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March 2-4, 1943: Battle of the Bismarck Sea

March 1, 2024 by | 0 comments

The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was a pivotal WWII battle fought March 2-4, 1943, in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). Allied aircraft from the US Fifth Airforce and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) attacked a convoy of Japanese ships transporting troop reinforcements to Lae, New Guinea. The Allies destroyed most of the convoy, and Japan suffered heavy losses, abandoning their plan to land more troops at Lae.

In January 1943, Japan launched a convoy of five destroyers and five transport ships to New Guinea to reinforce the Japanese hold in the SWPA. Allied aircraft attacked the convoy, but only two transports were lost. Some 4,000 Japanese troops successfully made it to New Guinea.

This Japanese transport ship was highly camouflaged with trees and foliage as it traveled through the Bismarck Sea. A US Army plane carrying a combat cameraman flew low to capture this shot. The ship has been hit, and smoke is rising as it burns.

Emboldened by their success, Japan began planning a more extensive transport to bring 6,900 troops, ammunition, fuel, and supplies to reinforce New Guinea. They knew the convoy was risky because of strong Allied air power, but the alternative was landing the troops much further away, where they would be required to hike through rugged terrain to reach Lae.

The second Japanese convoy consisted of eight destroyers, eight transports, and 100 Japanese aircraft to provide air cover. The convoy departed Simpson Harbour in Rabaul on February 28, 1943.

Allied intelligence officials, however, had intercepted coded Japanese messages and were aware of the plans for a convoy. Under the direction of US Army Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney and RAAF Group Captain William H. Garing, the Allies planned and rehearsed a highly coordinated air attack. Reconnaissance planes began sweeping the sea, looking for enemy ships. On March 2, they spotted the enemy convoy and launched the first of several waves of attacks.

The multi-pronged attacks involved 16 Allied squadrons that attacked from different altitudes. Some bombers flew just a few feet above the ground, dropping skip bombs (bombs that skipped across the water before slamming into the sides of ships). Others from medium altitude and some from as high as 10,000 feet.

An enemy Japanese ship is bombed with a low-level skip bomb during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Over the next two days, the Allies sank all eight transports and four destroyers. The remaining four destroyers were damaged. They also shot down numerous Japanese fighter planes. Japanese survivors from the ships were adrift in the sea. On March 4, the Allies sent torpedo boats and aircraft to patrol the area. They strafed Japanese survivors and rescue vessels. They also engaged with a Japanese submarine, assisting in the rescue operation. The controversial strafing decision was defended as a way to prevent enemy soldiers from returning to active service.

At least 3,000 Japanese soldiers died. Some 2,700 were rescued from the water and returned to Rabaul, and 1,200 made it ashore to Lai. In contrast, just 13 Allied airmen died. The losses were devastating for Japan, and they made no further attempt to reinforce Lai.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, search Fold3® today.

New Records for Black and Indigenous Soldiers in the American Revolution

February 22, 2024 by | 33 Comments

We are pleased to announce that we have added a new collection of records for Black and Indigenous Soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. These records are primarily manuscripts dating from 1775-1783, including muster rolls, pay vouchers, and enlistment records.

Barring a few units, the Continental Army was mostly integrated. Black and Indigenous men served alongside white soldiers and had an equal pay base despite discriminatory policies pertaining to enlistment and rank.

Most Blacks serving in the Revolutionary War fought on behalf of the British. However, some free Black men joined the Continental Army voluntarily. Enslaved men, on the other hand, were forced to enlist by their enslavers, often for profit, and they were not allowed to enlist of their own free will.

At the onset of the Revolutionary War, there were over 80 Indigenous nations east of the Mississippi River. Some opted to remain neutral, but most nations – including the Cherokee, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Mohawk, and Seneca – joined the side of the British. Others, like the Oneida and Tuscarora, sided with the colonists, and some Native men chose to join the Continental Army.

The records in this collection are varied, but some of the following may be available:

  • Name
  • Birthdate and place
  • Date and place of enlistment
  • Unit, regiment, and rank
  • Names of other unit members
  • Occupation
  • History of enslavement
  • Military history
  • Physical description

These records can help reveal the stories of Revolutionary War soldiers like Nero Hawley. Hawley was enlisted in the 2nd Connecticut Regiment as a substitute for his enslaver, Daniel Hawley, in 1777. During the Battle of Stony Point in 1779, one of the most dramatic battles in the war, Nero was severely injured. He was discharged in April of 1781 and officially obtained freedom and a pension in return for his military service. Nero returned to a more simple life as a free man in Connecticut, where he worked at a brick mill. He died in 1817 at the age of 75.

Record showing payment to Nero Hawley for service in the Revolutionary War

Explore this new collection today to learn more about the Black and Indigenous soldiers who served valiantly during the Revolutionary War. Then, search for additional records in other collections, including Service Records, Revolutionary War Rolls, and Revolutionary War Pensions. Search Fold3® today.

The Great Expedition Encounters a Hurricane

February 7, 2024 by | 14 Comments

In late October 1861, more than 80 ships carrying US sailors and soldiers set sail from Hampton Roads, Virginia, for Beaufort, South Carolina. The mission was dubbed the Great Expedition, and it was in response to President Lincoln’s call for a blockade of Confederate ports in the South. The newly formed South Atlantic Blockading Squadron hoped to develop a base at the Port Royal Sound in South Carolina. Unbeknownst to Navy officers, the armada was heading straight into the path of a hurricane. Before the Battle of Port Royal began one week later, Union soldiers and sailors fought for their lives in a battle against Mother Nature. Some did not survive.

On October 29, 1861, the Naval fleet assembled at Hampton Roads. They set sail arranged in three parallel lines, each following another at about a half-mile distance. The USS Wabash took the lead as flagship.

USS Wabash, flagship during the Great Expedition

The Expedition enjoyed calm seas and light winds for the first few days. However, a tropical storm churning off the tip of Florida was climbing the eastern seaboard and had developed into a hurricane.

On November 1, while rounding Cape Hatteras, the winds intensified and increased to a gale. Heavy seas caused the orderly columns of ships to disassemble, and the fleet scattered. One sailor aboard the Wabash described water crashing over the gunboats and side-wheel steamers lurching so ferociously that their paddles revolved in the air. Throughout the night, timbers creaked and groaned as the ships rolled and pitched in the storm.

Onboard the steamer Winfield Scott, 500 soldiers from the 50th Pennsylvania fought to keep the ship afloat as waves battered it. The masts broke, and a huge seam opened onboard the vessel, allowing torrents of ocean water to spill in. The soldiers worked feverishly to pump out the water, throwing anything with extra weight overboard, including their guns, knapsacks, and overcoats.

Reading Times: November 19, 1861

Another ship, the Bienville, tried to come to the rescue, but the engineer and several crew members from the Winfield Scott abandoned their posts and leaped into the rescue boat, which was then swamped. Miraculously, the Winfield Scott survived the storm and was towed to safety by the steamer Vanderbilt.

The SS Governor sank during the storm, but in a daring rescue by the USS Isaac Smith and the USS Sabine, all but seven of the nearly 700 men were saved before the ship went down.

On November 4, the battered ships began to assemble outside the Port Royal Sound. On November 7, the Battle of Port Royal began, and despite its weather-worn fleet, Union forces took control of Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard, and Confederate forces retreated. Union forces then established a base of operations to support the Union blockade of Confederate ports.

Bay Point, South Carolina – Fort Beauregard

If you would like to learn more about the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron or the Battle of Port Royal, search Fold3® today.

Operation Carpetbagger: The WWII Mission to Supply Resistance Fighters

February 1, 2024 by | 69 Comments

In January 1944, the military launched a top-secret operation called Operation Carpetbagger. The aim was to supply European resistance fighters with weapons, supplies, and secret agents behind enemy lines. The effort required risky night missions flown in specially modified B-24 Liberator Bombers under the direction of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – the forerunner of today’s CIA.

The Carpetbaggers were part of the newly redesignated 801st/492nd Bombardment Group and operated out of Harrington Field, a Royal Air Force base in England. Since the clandestine missions were flown only at night, the B-24s were painted glossy black to evade searchlights. Aircrews flew at dangerously low altitudes, using landmarks and rivers illuminated by moonlight to navigate. As they neared a drop zone, a special air-ground directional device named “Rebecca” inside the plane communicated with a ground beacon named “Eureka” to guide the aircraft. When the plane was within a few miles of the drop zone, the aircrew contacted partisans on the ground using a special two-way radio called an “S-Phone.”

B-24 Liberator “Scrappy” – 42-52749. Modified and painted black.

Once the aircrew verified that it was partisans on the ground and not Germans, they dropped steel containers containing everything from radios to weapons through the bomb bay doors. The ball turret was also replaced by a special cargo hatch called a “Joe Hole.” Crews could drop supplies or even OSS agents (called Joes) via parachute through the Joe Hole.

Most of the Carpetbagger missions were flown to supply French partisans in advance of D-Day operations in June 1944. Carpetbaggers also flew missions to Norway, Denmark, and Germany. They finished their final full-scale mission in September 1944. According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Operation Carpetbagger completed 1,860 sorties and delivered 20,495 containers and over 11 thousand packages of vital supplies to European resistance fighters. In addition, more than 1,000 parachutists dropped through Joe Holes into enemy territory.

Their secret night missions, deep in the heart of occupied Europe, were crucial to arm and assist resistance fighters who sought to undermine Nazi Germany. Those involved were sworn to secrecy, and their contributions remained classified for some 40 years following the war.

In 2018, the remaining Office of Strategic Services members, many of whom had worked with Operation Carpetbagger, were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal for their efforts in establishing intelligence networks and training resistance operations during WWII.

To learn more about Operation Carpetbagger, search Fold3® today.

New Civil War Records: National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

January 22, 2024 by | 18 Comments

We are pleased to announce the addition of records for soldiers who resided in National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938. This free collection contains records for twelve National Homes where disabled soldiers and sailors could live following the Civil War.

During the Civil War, many benevolent and philanthropical groups ran soldiers’ homes where disabled soldiers could live and receive care on a short-term basis. In 1865, Congress approved the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Later, the name was changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.

National Soldiers Home in Togus Springs, Maine – The New England magazine

The first Soldiers’ Home opened in 1866 in Togus Springs, Maine. This collection contains records for that home in Maine and others in New York, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, South Dakota, Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, and California.

National Soldiers Home in Wisconsin

Admission to Soldiers’ Homes was voluntary, and soldiers and sailors could request which home they wanted to live in. Once admitted, veterans were issued uniforms, assigned companies, and followed military-like rules. Soldiers were free to leave when they wanted, but residents had to request permission for temporary leave. Violators were subjected to extra work duty as punishment. Over time, National Homes became less bureaucratic and offered recreation, entertainment, games, and libraries.

If you have an ancestor that resided in a Soldiers’ Home, this collection contains home registers. The register contained four sections: Military History, Domestic History, Home History, and General Remarks. These sections can provide valuable genealogical information such as which company and regiment a soldier served in, time and place of discharge, cause of disability, the soldier’s physical description, occupation, residence, the name and address of the nearest relative, and more. 

The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was absorbed into the Veterans Administration when the VA was established in 1930.

Start exploring the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers collection today on Fold3®.

Fold3® 2023 Year in Review

January 16, 2024 by | 2 Comments

Before we dive into 2024, we wanted to pause momentarily and say thanks! As a  Fold3® member, your generous support helps us to continue the crucial work of preserving military records. We had an incredible year in 2023! Let’s look back at a few of the highlights we achieved together.

We’ve already hit the road running in 2024, and we’re committed to working hard, bringing more military records to the site, and ensuring that your Fold3 membership will continue to increase in value. From our entire team at Fold3®, thank you, and Happy New Year!

December 1941: Patriotism Prevails as Enlistees Flock to Recruitment Offices Following Pearl Harbor

December 12, 2023 by | 45 Comments

As the magnitude of the attack on Pearl Harbor became apparent in December 1941, men eager to defend the country flocked to military recruitment offices. On December 8, newspapers reported that lines formed nationwide as men waited to enlist. Some recruitment offices stayed open around the clock to accommodate demand. In many cases, brothers enlisted together, and sometimes fathers and sons. We searched our archives to discover more about some early enlistees. Here are a few of their stories:

Roland Bumpus, Jr.

The same day Pearl Harbor was attacked, 21-year-old Roland “Rolly” Bumpus, Jr. of Massachusetts, announced to his family, “Tomorrow, I’m going to enlist in the Navy,” he said. “O.K., son,” said his father. I’ll join up again with you.” Roland Bumpus, Sr. had served in the Navy during WWI. They both applied for enlistment, and Rolly, Jr. was accepted. He was assigned to serve on the USS Ingraham (DD-444). The ship served as an escort for convoys bringing supplies to Europe. On August 22, 1942, in heavy fog, the USS Ingraham collided with the oil tanker Chemung off the coast of Nova Scotia. Depth charges in the ship exploded, and the Ingraham sank quickly, killing more than 200 men. Rolly, Jr. died in the incident. He had served for just eight months.

In Philadelphia, Navy officials announced on December 10 that four brothers from the Irion family had enlisted. The boys were Frederick, 25, Edward, 23, Perry, 20, and James, 18. Their mother, Louise Irion, said she just had one regret. “I had wanted to have the boys home with me for Christmas, she said, “but I guess they will be needed sooner than that…I’m glad for the opportunity to give my sons,” she said. Muster rolls show that at one point, all four boys served aboard the USS Tuscaloosa. The Irion brothers served throughout the entire war and returned home safely.

Muster roll for the USS Tuscaloosa

Benjamin Kuroki was the 22-year-old son of Japanese immigrants from Hershey, Nebraska. On December 10, 1941, he and his brother Fred went to a recruitment office and tried to enlist. The official said he had to check with his superiors before allowing the boys to join. They were given permission and enlisted in the US Army but faced constant prejudice. Ben was passionate about flying and became a decorated gunner in the 93rd Bombardment Group. He flew 58 bombing missions (including some over Japan) and received three Distinguished Flying Crosses. Ben Kuroki passed away in 2015 at age 98.

Benjamin Kuroki

Prince H. Wilson enlisted in the US Marines on December 8, 1941. The Montana native’s brothers John and Fabian also served during WWII. Prince fought in the Battle of Bougainville and reunited with his brother John in November 1943 while fighting on the island. Prince was a Paramarine and served in the 1st Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, Company B. On November 29, 1943, just two days after reuniting with his brother, Prince was killed in action on Bougainville.

Paramarines jump during WWII

These stories represent a small fraction of the many families impacted when the United States entered WWII. Do you have ancestors who enlisted early on during WWII? Share your experiences in the comments below and search our collection of military records today on Fold3®.