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.


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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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Fashion Forward at the National Archives

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

Although fashion may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of government records and the holdings of the National Archives, fashion and dress has, and continues to be, a significant aspect of life for many women (and men!) across generations and around the world. In celebration of Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to share the stories of women in NARA records and to bring to light the accomplishments and achievements of women in the past.

These photographs feature a young woman, Marlene Dillman, whose skill and artistry as an amateur dressmaker won her an all-expense paid, two-week trip to Paris for an ensemble she submitted in a competition sponsored by McCall’s magazine. Of historical interest, particularly in the age of ready to wear and mass-produced off-the-rack clothing, a study entitled “The Woman Who Sews as a Woman of Fashion” which developed from data in the applicant entries, found that the average dressmaker in 1954 was a young housewife and mother who sewed primarily for enjoyment, in addition to considerations for household economy and an opportunity to create unique and original pieces.

The story and photographs are from Record Group 306, Records of the U. S. Information Agency, Press and Publications Service, Feature Packets with Recurring Subjects, 1953-1959 (NAID 1105040). The text is taken from the United States Information Service (USIS) Feature Story from March 1954 as well as the captions accompanying each photograph.


Winner Makes All

When Marlene Dillman plans and makes a new season’s wardrobe she does it now with the assurance that her fashion sense and sewing ability have met the tests of experts. Last year Marlene was chosen winner in a dressmaking contest sponsored by McCall’s, a leading women’s magazine in the United States.

“It was like a fairy tale come true,” said this young career woman who sews as a hobby, when she learned that her pale gray-green wool suit-dress had won McCall’s grand prize – a two week trip to Paris with visits to the studios of world-famous fashion designers. “I never had so many interesting experiences nor so much fun in my life,” she reported.

fashion009

Marlene Dillman, a young American career girl, won a two-week, all-expense trip to Paris by making the smart-looking ensemble which she wears as she strolls past the city’s famous Arc de Triomphe. She is carrying the matching hip-length jacket that completes the pale gray-green wool costume. The gold-colored felt cloche and gold jewelry match the taffeta that lines the belted coat. An amateur dressmaker, Marlene was one of approximately 24,000 contestants in the competition sponsored by McCall’s, a leading women’s magazine in the United States.

Marlene began sewing when she was a small girl. Although her mother has for many years been a professional dressmaker, the daughter chose instead a career in the business world. Until January 1954 she was a secretary and programming assistant in a television studio in her hometown of San Francisco, California. Now she has moved to New York City to look for a job, but she stills plans to stay in television work and keep sewing as a hobby. Continue reading

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Edith Head: Designer to the Stars

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

Although fashion may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of government records and the holdings of the National Archives, fashion and dress has, and continues to be, a significant aspect of life for many women (and men!) across generations and around the world. In celebration of Women’s History Month, it is fitting to share the stories of women in NARA records and to bring to light the accomplishments and achievements of women in the past.

The following article was a United States Information Service (USIS) Feature Story from May 1959 on the life and work of prominent costume designer Edith Head, whose career in Hollywood spanned over five decades, earning her eight Academy Awards for Costume Design, the most any woman has received.

The story and photographs are from Record Group 306, Records of the U. S. Information Agency, Press and Publications Service, Feature Packets with Recurring Subjects, 1953-1959 (NAID 1105040).


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Edith Head, for 21 years the chief costume designer at Paramount Studio, studies the sketches of gowns she is planning for a forthcoming film. Her artistry has brought her six Motion Picture Academy Awards. The creations of this internationally known artist have influenced the taste of countless movie-goers around the world.

She Dresses the Stars by Kathleen Ayres

HOLLYWOOD, California – “Fashion is a language. Some know it, some learn it and some never will learn.” The speaker, Edith Head, is one of the most famous of all “linguists” in this medium. As chief costume designer at the Paramount Studio for 21 years, she has been dressing many of the most glamorous film stars and has garnered six Motion Picture Academy Award “Oscars” for her artistry. Continue reading

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Queen Elizabeth II: Changing Circumstances, Changing Titles

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

Upon assuming the crown in February 1952, the British “empire” led by Queen Elizabeth II consisted of a conglomeration of states and territories bound together in various ways.  There were a number of sovereign states and their dependencies,[1] territories administered through the Commonwealth Relations Office,[2] British dependent territories administered through the Colonial Office,[3] and condominiums.[4]  Nonetheless, the Queen’s formal title was “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith.”  By late that year the fact that the royal title was not consistent with the relationships within the commonwealth led to an agreement to change the Queen’s title.  In December, the U.S. embassy in London sent the following despatch (from the RG 59 1950-54 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021) file 741.11/12-1552) reporting on the proposed changes.

As might be expected, such change did not come without protest.  In this March 1953 despatch, the embassy reported on some of the complaints about the revised titles. Continue reading

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Outstanding Women of 1954

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

In honor 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 nine women featured in this post were selected by Mademoiselle Magazine as “Young Women of the Year” for 1954. They were chosen based on “the quality of their performances and the dedication they brought to their chosen fields” which range from politics and science to literature and music.

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

outstandingwomen005-hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn – Theater. The “incomparable technique” of this talented British actress was cited by Mademoiselle, a leading woman’s magazine of the United States, when it named Miss Hepburn one of the “Young Women of the Year.” From a “bit” player on the English stage and screen, she rose to stardom overnight in the United States through the title role in the stage success Gigi, the story of a French adolescent. From that triumph she stepped to another in the motion picture Roman Holiday. “She has, like all great actresses, the ability to bridge the gap between herself and her audience, and to make her innermost feelings instantly known and shared,” says Time Magazine.

Miss Hepburn, born in Belgium of Dutch-Irish ancestry, got early theatrical training when she gave ballet performances (behind locked doors during the Nazi occupation of Holland) to raise money for the resistance movement.

outstandingwomen013-marr

Carmel Carrington Marr

Carmel Carrington Marr – Government. This “Young Woman of the Year” was chosen by Mademoiselle, a leading woman’s magazine in the United States, as an outstanding employee of the U.S. Government. A member of the permanent mission of the United States at the United Nations, Mrs. Marr served as an advisor on the staff of U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., in matters affecting the Far East. She was the first American woman to be appointed to such a post. Mrs. Marr studied political science at Hunter College, in New York City, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honorary scholastic fraternity. After receiving her law degree in 1948, she practiced law in New York City for five years. Mrs. Marr married Warren Q. Marr, II, a New York City businessman, and at the time, was the mother of two small sons. Continue reading

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What Goes Up Must Come Down: Dealing With the International Aspects of the Demise of SKYLAB, 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 SKYLAB program and international concerns about its reentry.

Beginning in April 1979, and with increasing frequency as the date approached, the Department of State informed overseas posts of the date of predicted window of reentry as computed by NORAD.  In the last few days, the prediction was made to the hour and minute using Greenwich Mean Time.  The following table shows how the prediction changed over time.

SKYLAB TABLE

The Department of State mandated that all posts designate an action officer to handle SKYLAB-related matters, such as conveying the reentry prediction information to host governments, but also to serve as the post’s resource person for answering SKYLAB questions.  That official at any post potentially affected was to be on special duty during the predicted period of reentry.  Posts were warned to use only the official briefing materials sent by the Department when answering questions.  Questions that went beyond that should be referred to the Department rather than be answered on a speculative basis.[1]

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What Goes Up Must Come Down: Dealing With the International Aspects of the Demise of SKYLAB, Part I

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

The reentry of space debris carries the potential to cause a major international incident. While most such remains burn up in the atmosphere, larger pieces can survive and cause damage, injury, or even death when they land. A major instance of this potential problem resulted from SKYLAB.

Skylab.3

In May 1973, the United States launched into Earth orbit SKYLAB, a semi-permanent space station. A near-catastrophic launch disaster involving the micrometeoroid shield and the loss of one of its solar power arrays threatened the entire project. NASA technicians and astronauts effected repairs to the station and carried out three highly-successful long-term manned missions that accumulated significant scientific, technological, and medical data.

sky lab 1

sky lab 2

sky lab 3

When the last manned mission left SKYLAB in February 1974, the orbiting laboratory was boosted into a slightly higher orbit and then largely faded from public view. Nonetheless, the laboratory was bound to fall to Earth and expected reentry was predicted as some time in early 1983. NASA eventually considered ways to extend SKYLAB’s life by moving it to a higher orbit or deboosting it in a very controlled manner. Initial planning was for a mission by the planned Space Shuttle to take care of that by deploying a remote controlled propulsion module that would attach to the lab. Delays in the shuttle program and increased solar activity that heated the atmosphere and dragged the workshop down faster than expected rendered that plan impossible. As a result, in December 1978, NASA announced it was discontinuing efforts to boost or de-orbit the lab. After that, NASA had only a modicum of control over the lab. They could “fly” it in an orientation that increased or decreased drag, thus giving some control over where it landed.[1] Continue reading

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With the Pentagon’s Blessing: Hollywood, the Military, and Don Baruch

Today’s post is written by Daniel Dancis, an Archivist in the Textual Processing Branch at the National Archives, College Park.

Americans and cinema enthusiasts the world over will be tuning in this weekend to watch who will receive the Academy Awards at the 90th Oscars ceremony. Someone from the Pentagon may also be paying attention to the broadcast beaming out of Hollywood. This is because the Department of Defense (DoD) has maintained a staff dedicated to working with the movie and television industry since 1949. Their records, which attest to a long and enduring relationship between filmmakers and the armed forces, can be found in the National Archives. And among the documents, the researcher will notice that the name Donald E. Baruch appears again and again. For four decades, Baruch served as the Pentagon’s primary liaison with the motion picture industry.

Don Baruch came from a well-known family: his father and three uncles were the famous Baruch brothers from South Carolina. The Baruchs were known for their roles in finance, statesmanship, and diplomacy, although a streak for show business ran in the family. Sailing Baruch, Donald’s father, was a financier who, according to his obituary in the New York Times, had many friends on Broadway; was credited with bringing the first jazz band to New York in 1910; introduced the fox-trot to Broadway; and was a promotor of dancing in many forms in the early 1900s. True to his name, he enjoyed sailing and yachting. The eldest brother, Hartwig, started out as a stage actor in the 1890’s under the name Nathaniel Hartwig but later joined his brothers as a financier and member of the New York Stock Exchange. Herman, a physician, served as the United States Ambassador to Portugal and the Netherlands after World War II. Last but not least, Bernard M. Baruch, the most prominent member of the family, was a famous financier and presidential advisor. The four brothers were the children of Simon Baruch who immigrated to South Carolina from Prussia in 1855 and went on to earn his medical degree and then serve as a surgeon in the Confederate Army. On their maternal side, they were descended from Isaac Rodriguez Marques, a Sephardic Jewish shipowner, Danish citizen, purported pirate, and possible slave trader, who settled in New York in the 1690’s.

Pursuing his own career path, Don Baruch found himself at the Pentagon by way of Broadway and Hollywood. In the 1930’s he produced four Off Broadway plays and then worked in Los Angeles for Hal Roach Studios and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and later for Paramount in New York. During World War II he served in Washington as an officer in the Army/Air Force office of Public Information producing training films. He continued working in this office until the formation of the Department of Defense in 1949, at which point, until his retirement in 1989, Baruch served as Chief of the Motion Picture Production Branch, and its various iterations under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (OASD/PA). In this role, Baruch reviewed movie and television scripts to make recommendations on whether or not the DoD should agree to cooperate with proposed films and television programs that sought military assistance for their production.

When Baruch’s office was created in 1949 it was stepping into an already established relationship that had been in existence between Hollywood and the U. S. Military from the time of some of the earliest movies.

Possibly the first instance of military assistance on a commercial film took place at an air show in Long Island, New York in 1911. Army Lt. Henry “Hap” Arnold (who would go on to create the Army Air Corps and command the Army Air Force during World War II), agreed to be filmed flying stunts in his army plane at the show which appeared in The Military Air-Scout, a romance movie and aviation film.

In 1915, D.W. Griffith, the pioneering filmmaker, received technical advice and vintage artillery pieces from the U.S. Military Academy for the making of The Birth of a Nation, the first feature-length film at 186 minutes and the first blockbuster, attracting long lines of movie goers. The film stirred up controversy as well. Based on Thomas Dixon Jr’s book The Clansman, The Birth of a Nation portrays the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, leading many to boycott and protest its release in theaters. Nine years later, for the filming of America in 1924, Griffith turned to the military again, and with approval from Secretary of War John Weeks received the loan of more than one thousand cavalrymen to recreate a revolutionary war battle scene.

birth-of-a-nation-battle-scene

Still image from The Birth of a Nation (NAID 97501). Motion Picture Films 1910-1945, Collection: Moviola Company Collection, 1910-1945. National Archives Collection.

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