Nikita Khrushchev’s Memoirs: Fallout?

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

Three previous posts discussed the publication of the two volumes of memoirs by Nikita Khrushchev, the second volume appearing in mid-1974. The journalist Strobe Talbott served as editor/translator for both books. It appears that Soviet officials may have viewed his participation in that publication negatively.

In October 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger set off on a 2-week trip that took him to Moscow, New Delhi, Dhaka, Rawalpindi, Kabul, Tehran, Bucharest, Belgrade, Rome, Cairo, Riyadh, Amman, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Tunis. A group of journalists designated by various media outlets travelled with the Secretary. The group included Nicholas Daniloff (UPI), Bernard Gwertzman (New York Times), Marvin Kalb (CBS), Ted Koppel (ABC), Murray Marder (Washington Post), Strobe Talbott (Time), and Richard Valeriani (NBC), among others.

In the following urgent telegram, the Department of State informed the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the first stop on the trip, that the Soviet embassy in Washington had refused a visa for Strobe Talbott and asked the embassy to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although the records provide no definitive answer, coming so soon after the publication of the second volume of Khrushchev’s memoirs, the connection seems almost certain – the move against Talbott was fallout from his involvement with that project. Continue reading

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NO ATOMIC TARGET: Picking the Air Force Academy Location

Today’s post was written by William Carver, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Denver.

Amazon intends to unveil the selection of its new HQ2 location sometime in 2018. The buzz that has surrounded the selection process, and the various offers presented by states and cities, drew a lot of attention over the last year. The desire to lure Amazon drove many locations to offer the company extensive tax breaks and other benefits. Some locations went above and beyond in their attempts. Tucson, Arizona sent Jeff Bezos a 21 foot tall saguaro cactus as a way to illustrate their room for the company to grow. Stonecrest, Georgia de-annexed 345 acres and renamed the land “Amazon.” Even local companies tried to bolster their city’s bids, like Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh that offered free sandwiches to every Amazon employee if Pittsburgh was selected.[1]

This was far from the first time cities presented competing offers in hopes of bringing economic development to their back yard and cities have historically found interesting, and sometimes quirky, ways to promote themselves. The records of the Air Force Academy’s site selection provides an opportunity to look at what Amazon may have been offered if the company had existed 70 years ago. Much like the drive to score a deal with Amazon, cities across the country developed proposals detailing why they would be the best fit for the nation’s newest service academy.  These records, found in Reports Regarding Proposed Air Force Academy Site Selection, 1950-1950 (NAID 2580022) National Archives Record Group 341, Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, provide an interesting look at what cities considered important when attempting to entice development to their area in the late 1940’s.

Denver’s Beauty and Genius

Denver, Colorado presents one of the larger proposals preserved in the records. In addition to the braggadocios claims made in attempts to brand the city as the best choice for the Academy site, the documents from this proposal provide a look at how Denver has changed in more than half a century. The report compiled by the Denver Chamber of Commerce proposing the city as the Air Force Academy’s site stated that, “unlike other large cities Denver is not crowded or congested…” and “there is room in Denver, room to breathe the pure, fresh mountain air for which it is famed.”[2] The same sentiments may hold true today, though it may be hard to convince anyone stuck on I-25 during their commute. Where words may fail to properly illustrate the increased bustle of the Denver area, photographs may provide the better example. Denver’s proposal is luckily filled with wonderful photographs of all that 1950’s Denver had to offer. The prints provide a look at how far the city has come since they were taken. One photograph shows a Denver that would be completely alien to newer residents if not for landmarks like Mount Evans and the capital building. The pictures show a sparsely populated stretch leading up to the foothills and the absence of Denver’s currently robust skyline.

Despite not being selected, Denver had and still maintains a worthy appeal. With all the natural beauty and recreational opportunities that continue to draw visitors to the area, it should be no surprise that such topics were used as selling points in 1950. Scenic photographs were included with Denver’s proposal in an attempt to sway the selection process with majestic beauty. Perhaps scenes like these did influence the decision to place the Academy in Colorado. Denver did at least get the consolation of hosting the Academy at Lowry Field until construction was completed in Colorado Springs.[3]

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The Radium Girls at the National Archives

Today’s post is written by Zachary Dabbs, Processing Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Digitized Radioactive Documents Concerning Radium Dial Painters now in the National Archives Catalog

Early in 2016, the Electronic Records Division of the National Archives and Records Administration received an unusual collection of donated electronic records. The original paper records, found to be radioactive, were discovered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during cleanup operations at the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania Safety Light Corporation Superfund site. Donated by the Safety Light Corporation and scanned by the EPA, these electronic records document the perspective of the United States Radium Corporation (USRC) and its predecessor, the Radium Luminous Material Corporation (RLMC), on the story of the radium luminous paint dial painters, popularly known as the Radium Girls. These digitized records are now available in the National Archives Catalog as Records Related to Radium Dial Painters, 1917-1949 (National Archives Identifier 40978844).

Following Marie Curie’s discovery of the element radium in 1898, scientists and entrepreneurs sought to understand and exploit the element’s properties. One such was Dr. Sabin von Sochocky who found that by using a minute quantity of radium in combination with zinc sulfide he could produce a paint with a soft glow visible in the dark. In 1917, his RLMC established a plant in Orange, New Jersey to manufacture and apply this luminous paint, sold under the name Undark, to watches and instrument dials. “Radium dial” watches were one of the company’s most successful products, valued in the trenches of World War I and considered fashionable in the United States.

To apply its paints the RLMC, like other companies manufacturing radium dials, established several dial painting studios staffed primarily by young women. The process involved mixing the paint, provided to the workers as a powder, and using a fine brush to paint each number and arm in the dial. To keep a fine point on the brush the painters used a technique known as lip pointing, placing the brush between their lips, and as a result ingested a minute quantity of radium with each dial. Meanwhile, the powdered paint proved pervasive in RLMC plants; in later years former dial painters would recall their hair and clothes glowing softly after the day’s work. Continue reading

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Passports and Travel Documents for Pilgrims: Gold Star Travel

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

On March 2, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge signed PL 70-952.  That law authorized the War Department to arrange for trips, designated as pilgrimages, by the mothers and widows to the overseas graves of soldiers, sailors, and Marines who died between April 5, 1917 and July 21, 1921.  Congress later expanded eligibility to include the mothers and widows of men who were buried at seas or whose place of burial was unknown.

After World War I, more than 30,000 American dead from that conflict remained overseas, buried in U.S. cemeteries.  The passage of the law resulted from the work of the mothers and widows of those servicemen and their supporters who pushed for the pilgrimage to the gravesites at government expense.  International travel was not as common as it is now and the cost of such travel was beyond the means of the families of many of the dead.

The War Department prepared and submitted to Congress a list of the mothers and widows it identified as falling under the provisions of the law.  The report was arranged by state and thereunder by county.  In addition to the name of the mother or widow, the list indicates the relationship to the deceased service member, the name of the decedent along with rank and service organization, the cemetery, and an indication of whether the mother or widow desired to make a pilgrimage in 1930 or later.  The House of Representatives published the report as an official House Document.

138 Gold Star Mothers[34

Report from the House of Representatives on a List of Mothers and Widows of American Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Entitled to make a Pilgrimage to the War Cemeteries in Europe

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The Beginnings of the United States Army’s Japanese Language Training: From the Presidio of San Francisco to Camp Savage, Minnesota 1941-1942

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

The United States Army, realizing the need for Japanese language specialists, in 1908, began a language program in Tokyo, with four officers, including George V. Strong. When they completed their program in 1911, a new group began that year followed by another in 1914. By 1917, eleven Army officers had graduated from the program. No officers were sent to Japan during the 1915-1918 period, but in 1919 the program was begun again. By the end of 1932 eighteen more officers graduated from the program, including Rufus S. Bratton and John Weckerling. Two other officers, Joseph Twitty and Sidney Mashbir, also received language training in Japan. During World War II, Twitty would command the Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area and Mashbir became the head of the Allied translation work in the Southwest Pacific Area. Bratton would head the Far East Section of the Military Intelligence Division, Strong served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, and Weckering served later as Chief, Intelligence Division, in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2.[1]

As relations worsened with Japan during early 1941, the need for an increased number of Japanese language specialists to engage in translation and interrogation work became more apparent to the United States Army. Questions were being raised at this time about the possibility of using Japanese-Americans, or Nisei, with language skills, in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). The turning to Nisei was the result of the Army learning that the number of Caucasian personnel qualified in the language were dishearteningly few, and with the crisis rapidly approaching, there was little time to train additional Caucasian personnel.[2]

In 1940 there were 127,000 persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the continental United States and 158,000 residing in Hawaii. Two thirds of them were American citizens by birth; the others were mostly parents of these citizens who had resided in America 20 to 40 years but who had been denied naturalization due to their Asian ancestry by the 1922 Supreme Court decision of Ozawa v. U.S. (260 U.S. 178).[3]    

On the mainland approximately one in eight of all Nisei were Kibei.[4] (term often used to describe Japanese Americans born in the United States who returned to America after receiving their education in Japan). Many Nisei in Hawaii received language training because parents often insisted they be exposed to Japanese culture and language.[5] Some parents sent their children from Hawaii to Japan to better learn the language and attend school. One such student recalled that they did not do well because such students spoke to each other in English. But, it has been suggested the subsequent overwhelming success of the Military Intelligence Service Language School was the presence of large numbers of Kibei in the program. They were, according to one source, the most fluent linguists.[6] Continue reading

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Myrna Loy: Her World Beyond Hollywood, Part II 1950-1993

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

On February 4, 1950,  Howland H. Sargeant, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs wrote George V. Allen, then U. S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, that “Miss Myrna Loy has been here for the past week…doing more things than you can shake a stick at. Myrna appeared before the Executive Committee of the National Commission and I understand made a very eloquent and persuasive presentation which will result in further developing our work with the Hollywood Committee and the Hollywood people. She is certainly a charming person.”[1] The next day, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote about a rumor that Loy may run for Congress.[2]

During the spring of 1950, Loy worked for her friend, Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas’ campaign for the Californian Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, hosting fundraising parties.[3]  But politics would be temporarily put aside for an increased UNESCO role. On April 19, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs wrote Loy that she was being appointed to membership on the National Commission for UNESCO for a term starting April 16, 1950, and ending at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the National Commission in 1953, as one of the fifteen persons chosen at large.  She was informed that the National Commission advised the government and served as a link with national private organizations in matters relating to UNESCO.[4]


Letter from Edward Barrett to Myrna Loy, 4/19/1950


Letter from Edward Barrett to Myrna Loy, 4/19/1950

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Myrna Loy, Her World Beyond Hollywood, Part I 1905-1949

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

Myrna Loy was an American actress whose 129 movie career made her a household name for decades.  A New York Times reporter wrote in November 1987, that “During the many years Myrna Loy reigned as one of America’s leading movie stars, millions of fans idolized her as ‘the perfect wife,’ a paragon of charm, sophistication and intelligence whose sly sense of humor never deserted her no matter how outrageous the circumstances-or her husband’s behavior.”[1]   Despite the stardom, Loy’s life extended well beyond Hollywood.  She also carved out a role as a highly respected spokesperson for international social issues and she worked tirelessly for the United Nations, liberal political candidates, and Civil Rights legislation.

publicity photo of Myrna Loy

Myrna Loy publicity photo

Myrna Loy (Myrna Adele Williams) was born in Montana in on August 2, 1905.  Her acting career began with a few minor roles in silent films. She appeared in the first European-American co-production (the silent film Ben Hur); the first film with a score (Don Juan); the first talkie (The Jazz Singer); and, the first filmed operetta (The Desert Song).  In 1934, she starred in the MGM smash hit Manhattan Melodrama, along with Clark Gable and William Powell.  This was the first of fourteen films Powell and Loy made together.  Her career took off with another 1934 MGM movie, The Thin Man, based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett.  The film, in which she and Powell played the jaunty, charming, and witty husband-and-wife detective team Nick and Nora Charles, was a box office hit, and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It would quickly spawn sequels, beginning with After the Thin Man (1936).

Myrna Loy, William Powell, and dog Skippy from the Thin Man

Myrna Loy and William Powell as Nora and Nick Charles from The Thin Man movies

By the mid 1930’s Loy was so popular with the movie-going public that she had become one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood and in a December 1937 poll in the United States and Canada, Loy and Clark Gable were voted by 20 million moviegoers as “The King and Queen of Hollywood.” [2]  She was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite actress; her films were often shown at the White House.[3]   Roosevelt’s secretary wrote: “the President’s favorite actress was Myrna Loy. He plied Hollywood visitors with questions about her, wanted very much to meet her, and to his great regret, when she at last came to the White House for a March of Dimes celebration, he was out of the country at an overseas conference. ‘Well,’ he asked when he returned, ‘what was she like.’”[4]  She also became a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.[5]  President Harry Truman also enjoyed her movies.[6]

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So, what did the U.S. Army do with the Prussian Regimental Flags found at Bernterode?

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

During 2013 I published in Prologue an article about the disposition of the caskets of Field Marshal and Weimar President Paul von Hindenburg and of his wife, Frederick the Great, and Frederich Wilhelm I, that had been recovered in April 1945 by the Monuments Men at a salt mine at Bernterode. While I explained the fate of the caskets and cultural property recovered at Bernterode, I made only a few references to the over 200 Prussian regimental flags found in the mine. I did not explain what ultimately became of them. Over the past years, on several occasions, I have been asked the question, what did the U.S. Army do with the Prussian regimental flags found at Bernterode? This post answers that question.

During March 1945, the German Army placed the caskets of the four notables in the mine at Bernterode, in the northern reaches of the Thuringian Forest, about 18 miles southwest of Nordhausen. Regimental flags were hung above the coffins, and others were placed in a room hanging unfurled from specially built racks. Still others were stacked beside the casket of Frederick the Great. There were over 200 German regimental flags in all, some painted and some embroidered, dating from the early Prussian wars and including many of the WWI-era. Many of the older ones were torn and mounted upon netting. The entrances of the cache holding the caskets, flags, art works, and other items, were sealed with brick and mortar on April 2. The items were not concealed for long. By the end of April the mine treasure would be in American hands and not long afterwards the caskets, paintings, and flags would be stored in Marburg, awaiting political decisions as to what to do with them.[1]

Captured German Flags

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The Adventures of American Diplomat Walter William Orebaugh in Italy 1942-1944, Part II

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

Part I of this blog was previously posted here

It was late March when Orebaugh heard he was being actively sought by the Fascists and Germans. They had learned from Captain Bice Pucci, one of the Italian officers with whom he had had dinner at San Faustino in January that Orebaugh was the driving force behind the patriots and that he had been successful in raising money to finance them. He, presumably in order to protect his family’s property interests in Umbertide had, when subjected to pressure, turned informer. His betrayal and that of another informer, gave the enemy ample evidence to justify the death sentence for all of them in the event of their capture.

On March 30 Orebaugh was informed by Captain Ramsey that a message had been received by Captain Fitzgerald from Fred Foster at Cagli recommending that he and the other officers in the Umbertide zone should proceed to the Tenna Valley where repatriation facilities would be available.  Inasmuch as Orebaugh was not a military man, and as Ramsey was disposed to remain behind, Orebaugh agreed to this suggestion, and on April 2, at 430pm, accompanied by Giovanni Marioli, who had accompanied him as an armed escort on scores of night rendezvous and long walks while engaged on the business of the organization, set out on foot on a journey to the Tenna Valley.  Giovanni’s pocket bulged with hand grenades. Orebaugh carried an Italian army pistol tucked under his belt.

Disregarding the danger of traveling by main highways they accomplished the second lap of their journey on bicycles, traveling, in the space of one evening and night, from Pietralunga, a mountain town in the northern part of the Province of Perugia, to a point south and west of Gubbio.  Thence they walked to Branca, a place nine miles south and east of Gubbio on the Apennine Railway.  Thoroughly exhausted upon their arrival there, they slept through all the daylight hours of the following day not resuming their journey until 430am on April 4. This next leg of the journey was made by horse-drawn cart and brought them to a point below Fabriano. Continue reading

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The Adventures of American Diplomat Walter William Orebaugh in Italy 1942-1944, Part I

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

Late in the morning of November 5, 1942, Walter William Orebaugh, American Consul General at Nice, France, received a telephone call from Pinkney Tuck, American Chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy at Vichy, who informed him that the Department of State had instructed that he should go to Monaco immediately and open a consulate. Orebaugh, born in Wichita, Kansas on March 19, 1910, graduated from Wichita Municipal University, in 1931; and was appointed to the foreign service on December 17, 1931. He served at Montreal, Wellington, Trieste, Venice, and again at Trieste. He became vice consul at Nice on March 8, 1941, and consul there on June 23, 1942.

After talking with Tuck, Orebaugh immediately set about turning the Nice office over to the Vice-Consul and in the afternoon of November 5, Orebaugh drove the 12 miles to Monaco to see Prince Louis to inform him of the American Government’s decision to open the Consulate and to obtain his formal consent to its establishment.  On November 6, about noon, the American flag was hoisted at the corner of the north wing of the Hotel Metropole where two rooms had been engaged temporarily to serve as the American Consulate. The first in history to be established in the Principality, was thus informally opened for public business.

Orebaugh’s tenure in Monaco would be short-lived.  On November 11, Italian military forces occupied the Principality.  Six days later the Italians arrested Orebaugh and two of his clerks – Miss Amy Houlden (a British subject), and American Mrs. Anne Charrier, and on November 30, they were sent to Italy for internment.  They were first interned at Gubbio on December 2.  The first day after their arrival Orebaugh addressed a letter to the Swiss Legation in Rome appealing for its assistance. At the same time he wrote a postcard under a fictitious name to an old friend of his who lived in Trieste. Orebaugh so worded this postcard that when received, he would understood that its author could only be Orebaugh.  This friend was Manfred Metzger.  Metzger was an Austrian, having been born in Trieste of Austrian parents, but since the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich, technically a German national. Orebaugh knew him several years before he left Trieste where he was stationed from 1937 to 1941 as Vice-Consul. Orebaugh always found him a sympathizer with the Allied cause and friendly to Americans and definitely pro-democratic in his thinking. Metzger visited the United States in 1938 on his honeymoon and returned to Trieste, with an American car, radio-phonograph, etc. He was married to an Italian girl and had one child. From his father he inherited wealth and part ownership in Robert Metzger & Co., a Trieste firm engaged in the transportation of wine in railroad tank cars.  Orebaugh believed that he had firms in Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy.  He described him primarily as a man with a mind for business and with little interest in politics.

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