• Pages

  • Categories

  • Editors

Tag Archives: World War II

- “These are the men who took the cliffs”: Virginians on D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches of France, launching the invasion that would push the Nazis out of France and eventually end the Second World War in Europe. This year’s commemoration may be the last to include a significant number of veterans, most of whom are now in their mid-90s. With that somber reality in mind, the Virginia World War I and World War II Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour set out to gather stories of Virginia’s men and women who helped win the Second World War. They include several who, on that historic day in June, “embarked upon the Great Crusade [to] bring about the destruction of the German war machine.”

William T. O’Neill, for example, served on the U.S. LCT (6) 544, one of more than 4,000 landing crafts that were part of the massive invasion fleet. The craft was designed to transport tanks and other cargo; on D-Day, the 544’s specific mission was to deliver a Headquarters 1st Infantry scout team and a squad of the 5th Battalion Special Combat Engineers to a beach called Fox Green. They continued to land personnel throughout the day, as well as bringing the wounded off the beaches. O’Neill also witnessed, and photographed, the sinking of the USS Susan B. Anthony.

 

Major Thomas Dry Howie, who taught at Staunton … read more »

Posted in Private Papers Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , , ,
Leave a comment
Share |

- Then You Owe Me a Drink!: W. W. Poland’s WWII Short Snorter


W. W. Poland (right) and companion.

Recently Susan Chiarello brought in a very unusual item to be scanned for the Virginia World War I/World War II Commission—her grandfather’s short snorter. Measuring about 80 inches (6 feet 8 inches) long, it is a series of currencies from different locales taped together, with each individual bill containing signatures of various people.

The tradition of creating a short snorter began around 1925, probably invented either by Alaskan bush pilots or by Jack Ashcraft, a flyer with the Gates Flying Circus. As pilots flew from airfield to airfield, they exchanged bills with other pilots, crew members, and passengers. The next time two pilots met, they would be called upon to show their bills. If one did not have his short snorter, he was required to buy a snort (or drink) for whomever did. Since many participants were pilots and ostensibly needed to remain sober to fly, the snort needed to be a short one—hence the term “short snorter.”

During World War II, short snorters became popular among pilots, flight crews, and others traveling by air. The actress Marlene Dietrich, who entertained troops for the USO, had a short snorter that recently sold at auction for over $5000. Captain John Gillen, a stenographer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, had one that was 100 feet long.

Susan Chiarello’s grandfather, Winfred Wilson Poland (known as W. … read more »

Posted in Private Papers Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , , ,
1 Comment
Share |

- Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941


USS Arizona, FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Pearl Harbor Historic Materials, Pearl Harbor Photographs, https://fdrlibrary.org/ph-historic-materials

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” With those words, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. Millions of Americans learned about the attack and heard the president’s speech on radio. For most people in central Virginia, they learned the news from listening to Richmond’s WRVA.

Listen to a clip of WRVA’s coverage of the Pearl Harbor attack and “Day of Infamy” speech.

This recording is part of WRVA 50th Anniversary Vignettes program which aired in 1975. To learn more about the WRVA collection at the Library, please consult the finding aid. Further information about the history of Radio in Virginia can be found in this on-line exhibition.

According to the Library’s Virginia Military Dead Database, at least 40 Virginians died on 7 December 1941. The primary purpose of the Virginia Military Dead Database is to honor those Virginians that have given their lives in defense of freedom. It pulls together information from a wide variety of sources and makes that information more accessible. For more information consult the Introduction to the Virginia Military Dead Database and the Source Guides.

 … read more »

Posted in Private Papers Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , ,
Leave a comment
Share |

- Blood Brothers: the Virginia World War II Separation Notices


Yalta Conference in February 1945 with (from left to right) Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. Also present are Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (far left); Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, RN, Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Portal, RAF, (standing behind Churchill); General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, (standing behind Roosevelt).  The National Archives (United Kingdom) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

In observance of Veteran’s Day, Out of the Box would like to spotlight the Virginia World War II Separation Notices (accession 23573). Part of the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission, the collection contains approximately 250,000 notices for World War II veterans discharged between 1942 and 1950 (with the bulk between 1944 and 1946) who sought employment in Virginia. Most of the notices are for military personnel who were born or raised in Virginia prior to the war and returned to Virginia after their discharge from service. While not a complete military service record, the separation notices provide a glimpse into the combat and wartime experiences, background, and post-war lives of Virginia World War II veterans.

The one page separation notice packs in a wealth of information including date and place of birth, physical description, race, marital status, and civilian occupation for each individual. Also included is rank, military organization, date of induction or enlistment, place of entry into service, military occupation, battles and campaigns, decorations and citations, wounds received in action, service outside the continental United States, prior service, total lengthy of service, and reason for separation. Naval records also list training schools attended and places of service (ships and naval stations). In addition to the separation notice, many of the army records also contain a qualification record documenting the … read more »

Posted in State Records Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , ,
2 Comments
Share |

- The Conscientious Objector: Desmond T. Doss


President Harry S. Truman presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Cpl. Desmond T. Doss, 12 October 1945, U.S. Army Photo, Records of the Virginia World War II History Commission, Miscellaneous Material, Box 1a, Folder 5, Accession 27544, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

In keeping with Out of the Box’s recent anniversary theme, today’s post spotlights Lynchburg native Desmond T. Doss (1919-2006), the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on Okinawa in May 1945.  Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, objected to killing and refused to carry a weapon.  He served as an Army medical corpsman, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Medical Detachment, 77th Infantry Division.  Doss is credited with saving the lives of at least 75 wounded soldiers.  His Medal of Honor Citation states:

[Doss] was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun [sic] fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On 2 May, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly

read more »

Posted in State Records Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , , , ,
1 Comment
Share |

- Artists for Victory


No. 23 of the First Series of 50 War Poster Labels sponsored by Artists for Victory, Inc..  Artist - Duane Bryers, 1943, Records of the World War II History Commission, Miscellaneous Records, Box 1b, Folder 100, Accession 27544, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), marking the end of World War II in Europe.  To mark the anniversary, the Library would like to spotlight the Artists for Victory war stamps found in the records of Virginia’s World War II History Commission.

Formed during World War II, Artists for Victory, Inc. was a non-profit organization of more than ten thousand artists, united to serve the United States to the full extent of their various talents.  In the fall of 1942, Artists for Victory, Council for Democracy and the Museum of Modern Art sponsored the National War Poster Competition.  Over 2,000 poster entries were submitted focusing on eight war themes:  Production, War Bonds, The Nature of the Enemy, Loose Talk, Slave World or Free World?, The People are on the March, and Deliver Us From Evil.  Artists for Victory selected 50 of the most stimulating and had them reproduced as “war poster labels to carry their vital messages to every person throughout” the country.  Below are some examples of these stamps.

The Virginia World War II History Commission Records, 1941-1950, Accession 27544, are open to researchers.

-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivists

 … read more »

Posted in State Records Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , ,
Leave a comment
Share |

- A ‘Salty’ take on survival


CERTIFICATE OF SURVIVAL, 2 May 1945, issued to Grayson Boyer upon the conclusion of the Battle of the South Atlantic. (Grayson B. Boyer Papers, 1937-1945, Accession 50238, Personal Papers Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond)

In cataloging the papers of Grayson B. Boyer (1915-1970) of Grayson County, Virginia, one cannot help but notice the dramatically-titled and cheekily-illustrated “Certificate of Survival” issued to Boyer upon completion of the Battle of the South Atlantic during World War II.  As well as being a unique marker of the end of a major wartime naval effort, the document also helps offset the Library of Virginia’s surprising scarcity of holdings featuring cartoon images of lusty, bare-chested mermaids.

Dated 2 May 1945 and given some semblance of credibility by the facsimiled signature of Admiral J.H. Ingram, commander of the South Atlantic forces, the document humorously celebrates the various achievements of Boyer and his fellow sailors. These range from spending months (19, in Boyer’s case) “in a state of moral indecision and physical peril,” to “enduring the rigors of Gin tonicas and Caçhaca.”  The mock-solemn text concludes by commending  Boyer’s “placing in sacrifice the best years of his life on the gilded altar of Pan-American Relations.”

The document’s light tone is further indicated by its comic drawings. The aforementioned mermaid and two similarly-clad women (who are given the courtesy of names–Maria and Inez–if not opaque bikini tops) are surrounded by fish, sea horses, and shells.  Still, the accompanying aircraft carrier, blimp, and seaplane remind the viewer that this is war, not merely a pleasure cruise.

Our hero the American sailor is featured triumphantly, flanked by his mermaid gal pal and … read more »

Posted in Private Papers Blog Posts
Also tagged in: ,
4 Comments
Share |

- We Remember: Bedford County and the 70th Anniversary of D-Day


Into the Jaws of Death, A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of the Company E became casualties.  23-0455M, Chief Photographer's Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent - This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

On 6 June 1944, soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force stormed the beaches of Normandy as part of Operation Overlord, the largest seaborne invasion in history.  Thirty soldiers from Bedford, Virginia, members of Company A of the 116th Infantry assaulted Omaha Beach.  “By day’s end,” according to the National D-Day Memorial, “nineteen of the company’s Bedford soldiers were dead.  Two more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign, as did yet another two assigned to other 116th Infantry companies. Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200. Proportionally this community suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses.”  The Personal War Service Record of Virginia’s War Dead, part of the records of the Virginia World War II History Commission, documents the sacrifice of 15 of the 19 Bedford soldiers.

The Virginia World War II History Commission was established by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly approved on 8 March 1944. The commission was a policy-making body comprised of twelve non-salaried citizens appointed by the Governor. Its purpose was “to collect, assemble, edit, and publish. . . information and material with respect to the contribution to World War II made by Virginia and Virginians.”  One of the most important records created by the Commission were the Personal War Service Record of Virginia’s Dead, a questionnaire completed by the next-of-kin of Virginians killed during World … read more »

Posted in State Records Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , ,
1 Comment
Share |

- “There’s only one thing I don’t like about Combat–It Ain’t Safe!”


Recruitment poster for U. S. Army Air Corps. Image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

When John Hager Randolph Jr. wrote to his parents in Richmond near the end of his Virginia Military Institute career in the spring of 1942, he had a few things on his mind. There were the girls he was interested in, the potential for a “bawling out” from Mom and Dad once they received his grades, and the average college student’s ever-present concern: money (“Please send me the money soon!” was his plaintive postscript to one letter).  But, while his life at this point resembled that of pretty much any other soon-to-be graduate, Randolph was on the verge of a new chapter of adventure and danger, thrown in the midst of one of history’s greatest conflicts. His service as a World War II bomber pilot is detailed in the letters he sent home, preserved in the John Hager Randolph Jr. Papers (Acc. 51038) at the Library of Virginia.

After VMI, Randolph entered the Army Air Corps, training stateside as a pilot with the war looming ever larger in his future. At the end of a prolonged period of uncertainty as to his eventual assignment, he found himself heading to the Pacific Theater in the spring of 1945. There, he would take part in an aerial battering of Japan that would test its resistance to surrender before the atomic bomb finally brought it down.

On … read more »

Posted in Private Papers Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , ,
1 Comment
Share |

- Keep Your Eyes Aloft


Looking to the skies in Richmond, Virginia, circa April 1941. Part of a series documenting the infrastructure of civil defense in Virginia during World War II, Virginia State Chamber of Commerce Photographs, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

Seventy years ago in Greene County, Virginia, civilian volunteers began to look toward the skies and record their observations in a log book, a simple black and white composition book.   Somehow this log book ended up at the Greene County Courthouse and found its way into the Library of Virginia collections. Greene County residents, mostly women, sat for hours at a time watching the skies and recording the number of planes that passed overhead. Just how common was this practice during World War II?

Similar individuals, in observation posts up and down the East and West Coasts of the United States, used these logs while acting as airplane spotters.   As a defense against a potential German or Japanese air attack in World War II, the United States War Department established the Aircraft Warning Service (AWS) in May 1941.  The AWS combined volunteer observation posts and secret volunteer information and filter centers (largely staffed by women from the Aircraft Warning Corps) and was the civilian service of the Ground Observer Corps, a civil defense program of the United States Army Air Forces.

Along the East Coast from Maine to Florida and inland 400 miles, American Legion Posts set up observation posts six miles apart, in proximity to telephone lines and roads.  However, in most places, observers worked from any site that offered a clear and unobstructed … read more »