International Aspects of the Three Mile Island Incident III: Follow Up

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

Several investigations followed the near-disaster at Three Mile Island.  The most important was the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island established by President Jimmy Carter in April 1979.  The twelve-member panel was chaired by John G. Kemeny, president of Dartmouth College, and commonly known as the Kemeny Commission.  It was directed to complete its work and issue a report within six months.  The completed study was issued on October 31.[i]

The report was of obvious interest to foreign officials and several expressed interest in receiving copies.  In response, the Department of State notified selected American embassies of the key conclusions of the report in the following telegram, now part of the Central Foreign Policy Files (NAID 654098).  As noted there, it also provided copies to the Washington embassies of the countries on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission alert list (see Part I) and the recipients of the telegram.

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International Aspects of the Three Mile Island Incident II: International Reaction

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

The overseas reaction to the Three Mile Island accident was varied.  In most countries the response was muted but there were exceptions.  Examples of the different reactions include (All referenced telegrams can be viewed online from the “Diplomatic Records” page of Access to Archival Databases using the message reference number (e.g. – 1979BOMBAY00835) as the search term.):

  • Countries designated to receive Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reports on the situation expressed appreciation for the information passed along by the Department of State.[1]
  • Irish and Venezuelan authorities, considering nuclear power plants, asked to be included in the dissemination of information.[2]
  • Interest in France was high and the incident attracted a great deal of press coverage.  French authorities wanted to send representatives to the U.S. to monitor the situation directly.  In addition, the French Minister of Industry scheduled a debate on energy policy and wanted “up to the minute factual information.”[3]
  • The embassy in Japan reported that the Three Mile Island incident took the lead spot in the Japanese press on the U.S. even though key intergovernmental talks were taking place at the same time.  The embassy characterized Japanese reaction as “intense” and noted that the press coverage was “sensationalist” and “devoid of factual information/analysis” but that reaction of Japanese officials was “more calm and  . . . committed to proceeding with a reasoned, analytical approach” to nuclear safety.[4]
  • In the Netherlands interest was high and the Dutch also sent observers.[5]
  • German officials planned a ministers meeting on nuclear safety, offered technical assistance, and sent two reactor safety experts to observe.  There were also public demonstrations against nuclear power.[6]
  • Authorities in Bermuda asked about the threat of fallout to that island if the worst happened.[7]
  • The embassy in Manila reported on Philippine concerns given the expanding nuclear power industry in that country.[8]
  • A high-level Cuban official expressed his concern about the incident.[9]
  • In Sweden, the issue of nuclear power had been a key political issue for many years.  The embassy in Stockholm reported that the incident “had an immediate and profound impact on the Swedish internal political debate” calling it “political dynamite in nuclear sensitive Sweden” with its upcoming elections.[10]
  • Belgium sent a team of six to report on the situation.  Belgian officials expressed concern about the negative affect the incident would have on public opinion, already uneasy about the strong commitment to nuclear power.[11]

    The foreign responses to the Three Mile Island event were summed up in the following memorandum to the Deputy Secretary of State.

    P790061-1076.1

    Asst Sec for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs to the Deputy Sec of State, Memo, Apr 12, 1979, P790061-1076, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/P-Reel Printouts, RG 59 p1

    P790061-1076.2

    Asst Sec for Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs to the Deputy Sec of State, Memo, Apr 12, 1979, P790061-1076, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/P-Reel Printouts, RG 59 p1

    Next: Follow up.


    [1] See for example U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 05901, March 30, 1979, 1979BONN05901, U.S. Consulate Bombay to Department of State, Telegram 00835, April 2, 1979, 1979BOMBAY00835, and U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10594, April 2, 1979, 1979PARIS10594, all Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [2] U.S. Embassy Dublin to Department of State, Telegram 01438, March 30, 1979, 1979DUBLIN01438 and U.S. Embassy Caracas to Department of State, Telegram 03224, April 5, 1979, 1979CARACA03224, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [3] U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10429, March 30, 1979, 1979PARIS10429, and U.S. Embassy Paris to Department of State, Telegram 10595, April 2, 1979, 1979PARIS10595, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [4] U.S. Embassy Tokyo to Department of State, Telegram 05584, April 2, 1979, 1979TOKYO05584, and U.S. Embassy Tokyo to Department of State, Telegram 05853, April 5, 1979, 1979TOKYO05853, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [5] U.S. Embassy The Hague to Department of State, Telegram 02968, April 2, 1979, 1979THE HA01968, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [6] U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06041, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06041, U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06053, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06053, and U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Telegram 06083, April 2, 1979, 1979BONN06083, all Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [7] U.S. Consulate Hamilton to Department of State, Telegram 00197, April 3, 1979, 1979HAMILT00197, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [8] U.S. Embassy Manila to Department of State, Telegram 06858, April 5, 1979, 1979MANILA06858, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [9] U.S. Interest Section Havana to Department of State, Telegram 02756, April 5, 1979, 1979HAVANA02756, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [10] U.S. Embassy Stockholm to Department of State, Telegram 01437, April 3, 1979, 1979STOCKH01437, and U.S. Embassy Stockholm to Department of State, Telegram 01480, April 4, 1979, 1979STOCKH01480, both Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

    [11]  U.S. Embassy Brussels to Department of State, Telegram 06318, April 3, 1979, 1979BRUSSE06318, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

     

     

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International Aspects of the Three Mile Island Incident I: Keeping the World Informed

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

On March 28, 1979, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, experienced a partial meltdown.  While ultimately there was no large-scale release of radioactive materials, the potential for a major disaster existed as demonstrated by the Chernobyl catastrophe in the USSR in 1986.  The crisis situation ended on April 1, although cleanup efforts continued for years.[i]

While most Americans looked at the Three Mile Island incident as a potential domestic disaster, it clearly had international ramifications and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the agency with domestic oversight of the nuclear power industry, worked with the Department of State to keep American diplomats and their international associates overseas informed of the conditions at Three Mile Island.  Unlike the Soviets just seven years later with Chernobyl, the U.S. took immediate steps to notify other countries about what was going on there.

Coincidentally, just nine weeks before the reactor at Three Mile Island malfunctioned, the Department of State had provided pertinent overseas missions with contact information for foreign nuclear energy regulatory officials, called “NRC Technical Notification Addressees,” to which the NRC would send information on important regulatory actions, operating incidents, and other matters of immediate interest through those missions.[ii]  The Department sent that instruction to the posts in Athens, Bern, Bombay, Bonn, Brasilia, Brussels, Copenhagen, Helsinki, London, Madrid, Manila, Mexico city, New Delhi, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Seoul, Stockholm, Taipei, Tehran, Tel Aviv, The Hague, Tokyo, Vienna and the U.S. missions to the European Economic Commission (EEC), the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Within hours of the beginning of the incident at Three Mile Island, the Department sent the following telegram asking that missions implement the notification process (from the RG 59 Central Foreign Policy Files (NAID 654098)).

1979STATE077697.1

Dept of State to Multiple Addresses, Telegram 077697, March 28, 1979. STATE077697, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59, p1

1979STATE077697.2

Dept of State to Multiple Addresses, Telegram 077697, March 28, 1979. STATE077697, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973-79/Electronic Telegrams, RG 59, p2

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Beyond the Records in the Hub

Today’s post is by Candice Blazejak, an Archives Technician on detail at NARA’s Innovation Hub in Washington, DC

Researchers and curious visitors come into National Archives facilities everyday looking for long lost information or out of general curiosity.  They focus on what the records contain more so than what they look like.  Recently, I started a detail for the Innovation Hub at the National Archives and part of my day-to-day consists of looking at digital images of Civil War pension records scanned by “Citizen Contributors.”  As a lover of history just looking at the documents as images and not historically significant pieces was a little difficult.  I wanted to read every document for some hidden meaning.  Ultimately you soon realize that the documents don’t hold more than the general information needed in order to approve or disprove a claim for a pension.  Though the pension records can be packed full of information, as you look through the images you start to notice something else. Art!

Graphic design isn’t something that’s typically done on documents anymore.  We are so technology driven that we forget the simple art of penmanship, letterheads, or just simply writing a letter out by hand.  I was not familiar with the evolution of letterheads or “letter paper” as I saw it referred to for early 19th century documents.  Where else do you go but to Google, and I found so many blogs and websites dedicated to the “Evolution of the Letterhead.”  Quite fascinating once you dive into it, but the images that I found in NARA pension records are Bureau of Pension documents, marriage certificates, sometimes just envelops or postcards.  One document I found so striking was because of the calligraphy on the postcard (calligraphy is a lost art as well, but I’m staying focused on letterheads for now).

The Bureau of Pensions’ letterheads from 1912 and 1908 found below were addressed to widows of Civil War soldiers.  While both seem to have the same designs and image, looking closer you can see that “Widows” was extracted from the 1912 letterhead.  The iconography in the image I am sure has a deeper meaning, but I can only speculate as to what each object would mean in its placement.  War is of course symbolized there with the cannon, cannon balls, and rifles, while you also have the protection of the American flag with the women shielding it from harm.  There is a globe which I am assuming depicts the world, but the images of the sheep leaves me a little baffled.  I am going to assume the sheep are there depicting new life?  Going way out on a limb with the depictions, these iconographic images in the letterhead can be seen and interpreted as art through the design and possible interpretation of the symbols found within.  After all they are engraved, so some thought went into how the department wanted the letterhead to look.  Why take the time if there wasn’t some importance?

Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, 1861 – 1934, (NAID 300020). Veterans Administration/ Department of the Interior. Bureau of Pensions. Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 – 2007.

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A Look Ahead at the New Queen, 1953

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

Shortly after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, the U.S. embassy in Great Britain submitted a despatch entitled “The Role of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh” (now in the 1950-54 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), Record Group 59).  While the report notes that only 15 months on the throne “is too brief a time in which to estimate the quality and character of a reigning monarch,” it still paints an interesting and favorable portrait of the personality and character of the new monarch and her consort, full of promise at the beginning of what has turned out to be her long and distinguished reign.

741.11[7-2753.1

Despatch 488, 7/27/1953, p1

741.11[7-2753.2

Despatch 488, 7/27/1953, p2

741.11[7-2753.3

Despatch 488, 7/27/1953, p3

741.11[7-2753.4

US Embassy Great Britain to Dept State; Despatch 488, 7/27/1953, file 741.11/7-2753; p4

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The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

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

On February 6, 1952, King George VI of Great Britain died and his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, ascended to the throne.  Formal coronation of the new Queen took place on June 2, 1953.  President Dwight Eisenhower named as his representatives four members of the Special Delegation to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II:

  • George C. Marshall[1] – Personal Representative of the President with rank of Special Ambassador
  • Omar N. Bradley[2] – Representative of the United States Military Services with rank of Special Ambassador
  • Earl Warren[3] – Representative of the President with rank of Special Ambassador
  • Fleur F. Cowles[4] – Representative of the President with rank of Special Ambassador

Protocol clearly dictated formal attire for an event such as the coronation.  Several months before the festivities, the U.S. embassy in London transmitted the instructions issued by Buckingham Place in the following despatch from the 1950-54 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021) in the Records of the Department of State, RG 59.

741.11[1-1653.1

US Embassy Great Britain to Dept of State, Despatch 3248, Jan 16, 1953, file 741.11/1-1653 p1

741.11[1-1653.2

US Embassy Great Britain to Dept of State, Despatch 3248, Jan 16, 1953, file 741.11/1-1653 p2

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“We Suggest a Bacardi Cocktail Before Lunch,” WWII Era Menus from the Mountain West

By Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver

This post is dedicated to the memory of historian Robert “Bob” Autobee, 1961-2018, whose many writing credits include a co-write of the book “Lost Restaurants of Denver,” and from whose various discussions of restaurant and food history with me while working in our research room led me to embracing my offbeat fascination with the following records.

Fresh Colorado Mountain Trout, 90 cents. Pan Fried Rainbow Trout, $1.25. Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout with Sunkist Lemon, $1.00. Fresh Mountain Trout Sauté Meuniere, 85 cents. Colorado Mountain Trout Sauté Meuniere, $1.50. Grilled Mountain Trout Club Style, $1.00. Fresh Rainbow Trout, 75 cents. Breaded Tenderloin Trout and Bacon, 60 cents. Colorado Mountain Rainbow Trout, $1.00. Montana Fresh Mountain Trout Sauté Meuniere, $1.50. Grilled Mountain Trout with Bacon, $1.00. Idaho Mountain Trout, $1.25. Superior Lake Trout, 60 cents. Mountain Trout with Bacon, 75 cents. Fresh Brook Trout, 90 cents. Fried Tenderloin Trout, 50 cents. Baby Trout, 75 cents. Fried Lake Trout, 60 cents. And lastly, freshly caught Mountain Trout, cold water beauty, painstakingly grilled to preserve its delightful flavor, $1.15.

Records held by the National Archives are generally those created by federal agencies in the course of their business but at times may include records submitted to the federal government, generally as evidence or proof of something. This is why within Denver’s Record Group 188, Records of the Office of Price Administration, there are several dozen WWII era restaurant and coffee shop menus, which as seen above can detail the 1940’s going rate for the staple of mountain west restaurants even today, trout.

In early 1941 the Office of Price Administration (OPA) was created but it wasn’t until shortly after the December entry into WWII when it became an independent agency with the authority to place ceilings on the prices of services and goods, save agricultural commodities. The records are comprised of case files and administrative documents along with general correspondence, which often serves to dash the image of a united home front as the collection is rife with letters from businessmen grousing over restrictions and businesses accusing other businesses of black market participation. The record group is a goldmine for statistical data regarding the cost and production of a plethora of goods, everything from tires to towels, from children’s toys to caskets, and for services, such as construction, plumbing, and even blacksmithing. Included with these reports, letters, and data sheets are catalogs, brochures, and when it comes to restaurants – menus.

The Blue Spruce Restaurant menu from Records Concerning Price Regulations, 1942-1946 (NAID 1116879), box 192.

The Blue Spruce Restaurant of Colorado Springs Colorado had a problem – in particular, a hamburger steak problem. When updating their prices in 1943 for approval by the OPA, they missed changing the hamburger steak from 60 cents to 75 cents yet subsequently starting charging the higher rate. When it was noticed, the owner frantically cobbled together documents attesting to the fact he meant to adjust the price upward and submitted several affidavits from wait staff that they had been charging 75 cents, in the hopes of being allowed to still charge the higher price while the rate hike was formalized. It was to no avail; the hamburger steak had to be pulled off the menu in the meanwhile which was exactly what the owner feared, possibly losing business “because of the popularity of said entrée among the Service men of Colorado Springs…”

Raymond’s Cube Steak House menu from Records Concerning Price Regulations, 1942-1946 (NAID 1116879), box 193.
The Copper Bowl at Finlen Hotel from Case Files, 1943-1946 (NAID 1104455), box 67.

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World War I Experiences of the Lone Star Division

Today’s post was written by Judy Luis-Watson, Manager of Volunteer & Education Programs at the National Archives at College Park

The series, Records of Divisions (NAID 301641) of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in Record Group 120, document the service of each combat division during its participation in World War I (WWI). Of the 59 Divisions that were formed, with 28,000 personnel in each Division, only the 36th Division contains Personal War Experiences.

Written by the servicemen after their return from the frontline, 2,300 narratives document their experience of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The records can be difficult to read because of the aging and faded records. Most are handwritten on YMCA or Salvation Army note paper or scrap paper. Many are detailed and moving stories; some are peppered with humor, while others are evidence of men struggling to write.

The 36th Division, known as “The Lone Star Division,” was formed by men from the Texas and Oklahoma National Guard.

The servicemen were asked to write about their experiences presumably to keep them busy. But is it possible that the very act of writing helped them to process often horrific experiences, and their stories might have offered the leadership some insight into the final Allied offensive of WWI?

The 22 boxes of Personal War Experiences were discovered during a volunteer project to preserve these old and often fragile records housed at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. Included are the personal stories of the men who served in the 132nd and 142nd Machine Gun Battalions, and the 141st, 142nd, and 143rd Infantry Regiments. These narratives were recently digitized and are now searchable in the National Archives Catalog.

Private Dave Faris, Co. I, 141st Inf., 36th Div. 1918, 236.33.61

Private Dave Faris, a runner, had 15 minutes to deliver a very important message about an attack. He ran a quarter of a mile through the “enemy’s bursting shells.” His journey back was even more harrowing as he searched for his unit which had started on the attack.

 

Corporal Harry S. Hovey Co. E, 142nd Inf., 36th Div. 1918, 236.33.61

Corporal Harry S. Hovey’s brief chronology of his unit’s activity gives his first impression of France and of war.

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Trailblazers: Women Leading Their Field

Today’s post is written by Laney Stevenson, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park.

In celebration of Women’s History Month and with the rousing collective movement for women’s rights and empowerment which has been reignited over the last year, it seems fitting to look back on past recognition of women for their achievements as both a mark of progress and means of appreciation for those that worked to pave a path toward equality and justice.

Through their professional accomplishments, the women featured below display their tenacity and drive to pursue vocations outside the realm of more traditional female career paths. These trailblazers exhibit the capacity for women to firmly establish a role in professions historically dominated by men, such as government and military, business and finance, and science and technology, while being particularly remarkable for taking place within the conservative climate of the 1950s.

These photographs are from the series Feature Packets with Recurring Subjects, 1953-1959, (NAID 1105040) in Record Group 306: Records of the U. S. Information Agency, Press and Publications Service. The text is taken from captions accompanying each image.

Aviation

Blanch Wilcox stands by a plane.

Women in Aviation

Blanche Wilcox Noyes, chief of the air-routing marking branch of the U. S. Civil Aeronautics Administration, has been flying since 1928. Winner of several air races, she was named U. S. Woman of the Year in Aviation in 1954. Mrs. Noyes is the only woman federal executive flying government aircraft.


trafficcontrol-june59001.jpg

Martha Jack’s Thoughts are in the Clouds

As senior traffic control operator at the busy airport in Memphis, Tennessee, Miss Martha Jack is responsible for the safety of hundreds of travelers every day. Her job involves patrolling the airways from the ground by radar, radio and time-scheduling to prevent mid-air collisions and to guide pilots on instrument flying in bad weather.

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Women at Work in the 1950s

Today’s post is written by Laney Stevenson, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park.

In celebration of Women’s History Month and with the rousing collective movement for women’s rights and empowerment which has been reignited over the last year, it seems fitting to look back on past recognition of women for their achievements as both a mark of progress and means of appreciation for those that worked to pave a path toward equality and justice.

The following photographs of professional women demonstrate both the increasing variety as well as the societal limitations of the career paths available to women during the 1950s. The occupations with which women have primarily been associated are prominent, including work as a teacher, nurse, stewardess, librarian, secretary, and factory worker. However, newer fields for women are also represented, such as engineering, pharmacy, real estate, and finance, which evidence the motivation and drive within women to further their career aspirations and assert their right to professional equality.

These photographs are from the series Feature Packets with Recurring Subjects, 1953-1959, (NAID 1105040) in Record Group 306: Records of the U. S. Information Agency, Press and Publications Service. The text is taken from captions accompanying each image.

Aviation

A photograph of three stewardesses in training.

Jobs with Wings (1 of 4)

At the American Airlines training school in Chicago, Illinois, an instructor shows two girls who are learning to become stewardesses how to serve meals in an airplane. Fifty subjects, ranging from flying routes to first aid, are taught the girls who qualify to attend the school.


Photograph of a full airplane cabinet, with stewardesses walking the aisles serving the passengers.

Jobs with Wings (2 of 4)

These United Air Lines stewardesses work as a coordinated team to make the flight comfortable for passengers aboard a DC-7 Mainliner.


A stewardess and pilot in the cockpit.

Jobs with Wings (3 of 4)

As part of stewardess training conducted by the large commercial airline companies in the United States, the hostesses are taught the various parts and operations of an airplane so they will be prepared to answer questions of passengers. Here, a stewardess is receiving cockpit instructions from the captain of the plane.


Stewardess posing outside an airplane.

Jobs with Wings (4 of 4)

The first eight women who served as airlines hostesses in the United States in 1930 are shown here wearing the uniforms adopted for “sky girls” during their first year of service. They were hired by Boeing Air Transport, a parent company of United Air Lines. At the top (left) is Miss Ellen Church, the San Francisco nurse who originated the plan of assigning female attendants to commercial airliners.

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