Spotlight: National Women’s Conference of 1977


Bella Abzug, Betty Freidan and Billie Jean King accompany torch relay runners into Houston.  Record Group: 220 Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards, 1893-2008 Series: WC Photographs Used to Illustrate the Report, “Spirit of Houston: The first National Women’s Converence”, 1977-1978. 220-WC-30-H

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Women’s Conference held November 18-21, 1977 in Houston, Texas. This conference was the United States’ answer to the United Nations World Conference on Women held in 1975 in Mexico City. After the United Nations declared 1975 International Women’s Year, President Ford issued Executive Order 11832 creating a National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year to promote equality between men and women. The Houston conference was the culmination of several events held over the next few years and was organized by the commission.

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Remembering the Vietnam War this Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day and in conjunction with the opening of the National Archives’ newest exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” we’re highlighting some of NARA’s Vietnam era film footage. You can read more about the exhibit here and here. If you would like to conduct research relating to the Vietnam War, NARA has created a portal accessible here.

The Vietnam war brought the front lines of combat to America often mere hours after events occurred creating an increased need for film footage. The images broadcast in America’s living rooms during the war were often captured by military combat photographers. The increased demand for footage was answered by both private sector journalists and the United States government. The military increased their production of photographs and moving images and because of this, NARA’s motion picture holdings relating to the Vietnam war are quite expansive. Included in the collection are training films, news releases, combat documentation, footage documenting the return of prisoners of war and Medal of Honor ceremonies. Continue reading

Posted in Films, Military, Motion Pictures, Nurses, Prisoners of War, Uncategorized, Vietnam War | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Tunisian Victory”: Operation Torch Gets the Hollywood Treatment

This post was written with Heidi Holmstrom.

In the spring of 1943, Frank Capra, Hollywood director and colonel in the Army Signal Corps, began work on a film about the Allied campaign to take North Africa. The stakes were high—the film needed to demonstrate the strength of the Anglo-American relationship and build support among the American public for both the war and the alliance. The production was not without strife. The resulting documentary, Tunisian Victory, took nearly a year and a half to complete.

On November 8, 1942, American and British forces began Operation Torch, a joint amphibious landing of over 100,000 troops in North Africa. Allied forces arrived in Morocco and Algeria with an objective of defeating Axis forces in Vichy French North Africa, helping halt the spread of Axis control and allowing the Allies to gain control of the Southwest Mediterranean Sea. By May 19, 1943, the Allies would take Tunisia, allowing for the invasion of Sicily later that year.

Tunisian Victory was produced as a sequel of sorts to the British film Desert Victory, which largely focused on the Allied battles at El Alamein. Desert Victory was and is considered a quintessential war documentary, but there was one problem from the Americans’ perspective—the United States military was nowhere to be seen. The new film would need to depict a true joint effort.

Of course, producing a film in a war zone is more complicated than on a Hollywood backlot. Film crews were sent out over the region to record the operation, including a major initial battle in the Moroccan port city of Casablanca. Unfortunately, the Germans sank the ship carrying the footage and left Capra without coverage of some of the Americans’ most significant action.

With holes in the visual coverage, Capra turned to stock footage and re-creations to fill in the gaps. In June, Capra tasked director George Stevens, stationed in Algiers at the time, with shooting the re-creations. Stevens spent two weeks filming tanks, artillery, and infantry at the coast. With those scenes wrapped, Capra handed the project off to John Huston, who filmed planes and dummy tanks in Orlando and the California desert with a cast of GIs awaiting deployment.

Stills from Tunisian Victory.

When complete, Tunisian Victory featured alternating British and American narrators, who repeatedly emphasized the joint nature of the venture, calling it the “greatest of combined operations,” and providing the image of “British and American officers [placed] at adjoining desks.” After a months-long struggle between the British and American war information units over who would tell the story, Capra gained full control over the production and released Tunisian Victory to theaters March 16, 1944.

Unfortunately for Capra, Tunisian Victory was old news by the time it was released. The incidents in the film had concluded nearly a year earlier, and two weeks before its release, With the Marines at Tarawa hit American theaters. For contemporary audiences, compared to Tarawa, Tunisian Victory lacked both the immediacy of authentic battle scenes and the relevance of more current events. The film may not have been successful at the box office, but it holds up well today as a tribute to the Anglo-American alliance.

Sources consulted:

Mark Harris, Five Came Back, (New York: Penguin Books, 2014).

Frederic Krome, “Tunisian Victory and Anglo-American Film Propaganda in World War II,” The Historian, Vol. 58, No. 3 (Spring 1996), p. 517-29

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The Haunted Archives

To celebrate Halloween, we took a look in our cartographic records at the National Archives to see if we could find any spooky records. We came across the following Utility Patent Drawings which certainly help to set the mood for the Halloween season.

A number of jack-o’-lantern designs came up in the patent drawings. You can see many different concepts for lanterns in the series.


RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, 396252


RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, 715379


RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, 848938

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In the Year 2000…

Throughout the decades of the Cold War, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) produced a vast library of programs for distribution to stations around the world. Service personnel heard popular and classical music, news, entertainment shows that originated on commercial radio, and many, many public service announcements. Tens of thousands of AFRTS audio disks now reside in the National Archives in Record Group 330: Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Among these is The Year 2000, produced by Los Angeles CBS affiliate KNX in 1960.

The series consists of skits depicting life in the year 2000 plus interviews with experts in various fields. The predictions will seem familiar to anyone who has seen The Jetsons (which premiered two years later) – flying cars, robot maids, and telescreens. Although the experts are perhaps 80% wrong about the new millennium, their predictions are based in cutting-edge science of 1960, such as satellites, heart surgery, and the manufacture of new materials. Let’s take a look at a few of the predictions for the year of hanging chads and the Y2K panic – or you can take a listen yourself!

Too Optimistic

  • Our flying cars will take off and land vertically and reach 500 MPH. Own an economy model for $13,650!
  • A publicly-funded system of youth recreation centers will offer sports and mental health services.
  • We will grow new organs from DNA.
  • Automation will enable a three day work week, but don’t worry: we’ll still get paid as if we’re working five days.
  • Injections will enable us to need only four hours of sleep.
  • We will take low-orbit commercial flights. Travel from L.A. to Hawaii in only 30 minutes!

Too Pessimistic

  • In the predicted timeline, humans (specifically, the U.S. Air Force) will reach the moon in 1988. NASA beat this forecast by 19 years.
  • Americans will no longer live in houses due to a population explosion which resulted in a loss of free space. Thankfully untrue, although I do like the “Apartmansions” described in the program, which come with full services.
  • Computers will determine compatibility of couples for marriage. This one is outright dystopian!

Simply Weird

  • “Paper fabrics are here to stay!” Women’s fashions will include a slit skirt over pants and materials will include water-repellant, wrinkle-proof synthetic materials. The average woman will be a size 3 thanks to all that leisure time.
  • Walls will be made of hollow glass filled with colored water. We will change the color of our walls with but the press of a button.
  • Scientists will establish the summit of monkey mental performance by raising them as humans.
  • We will receive communications with extraterrestrial life via strange signals from Jupiter. Wait a second… super intelligent apes, signals from Jupiter… the scientists have successfully predicted 2001: A Space Odyssey!


Cornog’s Robot, a product of downtime on the cyclotron, circa 1939, model unknown. [Photographer: Donald Cooksey]

Complete The Year 2000 Skits

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The Digitization of 18-AA

This summer, the Still Picture Branch and the Digitization Lab completed the digitization of the series 18-AA, “Airscapes” of American and Foreign Areas, 1917 – 1964. This series is exceptionally interesting. It includes aerial views of landscapes, towns, and cities in the United States as well as many foreign countries. The images, taken in the early to mid 20th Century, are black and white, and typically mounted on card stock along with typed captioning information. The digitization process captured these captions along with the images themselves, and are accessible online at the National Archives Catalog.

Originally the photos were presented in bound volumes, but for preservation and access reasons they have been removed and put into acid-free, archival folders and boxes. The series, however, maintains it’s original arrangement. As such, “notebooks” 1 through 164 (airscapes of the U.S) are arranged alphabetically by state, and then within each state by city/area. “Notebooks” 165 through 190 (airscapes of Foreign countries) are arranged alphabetically by country. Notebooks 191 through 203 (airscapes of natural disasters in the United States) are arranged alphabetically by state/river. And “notebooks” 204 through 229 (airscapes of landing fields in Alaska, Hawaii, and foreign countries) are arranged alphabetically by name of country.

In the catalog, this is reflected in the arrangement of the “File Units.” File units display in the catalog alphabetically by geographic location. Each file unit represents a physical folder and contains a group of photos specifically related to the geographic location selected. For example, to browse images of Washington, D.C., you would first navigate to the landing page for 18-AA: here. You would then select the link “1633 file unit(s) described in the catalog” which would take you: here. This page displays the file units. Using the page navigation arrows in the top right corner of the results, you would then click through until you found the Washington, D.C. images: here. There are 4 file units of Washington, D.C. photos in 18-AA, and from this page you can select which subject group interests you.

It is also possible to search within the series for “Washington, D.C.” by starting at the landing page for 18-AA: here; selecting “1633 file unit(s) described in the catalog” or “search within this series,” and typing “Washington, DC” into the search bar at the top. If using this method, please note the *:* that is provided in the search bar. This is very important; it tells the catalog to search only for Washington, D.C. files in the selected series – in this case, in 18-AA.

Photos from 18-AA were taken by the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, the Air Service, the Air Corps, the Army Air Forces, and/or the USAF. Most of the photos were taken between 1923 and 1945. They are a fascinating look at the architecture, culture, and landscape of our past. The images were scanned at a high resolution and may be downloaded directly from our catalog. They are not subject to copyright. Researchers are encouraged to access and engage with these images. Please remember to cite them to the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives using the Local Identifier number, which is unique to each photograph and can be found in the National Archives Catalog below the image download button.

For more images from 18-AA, check out the blog post “Images of The Week: Airscapes,” by Billy Wade. Also remember to keep checking the National Archives Catalog for new and fascinating materials, and feel welcome to visit us in person at College Park, Maryland! We at NARA are constantly digitizing and uploading our nation’s records. They are our collective past, our present knowledge, and our future treasures. We are dedicated to sharing them with you, our public.

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RG 109 Confederate Maps Series Now Digitized and Available Online!

Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109.  All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.

Maps played a very important role during the Civil War. They were instrumental to leaders and generals for planning battles, campaigns, and marches. As a result, thousands of maps relating to the Civil War were created, many of which are held by the Cartographic Branch in a variety of record groups. These maps can include rough sketches created quickly before or during a battle, but can also include maps that were drawn to accompany official reports or even post-war publications. Many are highly detailed and colorized. Civil War maps frequently show topography, ground cover, roads, railroads, homes, the names of residents, towns, and waterways. They can be very helpful to better understand what the land looked like and how it was used during the Civil War era. Maps showing the names of residents can also be helpful to genealogists.

The Civil War maps we are featuring today are all Confederate maps. These maps were captured by or surrendered to the United States at the conclusion of the Civil War, or were later donated to the National Archives by former Confederate leaders. The maps cover areas in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma (Indian Territory), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. There is also a grouping of miscellaneous maps that show more than one state, which are filed as “US.” Most of the maps are manuscripts, although some are printed maps or even copies of maps. Many of the printed maps are annotated to show troop movements, battles lines, or other important features.

Many of the maps show well known battlefields and locations, such as Shiloh, Antietam, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Richmond, Petersburg, Atlanta, Knoxville, Manassas (Bull Run) and others. A number of maps show the battlefield at Shiloh, which was fought April 2-3, 1862 in southern Tennessee.


Map of Shiloh Battlefield. TN-11.

Many maps also cover lesser known but also very important locations, such as Corinth, Mississippi, the location of a strategic railroad junction and site of a siege and battle. Other lesser known battles with maps in the series include Cross Keys, VA, Prairie Grove, AR, and scores of others.


Sketch of the Vicinity of Corinth, Mississippi. MS-5

The series also includes maps and plans of fortifications, including those that protected Charleston, South Carolina, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Beaufort, South Carolina. Some fort plans are even included, such as a plan for Fort Waul in Texas and Fort Beauregard in South Carolina (SC-3A), although most of the Cartographic Branch’s fort plans and drawings can be found within RG 77 in the Fortifications File and Miscellaneous Forts File. 


Fortifications at Charleston. SC-8.


Map of the mouth of the Broad River showing fortifications and naval fleet near Beaufort, SC.  SC- 1

Occasionally within the series are printed maps that are based on manuscript maps also located with the series. The first map is an original manuscript map showing a portion of the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The back of this map notes that it was to appear in an 1874 atlas. The more finished and printed version of the map is also found within RG 109. It is interesting to compare the two maps.


Manuscript map of troop positions during the Battle of Murfreesboro, TN. TN-5


Printed version of Murfreesboro map. TN-6

During the digitization process, close attention was paid to information written or stamped on the backs of the maps. All maps within the series that contained unique information on their reverse were digitized both front and back. Both sides are available to view in our online catalog.

Many Confederate generals later donated maps to the National Archives to become part of a Confederate archives. Often, the names of the donors or original owners are written or stamped on the reverse of the maps. Names such as General Samuel Gibbs French, General Trimble, General Thomas L. Snead, General Polk, General Thomas Hindman can be found on the backs of many maps. One notable map of the Malvern Hill battlefield includes a notation on the back indicating that it was owned by General Lafayette McLaws, a commander with the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Although the general could not remember who drew the map or when it was created, he believed that it came into his possession during the Civil War.


Reverse of a map of Malvern Hill with handwritten note by General McLaws. VA-2 (Image 2)


Map of Malvern Hill Battlefield owned by General McLaws. VA-2

The map of the Murfreesboro battlefield below includes a notation on the reverse that it was “Found at Macon, GA” by a clerk on July 20, 1865, showing yet another way that the National Archives came to hold some of these maps and items and yet again illustrating the unique information that can be found on the backs of many of these maps.


Map of the Battle of Murfreesboro with handwritten notation on back. TN-3


Reverse of a map of the Battle of Murfreesboro showing handwritten notation. TN-3

All of the maps may be viewed at the following link: Confederate Maps. Take some time to browse through these maps, enjoying both the fronts and the backs!

If you wish to view maps from a specific state, see the following link: RG 109 maps by state and click on the state you wish to view. Next, click on the blue link that says “item(s) described in the catalog” that is located near middle of the catalog entry.


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How to Research: Photographs Relating to WWII Marine Corps Units

In this fourth and final post of How to Research WWII photographs, we will provide an example of how researchers can search for and identify images related to a specific US Marine Corps unit.

As is true with the WWII Army, Army Air Forces, and Navy photographs, prior to beginning your search in Still Pictures, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the USMC unit of interest. With that said, the basic information you should have includes:

  • The location(s) and dates where the unit served;
  • Names of personnel attached to the unit;
  • Important facts about the unit, such as battles the unit participated in and the type of equipment they used;
  • and the hierarchical structure of the unit (including any changes).

For the purpose of this blog post, we have chosen to search for photographs related to Marine Observation Squadron Six (VMO-6). Much of the information gathered for this post was found through the use of war diaries, as well as a published history of VMO-6. The following timeline covers the locations, dates, and hierarchical structure of VMO-6 (please note that this is not a comprehensive timeline):

January – February, 1945 – Deployed to Guadalcanal and reassigned to Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.

February 10th, 1945 – Arrived and disembarked at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Attached operationally to the 15th Regiment of the 6th Marine Division.

March 1st, 1945 – Reassigned to 2d Marine Aircraft Wing.

March 27th – March 31st, 1945 – Underway for Okinawa.

April 1st, 1945 – VMO-6 came ashore during the Battle of Okinawa and commenced operations from Yontan Airstrip.

July 1945 – The squadron departed for Agaña, Guam where it remained until the end of the war.

The following is a partial list of personnel that were attached to VMO-6 at various times during WWII:

  • Captain Joe W. Fitts, Jr.
  • Captain Donald R. Garrett
  • 1st Lt. Thomas G. Alderson
  • 2nd Lt. Lester E. Bartels
  • 2nd Lt. James A. Calhoun
  • 2nd Lt. Charles Hanmer
  • 2nd Lt. Richard F. Hoffman
  • 2nd Lt. Glenn R. Hunter
  • 2nd Lt. Emanuel Noyses
  • 2nd Lt. Donald H. Rusling

Important facts about VMO-6:

  • As an observation squadron, VMO-6 flew and maintained OY-1 Sentinel aircraft. OY-1 airplanes were referred to as “Grasshoppers.”
  • Grasshoppers were not only used for observation, but they were also used by VMO-6 for medical evacuations.
  • The unit received a Presidential Unit Citation for their activities on Okinawa.

Having gathered all of the pertinent information, the first place to begin WWII Marine research is in Record Group 127, series GW (127-GW): Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities, ca. 1939 – ca. 1958.

Unlike the Army, Army Air Forces, and Navy, which provided NARA with a card catalog index that includes caption cards and photo numbers, the Marine photographs in 127-GW are organized by location and subsequently by subject. As a result of not having a caption card index, researchers must physically go through the boxes of prints, reading caption information attached to photographs, in order to identify photographs related to their research subject. Captions vary in detail and specificity. So, while some captions are vague, some will include the unit information. However, more often than not, a researcher will need to use details about the unit and historic context to determine if a photo is relevant to their unit.  

Based on our research, we know that VMO-6 was very active during the Okinawa Campaign. Therefore, we decided to first review the 127-GW boxes that cover Okinawa. However, within 127-GW, there are 14 boxes dedicated just to Okinawa, and each box contains hundreds of photographs. Further, within those 14 boxes, there are photographs that document the activities of many different units. Recognizing that it would take quite some time to review each photo, we wanted to make our search more concise. In order to narrow our search, we reviewed the finding aid (available in the finding aid drawers in the Still Picture research room) and identified several subject headings that appeared to be relevant to our unit. Researchers should note that each subject listing is assigned a divider number. Additionally, the same subject heading might appear more than once.

Here are the photographs we located that are relevant to VMO-6 and their work on Okinawa, which we have organized by the divider number/subject:

127-GW-Divider 519: Camp

While this photo does not specifically list VMO-6 in the caption, it does state that it is a camp for Marines of the 2nd Air Wing, which VMO-6 was assigned to while in Okinawa. Additionally, the photograph shows Yontan Airfield, which is where VMO-6 operated during the Okinawa Campaign.

127-GW-519-117903 (127-N-117903).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-519-117903

127-GW-Divider 529: Scouts, Observation

In our review of divider 529, we were able to identify VMO-6 photographs because several of the captions included the names of VMO-6 personnel, as well as information about the aircraft (OY-1 Sentinel Grasshopper) that VMO-6 flew and maintained. However, there was only 1 photograph within divider 529 that actually listed the unit information in the caption.

127-GW-529-117519 (127-N-117519)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-117519

127-GW-529-117769 (127-N-117769)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-117769

127-GW-529-120606 (127-N-120606)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-120606

127-GW-529-121235 (127-N-121235)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-121235

127-GW-529-125956 (127-N-125956)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-125656

 127-GW-Divider 557: Maps

Again, the caption for this map does not include information that specifically lists VMO-6. However, VMO-6 was part of the 6th Marine Division.

127-GW-557-30255 (127-N-30255).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-557-302255

127-GW-Divider 569: Coastline, Beach

We have included this photograph because it was taken on April 1, 1945, which is the same day that VMO-6 came ashore on Okinawa.

127-GW-569-117242 (127-N-117242)

Local ID: 127-GW-569-117242

127-GW-Divider 637: Aerial

Given that VMO-6 operated from Yontan Airfield, we felt this aerial was relevant to the history of the unit.

127-GW-637-127797 (127-N-127797).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-637-127797

127-GW-Divider 638: No Subject- Aircraft

The date and location of this image indicate that VMO-6 would have witnessed the invasion.

127-GW-638-123414 (127-N-123414).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-638-123414

After their activities on Okinawa were complete, VMO-6 traveled to Guam. Therefore, for the next step in our research, we decided to search through the 127-GW Guam boxes. Since there are only 6 boxes dedicated to Guam, rather than selecting and sampling subjects, we tried a different approach and reviewed all of the photographs within these boxes (with the exception of subjects that covered civilian activities). Our research paid off because we did locate a group photo of VMO-6. The group photograph was found filed under 127-GW-Divider 1404: Relaxation. Had we done a sampling of subject headings, as we did with the Okinawa boxes, we likely would not have found the image. It appears that the group photo was filed under “relaxation” due to the information provided in the caption, which reads: “Guam…With combat operations on Okinawa behind them, these Marines of Marine Observation Squadron-6, 6th Marine Division, pose for a photograph during a rest and relaxation period.”


Local ID: 127-GW-1404-A332834

Beyond 127-GW, there are other Marine photographic series that may enhance your research. For example, another place to look is within 127-GR: Photographic Reference File, ca. 1940 – ca. 1958. This series has been digitized and made available in the NARA catalog here.

Prior to being sent to NARA, 127-GR was a series of photographs that were selected and maintained by the USMC in order to provide a concise, representative collection of images documenting their activities and personnel. While some photographs can be found in both 127-GR and 127-GW, there are some photographs that were chosen for inclusion in the reference file that may not be easy to find in 127-GW, or may not exist in 127-GW at all.

Like 127-GW, 127-GR is organized by location.  A search through the Okinawa boxes in 127-GR did return a few additional images related to VMO-6 that we did not find (or we accidentally overlooked) in 127-GW:


Local ID: 127-GR-95-121039. Caption: Marine pilots of the little “Grasshopper” observation planes on Yontan airfield, Okinawa, have a sign over the entrance to their bomb shelter which tells how rapidly they take cover when it is necessary. Left to right: 2nd Lt. Donald H. Rusling; Captain Donald R. Garrett; 2nd Lt. Lester E. Bartels; and 2nd Lt. Glenn R. Hunter.


Local ID: 127-GR-103-121629. Caption: RESULT OF AIRBORNE INVASION — This is the wreckage of one of the Japanese bombers converted to a transport for the attempted suicide invasion of Yontan Airfield on Okinawa. One the moonlit night of May 24th, the desperate enemy air invasion was thwarted.


Local ID: 127-GR-103-123728. Caption: On a “go” signal from the traffic control man, a cub plane takes off from the road-runway with a Marine casualty on board. From this improvised airbase near the Okinawa front lines at the town of Itoman, a squadron of the tiny planes shuttled the wounded to rear aid stations.


Key Points to Take Away:

  • As illustrated through our findings, captions can and will include pieces of information that, taken out of context, do not mean much. However, combining the historic context with all of the pieces of information included in a caption, including dates and locations, may help a researcher identify photographs that they may otherwise overlook.
  • Research can be as narrow, broad, or in-depth as you want to make it. 127-GR and 127-GW are by no means the only two available series for WWII Marine research.

The following links will guide users to descriptions of notable photographic series relating to WWII Marine Corps research:

  • 127-GC: Photographs of Marine Corps Activities taken in the United States and Foreign Countries, ca. 1939 – 1958
  • 127-GR: Photographic Reference File, ca. 1940 – ca. 1958
    • This series has been digitized and made available in the NARA catalog here.
  • 127-GS: Photographs of Marine Corps Training and Activities, 1939 – 1958
  • 127-GW: Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities, ca. 1939 – ca. 1958
  • 127-MM: Photographs of African Americans and Women in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943 – 1969
  • 127-MN: Photographs of Navajo Indian “Code-Talkers” in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943 – 1948
  • 127-PG: Marine Corps Officers, 1804 – 1945
  • 127-PL: Logbooks for U.S. Marine Corps Photographs, 1943 – 1981
  • 127-PX: Indexes to Photographs of Marine Corps and Noted Civilian Personalities, 1927 – 1981

The United States Marine Corps History Division is a great resource that can be used to gather pertinent unit information prior to beginning photographic research. For researchers specifically interested in USMC activities during WWII, the following websites and publications may be of interest:

Looking for another branch of the Military? The following links will take you to previous posts in the “How To Research” series:

  1. WWII Army Units
  2. WWII Air Force Units (Army Air Forces)
  3. WWII Navy Ships and Crew




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Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection

Tucked away at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, in Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment, is a series of magnificent ship drawings known simply as “The Ware Collection”.  Named for Charles Ware, the artist that created them, the collection offers a high degree of detail and an eye-catching splash of red, white, and blue in the flags that stream from the ships.   There are even some cats drawn on beams, for those clever enough to search them out, and a tiny alligator’s head, as well.

Though we have the collection and the name of the collection’s creator, very little is actually known about Charles Ware.  According to a 1943 article in the journal American Neptune, Charles Ware was a civilian sail-maker working at the Boston Navy Yard.  This location was originally called the “Charlestown Navy Yard”, hence the designation on the drawings.  The first record of his being there is September 1st, 1817 and the last record of his presence is on June 25th, 1831.  Records indicate that a warrant sail-maker was appointed to the position held by Ware in 1831 in accordance with a Navy policy that required civilian workers to be replaced with Navy personnel.  Ware protested that he had held the job for fourteen years and was fully qualified to continue on in the position.  He was offered a warrant, if he chose to take it, but there is no record of the warrant ever actually having been issued.  It appears that all of the drawings in the Ware Collection were created during his time at the Navy Yard[i].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Ship of the Line.

While little is known of Charles Ware, we do know some things about some of the ships that he drew.  For example, the drawings of the Ship of the Line (above), the U.S.S. Lynx, the U.S.S. Spark, the U.S.S. General Pike, and the U.S.S. Constitution depict a cat’s face on the one of the beams of the ship.  In order to locate the tiny face, zoom in to the lower right side of the images and look for a square beam at the very end of the hull with a face on it.  One might surmise that this extra, small touch is a nod to the long-held tradition of having a cat aboard ship to control the mice and rats that can damage both rope and sails.  Rather than a cat on a beam, though, the U.S.S. Alligator depicts a small alligator at the front of the boat.

In addition to the little flourishes noted above, we can track some of the vessels in this collection from the time that they were designed, through their being laid down and commissioned, and onward until they were either lost, destroyed, or sold. For example, the U.S.S. General Pike was constructed at Sacket’s Harbor, New York in 1813.   The ship was the largest of any of the ships built on the Great Lakes.  She carried twenty-six 24-pounder long guns and could fire from either broadside.  After surviving an attack by the British that was intended to sink the boat before it ever left the dock, in which the ship and its cargo were prematurely set ablaze by the Americans to keep them from falling into British hands, the U.S.S. General Pike saw heavy action in the War of 1812 before eventually coming back to New York, where the boat was sold in 1825[ii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. General Pike.

The U.S.S. Lynx was a Baltimore Clipper six-gun schooner that was built at the Navy Yard, in Washington D.C. in 1814.  She was placed in service in 1815 and sailed from Boston as part of a nine ship fleet headed to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates.   Arriving off the coast of Africa, the fleet discovered that another squadron had already achieved peace and had treaties in place so, eventually, the fleet left.  During 1817, the ship conducted a survey of the Northwest Coast of the United States, and following that mission, headed for the Gulf of Mexico, where they were to assist in the suppression of piracy based in the West Indies.  In the year 1819, she seized three pirate vessels and all the goods aboard.  Sadly, on January 11th, 1820, the U.S.S. Lynx left Georgia bound for Kingston, Jamaica and neither the boat nor her 47-man crew were ever heard from again[iii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Lynx.

The U.S.S. Spark was a heavily armed brig that had initially been intended for use against the British in the War of 1812.  However, the ship was not finished until 1813, and was not commissioned until 1815.  Instead of fighting the British, the ship was sent to Gibraltar to offer aid in the Barbary Wars.  While there, the ship was successful in its mission and eventually returned home to the United States for repairs in November of 1815.  Eventually, the ship was dispatched to Algiers carrying a diplomatic party and letter from President allowing for the negotiation of peace.  The Spark spent the next nine years in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean fighting pirates before returning home to New York in 1825 and being sold the following year[iv].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Spark.

The schooner U.S.S. Alligator, commissioned in March of 1821, was tasked with combating the slave trade originating on the West Coast of Africa.  To this end, she cruised the waters from Cape Verde south to the equator where she is known to have captured three slave-trading vessels.  After going home for repairs in July of 1821, the ship embarked for the West Indies in early 1822, once again to help combat the slave trade.  At some point in the first days of November of 1822, the commanding officer of the Alligator had received word that pirates had taken several U.S. ships in the West Indies and was sent to get them back.  The Alligator reached the destination of the detained ships on November 9th, 1822 and found that the pirates had possession of an American schooner and a brig.  Met by a force of one ship, two brigs, and five schooners, the Alligator engaged the pirates in battle and managed to recover the U.S. ships, but in doing so, suffered the loss of the commanding officer, who was shot.  All told, the U.S.S. Alligator managed to capture all of the pirate vessels that day, except for one schooner that escaped.  On November 28th, 1822, the Alligator left Manzanas escorting a convoy of ship headed back to the United States[v].  Unfortunately, she then became the first commissioned Navy ship to sink in Florida, when she ran aground in the Florida Keys.  The shipwreck is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service[vi].  The U.S.S. Alligator was also the subject of a remote-sensing survey conducted by NOAA is the summer of 2004 to determine the exact location of the wreck[vii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Alligator.

Perhaps the most well-known of all the boats illustrated in the Ware Collection is the U.S.S. Constitution.  Originally designed and constructed in 1794, it appears that Ware created an illustration of the vessel sometime later during his tenure at the Boston Navy Yard.  This also appears to be the case for the illustration of the U.S.S. Congress, also designed in 1794 and constructed the following year.  (*Note: this drawing is located in RG19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940-1966, rather than RG 45.)


RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940 – 1966. The U.S.S. Constitution.

In addition to the ship illustrations that Ware created, he also created a sail design using the phrase, “Free Trade, Sailors’ Rights”, shown below.  This was a strong and recurrent theme during the war of 1812.  “Free trade” referred to the protection of American commerce while “Sailors’ Rights” referred to a desire for the end the British impressment of American sailors[viii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail.

You can see more of the Charles Ware drawings held at the National Archives here.


[i] “Charles Ware, Sail-Maker.” The American Neptune, Vol. III, No. 3, July 1943, p. 267.

[ii] “USS General Pike (1813).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Aug. 2017,

[iii] “USS Lynx (1814).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 June 2017,

[iv] “USS Spark (1813).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Aug. 2017,

[v] “USS Alligator (1820).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Nov. 2016,

[vi] “U.S. Navy in Florida.” Florida Department of State, Florida Department of State, 2017,

[vii] Yorczyk, Rick. “Remote-Sensing Survey for the Remains of the USS Alligator.” NOAA Ocean Explorer Podcast RSS, NOAA, 7 Mar. 2007,

[viii] Gilje, Paul A. Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights in the War of 1812. Cambridge University Press, 2013.


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Shifting the Lens on WWI: Stories from the Home Front

Today’s post comes from Marissa Friedman, intern at Historypin. Historypin teamed up with the US National Archives (NARA) to develop the Remembering WWI tablet app, part of the Anonymous Donor Project. You can learn more about the national collaborative Remembering WWI project here.

For the past eleven months, I have scoured NARA’s digitized collections of World War I materials looking for the most compelling, significant, and relevant stories to share with the public through the US National Archives’ Remembering WWI tablet app and Historypin’s companion digital platform. In examining the diverse experiences of Americans on the home front during the war, I’ve had more than my fair share of ”wow” moments of discovery. From profoundly moving to immediately thought-provoking, these WWI materials are full of amazing and sometimes forgotten stories just waiting to be found. Here are a few of my favorite stories I’ve discovered so far:

The Pigeons of Valor collection provides film clips detailing the U.S. Signal Corps pigeon training activities and facilities during the war. World War I is often characterized as the first “modern” war, due in part to rapid wartime advancements made in weaponry, medicine, and camera and film technology. NARA’s collections on pigeon training serve as a great reminder to the limits of these technological innovations, as both sides often relied on pigeons for crucial and speedy communications. The best part of all? The collection includes film of the commendation ceremony in which pigeons who served honorably during the war received medals! You know you’ve always wanted to see pigeons getting medals.

“Famous war hero pigeons of the Signal Corps, U.S.A., are decorated,” a clip from HOMING PIGEONS (111-H-1220).

The war instigated sweeping changes in American society in terms of gender and gender roles. Women entered the workforce in record numbers to fill the places of men in sent to the front lines, and became literally indispensable to the country’s wartime economy. They found newly accessible occupations in formerly male-dominated fields, especially in industry–they mass produced guns, cars, engines, parachutes, planes, munitions, fabrics, and soaps, large amounts of foodstuffs for the front lines, and so much more. Empowered and employed, women remained pivotal producers and makers on the home front and were involved in labor activism during WWI. The woman brandishing a blowtorch while on the lines in the Packard Motor Car Company factory in Detroit Michigan exudes such a sense of “cool” that I had to highlight this photo from the Women in WWI collection:


Liberty engines manufactured for government use. 165-WW-582-A1

Wartime opportunities for female employment also bolstered the growing suffrage movement and went hand-in-hand with women’s prominent roles as activists, reformers, union organizers, pacifists, and political dissidents. They fought for women’s rights (including suffrage), union rights and labor protections, pacifism and an end to war, social justice, socialism, or simply access to cheaper food for their families. Women demonstrated and marched in the streets, petitioned, gave speeches, organized the day-to-day activities of activist organizations, and produced pamphlets and other forms of mass media. Over five thousand women from Harlem and the East Side descended upon City Hall in 1917 to protest the draft, as pictured below in this photo from the Keeping Peace: Pacifist Activity on the Home Front collection. It is powerful to see a protest of such scale with women engaged in collective political action, and testifies to the pivotal role such women played in the civic fabric of the nation during the war.   


5,000 women in City Hall, New York, registry riot. Policemen clearing City Hall Park after five thousand women from the East Side and Harlem had gathered to petition the Mayor against the draft. When they learned the Mayor was not in his office they refused to leave. A number of policemen were slightly injured in the riot that followed. 165-ww-165A-026

The government used wartime necessity to justify the intensive surveillance of political dissidents (such as socialists, anarchists, and conscientious objectors) and those “alien enemies,” including German-born U.S. residents, spies, and those judged to be sympathetic to the enemy cause. The linking of anti-immigrant sentiments with wartime justifications for repression is a phenomenon not unfamiliar today. The Alien Property Unit, given broad discretionary powers, seized around 25 million dollars worth of immigrants’ property during the war. Alien enemies were required to hand over their weapons to police, were fingerprinted and given special identification cards. Many enemy aliens and political “subversives” were interned or imprisoned, often without much evidence. To top it all off, enthusiastic citizens actively participated in these anti-German surveillance campaigns on the local level. The photograph below, taken from the Under Surveillance: Enemies and Aliens collection, illustrates a famous example of citizen surveillance which occurred in at the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg in Kentucky. The Citizens’ Patriotic League suspected Schoberg of pro-German sympathies, and he became the subject of an elaborate surveillance scheme involving a dictaphone hidden in his shop by League detectives. In a contemporary world in which  the costs and benefits of security and surveillance are similarly being negotiated, I found this photo and the story behind it particularly striking.


How sedition is ferreted out in Kentucky. A dictaphone was placed in the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg, shown here (under pretense of men hunting electric light leak) under auspices of Citizens’ Patriotic League. The listening and was located in the 1st. National Bank of Latonia next door whose officers were aiding the League detectives listening in gathered pro-German evidence and arrested Henry Feltman wealthy tobacco merchant J.H. Kruse, wealthy brewer, and two others. The Court of Inquiry for Kenton County sent the case to the Federal Grand Jury to try in August 1918. 165-ww-165A-041

One of the most moving stories I found is the film footage from the Veteran Activists: The Bonus Army Protests of 1932 collection. WWI veterans sought early payment in 1932 for the bonuses they had been promised for their service in the First World War, to be delivered in 1945. In the face of financial ruin precipitated by the Great Depression, veteran activists processed from Oregon to the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., growing in numbers along the way, to demand their bonuses. Thousands of veterans lived in well-ordered squatter camps in nonviolent protest for months while Congress refused to meet their demands; the resulting stand-off came to a head when President Hoover called in the Army to forcibly disburse the protesters, labeled “communist” agitators rather than veterans to justify their subsequent treatment at the hands of their own government. Footage of soldiers and police dragging veterans out of abandoned buildings, tanks and soldiers marching down the street, soldiers lobbing tear gas, wearing gas masks, and setting the camps on fire gave me chills. This is a story that needs to be told, and I can’t believe that I had never heard of the Bonus Army protests until I stumbled upon this footage. Here is a newsreel clip highlighting media coverage of the events:

President Hoover’s order putting the Army in control,” a clip from BONUS ARMY RIOTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 1932 (111-H-1225).

The war effort became integrated into the daily fabric of life for even the youngest Americans, despite the fact that no blood was shed on American soil. I was surprised by the number of photos in NARA’s collection devoted to children’s activities on the home front. Children of all ages became active participants in the war effort, raising money for various wartime campaigns, making toys for refugee children abroad, and marching in parades. High school children received school credit to make gas masks in class (imagine making gas masks in school!), and even young children could help gather the supplies necessary to make these and other wartime equipment–the photo below from the Children’s Activities in WWI collection shows very young Japanese boys in California gathering pits for making gas masks! Could these children grasp the magnitude of the war of which they were somehow a part?  


Japanese School Boys at Berryessa, Santa Clara County, Cal., gathering pits for gas masks. 165-WW-69E-013

These are just a few of the interesting themes and stories that we’d like you to explore in Remembering WWI. This project is a work in progress, and you too can get involved! Here’s how you can help:

  1. Download the app on your tablet and make your own collections from these materials to share and reuse. See here for more information on how to do that.
  2. Visit the digital platform on Historypin to help us fill in more precise date and location information for the WWI photographs and films that are a part of this project. For example, the photograph of the anti-draft women protesters in New York City (mentioned earlier in this post) is missing a day and month. Can you help us locate an exact date for this protest? In addition, many of these photographs are tagged only to a geographic center of a city rather than the exact location featured in the photo. Do you recognize signs, buildings, or street names in the background that can help us place the photographs more precisely?


After signing up for a free Historypin account, use the “Suggest a better location” and “Suggest and better date” buttons found on the sidebar of each piece content.

3. Are there thematic tags that you feel are missing from these photographs? If you were archiving these materials, how would you categorize them? Add your own tags! 


Add a tag to WWI films and photographs from the US National Archives on Historypin.


This project is made possible in part by an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation. ​

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