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Battle of Midway: June 4–7, 1942

June 1, 2017 by | 107 Comments

Fold3 Image - Map of the Battle of Midway
On June 4–7, 1942, American naval and air forces met the Japanese near Midway Atoll in one of the most decisive naval battles of the war. The Battle of Midway would become a turning point in the naval war in the Pacific, as the Japanese losses sustained there proved irreparable.

Following the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942, the Japanese felt the need to force a decisive battle with the U.S Pacific Fleet that would leave America powerless in the Pacific and perhaps even lead America to accept peace on Japan’s terms. The Japanese developed a complex plan, to be carried out under the general direction of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, that involved attacking and occupying both the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and Midway Atoll, not far from Hawaii, in an attempt to lure the American fleet into a trap. However, American cryptanalysts were able to break enough of the Japanese code to be fairly certain of the basics of the Japanese plan.

American admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, sent two task forces to meet the Japanese at Midway: Task Force 16, with the carriers Hornet and Enterprise, under Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance; and Task Force 17, with the carrier Yorktown, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. The Japanese Midway force brought four carriers: the Soryu, Hiryu, Kaga, and Akagi.

Fold3 Image - Map of Midway Islands
The Japanese began carrier-based air attacks on the Midway Islands at dawn on June 4 in preparation for a land invasion. As the Japanese carriers were preparing to recover the planes from their Midway strike and launch others, various waves of Midway- and carrier-based American planes found the Japanese ships. Although the American planes in these initial attacks sustained great losses themselves, they did not do serious damage to the Japanese. However, they did prepare the way for subsequent American dive-bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown to cause devastating damage to three of the Japanese carriers. Planes from the Enterprise destroyed the fourth Japanese carrier later that day as well, and all four carriers would eventually sink from the attack.

However, the Americans also sustained a carrier loss when—on the afternoon of the 4th—Japanese planes found the Yorktown and damaged her badly enough that the captain had the ship abandoned. A Japanese submarine finished off the Yorktown two days later and sunk it.

As a result of the various engagements between the Japanese and Americans from June 4th to 7th, the Japanese sustained heavy losses: 3,000 men and 4 carriers, while the Americans lost 300 men and 1 carrier. The Battle of Midway would prove a turning point in the naval fight in the Pacific, as it hobbled the Japanese carrier fleet and put Japan on the defensive at sea for the remainder of the war.

Did you have family who fought at Midway? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

New States Added to WWII Draft Registration Cards!

May 16, 2017 by | 43 Comments

Example WWII Draft Registration Card
Fold3 has added new U.S. states to its collection of WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection (via the National Archives) now also includes Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, West Virginia, Utah, Alaska, Wyoming, and Virginia. 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.

Get started searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards on Fold3!

Battle of Chancellorsville Ends: May 6, 1863

May 1, 2017 by | 252 Comments

Fold3 Image - The Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., including operations from April 29th to May 5th, 1863.
May 6, 1863, was the final day of the Battle of Chancellorsville, which ended in a Confederate victory that is often considered General Robert E. Lee‘s “perfect battle,” as he successfully defeated an army more than twice the size of his own.

In April, Union general Joseph Hooker—the new commander of the Army of the Potomac—decided to move against Lee, whose Army of Northern Virginia was situated at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hooker wanted to avoid attacking Fredericksburg head on, as that had proved a disaster in the past, so he planned to send a third of his army to Fredericksburg to hold Lee there, while his cavalry would cut Lee’s communication lines and the majority of his army would sweep around to outflank Lee from the rear and left.

Hooker’s movement to Chancellorsville, a crossroads not far from Lee’s left flank, was well-executed, but Lee—although outnumbered more than two to one (roughly 130,000 to 60,000)—left only a small part of his troops at Fredericksburg and moved the rest under Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to face Hooker rather than retreat. When Jackson began to push back against Hooker’s vanguard, Hooker lost his nerve and had his troops take up defensive positions in a brushy, difficult area known as the Wilderness.

Fold3 Image - Wilderness, near Chancellorsville, Virginia
Defying conventional military wisdom, Lee and Jackson decided to split the army once again, leaving a portion of troops under Lee to distract Hooker’s front, while Jackson would take the bulk of the troops on a 12-mile march to hit the Union’s exposed right flank. The gamble paid off, and on the evening of May 2, Jackson’s troops caught the Union right by surprise and it crumbled.

The fighting continued for a few more days, with the most intense occurring on May 3. Besides fighting around Chancellorsville, there was also fighting at Fredericksburg and Salem Church. Eventually, Hooker retreated across the Rappahannock River, giving the Confederates the victory, despite heavy casualties on both sides.

However, although the battle was a Confederate triumph, the Lee sustained a major loss in the death of Jackson, one of the best Confederate generals. On the night of the 2nd, Jackson and some others had been returning from scouting Union positions when they were fired on by their own pickets. Jackson was wounded, and his left arm had to be amputated. Complications arose following the surgery, and on May 10, Jackson died of pneumonia.

Lee’s victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville would give him the necessary momentum for his campaign into the North, where he would face the Union on its home soil at the Battle of Gettysburg that July.

Do you have ancestors who fought at Chancellorsville? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

New Zealand, WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations

April 18, 2017 by | 5 Comments

Fold3 Image - James Stellin's temporary commission to rank of Pilot Officer
Do you have family members from New Zealand who served in World War II? Come explore Fold3’s collection New Zealand, WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations.

As part of the British Commonwealth, New Zealand entered World War II alongside the United Kingdom, and about 140,000 New Zealand men and women would serve over the course of the war. This Fold3 collection contains information about appointments, promotions, transfers, and resignations of personnel in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (including army, air force, and navy) during WWII. The information was extracted from the New Zealand government newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette.

Information you can find in this collection about an individual may include the following:

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Date of appointment, promotion, transfer, or resignation
  • Regiment

If you don’t have New Zealand family members who served during World War II, you can instead learn more about the careers of notable WWII New Zealand servicemen and women, such as:

  • James Stellin, a pilot who avoided crashing into a French village at the expense of his own life.
  • Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, the first Maori to be awarded (posthumously) the Victoria Cross.
  • Porokoru Patapu Pohe, a Maori and one of the Allied prisoners who took part in what became known as “The Great Escape” in March 1944; he was later caught and executed.
  • Bernard Freyberg, commander of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the 2nd New Zealand Division; he later served as the 7th Governor-General of New Zealand.
  • Frances Ida “Kitty” Kain, one of New Zealand’s most senior female military leaders during the war.
  • Howard Kippenberger, popular commander of the 2nd New Zealand Division (following Bernard Freyberg); he lost the lower portion of both legs at the Battle of Monte Cassino in March 1944.

Get started searching or browsing the New Zealand, WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations on Fold3!

Free Access to the Civil War Collection

April 1, 2017 by | 11 Comments

Gun squad at drill
In remembrance of the commencement of the Civil War in April 1861, and to commemorate Confederate History Month, Fold3 is offering free access to our Civil War Collection from April 1st–15th.

Popular titles in our Civil War Collection include:

Not sure if you have Civil War ancestors? Use these questions to help identify ancestors who may have served:

  • Were any of my male ancestors born between 1820 and 1845? (Men who served during the Civil War may have been born outside these dates, but many fell within these years.)
  • Do I have any family memorabilia or artifacts (such as letters, weapons, medals, or photos) that hint at possible Civil War service? What about their tombstone? Does it have any insignia or other military symbols on it?
  • Do any of the records or documents (such as obituaries) I’ve already found for an individual mention Civil War service?
  • Have I checked the 1910 Census entry for my ancestor? (Column 30 of the census identified if an individual was “a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.”)

Can’t find your Civil War ancestor on Fold3? You can still use Fold3 to learn about what your ancestor’s military service may have been like. Here are a few ideas, though the possible uses of the Civil War Collection are endless!

  • Use the Brady and Civil War photo collections, as well as the Civil War Horse Soldier Artifacts Collection, to learn what life was like for soldiers during the war, including what uniforms and firearms were common, what military camps and headquarters were like, what battlefields and forts looked like, etc.
  • Look through the Service Records and “Widows’ Pensions” of men who were in the same company, regiment, etc., as your ancestor to learn more about what battles he may have been involved in and the movements of his unit.
  • If you have Confederate ancestors, explore the Confederate Casualty Reports for your ancestor’s unit to learn about casualty rates and even read narrative reports of actions your ancestor may have been involved in.

Start searching or browsing the Civil War Collection on Fold3. Or learn more about how to find your Civil War ancestors by watching a helpful course or tutorial on Ancestry Academy!

Landings of Gallipoli Campaign Begin: April 25, 1915

April 1, 2017 by | 59 Comments

Fold3 Image - Gallipoli Peninsula
On April 25, 1915, troops from across the British Empire as well as France went ashore on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, beginning the land offensive of the Gallipoli Campaign (also called the Dardanelles Campaign), which would end in high casualties and evacuation for them eight months later.

With trench warfare causing stagnation in the fight on the Western Front, the British and French decided to launch an attack against the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers. The plan was to use naval power to break through the Dardanelles, a straight connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and then capture the Turkish capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). The naval attack began in February and March, but hidden mines made the British and French ships withdraw in failure.

After a month’s delay due to supply problems, the land offensive began on April 25, with 78,000 British and French troops landing at Cape Helles (at the tip of the peninsula) and what would become known as Anzac Cove (further north and named for the Australian and New Zealand troops that landed there). Some landings were met with fierce resistance and high casualties, while others were accomplished without much opposition.

Fold3 Image - Anzac landing beaches
But once the troops came ashore, little progress was made, and attempts to push forward were halted by the Turks and their German allies, leaving the Anglo-French forces trapped not far from their landing beaches. Despite renewed offensives (most notably at Suvla Bay in August) and reinforcements over the coming months, both sides settled into a high-casualty stalemate from within a system of trenches, where sickness and disease were rampant. Finally, in October, the commanding officer, British general Ian Hamilton, was replaced, and the new general, Charles Monro, decided to evacuate by sea despite estimates that an evacuation would result in extremely high casualties.

Amazingly, however, the British and French were able to evacuate some one hundred thousand men secretly and with very limited casualties, making the evacuation arguably the most successful part of the whole campaign. They evacuated Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay in December 1915, and Cape Helles in January 1916. By the time they left, the Allied Powers had sustained some 200,000 casualties (killed, injured, or sick) and the Turks had suffered at least 87,000 deaths, with many more than that in other casualties.

Did you have a family member who served at Gallipoli? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the campaign on Fold3 in our British Commonwealth Military Collection.

UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records

March 15, 2017 by | 5 Comments

Fold3 Image - Example of attestation
If you have an ancestor who would have been eligible to receive a pension from the British army between 1760 and 1920, come explore Fold3’s UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records!

This collection contains records for British soldiers (not officers) who received a pension from the British army. Pensions were distributed by the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was founded in 1682. Some pensioners (called “in-pensioners”) actually lived at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but many more (called “out-pensioners”) simply received the pension money and lived elsewhere.

The documents in this collection regard pensions distributed by the Royal Hospital Chelsea between 1760 and 1920. They typically do not include records for soldiers who died in service or who were discharged early (and thus did not receive a pension). However, some earlier records in the collection may have information on men who were not approved for pensions or who bought themselves out of their regiment.

Some records contain more information than others, and pension documents after 1883 typically have more details regarding the soldier (e.g., information about next of kin and details of marriage and children) and his service. Common details that might be found in the pension records include age, birthplace, service details (including any decorations), physical description, previous occupation on enlistment, and the reason for discharge to pension. Documents that are most commonly included are:

  • discharge forms, which were issued when a soldier left the regiment
  • attestation forms, which are the documents signed by the new recruit
  • the proceedings of a regimental board and record of service, which was a later variety of discharge form
  • a variety of supporting correspondence
  • questionnaires of past service, which an applicant for an in-pension completed if others documents had not survived
  • affidavits, which out-pensioners outside London made every quarter to state that they were not drawing on other public funds
  • Medical history

On Fold3, the records in this collection are organized in the same manner outlined by the National Archives of the UK, namely:

  • for the period 1760-1872 the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854
  • from 1873-1882 the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps
  • from 1883-1913 there are two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers arranged by range of surname: 1883-1900 and 1900-1913

Since this is the case, you may find it faster to locate an individual by searching first, rather than browsing.

Do you have any ancestors that appear in the UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records? Tell us about them! Or get started searching or browsing the collection on Fold3.