Tag Archives: Military Collection

Rare Irving Berlin WWII Play Photographs Online

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Photograph of songwriter Irving Berlin, wearing his U.S. Army uniform, standing against a wall next to a poster advertising the only civilian performance of Berlin’s traveling U.S. military play This Is The Army at the Teatro Reale dell’Opera in Rome, Italy, in June 1944. The play was in Rome performing for U.S. military personnel during an international tour in World War II (June 1944) [Photograph by: Zinn Arthur].

The State Archives of North Carolina’s Military Collection is excited to announce the availability online of 416 original photographs documenting the international tour of American songwriter Irving Berlin’s traveling U.S. Army play This Is The Army was performed from October 1943 through October 1945 during World War II. Developed from the 1942 Broadway musical play and the 1943 Hollywood film of the same name, This Is The Army (abbreviated by the cast and crew as “TITA”) was initially designed to raise money for the war effort in the United States, and featured one of the most famous wartime songs of the 1940s “This Is The Army, Mister Jones.” TITA became the biggest and best-known morale-boosting show of World War II in the U.S.

Beginning in October 1943, TITA left the U.S. for England, where it remained through February 1944. From there, they traveled to North Africa, Italy, Egypt, Iran, India, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Guam, Mogmog Island, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Hawaii, and numerous other locations in the Pacific Theater. The play traveled with makeshift stages that they set up on numerous locations and U.S. military installations/camps. The play’s cast played to hundreds of thousands of U.S. service individuals, including women’s bases and camps such as the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) camps in the Pacific. They traveled by troop transport ships, rented cargo ships, and landing crafts.

View of African-American dancer, soloist, and comedian James “Stumpy” Cross introducing the song “Shoo Shoo Baby” during a performance by cast members of Irving Berlin’s traveling U.S. military play This Is The Army the hospital at Camp Huckstep in Cairo, Egypt, in August 1944. Part of the play’s “jam band” is pictured playing in the background. Photograph taken while the cast was stationed at Camp Huckstep to perform for U.S. military personnel in Cairo, Egypt, during an international tour (August 1944) [Photograph by: Zinn Arthur].

This Is The Army was the only full-integrated military unit in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII, with African American men eating, performing, and traveling with their fellow white cast and crew members. Many of the men were not just performers before the war, but also recruited to perform in the cast from the U.S. Army ranks in 1943. The cast was all-male, which required the men to dress as women in drag for the women sketches in the play. In all, the play would prove to be the beginning of the eventual desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces under President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 Executive Order 9981.

This particular collection of photographs was mostly taken by singer and later celebrity photographer Zinn Arthur. Arthur would select and send these photographs to fellow cast member and singer Robert Summerlin of Tarboro, N.C. Both men would add identifications to the images over the years, resulting in the collection currently held at the State Archives. This collection of the This Is The Army photographs is the only known, publicly-available collection of these images in the United States.

The complete set of photographs is available online in an album through the State Archives’ Flickr page. Original programs and tickets for the play are available for viewing in-house in the State Archives’ public Search Room.

Photograph of singer Robert Summerlin from the cast of Irving Berlin’s traveling U.S. military play This Is The Army, standing in front of a lifeboat on the deck of the small freighter El Libertador, which carried the cast and crew of the play around the South Pacific in May 1945 during World War II. The ship was in Manila, the Philippines, when the photograph was taken. Photograph taken while the play was traveling throughout the South Pacific to perform for U.S. military personnel during their international tour [May 1945] [Photograph by: Zinn Arthur].

Advertisements

Help Preserve and Protect N.C. Military History

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina has launched, through the institution’s nonprofit support organization, the “Preserve N.C. Military History” fundraising effort. The goal is to raise $9,500 to hire a contract archivist for 6 months or longer to help the Military Collection Archivist process, organize, describe, and make available a selection of over 75 feet of original military records and papers documenting North Carolina’s military history. 

The materials selected for this work document the home front in every North Carolina county during WWI and WWII, and cover a range of enlisted military personnel from the state in all military branches for multiple wars. These are the records needing the most archival work, and containing valuable historical information touching everyone in North Carolina.

Only the most basic descriptions exist for some collections, and in many cases no descriptions exist yet at all for new collections awaiting to be used by the public. The papers have not yet been indexed in any detail. The collections hold artwork, letters, home front materials, photographs, and posters—all created by or documenting North Carolinians from all over the state. Children’s WWII home front posters, photographs of Red Cross activities, and letters from a U.S. Navy sailor in the Pacific Theater, are just a sampling of what is included. The work will benefit the general public, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and anyone interested in the state’s military history.

We need your help to ensure that this work can be completed. Getting someone who has the training and experience needed to do this type of work is difficult unless he or she can be financially compensated, and we need the funds in order to do so. All of the money raised will go to pay for this contract archivist position.

Selected materials from this project will be digitized and made available to the public online in the North Carolina Digital Collections. Photographs from the collections will be put online through the State Archives’ Flickr page. Updates on the work will be posted regularly to the State Archives’ social media.

To support this fundraising effort, we ask you to spread the word about this through your social media, sharing it with anyone you think would be interested in supporting this significant work. You can donate money to the “Preserve N.C. Military History” GoFundMe page. Every little bit helps! Invest in the state’s proud military heritage, and ensure that future generations will learn of the sacrifices of its citizens in times of war.

[By Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist]

Help the Military Collection Identify WWII
CBI Theater Photos

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina needs the public’s help in identifying a set of photographs from World War II that have no identifications or descriptions. The photographs are from the papers of Raleigh native, William C. Cutts, who served in the Pacific Theater in WWII as an aircraft fabric and dope mechanic with the 69th Depot Replacement Squadron, 301st Air Depot Group, U.S. Army Air Forces. Cutts worked as a civilian at Seymour Johnson Field in Goldsboro before being inducted into military service in 1944. As a civilian and later as an Air Force mechanic, Cutts was listed as an aircraft fabric and dope worker, which involved laying out, cutting and sewing, and treating airplane fabric to cover damaged control surfaces and airplane fuselages. He would cover and patch airplanes’ surfaces with fabric, applying paint and dope to the fabric [dope is a type of lacquer applied to fabric-covered aircraft, that tightens and stiffens fabric stretched over airframes, rendering them airtight and weatherproof].

It is unclear as to where Cutts was stationed in the Pacific Theater during the war. The photographs in Cutts’ papers are a set of original reproduction photographs of scenes in Asia made during or just after WWII. The photographs all appear to have been taken in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of WWII, in southern and eastern Asia. However, it is not readily evident from his service papers that he ever served in the CBI Theater—just in the Pacific. It is also not known if Cutts took or—more commonly as WWII servicemen did then—collected the photographic prints. Even so, the photographs show rare scenes of the CBI Theater.

Towards that end, we need the public’s help in identifying the images. All of the photographs have been uploaded into the State Archives’ Flickr page in the album “William C. Cutts WWII Images” [insert link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/albums/72157694493198435]. We are asking for members of the public to help with the descriptions of the photographs. You can create a free Flickr account and add comments to these photographs with any information you may have on them. We need to create image descriptions that are reliable and historically accurate for researchers and the public who are relying on our historical materials for research, exhibits, school assignments, and public programs.

Because of this, we need to know the information you have on the image, how you know it (if from a website, please include a link to the page), and your name. If you personally recognize an area or scene from experience or family knowledge, please share the information through the image comments. Not all of the information will be used for the descriptions—as some of it may contradict what others have given. Also, we need reliable sources of information, so Wikipedia and Pinterest are not accepted as sources of information. If there is a comparable photograph online through another archives, museum, military veteran, or even the Library of Congress, please share that link in the comments on the images in the Flickr album.

The Military Collection Archivist will research the images using all of the provided information, comparing and contrasting what has been provided from the public for the most reliably-accurate image descriptions. The photograph descriptions on Flickr will be updated after they are completed, and the collection finding aid will have the descriptions added. We will be adding the names of people who assisted with the image descriptions to the William C. Cutts Papers finding aid, so you all will be credited for the effort.

WWII 112.F1.1: Small contact print of a studio portrait of the Cutts family of Raleigh, N.C., during World War II. Pictured are (left to right): Mary Jeanette Champion Cutts; Mary Jeannette Cutts; and William C. Cutts (wearing his U.S. Army Air Forces uniform) (1940s) [from William C. Cutts Papers, WWII 112, WWII Papers, Military Collection].
WWII 112.F2.9: Unidentified scene during World War II, believed to be in the CBI Theater [from William C. Cutts Papers, WWII 112, WWII Papers, Military Collection].

 

See World War I Materials at Alamance Community College on March 29

[This blog post comes from Sarah Koonts, Director of Archives and Records for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Isham B. Hudson's war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Isham B. Hudson’s war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

One of the most rewarding experiences as State Archivist is the development of special exhibits utilizing a few unique original materials from our collections.  We develop these special exhibits on occasion to partner with a local historical society, museum, or historic site, often to promote a specific anniversary or event.  This year we are thrilled to offer a special exhibit with one of our favorite partners, Alamance Community College.  We invite you to join us March 29 for a full slate of programming around the centennial of World War I.

Held at the main building on the Carrington-Scott Campus of Alamance Community College (1247 Jimmie Kerr Road in Graham), the special exhibit will be held from 9 a.m.—5 p.m. on March 29.  Due to the number of school groups scheduled for the morning, the public is encouraged to consider an afternoon visit, if possible.  During the event, you can see some World War I materials from our military collections, a traveling exhibit about North Carolina and the Great War, and speak with costumed living- history specialists interpreting military service from the period.In addition, there will be soldier, nurse, and Red Cross uniforms on display from the Haw River Museum, Alamance County Historical Association, and the Women Veterans Historical Project from UNC, Greensboro.  Kids can join in the fun by coloring their own WWI poster and participating in other activities throughout the building.

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

We enjoy taking our treasures out to locations outside of Raleigh.  It is fun to share our collections and explain a little more about what we do at the State Archives.  North Carolina has a rich military history and our World Ward I materials are among the most prized.  Come visit Alamance Community College on March 29 to learn more about that history from 100 years ago.

New Collection of a U.S. Army Comic Books Series Available

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina would like to announce the recent donation of the PS: Preventive Maintenance Monthly Collection. The PS Collection is composed currently of 69 issues of the U.S. Army technical bulletin PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, ranging from 1953 to 1993 (with gaps).

Two-page spread of the PS: Preventive Maintenance Monthly

PS: Preventive Maintenance Monthly, Issue 203, 1969

The bulletin uses cartoon characters and graphics in a comic-book style to add humor to maintenance challenges and equipment repair processes for Army soldiers, Army civilians, and contractors that own, operate, and maintain the Army’s equipment—particularly vehicles and tanks. PS is filled with cartoons detailing technical, safety, and policy information, with artwork from leading cartoons and comic-book artists. The PS: Preventive Maintenance Monthly Collection is available for use in the Search Room at the State Archives, with a finding aid consisting of an inventory of the bulletin’s issues available.

As the U.S. Army ramped up for its involvement in the Korean War between 1950 and 1951, it realized that its soldiers were encountering problems with their Army equipment—particularly vehicles and tanks. The Army had experienced some degree of acceptance and success during World War II in utilizing cartoons for educational purposes through the publication Army Motors. Army Motors utilized the cartoon drawings of then Cpl. Will Eisner, who was already famous for his work on the comic book The Spirit when he was drafted for duty during WWII. An established comic-book writer, artist, and editor, Eisner had been appropriated to draw such characters for WWII publications (including Army Motors) as Private Joe Dope, Connie Rodd, and Master Sergeant Half-Mast McCanick. In 1951, the U.S. Army hired Eisner to create similar instructional material for its new publication to address equipment issues, called PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly. PS is an official Army technical bulletin.

Eisner founded the American Visuals Corporation in the late 1940s as a commercial cartoon artwork company. The company produced educational cartoons and illustrations and giveaway comics for a variety of clients and industries. As part of AVC’s contracts, PS was created by Eisner and his contract artists, with him serving as the publication’s artistic director from its inception in 1951 through the end of 1971. In the case of PS, Eisner created the continuity section and the art of each issue, based upon the technical manuscripts provided to him by the Army’s PS staff. As part of his contract with the magazine, Eisner was sent on location to places like Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, in order to meet soldiers and better understand the situations they and their equipment experienced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Each issue of the PS magazine consisted of a color comic-book-style cover, often designed and drawn by Eisner; eight full pages of a four-color comic continuity story in the middle; and the rest of the publication filled with technical, safety, and policy information printed in two colors to save money. The continuity story starred Eisner’s earlier character, and was called “Joe’s Dope Sheet.” Each episode offers the same cautionary tale: a soldier who ignores preventive maintenance learns of its importance in the end.

The Military Collection could use your help in building the collection’s holdings of issues of PS. There are over 750 issues as of 2017. If you or someone you know has any issues of PS: Preventive Maintenance Monthly and are willing to donate them, please contact Military Collection Archivist Matthew Peek by phone at 919-807-7314 or by email at matthew.peek@ncdcr.gov. Any new issues will be added to the collection. We hope to build it into one of the largest collections of PS in the United States.

New Siler City Veteran’s Vietnam War Collection Available

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr. standing next to the sign for Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands, ca. 1968

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr., wearing civilian clothes and dark-colored sunglasses, standing next to the sign for Headquarters Company, Headquarters, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands (USARYIS), on Okinawa during the Vietnam War around 1968. Military buildings and a car are seen in the background. Photograph taken by or collected by Grover M. Johnson Jr. while he was stationed on Okinawa at USARYIS (circa 1968). (VW 3.B3.F1.11)

One of the goals of the Military Collection in the coming years is to grow its collection of materials documenting North Carolinians and North Carolina military installations during the Vietnam War era between 1961 and 1975. We are excited to announce the availability of the recently-processed Grover M. Johnson Jr. Papers.

The Grover M. Johnson Jr. Papers is composed of correspondence, photographs, 35mm and 126 Format color slides, and miscellaneous materials, documenting the U.S. Army service of Grover M. Johnson Jr. of Siler City, N.C., during the Vietnam War from November 1966 to October 1968. He served for several months in the 569th General Supply Company at the U.S. Army’s Camp Davies, just outside of Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. For most of his overseas service during the war, Johnson Jr. served on Okinawa in the Headquarters Company at Headquarters, U.S. Army Ryukyu Islands (USARYIS).

The bulk of the collection is composed of Johnson Jr.’s letters from November 1966 to September 1968, which document his daily existence in military camps, doing guard duty in Vietnam, his sightseeing and travels, activities and sports he engaged in, and the average life of a non-combat Army soldier during the war. The correspondence gives Johnson Jr.’s impressions of the culture and society he encounters in Saigon and Okinawa.

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr. standing in an alley behind some buildings in an unidentified city.

Photograph of Grover M. Johnson Jr., wearing civilian clothes and dark-colored sunglasses, standing in an alley behind some buildings in an unidentified city [believed to be on Okinawa], with two young girls standing in the middle of the alley behind Johnson Jr. Photograph taken while Johnson Jr. was stationed on Okinawa at USARYIS (undated). (VW 3.B3.F1.17)

Perhaps the most significant items in the collection are the 178 photographs, 35mm color slides, and 126 Format color slides taken by Grover Johnson Jr. as a hobby while he was stationed in Vietnam and Okinawa. The majority of the photographs were taken in and around Saigon and Camp Davies in 1967, and the color slides were all taken on Okinawa in 1968. They offer a rare, unedited look at civilian and soldier life just as the Vietnam War was escalating.

The collection is available for research in the Vietnam War Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina. All of Johnson’s Vietnam photographs have been digitized, and are available for viewing online with full descriptions through the State Archives’ Flickr page.

New Camp Butner German POW Collections Available

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

German prisoner of war postcard from World War IIThe Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the availability of two new collections documenting German prisoners of war (POWs) and one Italian POW at Camp Butner, N. C., during World War II. By the end of 1943, nearly 50,000 Italian POWs were held in 27 camps in 23 states, including at Camp Butner in North Carolina. German POWs would come to Camp Butner by the fall of 1943 after Rommel’s defeat in North Africa created a large number of German war prisoners. The POWs at Camp Butner built various structures, including a church, and had their own camp newsletter in German entitled Lager Fackel. Many of the POWs worked in small satellite camps throughout central North Carolina, being contracted out to farmers and other businesses for home front work.

Letter from German prisoner of war during World War II.The Camp Butner POW Correspondence Collection is composed of seventeen letters and postcards written by one Italian and four German prisoners of war (POWs) who were imprisoned at Camp Butner, N.C., from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. The correspondence is written in Italian and German, respectively, and is not yet translated. The bulk of the correspondence was written by Werner Trötschel and Friedrich Vodak of Germany. Trötschel’s correspondence includes letters and postcards from when he was initially a POW at Fort Bragg, N.C., before he was assigned long-term to Camp Butner. The collection is one of the largest-known groups of Camp Butner POW correspondence in North Carolina.

Another new collection is composed of one original 20-page issue of the German-language POW newsletter Lager Fackel (or “Camp Torch” in English), created by German POWs imprisoned at Camp Butner, N.C., during World War II. The newsletter was printed between 1945 and 1946. This issue is Volume 2, Issue 9, dated February 1946. It was owned and read by German POW Ernst Lüers while he was imprisoned at Camp Butner in 1946. The newsletter was subtitled in German “Wochenzeitung der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen des Lagers Butner und seiner Nebenlager,” translated as “Weekly newspaper of German prisoners of war Camp Butner and its subcamps.” The newsletter had such columns (loosely translated into English) as “From the Historical Consciousness,” “Press Review,” “Reconstruction in Germany,” “Free Time Design,” “The Green Light,” Sports at Camp Butner,” Letter Cold [?],” and “Riddle Corner.”