World War I Combat Artists: George Harding

Guest blogger Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art as a result of her involvement as a volunteer in a holdings maintenance project for American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) documents at the National Archives at College Park. This article is part five of the series about World War I Art and Artists.


Capt. George Harding, E.R.C., one of the eight official artists appointed by the War Department. April 1918. Photographer: William S. Ellis, Phila, Pa. Local Identifier: 111 SC 153118.

The combat artists often rode together and sketched in the same areas, their paths crisscrossing the shell pocked land.  The subjects of their artwork changed as they moved with the American army from training areas to combat zones; from tranquil landscapes to destruction, wounded men, and the new technology of war.

Captain George Harding, like Harvey Dunn, wanted to be near the action and he spent as much time as close to the front lines as practicable.  He incorporated realism into his sketches, as contrasted with the heroism-infused drawings of Harvey Dunn.

111-SC-20112 Between shells at Chateau Thierry0001

Between shells at Chateau Thierry. By Capt. George Harding. (Used in Collier’s Feb. 6, 1919).  Official War Drawing by American Military Artist. Local Identifier 111 SC 20112

Harding was with the troops as they fought their way through Chateau Thierry and the second battle of the Marne. Chateau Thierry was important because it was only fifty miles from Paris.  To the French it would have been a disaster to lose it to the Germans.

Traffic to Mont St. Pere. The valley of the Marne at Mont St. Pere alive with artillery activity during American advance seen from part of town on hill. Capt. Geo. Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists.
Local Identifier 111 SC 31675

The second Battle of the Marne was initiated by the Germans, their last offensive strike of World War I. It was not a surprise to the Allies; they had intelligence of the planned attack. The French and the Americans made plans to defend the Marne River and deployed their troops strategically.  The French were unable to hold, but the American 38th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Division held on, beating back a ferocious German assualt.

111-SC-20114 American troops entering a village

American troops entering a village in pursuit of the enemy during the advance across the Marne, July 13, 1918, by Capt. George Harding (Used in Leslie’s, Jan. 25, 1919). Official Drawings by American Military Artist.
Local Identifier 111 SC 20114

“Mr. Chairman, “Marne” is a name indelibly inscribed on the pages of history.  It was at the Marne in September 1914, that the French under Joffre turned back the German hordes in their mad dash toward Paris; and it was at the Marne in July, 1918, on the selfsame ground that a single regiment of American Infantrymen, with some aid from the Artillery, once more stemmed the German tide and rolled it back in defeat; earning thereby for itself and its gallant colonel [Ulysses Grant McAlexander] the proud title “The Rock of the Marne.” Address to the 66th Congress by the honorable C. N. McArthur, representative from Oregon, on May 1, 1920.

111-SC-57018 American gun fire, early morning

American gun fire, early morning, opening of Verdun offensive. Captain George Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists. Local Identifier 111 SC 57018

Some of Harding’s drawings are titled “Verdun Offensive”.  The Battle of Verdun was fought in 1916, a German offensive that nearly broke the French lines. General Robert Nivelle’s command, often attributed to General Henri Petain, “Ils ne passeront pas” (they shall not pass), inspired the besieged and tired French soldiers to stand firm against the enemy. All of this long before the first American doughboy stepped onto French soil.

111-SC-57020 During Verdun drive

During Verdun drive a German plane got two Allied balloons in less than a minute. Captain George Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists. Local Identifier 111 SC 57020

So why Verdun?  Perhaps because it was close to the path American soldiers took from St. Mihiel to join the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne.  Perhaps because Verdun was a gateway from the East to the West. Or perhaps it was because the French victory at Verdun had made it a famous if not reverent memory to the valor of men.


The next combat artist to be featured in this series is Wallace Morgan.



National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives. Textual Records. Record Group 120. American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Combat Divisions, 3rd Division.

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.

Pershing, John J. My Experiences in the World War, Volumes I and II. Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York. 1931.

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Henry Ford’s Mirror of America

You might be surprised to learn that there was a moment in time when Ford Motor Company had one of the largest film studios outside of Hollywood. In April of 1914, when his company was barely a decade old, Henry Ford established the Ford Motion Picture Department. Along with motor vehicles, Ford began releasing films on a weekly basis, first a newsreel called The Ford Animated Weekly, and then The Ford Educational Weekly, which covered subjects of a less timely nature that could be exhibited longer. At its peak, the company newsletter, The Ford Times estimated that over 20 miles of film left their factory every week.


Workers in the Ford Motion Picture Department film a scene for an educational film. (Still from Mirror of America)

Films produced by Ford covered a wide range of educational subjects, from demonstrating an industrial process such as making dolls in a factory to travelogues that brought faraway or exotic locales to a theater near you. By 1920, the Ford Times reported that their films received between ten and twelve million viewers in 7,000 theaters in the United States, plus circulation in foreign markets such as France, Mexico, and Japan.

This priceless historical record was not always in the public trust. In November of 1963 in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., William Clay Ford presented to the National Archives 1.8 million feet of historical footage created by Ford Motor Company. For the occasion of the donation, the Archives premiered Mirror of America, a film that highlighted the collection and Henry Ford’s interest in moving pictures. The film serves as an introduction to the films and also advertises the collection as open for research. (As one might expect, there is also a fair amount of homage to Henry Ford the man.)

64.28: Mirror of America

Mirror of America includes a wide swath of the Ford Collection, including notable personalities of the day such as Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the humorist Will Rogers. The resulting film demonstrates how the collection is a “mirror” of American life from the middle 1910s through the 1920s. (The assessment holds true as long as one considers that the “mirror” is pointed only in directions that were of interest to the Ford Motor Company at the time.) The Ford Collection covers aspects of American history that are not present in government-produced motion picture records, which is why it was a valuable acquisition.


Cameras captured William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (L) in 1916, a year prior to his death. (Still from Mirror of America)

The involvement of Archives’ staff was extensive, even if it was not as direct as the credits would have us believe. A report in the January 1964 edition of the National Archives’ newsletter Archi-Views describes the project and the opening night ceremony, detailing the efforts of National Archives’ staff. Before footage could be selected, the film lab had to copy the flammable nitrate reels onto acetate safety stock  (the cost of the work was covered by a $200,000 grant from Ford). With the footage preserved, Deputy Archivist Dr. Robert Bahmer, Karl Trever, and Robert Jacoby winnowed the nearly two million feet down to a few hundred scenes that would be used in the film.

Once the footage was selected, the technical work of the film production, including writing and editing, was completed by Jerry McMechan and John Hollowaty from Ford Motor Company’s film department.

Mirror of America premiered November 18, 1963, when William Clay Ford officially presented the Ford Collection to the National Archives. According to the article in Archi-Views, the film was entered in film festivals in Monte Carlo and Nigeria. The program for the premiere noted that the addition of the Ford Collection to our existing collections was “an invaluable gift to future generations of Americans.” At over 50 years old, the documentary still stands as the best introduction to the Ford Collection, showcasing the depth, breadth, and quality of the footage.

Background information for this post came from the accession file for Mirror of America. For much, much more on the history of the Ford Motion Picture Department and the Ford Collection at the National Archives, see Phillip W. Stewart’s article “Henry Ford: Movie Mogul?” in the Winter 2014 issue of Prologue.

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Raising the Flag Over Iwo Jima

Seventy years ago, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured what is perhaps the most iconic image of the Second World War. Taken just days into the more than month-long Battle of Iwo Jima, the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph documented the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi. The photo was later used as the model for the US Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

Although not as well-known as Rosenthal’s photograph, there is also a moving image record of the flag-raising. Marine Sergeant William Homer Genaust shot 16mm color footage of the event. Sadly, Sgt. Genaust never left Iwo Jima. Nine days after filming the raising of the flag, he was hit by enemy fire. His body was never recovered.


Genaust’s footage was used in this edition of United News, a newsreel series produced by the Office of War Information and distributed to theaters both domestically and overseas. The original footage was color, but was enlarged and copied to black and white for use in the newsreel. Two other stories are featured on this newsreel, including updates from the war front in Japan and Germany.

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WWI Combat Artists – Harvey Dunn

Guest blogger Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art as a result of her involvement as a volunteer in a holdings maintenance project for documents of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) at the National Archives at College Park. This article is part four of the series about World War I Art and Artists.

Harvey Dunn sketched the war from his heart. He spent time in the trenches and went “over the top” with the men.  He knew personally and intimately what battle meant to the infantryman, the runner, the machine gunner.  Like the other official World War I artists, Dunn was not attached to any particular division of the American expeditionary Forces.

dunn, harvey thomas head shot

Capt. Harvey Dunn, One of the Official American Artists with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Nov.1918.
Local Identifier: 111 SC 86624

Captain Dunn poured his experience into dramatic drawings, the sort of artwork the War Department was looking for; brave men in battle, winning the war for the allies. He sketched doughboys overcoming barbed wire to confront the enemy, captured the moment when a grenade thrown into a German dugout exploded, caught the irony of setting up a machine gun in a cemetery, and the sublime moment of German soldiers surrendering to Americans.

After the last volley of the war, the men of the 36th Division were ordered to write about their experiences of the war. The soldiers were not men who kept diaries. Many of them could barely read or write, but they duly recorded their experiences of fighting during the Meuse Argonne offensive while it was fresh in their minds. The raw memories of the soldiers accompany the artwork of Captain Dunn to create a vivid record of the war.

31668 The Machine Gunner

The Machine Gunner. Capt. Harvey Dunn. Drawings by Official American Artists. Local Identifier: 111 SC 31668

Harvey Dunn was proud of American soldiers and his machine gunner has the proportions of a classic hero with an iron jaw of American determination.

H.C. Obets, Private, Company A, 132nd Machine Gun Battalion

“It was on the morning of October the eighth that we were ordered to line up in platoons to go up and relieve part of the second division. We started out of the point of the woods down across a valley. There was a barrage to go through. We passed that and got into rifle pits on the other side of the valley in a few rows of pine trees. There were some infantry boys in there too.  The shells and Machine Gun bullets were strafing all around.  Then the lieutenant ordered us to the first line trenches which was about 30 yards to the front.  We all went over and crowded into the trenches which was almost full of doughboys.  Some wounded and of course a few dead.  We were then ordered to get out and scatter in squad columns to the rear. … We stayed in this position for about thirty minutes.  Men were getting killed and wounded all around us and our Red Cross man was helping to dress their wounds”.

31113 The Hand Grenade

The Hand Grenade”. A hand grenade is thrown through the doorway of a dugout into the midst of German soldiers.  This is one in many incidents in the cleaning out of the Germans in captured territory. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn, E.R.C. S.C. Photo Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France.  Selected for publication in the New York Tribune, March 1919. Local Identifier 111 SC 31113

A.R. Fleischmann, Captain, 311th Infantry, 77th Division, commanding Co. D

“At zero hour (5:30AM) Sept 26th, I advanced my line according to instructions…In advancing, resistance was met in machine guns, pill boxes and snipers and retreating infantry.  About 45 seconds after the attack was started a terrific barrage was laid down in front of our original outpost positions covering the ground about 200 yards to the front.  Individual rifle pits were dug all along the edge of the woods.

Two dugouts were located and a pill box was located practically between but a little in advance of the dugouts.  In getting to our objective we cleaned out one of these with bombs.  [At] the other dugout, eight [Germans] appeared at the door and were captured.  We then threw several bombs in the entrances and have no way of knowing whether there were more in it or not.”

31667 Street Fighting

Street Fighting – in one of the villages along the Marne. By Capt. Harvey Dunn. Local Identifier 111 SC 31667.

Edward Trumble, Private, Company L, 141st Infantry

“I heard a peculiar shrill whistling noise a few yards ahead of us which was followed immediately by a terrific explosion. That was my first time to witness the effect of the Huns long range guns. Luckily for me I was in the lead of the detail so was not run over by the excited crowd which immediately started for the rear. It may be well for me to say here that this was our first tour on the front, consequently no one knew what was happening when those shells began falling. I and a few others who were not so badly excited continued our search for water until we found it.  By then the shells were falling pretty thick although no one was hurt. After dark we started out for the front lines. No one but those who were there can imagine the excitement and eagerness of everyone to go forward that night. Everyone was glad to get a chance at the Huns”.

31676 The Harvest Moon_2

“The Harvest Moon”. A grim harvest was reaped in the wheat fields along the Marne by the American troops. Dead Germans of the famous Prussian Guard who fell before the 38th Infantry are seen in the foreground.  Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn, E.R.C. SC. Photos Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France. Local Identifier 111 SC 31676.

Unknown Soldier, Company L, 141st Infantry

“After a few hours hiking I was soon on the battlefield.  The first sight I saw was a German skull.  A stick was stuck in the ground and his head was hung over the top of it. A Camel cigarette was in his mouth and his old steel helmet was lying by the side of the stick.”

31677 Walking Cases

“Walking Cases”. Wounded men stopped for a rest on their way back from the firing line. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn, E.R.C. SC. Photos Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France. Local Identifier 111 SC 31677.

John M. Wade, Cook, Company L, 141st Infantry

“Well on the morning of the 8th of October, while going across the railroad track one of my friends was seriously injured by one of the artillery shell[s] and he ask[ed] for help so I was on the stretcher carrier detail so I assisted him as soon as possible and on my way back to the aid [station] I was in shell fire but kept on going with my friend for he seemed to be in misery and I did my best, and also kept carrying the wounded.

I saw lots of men with their arms and legs torn off.  Also I saw a man driving an ambulance and all at once he was shelled and his left leg was almost torn off and the shell went in over the gasoline tank and exploded and burnt the car up and also burned up one man in the rear of the ambulance”.

31699 Among the Wreckage

Among the wreckage.  Troops going forward at night. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn, E.R.C. SC. Photos Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France. Local Identifier 111 SC 31699.

Unknown Soldier

“It was at this place (Somme Py) that I saw my first destruction of the war. If it had not been for a few walls that were left standing no person would ever have known that there was a town.  At that place, of the few walls that were left standing not one failed to have a shell hole thru it”.

William Loughy, Cook, Company B, 132nd Machine Gun Battalion

“Every village we went through was sacked, burned, and forever ruined. This is the garden spot of France and when one sees it he wonders why God in his goodness and greatness could let a cultured and civilized people live that could commit such wanton depredation and destruction on another country. Why?”

37809 Machine Gun Emplacement

Machine Gun Emplacement. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn, E.R.C. SC. Photos Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France. Local Identifier 111 SC 37809

Edward Trumble, Private, Company L, 141st Infantry

“We were in the front lines four days this time, forty-eight hours of which I together with a few others spent our time in an outpost between our lines and those of the enemy. A very trying position as we were unable to get food or water and were forced to lie almost motionless both night and day as we were only a few yards from the enemy’s lines.  We could hear them talking very distinctly”.

William Loughy, Cook, Company B, 132nd Machine Gun Battalion

“…and what the French and English were four years trying to take, we done it in exactly 8 good American hours”

37811 In the Front Line at Early Morning

In the front line at early morning. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn. Local Identifier 111 SC 37812

Walter Reines, Corporal, Company L, 141st Infantry

“There was some excitement in digging in and wearing our gas masks – one night we wore our gas masks about five hours. Some of the boys took it quite serious, but some [of] them found lots of sport in it”.

C. B. Morris, Sgt., Company HQ, 142nd Infantry

“… all night long we dug our emplacements and holes to lay in. All night and most all day big shells and little ones from [artillery] batteries on our right flank contented themselves with kicking dirt in on us every little bit but stayed outside of our little prairie dog home for which we were truly thankful”.

37857 Prisoners and Wounded

“Prisoners and Wounded”. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn. Local Identifier 111 SC 37857.

C. B. Morris, Sgt., Company HQ, 142nd Infantry

“The Boche could understand “Hands up” tho many of them could not speak English…The Prussian guards were weaklings in the face of Sammies”. [Sammies was a short-lived nickname for the American infantrymen]

 William Loughy, Cook, Company B,   132nd Machine Gun Battalion

“I met a constant stream of German prisoners and wounded American soldiers all going to the rear. One M.P. whom I was walking with had three German officers as prisoners, one captain and two lieutenants.  We had not gone far until a “rolling kitchen” as the soldiers call an Austrian 88, came along and all we could find of those German officers was one boot full of leg and one head. “C’est le guerre”, as the MP said. “Well, I’m damn glad.  It will save me a walk”; then [the MP] went on back to the front.

I gathered up all the canteens I could find and filled them with coffee for our company and went with what men I could find up to the front line.  On our way up I saw a sight that made me realize the stern grimness of warfare, the awfulness of it. A shell hit one of our ambulances and killed the three drivers (it happened to be empty) tore it all to pieces and his entrails were strung across (the driver) and trucks were continually coming and going over their bodies.

Oh how I did want to get at the Bosch when I heard about the boys of ours and saw them laying out so cold (dead far from home and loved ones) but their deaths are not in vain. It is for one of the greatest causes in God’s history: justice, democracy, and freedom”.

37906 Doughboy Fighting

Doughboy fighting through barbed wire entanglements. Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn. Local Identifier 111 SC 37906.

 Neil S. Madeley,  Company C

“In the early morning the lieutenant came up and gave orders to get our gun fix[ed] for going over the top at 5:15.  At the proper time we began the advance 15 degrees west of north. Unfortunately we got ahead of the infantry and advanced to a point of a pine thicket, a place badly exposed to the enemy and a place where they had previously aimed their guns on account of the prominence. Before we could get the gun set the Bosch had discovered us. They lost no time in letting us know it. All at once their machine guns laid a barrage; their heavy artillery belched its volley, and their snipers took aim. In a short time, one sergeant lay dead, the result of a sniper’s shot. Just a little later our gallant lieutenant and our runner were killed by a shell. At the same time wounded comrades could be heard gasping for help.

During the clash our infantry rushed up and made a daring effort to cross the opening.  Once they were repulsed but after a few familiar commands, the daring Americans pushed on despite the fact that fate was imminent. “On, Over the top” was the cry and the Sammies occupied the ground where dead Germans lay beside the guns that had just felled our heroes”.

The personal war experiences were excerpted from the original records, consisting of 23 boxes, of the 36th Division, Record Group 120.  Some of the records are difficult to read and even with multiple sets of eyes, it’s impossible to assure that all the excerpts are absolutely accurate. Any mistakes in transcribing the text are solely mine.

The next combat artist to be featured in this series is George Harding.


National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives, Textual Records, Record Group 120 Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1), Combat Divisions. 36th Division. Personal War Experiences

Captain Fleischman’s narrative: National Archives, Textual Records, Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I, Combat Divisions, 77th Division, Historical 278-33.6

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.

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Performing the Past: Archives Specialist Mark Meader Makes History Come Alive

This post was written by Heidi Holmstrom. Heidi works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.

It’s no surprise that history is a passion for many of the employees at the National Archives and Records Administration. But even in this environment, there are people whose dedication to interpreting the past stands out. For over forty years, Mark Meader, an Archives Specialist in NARA’s Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch, has participated in living history reenactments spanning the time from the 17th Century through the First World War. Several of his early performances with the 1st Maryland Regiment reenactment group were captured in National Park Service films now held at NARA. Mark recently told me about his living history activities and the experience of making some of those films.


Archives Specialist Mark Meader as Gun Captain aboard the USS Constellation in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Mark Meader)

During the Civil War Centennial in the 1960s, Mark and his family lived in the Western United States, far from the battlefields where large-scale reenactments were taking place, and he was unable to see them or participate. When he moved to the mid-Atlantic, he was finally able to become a part of the living history and reenactment community. In 1974, the same year he began working for the Federal government, Mark joined the 1st Maryland Regiment.

The 1st Maryland, led by the late William Brown III, reenacted Revolutionary War life and battles, and was named after a historic regiment praised by General George Washington. (Historians cite the 1st Maryland as the source of the state’s nickname—the “Old Line State”.) Brown was dedicated to creating a group that was authentic in all ways, from the hairstyles to the weaponry. Brown, also an employee of the National Park Service, volunteered the 1st Maryland Regiment to participate in the creation of historical films for several Revolutionary War-era historic sites. One of these, Victory at Yorktown (released 1975, filmed in October 1974), ended up being the first time Mark would perform in uniform.

Rather than focusing on the siege and battle of Yorktown, Victory at Yorktown depicts the formal ceremony of surrender as the British march between columns of American and French soldiers and lay down their arms. The British, led by Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, had surrendered after almost three weeks of siege and bombardment by the combined American and French forces, led by General Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau. After the British surrender on October 19, 1781, Great Britain and the United States began peace negotiations that resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and the formal end of the War of Independence.

Slideshow: Stills from Victory at Yorktown.

Mark recalls that in addition to William Brown’s 1st Maryland Regiment, other reenactment groups involved in the production were the 9th Virginia Regiment and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, which notably was able to play the part of either American or British soldiers. Reenactors in possession of French muskets (used by both French and American soldiers during the Revolution) were tapped to don French uniforms. The men portraying the British marched between the columns as their musicians, wearing reverse regimental colors, played “The World Turned Upside Down”. The camera travels along unbroken columns of soldiers that never seem to end, but it turns out that this was a form of cinematic wizardry. In order to make the number of French and American troops look larger, Mark says that as soon as a soldier was out of frame, he would run around behind the camera and step back in line.

Another film that Mark participated in is A Few Men Well Conducted (1978), made for the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana. The title comes from a letter that Clark wrote to Virginia Governor Patrick Henry proposing a campaign to retake the British Fort Sackville in Vincennes. (“Great things have been effected by a few men well conducted.”) The film depicts Clark’s February 1779 trek from Kaskaskia to Vincennes as he and 170 volunteer frontiersmen marched across the cold, flooded plains of Illinois to surprise the British with a winter attack. Clark was able to deceive the British into thinking they were surrounded by a much larger American force and after less than two days of siege the British surrendered. Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton, reviled for the bounties he was said to have paid for American scalps, was among those captured. This victory has been credited with greatly enlarging the size of the young United States, as Great Britain relinquished claims to the Northwest Territory (including Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) in the Treaty of Paris.

Fortunately, Mark and the 1st Maryland Regiment did not have to cross flooded plains in the middle of February during filming. Instead, those scenes were filmed in March 1977 at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, but the water was still cold enough that the participants wore wetsuits under their period uniforms while they stumbled over hidden rocks and roots. Other scenes, notably that of Clark’s men shivering around campfires, were filmed in August. Standing in for Fort Sackville was Prickett’s Fort State Park in West Virginia, which is now a site of regular living history demonstrations.

Slideshow: Stills from A Few Men Well Conducted. Mark Meader is wearing the green hat.

In addition to appearing in these and other government films, the 1st Maryland Regiment also regularly performed a half hour show called “Music and Musketry of the Revolution”. Mark also marched with the regiment in the 1976 American Bicentennial parades in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. One of his favorite memories is from a 1983 trip to Paris as part of the Expedition Liberté for the bicentennial of the signing of the Treaty of Paris. As the group marched down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, many French spectators came up and thanked the Americans for helping liberate Paris in 1944.

The original 1st Maryland Regiment was disbanded in 1984, but Mark also participated in the New 1st Maryland Regiment until 1996. He currently performs living history demonstrations as Senior Leftenant of the St. Mary’s City Militia (circa 1634) at Historic St. Mary’s City in Southern Maryland, and as Gun Captain aboard the U.S.S. Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with Ship’s Company. He enjoys taking part in an activity that is a way to learn how our ancestors lived, “but without the death and disease” he notes with humor.


Mark Meader (R) serves as Senior Leftenant of the St. Mary’s City Militia at the 400th Jamestown VA Celebration in 2007.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Meader.)

If you are interested in learning more about living history, look for groups like Ship’s Company online or attend an event like the annual Military Through the Ages at Jamestown, Virginia. Please tell us about your living history experiences in the comments!

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Happy Birthday, Rocky Mountain National Park

On January 26, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed a law that established Rocky Mountain National Park.  That legislation laid out the coordinates of the park, and set aside the land for the “benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States.” In recognition of the centennial anniversary, the National Archives’ Special Media Division has gathered records related to the iconic landscape.


Ansel Adams, Long’s Peak from the North, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1942. Local ID: 79-AAM-16

The National Archives is fortunate to have a substantial collection of photos by Ansel Adams.  In 1941 Adams was recruited by the Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, to photograph the national parks.  Ickes intended to select a number of these photos to be printed as murals and hung around the Department of Interior building.  Adams would later claim this was “one of the best ideas ever to come out of Washington.”


Ansel Adams, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1942. Local ID: 79-AAM-14

Adams had first met Harold Ickes while lobbying for the creation of Kings Canyon National Park in 1936.  Both Adams and Ickes hoped to increase traction within the environmentalist movement.  Ickes later showed Adams’ book, The Sierra Nevada and the John Muir Trail, to President Roosevelt.  FDR kept the book for himself, and subsequently joined Ickes and Adams in their crusade to pass the Kings River National Park bill in 1940.

Adams’ project for the Department of the Interior began in October 1941. Adams was granted the maximum annual salary for any position not subject to congressional approval, twenty-two dollars and twenty cents a day.  In the nine months that followed, Adams traveled between parks, capturing photos of the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, Boulder Dam, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and many others.  Unfortunately, the project was terminated on July 1, 1942 due to pressures of World War II.  These photos are now public records and available at the National Archives.


Ansel Adams, Rocky Mountain National Park, Never Summer Range, 1942.  Local ID: 79-AAM-7

In addition to the Ansel Adams collection, the Cartographic division at the National Archives maintains the master plans for parks and monuments.  These plans are often original pen-and-ink, crayon, wash, and watercolor drawings of area plans.  The maps often show potential roads, trail plans, fire-control plans, vegetation maps, and utility areas.  An excerpt from the Rocky Mountain National Park plan can be viewed in the slideshow below. Click on the images to view larger versions in a new window. Select “view full size” to zoom in.

Rocky Mountain National Park, 7th Edition 1938, selected pages RG 79 Master Plans of Parks and Monuments, 1931 – 1941 NAID 591991

To study the last one hundred years of the Rocky Mountains’ history neglects the vast majority of the land’s past.  Geologists study the land to interpret how North America has changed over tens of millions of years.  Sea fossils at the top of the peaks indicate the mountains were once under water, and remnants from glacial slides lead many to suspect that the mountains were once twice the size they are today.  The Rockies have been inhabited by Native American tribes for more than 10,000 years, and by wildlife for even longer.  They were explored by Lewis and Clark in the early 19th century, and continue to be explored by climbers today.

These topics and more are explored in a film produced by the National Park Service in 1984, Fountain of Life: Rocky Mountain National Park.   The film is now preserved within the National Archives’ Motion Picture holdings, and has been recently digitized in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Fountain of Life: Rocky Mountain National Park, Local ID: 79-HFC-103

The Rocky Mountains are an American treasure. The legislation passed one hundred years ago ensured that future generations will always have access to this majestic land.  It is with great pleasure that we wish Rocky Mountain National Park a happy 100th Birthday!

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World War I Combat Artists – Walter Duncan

Guest bloggers Jan Hodges and Gene Burkett became interested in World War I combat art as a result of their volunteer work in a holdings maintenance project for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) documents at the National Archives at College Park. This is part three in the series about World War I Art and Artists.

duncan, walter jack

Capt. Walter J. Duncan, Engineers, G.H.Q. G-2-D. Official A.E.F. Artists, Vincennes, Seine, France. Photographer LT. C.C. Mayhew, S.C. Local Identifier: 111 SC 153118

While the Great War raged far away in Europe, popular opinion in the United States was that the country should remain neutral, but events propelled the nation to war. President Wilson had warned Germany in 1916 that killing Americans aboard merchant ships would be considered an act of war against the United States, and Germany stopped the practice. However early in 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare and sank three ships with Americans on board. About the same time, an intercepted telegram revealed that Germany was trying to create an alliance with Mexico while urging it to declare war on the United States. As a result, Congress formally declared war on Germany on April 6th.

Going to war presented the country with some challenges. First was to increase the army from a force of approximately 130,000 Regulars and 70,000 National Guard to one million soldiers. Second was to expand industry to support a war, to turn out arms and clothing and support equipment. Third was to house and train the raw recruits. Lastly, the country had to transport everything from America to Europe: men, arms, and equipment.

The United Stated instituted a draft to induct thousands of young men into the army. Military camps sprang up across the United States from New York to Kansas. Housing at the camps varied from basic to almost primitive. The new soldiers were trained in the camps and received more training (especially in trench warfare) after they landed in France.

The eight artists, including Captain Duncan, were sent to record the war and received little military training. They went overseas armed with easels and sketch pads, pencils and pastels. They shared cars to travel to the front lines, where they hoped to catch the moments when ordinary soldiers became heroes and when Germans surrendered to Americans. Their sketches would not only record history, but also provide fuel for the propaganda fire at home, images that would stir patriotism and support for the war.

The novice American soldiers were packed into troop ships for the voyage from the East Coast to Europe. Having crossed the Atlantic as the rest of the army did, Duncan was familiar with the crowded conditions aboard ship. He captured the moments of the arrival of the American soldiers in France in his sketch “Newly Arrived Soldiers Debarking at Brest.” In the drawing, it’s clear that the ship was crammed. As they stepped onto French soil, the soldiers were met by a cadre of officers and sergeants whose job was to sort them into manageable units and see that they were marched to their first lodgings (billets) in the Old World.

31080 Newly Arrived Soldiers Debarking at Brest

Newly Arrived Soldiers Debarking at Brest. As many as 30,000 men have landed at this port in one day. Drawing by Capt. W. J. Duncan, E.R.C., S.C. Photo Laboratory, Vincennes, Seine, France Local Identifier: 111 SC 31080

The new troops arrived in Europe fresh and optimistic about their role in the war. Some were undoubtedly afraid, but general attitude of Americans was “can-do”. The next eighteen to twenty –four months were to dampen their enthusiasm and take away their innocence. By war’s end, more than 80,000 lost their lives on French soil.

37863 Cold Nights Coming On

Cold Nights Coming On. Drawing by Official American Military Artist – [W.] J Duncan Local Identifier: 111 SC 37863

When they weren’t in the trenches, the doughboys’ billets were often in barns or fields and sometimes in the bombed out remains of towns and farmhouses. As summer staggered to an end, Captain Duncan found a group of soldiers huddled in the remains of what may have been a farmhouse. They had found some firewood and kindled a fire close to the remnants of a chimney. A horse, still saddled, stands patiently on the left, waiting for his next assignment. Duncan captured the scene in his “Cold Nights Coming On”.

37858 A Quiet Game in Essey (1)

A Quiet Game in Essey, during the St. Mihiel Drive Sept. 15, 1918. Drawing by Official American Military Artist – [W.] J Duncan Local Identifier: 111 SC 37858

In “A Quiet Game in Essey”, Duncan sketched war weary soldiers entertaining themselves by playing card games. Gone was the naivety of the doughboys, overtaken by the reality of war. The soldiers remained determined and certain of the American ability to conquer the enemy.

37860 Barber Shop and First Aid Station

Barber Shop and First Aid Station of the Red Cross at Essey Sept, 17, 1918, Meurthe et Moselle, France. Drawing by Official American Military Artist – [W.] J. Duncan. Local Identifier: 111 SC 37860:

Blacksmiths, dentists, and barbers set up their equipment in any available space. Haircuts and shaves were often administered in open fields or in the remnants of shelled out buildings. Duncan sketched an impromptu barber shop and first aid station at Essey.
Small villages that once dotted the landscape along the front, were victims of the war. Villages were turned into piles of rubble as artillery from both sides of the conflict inflicted damage. In somewhat of an irony, the rubble was used by the warring forces to build roads to carry their men and munitions and to fortify their positions.

15400 German Prisoners Under Guard

German Prisoners Under Guard on their Way to Work. Official Drawing by American Army Artists in France. From Captain W. J. Duncan. Local Identifier: 111 SC 15400

Buildings that remained standing, even in ruins, were commandeered to billet troops. Eventually, as Duncan found, the Allies used them to house German prisoners. In this sketch, “German Prisoners Under Guard,” the prisoners seem to be nonchalant about walking through a village filled with enemy civilians. The American guard doesn’t seem to be too concerned that the prisoners might try to escape. Even the villagers who watch the small parade of men through the street appear to be only mildly interested.

15401 French Auto Trucks

French auto Trucks and Ambulances Parked in the Place Garriere, Neufcahteau, Awaiting a Call from the Front. Official Drawings by American Army Artists. From Captain W. J. Duncan. Local Identifier: 111 SC 15401:

In “French Auto Trucks,” Duncan shows a village turned into a truck storage and repair facility. Horses and mules were used frequently to move equipment and materiel over the rough country side. The roads along the front were not numerous. Many of them were little more than packed dirt paths that turned to quagmires in the rain. Nor could they withstand the wear and tear that artillery and engineering equipment and even tanks caused.

162225 Blacksmith and Wagon Repair Shop

Blacksmith and Wagon Repair Shop on the road to Boucq, Meurthe et Moselle. The dark figure in the center is Louis Raemaekers, famous Dutch cartoonist. Drawn by W.J. Duncan. Copied by Private Messeth, S.C. Photo Laboratory, Paris, Seine, France. Local Identifier: 111 SC 162225

Duncan paid tribute to the contributions of Louis Raemaekers by including him in his sketch of a blacksmith and wagon repair shop. Most people today are unaware of Louis Raemaekers, but he was a celebrity in World War I. He was a political cartoonist in Holland when the war began and depicted Germans as barbarians and the Kaiser as being in league with the devil. The German government offered a reward of 12,000 guilders for Raemaekers, dead or alive. The cartoonist fled to England in 1916 where he continued to draw anti-German cartoons. Raemaekers cartoons were even published in America in an effort to persuade the nation to help with the war.

Captain Duncan continued to draw and submit his art monthly to Army Headquarters. He, like most of the artists, stayed in France past the end of the war. He used the time to refine his sketches and returned to the sites of several battles to fill in the details that movement and pressures of the war had prevented him from recording.

The next Combat Artist in the series will be Harvey Dunn, a man who saw soldiers as heroes and immersed himself in the grime and grimness of the battlefield.

National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons. New York. 2006.

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Declassified Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings – 1st Quarter

In an effort to provide information on recently declassified motion pictures and sound recordings the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch will publish a quarterly list of newly declassified records.

This quarter’s list includes two films documenting post-WWII Europe. Die Erste Schritte [The First Steps] shows the buildup of West German armed forces and the creation of the Bundeswehr.

Die Erste Schritte [The First Steps] (Local Identifier: 319-GENERAL-1 / National Archives Identifier: 61134)


The second film documents the show of power by the Soviet Union through a Cold War military parade in Poland in 1956.

Poland (Local Identifier: 319-GENERAL-3 / National Archives Identifier: 61136)


Both films (319-GENERAL-1, 319-GENERAL-3) are in foreign languages, so we are asking for your help translating them! They are available on NARA’s Amara page if you are interested in helping.


From October 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014 the following records were declassified.

Motion Pictures:

Local Identifier                      Title

111-MPF-205 4th Anniversary Cuban Revolution Parade
156-GENERAL-12 M-103 Fuse in 24
156-GENERAL-13 AN-M103 Bomb Fuses
319-GENERAL-1 Die Erste Schritte [The First Steps]
319-GENERAL-3 Poland
342-SFP-387 Operation of System 119-L
342-TF-6133 SAC [Strategic Air Command] Bombing Procedures
342-USAF-26819 Taiwan Alert, September 1958
342-USAF-33164 The Power of Skybolt


Sound Recordings:

Local Identifier           Title

No sound recordings were declassified during this quarter.


Descriptive information for declassified records can be accessed by searching for the item number, ex. “341-IR-38-56”, in NARA’s Catalog . You may also search on the Declassification Project Number (NND), if you know one. For example, searching on the declassification number “NND 64803” returns entries that are part of Declassification Project 64803. A list of declassified textual records can be found on the National Declassification Center’s web page.

Check out the post “From Top Secret Vault to Open Stacks: Declassification of Moving Images” to learn more about the declassification process. Lists of other recently declassified moving images and sound recordings can be located by clicking on the Declassification Quarterly Reports category on the left side of the blog.

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Louis Zamperini: The Story of a True American Hero

For forty-seven days Louis Zamperini drifted idly in the Pacific Ocean.  Armed with a few small tins of drinking water, a flare gun, some fishing line, and a couple of Hershey D-Ration candy bars, Zamperini and two other soldiers struggled to stay alive.  Their struggle was exacerbated by vicious sharks, blistering heat, treacherous swells, and Japanese fighter pilots.  For most people, this experience would undoubtedly be the most challenging of their lives.  For Zamperini, it was not even the most difficult of the war.


Lt. Louis Zamperini, bombardier, examining the damage a Japanese cannon shell did to his Liberator over Nauru. The plane still managed to fly back, 1943.  Local ID: 342-FH-3A-42817.

Louis Zamperini was always exceptional.  After getting into trouble as a child, Zamperini found an outlet in track and field.  In a time when the four-minute mile was one of the most elusive goals in sports, Zamperini pushed the limits.  Zamperini set the national high school record for the mile in 1934 with a time of 4:21.3.  He was offered a scholarship to the University of Southern California and began training for the 1936 Olympics.  At the Berlin Olympics, Zamperini finished eighth in the 5000-meter race, but ran the fastest final lap of all the competitors in an unprecedented 56 seconds.  His final push even grabbed the attention of Adolf Hitler who personally congratulated Zamperini after the race.  Zamperini turned his attention to the 1940 Olympics.


Olympic Stadium, Berlin 1936.  Runners in the foreground. Local ID: 242-HD-150A1

By early 1940, Zamperini had dropped his mile time to 4:07.9.  Yet as Zamperini came closer to the four-minute mile, the United States came closer to war.  There would be no Olympics in 1940.  Zamperini was forced to forego running for a career in the military.   He joined the Army Air Corps in November 1941 and was trained as a bombardier.   Zamperini flew in B-24s in the Pacific War Theater and went on a number of bombing raids.  In May 1943, Zamperini went out on a mission to search for a missing plane when his plane had trouble of its own.  Zamperini and the crew went down; eight men died on impact, three survived.


Lt. Louis Zamperini, bombardier on Lt. Russell A. Phillips’ plane, examining a shell hole in the side of the fuselage, 1943. Local ID: 342-FH-3A-42819

Zamperini and the surviving crewmembers, Francis “Mac” MacNamara and Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, were in dire straits.  They quickly ran out of food and drinkable water.  They passed the time by telling stories and pretending to cook meals.  About thirty-three days into their survival, Mac passed away.  The two surviving crew members faced typhoon sized waves, angry sharks, and were shot at by Japanese pilots.  Their bullet-riddled raft, faded from the blistering sun, barely supported their emaciated bodies.  Finally, on July 15, the two men were picked up by Japanese soldiers.  To say they were saved would be inaccurate.


Six men conducting tests of rubber life rafts and survival accessories off Cape Fear, North Carolina. This raft is similar to the one that Zamperini and company were stranded on although the black contraption on the left is a water distiller, an item noticeably absent from Zamperini’s raft.  Local ID: 80-G-42014

Zamperini and Phillips were modestly nursed back to health before they were transferred to a prisoner of war camp.  The Japanese POW camps were notoriously cruel.  Over one-third of all allied POWs died in the camps and the Japanese had plans to kill all POWs by the war’s end.  Zamperini was separated from Phillips and transferred to a number of different camps throughout the war.  Always on the brink of starvation, Zamperini was treated especially cruelly because of his running fame.  Zamperini was forced to clean up the latrines, shovel coal, and was beaten relentlessly.  Due to the harsh treatment, cold weather, and severe malnutrition, Zamperini developed beriberi, a deadly disease caused by vitamin deficiency. He was on the brink of death.

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  Less than a month later Japan surrendered.  Allied planes began dropping food, cigarettes, and news of victory to the famished POWs.  Zamperini gradually regained his health and celebrated with his peers.  He was officially released on September 5, 1945, more than two years after his plane crash.  By that time the United States had declared Zamperini dead and his parents had received his Purple Heart “posthumously.”  Most of his family and friends had long assumed he had died.  The few that held out hope were still amazed to see Zamperini walk through the door on October 5, 1945.


Allied POWs celebrate their liberation at the Aomori camp.  One of the POW camps where Zamperini was held captive. August 29, 1945. Local ID: 80-G-490445

Throughout his life Zamperini physically pushed his body to the limit.  Yet it is truly his passion for life and mental vitality that continues to impress people around the world.  His story is the inspiration for the bestselling book, Unbroken and now a major motion picture by the same name.  Zamperini passed away in July of 2014; he was 97 years old.


Capt. Louis Zamperini (left) makes broadcast to the United States after spending 28 months in a Japanese Prison Camp.  Local ID: 111-SC-215498

The pictures above are all from NARA’s Still Pictures Division.  Much of this blog was based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

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Christmas in the Ford Collection: A Merry Christmas to All, 1926

Christmas movies are a staple of the holidays, with cable channels producing and airing so many that the season now seems to start sometime in November. Holiday films are nothing new, of course. The earliest known adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was made over a hundred years ago, in 1901. Even the Ford Motion Picture Department got in on the action, making A Merry Christmas to All in 1926.

A Merry Christmas to All is a somewhat odd mish-mash of Christmas traditions, holiday poetry, (both famous and forgotten) and a smattering of the industrial film for which the Ford collection is so well-known (see Playthings of Childhood for a classic example of a Ford industrial film).

The film begins with what looks like a school field trip: a group of children are joined by three women in a tromp through the woods. The party arrives at a small cottage, is greeted by Santa Claus, and leaves with toys. Santa then prepares for his yearly journey, carving wood and using a lathe to make toys, filling a sack, and taking out his reindeer (just the one) so that he can deliver toys to sleeping children who then enjoy them on Christmas morning.

A Merry Christmas to All is significant within the Ford Historical Film Collection for being one of only a handful of titles that are classified as dramatic rather than explicitly educational. (The others are a screen version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and footage of an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet.)

The silent film’s intertitles contain a number of familiar verses from “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” although they have been adapted so that they do not always exactly match the original work:


A little digging turned up verses that were adapted from less well-known holiday poems, including this, which originates in “A Christmas Carol” by Christian Burke:


And this, which is borrowed from “Sly Santa Claus” by Mrs. S.C. Stone:

christmas-3It’s possible that most of the verses in this film actually come from lesser-known works that have been changed enough that they are hard to find with a search engine. Do you recognize any other borrowed lines?

A Merry Christmas to All is part of the Ford Historical Film Collection, which was donated to the National Archives in 1963. Ford Motor Company began producing films in 1914, making educational films, newsreels, industrials, and promotional works. Ford’s motion picture department was one of the largest American film studios outside Hollywood. The collection consists of 1.5 million feet of film and is fully preserved and available for research. An overview of the collection can be found in a guide published by the National Archives in 1970.

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