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WWII Paratroopers

January 18, 2017 by | 30 Comments

Fold3 Image - Paratrooper's equipment being inspected before leaving on invasion of Europe. Somewhere in England.
The Allied commanders of World War II saw the need for airborne troops in Europe during the German invasion of Crete in May 1941. Although German paratroopers nearly met with disaster, they eventually succeeded in taking the island. The German attack was the first time an invasion of an island was successfully accomplished by air, and though the near failure made the German high command wary of relying much on paratroopers, the Allies saw the advantages and began training their own airborne forces.

Paratroopers were valuable because they allowed the Allies to drop light infantry behind enemy lines, enabling them to deploy a fighting force without warning. Two of the most active of the American airborne divisions were the 82nd and 101st, though there were others, including the 17th, 11th, and 13th. American airborne troops fought in battles in places such as North Africa, Normandy, the Netherlands, Sicily, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Fold3 has many records relating to the airborne troops of World War II, including numerous photos in the WWII U.S. Air Force Photos collection. Below are just a few of the photos you can find on Fold3 of paratroopers in World War II:

Do you have any family members who were paratroopers? Tell us about them! Or find more images and documents about the paratroopers of World War II by searching Fold3.

Battle of Cowpens: January 17, 1781

January 1, 2017 by | 281 Comments

The troops I have the honor to command have gained a complete victory over a detachment from the British Army, commanded by Lt. Colonel Tarleton. the Action happened on the 17th inst. about sunrise at a place called the Cowpens...
In the early morning of January 17, 1781, in South Carolina, American troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeated a force under British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in one of the more decisive victories for the Americans in the south during the Revolutionary War

In late 1780, the American commander-in-chief of the southern theater, Nathanael Greene, made the daring decision to split his already limited number of troops in the face of a superior force under British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. Accordingly, part of Greene’s force was given to Daniel Morgan. The British saw Morgan’s troops as a threat to some crucial posts, so Cornwallis sent troops under up-and-coming commander Banastre Tarleton to take on Morgan.

When word reached Morgan of Tarleton’s approach, he decided to face his enemy in a cow pasture called Cowpens rather than risk being overrun while trying to cross the Broad River. Knowing Tarleton favored frontal attacks, Morgan deployed his infantry troops into three lines—meant to exhaust the energy and resources of the British—with his dragoons positioned in reserve behind the third line.

When Tarleton’s men arrived, they were met by fire from riflemen in Morgan’s first line, who after a few shots withdrew to join the second line, composed of militia. Morgan had instructed the militia to fire two volleys at the approaching British and then retire, which they did. Seeing the American militia appearing to flee, Tarleton sent dragoons after them, but they were met by the American dragoons, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Washington.

The British infantry had been stunned by the fire from the American’s first two lines and now faced the third line, predominately composed of experienced Continental troops overseen by Lieutenant Colonel John Howard. Meanwhile, Tarleton sent his reserve infantry and additional dragoons to try to outflank their opponents on the Americans’ right. The Americans on that side were commanded to turn to face the British, but the order was misunderstood, and they instead began marching to the rear, triggering a retreat in neighboring parts of the line. The confusion was corrected, however, and they turned to face the British in time. Those Americans were joined in the fight by the militia of the first and second lines, who had circled around the back of the American position.

Morgan‘s near-genius plan worked, and the Americans decimated the British. Although the two forces were relatively evenly matched, with roughly 1,000 men each, the British sustained 110 killed and 830 captured or wounded, while the Americans had 12 killed and 61 wounded. The battle wiped out nearly all of Tarleton’s force, striking a serious blow to Cornwallis’s army.

Did you have an ancestor who fought in the Battle of Cowpens? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

Find: WWII Underwater Demolition Teams

December 13, 2016 by | 74 Comments

Fold3 Image - Explanation of the work of Underwater Demolition Teams
Before there were the Navy SEALs, there were the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) of World War II in the Pacific. UDTs were in charge of reconnaissance of the shoreline prior to an amphibious invasion. They would reconnoiter the lay of the beaches and offshore waters and be on the lookout for any natural or manmade obstructions that would hinder landing craft. They would then use explosives to demolish any obstacles.

Although the UDTs were preceded by the Navy Scouts and Raiders and the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) in the European Theater, the need for a Pacific equivalent became obvious during the invasion at Tarawa in November 1943, when Marines became stranded on reefs that aerial reconnaissance had misjudged to be deep enough for landing craft. The Marines were forced to wade a thousand yards to shore, and some drowned and others were killed by enemy fire. This established the necessity of human surveillance of the shore waters before an invasion.

In the early days of the UDTs, members worked in the water in full fatigues and shoes, but real-world battle conditions showed the need for a greater emphasis on swimming, and UDT members began to wear swim trunks and fins, becoming the Navy’s elite combat swimmers. The 34 teams were involved in amphibious invasions across the Pacific, including in Saipan, Tinian, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Guam, and Okinawa—just to name a few.

You can find thousands of mentions of UDTs on Fold3, especially in the WWII War Diaries. Below are examples of just a few of the types of information you can find about UDTs on Fold3:

Do you have any family members who served on an Underwater Demolition Team? Tell us about them! Or search for more info on UDTs on Fold3.

The USS Arizona Sinks During the Attack on Pearl Harbor:
December 7, 1941

December 2, 2016 by | 49 Comments

Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona Today, and Dec 7, 1941
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In this surprise attack, which would lead America to enter World War II, 6 U.S. ships were sunk and more than a dozen others were damaged. 2,403 American servicemen lost their lives, and another 1,178 were injured. The ship with the most lives lost was the battleship USS Arizona, with 1,177 deaths.

Below are excerpted accounts from that day by men who were on the Arizona and experienced its destruction firsthand. The full accounts, and others, can be found in Fold3’s WWII War Diaries collection.

“It was just before colors, in fact, I had already sent the messenger down to make the 8 o’clock reports to the Captain. Then I heard a dive bomber attack from overhead. I looked through my spyglass and saw the red dots on the wings. That made me wonder, but I still couldn’t believe it until I saw some bombs falling.” —Ensign H. D. Davison

“The worst explosion filled the inboard end of the room with flame and left a residue of orange smoke which continued to vent out the port. By this time the ship was down by the bow and sinking so rapidly that the lines from the ship to the after key were snapping. […] The ship was still sinking rapidly and oil was burning on the water and spreading aft. Because of the damage received there was no pressure on the fire main with which to fight the fire.” —Ensign A. R. Schubert

“I noticed No. 3 gun wasn’t firing due to safety bearing when the foot firing mechanism cut out. I was then shocked and surrounded by smoke and flames. I was backing away from the smoke and I can’t remember much from then on. I was in the water and was helped in a boat and from there to a hospital.” —Chief Gunner’s Mate J. A. Doherty

“Ensign Davison and myself got three boats clear of the oil fire on the water and picked up the men in the water who had jumped to get clear of the fire. We took several boatloads of badly burned and injured men to Ford Island landing and continued picking up men in the water between the ship and the shore.” —Ensign W. J. Bush

“About 0900, seeing that all guns of the antiaircraft and secondary battery were out of action and that the ship could not possibly be saved, I ordered all hands to abandon ship. […] I cannot single out any one individual who stood out in acts of heroism above the others, as all of the personnel under my supervision conducted themselves with the greatest heroism and bravery.” —Lt. Commander S. Q. Fuqua

Learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor from Fold3’s World War II collection. Or visit Fold3’s Interactive USS Arizona Memorial to learn more about the servicemen who perished on the Arizona.

Fold3’s Interactive Pearl Harbor and Vietnam War Memorials

November 15, 2016 by | 46 Comments

In this month of both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, take a moment to visit the two interactive memorial walls on Fold3—the USS Arizona Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—to pay tribute to America’s fallen heroes who perished in the attack on Pearl Harbor or during the Vietnam War. These interactive memorials allow you to learn more about the people whose names are inscribed on the walls as well as share your own facts, stories, and photos in remembrance of the veterans.

Interactive USS Arizona MemorialAdd your Tribute to the names on the wall
When the Japanese bombed the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was sunk, killing 1,177 officers and crew. The USS Arizona Memorial was built in 1962 over the ship’s wreckage to honor the Arizona’s casualties and commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Fold3’s Interactive USS Arizona Memorial includes a high-resolution image of the wall that you can search or browse to find the names of servicemen who died on the Arizona. Each name is linked to an Honor Wall page where you can find information about the veteran as well as add your own photos or tributes.

Interactive Vietnam Veterans MemorialJames L Littler III on The Wall
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC was completed in 1982 and is etched with the names of more than 58,000 veterans killed or missing during the war. The interactive memorial on Fold3 was made of 6,301 photographs of the physical wall that were stitched together by computer into a single, high-quality image.

As with the Interactive USS Arizona Memorial, the Interactive Vietnam Veterans Memorial allows you to either search for a name or look at a high-resolution image of the wall—as if you were really in Washington DC. Like the interactive Arizona memorial, every name on Fold3’s Vietnam wall is connected to an Honor Wall page for the veteran that you can view or edit.

If you haven’t visited these interactive memorials before, take a moment to do so and perhaps leave a tribute for veterans in your family whose names are on the walls. Or leave a tribute for any veteran, no matter what time period they served, by expanding or creating a memorial page for them on Fold3’s Honor Wall.

Lincoln Delivers the Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863

November 1, 2016 by | 44 Comments

Image of Gettysburg Address Manuscript
Delivered on November 19, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, with its famous opening lines of “Four score and seven years ago,” is one of the best-known speeches in American history. But did you know the following facts about the speech?

  • The Gettysburg Address was given as part of the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, four months after the bloody battle. Not all the bodies had been buried yet at the time of the dedication, which was attended by about 15,000 people.
  • Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the main speaker. Edward Everett, a politician and famous orator, had that honor. While Everett gave a 2-hour, 13,500-word oration, Lincoln’s speech lasted 2 or 3 minutes and was about 270 words long. Afterward, Everett wrote to Lincoln, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
  • Lincoln was formally notified he would be speaking only 17 days before the event. Although Lincoln started writing the speech in Washington, he was still fine-tuning it up until the day he gave it.
  • Lincoln reported feeling sick the day he gave the Gettysburg Address. As it turned out, he may have had a mild case of smallpox.
  • There are no known photographs of Lincoln delivering the speech, perhaps because his speech was so short, the photographers didn’t have time to prepare. In fact, his speech was over before some of the audience even knew it had started.
  • There are five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by Lincoln. Two of them were written around 19 November, and the other three were written afterward by request. The fifth draft, known as the Bliss copy, is generally accepted as the standard text of the speech since it was signed and dated by Lincoln, even though the copy was written by Lincoln after the speech had been given.
  • Dedication of the Gettysburg military cemetery
    The Gettysburg Address had its admirers and detractors at the time it was given, but it wasn’t necessarily seen as particularly influential during Lincoln’s lifetime. However, the speech was rediscovered and popularized 13 years later during the U.S. 1876 centennial.

Start a search on Fold3 to learn more about the Gettysburg Address. Or explore other Civil War documents in Fold3’s Civil War collection.

Free* Access to the Native American Collection

November 1, 2016 by | 1 Comment

82 - Broken Arm, Ogalalla Sioux
Do you have Native American ancestry? Or are you interested in Native American history? Then explore Fold3’s Native American Collection for free November 1-15.

Titles in this collection include:

  • Ratified Indian Treaties (1722-1869): Ratified treaties that occurred between the United States government and American Indian tribes. Also included are presidential proclamations, correspondence, and treaty negotiation expenses.
  • Indian Census Rolls (1885-1940): Census rolls submitted annually by agents or superintendents of Indian reservations as required by an 1884 Act of Congress. Only persons who maintained a formal affiliation with a tribe under Federal supervision are listed on these census rolls.
  • Dawes Packets: Applications between 1896 and 1914 from members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes to establish eligibility for an allotment of land in return for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing Federal law.
  • Dawes Enrollment Cards (1898-1914): Enrollment cards, also referred to as “census cards,” prepared by the staff of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, commonly known as the Dawes Commission. The cards record information provided by applications submitted by members of the same family group or household and include notations of the actions taken.
  • Eastern Cherokee Applications (1906-1909): Applications submitted for shares of the money that was appropriated for the Eastern Cherokee Indians by Congress on June 30, 1906.
  • Iroquois Indian tribe, 1914

  • Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller (1908-1910): The Guion Miller Roll is perhaps the most important source for Cherokee genealogical research. There are an estimated 90,000 individual applicants from throughout North America included within this publication.
  • Cherokee Indian Agency, TN (1801-1835): The records of the agent of Indian Affairs in Tennessee, including correspondence, agency letter books, fiscal records, records of the Agent for the Department of War in Tennessee, records of the Agent for Cherokee Removal, and miscellaneous records.
  • Rinehart Photos – Native Americans (1898): Photographs of over 100 Native Americans taken by Frank A. Rinehart, a commercial photographer in Omaha, Nebraska. Rinehart was commissioned to photograph the 1898 Indian Congress, part of the Trans-Mississippi International Exposition.

Have you found an ancestor in Fold3’s Native American collection? Tell us about it! Or get started exploring the Native American Collection here.

*Access to the records in the featured collections will be free until Nov 15, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. MT. Free access requires registration for a free Fold3 account. After the free access period ends, you will only be able to view the records in the featured collections using a paid Fold3 membership.