When the New-York Historical Society set out to create its WWII &- NYC exhibit, we knew that personal histories would be an important part of our presentation and our approach to soliciting visitor responses. Many visitors would have served on the home front or war fronts, or experienced the “War Emergency” as children. Others would have heard stories from their parents and grandparents. Continue reading
The newest New York state park, located on Roosevelt Island in the East River New York City, has opened. Four Freedoms Park, which is New York’s 214th state park, is tribute to the life and work of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former governor of New York State who as President led our nation out of the Great Depression and guided America during World War II. The Park opened to the public on October 24.
The four-acre park is the last design of the iconic American architect Louis I. Kahn – the only design by Kahn in New York City. The park features a granite plaza at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, tree-lined paths and a bronze bust of Roosevelt by acclaimed portrait sculptor Jo Davidson.
The name of the park refers to a speech delivered by President Roosevelt on January 6, 1941, in which he described his vision for a world founded on four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
The Park has been decades in the making. Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay announced the project in 1973, appointing Kahn as its architect- Kahn died unexpectedly shortly after completing the Park’s plans and the City of New York’s financial troubles dampened momentum for the project. More than 30 years later, former Ambassador to the United Nations William vanden Heuvel and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy spearheaded a philanthropic effort to revive the park, enabling construction to begin in 2010.
The Park will offer a free interactive digital educational resource that visitors will be able to access on any mobile device. It will provide a multi-media narrative critical to understanding President Roosevelt’s significance, and was designed with the encouragement of the National Endowment for the Humanities with the help of historians and FDR scholars. For more information visit: http://www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org/
With the addition of Four Freedoms, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation operates 179 state parks and 35 historic sites. Four Freedoms will be the first new State Park in New York City since East River State Park opened in Brooklyn in 2007 and the first new State Park in the state since the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park opened outside of Poughkeepsie in 2009. Park maintenance, programming and security will be provided cooperatively by State Parks, Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.
Brozyna will discuss the World War Two experiences of Schenectady native Cortland Hopkins and other area GIs who served with him – from welding tanks at ALCO, to storming the beach in Normandy, to braving V-bombs in Antwerp.
Brozyna’s book, Longshore Soldiers, chronicles the wartime experiences of port battalion veterans, part of the US Army’s Transportation Corps, responsible for ensuring military were delivered to the front line. Longshore Soldiers offers a compelling narrative, packed with first-hand accounts and personal histories, of an overlooked aspect of World War Two. The author examines how these veterans kept the Allied armies moving as they marched into the Reich.
Brozyna works in book publishing and is the grandson of Cortland Hopkins, a veteran of the 519th Port Battalion.
The cost is $5.00- Free for SCHS Members. For more information, contact Melissa Tacke, Librarian / Archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, by phone at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS), located at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY, is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.
The most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history will be the subject of WWII &- NYC, a major new exhibition now on view at the New-York Historical Society through May 27, 2013. Restoring to memory New York’s crucial and multifaceted role in winning the war, the exhibition commemorates the 900,000 New Yorkers who served in the military and also explores the ways in which those who remained on the home front contributed to the national war effort. Continue reading
In On Dupont Circle: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Progressives Who Shaped Our World (2012, Counterpoint Press), Author James Srodes offers an inside and sometimes scandalous portrait of the twelve young men and women who made up the famous Dupont Circle Set.
Prize-winning author James Srodes offers a vivid and scintillating portrait of the twelve young men and women, who, on the eve of World War I, came together in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. They were ambitious for personal and social advancement, and what bound them together was a sheer determination to remake America and the rest of the world in their progressive image. Continue reading
The Mafia at War: The Shocking True Story of America’s Wartime Pact with Organized Crime (2012, Skyhorse Publishing) is a dramatic account of how a criminal organization exploited the grim realities of war to revive its fortunes and dominate global crime. Anyone with a passion or interest in World War II or the history of organized crime in America will find it engrossing reading.
Using firsthand testimonies and declassified intelligence reports, author Tim Newark (the author of several crime and military history books) traces the relationship between the Mafia, Hitler, and Mussolini, and tells the remarkable story of Mafia—Allied collaboration during World War II. For The Mafia at War, Newark also carried out archival research in London, New York, Washington, and Sicily.
Newark shows how Jewish gangsters clashed with Nazis on the streets of New York City- how Mafiosi nearly issued contracts to kill top Nazis, including Hitler- how British “Bobbies” patrolled the then deadly streets of Palermo- and how Mafia-backed bandits conducted a guerilla war for Sicilian independence including General Eisenhower’s arming of the Mafia during the invasion of Sicily.
Author Tim Newark is also the author of Boardwalk Gangster: The Real Lucky Luciano- Empire of Crime: Organised Crime in the British Empire- and Highlander. He has also worked as a TV scriptwriter and historical consultant, resulting in seven TV documentary series for BBC Worldwide and the History Channel, including the thirteen-part TV series Hitler’s Bodyguard. He contributes book reviews to the Financial Times. Visit www.timnewark.com.
Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.
The most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history will be the subject of WWII & NYC, a major new exhibition planned for the New-York Historical Society from October 5, 2012 through May 27, 2013. The exhibit is expected to feature New York City’s multifaceted role in the war, and commemorate the 800,000 New Yorkers who served in combat while also exploring the many ways in which those who remained on the home front contributed to the war effort.
WWII & NYC will examine a metropolis massively mobilized for war, requiring unprecedented cooperation among government, business leaders, and average working citizens and affecting vast areas of the urban landscape.
A sprawling exhibition, installed throughout all floors of New-York Historical, is expected to include feature more than 300 objects, including artifacts, paintings, maps, models, photographs, posters, and other graphic materials, film footage, music, radio broadcasts, and newly recorded eyewitness accounts. Through these materials, themes ranging from the mobilization of workers to the struggles over civil rights, from the frenzy of rapid shipbuilding to the celebration of V-J Day in Times Square will be explored.
“If the American men and women who fought and won World War II can be described as the Greatest Generation, then New York’s unsurpassed contributions to the war effort can be said to have earned it the title ‘Greatest City,’” stated Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of New-York Historical. “What award-winning WWII & NYC curator Marci Reaven will show in this fascinating, and often astonishing exhibition, is how central the city was to a war whose battles were fought thousands of miles away—a story little known by most people today.”
The exhibition team for WWII & NYC also includes Kenneth T. Jackson, former president of the New-York Historical Society, who is chief historian for the project. The exhibition will draw upon New-York Historical’s extensive collections and on important loans from the U.S. Navy, Smithsonian Institution, the Mariners’ Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other institutions.
Plan of the Exhibition
WWII & NYC begins in the years before Pearl Harbor, when New York had already become the most important industrial metropolis on earth, the busiest port anywhere, the center of the world’s financial markets and the largest, richest city on the planet. As a result, New York was also at the center of both isolationist and interventionist sentiment as Americans debated whether to enter the war.
Among the materials in the exhibition bringing these debates to life are a 1941 “Wanted” poster produced by Fight for Freedom, Inc., an interventionist group, depicting Adolf Hitler as a criminal, and an October 1941 editorial cartoon in the leftist New York newspaper PM by Theodore Seuss Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—criticizing the isolationists.
Following the passage of the Lend-Lease bill in 1941, which enabled the United States to supply the Allies, New York became one of the chief ports for war materiel shipments to Europe. A photograph from September 9, 1941 shows more than 100 British, Dutch, and Norwegian merchant ships passing through the Narrows to start their voyages across the Atlantic.
When the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor at last propelled the U.S. into the war, New York City’s maritime, industrial and transportation infrastructures would be entirely mobilized. The urban landscape took on a martial air, as defenses in the harbor were strengthened, old forts were updated and docks became high security zones. A painting by Thomas Hart Benton, Embarkation—Prelude to Death (Year of Peril, 1941-1942), was based on sketches the artist made in Brooklyn in August 1942, as the first American troops prepared to depart for Africa.
The presence of troops, refugees, and the wartime industries gave New York’s creative and commercial bustle a military tone. A photograph of Pennsylvania Station in August 1942 shows the concourse crowded with soldiers arriving from points across the United States, on their way to embark for North Africa and Europe. Also on view is Irving Boyer’s painting Prospect Park (ca. 1942-1944), which captures the raucous, sensual mood of the wartime city through a scene of soldiers and sailors enjoying a night on the town, which the artist glimpsed from a subway train at the Prospect Park BMT station.
The publishing and advertising industries instilled a sense of national purpose among Americans during wartime, convincing them to stay the course. Target No. 1 New York City, a 1942 poster designed by the influential graphic artist E. McKnight Kauffer, evokes the atmosphere of fear and urgency in the city after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Macy’s suspended its Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1942, consigning the balloon materials to a salvage yard to be used in the war effort, and a Macy’s advertising poster expresses confidence that the balloons will return in the future. A 1943 advertisement for Maidenform bras, created in reaction to threatened government restrictions on fabric and metal supplies, emphasizes that women workers are essential to the war effort and that brassieres are “a vital necessity to women at work.”
As husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers left their homes to serve, their wives, mothers and sisters mobilized for the war effort on the home front. Among other materials illustrating this theme, the exhibition will include recruiting posters, a dress uniform and photographs of the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES), established in June 1942 as the female branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve, its members serving on shore duty to free men for duty at sea. The WAVES’s training headquarters was at Hunter College in the Bronx (now Lehman College), where more than 90,000 WAVES were trained from 1943 to 1945.
Jobs stemming from the wartime economy helped many New Yorkers escape from poverty, offered new opportunities for minority groups, and inspired movements for fair employment and civil rights. An exhibition highlight is Jacob Lawrence’s painting No. 2, Main Control Panel, Nerve Center of a Ship (1944), one of a series of paintings inspired by his service on the USS Sea Cloud as part of the first racially integrated Coast Guard unit in the U.S. armed forces. The exhibition also will feature a dozen profiles of individuals from various backgrounds in the Armed Forces, representing the nearly 800,000 New Yorkers who served in World War II.
Public Programs and Publications
In conjunction with WWII & NYC, New-York Historical will present a range of evening lectures and conversations that illustrate the dramatic effect of the war on all facets of American life. Among the speakers who will be participating in the series are Madeleine Albright, on her new memoir of growing up in Europe during WWII- Ken Follett, on his new historical fiction novel about the experiences of five families during the war- and Robert Morgenthau, in conversation with Tom Brokaw, on his WWII experience.
In addition, the lectures and conversations series will be supplemented by musical performances and New-York Historical’s inaugural film series. Among the special guests who will deliver opening remarks before the film screenings are Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker- Ron Simon, Curator of Television and Radio at the Paley Center for Media- and Catherine Wyler, Producer of the film Memphis Belle.
An 80-page essay with the
same title as the exhibition, will be written by Kenneth T. Jackson and published by Scala Publishers Ltd (October, 2012).
Photo: Massed infantry units march up Fifth Avenue in June 1942.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is considered by some to be among the finest orators and writers of the twentieth century. His speeches galvanized Great Britain at its darkest hour during World War II, and his letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt were instrumental in building support for the war effort from the United States, the country of Churchill’s mother’s birth. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his contribution to the written and spoken word, Churchill became an icon of the post-war age and an internationally recognized leader.
Churchill: The Power of Words, on view from June 8 through September 23, 2012 at The Morgan Library & Museum, hopes to bring to life the man behind the words through some sixty-five documents, artifacts, and recordings, ranging from edited typescripts of his speeches to his Nobel Medal and Citation to excerpts from his broadcasts made during the London blitz. Items in the exhibition are on loan from the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, as well as from Churchill’s house at Chartwell in Kent, which is administered by Britain’s National Trust.
The exhibition includes an audio-visual space where visitors may listen to Churchill’s major speeches, as well as an interactive timeline with touch screens that explores the context of Churchill’s broadcasts and writings with related images.
“Few modern statesmen have approached Sir Winston Churchill’s skill with the written and spoken word,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “He made his name as a writer, he funded his political career with his pen, and he carefully crafted his words to serve as tools for international diplomacy and as patriotic symbols for a nation at war. This exhibition shows why words matter, and how they can make a difference for the better, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that the Morgan, with its extraordinary literary collections, should host this exhibition.”
The physical and intellectual heart of the exhibition is Churchill’s own voice, as recorded in some of the broadcasts that were received in the United States, and as set out on the page in his own annotated speaking notes. The exhibition highlights a number of the speeches that he made between October 1938, when Hitler began to dismember Czechoslovakia, and December 1941, when Pearl Harbor brought the United States fully into World War II.
Churchill’s broadcast to the United States on October 16, 1938 was made from the political wilderness, as he no longer held high political office in Britain, but is a powerful articulation of the need for the United States to become more engaged in Europe and to play a role in containing Hitler. It is also a clear statement of the power of words and ideas: “They [the dictators] are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”
Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, the very day the Germans launched the blitzkrieg offensive against France and the Low Countries. Within weeks, France had fallen, and Britain was facing the possibility of invasion. Churchill’s speeches during the aerial Battle of Britain and the German bombing campaign known as the ‘-blitz,’ were composed and delivered at a time of extreme national emergency. Yet Churchill’s words were carefully chosen to deliver several messages simultaneously: maintaining British morale, while also sending a message of hope to occupied Europe, a message of defiance to the enemy, and an appeal for help to President Roosevelt and the people of the United States.
Churchill’s speech of September 11, 1940, is a dramatic example, and reaches across the years to another, more recent September 11. His response to the blitz bombing of London, which had begun two days earlier, was to invoke British history in order to send a personal message of defiance to Hitler, stating, “It ranks with the days when the Spanish Armada was approaching the Channel” and, “He [Hitler] hopes by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorize and cow the people of this mighty Imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government, and thus distract our attention unduly from the ferocious onslaught he is preparing. Little does he know the spirit of the British Nation.”
The documents on view provide a unique insight into the development of these great speeches, from the first heavily annotated typescripts to the final speaking notes, set out in a blank verse format that enabled Churchill to achieve the memorable rhythm, emphasis, and phrasing of his speeches and broadcasts. Churchill’s typed speeches served as a prompt-copy for his performance, and in these documents one can see vividly his mind at work.
How did Churchill’s power with words develop? His school records show that he was far from a model pupil. But the early death of his father, and the sudden need to make a name and an income, led him to pick up his pen while serving as an officer in the British army.
The exhibition features some of Churchill’s early letters and writings. In 1897 he managed to get himself attached to the Malakand Field Force fighting against the Pathan people in what is now Afghanistan. A letter to his mother, written after his return, reveals his yearning for a mention in military dispatches: “I am more ambitious for a reputation for personal courage than of anything else in the world. A young man should worship a young man’s ideals.”
One of the few handwritten pages that survive from Churchill’s draft of his first book, The Malakand Field Force, is on view. Written one hundred and fifteen years ago, and published in 1898, his remarks about the challenges of fighting in the hills of Afghanistan resonate to this day.
Progressing through the exhibition, the visitor is able to see Churchill’s writing grow in breadth and confidence. Churchill not only made history, he wrote history, and in 1953 he was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Medal and Citation, on loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, are a fitting centerpiece to the exhibition.
Churchill’s public writings and speeches are juxtaposed with some of his personal and official correspondence. While resolute in public, his telegram to Roosevelt’s key adviser Harry Hopkins, written in August 1941, sees him voicing his fears over lack of greater American involvement in the war: “…-there has been a wave of depression through Cabinet and other informed circles here about President’s many assurances about no commitments and no closer to war etc.” Churchill’s immediate response to Pearl Harbor was to fire off a telegram to Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera, offering, “Now is your chance. Now or Never. ‘-A Nation once again’.”
By opening up the Churchill dispatch box we gain some insights into the personalities behind the politics- Roosevelt’s telegram to Churchill on D-Day, or King George VI’s handwritten message to Churchill about Roosevelt’s death, serve to remind us that these were real people wrestling with enormous challenges.
On a lighter note, Churchill’s letter to the Duke of Devonshire upon receiving the gift of a living lion in 1943, reveals his mischievous side, showing that, even at times of great stress, words and wit could be used to enliven even
Half American by birth – his mother, Jennie Jerome, who became Lady Randolph Churchill, was born in Brooklyn, New York – Churchill became an Honorary United States Citizen just before his death. He was a lifelong observer of American affairs, and New York was both the first (1895) and last (1961) American city he visited. Churchill’s first experience of Manhattan came in November 1895, just short of his twenty-first birthday, and en route to observe military action in Cuba. He was well looked after by his mother’s friends and relatives and in a letter, featured in the exhibition, wrote: “What an extraordinary people the Americans are! Their hospitality is a revelation to me and they make you feel at home and at ease in a way that I have never before experienced. On the other hand their press and their currency impress me very unfavourably.”
While New York was often a place to relax, there were incidents. In December 1931 he made the very British mistake of looking the wrong way while crossing Fifth Avenue and was hit by an automobile. The collision occurred at Fifth Avenue and 76th Street, at a time when traffic was still two-way on Fifth. For Churchill the accident meant a hospital stay, a lecture tour postponed, and a long recovery. Yet he turned it to his advantage, writing some newspaper articles on what it was like to be run down, and securing a doctor’s prescription, on view in the exhibition, for alcohol – for medicinal purposes – at the height of prohibition.
In March 1946, Churchill came to New York fresh from having delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri. It is now largely forgotten just how controversial that speech was, criticizing the Soviet Union, with whom the United States and Britain were still allied, so soon after the end of the Second World War. Churchill was forced to defend his remarks in the address he gave at the Waldorf Astoria, and found himself on the receiving end of both a ticker tape parade and some protest demonstrations.
Churchill was only the second person to be accorded Honorary US Citizenship (ironically, the first was Lafayette, for fighting the British). The exhibition features the grant of Citizenship, signed by President Kennedy in April 1963, and the accompanying passport, which Churchill was not able to use before his death in January 1965.
Additional Public Programs
LECTURE: We Shall Not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill
With Celia Sandys
Friday, June 8, 6:30 p.m.
Celia Sandys, internationally acclaimed author, television presenter, and granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, will provide insight into Churchill’s extraordinary leadership skills and his fascinating political and personal life. This lecture, part of the The Tina Santi Flaherty – Winston Churchill Literary Series, is presented in partnership with Hunter College/The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and The Writing Center, and The Churchill Archives Centre. Free- Advanced reservations: 212.685.0008, ext 560, or email@example.com.
CHURCHILL ON FILM
To coincide with the exhibition, the Morgan will screen two dramas and one documentary that explore both Churchill’s public and private life.
The Gathering Storm
Friday, June 15, 7 p.m.
(2002, 96 minutes)
Director: Richard Loncraine
Based on Churchill’s memoirs about his life leading up to World War II, this biographical drama won two Golden Globes and stars a stellar cast. Albert Finney plays Winston Churchill, who struggles to establish his political presence in the House of Commons. With Vanessa Redgrave as his wife Clementine, and also featuring Derek Jacobi, Jim Broadbent, and Ronnie Barker. Free
Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny
Friday, July 6, 7 p.m.
(2011, 101 min)
Director: Richard Tank
This compelling documentary film highlights Churchill’s earlier political years, focusing on the period just prior to his ascent to prime minister, through the end of 1941 when America entered World War II. It examines why Winston Churchill’s legacy continues to be relevant in the twenty-first Century and explores why his leadership remains inspirational to current day political leaders and diplomats. Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley and with commentary by historian John Lukacs, and Churchill’s official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, among others. Free
Friday, July 27, 7 p.m.
(1972, 157 minutes)
Director: Richard Attenborough
This historical drama is an account of the early life of Winston Churchill (Simon Ward), including his childhood years, his time as a war correspondent in Africa, and culminating with his election to Parliament at the age of twenty-six. Based on Churchill’s book My Early Life: A Roving Commission, it also stars Robert Shaw (Lord Randolph Churchill), John Mills (Lord Kitchener), Anthony Hopkins (David Lloyd George), and Anne Bancroft (Churchill’s mother). Free
Churchill: The Power of Words
Friday, June 22, 7 p.m.
Declan Kiely, Robert H. Taylor curator and head of the Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, will lead an informal tour of the exhibition. Free
* Bloomsbury.com will make available a selection of important Churchill documents free of charge as part of its launch of the comprehensive online collection of Churchill Papers.
* Hunter College will sponsor a three-part Churchill Lecture Series, the first of which will be held at the Morgan on Friday, June 8, to coincide with the opening of the exhibition. The Hon. Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Churchill, will discuss his leadership style in a talk entitled, “We shall not fail.”
* The Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York, will host a one-day seminar/symposium on the topic of the close and complex relationship between Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
* In conjunction with the exhibition opening, author Sir Martin Gilbert will publish an edition of Churchill’s writings titled Churchill: The Power of Words (Da Capo Press).
The exhibition is organized by the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in conjunction with Chartwell, Churchill’s house in Kent, which is administered by Britain’s National Trust.
The exhibition is curated by Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, and by Declan Kiely, Robert H. Taylor curator and head of the Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum.
The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.
Photo: Churchill as a young officer, c1895 (Courtesy of the Churchill Family).
Top Secret Rosies documents the lives of the female mathematicians who designed ballistics tables and programmed computers for the United States Army during World War II. This film is 60 minutes long.
The film is being shown as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s first Winter Film Festival. The park exists to commemorate and preserve the events of the First Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. “We are proud to be part of the National Park system, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating our shared history and culture through film,” said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne.
The park is also showing the film as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month in March. “We are inspired by the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other women and men who struggled for equal rights in this country,” said Duchesne. “Their stories continue to resonate with people across the globe.”
Top Secret Rosies is approximately 60 minutes long and intended for a general audience. All Winter Film Festival movies will be shown at 12:00 noon on Fridays and Saturdays, November through April, in the Guntzel Theater, located at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park Visitor Center at 136 Fall Street in downtown Seneca Falls. Because film lengths vary, visitors are encouraged to call if they are interested in a particular showing. All park programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit call 315.568.0024.
Now, thanks to a team of 15 volunteers, those records–listing names, serial number, home, and unit, and later on annotated with hand written notes on whether or not the Soldier was killed or wounded– are available online from the New York State Military Museum.
“I’ll bet you that we are the only state that has such an item on the web,” said retired Army Col. John Kennedy, one of the volunteers who turned the index card information into digital data.
Kennedy, a World War II veteran himself, and the other volunteers spent a year keying the information on the cards into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The digital information is now available on the museum’s website and can be downloaded and searched.
The museum put this information online so it can be used by people researching their family history or the history of World War II and New York’s role in it, said Jim Gandy, the assistant librarian and archivist at the museum.
“Not only can you research a specific individual but you can also research who enlisted from what town- where men in the New York National Guard were born, or how old the average age of the men was. We indexed most data points on the cards including: date, city, state and country of birth- ID number- hometown, unit- rank- as well as enlistment and separation dates”, Gandy explained.
In September 1940-a few months after France was overrun and defeated by the German Army and the British were fighting for survival in the air-the United States had an Army of 269,000 men. The German Army, meanwhile, had 2.5 million.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced Congress to call up the 300,000 men in the National Guard for a year to double the size of the nation’s Army and prepare for any German threat.
On Oct. 15, 1940 the 28,969 members of the New York National Guard, including the entire 27th Division, reported to their armories to begin processing for a year of active duty. This is the data now available from the museum website.
For the 90-year old Kennedy, who keyed in the data on 6,500 Soldiers, the task brought back memories of his own World War II service. A Cohoes native, he joined the Army Reserve in 1940, transferred to the New York National Guard in 1941 and went to war in Europe in 1944 with the 8th Infantry Division.
He recognized the names of many of the 108 Soldiers on the list who cited Cohoes as their hometown because he had grown up with them, Kennedy said.
Kennedy, who now lives in Florida and served in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard until retiring in 1981, volunteered to help with Gandy’s project because he’s made the history of World War II and the role of New York’s units in it his hobby.
Bruce Scott, an Albany resident and another volunteer who keyed in the data, got involved in the project because he wanted to do something from his home that would be useful to others.
Scott, Kennedy and the other volunteers were critical, Gandy said. Without their work this kind of project would be impossible for the museum to carry out.
Eventually the Soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division who were called for training in the fall of 1940 went on to serve in the Pacific, securing Hawaii from a feared Japanese invasion in February 1942, invading Makin Atoll and the Island of Saipan, and eventually fighting on Okinawa. Other New York National Guard Soldiers called up in 1940 served in rear area security duty and fought in Europe.
The museum’s next web project is to create an index of which battles New York’s Civil War Regiments fought in, Gandy said. The data base will make it easier for historians to determine which regiments fought in which battles and the losses that were sustained in each fight. If anyone would like to volunteer, they may contact the museum at 518-581-5100, Gandy said.
The index card database can be found on the museum website.
Photo: A typical index card of a New York Army National Guardsman. Each card was 6 inches wide and 4 inches high.