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WWII Japanese American Military Service

June 13, 2016 by | 22 Comments

Fold3 Image - Nisei army interpreter talks with Japanese family
Did you know that roughly 30,000 Japanese Americans served with the U.S. military during World War II? Many of them served with the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most highly decorated unit relative to size and service length in U.S. military history.

The predecessor of the 442nd was the 100th Infantry Battalion, formed in 1942 predominantly from Japanese Americans serving in the Hawaiian National Guard. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government was leery of allowing Japanese Americans to serve in the military, but the 100th helped pave the way for government approval of the formation of the Japanese American 442nd in 1943. The two groups were combined in June 1944. Also attached to the 442nd were the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion and the 232nd Engineer Company, as well as an anti-tank company, a medical detachment, and even the 206th Army Band.

The men in the 442nd/100th were known for their bravery and skill, and they fought in various European campaigns, particularly in Italy and France. The group had a high casualty rate and was highly decorated, with members receiving 18,143 awards, including 9,486 Purple Hearts and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses. Twenty-one eventually received the Medal of Honor.

Beyond the 442nd/100th, a few Japanese Americans who had been inducted into the army prior to Pearl Harbor served in integrated units. Thousands of other Japanese Americans joined the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as translators and interpreters and served mainly in the Pacific. A few dozen Japanese American women also served in the MIS, and hundreds more joined the Women’s Army Corps and the Cadet Nurse Corps.

You can find many interesting documents related to Japanese American military service in World War II on Fold3. Below are a few examples:

Find more records about Japanese Americans’ role in the military during WWII by searching or browsing on Fold3.

The Battle of Cold Harbor Ends: June 12, 1864

June 1, 2016 by | 109 Comments

Fold3 Image - Plan of the Battle of Cold Harbor
On June 12, 1864, the Battle of Cold Harbor ended when General Ulysses S. Grant withdrew his Union troops following a failed attempt to break through Confederate lines to push on to Richmond. Though the battle had resulted in high Union casualties, it would essentially prove to be Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s final victory of the war.

The Battle of Cold Harbor was actually a series of skirmishes and battles that occurred between May 31 and June 12. Grant and Lee had been clashing the entire month of May in the battles of the Wilderness (May 5–7), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21), and North Anna (May 23–26), as Grant worked his way southeast to try to take Richmond. Finally, the two armies neared Cold Harbor, Virginia, just 10 miles from the Confederate capital.

The first action of the Battle of Cold Harbor occurred on May 31, when Union and Confederate cavalry fought for possession of Cold Harbor. The Union cavalry emerged the victors of that clash as well of the fight the following morning, when the Confederates—reinforced by the arrival of infantry—attacked again. The Union cavalry also shortly received reinforcements of infantry, and both sides began digging in and making entrenchments, creating a line 7 miles long. That same evening, June 1, the Union launched a partial attack to allow them to get in a better position for the battle planned for the following day, June 2.

However, due to the late arrival of a portion of his troops following an exhausting night march, Grant decided to let them rest, and the attack was postponed until the following day. However, this gave Lee’s troops time to get firmly entrenched, and the Union failed to reconnoiter the Confederate position and learn of the well-executed Confederate defenses.

Fold3 Image - Battle of North Anna River Map
Three Union corps attacked the Confederate entrenchments at dawn on June 3, and the result was one of the bloodiest battles of the war for the Union, despite the total number of available Union troops being nearly twice that of the Confederates. Caught in concentrated and overlapping fields of fire, Grant’s troops suffered high casualty rates. Although the battle would last until 1:30 that afternoon, the majority of the damage was done in the opening minutes of the fighting. Casualties for the Federal troops just for that day were estimated at around 7,000, while Confederate troops lost about 1,500.

Following the loss at Cold Harbor, Grant decided not to try for Richmond again but instead headed for the rail center of Petersburg, where both armies would become entrenched for most of the remainder of the war.

Did you have ancestors who fought at Cold Harbor? Tell us about it! Or search for more records about the battle on Fold3.

WWII Draft Registration Cards

May 23, 2016 by | 45 Comments

Example WWII Draft Registration Card
Fold3 has added 8 new U.S. states and territories to its collection of WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection (via the National Archives) now includes North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Mexico, Washington DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cards in this collection are registration cards for the draft and do not necessarily indicate that the individual served in the military.

There were seven draft registration periods in the United States for World War II service. The first draft registration was held on October 16, 1940—before the United States had entered the war. Men ages 21—36 were required to register at their local draft board. The second draft registration was also held prior to the American entrance into the war, on July 1, 1941. This registration was for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration date nine months earlier.

The third (February 16, 1942) and fifth (June 30, 1942) registration periods expanded the ages required to register; the age ranges for the third were extended to 20–21 and 35–44, while the fifth extended them to ages 18–20. The sixth registration (December 10–31, 1942) was for men who had turned 18 since the fifth registration six months prior. There was also a seventh registration, known as the “Extra Registration,” from November 16 to December 31, 1943, which was for American men ages 18–44 who were living abroad.

The cards from the fourth registration (April 27, 1942; for men ages 45–64) are not included in the WWII Draft Registration Cards but in Fold3’s WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards collection.

Information on the WWII Draft Registration Cards may include the man’s name, address, telephone number, age, place of birth, country of citizenship, name and address of the person who will always know the registrant’s address, employer’s name, place of employment, and a description of the registrant.

One example of a draft card is that of John Ralph Brabble of North Carolina, pictured below:

Example of damaged service record

Begin searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards here.

Clara Barton Founds the American Red Cross: May 21, 1881

May 1, 2016 by | 85 Comments

Fold3 Image - Clara Barton
On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton held the first meeting of the American Red Cross after years of campaigning for the American government’s acceptance of the organization.

Barton had risen to fame for her humanitarian work during the Civil War. Previously a teacher and patent clerk, during the war Barton had—among other contributions—distributed medical supplies and nursed soldiers independently of any organization. Immediately following the war, she had spearheaded an effort to locate tens of thousands of missing soldiers, including helping to identify the thousands of bodies buried at the brutal Confederate Andersonville Prison. While on the lecture circuit to discuss her experiences, Barton—then in her late 40s—began to suffer from poor health, so on a doctor’s suggestion, she traveled to Europe in 1869 to rest.

While in Europe, Barton was introduced to the International Red Cross and got to see the organization in action during the Franco-Prussian War, which occurred while she was in Europe. She helped the International Red Cross with its humanitarian mission during the conflict and decided to create an American branch when she returned home.

Before America could join the International Red Cross, however, it had to sign the First (1864) Geneva Convention, which set up rules governing the protection and neutrality of civilian aid workers during wartime, among other things. America had previously declined to sign the Convention, and Barton had a long road ahead of her as she first battled her own illnesses and then worked for years to gain acceptance for the Convention and the Red Cross in the United States.

Fold3 Image - Organization of the Red Cross in America
Finally, under the administration of President Chester A. Arthur, the First Geneva Convention was ratified in 1882. However, in anticipation of that, Barton had held the first meeting of the American Red Cross a year prior, in May 1881. Part of what led to the acceptance of the Red Cross in America were Barton’s efforts to show that the organization could contribute during peacetime, as well as wartime, by providing relief following natural disasters. During Barton’s time as president of the Red Cross, she headed 18 relief efforts around the country and abroad.

Barton remained president of the American Red Cross until 1904, when she resigned at age 82 amid increasing criticism of her leadership methods and handling of money. She would go on to live another eight years, during which time she founded an organization that taught first aid.

Want to learn more about Clara Barton? Start a search on Fold3!

Free Access to the World War II Collection

May 1, 2016 by | 3 Comments

WWII Documents
Do you have family members who served in World War II? If so, come explore Fold3’s World War II Collection, which will be accessible for free May 1–15 in honor of the anniversary of the victory in Europe (VE Day) on May 8, 1945. This collection has a diverse array of resources to mine (spanning more than 90 million records), whether you’re interested in historical aspects of the war or are searching for specific individuals who fought in it.

Look for your family heroes in Fold3’s vast collection of WWII documents, records, and images, including Army registers, Navy cruise books, Navy muster rolls, casualty lists, Army enlistment records, and draft registration cards—just to name a few.

You can also explore records that provide historical context, such as Navy war diaries, submarine patrol reports, naval press clippings, JAG case files, European Theater Army records, photos, and beyond. Also included are the extensive Holocaust Collection and the interactive USS Arizona Memorial.

Some of the popular titles in our World War II Collection include:

And a few of our new and updated titles for this collection include:

Get started exploring the World War II Collection here. You can also create or expand a Memorial Page for a veteran in your family on Fold3’s Honor Wall. The Honor Wall is a great way to commemorate your veteran relatives and ancestors and share their stories with family and friends.

Records about Abraham Lincoln

April 14, 2016 by | 16 Comments

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad
April is the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. If you’re interested in learning more about our 16th president, you can find a multitude of primary documents and images related to his time in office and assassination on Fold3.

A convenient place to get started looking at records related to this president is Fold3’s Lincoln page. From this curated page, you can look at selected portraits and documents pertaining to Lincoln, start a search of the Lincoln Assassination Papers, and see memorial pages about people and events in Lincoln’s life. The Lincoln Assassination Papers are a particularly rich source of interesting documents about Lincoln—particularly his death and the investigation that followed.

While Fold3’s Lincoln page is a great starting place for Lincoln records, you can find even more documents and images in many of Fold3’s other Civil War titles. A simple way to find these records is to search for “Lincoln” in the Civil War Collection. Since this will return more than a hundred thousand results, you can try limiting your results by using a more specific search, such as [“Abraham Lincoln” OR “President Lincoln” OR “A Lincoln”], though this will likely exclude records that mention Lincoln by any other title or name. Either way, it would probably be helpful to filter out titles in your results that are unlikely to be relevant to President Lincoln. (For example, you could likely filter out the Army Registers, which would eliminate hundreds of irrelevant results.)

Examples of Lincoln records and photos you can find by searching Fold3 include:

  • Lincoln’s order of retaliation to encourage equal treatment of black prisoners of war by the Confederacy
  • Lincoln’s War Order Number 1, ordering the Army of the Potomac to seize the railroad southwest of Manassas Junction
  • Lincoln’s letter of thanks to Admiral Farragut, General Canby, and others for their operations in Mobile Harbor
  • A letter from Lincoln to a Mrs. Faulkner about the release of her brother
  • The Widows’ Pension claim of Mary Todd Lincoln
  • A photo of Lincoln and his son Tad
  • A photo of the train car that carried Lincoln’s body to Illinois following his assassination
  • A photo of the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated

Have you found any interesting photos or documents about Lincoln in Fold3’s collections? Share them with us! You can also add those records to Lincoln’s Honor Wall page for others to see.

America’s First Military Draft Begins: April 16, 1862

April 1, 2016 by | 105 Comments

Application for Discharge on Account of Having Furnished a Substitute
On April 16, 1862, the Confederacy—in need of troops to fight in its armies—passed the Conscription Act, the first effective general military draft in America.

When the Civil War began, the Confederacy had set its volunteers’ terms of enlistment for one year. However, as the year mark neared, it became obvious that the war would last for much longer and that the Confederate armies would need more soldiers. So in April 1862, the Confederacy passed the Conscription Act, which drafted healthy white men ages 18 to 35 for three-year terms (later acts would extend the ages first to 18 to 45, and later to 17 to 50). The Confederate Congress also extended the terms of those already serving under one-year enlistments for another two years (though the soldiers would effectively serve for the duration of the war).

The act allowed those drafted to find substitutes to serve in their place (though this would be discontinued in December 1863) and exempted men serving in occupations deemed critical to the war effort or civilian life. In the fall of 1862, exemptions were also extended to those who owned or oversaw 20 or more slaves.

The Federal government instituted its own draft a year later, in March 1863. The Enrollment Act called on men ages 20 to 45 to register for the draft. As in the South, substitutes were allowed, or else men could pay a $300 commutation fee (though commutation fees were eventually banned in 1864). Like the Confederacy, the Federal government allowed some exemptions for certain occupations, physical disability, and religious conscientious objectors.

Conscription was partially meant to encourage voluntary enlistment, as those who joined as volunteers were eligible to receive bounty money (enlistment bonuses) from states, counties, cities, and the federal government—in some cases totaling a sum upwards of $1,000. However, these bounties created the problem of bounty jumping, wherein men would volunteer, collect the money, then desert and re-enlist elsewhere and collect that money as well.

Group of men accused of inciting and participating in a draft riot

In the Union and Confederacy, conscription was generally a disproportional burden on the poor, since they were unable to pay for a substitute or a commutation fee. But while the draft was hated in both the North and the South, it was only in the North that it sparked riots, the most violent of which killed more than a hundred people—many of them black—in New York City in July 1863.

Do you know if any of your ancestors were conscripted during the Civil War? Tell us about them! Or start a search on Fold3 to find more information on this topic.