East Rotunda Gallery

Featured Document Exhibit

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation.

Currently on Exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery
February 5 – March 4, 2015

Unbroken: Records from Louis Zamperini’s Incredible World War II Story

On May 27, 1943, Army Air Force bombardier Louis “Louie” Zamperini’s B-24 airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The former U.S. Olympian survived, only to face months adrift at sea and years as a Japanese POW. His fate unknown in the U.S., Louie was declared dead a year and a day after his plane went down and was “posthumously” awarded a Purple Heart. Louie’s Purple Heart medal (on loan courtesy of Laura Hillenbrand, author of UNBROKEN), copies of the certificate awarding him the Purple Heart and a condolence letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Zamperini family will be on display. Miraculously, Zamperini survived and was liberated at the end of the war.

Letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Zamperini family
Letter (copy) from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Zamperini family after Louis was mistakenly declared deceased, May 28, 1944.
National Archives, National Archives at St. Louis

Certificate (copy) awarding the Purple Heart medal to Louis Silvie Zamperini
Certificate (copy) awarding the Purple Heart medal to Louis Silvie Zamperini after he was mistakenly declared deceased, October 12, 1944.
National Archives, National Archives at St. Louis

 


Upcoming Featured Documents

A First Responder’s Report on the Assassination of President Lincoln

23-year-old Charles A. Leale was the first physician to arrive at the wounded President’s side. His eyewitness report takes us to the scene of a crime that irreversibly altered the future of the United States.
East Rotunda Gallery, March 5 through April 29, 2015.


Previous Featured Documents

George Washington’s First Annual Message

In celebration of the 225th anniversary of the First Congress, the first Journal of the House of Representatives is on display, showing the final page of George Washington's State of the Union speech. With this speech, delivered on January 8, 1790, Washington established the precedent of delivering a formal address to Congress to report on the state of the Union. He praised the accomplishments of the First Congress and gave a brief overview of his administration’s agenda. The President emphasized the need to provide for the common defense; establish uniform systems of currency, weights, and measures; and promote education.

President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress, January 8, 1790
House Journal of the First Congress, Second Session, showing the final page of President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress, January 8, 1790

Surrender? “Nuts!” Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops

In mid-December 1944, Allied forces were surprised by a massive German offensive through the Ardennes Forrest that created a “bulge” in the Allied lines. On Christmas Eve, 1944, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe sent a message to his men besieged in Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne was a key road junction that had to be held at all cost. The message recounts McAuliffe's famous reply of "Nuts!" to a German demand to surrender and the announcement of an American counterattack. The National Archives presents this document display in celebration of Veterans' Day and in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops
Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's Christmas Message, December 24, 1944
National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General's Office

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This exhibition was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, with support from the the National Archives Foundation.

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