Spotlight: Remembering Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on  Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the “average” soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn’t just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.



Local ID: 127-GW-74-116277 / Caption: Marine Staff Sgt. Elwood P. Smith, right, and a Marine officer, converse with the late Ernie Pyle when his visited this base of Ulithi / Photographer: Dipallina / Date: March 24, 1945


Local ID: 127-N-116846 / Caption: PFC. Urban Vachon of Laconia, NH, and Columnist Ernie Pyle, rest by the roadside on the trail at Okinawa / Photographer: Barnett / Date: April 8, 1945


Local ID: 127-N-107089 / Caption: Ernie Pyle, the celebrated journalist, recently visited Leathernecks of the 3rd Marine Division, where along with talking to the veterans of the fight on Bougainville and Guam, he observed the famous Marine Corps war dogs for the first time. Shown here talking to “Jeep”, a scout and security patrol Doberman Pinscher, Ernie was impressed with the high standards set by the dogs and their outstanding battle records to date in the Pacific. Jeep is 18 months old and has been overseas only a short time / Photographer: TSgt. J. Mundell / Date: January 24, 1945


Local ID: 127-N-108916 / Caption: Mr. Pyle is shown here talking to Division Commander, Major General Graves B. Erskine. It is Ernie’s first trip into the Pacific. Previously he wrote about GI Joe from the European Theater of Operations. From left to right: Major General Erskine, Lt. Comdr. Max Miller, Col. Robert E. Hogaboom, Ernie Pyle, PFC. James R. Jerele, Pvt. Louie E. White, and Jeep (dog) / Photographer: Tsgt. Mundell / Date: January 22, 1945


Local ID: 127-N-116840 / Caption: Columnist Ernie Pyle rests on the roadside with a Marine patrol / Photographer: Barnett / Date: April 8, 1945


Local ID: 127-N-116953 / Caption: Columnist Ernie Pyle and some members of the 1st Marine Division rest by the roadside on Okinawa / Photographer: Barnett / Date: April 8, 1945


Local ID: 127-GW-539-116841 / Caption: Ernie Pyle, noted columnist, on the trail with a group of Marines. He is fourth from the left. Okinawa / Photographer: Barnett / Date: April 8, 1945



Local ID: 80-G-262929 / Caption: Ernie Pyle being transferred by breeches buoy from the USS Cabot (CVL-28) to the USS Moale (DD-693) / Date: February 23, 1945


Local ID: 80-G-303399 / Caption: Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, interviewing Joe J. Ray S1/c and Charles W. Page S1/C on board the USS Yorktown (CV-10) / Date: February 5, 1945


Local ID: 80-G-314396 / Caption: Ernie Pyle visiting with Marines aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 20, 1945


Local ID: 80-G-314401 / Caption: Ernie Pyle watching Marine play Casino aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 29, 1945


Local ID: 80-G-314410 / Caption: Ernie Pyle and sailors listening to war reports over loud speaker aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 29, 1945


Local ID: 80-G-314416 / Caption: Ernie Pyle with troops listing to PFC Johnny Maturello play accordion aboard USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) while enroute to Okinawa / Date: March 1945


Local ID: 80-G-314806 / Caption: L to R; Edward P. Krapse, Lt. Arlington Bensel Jr., Ernie Pyle, and Cpl. Edward M. Wrenne


Local ID: 80-G-314812 / Caption: Ernie Pyle center leaning on a Marine’s shoulder.



Local ID: 111-SC-439556 / Caption: Bomb that hit PRO today also hurt some of the war correspondents, among whom was Ernie Pyle. He suffered a slight cut on the face and is here looking at his bed from which he had just left to watch the bombing, when the roof fell on it. Nettuno Area, Italy / Photographer: Blau / Date: March 16, 1944


Local ID: 111-SC-439555 / Caption: Cpl. Jesse Cooper (of Powell Station, TN), Ernie Pyle, and Pvt. Willian Bennet (of Dunn, NC) at muzzle of a 155mm rifle. Fifth Army. Anzio Beachhead area, Italy / Photographer: Bonnard / Date: March 18, 1944


Local ID: 111-SC-210915 / Caption: At Nettuno, Italy, Ernie Pyle, war correspondent, and Major General Lucian Truscott, stand in front of Corps Headquarters / Photographer: Blau / Date: March 26, 1944


Local ID: 111-SC-207093 / Caption: Ernie Pyle, preparing to cover the Pacific war front, gets a preview from enlisted men who have returned from the front. From left to right – T/4 Al Levy (of Albany, NY), T/5 William Gharrity (of Chippewa Falls, WI), and Ssgt. Richard W. Bridenbaugh (of Toledo, OH) / Date: January 1945


Local ID: 111-SC-191703 / Caption: Photograph of Ernie Pyle, famous war correspondent, eating “C” rations. Fifth Army, Anzio Beachhead area, Italy / Date: March 18, 1944


Local ID: 111-SC-165303 / Caption: Correspondent, Ernie Pyle, of Scripps-Howard Newspapers, Washington DC, interviewing Sgt. Ralph Gower (of Sacramento, CA), Pvt. Raymond Astrackon (left, of New York City), and 2nd. Lt. Annette Heaton, ANC (of Detroit, MI), attached to an evacuation hospital. North Africa / Date: December 2, 1942


Local ID: 111-SC-334352 / Caption: The body of Ernie Pyle, who lost his life while serving with first line troops on Ie Shima, was laid to final rest on July 19th in the new Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Oahu. Pall bearers are pictured removing Ernie Pyle’s flag draped casket before the burial ceremonies / Date: July 19, 1949


Jack Lieb Collection

Jack Lieb was a newsreel cameraman who covered the end of the war in Europe (D-Day to Germany). Pyle appears in the following videos, which document preparations for the D-Day invasion in England and France.

Universal News

Pyle appears in the following Universal newsreel, which was released just 9 days before his death.

The records presented above were found in the following series:

*Iejima is often referred to as Ie Shima. Additionally, at the time of Pyle’s death, some news outlets referred to Iejima as Ie Island.

Special thanks to Audrey Amidon, who provided links and context to the films included in this blog post.

All of the photographs in this blog post are unrestricted and may be used freely.

Posted in Military, Motion Pictures, Photographs, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Boston, 1775: A City Under Siege!

Of all the record groups in the Cartographic Department’s holdings, one of the most interesting and varied is RG 77.   This record group, with its myriad of smaller series, holds many Revolutionary War, Civil War and Civil War-era maps, (both printed and manuscript), drawings and schematics of forts, posts, and reservations, and original designs for bridges and pathways for roads just to name a few things.  Generally speaking, this huge record group holds some really interesting and beautiful documents.


RG 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1999, Fortifications Map File Plans of Military Forts, 1818-194, Arc Identifier 17369895

One of the more fascinating maps in terms of illustrating exactly how significantly things have changed in the United States over time is the above map entitled “Map Showing Boston and its Environs and Harbor, with the Rebel Works Raised Against the Town in 1775”.  This map, dated October 1st, 1775, presents a very different image of Boston than the one that we are familiar with today.  At the time that this map was created, the city of Boston was on a small piece of land, called “Shawmut” in the Native Algonquian language.  The colonists initially referred to the area as “Trimountaine”, but changed the name to “Boston”, after the city of Boston in Lincolnshire, England on September 7th, 1630[i].  Looking closely at the map, the Boston of 1775 is located on the left side of the map, almost centered between the top and bottom of the image with the upper part of the landmass labelled “mill pond” and “mill dam”.

To put this map in context, it is important to understand briefly what was taking place in Boston during the months surrounding October of 1775. Boston had been besieged since April of 1775 following the battles at Lexington and Concord.  The British still maintained control over Boston Harbor, however, and were able to receive supplies via that route.  So, Colonial forces decided to surround Boston in an effort to disrupt supply lines.

In June of 1775, the British had managed to capture Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill, both of which lie to the north of Boston, and stop the Continental Army from bombarding the city[i].  Washington arrived shortly thereafter, in July, and took command of the Continental forces with the express goal of driving British forces out of Boston.  Later on, in November, Washington would send for heavy artillery, captured at from the British at Fort Ticonderoga the previous May, to be brought to Boston[ii].  The cannons arrived in January and, by March, had been positioned at Dorchester Heights.  The British quickly came to realize that their position was indefensible given the positioning of the Continental Army’s artillery on Dorchester Heights and withdrew from Boston on March 17th, 1776[iii].


Record Group 64: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789 – ca. 2007.  Series: Reference Maps and Drawings, 1934 – 1989

From a strictly geographical standpoint, this map looks very different from what we think of as Boston today.  At the time that the 1775 map was made, none of the areas around Boston had yet been filled in.  The above map from RG 64 shows Boston as it is today.  The West Cove was filled in first (1803-1863), followed by the Mill Pond (1804-1829), then the West Cove (1803-1863), and finally, the South Cove (1806-1843).  Later on in the 19th century, filling projects were undertaken in East Boston, and Marine and Columbus park in South Boston.  The land that would eventually be occupied by Logan airport was filled in 1922[iv].

[i] “Battle of Bunker Hill”.  Encyclopedia Britannica.  Nov. 16, 2017.

[ii] Frothingham, Jr, Richard (1851). History of the Siege of Boston and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Little and Brown.

[iii] McCullough, David (2005). 1776. Simon and Schuster Paperback. Pp 95-97.

[iv] Howe, Jeffrey.  “Boston: History of the Landfills”.  Study Guide for FA267.   From Saltbox to Skyscraper: Architecture in America.  1996.


Posted in Cartographic Records, Graphic Materials, Maps, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Building Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter will forever go down in history as the location of the opening shots of the Civil War on April 12, 1861. The Cartographic Branch holds architectural plans and drawings associated with the construction of forts throughout our nation’s history. This includes numerous plans relating to Fort Sumter’s lengthy construction. Today we are featuring a sampling of these plans, which are held within Record Group (RG) 77, Fortifications Map File.

Following the War of 1812, the United States began to strengthen its coastal defenses. The idea for a fortification that eventually became Fort Sumter first appears in an 1826 report to Congress. Initial plans were drawn up in the following years, including the 1828 plan below.


Plan of a Casemated Battery designed for the Shoal opposite Fort Moultrie, Charleston Harbour, S.C., dated 1828. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 1.

Work commenced on the fort, but progressed slowly. A rock foundation was constructed on a shoal in Charleston Harbor. However, in 1834, a legal case concerning the ownership of the shoal area halted construction.


Plan and Sections showing the condition of the Foundation of Fort Sumter, S.C. during the Years 1831, 1832 and 1833, dated 1833. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 2.

Construction resumed in 1841. Under the supervision of Captain A.H. Bowman, the original plans were modified to make the fortification stronger. However, troubles continued to plague the construction of the fort. A lack of supplies and the difficulty of transporting supplies by boat to the shoal made progress slow.


Drawing showing normal high and low tides, dated 1843. Note the mark for the tide of October 6, 1842. Areas around Charleston, SC experienced higher than normal tides and flooding from October 4 – 6, 1842, due to a hurricane. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 10.


Plan, section, and elevations of Fort Sumter exhibiting the condition of the work on 30th September 1846. RG 77, Fortifications File , Drawer 66, Sheet 36.

Work continued in the 1850s, but then stalled due to lack of funding. By 1860, Fort Sumter consisted of an unfinished five-sided stone masonry fort. Two tiers of gunrooms lined four of the fort’s walls. Officers quarters were located along the other wall. The fort also contained three barracks buildings for enlisted soldiers and a parade ground.


Section through the middle of the first pier westward of the Western Magazine, dated 1854. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 70.


Plans and Elevation of Officers’ Quarters at Fort Sumter, dated 1851. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 53.

As tensions between North and South escalated in December 1860 with the secession of the state of South Carolina, artillery troops occupied the unfinished fort. At that time, only 15 out of the planned 135 cannon were mounted and in place. Barracks, quarters, and gunrooms remained unfinished. After an attack by South Carolina troops on a ship attempting to resupply Fort Sumter in January 1861, the troops within Fort Sumter began strengthening their position in preparation for an attack against the fort.


Plan for Fort Sumter showing Barbette Tier and Parade and 1st Tier Casemate, dated March 1861, only a short time before the firing on the fort by Confederate troops. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 82.

On the morning of April 12, 1861, tensions finally reached the breaking point. At about 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter. After facing a severe bombardment, the Union-held fort surrendered the following day. Confederates held Fort Sumter until February 1865, only weeks before the surrender of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. Throughout the war, the fort suffered repeated bombardments and was severely damaged, as evidenced by the drawings below.


Fort Sumter, South Carolina, at the time of its capture February 18, 1865. RG 77, Fortifications File, Drawer 66, Sheet 86.

The above plans provide only a small sampling of the plans of Fort Sumter that are available to view in the Cartographic Research Room at the National Archives. We invite you to visit to learn more about Fort Sumter and the other forts and fortifications for which we hold architectural drawings and plans.

Sources about the construction of Fort Sumter:

Barnes, Frank E. Fort Sumter National Monument.

Hendrix, M. Patrick. A History of Fort Sumter: Building a Civil War Landmark. The History Press, 2014.

National Park Service. “Fort Sumter. History and Culture.

Posted in Architectural and Engineering Drawings, Cartographic Records, Civil War, forts, Military, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Their War Too: U.S. Women in the Military During WWII. Part I

March is Women’s History Month, a great time to highlight  important contributions made to our country by women. This year, we are focusing on the role women played in the United States Military during World War II in a two-part blog post. Part I  highlights recruitment films from the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Part II will highlight films from the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

During World War II, women’s service to their country was not limited to the factory floor.  It is true that millions of women were hired to work in factories and thousands were hired to work on farms through the Women’s Land Army program, but their options did not end there. The size of the global conflict was unprecedented and once the United States entered the war, its citizens had to mobilize quickly. The sheer volume of people needed called for the expansion of the role of women. Because of these factors, the roles women played during World War II far surpassed their involvement during previous conflicts. They were recruited for service in the United States military for the first time.

After Pearl Harbor,women signed up for the armed services by the hundreds of thousands; their numbers totaling approximately 350,000 by war’s end. They served in each branch of the military in separate units. The Army established the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Marines Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve were known as the SPARS, and the Navy recruited women into its reserve known as the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Another group of women served the military but were not recognized as service members during the war. This group, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), served in the Army Air Corps.

Continue reading

Posted in Military, Motion Pictures, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Air Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, women in the military, women's history, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Photos)

This post was written in collaboration with Kevin Quinn, Sarah Lepianka, and Katherine Stinson – Archives Technicians in the Still Photos Branch.  

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu, was one of the deadliest events in human history.  While fighting between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers raged on in Europe, the disease knew no borders.  Conservative estimates place the worldwide death toll at 30 million people, with reported cases in large cities and remote regions of the world alike.*

Traffic cop in New York City wearing the gauze masks. Local Identifier: 165-WW-269B-7A


Photographs held at the National Archives illustrate the pervasiveness of the disease and the unsuccessful attempts to inhibit its spread.  All images in this blog come from the American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, which have been digitized in full as part of the Wartime Films Project.

More photos from the Spanish Flu can be viewed on the National Archives Catalog, as well as additional documents on the “Deadly Virus” online exhibit.




*Due to lack of records, estimates of the number of deaths attributed to the flu range anywhere from 30 to 100 million people.

Posted in Digitization, Photographs, World War I | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ironclad Navies: The USS Monitor and CSS Virginia during the Civil War

March 9 marks the famous meeting of the Civil War ironclad ships the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Cartographic Branch holds numerous plans and maps relating to the Battle of Hampton Roads and to the Civil War ironclads and ships involved in the battle. This post highlights some of the records relating to this noted engagement.

Following the firing on Fort Sumter by Southern forces in April 1861, the United States Navy evacuated the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Retreating forces set fire to the USS Merrimac (Merrimack), which had been at Gosport for engine repairs and not seaworthy at the time of the evacuation. In May 1861, Confederate forces, now in control of the navy yard,  raised the partially burned frigate and began converting the ship into an armored vessel, or ironclad. They repaired the ship and reinforced it with 2-inch iron plating cast at Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, Virginia. In February 1862, the ship was launched and re-christened the CSS Virginia.

The Cartographic Branch holds numerous ship plans relating to the original USS Merrimac and the later ironclad, the CSS Virginia. Reference reports for both ships, listing the available plans, are available in our research room and at the following link: Reference Report: USS Merrimac/ CSS Virginia. Below are two examples of plans relating to the CSS Virginia that are within the holdings of the Cartographic Branch. The first is a color drawing showing a profile view of the ironclad. The second blueprint drawing shows the gun desk arrangement for the Merrimac. 


Sketch of the CSS Virginia (outboard profile), RG 19, DASH 81-12-2B, NAID: 12007683



Gun Deck for the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimac), RG 19, DASH 76-2-45

In response to the construction of a Confederate ironclad, the US Navy also began working on plans to build an ironclad of their own. The Navy put out a call for proposals for such a ship, and received numerous designs. Eventually, after lengthy consideration, plans moved forward to build a ship proposed by Swedish immigrant John Ericsson. Ericsson’s design was very different from past proposals, which attached iron plating to the exterior of a traditional warship, similar to the CSS Virginia. Ericsson’s design instead sat low in the water, almost fully submerged, leaving only 18 inches of deck above the water line. It also contained a novel revolving turret, which contained two cannons. Because the entire turret could be rotated independently of the ship, the two cannons could be rapidly aimed and fired at enemy ships or targets. This was a great advantage over other ships, which had to be steered so that their guns pointed in the correct direction of the target. The USS Monitor, as Ericsson’s ship was named, launched in late January 1862.

The Cartographic Branch holds numerous plans related to the USS Monitor and monitor class ironclad ships. A reference report for plans relating to the USS Monitor is available in the research room and at the following link: USS Monitor Reference Report. The following are a few examples of plans relating to the USS Monitor and Ericsson’s monitor class ironclads.


Side elevation and top view of “Ericsson Battery of two Guns of 12 inch Calibre.”  RG 19, DASH, 26-8-20.


“Top view and Longitudinal Section of Impenetrable (Impregnable) Floating Battery.” RG 19, DASH, 26-8-21.


“Screw Ram on the ‘Monitor’ system.” Plan by J. Ericsson. 1862. RG 19, DASH,  26-8-17. NAID: 17370268


“Sketch of Original Monitor.” 1917. RG 19, DASH, 26-8-18A. NAID: 17370270

The two ironclads met in battle on March 9, 1862. This marked the first engagement between two ironclads. On March 8, the CSS Virginia got her first test of power, steaming toward Union ships located in the Hampton Roads area. She engaged with two warships, the USS Cumberland and the USS Congress. The Virginia rammed the Cumberland with a metal ram, creating a large gash in the side of the hull and causing the ship to sink. The Congress ran aground, preventing a ram attack. However, the CSS Virginia shelled the USS Congress forcing the stranded and wrecked ship to surrender. Additionally, in the confusion, the nearby USS Minnesota also ran aground. The Virginia fell back to her wharf, planning to return the following day to finish off the Union fleet. The Virginia proved the success of iron versus wood, and the iron plating proved effective in protecting the ship from shot and shell.

That night, the Union Navy’s new ironclad, the USS Monitor, entered Hampton Roads and took up a position next to the stranded USS Minnesota. On the morning of March 9, the Virginia headed back to finish off the Minnesota, but instead encountered the Monitor. The two ironclads engaged in a close rang artillery fight, each having little effect on the other due to their armored designs. The Virginia tried unsuccessfully to ram the Monitor, but the Monitor, a lighter and quicker ship, managed to avoid the ram. Both ships eventually withdraw, leaving the engagement between steam powered ironclad ships a draw. The map below shows the site of the battle of Hampton Roads and depicts the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (labeled as the Merrimack), along with other ships in the area.

RG77_CWMF_G443_vol12_p10 -- zoomed

Close up of map showing the Hampton Roads area and depicting the March 9, 1862 battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack). RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G443, Vol. 12, p. 10.


Full Map showing the Hampton Roads area.  RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G443, Vol. 12, p. 10.

Both the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor suffer unfortunate fates during the next few months of the Civil War. In early May 1862, Union forces approached Norfolk, forcing the Confederates to abandonthe city and destroyed the navy yard. Without a home, the Virginia’s commander attempted to lighten the ship and travel up the James River to the safety of Richmond, but this plan proved unsuccessful. The Confederates instead were forced to scuttle the ship on May 11, 1862, blowing her up rather than allow the Union forces to capture the ship.

In late 1862, after supporting numerous military operations near Norfolk and Richmond, the USS Monitor received orders to move south to Beaufort, North Carolina. On December 30, 1862, off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Monitor encountered a bad storm. In the rough seas, the Monitor, whose deck was only 18 inches above the waterline, began to take on water, flooding the engine room. Around midnight, her engines flooded completely and her pumps stopped working. All hopes for saving the struggling ship were gone and the ship was abandoned. Forty-seven men were rescued from the sinking USS Monitor. Sixteen were lost, swept overboard, unable to reach the rescue boats, or trapped inside the sinking vessel.

The wrecked Monitor remained lost until the 1970s. In 1973, a team from Duke University began searching for the location of the wreck. After a tentative identification, the team confirmed they had found the wreck 16 miles off of Cape Hatteras after a second visit to the site in the spring of 1974. Research on the wreck began and over the years, many artifacts were recovered from the USS Monitor. In 2002, the famous turret was raised from the sea floor. Today, the turret and artifacts related to the USS Monitor are housed at the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum, located in Newport News, Virginia near the site of the battle of Hampton Roads. The Cartographic Branch holds a collection of oversize materials relating to the discovery, stabilization, research, and recovery efforts of the wreck of the USS Monitor. These records include maps, diagrams, and drawings related to the wreck site, underwater archaeology and research missions, scientific data and research, artifact recovery, and other aspects of the research surrounding the wreck site. Additional records related to these activities can also be found in the Textual, Still Pictures, and Motion Pictures holdings of the National Archives.


Photomosaic of USS Monitor wreck. RG 370, Records Relating the Discovery of the Wreck of the USS Monitor, Folder 1.


Civil War Trust. “Overview: Hampton Roads.” Articles.

Civil War Trust. “USS Monitor: A Cheesebox Raft.” Articles – Feature.

The Mariners’ Museum & Park. The USS Monitor Center.

NOAA. National Ocean Service. USS Monitor: Preserving a Legacy.

Posted in Cartographic Records, Civil War, Military, Ship Plans, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moll Atlas: How the World Appeared in 1721

Among the many treasures tucked away in the Archives is a series of maps known simply as “The Moll Atlas” (RG 76, Series 30).  While the name might not initially scream “excitement”, the Moll Atlas is breathtaking for not only its complexity, but the sheer beauty of the maps themselves.  Unfortunately, this is not the entire series due to the fact that some of the maps were not able to be scanned and, as a side note, the shadowing that can be seen in the images below is due to the fact that the maps are no longer perfectly flat.  Over time, they have slightly warped in places and that is what causes the slight distortion that you see.

Herman Moll began work on “The World Described or, A New and Correct Sett of Maps” in 1707 and continued to work until it was completed in 1717.  This collection was famous even then and was still available for sale as late as 1796.  Originally published as a folio edition, this series took into account all of the known parts of the globe.  Moll seemed to be quite fond of filling in blank spaces on the page and so included “Advertisements”, “Explanations”, criticisms of other cartographers and their abilities, commentary on the weather and planning the length of stays in port for ships, and also interesting comments on the local flora and fauna of the regions.  There are also a myriad of panels depicting what he thought were the highlights of the area encompassed by the map.

According to the cartographer himself, the series is:

“A New and Correct Sett of MAPS: shewing, The Kingdoms and States in all the Known Parts of the Earth, with principal Cities, and most considerable Towns in the World.  Wherein the Errors of the ancient Geographers are corrected according to the latest Observations of Travellers, as communicated to the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Academy of Paris.  Each Map is neatly engraved on Copper by HERMAN MOLL, Geographer, and printed on two Sheets of Elephant-Paper, so that the Scale is large enough to shew the Chief Cities and Towns, as well as Provinces, without appearing in the least confus’d.  And to render these Maps more acceptable, there is engraved on several of them what is most remarkable in those Countries.”

I highly encourage those of you reading this blog to spend some time looking closely at the maps.  The artwork around the sides is truly fascinating and contains quite a bit of information about the region contained within the map.  Also, take some time to zoom in on the land masses themselves to see some very interesting notes about the local flora and fauna.  You won’t be disappointed.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Index page to the maps contained therein.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Dated 1712, this map shows the area that would eventually become the United States.  Note the giant blank areas in the upper northeast and the fact that California appears to be an island.





RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  A map of “Great Britain Called Scotland” dated 1714.  The engravings around the edges of the map appear to indicate some of the highlights of the country.


Rg 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  An incredibly complex map showing “The Seat of the War on the Rhine being a New Map of the Course of that River from Strasbourg to Bonn with adjacent counties”.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Map of Spain and Portugal, divided into kingdoms and principalities.  Dated 1711.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  This map, dated 1703, depicts the kingdoms that composed Spain at that time.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  “A Historical Map of the Roman Empire and the Neighboring Barbarous Nations”.  It is interesting to note that on the inset globes, giant areas of the world are simply missing due to lack of information.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Map of Italy with engravings showing fortifications around several cities.









Posted in Conservation, Digitization, Maps | 5 Comments

Stock Footage Spotlight: Historically Black Colleges and Universities in WWII

When scanning films in the National Archives Motion Picture Lab, we sometimes come across images that we want to learn more about. We recently transferred several reels of unedited footage depicting African American college students in various classroom settings. The posters on the wall indicated that the footage had been shot during wartime. The slates listed some names of schools and government agencies. Using that small amount of information, we began our search for the source of the footage.

Students in a Howard University chemistry class during World War II.

Students in chemistry class during World War II. (still from 306-LSS-354)

During the Cold War, the United States Information Agency (USIA) kept up a busy schedule of filmmaking, producing hundreds of films to project for foreign audiences a positive image of the United States. Because many USIA films dealt with similar topics, it was not always necessary to shoot entirely new footage for every title. In order to support its film production operations, the USIA maintained a library of stock footage, which could be quickly pulled and cut into its film projects. That library of stock shots is now held in the USIA record group at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The library contains footage and outtakes from a number of films produced during the New Deal and World War II. You can find shots from Pare Lorentz’s The River and even his unfinished Ecce Homo. There is footage of Arturo Toscanini as he conducts 1944’s Hymn of the Nations. The footage of African American students was shot for a film titled Negro Colleges in War Time.

Negro Colleges in Wartime was produced during World War II by the Office for Emergency Management and the Office of War Information to highlight the contributions of African American institutions to the war effort. It includes footage from four schools: Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, Prairie View College (now Prairie View A&M University) in Texas, and Howard University in Washington, DC.

The USIA library stock shot film reels contain high-quality footage of the campuses and students in their classes, likely struck from the original film negative. We see students at Tuskegee preparing for service in the US Army Air Forces as well as women chemistry students at Howard learning skills needed for munitions work. Prairie View students study agriculture and learn to forge machine parts and tools. Hampton provides skills courses for war workers in nearby shipyards.

At the time, education in the United States was highly segregated. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like those listed above provided educational opportunities that white schools denied African Americans. To learn more about the history of HBCUs, you can watch the documentary Tell Them We are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities which premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens on February 19, 2018. (The first 12 seconds of the trailer contain four shots from Negro Colleges in War Time!)

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Spotlight: Wedded In Service

This post was written in collaboration with Beth Fortson.

“I’d feel like a quitter if I left the service now.”
– Wren Josephine Mary Kennelly

This Valentine’s Day, the Still Picture Branch would like to share a photo story from the series 26-G. This series is the subject of one of our ongoing digitization projects and will soon be available to researchers everywhere through our online catalog. The photographs in 26-G come from the main historical file for the U.S. Coast Guard which heavily features photographs taken during WWII. 

This photo story depicts the union of a couple in love – both serving their countries on active-duty. In the spring of 1945, Women’s Royal Navy Servicewoman Josephine Mary Kennelly, 19,  married American Coast Guardsman Dominick Andriacci, 29, in Liverpool, England. Both bride and groom would return to their duty stations soon after their wedding. Dominick would go back to his Coast Guard ship, and Josephine back to her role with the Women’s Royal Navy Service.

With the issuance of “Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press”, many war topics were off the table allowing an influx of uplifting stories to take their place and galvanize support for the war effort. A story such as this was shared in local newspapers back home. The detailed captions included along with these wedding photos tell not only the story of Dominick and Josephine’s marriage, but also the story shared by many WWII war brides and their foreign serviceman husbands. That common story, of weddings planned on rationed sugar and fleeting moments of leave, continues to captivate us today, over 70 years later.










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Gettysburg: Civil War Monuments, Nuclear Arsenals, and Dreams of Peace


Still taken from “Gettysburg 75th Anniversary” (Local Identifier: 79-HFC-320)

The Battlefield at Gettysburg is primarily known for two things.  First, over three days, July 1 through July 3, 1863 the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place there.  Second, it was the site of The Gettysburg Address, the famous speech that President Abraham Lincoln delivered four and a half months after the battle on November 19.  Six other presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and one vice president who would later become president, Lyndon B. Johnson, have also delivered speeches at the Battlefield.  Several of these speeches are among the holdings of the Motion Picture Sound and Video Branch here at the National Archives.

The 75th Anniversary

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at least twice at the battlefield.  His first address was on Memorial Day, May 30, 1934.  The second was an address for the dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on July 3, 1938, which also commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.


Photo courtesy of Caitlin Hucik

One Union and one Confederate veteran unveiled the 47 ½ foot tall memorial.  In Roosevelt’s nine-minute speech he shared, “All of them we honor, not asking under which flag they fought then—thankful that they stand together under one flag now.”  There were more than 250,000 people who attended the 1938 dedication including more than 1,800 Civil War veterans, all of them at least in their 90s.  The following clip is from the Records of the National Park Service in the Harpers Ferry Collection.

 The 125th Anniversary

Fast forward 50 years to the 125th anniversary (catalog description for National Archives Identifier 75495622 forthcoming), which took place over three days, July 1 through 3, 1988.  Part of this three-day event included a 50th anniversary re-dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. However for this re-dedication there would be no presidential speech.  Rather, a famous scientist, Dr. Carl Sagan, would give the re-dedication speech for the memorial, albeit with a smaller crowd of 30,000.  The speech, co-written with his wife Ann Druyan, juxtaposed the weapons of the Battle of Gettysburg with the weapons of subsequent wars highlighting the increased potential for destruction with each war.  Sagan used the platform he was given to call for nuclear disarmament highlighting the need to recognize our humanity as brothers and to work toward peace.  Sagan’s written speech ended with:

 And inscribed on this Eternal Light Peace Memorial…is a stirring phrase: “A World United in the Search of Peace.”

The real triumph of Gettysburg was not, I think, in 1863 but in 1913, when the surviving veterans, the remnants of the adversary forces, the Blue and the Gray, met in celebration and solemn memorial.  It had been the war that set brother against brother, and when the time came to remember, on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, the survivors fell, sobbing into one another’s arms…It is time to learn from those who fell here.  Our challenge is to reconcile, not after the carnage and mass murder, but instead of the carnage and the mass murder.  It is time to act.

Above is silent footage, transferred from 16mm film, containing the end of Dr. Carl Sagan’s speech.  Below is audio transferred from 1/4 inch magnetic tapes. Sagan’s speech begins at  approximately one hour and twelve minutes.  Sadly the audio is missing one paragraph of the speech toward the end, most likely due to the tape ending and the lapsed time to get a new tape recording.  Otherwise, the entirety of the speech was captured.

By the late 1980’s, the Harpers Ferry Center was creating interpretative materials in a number of different media, including audio recordings for listening stations, slide shows, and videos and films for broadcast, loans, and exhibition in visitor centers. Initially, it appeared that the records relating to the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg were limited to twelve ¼ inch sound recordings.  However, as the processing proceeded it was discovered that there were indeed moving image film rolls that accompanied the ¼ inch sound which were incorrectly identified on the shipping list. Original recordings could be used in multiple productions, which may be the reason these records were incorrectly identified, and it can take some research to bring them together.

Preserved in our holdings here at the National Archives are twelve ¼ inch audio reel-to-reel tapes and eleven 16mm, silent, color film reels.  Two of the twelve audio tapes contain most of Sagan’s 1988 speech as well as recordings of the activities of the three-day event, while three of the eleven film reels contain parts of Sagan’s speech.  The fact that we have these records in multiple formats highlights one of the challenges facing a special media archivist, as Criss Kovac, NARA’s Moving Image Preservation Lab Supervisor, explains:

One of the challenges in trying to synchronize motion picture film and separate audio on ¼ inch magnetic tape is that the recording equipment runs at different rates.  Motion picture film is captured at 24 frames per second while ¼ inch audio is generally captured at 7.5 inches per second.  Thirty six feet of 16mm film is the equivalent to one minute of running time and thirty seven and a half feet of ¼ inch audio is the equivalent to one minute of running time, so they don’t quite match up.  Over the course of time the audio begins to drift so that the audio occurs ahead of the image.  In order to rectify this, we can try to remove snippets of dead air to try to make the image and the audio synchronize.  But, if the event is a continuous speech with little, or no breaks and pauses, we’re unable to faithfully sync the two together.

NARA’s film lab synchronized the excerpts above using 1/4 inch audio tapes and 16mm film rolls.

These records of the 75th and 125th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg intersect with our world today.  As we mark off another 30 years since the re-dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, the Cold War has ended and context has shifted, but Dr. Sagan’s speech and its call for nuclear disarmament remains valid. Similarly, The Eternal Light Peace Memorial and other Civil War monuments and symbols continue to evoke strong feelings and serve as catalysts for debate.

Posted in Audio Recordings, Civil War, Films, Gettysburg, Military, Motion Pictures, Preservation, Uncategorized | 1 Comment