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Find: U.S. Coast Guard’s 226th Birthday

August 11, 2016 by | 30 Comments

Fold3 Image - Insignia and hats of the SPARS (women's auxiliary of the Coast Guard)
This August marks the 226th birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard, originally created as the Revenue Marine in August 1790 by Congress. The Revenue Marine was formed at the request of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, as an armed service to collect and enforce customs duties at U.S. ports. Though the Continental Navy was created before the Revenue Marine (in 1775), the Navy’s disbandment between 1790 and 1798 makes the Coast Guard the oldest continuous maritime service in the U.S.

By 1894, the Revenue Marine had officially taken on the name the Revenue Cutter Service. Then, in 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service was combined with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to create today’s Coast Guard; in 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was also incorporated, as was the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1942.

The Coast Guard originally operated under the Department of the Treasury (1790), then the Department of Transportation (1967), and finally the Department of Homeland Security (2003); during World Wars I and II, it was temporarily moved to the Department of the Navy. In fact, as one of the nation’s armed services, the Coast Guard has participated in every U.S. conflict since its formation in 1790. The three main roles of today’s Coast Guard are maritime safety, security, and stewardship.

Fold3 has hundreds of thousands of search results relating to Coast Guard history. Listed below are just a few:

  • Disapproved Navy Survivors Pension File for Alexander McBride, a Revenue Marine veteran who served 1846-48
  • Civil War era photos of Revenue Marine captains H.B. Nones and J. Faunce
  • Account of the grounding of the USS Harriet Lane, a revenue cutter, during the Civil War
  • 1908 and 1913 Washington Post articles about the Revenue Cutter Service
  • Document regarding the combination of the Revenue Cutter Service and Life-Saving Service to form the Coast Guard in 1915
  • Documents relating to the proposed (but never passed) legislation in 1919 to permanently transfer the Coast Guard to the Navy Department
  • WWII War Diaries for the Coast Guard in the 3rd, 6th, and 14th Naval Districts; for the Coast Guard Air Station, Salem, MA; and others
  • Images of insignia and hats assigned to the SPARS (Coast Guard Women’s Reserve)
  • Navy Cruise Book for the USS Wakefield, a Navy troop transport ship operated by the Coast Guard, documenting its WWII cruise history
  • Photos of some WWII era Coast Guardsmen and SPARS personnel
  • Medal of Honor citation for Douglas Albert Munro, the only Coast Guardsman to be awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously for actions in 1942)

To find more documents about Coast Guard history, try using this pre-formatted Fold3 search as a jumping off point. Or start a search of your own.

The Spanish-American War Ends: August 12, 1898

August 1, 2016 by | Comments Off on The Spanish-American War Ends: August 12, 1898

Fold3 Image - First page of Medal of Honor citations for the Spanish-American War
On August 12, 1898, representatives for the United States and Spain signed a peace protocol in Washington DC, ending the three-month-long Spanish-American War in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The American victory against the Spanish would result in the collapse of what remained of Spain’s colonial empire and would herald America’s entrance as a major player on the world stage.

The war had formally begun on April 25, 1898, when the United States declared war against Spain. Though the catalyst for America’s declaration of war was the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor (which at the time was blamed on Spain), American public opinion had been turning against Spain for some time, due to atrocities committed against Cubans in their fight for independence. After the sinking of the Maine, the U.S. joined the Cubans in their fight against Spain.

Cuba would prove to be the main stage of the war, though American troops were also sent to the Spanish possessions of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The short war included two main actions in Cuba against the exhausted, ill, and demoralized Spanish army: the Battle of San Juan Hill (with Theodore Roosevelt’s famed Rough Riders) and the sea battle and subsequent land siege at Santiago de Cuba.

Fold3 Image - Spanish-American War peace protocol to be signed
Following the American siege on Santiago, the Spanish commander for that city surrendered on July 17, 1898, after being convinced that his situation was hopeless. This surrender essentially signaled the end of the war, though token fighting would occur in Puerto Rico and the Philippines after that date. The peace protocol between Spain and America was finally signed a month later on August 12, with the actual peace treaty not being signed until that December. In all, about 350 Americans died in battle during the war, with far more dying from disease.

American involvement with the former Spanish colonies was far from over at the cessation of hostilities with Spain, however. The U.S. army occupied Cuba until 1902, when the island obtained independence, though it would remain under U.S. supervision until 1934. Puerto Rico and Guam became (and still remain) U.S. territories, and the Philippines soon began a long fight for independence from the U.S. that would last until 1946.

Did you have ancestors who fought in the Spanish-American War? Tell us about them! Or you can look for these ancestors in Fold3’s Spanish-American War collection.

WWI Draft Registration Cards

July 19, 2016 by | 7 Comments

Fold3 Image - James Adams WWI Draft Registration Card
Did you have any male family members living in the United States during 1917–18 who were born between 1872 and 1900? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll find them in Fold3’s WWI Draft Registration Cards (via the National Archives).

After the United States entered the war with Germany in 1917, the government required men of certain age groups to register for the draft. There were three draft registration periods: The first, on 5 June 1917, was for men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second registration, held a year later, on 5 June 1918, was for men who had turned 21 since the last registration or who hadn’t registered during the first registration for whatever reason. The third registration was held just a few months later, on 12 September 1918, and extended the draft registration ages to include men as young as 18 or as old as 45

An estimated 98 percent of American-born men between the ages of 18 and 45 registered for the draft in 1917–18, which means that if you had male relatives living in the U.S. at the time, it’s likely that they registered as well. Even non-citizens were required to register (though they weren’t inducted). However, men already serving in the military, or who enlisted before the draft registration, didn’t have to register, so if any of your relatives fall into this category, they won’t have a registration card in this collection. And keep in mind that just because your relative registered for the draft, it doesn’t mean he ever actually served in the military; only a minority of men who registered for the WWI draft were ever called up.

Though there are three different draft registration forms (one for each of the three registration periods), information you can generally find on them includes:

  • Full name
  • Home address
  • Date and place of birth
  • Age, race, and country of citizenship
  • Occupation and employer
  • Physical description (hair and eye color, height, disabilities)
  • Additional information such as address of nearest relative, dependent relatives, marital status, father’s birthplace, or previous exemption from service
  • Signature

On Fold3, this collection is organized by state, residence county, surname, then given name. If you can’t find the relative you’re looking for in this collection, try looking under various spellings of their name. Some men may also have accidentally switched the order of their first and last names on the form, so their form might have been alphabetized under their first name rather than last. Your relative might also have registered in a different county or state than where he was living; these cards were supposed to be forwarded to the correct county, but not all were, so your relative’s registration card might be filed under a different county.

Get started searching or browsing Fold3’s WWI Draft Registration cards here!

Sinking of the USS Indianapolis: July 30, 1945

July 1, 2016 by | 132 Comments

In the early morning of July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis, on its way from Guam to the Philippines, was struck by two torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarineFold3 Image - First page of summary of USS Indianapolis's service and quickly sank, resulting in the largest loss of life at sea in U.S. Navy history.

On July 16, the Indianapolis, a cruiser, left San Francisco headed for the island of Tinian in the Marianas. On board was a secret cargo that included parts to be used in the atomic bombs that would be dropped on Japan. Having received repairs in San Francisco for damage done by a kamikaze attack, the Indianapolis made record time to Tinian, then headed for the Philippines by way of Guam.

Forced to sail without an escort—and uninformed that there was a likelihood of Japanese subs in the area—the Indianapolis generally maintained the mandated zigzagging course, except on the night of the 29–30, when visibility was poor.

Just after midnight, in the early morning of the 30th, 300 miles from the closest land, the Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese sub. After the extent of the damage to the ship became clear, the commander, Charles McVay III, gave the orders to send out distress signals and abandon ship.

The ship sank fast, going under in 12 minutes. The speed at which it sank meant that about 300 men of the crew of nearly 1,200 went down with the ship; the remaining roughly 900 made it into the water. Although about half of the men had life jackets and 12 of the ship’s 35 life rafts (as well as some floater nets) were deployed, many men drowned or died of injuries, dehydration, or exposure while they were in the water. Others were killed in attacks by the sharks that swarmed the area.

Fold3 Image - Rescue of the men of the USS Indianapolis
The men were in the water for four days, since the Navy had not found it remarkable that the Indianapolis had not arrived to the Philippines on time and did not know to look for them. Finally, on the afternoon of August 2, the men were noticed by chance by an American patrol plane that observed first the oil slick, then the men in the water. Once the men of the Indianapolis were spotted, a rescue effort was launched, but the length of time since the sinking meant that when the last man was pulled from the ocean on August 3, only 317 men had survived.

Did you have family who served on the USS Indianapolis? Share their story with us! Or learn more about the ship by searching or browsing on Fold3.

Access Revolutionary War Records for Free*

July 1, 2016 by | 2 Comments

Revolutionary War Signing for Payment Vouchers
Did you have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War? Come check out Fold3’s more than 5 million Revolutionary War records, which you can explore for free July 1–15.

Popular among the 21 titles in this collection are:

Full access to the Revolutionary War collection can help you find even more information on the people or events you’re researching. For example, let’s say you’re researching James Morris of Connecticut. You can learn from his Revolutionary War pension file that he served in the Battle of Germantown, where he was taken prisoner of war for three years.

George Washington
But your research doesn’t have to stop there. If you wanted to discover more about Morris than you found in his pension file, you could look in the Revolutionary War Rolls to find him listed on a muster roll during his time as a prisoner. If you were interested in learning more what Morris’s time as a prisoner of war may have been like, you could search for accounts of other Revolutionary War POWs—in places like the pension files, the Pennsylvania Archives, the papers of the Continental Congress, and elsewhere. Or if you’d rather flesh out your understanding of the battle Morris was captured in, then you could read George Washington’s own account of the Battle of Germantown in the papers of the Continental Congress.

There’s a lot to discover in the Revolutionary War Collection. Start your own exploration here.

*Access to the records in the featured collections will be free until July 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.

Australia WWI Service Records

June 20, 2016 by | 7 Comments

Fold3 Image - Attestation Paper for Arthur Eeles
Do you have ancestors who served with the Australian armed forces during World War I? Look for them in Fold3’s Australia WWI Service Records collection!

This collection (via the National Archives of Australia) contains service dossiers for Australians who served during World War I in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT), Australian Flying Corps (AFC), or Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). It also includes depot records for personnel who served at home rather than abroad during the war. Navy records are not included. The service records in this collection are not meant to cover all aspects of a person’s military service; rather they are administrative files that provide a general overview of that individual’s service.

Maintaining these service records was originally the responsibility of the Base Records Office in Melbourne. The office was created in October 1914 to manage the high number of military personnel records resulting from Britain’s (and thus Australia’s) entrance into World War I. Besides managing the records, the office also fielded questions relating to casualties, wills, medals, pensions, mail, and personal effects.

Two of the most common documents that can be found in most of the service records are an Attestation Paper and a Service and Casualty Form. The Attestation Paper, filled out by the individual when they enlisted, provides basic biographical information, such as place of birth, age, marital status, religion, employment, next-of-kin details, prior military service, and physical description. The Service and Casualty Form contains rudimentary details of the person’s service, including movements and transfers, promotions and awards, and details of illness, injuries, and death.

Fold3 Image - Service and Casualty Form
In the 1950s, the Department of the Army culled extraneous documents from many of the service records, leaving behind only those deemed essential. Thus, the types of documents remaining in the service records can vary widely but may include notifications to next-of-kin regarding death or injury, letters concerning a soldier’s location, details of awards and medals, pay information, wills, information about wartime marriages, medical reports, and burial information.

On Fold3, the service records are organized alphabetically by surname, then by given name and service number. Get started searching or browsing the Australia WWI Service Records here.

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.