Contests at the National Archives

I Found It!

"I Found it in the National Archives" contest logo

I Found it in the National Archives!

Winning Entry: "More than a World War II Folk Art Map"

by: John M. Lawlor, Jr.

Professor Lawlor is a volunteer in the National Archives' Boeing Education Center ReSource Room and a Professor of History at Reading Area Community College.

Refer to CaptionA hand-drawn folk art map that detailed the movement of the 16th Armored Division through Europe in 1945.

My father used to tell me that he and my Uncle Francis liberated the brewery in Pilzen Czechoslovakia. He was in the 16th Armored Division. After he passed away, I decided to research his unit at the National Archives. I had lots of leads. He left me a box with every piece of paper he ever got in the army. His personal archive was extensive.

The National Archives text records on the 16th Armored Division were extensive. Still Photographs also had materials related to his unit. Photographs reveal that townspeople in Pilzen, beer pitchers in hand, greeted the liberating tank crews.

I made a surprising discovery in Text Records. There, among the written reports and orders, was a hand-drawn folk art map that detailed the movement of the 16th through Europe in 1945. The unknown artist captured the sense of liberation with a few brush strokes. The archivist helped me a have black and white copy made. I hoped I'd eventually get a color copy.

Several years passed and then one day after talking with Mr. Richard Myers at NARA, a digital color version showed up at my doorstep. At 50 MB, it shows lots of details. It's a treasured find. But the story didn't end there.

I stepped the resolution down to 300 k and e-mailed a copy to Mr. Edward Krusheski, a veteran of the 16th Armored Division's liberation of Czechoslovakia. He emailed a copy to all of his fellow veterans. Since then, I've been in constant contact with Ed and other veterans of my dad's old unit. The map opened a window to their experiences. Further, the map found its way to Mr. Martin Valek in Pilzen who was writing a history of the liberation. At his request, I sent him the full sized map on a CD-ROM.

Dick Myers' kindness enabled me to establish an enduring relationship with veterans of the 16th, contribute to Pilzen's local history, and, yes, confirmed my dad's story. Dad always enjoyed a good glass of beer. But more than that, he had special feelings for his old army buddies. So do I.