Setting up the Federal Register, 1935

Today’s post was written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Today we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Federal Register. On that day long ago, the press ballyhooed its arrival.

Official Washington had long lamented the lack of any kind of up-to-date guide to the mind-boggling mass of rules, regulations, and notices which federal agencies issue.

RG 64, P 67, file 1936 - First Issue of Federal Register, March 15 1

First Issue of New Journal, Federal Register, Published, NAID 7582964

RG 64, P 67, file 1936 - First Issue of Federal Register, March 15 2

New Government Publication Comes off Press, NAID 7582964

One person who had bemoaned this situation was John G. Laylin, the Assistant General Counsel of the Treasury Department.

John Gallup Laylin, 1943 portrait - from ancestry

Assistant General Consul of the Treasury Department, John G. Laylin, 1943. Provided from

In this March 5, 1934 memo, Laylin laid out his vision for such a guide:

The number of proclamations, executive orders, regulations, and rulings which are daily supplementing the statutory law suggests the necessity of establishing a Federal publication similar to the official gazette of most foreign nations.

A month later, Laylin refined his idea and addressed the issues of production and distribution.

RG 64, A1 61, file 8 - John Laylin - Laylin Memo Reasons for Official Gazette, April 13, 1934 - page 4

Memo regarding Reasons for an Official Gazette, April 13, 1934, p4 NAID 12011779

By that December, Laylin’s “Official Gazette” was well on its way to fruition. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had appointed a committee of the National Emergency Council to investigate the publication of such a guide, and Edwin Griswold had published an article in the December 11 issue of the Harvard Law Review entitled “Government in Ignorance of the Law – A Plea for Better Publication of Executive Legislation.”

64-NA-281 R. D. W. Connor, ca. 1935

R. D. W. Connor, Archivist of the United States, ca. 1935 NAID 12168816

By the summer of 1935, the Archivist of the United States, R. D. W. Connor, was laying the groundwork for the administrative and functional organization of the National Archives, the National Historical Publications Commission, and the Federal Register. He was inundated with recommendations for candidates to fill positions.

In a June 25, 1935 letter to Connor, Laylin put forth his suggestions, too. Here is an excerpt:

RG 64, A1 61, file 8 - John Laylin - Laylin Letter to Connor, June 1935, page 2A

Letter from John Laylin to R. D. W. Connor, June 25, 1935 NAID 21925841

Bernard Kennedy was ultimately chosen to be the director of the Federal Register (at a salary of $4,800 USD a year), but it is intriguing to imagine “what might have been” had Alger Hiss been interviewed and agreed to take that cut in pay.

Alger Hiss ID Card - Photo Illustration

This is a photo illustration of Alger Hiss Identification Card by the author, not an actual record


  • File: 8 – John Laylin (NAID 21925841), Activities Files, 1935-1968 (NAID 12011779), RG 64 – Records of the National Archives and Records Administration
  • Photograph of R. D. W. Connor, Archivist of the United States (NAID 12168816), Historic Photograph File of National Archives Events and Personnel, 1935-1975 (NAID 518146), RG 64
  • File: 1936, Press Clippings, 1935-1963 (NAID 7582964), RG 64
Posted in Archives II, Civil Records, History, The Process | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fur Warden Sketches Map of Fortymile River Basin in Alaska

Today’s post was written by Laurie Moyer, who volunteers on education and archival projects at the National Archives at College Park.

Throughout December of 1917, the thermometer in Chicken, Alaska, a village about 40 miles west of the Canadian border, repeatedly plunged to 56 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. All activities were “practically at a standstill,” Christian L. Larson, Special Fur Warden with the Commission of Fisheries, reported from his headquarters in that village (now part of the series Records Concerning Fox Farming and the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, 1911-1928 (NAID 6109988)).

During one of these frigid nights, Larson spent about two hours, according to his estimate, sketching a highly detailed map of the approximately 190 mile swath of the Fortymile River Basin.

pencil sketch of fortymile river basin, showing bodies of water

Fortymile River Basin Map, sketched by C. L. Larson (NAID 26053347)

The 2-foot by 1-foot map, which documents the courses of more than 30 creeks and locations of Native American encampments, dozens of trappers’ cabins and beaver dams, is a testimony to Larson’s remarkable memory. The warden had traversed the basin, he wrote, “numerous times, traveling in summertime with a pack on my back and a dog or 2 following.” During winter months he explored the territory with “Dogteam, Snowshoes, Sleigh or Toboggan.”

In June, after surviving one of the coldest winters on record, Larson sent his sketch off to H. F. Moore, acting Commissioner of Fisheries, along with a letter. In Larson’s letter, he noted that his hurried pencil drawing was made without use of a ruler or compass which, he added, “I would not have understood how to use if I had tried.” Still, Larson believed that “it is more correct than any map from this part of Alaska seen so far.”

Larson letter to Commissioner

Letter from Christian L. Larson to the Commissioner of Fisheries, June 25, 1918 (NAID 26053347)

Larson transcription of letter

The United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries was formed in 1871 to investigate diminishing fish populations, regulate the fishing industry, and advance the science of fish breeding.  By 1917, the Commission was overseen by the Department of Commerce and its responsibilities included the oversight of fur-bearing animals. Wardens, stationed in field locations, were primarily charged with enforcing laws and regulations.

Chicken, Alaska, was first populated in 1886 when gold was discovered and later, in its heyday from 1910-20, was home to 100 people.  Larson had worked as a game warden in Chicken, Alaska, since July 11, 1911. His appointment was noted in the Report of the Governor of Alaska to the Secretary of the Interior of that year.

While we do not know exactly from Larson what his daily work routine was, the box of records also included 1921 correspondence from another fur warden, M. J. O’Connor, detailing his investigation into illegal muskrat trapping. Larson’s experiences may very well have included this type of inquiry.

Letter from MB in response to report sent by Ernest Walker from Warden O'Connor

Letter from MB to Ernest Walker, in response to report on illegal trapping of muskrats

O’Connor, in a report to his supervisor, Ernest P. Walker, Chief Fur and U.S. Game Warden in Juneau, describes a visitor who arrived at his house at 11 p.m. one May evening and carrying a trap bearing a dead muskrat. The visitor, Arthur Jennings, had traveled 16 miles to accuse Charles Hanley of illegally trapping muskrats and had brought the dead animal as evidence.

Three days later, the fur warden and the accuser traveled by boat to the site and found “evidences of trapping and skinning.” O’Connor reported that he “also found four or five stakes freshly cut to which evidently muskrat traps had been tied….We also found 52 stretching boards for muskrat skins, and found the carcass of a land otter…”

As a result of the investigation, Hanley was arrested. Before the trial, O’Connor reported that “a number of Indians … had spoken to me about the case and they seemed to be very angry because a white man was allowed to trap and nothing had been done to him. I told those at Klukwan that the man was going to be tried… and that seemed to satisfy them to think that a white man would not be allowed to trap any more than they were.”

Hanley was tried but found not guilty. In his report, O’Connor concluded that even though the verdict was not as hoped, “it has had a very good effect on the community for they know that violators of the law will be promptly taken up.”

Wardens like O’Connor and Larson, whose duties included enforcing laws against illegal trapping, may have felt they were fighting an uphill battle. As Larson concluded in his letter to his boss, he noted:

“The Fortymile basin, that is from within 16 mile of the Tanana to the boundary on the Fortymile river with all its tributaries comprises at least 25,000 square miles and is an ideal country for all fur animals but the few that is now left will not long survive as the prices is higher than ever before. Marten [a weasel-like mammal] is on the increase in the outlying parts where there has been no trappers in the last 2-3 years, but as the Marten gets more numerous more of them will be caught in traps set for mink, weasel, foxes and lynx, and Wardens will not be able to save them, at least not in this part along the boundary.”


Many thanks to the NARA volunteers who were involved in the process for this post. Renee Jaussaud discovered the records during a volunteer processing project; Harry Kidd scanned the textual records; and Roger Walke collaborated with Renee in transcribing Larson’s letter. Much appreciation to NARA staff Andrew Knight who scanned the sketch map, Judy Luis-Watson for collaborating on this post, and Patrick Osborn and Suzanne Isaacs who ensured the items are described correctly and now available in NARA’s online catalog.


Records Concerning Fox Farming and the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, 1911-1928 (NAID 6109988); File: Larson, C. L. – Special Fur Warden, General Correspondence (NAID 6167414), Record Group 22, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Smith, Hugh.  “Report of the United States Commissioner of Fisheries Fiscal Year 1916.” Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C. 1912.

“Reports of the Department of the Interior for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1912, Volume II.” Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C. 1913.


Posted in Civil Records, History | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Major League Baseball, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and World War II, 1941-1942

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

During the summer of 1940, as German military forces overran France, many Americans began to support the need for compulsory military training in the event that the United States entered the war in Europe. In September, Congress adopted the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This law established the Selective Service System and required registration of all men between ages 21 and 45, with selection for one year’s service by a national lottery. The term of service was extended by one year in August 1941. After Pearl Harbor, the law was further amended to extend the term of service for the duration of the war and six months and required the registration of all men 18 to 64 years of age.

At the 1940 Major League Baseball annual winter meeting in Chicago, discussions were held about the relationship between baseball and the national defense. In mid-January 1941, Ford Frick, the President of the National League, came to Washington and, among other things, met with General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army on January 15 to offer the services of the National League to the national defense.


Marshall memorandum of January 15, 1941

Frick made several suggestions regarding how Major League Baseball might be of service to the nation. After the meeting, General Marshall wrote Maj. Gen. E.S. Adams, Adjutant General for the Army, about the visit and suggested steps the Army should consider taking. A week later, Adams wrote Frick acknowledging his offer of cooperation, explaining the military situation and possibilities of cooperation, and expressing the War Department’s appreciation of his offer.

Not long after, Clark Calvin Griffith, President of the Washington Base Ball Club since 1920 and previously the manager of the Washington Senators from 1912 to 1920, stopped by General Adams’ office to offer the cooperation of his team in providing for the recreation of soldiers. Adams was not present, but wrote to Griffith as soon as he learned about his visit.


Adams letter January 28, 1941

At the annual dinner of the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association held in New York City on February 2, 1941, a letter from President Roosevelt, identified by The New York Times as the “Nation’s No. 1 Fan,” was read.  He wrote:

It is a fortunate thing for this country that there is no lessening of interest in the great American sport, baseball. That was apparent a couple of years ago when we celebrated the centenary of the game.

We should be more grateful than ever this year to General Doubleday for giving us baseball. Of course, the national defense is the paramount issue today. All else is subordinate to the test whether it contributes in the final analysis to the strengthening of the defensive forces of the nation.

The country is witnessing an unprecedented expansion in its armed forces on land, on sea and in the air. And in building up of morale-whether in the armed forces or in the civilian population-we all know the part that recreation always has played and of necessity must continue to play. That is where baseball comes into its own. Whether we follow a world series, watch the fortunes of a minor league or look in on a sandlot team in our back yard, all of us want to know what the sports writer thinks about it.

With a quickened sense of the importance of your mission I send greeting to my friends of the New York Chapter, Baseball Writers Association of America. I hope the success of the dinner will be in keeping with the importance of the work you are doing.  The best of luck to all.[1]

President Roosevelt attended the opening day game at Griffith Stadium between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals on April 14, 1941. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch, as he had every year since 1933 (except 1939 when, because of the press of business, he sent Vice President John Nance Garner).

The First Ball

1941: US president Franklin D Roosevelt (1882 – 1945) prepares to throw the first ball of baseball season while gripping the arm of his Presidential Secretary, General Edwin M Watson (R), for support. (Photo by American Stock/Getty Images)

He also threw out the first pitch for the 1937 All Star Game at Griffith Stadium. Earlier, in 1918 and 1919, Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, accompanied Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, to the season opener in place of President Woodrow Wilson. This annual tradition began when President William H. Taft threw out the first pitch at Nationals Park to start the 1910 season.

Joe DiMaggio, the 1940 American League’s batting champion, in the first inning of the 1941 opening game, tripled against the center field fence to drive in the first run of the game, which the Yankees won 3-0. Thus began a record breaking year for baseball. During the year DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games. After being hitless in the 57th game, he hit safely in 16 more consecutive games for a streak of 72 of 73 games. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox ended the season with a .406 batting average. Since this 1941 season, no professional baseball player (qualifying for the batting title) has hit over .400. On June 1 Mel Ott of the New York Giants hit his 400th home run and on July 25, Lefty Grove of the Boston Red Sox, earned his 300th career win, which was also his last.

The 1941 season also witnessed ball players entering military service. Even before the season began, on March 8, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Hugh Mulcahy became the first big leaguer drafted into the Armed Forces for World War II. Detroit Slugger Hank Greenberg, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1940, received his draft call on May 7. He would soon be giving up his $55,000 yearly salary for $21 per month Army pay.

On June 5, The Major League Advisory Council, composed of Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, President Will Harridge of the American League and Ford C. Frick of the National League decided that proceeds from the ninth annual All-Star baseball game to be played at Detroit on July 8 would be donated to the United Service Organizations (USO) for National Defense, Inc., which was sponsored by the government to raise funds for Army and Navy recreational activities. The game netted $53,226.27 for the USO. [2]

During 1941 the size of the American armed forces increased from 458,365 to 1,801,101 soldiers. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, Americans rushed to the recruiting offices to join the war effort. Among them was the Cleveland Indians’ 23-year old pitching sensation, Bob Feller, who went to the Navy recruiting office in Chicago on December 9 and enlisted in the Navy.

The annual winter baseball meeting began in Chicago on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Baseball Commissioner Landis, when asked that day what would war do to baseball, he replied “No one can even guess. I would be going way out on the limb if I ventured a prediction.” Will Harridge, the president of the American League, said “The Nation’s welfare is, of course, our first concern and we will do whatever is desired by the Government, but I’m sure that baseball will carry on its schedule as it always has.” Mel Ott, recently appointed manager of the New York Giants, in a similar vein, said “This is a serious business, this attack on us by Japan, and the first thought of everybody is the defense of our country.” “But,” he continued, “as soon as things get back into their normal stride I am sure baseball will do its part in the program and I am equally certain that whatever the government wants baseball men to do, they will do it.” At the meeting, some of the baseball leaders thought the war might halt night baseball in some section if blackouts should become necessary and the clubs which had arranged to train the following spring on the Pacific Coast were somewhat disturbed. Some thought the war would curtail baseball activities and shorten the playing season as it had in 1918.[3]

In mid-December, Frick and Griffith met with Maj. Theodore Banks, chief of the Army’s athletics and recreation branch to put in motion plans to distribute $25,000 in baseball equipment among the soldiers and sailors as soon as possible. The money had been raised at the baseball meeting in Chicago earlier in December.[4] Major League Baseball launched its balls-and-bats-for-service-men campaign in Washington, D.C. on December 30 by placing an initial order for 18,000 baseballs and 4,500 bats to be distributed to men in the armed forces. Griffith, who led the drive to supply Army camps with baseball equipment during World War I and played a major role in keeping major league baseball going in 1917-1918, formally placed the equipment order after a conference with Ford, Capt. Frederick H. Weston of the Army morale division and representatives of three sporting goods manufacturing firms. He informed the press that the conference dealt only with the equipment campaign and that no discussions were held regarding any possible blackout of night baseball during the 1942 season or of curtailing next season’s major league schedule. Griffith said he was confident that a “full 154-game schedule” would be played in 1942, but he emphasized that his immediate interest was “supplying the boys in the service with bats and balls.” He was also quoted as saying that orders up to $42,000 would be placed for “service baseball kits” and later they may total as much as $100,000. He added that most of the funds would come from proceeds of the 1942 All-Star game. Griffith also noted that the equipment would be supplied throughout the war and would be distributed by the joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation. [5]

Will Harridge, President of American League, wrote a piece for the press the first week of January 1942, in which he stated that all baseball stood ready to do its part in the crisis which faced the nation. He wrote:

No one can foresee what that part may be. But regardless of what this war year may bring, the American League enters 1942 confidently hopeful it will be able to perform an important role in the recreational and morale portion of our national defense program.

Sports-and particularly baseball-long have been an important part of the lives of millions of our people. Now baseball may be approaching the finest opportunity for service to our country that the game has ever had-the opportunity for providing a recreational outlet for millions of fans who will be working harder than ever to help achieve our common cause of victory. [6]

Judge Landis wrote President Roosevelt on January 14, asking him what he had in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate. “Of course,” he wrote, “my inquiry does not relate at all to individual members of this organization, whose status, in the emergency, is fixed by law operating upon all citizens.” He concluded his letter “Health and strength to you-and whatever else it takes to do this job.”


Landis letter January 14, 1942

Roosevelt responded the next day:

As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball Club owners—so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.

I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half, and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.

As to the players themselves, I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport….

Here is another way of looking at it—if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreation asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens—and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.

On January 16 Landis made public the president’s letter. Of particular interest to the major league executives was the President’s expressed desire that more night games than the seven then permitted each club be scheduled. Griffith said that in view of the President’s letter, he would write Landis asking permission to schedule more night games. One of the most outspoken opponents to playing more than seven night games when the question came up at the December meeting was President Alvah Bradley of the Cleveland Indians. But he recanted, stating that in view of President Roosevelt’s letter he had reconsidered his opposition. At this point, all the major league clubs except the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Boston Red Sox were equipped with lights. For these teams to host night games, they would need lights, and getting such lighting would be a difficult proposition, given wartime priorities. The International News Service observed “But regardless of the question of baseball under the lights, baseball men accepted the President’s letter as giving the national game ‘the green light’ for 1942, at least.” Landis issued a statement from his Chicago office stating “I hope that our performance will be such as to justify the President’s faith.” “The President’s letter,” Harridge said, “confirms the conviction held by all baseball men that the national pastime has a definite place in the welfare of our country, particularly during times of stress.” [7]

On January 20, Landis called a joint meeting of major league club owners to be held in New York on February 3 to consider expansion of night baseball. At the meeting, Owner Phil Wrigley of the Chicago Cubs said that he was in the process of equipping Wrigley Field for night baseball when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and that all preparations were stopped. He said that 165 tons of steel, 35,000 feet of copper wire and other items of equipment were immediately turned over to the Government. “We felt,” he said, “that this material could be more useful in lighting flying fields, munition plants or other war defense plants under construction.” [8]

During the February 3 meeting, the owners, acting in accordance with what they considered to be the wishes of President Roosevelt, voted to allow each ball club to schedule 14 night games, except for the Washington Senators, who could play 21 such games. They also decided to play two All-Star games. The first would be on July 6 in a National League city with increased price of admission and the second on July 7 in an American league city. At the latter there would no increased admission price but fans would be required to purchase $1 worth of war savings stamps for themselves. All the club owners and Landis also committed themselves to investing 10 percent of their salary for the year to defense bonds and expressed the hope that all their players and other employees would take similar action. [9]

The 1942 baseball season began in April. During the year hundreds of major league ball players would be drafted or would enlist in the armed forces. By end of the year there were 3,915,507 individuals in military service.

On April 15, just as the season was beginning, Horace Stoneham and Larry MacPhil, the presidents of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers announced that all the proceeds of two games played between the two teams would go to the Army Emergency Relief and the Navy Relief Society. MacPhil said the “entire proceeds means just that. Every member of the press will be asked to pay. There will be no passes of any kind at either game, and that goes for the umpires, too.” That same day the Major League Advisory Council (Landis, Frick, and Harridge) announced that the two All-Star games would be played at night at the Polo Grounds and Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium and all the proceeds would go to the Baseball Equipment Fund, commonly referred to as the Bat and Ball Fund, which furnished bats, balls, and paraphernalia to Army bases and Navy camps.[10]

On May 8, baseball’s first benefit-game contribution to the war effort was played at Ebbets Field between the Giants and Dodgers. This was scheduled to be the first of sixteen war-relief engagements involving every major league club. Everyone who entered the park had to pay. This included the players, umpires, sports writers, ushers, and, peanut-vendors. The crowd for the game, one of the largest in the park’s history, included several thousand service members whose tickets of admission were paid by patriotic citizens and organizations. The game raised $59,859 for the Navy Relief Society. [11]

The 1942 All-Star game was scheduled to be played in the Polo Grounds in New York on July 6; to be followed on July 8 by a game between the All-Stars of the winning league and an all-star team composed of service personnel. On July 1, Ford Frick, the National League president, told the press that it was estimated that baseball would contribute to various war service funds about three-quarters of a million dollars by the end of the 1942 season. He said they hoped to raise $200,000 from the double all-star games for the benefit of the Baseball Equipment Fund and the Army and Navy relief funds. In addition, they expected to raise about $200,000 from each major league for Army and Navy relief from games which each club was playing for those funds. He noted that the National League had already raised $161,000 from six games and two more were to be played. Frick explained that the first $100,000 realized from the two all-star games would be turned over to the Baseball Equipment Fund, commonly referred to as the Ball and Bat Fund.  $44,300 had already been spent by the fund, at an operating cost of only $62.67. He noted that a shipment of baseball equipment had already been sent to Iceland and another to Africa and that any surplus (beyond the first $100,000) from the all-star games would go to Army-Navy relief. [12]

The two early July all-star games turned out to be successful fund raisers for Army-Navy relief funds and for the Baseball Equipment fund, as 33,694 attended the annual All-Star game and 62,094 attended the game between the American League all-stars and a service team of all-stars. Together the two games raised some $160,000 for relief work and the Ball and Bat Fund. [13]

As the season progressed, more funds would be accumulated and donated to the Army and Navy relief organizations. On August 25, the Army Emergency Relief and Major League Baseball Equipment Funds increased by $162,890.40 when checks for that amount were presented by Horace Stoneham, president of the Giants, to Colonel John Thomas Taylor, of Washington, director of Army Relief. The money represented the proceeds of the major leagues’ All-Star game at the Polo Grounds in July and the benefit game between the Dodgers and the Giants on August 3. Of the $89,314.58 raised by the All-Star game, $50,000 went into the fund to buy baseball equipment for service men and the remainder to Army Relief. All of the $73,575.82 raised by the Brooklyn-New York contest went to Army Relief.[14]

Major League baseball’s largest single financial contribution of the year was made on October 31 when $362,926.65 was turned over to the United Service Organization. The sum represented the USO’s portion of the receipts from the St. Louis Cardinals-New York Yankees World Series. Accepting the monies were Walter Hoving, chairman of the USO board of directors and Prescott S. Bush, national campaign chairman. By the way, Bush’s son, George H.W. Bush, after his military service during World War II, became captain of the Yale University baseball team and played in the first two College World Series. [15]

For the 1942 season, baseball contributed $1,314,825 to war relief and recreation activities. This included $238,205 from the American League; $267,895 from the National League; $89,314 from the All-Star game; $71,611 from the All-Service game (American League all-star team versus a military team played at Cleveland; $24,000 from the Baseball Equipment Fund; $1,000 from the Baseball Writers’ Association); $362,926 from World Series proceeds; and $259,871 from the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (the minors). The Army and Navy Relief Societies together received $567,026, which included funds from benefit games as well as the All-Star contests in New York and Cleveland. [16]

During the remainder of the war, Major League Baseball would survive, with fewer star players and decreased attendance. But it continued to contribute to the war effort, raising monies for service personnel and families and providing a recreational outlet for the public and military personnel.

President Roosevelt would continue to support baseball during the war years, though with the understanding the war effort came first. On March 12, 1945, Clark Griffith made his annual call at the White House with season passes for the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Griffith, who scheduled as many games as he could under the lights for his Washington Senators, described Roosevelt as “a night baseball man.” Griffith recalled the President telling him: “You got to give me credit for night baseball.” Griffith said he agreed with that, remembering a Presidential statement a year or so ago that games after dark would provide recreation for day shifts in war plants. Roosevelt told Griffith that it was possible he would be able to toss out the first ball when the Senators started their schedule on April 16. The next day, at a news conference, Roosevelt said he was all in favor of baseball so long as it did not require perfectly healthy people who could be doing more useful war work. A reporter quickly asked if the President thought it possible, under that theory, for the leagues to operate in 1945. Roosevelt, asked right back, “Why not?” He added that, while baseball under wartime condition might not be quite so good, he for one even would be willing to go out and watch sandlot teams. A story in The Washington Post the next day noted that baseball people were elated over the President’s remarks. It was the third time, it reported, that Roosevelt had gone to bat for the game during wartime. [17]

President Roosevelt, who would not live to see the 1945 season, died just days before the season began.


The 1941 documents are from file 353.85 Baseball 1-1-40—2-28-41; the 1942 documents are from file 353.85 Baseball 3-1-41—2-3-45, Central Decimal Correspondence Files, 1940-1945, NAID 895294, Records of the Adjutant General, 1917-, Record Group 407

Readers may enjoy these two articles in Prologue:

“Beyond the Box Score: Baseball Records in the National Archives” by David A. Pfeiffer and John Vernon and “When FDR said ‘Play Ball’” by Gerald Bazer and Steven Culbertson 


[1] John Drebinger, “Writers at Frolic Twit Baseball Executives Over Season’s Misadventures,” The New York Times, February 3, 1941, p. 22.

[2] “All-Star Game Proceeds Will Go to Army-Navy Recreation Fund,” The New York Times, June 6, 1941, p. 27; Associated Press, “All-Star Game Netted $53,226,” The New York Times, July 31, 1941, p. 20

[3] Judson Bailey, “Baseball Heads Pause To Ponder War News,” The Washington Post, December 9, 1941, p. 26; John Drebinger, Support Pledged by Major Leagues,” The New York Times, December 9, 1941, p. 49.

[4] “Baseball Heads Give $25,000 for Army Sport,” The Washington Post, December 18, 1941, p. 26.

[5] “1500 Baseball Orders Made for Service Men,” The Washington Post, December 31, 1941, p. 19.

[6] Will Harridge, “Harridge Defines Baseball’s Role,” The New York Times, January 8, 1942, p. 30.

[7] International News Service, “Baseball Men Hail Request of President,” The Washington Post, January 17, 1942, p. 18.

[8] Associated Press, “Landis Calls Meeting on Night Ball,” The Washington Post, January 21, 1942, p. 18.

[9] John Drebinger, “Majors Raise Limit of Home Night Games to 14, Except for 21 at Washington,” The New York Times, February 4, 1942, p. 24.

[10] Louis Effrat, “Plans Set for Four Major League Games to Aid War Effort,” The New York Times, April 16, 1942, p. 27.

[11] Arthur Daily, “Baseball’s War Benefit Program Starts Today in Brooklyn Game, The New York Times, May 8, 1942, p. 28; John Drebinger, “Dodgers Defeat Gaints in Twilight Game Raising $59,859 for Navy Relief,” The New York Times, May 9, 1942, p. 16.

[12] Louis Effrat, “Baseball’s Gift to Service Funds in 1942 Put at $750,000 by Frick,” The New York Times, July 2, 1942, p. 27; John Kieran, “Sports of the Times: Baseball Beyond the Stars,” The New York Times, July 2, 1942, p. 28.

[13] John Drebinger, “American League All-Stars Win on Homers by Boudreau and York in First,” The New York Times, July 7, 1942, p. 23; Associated Press, “Service All-Star Game a Success But Not Likely to Be Repeated, The New York Times, July 9, 1942, p. 25; Judson Bailey, “Future of All-Star Service Game Doubted,” The Washington Post, July 9, 1942, p. 20.

[14] “Baseball Contributes $162,890 for Army Relief and Play,” The New York Times, August 26, 1942, p. 25.

[15] John Drebinger, “$362,926 Series Cut Presented to USO,” The New York Times, November 1, 1942, p. S7.

[16] Associated Press, “Baseball Donated $1,314,825 to War Charities in Year,” The Washington Post, December 18, 1942, p. 14; Associated Press, “Baseball Gave $1,314,825,” The New York Times, December 18, 1942, p. 41.

[17] Associated Press, “President Is for Night Baseball, Griffith of the Senators Reports,” The New York Times, March 13, 1945, p. 26; Associated Press, “Roosevelt Wants Baseball To Go On,” The Washington Post, March 14, 1945, p. 24.

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The Death of a Lady: The USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Part III: Battle Report

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

This is the third, and final, in a series of posts on the fate of the USS Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 8, 1942.

The previous posts (1) described the Battle of the Coral Sea, included a transcript of portions of the log of the USS Lexington describing the action on May 8 1942, and included images of the entire log for that day and (2) presented a gallery of photographs.

On May 12, 1942, only four days after the battle, Captain Frederick C. Sherman submitted his battle report.  That report included a narrative of the events of May 7-8, drew conclusions about the action, and made numerous recommendations.

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In 1947, President Harry Truman presented the Legion of Merit to now-Vice Admiral Sherman.  The citation read, in part:

For exceptionally meritorious conduct . . . as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. LEXINGTON during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 7-8, 1942.  A skilled and resourceful leader, Vice Admiral (then Captain) Sherman directed his Air Squadrons in two daring attacks on enemy carriers and succeeded in sinking one and damaging or probably destroying another. . . .  When enemy dive bombers and torpedo planes staged a fierce counterattack, Vice Admiral Sherman handled his ship with superb seamanship, avoiding many torpedoes and bombs.  Later when an explosion made it necessary to abandon ship, he calmly conducted the orderly disembarkation of more than 2700 survivors who were subsequently rescued by accompanying vessels of the Task Force. . . .

Source: The battle report comes from: LEXINGTON, Serial 0100, May 15, 1942, World War II Action and Operational Reports (NAID 305236), Record Group 38: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The text of the citation comes from Board of Decorations and Medals Alphabetical Awards Citation Files, 1920-1970, Entry UD-WW-85, (NAID 599836), Record Group 428: General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947- .

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The Death of a Lady: The USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Part II: Photographs

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

The previous post described the Battle of the Coral Sea, included a transcript of portions of the log of the USS Lexington describing the action on May 8 1942, and included images of the entire log for that day.

The following photographs were taken by unidentified Navy photographers during the May 8 action.  They provide a graphic portrayal of the events described in the Log.


The USS Lexington after the initial torpedo hits. You can see a Japanese torpedo plane approaching from the left. The smoke and spay on the water behind the plane is from anti-aircraft fire.


Not all the Japanese planes succeeded in getting through to their targets.


Deck of the Lexington sometime after 1400 hours by which time all planes had been landed.


The #2 gun position after a bomb hit. When this picture was taken the resulting fire had been extinguished.


About 1600 hours. Excess personnel are disembarking in boats and to life rafts. Alongside in the smoke is the USS Morris taking off sick and wounded.


Boats with excess crew and wounded moving away from the Lexington.


Crew leaving the Lexington. USS Morris taking off sick and wounded on the starboard side and USS Anderson (?) taking off crew from port side.


Excess crew leaving the ship. A small explosion has just taken place amidships.


A big explosion at about 1737 hours. Debris can be seen hitting the water.


The Lexington burning after the 1737 hours explosion.


Lexington after all hands had abandoned ship. Fires on deck and in superstructure.

In his battle report, Captain Sherman wrote:

The picture of the burning and doomed ship was a magnificent but sad sight.  The ship and crew had performed gloriously and it seemed too bad that she had to perish in her hour of victory. But she went to a glorious end, more fitting than the usual fate of the eventual scrap heap or succumbing to the perils of the sea.  She went down in battle, after a glorious victory for our forces in which the LEXINGTON and her air group played so conspicuous a part.

Despite the damage suffered by the Lexington, only about 216 of her crew died; about 2735 survived.  All losses were the result of air combat of the air group or torpedo and bomb hits and fire on board; no member of the crew drowned during evacuation of the ship.

NEXT: Battle Report

Source: The photographs are enclosures to LEXINGTON, Serial 0100, May 15, 1942, World War II Action and Operational Reports (NAID 305236), Record Group 38: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.


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The Death of a Lady: The USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Part I: The Log

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park. This is the first post in a three-part series.

After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, imperial Japanese forces seemed unstoppable, winning battle after battle in the Philippines, and other places in the Pacific – Wake Island, Guam, Hong Kong, Thailand, North Borneo, Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies.  Only the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid on Japan broke the monotony of Allied defeats.

By mid-April 1942, U.S. naval planners had determined that the Japanese planned to continue their expansion south and conquer the Coral Sea as part of a plan to capture all of New Guinea.

To counter that move, the U.S. established Task Force 17, a two-carrier naval force centered on the USS Yorktown (Captain Elliott Buckmaster) and the USS Lexington (Captain Frederick C. Sherman).  Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher commanded TF 17 from the Yorktown and Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch commanded carrier operations from Lexington.  The opposing Japanese force was divided into three divisions aimed at capturing Port Moresby on New Guinea to control the straits between New Guinea and Australia and capturing Tulagi, one of the Solomon Islands.  The following is a simplified account of the Battle of the Coral Sea and leaves out much significant action not relevant to the document presented here.

The Japanese experienced early success, capturing Tulagi on May 3, which the Americans bombed to little effect on May 4.  On May 5 and 6, the opposing forces searched for each other.  May 7 was a day of maneuvering and long-distance skirmishing, including the sinking of the Japanese light carrier Shoho, leaving two heavy carriers intact.  The main action of the Battle of the Coral Sea took place on May 8, 1942, coincidentally just two days after the last American forces in the Philippines surrendered to overwhelming Japanese forces.  The opposing carrier groups located each other and launched attacks.  The Japanese had the advantage due to weather conditions.  American planes could not locate one Japanese carrier but damaged the second enough to put it out of action.  The Japanese attack, however, was more successful.  The Yorktown took one bomb hit.  The story on the Lexington was very different.

In his book The Two-Ocean War, distinguished naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison describes what happened to the Lexington this way:

The Japanese attack group . . . gave both American carriers a severe working-over . . . Lexington took two torpedoes and two bomb hits.  The end of the battle found “Lady Lex”   listing, with three fires burning but with her power plant intact.  There was every prospect of damage control quenching the fires when suddenly she was racked by two internal explosions which forced Captain Frederick Sherman to abandon ship.

The sequence and timing of those events and number of hits and explosions as presented in the Lexington‘s log is different and presents a more dramatic picture that helps bring to life the experience of a new kind of naval warfare.  The following are selections from the log presented as bullet-points.  The log was prepared from notes made contemporaneously with the events recounted.  Images of the entire log for May 8, 1942, are appended.

  • 0735 Commenced zigzagging in accordance with standard plan.

  • 0820 [R]eceived radio contact report of enemy.

  • 0850 [T]urned into the wind at 20 knots and between 0907 and 0924 launched attack group. . . .

  • 0930 [W]ent to general quarters and material condition Zed. Between 0930 and 0950 landed [planes] . . . for reservicing.

  • 0957 Changed speed to 15 knots.

  • 1013 [R]eceived report from Yorktown enemy bombers approaching; made 20 knots launched [planes]. . . .

  • 1016 [S]ighted heavy smoke from surface . . . about 20 miles.

  • 1023 [S]lowed to 15 knots and landed [planes]. . . .

  • 1030 [O]n signal changed course. . . .

  • 1042 [O]n signal changed speed to 20 knots.

  • 1044 [O]n signal took special cruising disposition V.

  • 1047-1050 [T]urned into wind and landed [planes]. . . . [R]esumed course.

  • 1057 [G]uide of disposition shifted to Yorktown. Radar reports many unidentified planes . . . distant about 58 miles approaching, turned into wind. . . .

  • 1101-1106 [L]aunched [planes].

  • 1106 [R]esumed course.

  • 1108 [C]hanged speed to 25 knots.

  • 1111 [A] signal to the force for course [change] . . . speed 20 knots was executed but course was not changed by this ship.

  • 1115. [F]irst enemy aircraft seen on port bow. As first torpedo was seen to drop rudder was put full right.

  • 1116 [G]unfire opened on enemy. Speed increased to 30 knots. Torpedo planes seen on starboard bow, rudder was put full left but before ship started to swing left, rudder was again put full right.

  • 1118 [T]orpedo hit port side about frame 50.

  • 1120 [H]eavy hit by torpedo about frame 72 port side.

  • 1120½ [T]orpedo hit port side near bow. Shock of second hit broke siren pull cord, jammed siren valve open.

  • 1121. [N]ear miss bomb port side about frame 50.

  • 1122 [T]orpedo hit near water line port side about frame 100. A bomb hit on flight deck port side near frame 60 . . . . Ship took up a list to port of about 6. A bomb hit near after end of stack, penetrated, and exploded inside stack.  A near miss bomb exploded off port side near frame 135.

  • 1130 [R]eport of damage gave boilers 2, 4, 6 out of commission, speed reduced to 25 knots. Ready service ammunition after end #2 gun gallery burning but fire there being extinguished using Amdyco equipment.  Ship turned to the right . . . .

  • 1133 [O]ne plane landing went over side – pilot . . . and passenger . . . picked up by U.S.S. Morris.

  • 1139 [S]lowed to 20 knots.

  • 1142 [S]lowed to 17 knots. All fires on flight deck out.

  • 1153 [S]teadied on course.

  • 1155 [T]urning left.

  • 1158 [S]teadied on course. . . . Repair parties inspecting and repairing damage.

  • 1200 Steaming as before . . . at 20 knots. Both elevators out of commission in up position.  List all removed from ship by shifting fluids.

  • 1230 [O]pened vents necessary for ventilation and turned into wind.

  • 1235 [A]ll fires below decks reported out.

  • 1243 [C]ommenced launching combat patrol.

  • 1247 [H]eavy explosion felt which vented up forward bomb elevator. Lost communication with central station.

  • 1259 [C]ompleted launching [planes] . . . .

  • 1313 [C]hanged course . . . .

  • 1317 [T]urned into wind.

  • 1319 [A]nother internal explosion felt. Rudder angle indicator and Dead Reckoning Tracer out of commission.

  • 1322-1328 [L]anded [planes] . . . .

  • 1336 [S]teady on course . . . . All communications in forward part of ship out of commission.

  • 1340 [T]urned into wind and launched [planes] . . . . Fires burning in forward part of ship below main deck.  Frequent light explosions felt.

  • 1351 Gyro compasses out of commission.

  • 1356 [C]hanged course . . . on signal and increased speed to 25 knots. Engine order telegraph out of commission.

  • 1400 [T]urned left into the wind to land returning attack group . . . . Radar out of commission.

  • 1413 [F]inished landing [planes] . . . . Changed course . . . .

  • 1443 [H]eavy explosion under forward elevator. Lost steering control from bridge.  All radios out of commission.  Steering by after steering station using sound power telephone to order setting for rudder.

  • 1453 [H]eavy explosion under forward elevator.

  • 1502 [S]peed slackening.

  • 1520 [H]eat of fire forward of “A” machinery unit space made that untenable. Secured A & B units and ordered personnel to abandon that space.

  • 1525 [A]n extra heavy explosion port side amidships. Heavy black smoke poured out stack.  Lost telephone communications to after steering and trick wheel.

  • 1530 [S]prinkled after magazines. Using engines powered by C & D units to maintain ship on course . . . .  Making good 12 to 15 knots.

  • 1540 [E]stablished telephone communication with after steering station by relay through main control over JV telephone.

  • 1540 [S]moke forced the abandonment of stations on stack, also air plot and communication stations.

  • 1544 [A]nother explosion on port side.

  • 1545 [A]bandon sky forward and surface forward.

  • 1548 [L]ost all pressure on fire main aft.

  • 1558 [S]everal small explosions under forward elevator. Fire on main deck out of control.  Communications to main control growing very faint.  Ordered main control to secure machinery and abandon engineering compartments.

  • 1600 Ship losing way. Hanger deck thick with smoke, fires visible under forward elevator, personnel assembling on flight deck . . . .  Injured ordered evacuated to cruisers standing by.

  • 1615 U.S.S. Morris came alongside, passed fire hoses on board in effort to combat fire.

  • 1645 [W]ater played on fire around forward elevator without success in extinguishing fire. With loss of speed a port list of 3 developed and ship took a trim down y the bow of about 2 feet.

  • 1652 [O]rdered all squadron & air department personnel and men not needed for working the ship to embark on USS Morris alongside.  Large cloud of steam and smoke came up from forward elevator.

  • 1700 [L]ist to port now 5.

  • 1706 [A] steam explosion rose on port bow.

  • 1707 Rear Admiral A.W. Fitch directed The Captain to have the ship abandoned.

  • 1710 [O]rder passed “All Hands abandon ship.”

  • All injured men on flight deck were lowered over the side to boats and life rafts. . . . Captain [Sherman] proceeded to inspect flight deck aft and after insuring all had abandoned, was last to leave going down a rope at stern about 1830 after several terrific explosions had scattered flames and debris over a large area of water.

  • At about 1945 USS Phelps fired torpedoes into hulk of U.S.S. Lexington and at 1956 the Lexington sank and as she sank three extremely heavy explosions were felt. Depth of water 2000 fathoms.

After seven minutes under direct attack and six hours of valiant work by her crew to save the ship, the Battle of the Coral Sea ended for the USS Lexington.

While perhaps a tactical victory for the Japanese, American loss of a scarce aircraft carrier was significant, the Battle of the Coral Sea was a strategic victory for the U.S. and its allies; Japan did not capture Port Moresby and never again pushed that far south.

Aside from the tactical and strategic results, the battle in the Coral Sea is notable because it was the first naval engagement in history where opposing ships never came within sight of each other.  The battle ushered in a new form of naval warfare in which big-gun ships had no role, with all action taking place at long range via carrier-based airplanes.


NEXT: A photo gallery


The deck log of the U.S.S. LEXINGTON is found in RG 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978 (NAID 594258), Lexington (CV-2) – May 1942.  I thank my colleague Dr. Timothy Nenninger for bringing this log and related records to my attention.

Useful secondary sources are:

♦Samuel Eliot Morison, History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II: Volume IV: Coral Sea, Midway, and Submarine Actions, May 1942-August 1942 (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1949).  This is part of a 15 volume series.

♦Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1963).  This is a condensation of the larger 15-volume work noted above.

♦Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

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Walk the Line

Today’s post was written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

It’s all well and good to have defined boundaries between countries, but somebody has to go out and make sure that they are accurate. And that’s what survey teams from the Coast and Geodetic Survey did for many years, especially after boundary treaties between the United States and Canada were concluded in 1908 and 1925.

photo of a man looking through a scope on rocky terrain

From the report of Thomas Riggs, 1908 NAID 1411901

The survey parties submitted their final reports to the International Boundary Commission. Here is a box full of them, from surveys of the Alaska-Canada boundary, in the series Reports of Surveyors, 1906-1922 (NAID 1411901):

view of bound volumes in a box

Alaska Boundary Reports from Reports of Surveyors

The survey leaders kept daily diaries of their work. Here is a page from Frank H. Brundage’s diary (from the series Diaries, 1906-1940 NAID 1406970); his party surveyed the Vermont-Canada boundary:

diary page of Thursday September 1 and September 2

Page from F. H. Brundage Diary NAID 1406970

What’s fun about these records is that the survey parties took a lot of photographs on their travels.  Here is a view of Labonte’s Line House, mentioned in Brundage’s diary:

photo of Labont's Line house with a car and horse drawn buggy in front

Labonte’s Line House near North Troy, Vermont, 1927; 76-BS-FHB-1927-90

These line houses straddled the boundary; many survive today, with lines marked along the floors. A great tourist attraction, no matter which country you’re in.
Now you might think that the reports would be dry recitations of distances traveled, triangulation points established, and so on. Well, they do have those in abundance, but they also offer up flavorful accounts of daily life on the trail. Here is an excerpt from the report of O. M. Leland’s survey party in Alaska:

Great quantities of equipment were required for these surveys, which could last for months. The heliotrope, pictured here, was essential for establishing triangulation points on sunny days. These were in use until GPS rendered them obsolete.

Sure-footed companions (of the four-legged variety) were also necessary:

photo of men putting shoes on a horse

Thomas Riggs Report of Alaska-Canada Boundary, 1908 NAID 1411901

Boats were a necessity on many of these trips, and would certainly have been preferable to endless hiking.

photo of survey vessels on the banks of a river

Survey of J. H. can Wagenen, 1914 76-BS-JHvW-1914-17

But boats had their own problems:

text of a note: I had the misfortune to lose a 4x5 camera

D. W. Easton Report of Alaska-Canada Boundary, 1908 NAID 1411901

One advantage of having your own survey party was that you could name your vessels with whatever struck your fancy. This survey party had a hankering for German food:

photo of a raft on water

Thomas Riggs Report of Alaska-Canada Boundary, 1908 NAID 1411901

The party also named one of its triangulation markers “Sauerkraut.”
But even with such lighthearted moments, the parties faced many dangers. The going could be quite treacherous. Would you want to venture along these icy passages?

photos of a survey party on a glacier

W. F. Ratz Report of Alaska-Canada Boundary, 1908 NAID 1411901

Especially in Alaska, with its nearly 1,500 miles of shared border, the parties had to endure seemingly endless hikes over mountains and glaciers.  This surveyor takes a well-earned rest atop one of them. Note the triangulation marks etched into the photograph:

76-N-10863 Loafing on the Mountain - O.M. Leland Party, Coast Mountains of Alaska and Canada

O. M. Leland Party – Coast Mountains of Alaska and Canada, 1908 NAID 519372

Finally, a haunting double exposure. The Idaho Store and Hotel still exists at the border entry station at Eastport, Idaho.  This was taken during a 1936 boundary survey by Thomas Riggs:

76-BS-TR-1936-9 Double Exposure of Idaho Hotel and Store, 1936

Double Exposure of Idaho Hotel and Store, 1936 76-BS-TR-1936-9

The records of these surveys are rich in many kinds of detail, and as you read them you can almost imagine you’re out on the trail with these intrepid souls. I could imagine working on one of these parties for a summer; where do I sign up?

RG 76, PI-170 entry 376, box 21 - G. Clyde Baldwin and Party, 1908 Report

G. Clyde Baldwin Report of Alaska-Canada Boundary, 1908 NAID 1411901

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A Record of Protest

Today’s post is written by M Marie Maxwell, an archives specialist who works at Archives I.  

Recently, as a citizen, I attended a local community meeting regarding a contentious proposal, hosted by a city government department. Besides the subject being contentious, attendees against the proposal and the city representatives did not agree on how to voice the attendees’ wishes. The attendees against the proposal wanted to stand and individually speak on why they opposed what the government was planning. The city representatives wanted attendees to fill out feedback forms. The proposal opponents claimed the forms would just go straight to the trash.

And I immediately thought, “No, they wind up in the archives.”

In my years of processing, I have come across letters, petitions, and other records of citizens’ opposition or support buried among the federal records. It is not uncommon for federal agencies to have a comment period, where comments from the public are solicited regarding a rule, a project, or changes.

Of the records I have worked with, the voice of the public is found amongst other documents, as with the letters found in RG 328 Records of the National Capital Planning Commission Development Proposals Project Files, ca. 1970 – 2000 (NAID 2765725) in the files concerning the National Harbor, also known as Smoot Bay, and Port America. There are several boxes of files relating to this project, of which the public’s comments are just one of many related topics.

RG328a1-55-bx2Some letters were mailed in, some faxed as a group, and there appears to have been a public meeting on May 12, 1998 where comment sheets were made available. We have one such example received by the office on June 2, 1998. The author, a longtime resident of nearby Oxon Hill, Maryland, stated she opposed the project, worried that it would bring a “carnival atmosphere” and other undesirable qualities. A large number of the letters document opposition to the project, citing concerns over traffic, the environment or other residential concerns. Looking at the other folders regarding what was proposed one can see what examples were presented which brought forth phrases like “carnival atmosphere” and “theme park,” as well as the other concerns.

The records do not say what happened between the planning and study period and the completion of National Harbor in 2008 that is for the researcher to explore and discover. Because this series contains material about private and federal projects, researchers will need to allow time for staff to screen these records. It is worth the wait as there is information about the project that won’t be found in the local newspaper, for those researchers studying how a large development starts out.

Another series with public comment came to mind of something I recently processed. The letters and postcards in RG 302 Records of the National Capital Housing Authority Segregation and Integration of Public Housing Files, 1943 – 1956 (NAID 23902751). A portion of the series documents the public’s opinion of plans to not segregate several public housing developments in the District of Columbia. While there are a few letters supporting the end of racial and religious discrimination in public housing. In Mrs. Evelyn L. Petshek’s May 7, 1953 letter she wrote, “As a resident of that area I wish to go on record deploring the [Washington Heights Citizen Association protest of non-segregated housing] and to state that I sincerely hope that this housing will be used on a non-segregated basis.” There are letters from organizations, businesses and individuals opposing the housing authority’s experiment in opening a few projects to all applicants. Several of the letters cite property values as a reason for opposition as in the example from one real estate business. Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Hobbs, mention overcrowding and strained facilities as a reason for opposition.1953 anti-desegration letter



The public’s opinion, be it opposition or support, was collected and is now preserved for researchers to examine and interpret. Feedback from the public can be just one part of the information kept as part of the project or effort that the creating agency wished to document. The opinions and thoughts of those in charge of a project are better known than of the person on the street, so it is interesting when I come across the voice of the common person, regardless if I agree or disagree on what they have to say.

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Douglas MacArthur Turns 70: Birthday Greetings from the Secretary of State

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

Douglas MacArthur was born on January 26, 1880.  As his 70th birthday approached, he was serving as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) in occupied Japan.  In that position he had significant interaction with the Department of State.  In honor of the General’s birthday, Secretary of State Dean Acheson signed the telegram shown below.  The relationship between SCAP and the Department of State was, to put it mildly, not the best, so perhaps sending the telegram to celebrate this milestone birthday was an effort to improve connections at the policymaker level.  


Telegram from the Secretary of State to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, 25 Jan 1950; 711.551/1-2550, RG 59

MacArthur responded with the following telegram:


Telegram Z-35888 from the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to the Secretary of State, 27 Jan 1950; 711.551/1-2750

Given the events of the next 15 months, this exchange of messages might reflect the high point in the contentious relationship between MacArthur and Acheson.  MacArthur’s actions in Korea after the Chinese intervention in the war there in late 1950 ultimately led President Truman to relieve the General of his command and led to a total rupture in the remaining professional and personal relationship between MacArthur and Acheson.  Acheson later referred to MacArthur as a “jackass” and in his memoirs referred to the damage MacArthur’s “willful insubordination and incredibly bad judgment” did to the U.S.  He further noted that his actions “diminished” the “effectiveness” of U.S. foreign policy.

Source: Secretary of State to Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Telegram, January 25, 1950, file 711.551/1-2550 and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to the Secretary of State, Telegram Z-35888, January 27, 1950, file 711.551/1-2750 both in the Central Decimal Files, 1950-1954 (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

For more information on the MacArthur-Acheson relationship, see:

  • Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1969)
  • Robert L. Beisner, Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
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The Search for Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate Part III

Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park. This is the final part in a three part series.

General Truscott announced on December 29 that Third U.S. Army intelligence officers, after a long search, had uncovered important documents signed by Hitler. In announcing the find, Truscott was outspoken in his praise of the cooperation between the British counter intelligence and the 303rd CIC Detachment, the Third U.S. Army operatives who made the important discovery. Truscott indicated that the documents, some of which were to remain secret until further investigation by Third U.S. Army G-2 units could be completed, were of “inestimable value” in piecing together the whole picture of the closing days of the Nazis’ downfall. The desperation of those closing days, Truscott said, was shown by the “frantically penned” covering letter from Bormann to Doenitz.[1]

Before or after Truscott finished speaking on December 29, at the direction of the Assistant G-2, USFET, the Public Relations Branch of G-2, Third U.S. Army released to the world the first information of contents of Hitler’s Political Testament, Last Will, and other associated documents discovered. Not all the text of the two wills was released however. The press was given a summary of the circumstances of the discovery.[2] Not to be outdone publicity-wise, simultaneously with the Third Army’s announcement of the Hitler documents, British counter-intelligence officers reported the arrest of the man to whom the documents had been entrusted, Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin [Zander], identified as adjutant to Bormann. Readers of The New York Times on December 30 awoke to a page one story entitled “Hitler’s Private Will Found; Affirms His Suicidal Plans.”[3]

At Nuremberg on December 30 the British and Americans disclosed to the press the complete text of the Political Testament, as well the text of the personal will and marriage certificate as well as the Goebbels’ appendix.[4]

As the year ended British Major Peter Ramsbotham informed Trevor-Roper, then back at Bad Oeynhausen, that the Joint Intelligence Committee had referred the decision on what to say about Hitler’s will up to the Cabinet; but by then it was too late, as its discovery was being announced in banner headlines in newspapers around the world.[5]

At Herford, Germany on December 31 a British intelligence officer told the press that there could be no possible doubt that Hitler had perished with his bride in a bunker under the bomb-blasted chancellery. The officer, who disclosed the full story of how Hitler’s last documents were traced down through the combined efforts of British and American intelligence agents, said that the authenticity of the papers could not be questioned. The documents included the testaments and marriage contract-and exhaustive questions of all persons now in British hands who were known to have witnessed Hitler’s last hours have disclosed a full sequence of events that, the officer said, is accepted as the true version of Hitler’s death.  On the basis of accumulated evidence, the officer said that Hitler and Eva Braun died in the bunker about 3pm on April 30. The officer said that three complete sets of Hitler’s documents were made and the messengers were now in the Allies’ hands. The officer added that one set of the documents was still missing, and the captured messenger to whom it was entrusted had thus far refused to disclose its hiding place. He said that one set of the documents was a spare, possibly designed for posterity. One of the others was directed to Doenitz and the remaining one was for Schoerner; and added that neither set reached its destination. The messengers then in Allies’ hands, the officer reported, were Lorenz, Johannmeier, and Fredrich Wilhelm Paustin, alias Wilhelm Zander.[6]

A dispatch from the American Third Army’s headquarters in Bad Toelz, apparently on December 31, said that American intelligence had spent months running down every possible thread of evidence and were also convinced that Hitler had died with his wife.[7]

Weiss, after interrogating Zander, on December 30 made a report of the arrest and interrogation. As to the possible whereabouts of Martin Bormann, Zander stated that he last saw him on April 29 in the Bunker and claimed it was impossible for anyone to leave Berlin after he did.[8]  In forwarding the report through CIC channels Weiss’s supervisor reported that while publicity released from Third U.S. Army did not indicate the part played by Agent Weiss, that Weiss had played an important role in learning of Zander’s alias and location, as well as the location of the Hitler documents in Tegernsee.[9]

After Zander’s arrest, the interest switched again to Johannmeier whose story now had been shown to be untrue by Lorenz and Zander. Trevor-Roper met with him on January 1 and explained to him that Zander and Lorenz were both in Allied hands (he had already read in the newspapers about Zander’s arrest), and that in view of their independent but unanimous testimony, it was impossible to accept his statement that he had been merely an escort, and had not himself carried any documents. He nevertheless maintained his thesis for a period of two hours. He agreed that the evidence was against him, but insisted that his story was true. He gave a version of the words which Burgdorf had used when giving him his instructions to escort Zander and Lorenz. Asked if he was prepared to settle the matter in the presence of these others, he replied unhesitatingly, yes. Asked if could name any witness whose testimony might offset that of Zander and Lorenz, he stated that he had spoken to no one about his mission, and that the only man who knew the details was the man who had given it to him, General Burgdorf.  When told that Burgdorf was missing, and believed dead, he exclaimed “Dann ist meine letzte Hoffnung verschwunden, (Then my last hope is gone)” The position was put sympathetically to Johannmeier – that he must realize that the documents were already in Allied hands and that another revelation could add nothing to their knowledge, continued resistance to the evidence would entail his further, and perhaps indefinite imprisonment; but still he insisted that his story was the truth. He agreed to sign a written declaration to that effect. “If I had the documents, it would be senseless to withhold them now, but what I have not I cannot deliver. I cannot even prove that I have not got them?” By his otherwise unaccountable persistence in this story, by which he was condemning himself to imprisonment for no conceivable advantage to anyone, and by the ingenuousness of his protestations, Johannmeier had almost persuaded Trevor-Roper that these must after all be some flaw in the evidence against him, some element of truth in his improbable but unshakeable story.[10]

They were alone in the headquarters; everyone else had left for the holiday. Trevor-Roper had nowhere to put Johannmeier. He decided that he must admit failure and summon a truck to take him away.  Trevor-Roper left the room for two hours, trying to make a long-distance call. When he returned and began the mechanical questioning again (more to fill in the time than out of any hope of success) he became aware of a change in Johannmeier’s attitude.  Johannmeier, according to Trevor Roper, seemed already to have resolved his mental doubts, and after a little preliminary and precautionary fencing, in which he sought assurance that he would not be penalized, if he revealed his secret about the documents, he declared “Ich habe die Papiere! (I have the papers)” He stated that he had buried them in a garden of his home in Iserlohn, in a glass jar; and he agreed to lead Trevor-Roper to the spot and hand over the papers.[11]

On the long drive back to Iserlohn, Johannmeier spoke freely on various topics which were discussed.  When they stopped for a meal, Trevor-Roper asked him why he had decided to reveal the truth. Johannmeier said he had reflected that if Zander and Lorenz, both favored members who had risen high in the Party, had so easily consented to betray the trust reposed in them, it would be quixotic (for him) who was not a member of the Party or connected with politics, but who was merely carrying the documents in obedience to a military order, to endure further hardship to no practical purpose.  At Iserlohn they left the car some distance away, at Johannmeier’s request – he did not want the neighbors to see a British staff car outside his parents’ home. The two men walked together through the cold night to the house. It was now night-time and the ground had frozen hard. Johannmeier found an axe and together they walked out into the back corner of his garden. Johannmeier found the place, broke frozen surface of the ground with the axe, and dug up the glass bottle. Then he smashed the bottle with the head of the axe and drew out the documents, which he handed over to Trevor-Roper. They were the third copy of Hitler’s private and personal testament plus a vivid covering letter from Burgdorf to Schoerner describing the circumstances of its dictation, “under the shattering news of the treachery of the Reichsfuehrer SS.”  The Allies now had the three sets of documents that had been carried out of the bunker on April 29.[12]  Trevor-Report prepared a report to which he attached the documents and translations.[13] He returned to England early in 1946, and began writing a book about Hitler and his last days.[14]

Two sets of Hitler’s political testament and personal will ended up in the National Archives of the United Kingdom (file designation WO 208/3779).  The third set, and the marriage certificate (NAID 6883511), came to the National Archives in April 1946.  For that story, see my article in Prologue – “Hitler’s Final Words“.

[1] Draft press statement by Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Commanding the Third U.S. Army and the Eastern Military district, Bad Tolz, December 29, 1945, File: Hitler, Adolf, XE003655 (NAID 7359097), Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, RG 319.

[2] Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, Section C, Appendix III, G-2 Section, Report for the Month of December 1945, pp. 1, 7, File: G-2 Section, Headquarters, Third United States Army, Quarterly “Report of Operations,” 1 October-31 December 1945, Appendix III, Historical Division; Program Files; Third U.S. Army G-2 Operations Reports, 1945 – 1947 (NAID 5896761), RG 498; Hitler’s Marriage Contract and Testaments, Annex No. 2 to Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, G-2 Weekly Intelligence Report No. 32, for Week Ending 021200A January 1946, attachment to Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third U.S. Army, Section A, Appendix III, G-2 Section, Report for the Month of January 1946, p. 1, ibid.; Memorandum, Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army to Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel, International Military Tribunal, Subject: Circumstances of Discovery of Hitler’s Wills, January 11, 1946, Hitler’s Private Testament and Political Testament, April 29, 1945, File: 3569-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 (NAID 305264), RG 238; United Press, “Texts of Hitler and Goebbels Documents Seized by the Allies,” The New York Times, December 31, 1945, p. 6.

[3] Associated Press, “Hitler’s Private Will Found; Affirms His Suicidal Plans,” The New York Times, December 30, 1945, pp. 1, 6.

[4] United Press, “Texts of Hitler and Goebbels Documents Seized by the Allies,” The New York Times, December 31, 1945, p. 6.

[5] Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 141; Davenport-Hines, ed., Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Wartime Journals, p. 278.

[6] Associated Press, “British Satisfied of Hitler’s Death,” The New York Times, January 1, 1946, p. 18.

[7] ibid.

[8] Memorandum, Arnold H. Weiss, Special Agent, CIC, Munich Sub-Regional Office  to the Officer in Charge, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Re: Location and Arrest and Recovery of Hitler’s Documents, December 30, 1945, attachment to Memorandum, 1st Lt. Marvin L. Edwards, CIC, Commanding to Commanding Officer, 970/CIC, Regional Office IV, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Adjutant to Bormann; Unterholzner, Ilsa, secretary to Bormann, January 4, 1946; 1st Indorsement, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Gagan, Executive, CIC Region, IV to Chief, CIC, CIB, Headquarters, USFET, January 4, 1946, File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054) RG 319. Weiss suggested that CIC Headquarters at USFET be contacted for further exploitation of information which Zander might be able to supply. He opined that Zander might be able to furnish information for use in War Crimes Trial of Bormann (in absentia) at Nuremberg. ibid.

[9] Memorandum, 1st Lt. Marvin L. Edwards, CIC, Commanding to Commanding Officer, 970/CIC, Regional Office IV, Subject: Zander, Wilhelm, alias Paustin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Adjutant to Bormann; Unterholzner, Ilsa, secretary to Bormann, January 4, 1946; 1st Indorsement, 1st Lt. Joseph E. Gagan, Executive, CIC Region, IV to Chief, CIC, CIB, Headquarters, USFET, January 4, 1946, File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], Personal Name File, Security Classified Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers, 1939-1976 (NAID 645054).

[10] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546), Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, ca. 1977 – ca. 2004, RG 319; Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending February 27, 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314, Publications Files, 1946-1951, RG 319

[11] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546); Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending February 27, 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314); Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 141; Davenport-Hines, ed., Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Wartime Journals, p. 279.

[12] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546); Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, For week ending February 27, 1946, Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” [based on information supplied by Control Commission (BE) Intelligence Bureau] File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters (NAID 2152314); Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, pp. 141-142.

[13] Third Interrogation of Willi Johannmeier, January 1, 1946, at CIB, BAOR [British Army of the Rhine], File: JOHANNMEIER, Willi – XE013274 (NAID 7359546).

[14] Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, p. 142. Maj. H. R. Trevor-Roper, “Hitler—New Light on a Dark Career,” The New York Times, March 17, 1946 and H. R. Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1947).

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