Tag Archives: military history

Announcing the Veterans Oral History Project!

WWII Oral History Project (1)

The State Archives of North Carolina & North Carolina Government & Heritage Library are proud to present the Veterans Oral History Transcription Project featuring 12 remarkable women.

The LSTA grant-funded and crowdsourced audio transcription project is one of the first of its kind!  We have 12 audio format interviews with military veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for any military service, engagement, or war, and who were born and/or raised in the state of North Carolina; were stationed for extended time in North Carolina military installations; or have lived in the state for an extended time.

We invite you to be a part of history by helping us transcribe.

Together, we can make women’s military history more accessible!

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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].

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.

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 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.”

New Amateur World War II Guadalcanal Films Online

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

Lunga Beach (Guadalcanal), Summer 1943 [WWII 40.MPF1]

From the film: “Lunga Beach (Guadalcanal), Summer 1943 [WWII 40.MPF1],” part of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina is excited to announce the availability online of two original short amateur films from World War II. The films, shot by Daniel D. Price of Mount Olive, N.C., were made while Price and his friend Bill Carroll were stationed with the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 38th Air Materials Squadron on Lunga Beach on the island of Guadalcanal in 1943. The rare films are original, unedited amateur footage of island life in the Pacific Theater during World War II from the perspective of a North Carolinian.

The amateur 16mm footage was shot in the summer and fall of 1943, while Price was camped and working along the Lunga Beach Fighter Strip. There is a black-and-white film shot in the summer of 1943, and a very rare color film shot in the fall of 1943. The black-and-white film shows men swimming on Lunga Beach, sitting in tents, and providing paid laundry operations for fellow servicemen; various U.S. Air Force planes on the Lunga Beach Fighter Strip; and other scenes around the camp.

The color film was taken by Price and Carroll during an excursion from Lunga Beach to Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal in a U.S. Army jeep. The film shows the men traveling in the jeep until it gets stuck in a muddy creek. It also shows the interior of Price’s Air Force supply parts depot Quonset hut, with Price himself visible in the film. The original films are a rare look at the life of a North Carolina Air Force serviceman in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of these films is Daniel Price himself, who worked with the Military Collection to describe every scene within the films he shot in 1943. Price’s crisp memory recalls detailed information about the scenes—including names of men pictured in the films—in films which Price had not seen since they were shot in 1943. This rare footage has been digitized, and the original 16mm film reels preserved, through the generous support of a Basic Film Preservation Grant by the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Both films are available online through the State Archives’ YouTube page, with complete scene descriptions included.

We hope the public enjoys seeing these unique pieces of WWII history. A detailed finding aid for the films is available in the State Archives’ public Search Room in Raleigh, N.C.