Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why I’m filing my VA claim [feedly]

Why I'm filing my VA claim
// VAntage Point

I received my fair share of bumps and bruises while I was in the Marine Corps, but to this day I still feel like I owe the Corps more than it owes me.

In late April 2006, I went to my first SEP/TAP class provided by Marine Corps Community Service. SEP and TAP are the Marine Corps' separation and transition assistance classes and are important for Marines leaving the service.

James Killen

I didn't feel like I need anything else from the government, though. I thought I was good, so I essentially gaffed it off.

In the months leading up to being honorably discharged, I listened to Marines talk about filing their VA claim. Not me. Not interested, not worried about it.

I had a college fund waiting for me, I had experience that set me ahead of my peers, I had seen Mt. Sinai and crossed the equator. I had the lifelong friendships that came with being in combat (love you guys, you know who you are) and I didn't want the moniker "disabled Veteran" at the age of 23. Effectively, I was a bull-headed Marine.

What I didn't know then, and what I am learning now, is that a lot of those things that were bothersome when I was 23 would become major problems years down the road.

I never would have guessed that my chronic stomach issues in the Corps would eventually lead to surgery. My mid- and lower back are shot, my hearing shows the tell-tale signs of being used and abused, and then there are the headaches and brain-housing group issues.

Ten years ago, I thought I was invincible. Today, I understand that I was very wrong.

Thankfully, my issues were well documented and I was able to start my VA claim. And I am fortunate to be in a position to share that journey with other Veterans.

I started reading through the VA benefits website trying to get a vector and trying to figure out where I should start. I asked some friends who had been through the process and I read a few blogs.

One common theme emerged from my research: contact a national service officer (NSO) with one of the nationally known Veterans organizations like Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion.

NSOs work with VA every day and know the ins and outs of the system. Admittedly, VA is a bureaucracy, so navigating it with a guide is a good way to go.

My NSO is Paul Shook with the Washington, D.C., DAV office, and I felt immediately at ease when I sat down to talk to him about what I wanted to accomplish.

Even though I work for VA, I'm using the resources that are readily available to all Veterans to accomplish this process. That is why Paul is my NSO — he knows more about the process than I ever will and I trust him to have my best interest at heart.

What I have discovered so far is that the key in all this is to know what I want to accomplish ahead of time and know what direction I want to travel. Anyone who is putting a claim together should ask themselves what their expectations are and then work with a NSO to manage them from the outset of the claim.


There is a lot that goes into this process, which is why it takes time. Not to mention, the more a Veteran is seeking from VA the longer the process is going to be.

First, I had to gather my records for Paul, do the initial power of attorney and document all the issues I would be submitting to VA. This is a pretty painless step if all your records are intact.

Next, we submitted my claim. VA has to process the claim and then send a request to the National Archives for my official medical record. This is understandable because they want to make sure the records they go over are official and not tampered with. They're being prudent.

This part of the process can take 1-3 months to complete. Between the volume of claims being submitted and the sensitivity of the information, the process just takes time.

Fortunately, I have substantial medical records for four medical issues that bothered me while I was on active duty. All four issues are still bothering me today and they are the things I submitted my claim to address.

I do not care what percentage of disability VA comes back with, I will accept whatever their decision is provided I get a fair shake in their review.

I know what you're thinking, "Who determines whether or not I got a fair shake?"

That is a determination Paul and I will make. If he tells me I got a fair shake, I'm going to trust him in that, because he's a Marine combat Veteran and a brother. I know he has my best interest at heart. If I thought otherwise, I would find a new NSO.

I suspect this is where many Veterans take issue with their claims. They go into the process with an expectation and if that expectation is not met they may become distressed.

Killen_Bio.jpegThat's not to say some Veterans do not have a legitimate grievance with a VA decision— many do —but an NSO is going to be able to recognize a legitimate grievance and walk a Veteran through the appeals process.

I'm only just beginning the process and have a new perspective on this already. What has your experience been? Similar, different? Do you have questions about it? Share your thoughts here and I'll talk with Paul about them and relay his thoughts. (Keep in mind, though, that we can't answer case-specific questions and ask you not to share any of your case information. You'll want to work with a NSO for those questions.)

For videos and more information about the VA claims process, visit the Veterans Benefits Administration's Youtube channel.

The post Why I'm filing my VA claim appeared first on VAntage Point.


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Stephen Decatur and the Impact of Consequential Leadership [feedly]

Stephen Decatur and the Impact of Consequential Leadership
// USNI Blog

DSC00384 copyJanuary 5th marked Commodore Stephen Decatur's 237th birthday. Decatur was the most celebrated American naval hero of the post-Revolutionary War era. If not for his untimely death at the age of 41, many believe he almost certainly would eventually have been elected president.

In honor of his recent birthday, I think it appropriate to take a moment to remember some of Decatur's career, reflect on his legacy, and consider how we might go about producing more leaders like him.

First let's talk about Stephen Decatur's naval education, and the early wartime exploits which made him a household name. The son of a merchant captain, Decatur obtained an appointment as midshipman in 1798. He served aboard USS United States, captained by his good friend and mentor John Barry. Barry was a hero of the Revolutionary War, and is recognized as the American Navy's first flag officer. Decatur's was also tutored by Talbot Hamilton, a former officer of the Royal Navy who instructed him in navigational and nautical sciences. While serving aboard United States, Decatur received formal naval training not only from Hamilton, but through active service aboard a commissioned ship. This experience, as well as his continuing education aboard other ships, would serve him well when it came time for him to lead in combat.

Before I recount Decatur's heroism in battle, let's briefly set the stage. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent our nation's tiny naval force to the Mediterranean to protect our expanding trade against the Barbary pirates, who had long demanded ransom for the safe passage of our merchant ships. President Jefferson's refusal to pay for safe passage led Tripoli to declare war against the United States. "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute" became our rallying cry for the ensuing conflict – the First Barbary War.

On 23 December 1803, only a month into his command of the schooner Enterprise, LT Stephen Decatur and his crew captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico as she sailed from Tripoli to Constantinople under Turkish colors. Mastico had taken part in the capture of the frigate USS Philadelphia earlier that year, and was thus deemed a legitimate prize. Refitted and renamed USS Intrepid, she was taken into service under LT Decatur's command.

DSC00373 copyBecause of her appearance, the Intrepid was well-suited to enter Tripoli's harbor, where Philadelphia remained, without raising suspicion. In February 1804, Decatur sailed the Intrepid close enough t the captured Philadelphia for his crew, a detachment of U.S. Marines, to board, capture, and burn the frigate, which was not seaworthy. The mission was executed almost perfectly, and deprived Tripoli of a powerful warship. Lord Horatio Nelson called Decatur's mission "the most bold and daring act of the age."

Later in 1804, during a month of sustained attacks on Tripoli, Decatur's younger brother, James Decatur, was mortally wounded by a Tripolitan captain while boarding a corsair feigning surrender. Stephen Decatur received word quickly, and diverted his own vessel to the corsair to exact revenge. He was first to board the Tripolitan corsair, significantly outnumbered, but ready for a fight. Decatur found the man who had wounded his brother. The Tripolitan captain outweighed him by 40 pounds, but Decatur fought and killed him with his cutlass and pistol. To put it mildly, surface warfare has changed a little over the years.

For his leadership and bravery in the First Barbary War, Stephen Decatur became the youngest naval officer in history to be promoted to captain, at age 25. His naval career continued far beyond this initial success. Decatur would further distinguish himself while fighting in the War of 1812 and the Second Barbary War. He would achieve the rank of Commodore and serve on the Board of Navy Commissioners until his death in 1820 following a duel with another naval officer.

The story of Decatur's life and career is a rich one – I've only scratched the surface here. Now let's explore how and where he is remembered. The longest road on the Naval Academy's 338-acre campus is named Decatur Road. The road ends next to Preble Hall, the Naval Academy's Museum, which is named for Commodore Edward Preble, under whose command Decatur fought in the First Barbary War. Adjacent to both Decatur Road and Preble Hall sits the Tripoli Monument, the oldest military monument in the United States. It was carved in Italy in 1806, and moved to the Naval Academy in 1860. The Tripoli Monument honors six heroes of the First Barbary War, including James Decatur, Stephen's brother.

DSC00390 copyAnother name on the monument is Richard Somers, who died aboard the same USS Intrepid that Decatur captured and used to sneak into Tripoli's harbor. Somers was a midshipman with Decatur aboard United States, and assumed command of Intrepid one month after James Decatur was killed. Intrepid had been fitted as a "floating volcano," loaded down with 100 barrels of powder and 150 shells. The plan was to sail her into Tripoli's corsair fleet, light a 15-minute fuse, and abandon ship before she exploded. Unfortunately, the Intrepid exploded prematurely, killing her entire crew of volunteers.

I mention Richard Somers because six U.S. Navy ships have been named the USS Somers in his honor, the second of which has a crucial connection to the Naval Academy. In December 1842, Midshipman Philip Spencer, son of Secretary of War John C. Spencer, was hanged for intention to commit a mutiny aboard USS Somers. This high profile hanging became known as the Somers Affair, and contributed to the decision to create a land-based academy where midshipmen could learn their craft instead of doing so only at sea.

The same midshipman experience which greatly benefitted Stephen Decatur was not always as successful. The United States Naval Academy, established in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, would seek to formalize a curriculum for aspiring naval officers, producing a fresh crop of talented leaders each year. 170 years later, the scope of our operation has changed, but our goal hasn't. I mentioned earlier that Decatur had his own tutor aboard the United States to teach him the technical skills he would need to succeed as a naval officer, and eventually as a naval commander. He also had on-the-job training aboard a real ship, filled with opportunities to practice and hone his craft. That's exactly what we endeavor to provide today's Naval Academy midshipmen, and how we go about developing leaders has been my number one priority since taking over as Superintendent.

My major focus is experiential leadership. Leadership cannot be taught exclusively in the classroom. The technical skills required of a competent leader can be learned at a desk in many cases, but that's not enough. Leadership takes practice. It takes repetition. It takes being given the opportunity to try, fail, try again, and eventually succeed when the stakes are manageable. Today's midshipmen get a world-class education from our outstanding faculty, just as Decatur had Talbot Hamilton, a seasoned officer of the Royal Navy, to keep him on track. But they also get chances to lead, be it aboard smaller ships during summer training or amongst their peers in the Brigade leadership structure.

I can't promise you another Decatur, but I am confident that we provide the conditions and the opportunities for our future Navy and Marine Corps heroes to thrive and grow. Time and again, Stephen Decatur found himself where the action was. Time and again, he proved himself with his leadership and bravery. I am confident that our next generation of leaders will be up to the task as well.

I'd like to end with a brief mention of my own connection to Decatur. His first full command was the USS Enterprise, fighting piracy to protect American trade. The Enterprise he commanded was the third U.S. Navy ship of its name. My most recent fleet command was the Enterprise Strike Group (CSG-12), whose centerpiece was the eighth USS Enterprise. In 2011, I took the Enterprise on her 21st and final deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, and – yes – multiple anti-piracy missions.

Times have changed since Decatur proved himself a naval hero, but the principles for which we fight have remained constant. I'll close with a quote from Decatur himself, a post-dinner toast at a social gathering in April 1816. "Our country – In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; and always successful, right or wrong."


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Maryland in $1.5 Million Partnership with Pride of Baltimore II [feedly]

Maryland in $1.5 Million Partnership with Pride of Baltimore II
// Old Salt Blog - a virtual port of call for all those who love the sea

prideiiTremendous news for a great ship. On Monday, Maryland's Governor Hogan announced a $1.5 million private-public partnership with the replica Baltimore clipper, Pride of Baltimore II.  Under a new agreement, the state will commit the funds to Pride of Baltimore Inc., the nonprofit that owns and operates the Pride, over the next three years.

"Pride of Baltimore is a wonderful symbol of the rich maritime heritage of both our state and the city of Baltimore, and the ship generates extremely valuable exposure and goodwill wherever she goes," said Governor Larry Hogan. "We are pleased to have a new partnership with the Pride and to have her help carry our message across the state, nation, and globe – that Maryland is open for business."

"Pride's mission has been to promote historical maritime education, foster economic development and tourism, and represent the people of Maryland in ports throughout the world," said Rick Scott, executive director of Pride of Baltimore Inc. "We are thrilled to have a new partnership with Maryland and we will be working closely with the Maryland Departments of Transportation and Commerce to promote economic development here."

Launched in 1988, Pride of Baltimore II is a topsail schooner that is a replica of the Baltimore clippers built in the city which became well-known as privateers in the War of 1812.

"The Pride is a great iconic figure of Maryland and Baltimore," said Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn. "As the Pride travels around our country, it promotes our state and largest city in a positive light."

Governor Hogan Announces New Partnership with Pride of Baltimore II

The post Maryland in $1.5 Million Partnership with Pride of Baltimore II appeared first on Old Salt Blog.


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A Look at the 2016 HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding Event [feedly]

A Look at the 2016 HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding Event
// Naval Historical Foundation

In case you haven't heard, our friends at the Hampton Roads Naval Museums are set to host their fifth annual "Brick by Brick: LEGO Shipbuilding Event." It is their yearly signature event. The Naval Historical Foundation is once again partnering with HRNM for this event. This is the third year that NHF has been involved with LEGO Shipbuilding down in the Hampton Roads area.

Some of the ship designs you can build at this year's event: USS Monitor, USS Seawolf, USS Cumberland, USS Liberty, USS Gettysburg, USS Maine, USS Harry S Truman, USS Wisconsin, USS Zumwalt, CSS Virginia (Courtesy HRNM/Don Darcy)

Some of the ship designs you can build at this year's event: USS Monitor, USS Seawolf, USS Cumberland, USS Liberty, USS Gettysburg, USS Maine, USS Harry S Truman, USS Wisconsin, USS Zumwalt, CSS Virginia (Courtesy HRNM/Don Darcy)

We were thankful enough to get an exclusive interview with one of the coordinators of the event, HRNM Special Events Coordinator Don Darcy. Mr. Darcy took some time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about why this year's event will be the best ever.

What is different about this year than in previous years?

We've greatly expanded our available space this year by moving the event into the Half Moone Cruise Terminal adjacent to the museum. That has allowed us to add extra activities, including a stronger focus on STEM with Lego robotics. Due to these added activities and space, we've increased our community partnerships–with the First Lego League, Junior First Lego League, Sea Perch, and Engineering for Kids. We've also added five new Navy ships for kids and adults to build–the USS Liberty, USS Monitor, CSS Virginia, USS Seawolf, and USS Maine.

How has the LEGO shipbuilding program impacted HRNM?

LEGO Shipbuilding has become our signature event, with over 2,000 visitors each year. We've also developed it into a free education program for schools, and we're currently expanding that education program to include LEGO robotics through a grant we received from NHF.

What has been your favorite part of this process?

My favorite part of the process is designing new ships. I really like the creativity that goes into the design phase, including deciding how difficult the ship will be (easy, medium, hard, or expert) and how to make it look similar to the real ship. To choose which ships to design, this year we went through ships used in the past and either revamped them or built ships we hadn't included already. This coming year, we will be offering the chance for organizations to sponsor ships, and we'll also be looking for event visitors to tell us what they want to see.

Do you have a personal favorite ship design?

USS Maine

Do you have any final thoughts for this year's event?

The event is FREE! Anyone interested in supporting the event, and future Lego events (and keeping them free!) can go to the HRNM Booster page to buy a t-shirt and support the event. All proceeds go to our foundation, which is funding the Lego Shipbuilding event.

Our own Digital Content Developer has a long relationship with the event. As a former employee of HRNM, he helped design the program in its early stages. In case you missed the history of HRNM LEGO shipbuilding post he wrote from last year, read it HERE.

We hope to continue our partnership with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum for future LEGO Shipbuilding events.

A Look at the 2016 HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding Event was published by the Naval Historical Foundation and originally appeared on Naval Historical Foundation on January 20, 2016.


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U.S. Navy’s ‘Great Green Fleet’ Gets Underway Using Biofuels [feedly]

U.S. Navy's 'Great Green Fleet' Gets Underway Using Biofuels

160115-N-KR702-044  NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BREMERTON, Wash. (Jan.15, 2016) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) man the rails as the ship gets underway for a western Pacific deployment. This is the first deployment for Stennis after having gone through a dry dock period at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, where they received scheduled maintenance and upgrades. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Holly L. Herline/Released)By David Alexander WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy will formally deploy its so-called "Great Green Fleet" on Wednesday, sending warships to sea on biofuels even though oil prices have dropped 70 percent since congressional Republicans first criticized the high cost of alternative fuels. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told Reuters the deployment is […]

The post U.S. Navy's 'Great Green Fleet' Gets Underway Using Biofuels appeared first on gCaptain.


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Five Important Dates in Eastern European Genealogy [feedly]

Five Important Dates in Eastern European Genealogy
// Genealogy Insider

Genealogy and history go hand in hand. If you want to be successful in tracing your Polish, Czech or Slovak roots, brush up on the history of these countries (and of Eastern Europe in general) to better understand records from the old country and learn about your ancestors' lives. Check out these five key dates in Eastern European history you should know about, given to us by Lisa Alzo, author of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide:

  • 1772, 1792 and 1795: In the Three Partitions of Poland, Russia, Prussia and Austria break Poland into three pieces and absorb them. This effectively wipes Poland off the map for more than one hundred years, making research between these years and Poland's independence after World War I difficult.
  • 1815: The Congress of Vienna redraws many of Europe's borders, including Napoleon's Duchy of Warsaw. Many of these borders won't change until the end of World War I and likely reflect the divisions of Europe that were in place when your ancestor left the old country.
  • 1867: The Austrian and Hungarian governments form a dual monarchy, sharing a common ruler. As a result, your Polish, Czech and Slovak ancestors may list Austria and/or Hungary as a birthplace.
  • 1918: World War I ends, and Europe's borders are redrawn, with many of Eastern Europe's ethnic groups receiving independent nation-states. Poland gains independence for the since time since the Partitions, and the defeated Austria-Hungary is divided into Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Galicia (which goes to Poland), and Transylvania (which goes to Romania). These changes may change how your immigrant ancestor chose to list his information on passenger lists and other North American records. See the picture above for a snapshot of Eastern Europe's borders in 1922 following the changes.
  • 1945: World War II ends, and Eastern Europe's population is devastated. Borders—especially Poland's—change yet again following the war, with Ukraine gaining Subcarpathian Rus' and Poland losing territory in the east to the Soviet Union but gaining formerly German territory in the west.

Learn more tips and resources for decrypting Eastern Europe's changing borders and complicated historical influences on your ancestors' lives. Order your copy of The Family Tree Polish, Czech and Slovak Genealogy Guide today.


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Force War Records - Find Your Lodt Freinds

Being a Army Veteran, I understand how important it is to have access to a records where I can find my old mates and colleagues. I fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, spent several years in the Army and met with numerous amount of people who I never knew before but came so close that we became good friends.

This techno-logic era gives us opportunity to keep us binding together and we can share our feelings with each other. But what I found is that, although social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are giving us chance to communicate and sharing tools. But as a veterans I felt this is not enough. My late grandfather and his friends fought in the Great War, earned lots of medals and received recognition but nowadays, we do not really see their achievement. And reason behind is that there wasn’t any kind of media who specialized only Forces personnel.

Forces War Records, is a well established company where we can find millions of war records, medals and hospital history. Started by David Glaser, as his hobby only to give his father who was a war veteran; some information about his war time friends and colleagues. Later David, discovered that he can use this media to help others who are looking for their ancestor who fought in the great war and beyond.

If you wish to find something about your loved one, I do not have any better place to go rather than visiting this information rich archive website.

Here’s Types of records Forces War Records website hold:

World War One Records
Crimean War Databases
Boer War Databases
Napoleonic Wars Databases
Individual Battle Data
Other Wars Casualties Lists
Prisoner of War Records
Royal Marines Databases
Fighter & Bomber Command Losses
Fleet Air Arm Data
RFC / RAF List
RN Losses
Shot at Dawn Database
and lots more!…

Read latest Forces War Records newsletter.

If you however, looking for a family member from past or want to discover your ancestors then FinMyPast will be a great portal for you. With a little fee you can trace your families past.

Get ready for the Free Weekend!

This weekend we are making billions of world records FREE to explore. From 12:00pm on Friday 22nd to 12:00pm on Monday 25th January 2016 dive into the newspaper archive, birth, marriage and death records, crime collections, and so much more.

Wreckage of First World War German submarine found off Suffolk coast

First World War German submarine U-31

First World War German submarine U-31

Developers behind offshore windfarm East Anglia One. ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) and Vattenfall, were conducting investigations to the seabed in the Southern North Sea around 90km from the Suffolk and Norfolk coast when divers made the shock discovery in September 2012.

The vessel, identified as World War One German submarine Type U-31, was found at a depth of only 30 metres. It is 57.6 metres in length, 4.1 metres in width and 4.6 metres in height. The bow appears to be facing south.

Damage was observed at the bow and the stern, so the original length could be slightly longer than it appears and debris surrounding the wreck suggests a more likely length of over 60 metres, but still less than 70m.

A database of reference books shows that only U-boats U-31 and U-34 had been lost in this area of the North Sea.

First World War German submarine U-31First World War German submarine U-31

More than 60 wrecks were discovered during the scanning work, however most of these were anticipated - the uncharted submarine was said to be “entirely unexpected”.

Charlie Jordan, ScottishPower Renewables’ project director for the East Anglia ONE windfarm says of the discovery: “The scanning team were expecting to see wrecks, but such a discovery was quite a surprise and has been extremely interesting.”

The relevant authorities were notified, including Receiver of Wreck, and the discovery was confirmed by ScottishPower Renewables today.

Mark Dunkley, marine archaeologist at Historic England, said: “SM U-31 was commissioned into the Imperial German Navy in September 1914.

Teri from ScottishPower Renewables, with Jouke from the RNL Navy and Andy Paine of Vattenfall

Teri from ScottishPower Renewables, with Jouke from the RNL Navy and Andy Paine of Vattenfall

“On January 13, 1915, the U-31 slipped its mooring and sailed north-west from Wilhelmshaven for a routine patrol and disappeared.

“It is thought that U-31 had struck a mine off England’s east coast and sank with the loss of its entire complement of four officers, 31 men.

“U-31 was the first of eleven Type U-31* submarines built between 1912 and 1915.

“The class were considered very good high sea boats with good surface steering; eight were sunk during operations while three surrendered and were scrapped after the war.

“Of those lost during operations, the whereabouts and fate of two, including U-31, was unknown.

“The discovery and identification of SM U-31 by ScottishPower Renewables and Vattenfall is a significant achievement.

“After being on the seabed for over a century, the submarine appears to be in a remarkable condition with the conning tower present and the bows partially buried.

“Relatives and descendants of those lost in the U-31 may now take some comfort in knowing the final resting place of the crew and the discovery serves as a poignant reminder of all those lost at sea, on land and in the air during the First World War.”

As an official military maritime grave, the wreck of U-31 will remain in its final resting place and plans for any offshore windfarm development will be progressed ensuring no disturbance to the area.

Andy Paine, Vattenfall project director of East Anglia Offshore Wind Farm, said: “The seabed scanning had been undertaken by Netherlands-owned company Fugro, and their team made us aware of the Dutch Navy’s hunt for its last remaining missing WWII submarine.

“We were all extremely keen to make contact with the Dutch Navy to see if this could be the submarine they have been looking for over so many years: could we at last have solved the mystery?”

Mr Jordan added: “Unravelling the whole story behind the submarine has been fascinating and it’s heartening to know that the discovery will provide closure to relatives and descendants of the submariners lost who may have always wondered what had happened to their loved ones.” See More

Case Study In Clarity

Case Study in Clarity

We play a valuable role in facilitating communications between a requester and an agency. A recent request made by National Public Radio (NPR) to the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) provides an example of this function.

NPR reporter Caitlin Dickerson made a request to the NRL for records about a World War II-era medical experiment that used human subjects; the agency released the records in full. While Ms. Dickerson was mostly pleased with the agency’s release, the records included a number of photographs which, when reproduced, were blurry. NPR contacted the agency, asking that the images be re-scanned at a higher resolution; the NRL scanned the images again and released the second set. Unfortunately, this second set of images, while better than the first, were still not of a high-enough resolution to be useful to NPR. Ms. Dickerson contacted the agency again, but the NRL, having produced two sets of records at that point, thought that they had fulfilled the FOIA request in accordance with the law and closed the request.

At this point, NPR contacted OGIS to see if this dispute could be resolved outside of the administrative appeal process. NPR asked us to inquire whether someone from the organization could bring NPR’s own equipment to the agency in order to scan the images at the resolution she needed. We contacted the agency to discuss this offer; the NRL declined, citing security regulations at the facility in which the records were held.

Medical Experiment

While we often encourage agencies to resolve complex FOIA issues by drawing on the knowledge of other departments (for instance, enlisting the assistance of the agency’s information technology professionals with requests for database records), in this instance, the requester took the same approach. NPR discussed the matter internally, drawing on the expertise of NPR’s photo editor, NRL agreed to scan the pictures again using NPR’s recommended settings, and we facilitated this exchange of information. The agency made the necessary adjustments and released a third set of records that met the NPR’s needs.

While we primarily work with FOIA disputes at the conclusion of the FOIA process—after the agency has reviewed its actions and decisions on appeal—in this instance, an earlier intervention on a relatively simple matter helped the requester get the records she needed faster, and kept an appeal out of the agency’s backlog. The result was two news stories ( and that illuminate a fascinating aspect of American military history, punctuated by photographs that make the stories that much more compelling.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Search for Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate Part III by Netisha

General Truscott announced on December 29 that Third U.S. Army intelligence officers, after a long search, had uncovered important documents signed by Hitler. In announcing the find, Truscott was outspoken in his praise of the cooperation between the British counter intelligence and the 303rd CIC Detachment, the Third U.S. Army operatives who made the important discovery. Truscott indicated that the documents, some of which were to remain secret until further investigation by Third U.S. Army G-2 units could be completed, were of “inestimable value” in piecing together the whole picture of the closing days of the Nazis’ downfall. The desperation of those closing days, Truscott said, was shown by the “frantically penned” covering letter from Bormann to Doenitz.[1]

Before or after Truscott finished speaking on December 29, at the direction of the Assistant G-2, USFET, the Public Relations Branch of G-2, Third U.S. Army released to the world the first information of contents of Hitler’s Political Testament, Last Will, and other associated documents discovered. Not all the text of the two wills was released however. The press was given a summary of the circumstances of the discovery.[2] Not to be outdone publicity-wise, simultaneously with the Third Army’s announcement of the Hitler documents, British counter-intelligence officers reported the arrest of the man to whom the documents had been entrusted, Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin [Zander], identified as adjutant to Bormann. Readers of The New York Times on December 30 awoke to a page one story entitled “Hitler’s Private Will Found; Affirms His Suicidal Plans.”[3]
At Nuremberg on December 30 the British and Americans disclosed to the press the complete text of the Political Testament, as well the text of the personal will and marriage certificate as well as the Goebbels’ appendix.[4]

As the year ended British Major Peter Ramsbotham informed Trevor-Roper, then back at Bad Oeynhausen, that the Joint Intelligence Committee had referred the decision on what to say about Hitler’s will up to the Cabinet; but by then it was too late, as its discovery was being announced in banner headlines in newspapers around the world.[5]

At Herford, Germany on December 31 a British intelligence officer told the press that there could be no possible doubt that Hitler had perished with his bride in a bunker under the bomb-blasted chancellery. The officer, who disclosed the full story of how Hitler’s last documents were traced down through the combined efforts of British and American intelligence agents, said that the authenticity of the papers could not be questioned. The documents included the testaments and marriage contract-and exhaustive questions of all persons now in British hands who were known to have witnessed Hitler’s last hours have disclosed a full sequence of events that, the officer said, is accepted as the true version of Hitler’s death. On the basis of accumulated evidence, the officer said that Hitler and Eva Braun died in the bunker about 3pm on April 30. The officer said that three complete sets of Hitler’s documents were made and the messengers were now in the Allies’ hands. The officer added that one set of the documents was still missing, and the captured messenger to whom it was entrusted had thus far refused to disclose its hiding place. He said that one set of the documents was a spare, possibly designed for posterity. One of the others was directed to Doenitz and the remaining one was for Schoerner; and added that neither set reached its destination. The messengers then in Allies’ hands, the officer reported, were Lorenz, Johannmeier, and Fredrich Wilhelm Paustin, alias Wilhelm Zander.[6]

A dispatch from the American Third Army’s headquarters in Bad Toelz, apparently on December 31, said that American intelligence had spent months running down every possible thread of evidence and were also convinced that Hitler had died with his wife.[7]

Weiss, after interrogating Zander, on December 30 made a report of the arrest and interrogation. As to the possible whereabouts of Martin Bormann, Zander stated that he last saw him on April 29 in the Bunker and claimed it was impossible for anyone to leave Berlin after he did.[8] In forwarding the report through CIC channels Weiss’s supervisor reported that while publicity released from Third U.S. Army did not indicate the part played by Agent Weiss, that Weiss had played an important role in learning of Zander’s alias and location, as well as the location of the Hitler documents in Tegernsee.[9]

After Zander’s arrest, the interest switched again to Johannmeier whose story now had been shown to be untrue by Lorenz and Zander. Trevor-Roper met with him on January 1 and explained to him that Zander and Lorenz were both in Allied hands (he had already read in the newspapers about Zander’s arrest), and that in view of their independent but unanimous testimony, it was impossible to accept his statement that he had been merely an escort, and had not himself carried any documents. He nevertheless maintained his thesis for a period of two hours. He agreed that the evidence was against him, but insisted that his story was true. He gave a version of the words which Burgdorf had used when giving him his instructions to escort Zander and Lorenz. Asked if he was prepared to settle the matter in the presence of these others, he replied unhesitatingly, yes. Asked if could name any witness whose testimony might offset that of Zander and Lorenz, he stated that he had spoken to no one about his mission, and that the only man who knew the details was the man who had given it to him, General Burgdorf. When told that Burgdorf was missing, and believed dead, he exclaimed “Dann ist meine letzte Hoffnung verschwunden, (Then my last hope is gone)” The position was put sympathetically to Johannmeier – that he must realize that the documents were already in Allied hands and that another revelation could add nothing to their knowledge, continued resistance to the evidence would entail his further, and perhaps indefinite imprisonment; but still he insisted that his story was the truth. He agreed to sign a written declaration to that effect. “If I had the documents, it would be senseless to withhold them now, but what I have not I cannot deliver. I cannot even prove that I have not got them?” By his otherwise unaccountable persistence in this story, by which he was condemning himself to imprisonment for no conceivable advantage to anyone, and by the ingenuousness of his protestations, Johannmeier had almost persuaded Trevor-Roper that these must after all be some flaw in the evidence against him, some element of truth in his improbable but unshakeable story.[10]

They were alone in the headquarters; everyone else had left for the holiday. Trevor-Roper had nowhere to put Johannmeier. He decided that he must admit failure and summon a truck to take him away. Trevor-Roper left the room for two hours, trying to make a long-distance call. When he returned and began the mechanical questioning again (more to fill in the time than out of any hope of success) he became aware of a change in Johannmeier’s attitude. Johannmeier, according to Trevor Roper, seemed already to have resolved his mental doubts, and after a little preliminary and precautionary fencing, in which he sought assurance that he would not be penalized, if he revealed his secret about the documents, he declared “Ich habe die Papiere! (I have the papers)” He stated that he had buried them in a garden of his home in Iserlohn, in a glass jar; and he agreed to lead Trevor-Roper to the spot and hand over the papers.[11]

On the long drive back to Iserlohn, Johannmeier spoke freely on various topics which were discussed. When they stopped for a meal, Trevor-Roper asked him why he had decided to reveal the truth. Johannmeier said he had reflected that if Zander and Lorenz, both favored members who had risen high in the Party, had so easily consented to betray the trust reposed in them, it would be quixotic (for him) who was not a member of the Party or connected with politics, but who was merely carrying the documents in obedience to a military order, to endure further hardship to no practical purpose. At Iserlohn they left the car some distance away, at Johannmeier’s request – he did not want the neighbors to see a British staff car outside his parents’ home. The two men walked together through the cold night to the house. It was now night-time and the ground had frozen hard. Johannmeier found an axe and together they walked out into the back corner of his garden. Johannmeier found the place, broke frozen surface of the ground with the axe, and dug up the glass bottle. Then he smashed the bottle with the head of the axe and drew out the documents, which he handed over to Trevor-Roper. They were the third copy of Hitler’s private and personal testament plus a vivid covering letter from Burgdorf to Schoerner describing the circumstances of its dictation, “under the shattering news of the treachery of the Reichsfuehrer SS.” The Allies now had the three sets of documents that had been carried out of the bunker on April 29.[12] Trevor-Report prepared a report to which he attached the documents and translations.[13] He returned to England early in 1946, and began writing a book about Hitler and his last days.[14]

Two sets of Hitler’s political testament and personal will ended up in the National Archives of the United Kingdom (file designation WO 208/3779). The third set, and the marriage certificate (NAID 6883511), came to the National Archives in April 1946. For that story, see my article in Prologue – “Hitler’s Final Words“.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Final designs for national World War I Memorial selected [feedly]

Final designs for national World War I Memorial selected
// VAntage Point

World War I is one of the few major conflicts of the 20th century that does not have a dedicated memorial in the nation's capitol. That is about to change. In 2014, Congress designated Pershing Park in the District of Columbia, along with the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, as national World War I memorials. They also authorized the World War I Centennial Commission to redevelop Pershing Park to honor the Veterans of World War I.
"[Gen. John J. Pershing has] gotten a great deal of attention. But his great love was the troops who worked for him. I think it's terrific that in my lifetime, and I'm the last Pershing, I can be here to see us honor everybody," said Sandra Pershing, the granddaughter of General John J. Pershing.
The goal of the World War I Centennial Commission is to create a dynamic urban space and timeless memorial to honor those who fought in "The Great War", while inspiring younger generations of Americans to better understand the profound effects it had on our nation's history. In search for the perfect design, the commission created a two-stage international competition.
Stage I was an open call for designs to be submitted. After receiving more than 350 entries, judges narrowed it down to five finalists who were invited to participate in phase two. Judges on the design oversight committee include representatives from organizations involved in the final design approval, including the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission, Commission of Fine Arts, General Services Administration and the American Battle Monuments Commission.
During stage two, finalists met with the design oversight committee to provide additional their input and advice regarding their submissions.
"The designs have to do three major things. First of all, it has to be a great park. Second, it has to have a very strong memorial message of some sort. And the third is, because of this location on Pennsylvania Ave., it has a very urban responsibility to respond to the context of that particular place and add to the Pennsylvania Ave., experience, as well as the experience of the memorials around the area," said Don Stastny, the competition manager.
After further refinement and development, the finalists showcased their revised designs on Jan. 6. The jury will select a winning design team to recommend to the World War I Centennial Commission. The winner will be announced on Jan. 25 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Click here to view the final designs and explore the concepts.
The post Final designs for national World War I Memorial selected appeared first on VAntage Point.


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Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrives at the museum [feedly]

Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrives at the museum
// Maritime Archaeology «

Guaya enters Sydney Harbour 8 January, 2016 - harbour bridge to the right on a sunny day.
Guayas enters Sydney Harbour, 8 January 2016. Photo Jude Timms/ANMM
The Ecuadorian navy training tall ship Guayas arrived at the Australian National Maritime Museum this morning to an enthusiastic welcome from members of the Ecuadorian community and museum visitors and staff.

During its four-day visit the ship will be berthed at Wharf 7 and will be open to the public, with free admission. Visitors are welcome to climb on board, meet the crew and learn more about this unique vessel and its message.
Crew aloft as Guayas comes alongside its berth at Wharf 7. Photo Michelle Mortimer/ANMM
Guayas sailed into Perth, its first Australian port of call, on 21 December after seven months at sea. Its visit to Australia is part of a round-the-world tour, the longest the ship has undertaken. It will visit 23 ports in 22 countries in 294 days, traversing four oceans and travelling 35,000 nautical miles (65,000 kilometres). Forty-eight midshipmen will complete their navigation course to become officers of the Ecuadorian Navy.
The ship's band entertained onlookers with a lively performance. Photo Janine Flew/ANMM Visitors and crew mingle on the foredeck. Photo Janine Flew/ANMM
Known affectionately as Ecuador's ambassador ship, Guayas seeks to strengthen relations between Ecuador and visited nations while promoting Ecuadorian tourism. It is also important in the training and academic development of Ecuadorian navy personnel.
Guayas was built in Bilbao, Spain, by Astilleros Celaya in 1976. It sails with a crew of 154 sailors and trainees; representatives of the Royal Australian Navy were among the crew sailing from Perth to Sydney. This visit is its first to Australia since 1988, when it took part in the nation's Bicentenary celebrations.
Guayas_Arrival_8Jan2016_JFlew 101
Guayas will be moored at Wharf 7, next to the main museum building, until Tuesday morning. Photo Janine Flew/ANMM
A photo of the crew of Guayas aloft on the mast
The steel-hulled barque is 78.4 metres long and can display a sail area of 1,410 square metres. Photo Michelle Mortimer/ANMM
Guayas is open to the public, with FREE admission, as follows:
Friday 8 January, 11 am–5 pm
Saturday 9 January, 11 am–4 pm
Sunday 10 January, 11 am–6 pm
Monday 11 January, 11 am–6 pm
Guayas departs Wharf 7 at 9 am on Tuesday 12 January.
For further information on Guayas visit

The Australian National Maritime Museum on Darling Harbour is open daily from 9.30 am to 6.00 pm. Entry to our galleries is now FREE. For further information call 02 9298 3777 or visit


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Wrecks from the Lost Whaling Fleet of 1871 Found in Alaska [feedly]

Wrecks from the Lost Whaling Fleet of 1871 Found in Alaska
// Old Salt Blog - a virtual port of call for all those who love the sea

whaling-fleet-003_huntington-libraryIn 1871, a fleet of 33 American whaling ships became stuck in the ice off the coast of Alaska.  Over 1,200 whalers were rescued by the seven ships which managed to avoid being trapped in the ice floes. Remarkably, all aboard the trapped ships survived the ordeal.
On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that they believe that they have located the wreckage of two of the lost whaling fleet on the bottom of the Chukchi Sea near the Inupiat village of Wainwright.
In addition to the crushed hulls of the ships, the NOAA archaeological team found anchors, fasteners and brick-lined furnaces that were used to render blubber. "It was remarkable to find the ship pieces and associated items so well-preserved," said Brad Barr, the chief scientist for the expedition carried out by the Maritime Heritage Program in NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
The loss of the ships in 1871 was a disaster to the whaling industry. The first oil well had been drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859 and petroleum was increasingly competing with whale oil. Whales were harder to find, leading whaling ship from New England to hunt for whales in the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. The loss of the ships and gear was estimated to have been $1.6 million or roughly $32 million in today's dollars.
Of the 33 ships trapped in the ice, one survived. In 1872, the bark Minerva was discovered intact and subsequently salvaged, but the rest were crushed in the ice, sank, or were stripped of wood by the local Inupiat.

Search for the Lost Whaling Fleets of the Western Arctic
Thanks to Irwin Bryan and Phil Leon for contributing to this post.
The post Wrecks from the Lost Whaling Fleet of 1871 Found in Alaska appeared first on Old Salt Blog.


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Spies??? [feedly]

// Naval History Blog

While reading through Captain Collins Oral History, many stories stuck out to me. Her induction into the WAVES, becoming regular Navy, dealing with a Navy not prepared for women, but out of all those wonderful stories, the excerpt below is perhaps on the funniest I read. She explains to Paul Stillwell from USNI how she was introduced to Admiral Halsey while stationed in Hawaii during World War II.   A multimillionaire businessman from Denver gave the women officers a beautiful home at Kailua. It's across the Pali from Pearl Harbor and right on the beach. It was a gorgeous place.... Read the rest of this entry »

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Preserving the War of 1812 Pensions: An Update [feedly]

Preserving the War of 1812 Pensions: An Update
// Blog

The Preserve the Pensions project is raising funds to digitize and preserve the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files. These files had never even been microfilmed. Each time someone requested a file from the National Archives, it required handling the paper file. All of that processing over the years has been hard… Read more

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Ships in Bottles — A Bit of the History and Lore [feedly]

Ships in Bottles — A Bit of the History and Lore
// Old Salt Blog - a virtual port of call for all those who love the sea

Ship in a bottle -- 1784
A Facebook video by my friend Frank Hanavan showing him inserting a ship in a bottle (after the page break) got me thinking about, well, ships in bottles. When, where and why did sailors start putting ships in bottles? After looking into the history of ships in bottles (or SIBs, as the aficionados refer to them), I don't claim to have all, or even most, of the answers but I have come across some interesting lore.
The first mention of objects in bottles dates back to 1719. A German artist, musician and magician, Matthias Buchinger, built models, although not necessarily, of ships inside bottles. He was also well known as an illustrator and engraver, all of which was remarkable given that he was born without arms or legs. He was also quite the lady's man, having married four times and having at least 14 children by eight women.
As described in History of Ships in Bottles – by Bob de Jongste: The oldest surviving ship in a bottle dates to 1784 and is a Turkish or a Portuguese three-masted warship. It is put in an egg­-shaped bottle, which is placed upside down over a wooden stand. It is now part of the collection of the 'Museum fiir Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Hansestadt Lubeck' in Germany.
The oldest SIB in the Netherlands is dated 1795. It is a so-called POON-ship, a one-masted freighter with lee-boards, ranging from 16 to 60 tons. It was also used for regular passenger service. This SIB can be found in the Maritime Museum at Rotterdam.
The SIB became very popular after the fast sailing ships like the clipper were put into service. Consequently most of the antique SIB's which can be found (very scarce) are dated later than 1840.
To learn more about ships in a bottle, check out The Ships-In-Bottles Association of America (S.I.B.A.A.)
To watch Frank's artistry, check out the video below:
Posted by Frank Hanavan on Monday, January 4, 2016
The post Ships in Bottles — A Bit of the History and Lore appeared first on Old Salt Blog.


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