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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The Japanese Government’s Offer of Assistance to Help Find Amelia Earhart, July 1937

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

Continuing their flight around the world at the equator, Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred J. Noonan, on July 2, took off in their Lockheed Electra from Lae, New Guinea. They were headed for Howland Island, a dot two feet above sea level in the Pacific Ocean some 2,550 miles away. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca was stationed just offshore the island to provide radio navigation and communication support to Earhart. The cutter was in contact with the Earhart plane after it departed New Guinea and intermittently thereafter. Radio reception was poor, but at 6:14 am July 2 the plane reported its position as 200 miles away from Howland.  Earhart contacted the Itasca at 7:42am indicating “We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”


Radio Log of the Last Communications of Amelia Earhart, 0330-0806 July 2, 1937 (NAID 6210268)

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“See Something, Say Something”: UFO Reporting Requirements, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, Germany May 1948

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

In May 1948 the Office of Military Government for Bavaria, Germany, issued instructions for reporting sightings of “flying discs.”  These instructions were issued as a result of requirements from higher headquarters in Germany and in the United States.  They were the result of the flying saucer phenomena that began in 1947.


Memo re: Unconventional Aircraft, May 3, 1948; Directives (NAID 23810602), RG 260

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Intraoffice Humor at the National Security Council, September 1973

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

September 1973 was a busy time at the National Security Council.  Henry Kissinger, the National Security Adviser was in the midst of his confirmation hearings as Secretary of State; the Watergate controversy was heightening, with a negative affect on U.S. foreign policy; the conflict in Southeast Asia was continuing, even though American troops had been pulled out; the situation in the Middle East remained unsettled and war was soon to break out; the staff was preparing for Kissinger’s speech before the 28th United Nations General Assembly; and early in the month a coup in Chile overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende.

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Redheaded Bertha and William Greene: Persecuted Love in the Arizona Territory

Today’s post is written by Kimberly Gorman, an Archives Technician at the National Archives at Riverside, CA

Currently, I am working on processing records from Record Group 21, Records of the District Courts of the United States, which is the largest collection of records we have here at the National Archives at Riverside.  RG 21 includes criminal and civil cases, bankruptcy cases, and records of naturalization.

In particular, I have been processing and describing court records for the Arizona Territory.  These records date from 1864 to 1912, when Arizona became a state.

While working on processing criminal court records from the U.S. Territorial Court for the Fifth Judicial District of Arizona, I stumbled upon the interesting story of a notorious pair, William Green and Bertha Reed, who lived in the Arizona Territory.

Bertha Reed’s story starts out in the 1890s when she was a prostitute (according to local newspaper accounts) in Ash Fork, Arizona.  She had many troubles there, including being charged with “administering poison” (morphine) to a Mr. James Gabel, having a bullet removed from her leg, shooting herself in an alleged suicide attempt, and receiving a 30-day sentence for loitering in saloons.  In 1894, a man named Tim Casey, who was apparently a caregiver and friend of Bertha, was shot and killed in her room.  Bertha was arrested, but released, and was not charged in connection with the murder, as apparently a “customer” of hers by the name of Martin was solely responsible for the killing.

We next pick up Bertha’s story in the City of Globe in 1907, where she continues in her same line of work, as evidenced by the City of Globe Prostitute Permit Receipt pictured below, from the series Criminal Case Files, ca. 1905 – ca. 1912 (NAID 616756).

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