Francisco, California. A business man of Japanese ancestry confers with a representative of the Federal Reserve Bank at Wartime Civil Control Administration station to arrange disposition of his financial affairs prior to evacuation. Evacuees will be housed at War Relocation Authority centers for the duration. [iii]

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Dunkirk in the Department of State Records

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

World War II began in September 1939, with the German invasion and quick conquest of Poland.  Both Great Britain and France declared war on Germany in support of the Poles, but no major military operations took place in Western Europe.  That changed on May 10, 1940, when German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.  British forces, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought alongside the Dutch, Belgian, and French armies.

The Germans quickly advanced to the English Channel isolating British, French, Belgian, and Dutch forces near the port city of Dunkirk, France.  In what has become known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” over a period of about nine days a flotilla of naval and civilian vessels managed to evacuate over 300,000 men to fight another day.

The central files (NAID 302021) of the Department of State include file designations – 740.0011 European War and 740.0011 Pacific War or 740.0011 EW and 740.0011 PW – generally referred to as the World War II file.  The documentation consists of telegrams and despatches from and instructions to U.S. diplomatic and consular officials abroad; diplomatic notes between the Department of State and foreign diplomats in the U.S.; correspondence, reports, and memorandums exchanged with other agencies of the U.S. Government; and correspondence with private firms and individuals.

As might be expected, the files include documents about the German invasion of the Low Countries and France and the resulting fighting.  The following are three examples that specifically mention the action at Dunkirk.


Telegram from US Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt to the Department of State, May 30, 1940; 740.0011EW/3391 1/2

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Captain Alfred Parker on Jaluit Atoll, March – April 1937

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

Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands has recently been in the news regarding the possibility that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were captured by the Japanese and taken to Jaluit Atoll in July 1937. Whether that happened or not is a matter of speculation.  We do know, however, Norwegian Alfred Parker, captain of the Panamanian-registered M. S. Fijian, was there, according to his account, from March 28 to April 24, 1937.  His ship sank after an explosion on March 25, near the island Majuro.  The captain and crew, consisting of Norwegian and Chinese nationals, were rescued by the Japanese vessel, Shinko Maru. They were taken by this vessel to Arno Atoll.  After staying at Arno for 36 hours, the Shinko Maru proceeded southwest to Jaluit Atoll. At Jaluit the captain and crew of the Fijian disembarked under police supervision. [1]

According to Parker he was questioned by the police on 21 different occasions during his stay at Jaluit. He believed that the police regarded him as a spy of some foreign nation and for that reason greatly restricted his freedom of action on Jaluit.  While on Jaluit, Parker became acquainted with missionary Rev. Carl Russell Heine[2], who has been on the islands for 48 years. Heine traveled throughout the Mandated Islands in his work and was acquainted with a number of Japanese naval officers. Heine told Parker that these officers had told him that their naval plans provided for the immediate capture of Guam in case of war between Japan and the United States. Parker later stated that Heine told him that he did not believe that the Japanese would allow him to leave the islands. [3]


Area 22. Marshall Islands – Jaluit Atoll – General ONI #128-348; Monograph Files relating to the Pacific Ocean Areas (NAID 6850877); RG 38

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Poland Celebrates the Sesquicentennial of U.S. Independence, 1926: Part II

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Part I described the events in Poland to celebrate the sesquicentennial of American independence, which included the preparation of over 100 volumes of greetings from the people of Poland.

Once the celebrations ended, the ceremonial volumes were held in Poland until a time could be arranged to present them to President Calvin Coolidge. That did not take place until October 1926, after the President had returned to Washington from his vacation. On October 4, Polish Minister to the United States Jan Ciechanowski sent the following diplomatic note to the Department of State.[1]


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Poland Celebrates the Sesquicentennial of U.S. Independence, 1926: Part I

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

In 1926, the United States marked the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a major celebration. Surprisingly, so, too, did Poland. That country itself had regained its independence only in 1918, with significant U.S. support. Polish efforts to celebrate U.S. independence culminated in October of 1926 with the presentation to President Calvin Coolidge of over 100 volumes of greetings from the people of Poland and a gold medal.

The story, however, began earlier in the year. On June 22, 1926, U.S. Minister to Poland John B. Stetson, Jr., sent the following telegram to the Department of State.[1]


Telegram 71 from the U.S. Legation in Poland

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