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The Bombing of Balikpapan: August 13-18, 1943

August 10, 2018 by | 43 Comments

Fold3 Image - Bombing of Balikpapan
In the early morning hours of August 13, 1943, twelve US B-24 Liberators from the 380th Bombardment Group (also known as the Flying Circus), began a low approach over the harbor of Balikpapan, Borneo. They were about to break records for the longest bombing run in history. Their 17-hour non-stop flight would take the Japanese completely by surprise and result in destruction in Balikpapan.

Intelligence had suggested that Balikpapan refineries were producing half of Japan’s WWII aviation fuel.

Under the command of Lt. Col. William A. Miller, a risky plan was conceived for a bombing run to Balikpapan. Pilots would need to cover 2600 miles – roughly the distance between Los Angeles and New York City.

The planes and crews were readied at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin in Northern Australia. Each plane was loaded with six 500-pound bombs, 3500 gallons of fuel, and weighed nearly 66,000 pounds.

The runway at Darwin was especially short and ground crews watched nervously as the planes, including one piloted by Lt. Col. Miller, took off. They cleared the tree line by just inches.

Approaching the harbor, the first plane dropped its load without encountering any resistance. A massive explosion ensued. The next 11 planes encountered flak but managed to successfully drop their bombs on refineries and ships. The harbor exploded into a ball of flame. Burning oil ran down the hillsides. Lt. Col. Miller found the heat so intense that he was forced to drop his load from 7,000 feet.

After the successful run came the challenge of returning to Darwin. The planes headed back to Australia but as they crossed over a Japanese base on Timor, a B-24 piloted by Capt. Doug Craig was engaged by enemy fighters. Craig was forced to take evasive maneuvers all the way back to the coast of Australia. He was short on gas and 100-miles off course when he touched down on a stretch of sand.

Fold3 Image - Curious Australian Aborigines at the site of Capt. Doug Craig's crash landing
The exhausted crew rolled to a stop. As they deplaned they found themselves surrounded by a large group of Aborigines. Craig tried to communicate using exaggerated sign language but was surprised when the Aboriginal leader asked him, “What are you trying to say?” The Aborigines protected the crew until a rescue party arrived.

Days later, the 380th participated in a risky daylight flight to Balikpapan to assess the damage. Another Liberator performed a high elevation photo run of the harbor before dropping his load. The element of surprise was gone, and the Japanese scrambled to engage the B-24. Though riddled with bullets and running on fumes, the plane successfully returned to Darwin. Photos revealed more ships in the harbor and a third bombing run was planned for August 18th. The Liberators successfully bombed the harbor again. They were under heavy attack that resulted in bullet-riddled planes and wounds, but managed to return to Australia. The Flying Circus received a Distinguished Unit Citation. Search our records for the 380th Bombardment Group and others like it on Fold3.com!

The Battle of Amiens: August 8, 1918

August 1, 2018 by | 140 Comments

On August 8, 1918, in Amiens, France, a British-led Allied force of 75,000 soldiers began the Battle of Amiens. It was the first battle of the “Hundred Days Offensive,” a string of German defeats that would eventually lead to the end of WWI.

Fold3 Image - Allies take over German trench on August 10, 1918. Dead German soldiers are seen in trench.
Under the direction of British Fourth Army commander, Sir Henry Rawlinson, the offensive was planned in part by French General Ferdinand Foch to protect the Paris-Amiens railway that served to supply the front lines. Troops from Britain, France, Australia, Canada, and the US joined forces to defeat Germany.

At 4:20 A.M., the battlefield was cloaked by a smoke screen laid by the Royal Air Force. Guns blazing, the Allies charged towards German trenches. The intense artillery attack lasted 5 hours and caught the Germans completely by surprise. Many surrendered immediately.

German General Erich Ludendorff referred to the first day of battle as “the black day of the German Army,” because so many Germans surrendered. German spirits were low and according to Ludendorff, “depressed down to Hell.”

The Battle of Amiens effectively ended trench warfare on the Western front because of the speed of the Allied advance. The Germans trenches were overrun pushing the enemy back. Allies captured large numbers of artillery and gathered them in a “captured gun park,” near Amiens.

By August 11, troops had advanced eight miles and 26,000 German soldiers were either captured, killed, or injured. The Allies suffered losses too with more than 19,000 casualties.

Allies were also successful in capturing the Amiens gun, an 11-inch Krupp naval gun that had been mounted on a rail car. The gun had been shelling Amiens all summer, wreaking havoc in the city.

The advantage Allied forces gained at Amiens continued for the next 100 days until the Armistice of November 11, 1918 was signed that ended WWI.

To learn more about the Battle of Amiens or other WWI battles, search our archives!

New British Military Award Records on Fold3!

July 18, 2018 by | 25 Comments

Fold3 Image - WWII Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation
This month we’re excited to highlight some of the British military records we’ve added to our collection!

British WWII Commando Gallantry Awards:
This collection contains the names of nearly 500 British Commandos who earned a Gallantry Award during WWII. The awards include Victoria Crosses, Distinguished Service Orders, Military Crosses, Distinguished Conduct Medals and Military Medals. The collection is alphabetized and includes rank, regiment, and the date the award was issued. In some instances, the full citation was published in the London Gazette. Where applicable, that citation is attached in the comment field.

British WWII Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations:
These records are an alphabetized list of non-commissioned officers and men in the army who were awarded the second highest award for gallantry during WWII. The records are cross-referenced to the London Gazette publication dates and tell the stories that inspired the award.

WWII Distinguished Flying Medals for British Soldiers:
This collection is an alphabetized list of nearly 6,500 recipients of the Distinguished Flying Medal award. The index was transcribed from surviving Recommendations. In some cases, they contain a cross reference to the publication date in the London Gazette. Where no Recommendation was found, the relevant press release is entered.

British Companions of the DSO Awards, 1923-2010:
This collection is an alphabetized list of recipients of the DSO Award and subsequent First, Second, and Third Bar awards from the British Navy and Royal Marines. The records are primarily from WWII, but pre-war and post-war campaigns are also included. The records include birthdates, family members and other biographical information along with the reason for the award recommendation.

British Recipients of the Military Cross:
This collection contains records for recipients of the Military Cross during WWI. The collection is alphabetized and includes name, rank, and battalion or sub unit and other biographical details. Military Crosses are cited in the London Gazette and those citations are attached, including the confirmation of the existence of that issue.

Search Fold3 for these are other international collections today!

The Continental Congress Adopts the Declaration of Independence: July 4, 1776

July 1, 2018 by | 31 Comments

As we celebrate America’s birthday, let’s take a look back through the original documents of the Continental Congress available on Fold3 to see how history unfolded!

In 1774, as the relationship between colonists and the British deteriorated, the First Continental Congress was established. Their Articles of Association was an attempt to respond to the British Intolerable Acts (a series of punitive laws meant to punish colonists for the Boston Tea Party), and to assert some level of independence.

Fold3 Image - The Declaration of Independence
On September 5, 1774, the First Continental Congress convened in Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia with the intention of drafting a declaration of rights. Peyton Randolph was elected president.

The British did not respond warmly to their efforts and attempted to quell the rebellion. In the meantime, colonists were organizing and strengthening militias. Tensions came to a head when the British arrived at Concord, Massachusetts for a routine raid on colonial military supplies. Shots rang out and the American Revolutionary War began.

On May 10th, 1775, a Second Continental Congress was convened to determine how to respond to the British threat. In June, Congress authorized the printing of money to buy war supplies. There were no taxes, so colonies were asked to contribute men and supplies. Congress met throughout May to “take into consideration the state of America.” A committee was appointed to conduct relations with foreign governments. Congress had become a functioning government.

On June 14th, Congress created a Continental Army and put George Washington in command. Congress relocated to York, Pennsylvania because British troops occupied Philadelphia. In July, Congress drafted The Olive Branch Petition in one last attempt to avoid war. It was rejected.

By the time 1776 rolled around, the discussions in Congress had shifted to complete independence. In June of that year, a committee was formed to begin drafting a declaration. On July 2nd, 1776, the Declaration of Independence passed Congress and on July 4th, Congress approved it!

Do you have ancestors that participated in the Continental Congress or fought in the Revolutionary War? If you want to dive deeper into the records, search our archives!

Access Revolutionary War Records for Free*

July 1, 2018 by | Comments Off on Access Revolutionary War Records for Free*

Revolutionary War Signing for Payment Vouchers
To commemorate Independence Day, Fold3 is providing free access* to our Revolutionary War Collection July 1–15.

We continue to offer everyday free access to our Constitutional Convention Records, Continental Congress Papers, George Washington Correspondence, and other archives from the founding of our nation! See the original manuscripts written with quill and ink by our founding fathers.

Our Revolutionary War collection contains 22 collections with almost 5 million records! Here’s just a few of the titles:

Revolutionary War Rolls: The Continental Army was made up of troops provided by each colony. They formed battalions, regiments, companies or militias. There is an introduction to this collection from the National Archives, and then you can search by state and narrow down to a specific fighting group.

Navy Casualty Reports, 1776 – 1941: This collection records both wartime and peacetime deaths of navy soldiers in the Revolutionary War and later conflicts including the War of 1812, Civil War, WWI and others.

Revolutionary War Service Records: These are service records for soldiers who fought for the Continental Army. They are arranged under state, fighting company and then alphabetically by soldier’s name.

Revolutionary War Prize Cases – Captured Vessels: After the US declared independence from the British, colonists were no match for the powerful British Navy. In an effort to disrupt British commerce, colonists captured British vessels. The vessels were known as prizes. These records, which are copies of the original manuscripts, are cases heard on appeal by courts from 1776-1886. You can browse them by state, case name, or by vessel name.

Final Payment Vouchers Index for Military Pensions, 1818-1864: This is a collection of records of final pension payments made to military veterans or his widow. They shed light on where a family may have moved after the war, death dates of veterans, widows, or dependent children, and sometimes the maiden name of a widow.

Get started searching our Revolutionary War Collection today!

*Access to the records in the featured collections will be free until July 15, 2018 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.

New Naval Records on Fold3

June 19, 2018 by | 28 Comments

Fold3 Image - Miscellaneous Record of the Navy Department
We have added another group of naval records to our collection! These records cover several military conflicts and cover a time span of about 150 years!

Navy Court Martial Records, 1799-1867:
This collection has records of Naval Court Martials beginning in 1799. The records are arranged by volumes and case numbers (1-4721) and are also in chronological order. There is an alphabetized, partially completed index that covers trials from 1861-1867. A second index covers the entire collection. Information contained in this collection may include the name of sailor charged; his rating, ship or station; the alleged offense; place and date of trial; and the sentence.

Area File of Naval Records Collection, 1775-1910:
This collection contains documents accumulated from naval officers while in command of squadrons or single vessels. It is divided into geographical areas with each area in chronological order. The collection covers several conflicts including the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the Civil War.

Miscellaneous Records of the Navy Department:
This collection is organized by vessel name or station and then by date. It contains miscellaneous letters, muster rolls, pay rolls, war diaries, naval record acceptances, and resignations. The documents cover a broad time span.

Get started searching these collections and other titles now on Fold3!

Military Gear Used for D-day: June 6, 1944

June 13, 2018 by | 76 Comments

Fold3 Image - Soldiers exit ramp on landing craft on D-Day
On June 6, 1944, Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. Soldiers were equipped with the best gear and weapons available at the time. Here’s a few examples of what soldiers would have used:

Higgins Landing Crafts: Before the ground assault could begin, Soldiers needed to get to the beach. They boarded Higgins landing crafts (or LCVP “landing craft, vehicle and personnel”) for the trip to shore.

Donald Englar, just 18-years-old, operated a Higgins boat. He recalled the struggle of landing under heavy enemy fire. He tried to deliver the men as close to the beach as possible. Sometimes they unloaded in knee-deep water. On another run he hit a sandbar and the soldiers had to unload in water over their heads. Many of the men died by German gunfire before leaving the boat. Others died on the exit ramp, and some in the pounding surf. One trip he started with 33 men on board and only six survived.

M1 Steel Helmet: On shore, a soldier’s head was protected by the newly designed M1 steel helmet. The M1 helmet was one-size-fits-all, with an inner adjustable lining insert. Although relatively heavy, the design was extremely effective and was used by the military for more than forty years. The M1 was often referred to as the “steel pot” because its design made it handy for a washing bowl or even a cooking pot.

M1 Garand Rifle: On D-Day, soldiers were carrying the M1 Garand Rifle. General George Patton called the M1 Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” The Garand was an auto-loading semi-automatic rifle that gave troops tremendous advantage in firepower.

M-1928 Haversack: The M-1928 Haversack was a pack designed to carry everything a soldier would need to stay alive in the field, including food rations and extra clothing.

M-1910 Shovel: The M-1910 shovel was a collapsible tool essential for trenching. As one soldier said, “If an infantry man thinks he’s going to be in one place for more than five minutes, he digs a hole.”

Cricket: U.S. Paratroopers that dropped in behind enemy lines relied on a simple device called the “cricket” as a way to communicate or signal one another. The small hand-held device produced a sound imitating nature and was unrecognizable to the enemy. One click was a request for identification. Two clicks indicated a friendly response.

Do you have a family member that participated in D-Day? Do you have any of the gear they used? Tell us about it and search our archives for more information on D-Day and WWII.