Recently Opened Series: German World War II Maps

One of the most interesting ways of seeing World War II military operations from the point of view of the Axis powers is by looking in the National Archives’ materials held in Record Group 242: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized. This record group includes documents, films, photographs and maps that were seized from the Axis powers during or after the war, among other seized records. In the Cartographic branch, we have some of the maps that were captured from Germany, including two new recently opened series.

One of the newly opened series is German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 1944-1945 (NAID 40432392). This series contains German maps that display the locations of the Allied armies at different times in 1944 and 1945. The maps include information on various Allied unit locations and the situations the Axis armies were facing at that time. They also give insight into how the Germans organized and displayed their military operational information. It is interesting to see, for example, that the Germans sometimes used the label of “Gen. Eisenhower” on their maps to denote the location of the Allies. Many of the maps also include a breakdown of the army units in the field.


RG 242: German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 11/9/1944


RG 242: German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 12/7/1944

The other recently processed series is Various German World War II Maps, 1939-1945 (NAID 40480105). This series consists of a wide range of maps used by the German army throughout the war. Some of the maps have handwritten notes, army locations and situations while others are general maps of certain areas. A few of the maps offer a window into situations during specific times while others provide a broad overview of the war.


RG 242: Various German World War II Maps, #5, Eastern Europe, 7/1941

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Fractured Ideals: Japanese American Internment through a Government Lens

America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal. Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.

President Ronald Reagan
December 1945, in honor of Kazuo Masuda and
August 10, 1988, at the signing of The Civil Liberties Act of 1988

Americanism . . . loses much of its meaning in the confines of a Relocation Center.

A Challenge to Democracy (1943)

February 19, 2017, is the 75th Anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066. Issued in 1942, soon after the United States’ entry into the Second World War, EO 9066 authorized the Secretary of War to designate military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded” and “provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary . . . to accomplish the purpose of this order.”

Though the text of EO 9066 does not contain the word “Japanese,” the intent and effect was the creation of a sweeping program to remove 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent from their homes in coastal California, Oregon, and Washington State in the name of national security. Though the language of the time called this an “evacuation” or “mass migration,” those affected were forced to leave their communities as the Federal government moved them to heavily-guarded camps in isolated areas hundreds of miles away.

Yosh Nakagawa was in fourth grade in February 1942. Like many other American children in his hometown of Seattle, he did not speak Japanese and was a Baptist, not Shinto or Buddhist. But he notes that even though he was in elementary school, “America thought I was a terrorist.” Over a period of weeks the United States government deported Japanese Americans from their neighborhoods. Seattle’s Japanese Baptist Church was boarded up and closed. In any case, there was no one left to attend Sunday services.

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A Brief Look at African American Soldiers in the Great War

By Matthew Margis

When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson undertook a massive propaganda campaign to expand support for the war.  He declared that, America would help make the world “safe for democracy.”  Democracy though, eluded an entire segment of American society who struggled with the realities of Jim Crow laws, legal segregation, and general racist attitudes.  African American citizens across the nation—especially in the American South—had little access to high-paying jobs, educational opportunities, and suffered from disenfranchisement.  Throughout American history, the military served as a prism through which to view larger social concepts, and the First World War was no exception.  The Marine Corps excluded blacks entirely, the Navy restricted their service to menial roles as cooks and stewards, and the Army remained racially segregated.[1]   Despite this, many black men remained eager to reinforce their status as American citizens and fight for their country—hoping this would translate to broader social equality.  By war’s end, roughly 370,000 African Americans served in some capacity.

In order to meet the war’s demands, the War Department reorganized the US Army into a new divisional structure, and established one all-black combat division—the 92nd Division (mostly as a way of appeasing civil rights activists).  This division was comprised mostly of draftees and a select number of black volunteers and African Americans already serving in the Regular Army.  Additionally, the Army created numerous all-black support companies who served in other divisions.  Secretary of War Newton D. Baker also approved the commissioning of black Army officers, and the War Department established an officer training school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa (though few of these officers rose above the junior officer ranks).  However, this arrangement left out the African American National Guard units from around the nation.  Under the new structure, Divisions 1 through 25 were Regular Army units, Divisions 26 through 74 were reserved for the National Guard, and any division above 75 were part of the National Army (draftees).  The War Department rearranged the National Guard by state and by need, and established a series of mostly regional divisions (26-41).  Any Guard unit “orphaned” by this new system became part of the 42nd Division, which Douglas MacArthur described as “stretching across the nation like a rainbow” because it contained elements from 26 states and territories, but none of these divisions included all-black units such as the 8th Illinois or 15th New York.  When the 15th New York asked to join the new 42nd Division, one high ranking official denied their admittance and said that, “black was not one of the colors of the rainbow.”[3]  In order to avoid inciting anger from black civil and political leaders, the Army War College suggested establishing a black National Guard division consisting of two combat brigades.

The new provisional division became the 93rd Division, and included black National Guardsmen from the old 15th New York (369th Regiment) and the old 8th Illinois (370th Regiment).  Additionally, the 371st Regiment consisted of Guardsmen from Washington DC, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, and Massachusetts, and the 372nd Regiment included drafted soldiers from South Carolina.[2]  With the inclusion of the 92nd and 93rd Divisions, the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) officially included two black combat divisions, but their paths moved in two different directions.  The New York guardsmen became the first American black regiment to go “over there”, and they arrived in Brest, France in late December 1917, after watching white Guard units leave for France as part of either the 27th or 42nd Divisions.  Overall though, the 93rd traveled to Europe in piecemeal fashion, and never fought together as a single element.  The Illinois guardsmen did not arrive until April 1918.  Furthermore, unlike the other Divisions of the AEF, General Pershing violated his own stance on amalgamation when he ceded control of the 93rd to the French army, who in turn, supplied the soldiers with helmets and arms.  In early 1918, the New York troopers assisted French General Henri Gourand in his “elastic defense strategy,” and later in the year the 370th and 372nd regiments fought under Marshall Ferdinand Foch during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Additionally, the Illinois troops assisted the French during the Oise-Aisne Offensive just prior to the Armistice, where they earned the French Fourragère.[4]

In contrast to the 93rd, the nation’s other African American division did not arrive in France until the middle of 1918.  The 92nd Division took much longer to train and coalesce because they were comprised mostly of draftees without any military experience (and the War Department filled white units first).  Making matters more difficult, even after the 92nd reached full strength, the War Department refused to allow 25,000 black soldiers to train in a single location out of fear of potential violence with local populations (particularly in Southern training camps) and white soldiers.  Therefore, elements of the division trained for combat in locations scattered around the United States.[5]  The division began arriving in France in June 1918, when they were finally able to maneuver and train together as a unified division, though their artillery elements remained in the US.  Because the black officers trained at Fort Des Moines only studied infantry tactics, Army commanders argued that all artillery officers in the 92nd Division should be white.  This debate delayed the training of the 92nd’s artillery companies, and they did not join the rest of their division until late September and early October 1918.

Ultimately, both the 92nd and 93rd Divisions served admirably in combat.  Over 500 soldiers in the 93rd received the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) and other high honors for gallantry in the face of the enemy, and every regiment received a French unit citation.  However, after the war, the US Army generally ignored the 93rd’s contributions to the war effort because it recorded that “the 93rd Division spent zero days in training in line, zero days in sector, and zero days in battle,” despite the fact that the division suffered over 520 soldiers killed and over 2,600 wounded throughout 1918.[6]  Eventually the US government reversed their position and awarded 75 distinguished service crosses to soldiers in the 93rd, as well as two posthumous Medals of Honor in 1991 and 2015 respectively.  Conversely, the soldiers in the 92nd saw much less combat time.  Though they began training in the trenches in mid-August, they remained in a reserve capacity when General Pershing began his grand, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  By the end of October, the AEF had suffered heavy losses, and most of the reserve elements moved toward the front.  The 92nd Division began their advance in early November 1918.  Shortly thereafter, the Armistice ended the fighting, but the 92nd had suffered roughly 1,600 casualties (120 KIA).

Though members of both the 92nd and 93rd Divisions served valiantly on the front, the Wilson Administration refused to allow them to march alongside their white counterparts in official victory parades in France after the war.[7]  Their homecoming was also mixed.  For example, when the 369th returned to New York, they received a hero’s welcome and were a source of pride their community.  Their parade through Harlem was certainly a spectacle to behold.  Thousands of others though, returned to segregated communities, and despite serving their nation, Jim Crow laws denied them many of the rights associated with American democracy.[8]  In many ways, the experiences of black soldiers during the First World War did little to change their social status.  Black leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois continued to press for social change, but the “return to normalcy” of the 1920’s and the Depression in the 30’s did little to change social dynamics.  However, the experiences of black soldiers in World War I set the stage for the civil rights movement that emerged after the Second World War, when civil rights activists and black leaders ensured that established authorities would not continue to deny them civil liberties.  The military desegregated in 1948, and ultimately foreshadowed the larger desegregation movement that was about to begin.[9]


The photos above are available in the National Archives Catalog. Follow the Unwritten Record for more highlights from our special media holdings.



[1] Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 6.

[2] Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy, 71.

[3] Arthur W. Little, From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York’s Colored Volunteers (New York: Covici – Friede, 1936), 46-47.

[4] Frank E. Roberts, The American Foreign Legion: Black Soldiers of the 93rd in World War (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004).

[5] Williams, 81.

[6] Roberts, The American Foreign Legion.

[7] Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998), 177-185.

[8] Arthur E. Barbeau and Florette Henri, The Unknown Soldiers: African-American Troops in World War I (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974).

[9] Foner, The Story of American Freedom.

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“God Speed, John Glenn”

With the passing of former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn on December 8, 2016, the country lost the last of the seven men who constituted the original astronaut team for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Glenn, Alan Shepherd, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra, and Donald Slayton were chosen to pilot the first U.S. manned space program, Project Mercury, in 1958, with all but Slayton taking turns in the one-person capsules between 1961 and 1963 (Slayton would later pilot a docking module for the Apollo-Soyuz Project in 1975).


Astronaut, John Glenn, in space suit seated in Mercury Capsule, is undergoing a flight simulation test. The first attempt to put a man into space by the U.S. aboard a Mercury Capsule will be launched atop a Redstone Rocket. This will be a sub-orbital trajectory shot down the Atlantic Missile Range. Local ID: 255-G-61-MR3-40

A Marine fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War, Glenn was selected for the Mercury program in 1959 and would be the third of the seven original astronauts to fly, following Shepherd’s and Grissom’s suborbital flights. Officially known as Mercury-Atlas (MA) 6, the capsule was nicknamed “Friendship 7” by Glenn. The flight took place February 20, 1962, and lasted just over 4 hours and 55 minutes, with Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, circling the planet three times.

A film titled “Friendship 7” was produced by General Dynamics Corporation in 1962 for NASA detailing Glenn’s flight, including his pre-flight preparations and actual footage from within the capsule during the flight. It also includes scenes showing NASA tracking stations from around the world.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Friendship 7 Mission: A Major Achievement and a Sign of More to Come. (

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Profile of John Glenn. (

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Friendship 7. (

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 40th Anniversary of the Mercury 7: Donald K “Deke” Slayton. (

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Spotlight: Celebrating Black History Month

Photos for this blog post were selected and scanned with the assistance of Kaitlyn Crain Enriquez.

The United States celebrates Black History Month in February. First established as Negro History Week by African-American historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, Black History Month was formally designated by president Gerald Ford in 1976:

“Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.

The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life. In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.

I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.”

Here, the Still Picture Branch has assembled photographs from the National Archives’ holdings that represent African American life and achievements over 130 years of American history. While the following photographic selections are by no means a comprehensive view of African American history, we have attempted to show a range of images that document the African American experience.

Nineteenth Century





A wide range of federal agencies are represented in these photos, including the National Park Service, the various branches of the military, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Women’s Bureau, NASA, the United States Information Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency. To find out more about the images, search for the item number in our online catalog.

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African-American Filmmaker William Greaves on Booker T. Washington & Frederick Douglass

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss is the supervisor of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.

William Greaves was a prominent African-American filmmaker and producer, working from the 1960s through the 2000s. Greaves began as an actor, becoming a member of The Actors Studio in 1948. He won an Emmy Award for the groundbreaking TV newsmagazine series Black Journal and is perhaps best known for his films Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968) and Ali, the Fighter (1971). Greaves’ career led him everywhere from the National Film Board of Canada, to Africa, to India and around the world. One of the stops along the way was with the National Park Service, where he made films about prominent African-Americans Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

Frederick Douglass: An American Life was released in 1985. The film was available for purchase, along with Booker T. Washington: The Life and the Legacy at museum gift shops at NPS sites that are historically tied to anti-slavery movements – such as Harpers Ferry National Historical ParkThe film may have also been part of public programming at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC.

Booker T. Washington: The Life and the Legacy was released in 1986 and may also have been incorporated into public programs at the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Virginia.

These films are part of the Harpers Ferry collection from the National Park Service.  NARA received the Harpers Ferry materials in the winter of 2012/2013. William Greaves’ films were discovered this winter by one of our Motion Picture Archivists identifying titles within the collection. The film was then delivered to the Motion Picture Preservation lab where the copies went through condition assessment, archival arrangement, and digitization.

NARA is home to other William Greaves films, including the USIA film Wealth of a Nation and NASA’s Space for Women. As part of that discovery we established a relationship with Mr. Greaves wife, Louise, who we’re fortunate to be in contact with and have been able to provide her with digital copies and material for her husband’s archive. You can learn more about William Greaves at

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Hidden Women Update: WWI Camouflage in Action

You may remember our July 2016 post about the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps, made up of women artists who developed camouflage for use by American troops in Europe during World War I. The website Atlas Obscura also featured the story and photos in October 2016.


The women’s reserve camouflage corps of the National League for Women’s Service. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-1.

The Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps photos held by the National Archives show women designing and testing the camouflage in New York City parks, but what did that camouflage look like in the theater of combat? Thanks to Flashes of Action, one of many films digitized as part of a donor-funded digitization project, we now have the answer.

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Football Photographs at the National Archives

With the NFL playoffs underway, millions of fans will crowd around their television sets, eat buffalo wings, and cheer for (or against) the remaining Super Bowl contenders.  Yet football has played an important part in American culture far beyond the National Football League.  Photographs at the National Archives reflect the pervasiveness of football in United States history, ranging from overseas army bases to Japanese internment camps, and from local towns to large cities.  The following images represent some of the Still Photo Branch’s most popular series.

Photos from the U.S. Army Signal Corps:


Photos from the War Relocation Authority:


Photos from the United States Information Agency (USIA):


Photos from DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern:


The photos above are available in the National Archives Catalog.  Follow the Unwritten Record for more highlights from our special media holdings.

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A Look at Inauguration Day Through the Years: Inaugural Photographs and Facts

Photos for this blog post were collated and scanned with the assistance of Michael Bloomfield.

With regard to the inauguration of a president, the United States Constitution only stipulates the date and time of the inauguration, as well as the words of the Presidential Oath of Office. Given this lack of detail, traditions surrounding the U.S. Presidential Inauguration have grown and evolved since Washington’s 1789 inauguration. In a look back at past inaugural ceremonies, the NARA Still Picture Staff presents photographs and facts covering Inauguration Day celebrations and traditions throughout the years.

George Washington is the only president to be inaugurated in two different cities. The first United States Presidential Inauguration occurred on April 30, 1789, when Washington took the oath of office on the Balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Washington’s second inauguration took place in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793.

Edit note: George Washington is the only elected president to be inaugurated in two different cities. Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Lyndon Johnson were each inaugurated in different cities after taking over office due to a President’s death.


148-GW-197: The Inauguration of George Washington as President. Federal Hall, New York City, April, 1789. From the paining by Alonzo Chappel.

The Residence Act of 1790 called for the construction of a permanent capital city for the United States of America along the banks of the Potomac River. Ten years later the United States Government officially moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. and in 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. Below is a photo of Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, which is the earliest photograph of an inauguration ceremony that the NARA Still Picture Unit holds.


111-BA-1444: Lincoln’s 1st Inauguration


DM-Reece-M95: Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration


64-M-164: Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration

Traditionally, retired/retiring presidents have attended the inaugurations of their successors. However, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant had a mutual dislike for each other. As a result, Johnson did not attend Grant’s inauguration ceremony.


111-BA-1444: Ulysses S. Grant’s 1st Inauguration

Although Ford’s Model T was introduced in 1908, president-elects continued to ride to the inauguration ceremony in the traditional horse and carriage. Warren G. Harding broke this tradition in 1921 when he became the first president to ride to and from his inaugural ceremony in an automobile.


111-SC-73497: Taken 3/4/1921. President Warren G. Harding delivering his inaugural address.

Administering the oath of office is typically done by the Chief Justice of the United States, which is a tradition that arose out of Washington’s second inauguration. William H. Taft, who served as Chief Justice after his presidency, is the only former president to take and administer the  the Presidential oath office. Taft administered the oath to Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and again in 1925 to Herbert Hoover.


80-HAS-3A-1: President Coolidge delivering address. Taken 3/4/1925


111-SC-91405: Mr. Hoover leaving the White House for the Capitol accompanied by President Coolidge. Senator Moses (left) and Representative Snell are in the front seats. Taken 3/4/1929.


111-SC-91414: President Hoover delivering his inaugural address. March 4, 1929.

Prior to George Washington’s second inauguration, the Continental Congress established March 4th as the official inauguration date. March 4th remained the official inauguration date until the enactment of the 20th Amendment in 1933, which moved the date of inauguration from March to “noon on the 20th day of January.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937 was the first inauguration ceremony to occur on January 20th.


127-PR-FDR-528286: Inaugural Parade, March 4, 1933


208-N-303443: Standing in a driving rain, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt takes the oath of office on January 20, 1937.


208-PU-171C-13: 1941, Roosevelt’s 3rd Inauguration


208-PU-171C-21: Scene from FDR’s 1945 Inauguration

President Harry Truman’s 1949 inauguration was the first inauguration to be televised.


208-PU-202D-11:Vice President Harry S. Truman is sworn in as President of the United States by Chief Justice Harlan Stone in the White House at 7:09 PM on April 12, 1945, just hours following the sudden death of President Roosevelt.


80-G-706749: The inauguration ceremony of President Harry S. Truman and Vice President Alben W. Barkley at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt served three full presidential terms and was elected to a fourth term. After his death, the 22nd Amendment was passed by Congress, which limited the number of terms a president can serve. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to be inaugurated under the new term limits.


79-AR-1839-1-A: Scene from Eisenhower’s Inauguration.


80-G-477632: Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower is sworn in as President of the U.S. to succeed President Harry S. Truman by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.


79-AR-1839-1-R: Scene from Eisenhower’s Inaugural parade.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy became the first and only Roman Catholic to be sworn in as president.


79-AR-6280-A: John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration


79-AR-6280-J: Kennedy’s Inauguration Parade

The role of the First Lady during the inauguration ceremonies has evolved throughout the years. In 1809, Dolley Madison became the first First Lady to attend an inauguration. It wasn’t until 1965, when Lady Bird Johnson held the family Bible during the presidential oath of office, that a First Lady was given an active role in the inaugural ceremony.


551-PRES-1-1: Lyndon B. Johnson’s Inaugural Parade

There are no guidelines as to where an inauguration takes place, including whether it occurs indoors or outside. Luckily, between 1789 and 1993, 35 inaugurations have been able to enjoy clear weather. However, Ronald Reagan’s first and second inauguration both hold records related to the weather. His first inauguration, which occurred on Jan. 20, 1981, holds the record for being the warmest inauguration day at 55°.  His second inauguration, January 21, 1985,  is the coldest on record at 7°.


330-CFD-DN-SC-83-02723: Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration

Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the Internet.


330-CFD-DF-SD-02-00807: Bill Clinton’s 1st Inauguration

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The Mighty Soo: Construction of the Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

When the Soo Canal was completed at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855, the journey through the rapids of the St. Mary’s river went from seven weeks of arduous portaging to seven minutes through the newly constructed State Locks.1 Over the next century, four locks would be constructed, repaired, and replaced, leading to more tons of freight passing through the Soo Locks in the mid-20th century than the Panama, Suez, and Manchester canals combined.2

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