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Christmas in the World War II War Diaries

December 23, 2015 by | 23 Comments

Christmas on VT-44, 1944
Even far from home, servicemen and women during World War II often tried to celebrate the holidays as best as they could. Check out the excerpts below from the World War II War Diaries for descriptions of some Christmas festivities during the war.

Some servicemen were able to enjoy a more traditional Christmas celebration:

“Christmas dinners were served with all the trimmings and carols were sung and the chaplain spoke over the public address system. In the wardroom, a Christmas Eve dinner had been planned. Decorations, designed from materials at hand, consisted of a water fillable bomb for a centerpiece with ‘Merry Christmas’ painted on it and streamers crisscrossing the ceiling made of red tow-sleeves. The occasion was a gala one including the orchestra and even a Santa Claus.” —VT-44, 1944

Other celebrations were simpler:

“Christmas was like other days. We had a Christmas Church Service. Not many came, it was hot and rainy, and we were working at getting those vital supplies aboard. Our Christmas celebration consisted of a huge meal and a good one, followed by candy, cigars, and cigarettes. It was all that we could expect and we were, if not satisfied, at least content.” —USS Amycus, 1944

Some men tried to decorate for the holiday as best as they could:

“One of the radiomen had picked up a sprouting coconut at Guam. This was our Christmas tree. The electricians rigged up a string of lights, and the mess cook tied small boxes of breakfast food to the tree and a signalman painted a Santa Claus.” —USS Tombigee, 1944

For some, Christmas was business as usual:

“Even on Christmas, we did not enjoy a ‘Silent Night,’ however. Manned air defense stations from 1908 to 1945 and from 2135 to 2201; during the last period, bogies closed to 10 miles and a good deal of AA fire was observed from the beach.” —USS Phoenix, 1944

Christmas in Manila, 1941
And for others it was downright terrifying:

“Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were two of the worst days I ever hope to spend in my life. […] On Christmas Eve they [Japanese bombers] put five bombs within 20 feet of the building which we were hiding under. Christmas Day they came back and hit four of those five craters.” —Manila, 1941

Homesickness was common for many during the holidays:

“Everybody tried to be cheerful. But every man knew that he wasn’t fooling anybody, not even himself. For after all, what is Christmas when one is hundreds, or perhaps several thousands of miles from home and loved ones?” —USS Montrose, 1944

But mail from home often cheered them up:

“On arrival, we received our only Christmas presents—mail. What actual Christmas presents we were to receive did not arrive until almost Easter. But the letters from home were a good substitute.” —USS Newman, 1944

Do you have personal or family stories of holidays in the military? Tell us about them! You can find many more stories of holiday experiences in the military by searching on Fold3.

Kate Warne: America’s First Female Detective

December 18, 2015 by | 33 Comments

Born in New York and widowed young, Kate Warne was in her early twenties in 1855 when she walked into Allan Pinkerton‘s office and told him she wanted a job as a detective.Kate Warne Photo The Scottish-born Pinkerton, himself America’s first private eye, was caught off guard that a woman was applying for the position, but despite the lack of precedence for female agents, he decided to hear her out. Kate argued that a female detective would be an asset to Pinkerton’s work, since a woman would be able to go places and get information that men couldn’t—for example, by forming friendships with the wives and girlfriends of suspects to get them to confide information about the crime. After spending a night thinking about it, Pinkerton decided to hire her.

Pinkerton never regretted his decision, and Kate became one of his best agents. Pinkerton described her as “an intelligent, brilliant, accomplished lady”1 who was an “invaluable acquisition to [his] force”2 and said she displayed “tact, readiness of resource, ability to read character, intuitive perceptions of motive, and rare discretion.”3 In fact, Kate proved herself so skilled and able that Pinkerton began hiring other women as well and made Kate the superintendent of the female department of his agency.

Using a wide variety of aliases and disguises, Kate was involved in solving numerous cases, including bank robbery, embezzlement, poisoning, espionage, murder, and beyond. Her best-known case involved working with Pinkerton to protect the life of president-elect Abraham Lincoln from the assassination attempt of the so-called Baltimore Plot in 1861. After Pinkerton learned of the possible plot, he sent Kate to Baltimore to disguise herself as a wealthy Southern woman and gather information. Then, when Lincoln passed through Pennsylvania on his way to his inauguration, Kate was in charge of securing some sleeping berths at the back of a public train, which was part of a plan that would allow Lincoln—disguised as Kate’s invalid brother—to make it through Baltimore without his would-be killers knowing.

Kate Warne ObituaryVery little is known about Kate’s life. Much of the information we know about her today comes from the fictionalized books Pinkerton published detailing the cases his agency solved. Other information and records Pinkerton had relating to Kate were most likely lost when Pinkerton’s archives were destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871.

Kate died from an illness, possibly pneumonia, on 28 January 1868 at age 38 (some sources say 35). Pinkerton had her buried—not far from where he would later be interred—in a section of his family plot reserved for special employees.

Do you have ancestors connected to Pinkerton or the Baltimore Plot? Tell us about it! Or search or browse on Fold3 for other topics that interest you.

1Pinkerton, Allan. The Somnambulist and the Detective: The Murderer and the Fortune Teller. 1875. New York: G. W. Dillingham Co., 1900. 144.
2 Pinkerton, Allan. The Expressman and the Detective. Chicago: W. B. Keen, Cooke & Co., 1874. 95.
3 Pinkerton, The Somnambulist and the Detective: The Murderer and the Fortune Teller. 145.

TMIH – Battle of the Bulge Begins: December 16, 1944

December 2, 2015 by | 265 Comments

Typical Ardennes terrain
On December 16, 1944, Germany launched a massive surprise counter-attack on American lines in the Ardennes (a forested area in Belgium and Luxembourg), breaking through to create a 45-mile salient in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Prior to the attack, 83,000 Americans in four divisions (the 28th, 4th, 106th, and 99th) held an 80-mile, thinly stretched line that crossed through the Ardennes region. It was supposed to be a quiet front, and two of the divisions were there to recover from battle, and the other two were composed of green troops.

At 5:30 a.m. on December 16th, with almost no warning, the Germans attacked the American line, first with artillery and then a rush of infantry. The German goal was to break through the line and charge onward to Antwerp, an important Allied port that had recently been reopened. By doing so, the Germans planned to choke Allied supplies and split their forces in two. American troops in many places along the line were initially overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of German troops (200,000), artillery, and armored vehicles, and German forces were able to create a 45-mile salient into Allied territory, though they failed to reach Antwerp. Due to weather, the Allies couldn’t send in air support for more than a week.

After the weather cleared, the Allies were able to send in powerful air support and to air drop supplies, and Allied forces from the north and south began to fight their way to the middle. However, these ground forces were delayed, which allowed many of the Germans still in the bulge to withdraw before they were trapped. The battle was considered over on 25 January, when the last of the German forces withdrew from the salient.

Capt. James R. Lloyd, 124 E. Walnut St., Lancaster, Pa., a 9th AF Air Liaison officer, stands by a German Tiger tank disabled during the battle of the bulge.

Fighting was fierce in the Battle of the Bulge, and it was the biggest battle on the European western front. In fact, about 1 in 10 American combat casualties in the entire war occurred during the battle. It’s estimated that more than a million men, and 600,000 Americans, participated. Casualty estimates vary, but American dead is usually placed at 20,000 with three or four times that wounded, captured, or missing. German casualties are even harder to pin down, but estimates generally place them at roughly equal to or greater than the Americans’. At least 2,500 civilians were also killed.

The battle was a costly loss for Germany, since the attack didn’t appreciably slow the American invasion of Germany but did cost the Germans large numbers of troops that could have potentially been used later to defend their western border.

Did you have family members who fought in the Battle of the Bulge? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle by starting a search on Fold3.

At ATTENtion! Unveiling a new look and going international

November 5, 2015 by | 6 Comments

Fold3 Logo
Today we are excited to unveil our new logo and announce the addition of over 20+ million new international records. Over four years ago we updated our name, logo and focus on U.S. military records. We’re expanding our focus by adding international military collections to our extensive U.S. offerings. We are honored to play a role in the lives of many researchers, military enthusiasts, genealogist and others.

International Records

Explore the initial titles from the British Commonwealth Nations starting today. Many of these records and more to come will be unique to Fold3, and we hope they will complement your research as they takes you outside the United States.

Along with our new international content, we continue to add additional U.S. content monthly and will be adding some exciting new U.S. collections in the coming months.

New Logo

The new Fold3 logo takes its inspiration from the many militaries across the globe while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, font and colors. The logo has two components: the logotype and the symbol. For the logotype, we continue to use the font Museo. The chevron symbol is a popular military symbol that is used worldwide and throughout history. We have updated our colors to continue to represent the sacrifice and valor of all veterans throughout history.
We’re excited about the additional international content and our new logo, but more importantly we hope you continue to enjoy Fold3— the premier place to discovering more of that military history through quality records.

Fighting of World War I Comes to a Close: November 11, 1918

November 1, 2015 by | 85 Comments

WWI headline annoucing armistice with Germany
On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. the fighting of World War I finally ended as had been decided in an armistice signed by the Allies and Germany earlier that morning at 5 a.m.

Although Germany still held some Allied territory, its army and people were exhausted, starving, and losing hope. While Germany struggled to replace its fallen and deserting soldiers, the Allies were receiving American reinforcements at the rate of 10,000 a day. At home, unrest had broken out, and the Kaiser lost the confidence of the army, forcing him to abdicate on November 9. Added to that, Germany’s allies—Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria—had already signed armistices between the end of September and early November.

German representatives met with the commander in chief of the Allied armies, Ferdinand Foch, in a railcar about 40 miles northeast of Paris and signed the armistice on November 11. However, fighting between the two sides continued in some places between 5 a.m., when the armistice was signed, and 11 a.m., when the fighting was scheduled to stop.

While the armistice ended the fighting, the war technically wouldn’t be over until Germany and its allies signed peace treaties. Representatives from dozens of countries (excluding Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bolshevik Russia) met beginning in January 1919 in Paris to formulate the treaties, though discussions were dominated by Britain, France, and the United States.

Treaty of Peace

The Treaty of Versailles between the Allies and the Germans, signed June 28, required Germany to accept responsibility for the war and to pay reparations to the Allies. Germany also lost some of its territory and all of its overseas colonies and had to reduce the size of its navy and army. The German representatives had little choice but to sign the treaty, as the Allies were blockading German ports until a treaty was signed. Today, historians commonly agree that the terms and effects of the Treaty of Versailles sowed the seeds for World War II.

Did you have ancestors who fought in World War I? Tell us about it! To learn more about the conflict, you can also explore Fold3’s WWI titles, including newly added international titles from the United Kingdom and Australia.

Free Access to the Native American Collection

November 1, 2015 by | 28 Comments

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.

What is Bounty Land?

October 22, 2015 by | 81 Comments

Revolutionary War bounty land warrant for 160 acre
If you’ve looked closely at Fold3’s Revolutionary War Pensions and War of 1812 Pension Files, you may have noticed that some pension files include correspondence or claims regarding bounty land. And, of course, Fold3 also has the Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index. But just what is bounty land?

Bounty land served as both an incentive and reward for military service. It was issued to eligible veterans or their heirs by the Continental Congress and federal government through congressional acts passed between 1776 and 1856. Most early federal bounty land was in military districts like Ohio and other parts of the former Northwest Territory. Later, land was set aside in the territories of Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana. Post-1847, land anywhere in the public domain qualified.

Unlike military pensions, qualifying veterans didn’t have to demonstrate financial need to apply for federal bounty land, but they (or their heirs) did need to file a claim. Some states also offered bounty land, but the collections on Fold3 contain information about federal bounty-land claims.

Early on, federal bounty land applications were handled by the War Department, but later they became the purview of the Pension Office and Department of the Interior. If a veteran’s application for bounty land was approved, they would receive a bounty land warrant (sometimes abbreviated in the files as B.L.Wt.) for a certain number of acres. They could then either transfer or sell the warrant (which is what many did), or file it with a land office for a selected portion of land. They then received a land patent, which is what gave them ownership of the land.

Letter regarding a bounty land warrant

The amount of bounty land granted changed over time through a series of acts of Congress. Most Revolutionary War veterans were originally offered 100 acres (with larger amounts offered to those of higher rank), but many veterans of the War of 1812 were eligible to receive at least 160 acres, which in some cases was later doubled. In 1855, the minimum acreage for surviving Revolutionary War veterans or their heirs was also raised to 160 acres; those who had already been granted a warrant for a lesser acreage could apply for the difference. Eventually, qualifying veterans of the Mexican-American War and Indian Wars also became eligible to apply for bounty land. Civil War veterans were not offered bounty land.

Did any of your ancestors apply for or settle on bounty land? Tell us about it! For more information about bounty land, read the National Archives’ descriptive pamphlets for the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 pension files.