Tag Archives: military history

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.

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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.

Jack Benny USO Show Photographs, August 1945

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

Snapshot of comedian Jack Benny, wearing a leather trench coat, pictured standing in front of the steps of Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Snapshot of comedian Jack Benny, wearing a leather trench coat, pictured standing in front of the steps of Schloss Wilhelmshöhe—the U.S. Military Government district headquarters—in Kassel, Germany, around August 1945. Benny was on a six-week USO show tour of U.S. military posts in Europe with Ingrid Bergman and Larry Adler. [WWII 73.B5.F5.3], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina would like to share an interesting find discovered while processing a new collection. Robert J. Pleasants of Wake County, North Carolina, served in the U.S. Navy from 1932 to 1934; in World War II with the U.S. Army with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) from 1944 to 1946 in Europe; and is believed to be the longest-serving Wake County sheriff (1946-1978).

From May 1945 to March 1946, Pleasants was stationed in the Kassel District of Germany, under the U.S. Office of Military Government during the occupation of Germany. He was in the Food and Agriculture Section, responsible for managing and developing food and agriculture supplies, assisting with the growth and planting of crops, and dispersing food to the peoples of Germany in the midst of a massive food shortage at the end of World War II.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (middle, sitting) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left, sitting), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (middle, sitting) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left, sitting), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car for the Kassel district in Germany around August 1945. The car is parked next to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, the U.S. Military Government district headquarters. Bergman and Adler were on a six-week Jack Benny USO show tour of U.S. military posts. [WWII 73.B5.F5.4], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

I am in the midst of processing, organizing, describing, and preserving Robert Pleasants’ papers. During the processing of a collection, you never know for sure what you are going to find, whether it be a rare document, a personal letter, or a just lot of collectible postcards from another country. You never really know the historical significance of the materials until you go through them systematically, in order that researchers end up with a collection that is arranged to allow easy access and described well enough for people to find all sorts of things they may be looking for.

While working on Pleasants’ papers, I came across several photographs that I had to do some research. Pleasants himself typed descriptions on the back of the images after the war, but you still have to check. Turns out they are three photographs of Jack Benny, movie star Ingrid Bergman, and Larry Adler (one of the world’s best harmonica players). The three performers were in Kassel, Germany, in August 1945 as part of the Jack Benny USO Show, which was conducted over six weeks throughout the summer of 1945 as a morale boost to the wearied U.S. troops in Germany.

Robert Pleasants, as an officer in the U.S. Military Government’s offices in Kassel, helped tour Benny, Bergman, and Adler around in military vehicles while they were performing for the troops there. These three photographs show the three individuals in candid moments around the time of their performances, and offer us a look at a remarkable period in the history of WWII.

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (right) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car

Snapshot of movie actress Ingrid Bergman (right) and world-famous harmonica player Larry Adler (left), sitting in a U.S. Military Government car for the Kassel district in Germany around August 1945, shown while they were signing autographs. The car is parked next to Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, the U.S. Military Government district headquarters. Bergman and Adler were on a six-week Jack Benny USO show tour of U.S. military posts. [WWII 73.B5.F5.5], Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Join Us for World War I Social Media Day on April 11

Seven smiling French and American soldiers

Seven smiling French and American soldiers. From the George W. McIver Papers, World War I Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Available online through the NC Digital Collections.

The Smithsonian is coordinating a World War I social media day on April 11, 2017. On that day, they plan to host Q&As, pop quizzes, and other online events while joining with institutions like the Presidential Libraries and the National Park Service to post content related to World War I. A schedule of events is available through the National Museum of American History’s website.

The Smithsonian has also invited other libraries, archives, and museums from around the world to join the discussion on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms using the hashtag #WorldWar1. The State Archives of North Carolina (@NCArchives) and the State Library of North Carolina (@ncpedia) plan to take part, as do several of our sister institutions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including the NC Digital Heritage Center (@ncdhc), Wilson Library (@WilsonLibUNC), and the North Carolina Collection (@NCCollection).  Other Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (@ncculture) institutions will likely participate as well, which means there should be quite a bit of North Carolina content available on that day.

So please join us on Wednesday, April 11 to learn more about World War I!

Alfred Fowler and the Vietnam War

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

Snapshot of Alfred Fowler standing next to an artillery gun in a bunker in Vietnam

VW 1.B2.F12.1: Snapshot of Alfred Fowler standing next to an artillery gun in a bunker in Vietnam at an unknown location in June 1968, during his service with B Battery, 321st Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Photograph sent to his wife Cynthia Fowler with a June 23, 1968, letter. From the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

In honor of Black History Month, the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina wants to feature one of its most important collections from the Vietnam War—the Alfred Fowler Papers.

Alfred Fowler was born on September 26, 1942, in Whites Creek Township in Bladen County, North Carolina. His parents were John Edd and Laney (Shaw) Fowler. Alfred’s mother died when he was five years old, leaving him to be raised by his father, with whom he was not very close. Alfred’s mother gave birth to nine living children, the oldest of whom—Mary Lee—worked to raise Alfred and his siblings. Growing up, Alfred was very close to his youngest sister Mabel.

Alfred Fowler would meet Cynthia L. Bryant while the two were in New York in the 1960s. Bryant was from Sanford, North Carolina. Alfred Fowler married Cynthia in August 1966, and they remained in New York until January 1967. In January 1967, the couple moved to Sanford, and lived with Cynthia’s parents on South Horner Boulevard.

Alfred Fowler worked at the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics plant in Sanford prior to his service in the Vietnam War. Seattle-founded Cornell-Dubilier, a pioneer in producing capacitors for radios and other electronics, opened a Sanford plant in 1955. Fowler worked in a laboratory at the company testing its products.

Prior to moving to North Carolina, Alfred Fowler had attempted to enlist voluntarily in the U.S. military, but was rejected three times by the military—likely due to his having high blood pressure. When the Fowlers relocated to North Carolina, however, Alfred received his draft board notice about six months later on July 3, 1967. Partly due to the Fowlers’ recent relocation, Alfred would receive draft notices from three different local draft boards between August and October 1967, as different localities were trying to claim him for draft quotas. He received his final draft notice, which indicated his date of induction would be in November 1967.

Alfred Fowler was inducted into the U.S. Army as a private on November 28, 1967. He entered basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in December 1967, where he remained until February 1968. Alfred was assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, in the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Bragg. He would be transferred to Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma, arriving there between February 9 and February 10, 1968. While at Fort Sill, Fowler was a member of Battery E of the 3rd Training Battalion at the U.S. Army Training Center-Field Artillery command. It was during his nearly three-month stay at Fort Sill that Fowler learned how to operate a variety of field artillery guns, which he came to utilize in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam.

Certificate for Alfred Fowler’s Bronze Star Medal

Certificate for Alfred Fowler’s Bronze Star Medal. From the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Serving with Battery B of the 2nd Battalion, 321st Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Alfred Fowler was sent to Vietnam with his regiment between the end of April and the first week of May 1968. He was promoted to corporal by July 3, 1968. Fowler’s overseas service ended in April 1969 after a year-long term in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Fowler’s artillery unit participated in regular firefights with the Viet Cong. Upon returning to the United States, he was transferred to Fort Carson in Colorado—rather than his preferred location of Fort Bragg—sometime in May 1969. Fowler served at Fort Carson until being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on November 26, 1969.

Alfred Fowler returned to work at his job with Cornell-Dubilier, and would attend Central Carolina Community College in Sanford for a couple of years. Fowler’s family recollects that he suffered mood swings and mental distress from his service in Vietnam, believing this to be what today is identified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He never would openly discuss his service, shielding his family from the horrors of what he experienced in Vietnam. Alfred had changed quite a bit upon his return from service, and the letters he wrote from Vietnam indicate some of the struggles he was going through during combat.

Since they had been newlyweds when he left for the U.S. Army, Alfred and Cynthia Fowler would have to relearn to live with each other, facing the challenges of adjusting to the drastic personal and cultural changes of the late 1960s as an African American couple in North Carolina. The Fowlers would remain together until Alfred’s death on July 17, 2004. He was buried at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake, North Carolina.

You can learn more about Alfred Fowler from his collection, the Alfred Fowler Papers (VW 1) in the Vietnam War Papers of the Military Collection, that contains more than 180 letters written between him and his wife during Fowler’s service in the Vietnam War.

You also can currently see Alfred Fowler’s Vietnam War Army uniform on display in the North Carolina Museum of History’s “Call to Arms” Gallery on the Third Floor of the Museum in the Vietnam War section of the exhibit.

Troop Returns Digital Collection Complete

[This blog post comes from Olivia Carlisle, Digitization Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.]

The Troop Returns Digital Collection is now complete via the North Carolina Digital Collections. This collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War North Carolina Continental Line. Records dated after the Revolutionary War primarily deal with the county and state militia troops.

troop_returns_blog_post_2_picture

“Return of the North Carolina Brigade of Foot commanded by Brigadier General Hogun.” Troop Returns. Military Collection. State Archives of North Carolina.

Unique Items included in the latest upload:

  • The commission of William Darlet as 1st Lieutenant of the 1st Regiment of the North Carolina militia in 1815
  • Documents include Militia Regulations from 1808
  • An accounting of militia troops in the United States versus the state/territory

For more information on how the Troop Returns are organized and what may be included please see the first blog post on the collection, or consult the digital collection landing page. To view the items in the collection in a list format, please see the Troop Returns finding aid.