Today in history, September 16, 1940, FDR signed the Selective Training and Service Act. It authorized the first peacetime military draft in American history.
Selective Service Signing Pen
“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.”
- Franklin Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, December 29, 1940
In the spring of 1940 German armies swept across Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In June, France collapsed. Suddenly, Britain stood alone. FDR responded by increasing military spending and supporting a peacetime draft.
FDR used this pen to sign the Selective Training and Service Act on September 16, 1940. It authorized the first peacetime military draft in American history. The photo, taken on October 29, 1940, depicts the first drawing of the Selective Service.
On the Trail of John Ford’s D-Day Documentary
“When I came across the four reels prepared by SHAEF Public Relations, the lack of sound other than narration suggested the film was a rushed effort, completed perhaps days after the assault. My suspicions were aroused… How was this important production forgotten?”
Images from "D-Day to D plus 3" film reels created by the Depart of Defense, Department of the Army, Office of the Chief Signal Officer. June 6-9, 1944.
Today in 1782, George Washington created the Purple Heart
The Purple Heart is the badge for meritorious action. It is our oldest military award.
Day 69: FDR Rides a Dirigible, 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.
FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!
During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.
Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.
FDR writes about the flying experience in his log of the trip saying:
I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.
"Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. 1932."
In the summer of 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, World War I veterans seeking early payment of a bonus scheduled for 1945 assembled in Washington to pressure Congress and the White House. After the Senate rejected the bonus, most of the protesters went home, but a core of ten thousand members of the “Bonus Army” remained behind, many with their families. On the morning of July 28, violence erupted between the protesters and police, and President Hoover reluctantly sent in federal troops under Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Ignoring the President’s order for restraint, the flamboyant general drove the tattered protesters from the city and violently cleared their Anacostia campsite.
We need your help to identify this man in uniform!
The JFK Library is using Flickr to identify unknown individuals in their photo collections. This photo was taken on June 6, 1961 en route to the Commencement Ceremony at the US Naval Academy. If you have any ideas of who this man is, please let us know here.
You can help us ID even more unknown photos by visiting the JFK Library’s Flickr Collection.
The Defeat of German Nazi Forces
On this day in 1945, German General Alfred Jodl signed an unconditional surrender at Reims, France.
This photo was taken in the War Room of the Allied Supreme Headquarters. On General Jodl’s left is General Admiral Von Friedenburg of the German Navy, and on his right is Major Wilhelm Oxenius of the German general staff. May 7, 1945. U.S. Army.
from the Eisenhower Library
Preparing for D-Day: Exercise Tiger
Seventy years ago this week, Allied Forces attempted amphibious landing operations at Slapton Beach, England. “Exercise Tiger” was suppose to be a training exercise to prepare for Operation Overlord, but failed when the landing crafts were attacked by German patrol boats on the night of April 28, 1944.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Eisenhower was buried in his World War II uniform. It consists of trousers and the green “Ike” jacket that he made famous.
Although he was one of the most decorated military men in history, his uniform had only the following medals: Army Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit.
There were four gun salutes during the Eisenhower funeral ceremonies.