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August 21, 1863: The Lawrence Massacre

August 1, 2022 by | 131 Comments

On August 21, 1863, a Confederate guerilla group led by William Quantrill attacked citizens in the town of Lawrence, Kansas, during the American Civil War. Guerillas killed more than 150 boys and men and burned much of the town. The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrill’s raid, was a culmination of tension between local abolitionists and pro-slavery partisans along the Missouri-Kansas border.

William Quantrill

These border tensions had been brewing for some time. Beginning in 1855, pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers engaged in a series of violent confrontations and political killings over whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state, leading to a border war known as “Bleeding Kansas.” Lawrence was founded along the Oregon Trail on the homelands of the Kaw, Lakota, Osage, and Kikapoo by New Englanders. Considered the anti-slavery capital, Lawrence was well-known as a stronghold for abolitionists and the Free-State movement. When Kansas was admitted to the Union at the start of the Civil War, the town became a gathering place for pro-Unionists and Jayhawkers, Free-State militiamen known for attacking plantations, freeing enslaved Black people, and confiscating Confederate supplies in nearby Missouri.

In April 1863, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued General Order No. 10, which called for the arrest of anyone “giving aid or comfort” to Confederate guerillas. A number of women and girls, most of them relatives of the guerillas, were arrested and incarcerated in squalid conditions in a women’s prison in Kansas City. A week before the Lawrence Massacre, the prison collapsed, killing four and leaving others with severe injuries.

The Leavenworth Times – August 15, 1863

In the predawn hours on August 21, Quantrill led a group of about 450 Confederate guerillas, also called “Bushwhackers,” into Lawrence. They surprised the town’s sleeping residents and began to execute civilians and loot valuables. Panicked residents tried to hide in cornfields or along the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers, though some surrendered only to be shot later. For over four hours, Quantrill’s raiders pillaged and burned the town, killing at least 150 men and boys.

The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events of the Kansas-Missouri border war. Following the attack, Gen. Ewing issued General Order No. 11, ordering all citizens of four counties on the Missouri side of the border to relocate to Kansas City. Ewing intended to cut off supplies and support to the guerillas, and under his orders, Jayhawkers burned everything remaining to the ground.

Although Quantrill was a field-commissioned officer under the Partisan Ranger Act, Confederate leadership was outraged by his tactics and withdrew official support for his Bushwhackers. Quantrill led his men south towards Texas and continued to wreak havoc. Infamous members of Quantrill’s raiders included Bloody Bill Anderson, outlaw Jesse James, and his older brother Frank James. On May 10, 1865, William Quantrill was shot by Union troops in Kentucky in one of the last engagements of the Civil War. He died of his wounds on June 6, 1865.

Jesse and Frank James

If you would like to learn more about the Lawrence Massacre or William Quantrill, search Fold3® today.

WWII Research and the Missing Air Crew Reports Collection

July 18, 2022 by | 40 Comments

During WWII, the United States Army adopted a form to document the fate of missing air crews. Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) are a valuable resource that provides details, witness statements, survivor accounts, and more. The reports tell the story of aircraft that went down for various reasons, including enemy fire, bad weather, or mechanical difficulties.      

A glance through the MACR collection reveals a rich collection of stories of bravery, sacrifice, and survival. Army rules dictated that a MACR be filed within 48 hours after an aircraft was officially reported as missing. While this allowed for fresh witness testimony, it also meant that the outcome for some crew members was unknown. The reports include each soldier’s military ID number. This information allows researchers to explore additional records such as the POW collection, hospital admissions, or death records.

WWII Draft Registration Card for Evarist V. Albers

Here are a few stories from the MACR Collection:

On November 1, 1943, S/Sgt. Evarist V. Albers and his crew from the 47th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, took off for a bombing mission over Italy. As they neared their target, the formation encountered enemy flak. Moments later, the aircraft lurched. They had been hit and were going down! An explosion took a wing off and burned Albers’s face. They began to roll, but Albers managed to bail out. He searched for other survivors as he floated to the ground but didn’t see any other sign of life. A nearby gunner testified that he saw two chutes, one fully opened, but the other one was trailing. Albers was the only survivor of the crash and returned to service four days later.

On August 7, 1942, a B-26 Marauder loaded with seven crew and Associated Press reporter Vernon Haugland encountered a severe storm and drifted off-course over New Guinea. With fuel running low, the crew bailed out at 13,000 feet and landed in the jungle. The crew became separated and spent the next several weeks trying to escape. Haugland kept a journal of his 43 days in the wilderness. He nearly starved to death and weighed just 95 pounds when he was rescued. Haugland became the first civilian recipient of the Silver Star medal for heroism. He later published a book, Letter from New Guinea, about his experiences. Co-pilot James A. Michael and 1st. Lt. Carroll W. Casteel did not survive the ordeal. Pilot Duncan A. Seffern spent two weeks in the jungle before being rescued but died months later in another airplane crash.

1st Lt. Carroll W. Casteel died in the New Guinea jungle

Lawrence H. Lancashire served in the 93rd Bomb Group, 409th Bomb Squad, and participated in Operation Tidal Wave – the bombing of oil refineries around Ploiesti, Romania, in 1943. Lancashire was co-piloting a B-24 Bomber with a crew of 10. They were flying at tree-top level when enemy fire hit the aircraft’s engines, and they crash-landed. Lancashire was captured and spent three months as a prisoner of war. Others in the crew were not so lucky. Pilot Hubert H. Womble lost a foot and was also taken POW. William K. Little broke his leg and was trapped in the plane. While waiting hours for extrication, airplane fuel ran over his body. He died eight days later from untreated injuries and the poisoning effects of gasoline vapor. Details about other crew members are also contained in the report.

The Pantagraph 11.19.1943

If you want to be inspired by more incredible stories of heroism, explore the Missing Air Crew Reports collection today on Fold3®.

80th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway: June 4-7, 1942

June 8, 2022 by | 56 Comments

Eighty years ago, on June 4-7, 1942, the United States defeated Japan in a decisive naval and air battle known as the Battle of Midway. The battle came after a Japanese attack on a US base on Midway Atoll, a tiny island in the Pacific. Japan never recovered from its losses, and the battle is known as a turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Following the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942 and the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, Japan began planning the attack at Midway in hopes of destroying the US Pacific Fleet. They wanted military dominance in the region and a base for future military operations.

Burning oil tanks on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, following Japanese air attack on June 4, 1942.

Unbeknownst to Japanese forces, US cryptanalysts had broken Japanese codes and were aware of the impending attack plans. This gave officials time to prepare a counteroffensive. On June 4, 108 Japanese aircraft took off from four Japanese aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu. They attacked the US base on Midway, inflicting heavy damage.

US Navy Torpedo Squadron 6 prepare to launch from the USS Enterprise. June 4, 1942

American Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, had sent two task forces to meet the Japanese. Task Force 16, which included the Hornet and Enterprise, under Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance; and Task Force 17, with the carrier Yorktown, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher. The Yorktown was damaged but had undergone hasty repairs at Pearl Harbor and was ready for the fight.

Bombers took off from the US fleet and attacked Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu, causing devastating damage. The ships were set ablaze and abandoned. The Hiryu launched counterattacks and bombed the Yorktown, disabling the ship. Though it managed to stay afloat, the captain ordered the ship abandoned. A Japanese torpedo finished off the Yorktown two days later, and she sank.

Scene on board the USS Yorktown after she was hit by three Japanese bombers on June 4, 1942

With only the Hiryu remaining, a scout plane from the Yorktown located the Japanese ship and sent dive-bombers from the Enterprise to attack. At least four bombs hit the Hiryu, and she sank.

During the Battle of Midway, the Japanese sustained heavy losses, including 3,000 men and four carriers. American casualties included 300 men and one carrier. The battle set the stage for landings on Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands and prevented Japan from launching a major offensive in the Pacific again.

Our friends at Stories Behind the Stars have headed up a special project to write the story of each American torpedo bomber that participated in the Battle of Midway. Learn about their efforts on this Facebook page. To learn more about the Battle of Midway, search Fold3® today!

Memorial Day Tips for Documenting Veterans’ Graves from Find a Grave®

May 23, 2022 by | 41 Comments

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor the men and women who died in the service of our country. Since many of us will be visiting graveyards and cemeteries in the coming weeks, we’ve invited our friends at Find a Grave® to provide tips on how to properly clean and photograph the graves of our country’s veterans. We are grateful for their time and expertise.

. . . . .

When planning your trip to the cemetery, you’ll want to go prepared. Our goal is to have every veteran remembered with a memorial on Find a Grave®. Before you head out, here are some items you might consider taking along.

  • Camera/phone with GPS turned on– Smartphones and Digital cameras are great for capturing photos of tombstones because you can see in real-time whether you’ve captured the image you want. Take high-resolution photographs. Be sure to bring plenty of memory, extra batteries, or chargers.
  • If using a smartphoneDownload the Find a Grave® app where you can search for memorials, easily add GPS for gravesites, and create memorials from the headstones in the cemetery you are visiting.
  • Sun Protection– A hat and sunscreen, whatever you need for your area.
  • Small towel, old clothes, and shoes– Towel to help gently wipe dirt off a stone.
  • Spray bottle with plain water– Wetting tombstones can make them more readable. 
  • Small sweeping brush– Paintbrushes work well to brush loose dirt off without harming fragile stones. 
  • Mirror– Use the mirror to reflect the sunshine and throw shadows off inscriptions. Foil-covered flat surfaces are less breakable and can help when mirrors aren’t available. 
  • Scissors or clippers– You’ll need these to trim away grass that has grown over the gravestone. 
  • Small kneeling pad– You may need to kneel or even lay down while taking eye-level shots of smaller stones. 
  • Notepad and pencil – You may want to take some notes.

We suggest using “no harm methods” when reading a headstone and photographing it. There are several no harm methods available. The first has to do with light and shadow. It is easier to read the inscription on a stone in the morning or evening because shadows tend to accentuate the lettering. You can also use a reflector to reflect light onto the stone to produce the same effect. A second no harm method involves photographing the headstone using a remote flash. In the example below, a Find a Grave® member placed a remote flash to the side of the stone and timed it to go off at the same moment he snapped the photograph. An alternative method is to carry a high lumens flashlight, shine it on the stone, and test different angles to read the lettering.

Photo credit: Krista Al Qirim

The Cemetery Conservator for United Standards website has a page on reading weathered headstones called Reading Stone Basics. This website discusses other no harm methods such as a foil impression, adding snow to the lettering, or gravestone rubbings. Before doing any rubbings, the gravestone should be evaluated for safety and durability. These methods are also available to download as a PDF, so you can print it and take it with you. We suggest exploring their website as there is so much to learn about cemetery and headstone conservation. Always contact a professional or take training courses for anything other than no harm methods for reading a headstone.

The inscription on a headstone holds valuable information that can tell us more about the person and about the relationships of those they left behind. It is extremely important to document and record these relationships. Inscriptions fade, and a stone itself can be damaged or decay over time.

An example of this is the memorial for Edwin A. Turner, who died in 1865. Turner and his father were traders in the mid-19th Century. They were traveling through Utah with another man named Holland when an argument broke out between Turner and Holland. Their disagreement turned into a scuffle, and Holland stabbed Turner. Turner died at just twenty-six years old. The inscription on the headstone included words from his mother.

My darling boy, I little thought that

When I last saw thy manly form

And fondly kissed thy noble brow

That death would dash thy life away

Mother

A photograph of Turner’s headstone taken in the 1970s shows the inscription was clearly visible. A subsequent photo taken in 2009 shows it had nearly crumbled away, and a new stone had been placed in front of the old stone. By 2021, the original headstone no longer existed, and the new headstone did not include the inscription from Turner’s mother.

Photo credits: KC and Judie Latshaw Huff

An inscription on a headstone usually contains genealogical information such as name and dates. It can also include other information like names of family members, unique inscriptions, symbols or icons, and other clues to religion, military service, fraternal organizations, and more. This information helps others in their genealogical research.

Photo credit: Elaine Clark

As the inscription on a stone contains so much information, you’ll want to be sure when photographing a headstone that the stone is readable. Remove any debris or dirt from the front of the stone, or that has gathered around the edges. You can see in the photos below how the uncut grass covers part of the inscription, which reads:

“We can safely leave our boy

Our darling in Thy trust.”

Photo credit: KC

Our Find a Grave® team has compiled some helpful tips to consider when photographing a headstone and documenting its surroundings.

  • Use a camera or cellphone with GPS enabled to add the grave’s location. 
  • Make sure your lens is clean and avoid including your fingers, feet, or shadow in the photograph. 
  • Make sure the stone is readable; remove debris such as soil, leaves, or twigs.
  • Take multiple photos. This will give you more choices when uploading photos to the site. 
  • Photograph the entire headstone straight on so that it nearly fills the frame. If the stone is upright, you may need to kneel to get the best shot. You can photograph at different readable angles as well. 
  • If the headstone has multiple sides with text, then photograph each side. 
  • Capture a close-up of text on the headstone. 
  • Capture an area photo of the stone, giving context and showing the surroundings of the grave. 
  • A shadow can help text be more pronounced. Morning or evening may be best. 
  • Consider using reflective material (such as a mirror or foil on a flat surface) to cast light on the stone. 
  • If there is not a marker for the grave, take photos of the grave location in context to the surrounding stones. Add to the caption that the grave is unmarked. 

You can use the Find a Grave® app (iOS or Android) to upload the headstone photos directly to the memorial or upload them to the specific cemetery page to transcribe later.

Thank you in advance for your efforts to honor veterans this Memorial Day. We hope that every member of the Armed Forces will have their final resting place remembered and documented on Find a Grave®. To explore military records for our country’s veterans, search Fold3® today. To see Find a Grave® memorials for veterans and others, search Find a Grave® today.

Introducing the New Fold3® Gallery and Tags!

May 11, 2022 by | 20 Comments

We’ve launched a beta version of a new Fold3® Gallery and Tag experience! The new Gallery and Tag feature gives researchers a powerful new tool to organize Fold3 records, Memorials, photographs, and documents. Now you can create custom tags that allow you to tag records and organize them into groups that can be quickly recalled. We’d love your feedback as we fine-tune this experience, but we promise, that the end result will provide Fold3 customers with powerful ways to organize your research and bring more value to your Fold3 membership!

What is the Gallery?

The Gallery is a place to see all your Fold3 content and organize it into groupings by creating tags. Enter the Gallery from this banner on the home page:

Once you are in the Gallery, you will see items you’ve recently viewed and all the items you have previously tagged.

For example, if you’ve created Fold3 Memorials for all your ancestors that served in the Armed Forces, you can create custom tags for which conflict they served in (Civil War, WWI, WWII, etc.). You can then choose to add additional tags for which battles they participated in (Gettysburg, Battle of Somme, Battle of the Bulge, etc.). Create as many tags as you want to organize your content. Tags are custom and searchable in your Gallery. Maybe you’re headed to Gettysburg and want to quickly search for all your ancestors that participated in that battle – now you can!

How Do I Add Tags?

Tags can be added from your Gallery, from Memorials, or from any individual record. Just look for this tag symbol. When you click on it, a dialogue box pops up that allows you to quickly add a new tag or choose from a previously used tag.

For example, if you are researching WWII Flying Fortresses, you can search Fold3 for related records and images, then click on the tag icon. If you’ve already created a tag called “Flying Fortress,” just click on the + to tag the newly discovered record with this tag. From there, you can also add additional new tags to fine-tune your results. Once an item is tagged, it will now show up in your Gallery where you can quickly recall all your tagged records.

Ready to Give It a Try? Access the beta version of Gallery here, or click on the banner link on our homepage. Once you are enrolled in the beta, you can access your Gallery in the drop-down menu in your profile

We’ve just touched the surface of the capabilities of the Gallery and Tags. Want to know more? Head over to our Help Center by clicking here. We’d love your feedback on this new Gallery and Tags experience. Please leave your feedback on this prompt on the Gallery page.

Search nearly 600 million military records on Fold3® today, then organize your research with our new Gallery and Tags.

Introducing Our Collection of Morning Reports

April 25, 2022 by | 69 Comments

Morning reports are company-level reports that were filled out each day to reflect status changes of all personnel assigned to the unit. Morning reports are not rosters. They are exception-based reports, meaning that a soldier’s name will only appear on the report if his status has changed in the last 24 hours. For example, if a soldier received a promotion, was attached to another unit, or was injured, the morning report reflected the change. We have just added a new collection, U.S. Morning Reports 1912-1946. This growing collection contains 2.33 million records, with additional records coming. We currently have morning reports through the year 1939.

Morning reports were introduced in 1912 and, until now, were only available through the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO. This collection is a valuable way to research the daily movements of individual veterans and their companies.

Morning Report for the Service Company, 7th Infantry – April 1933

As you browse through this collection on Fold3, you will find Index ReelsMicrofilm Targets, and the actual Morning Reports.

The Index Reels contain a set of 119 microfilm reels with a summary of information on a punch card noting dates and units relating to the morning reports microfilm. Microfilm Targets are sorted by their reel number, which points researchers to the correct microfilm reel.

The early morning reports are handwritten, but during WWII, the military transitioned to typewritten reports making research significantly easier.

To search this collection, enter the name of the unit or company, then search by date. Start searching this new collection of Morning Reports on Fold3®. Check back frequently as we continue to update this collection.

Escaping a Sunken Sub: The Dramatic Story of the USS Tang

April 13, 2022 by | 75 Comments

On October 24, 1944, the USS Tang (SS-306) sank off the coast of China during WWII, trapping 29 sailors in 180 feet of water. The Balao-class submarine was destroyed when her own torpedo boomeranged back and slammed into the ship’s port side during an attack on a Japanese convoy. Out of the 87 men aboard, just nine survived.  

USS Tang

The USS Tang launched in August 1943. During her 14-month career, she sank 33 ships with an aggregate total of 227,793 tons. She rescued 22 Naval aviators, received two Presidential Unit Citations, and conducted five highly successful war patrols. During her fifth and final patrol, Tang’s distinguished service came to an end.

Early in the evening of October 24, 1944, while on patrol in the Taiwan Strait, the USS Tang made radar contact with an enemy convoy of large ships. The convoy hugged the China coast between Foochow (Fuzhou) and Amoy (Xiamen). The Tang shadowed the convoy as the Japanese ships fired randomly in their direction. Meanwhile, since it was dark, Commanding Officer Richard H. O’Kane decided to attack from the surface. The Tang sank two freighters, and a tanker, and damaged a transport. When the Tang launched the final torpedo, it began to arc and circle back towards the sub.

O’Kane desperately tried to maneuver the Tang out of harm’s way, but the ship moved too slow. The torpedo slammed into the sub, causing a violent explosion that sent crew members smashing into bulkheads. Almost half the sailors died instantly. O’Kane and several crew members were blown off the bridge by the explosion and tossed into the water, where they clawed their way to the surface. As water flooded three compartments, the Tang began to sink.

Crew of the USS Tang

Personnel in the control room succeeded in closing the conning tower hatch, but it had been damaged in the explosion. A quick-thinking sailor leveled the sinking sub by flooding two ballast tanks. The Tang sank 180 feet and settled on the ocean floor. Many of the survivors were injured, so the able-bodied carried them to the forward torpedo room where the escape trunk was located. Twenty-nine men were now in an escape position, but some were too injured to try. On the surface, the Japanese patrols dropped depth charges, making it almost impossible for the rest to attempt an escape. As they waited, the crew destroyed sensitive and confidential documents. A growing electrical fire in the forward battery of the sub sent smoke seeping into the torpedo room, creating a sense of urgency.

The Momsen Lung

With time running out to attempt an improbable escape, the first four men entered the escape trunk. They let it fill with water to equalize the pressure and opened the outside hatch. They used Momsen Lungs, a device that recycles exhaled air allowing an escapee to breathe, to ascend from the depths. Eventually, thirteen men escaped the sub, but only eight made it to the surface. Of those eight, five managed to swim until they were rescued. Meanwhile down below, the pressure was building outside the torpedo room door. Suddenly, the gasket failed and the door blew open. All the remaining sailors were asphyxiated.  

The nine survivors, including Commander O’Kane, were plucked from the water and taken to Japanese POW camps, where they languished until the war ended. Following the war, O’Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor. If you would like to learn more about the USS Tang, search Fold3® today. Also, our friends at Stories Behind the Stars have written profiles for each of the sailors who died aboard the Tang. See those profiles here.