User:RekonDog/Definitive History of the United States Marine Corps/Sources

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Essay on Sources[edit]

Since this book is amply footnoted by chapter, this essay discusses only the collection of official and private documents and the major printed sources of information on the Department of the Navy to any researcher of Navy and Marine Corps history.

Primary Sources[edit]

Organizational Records[edit]

The basic collection of Marine Corps documents is the Records of the United States Marine Corps, Record Group (RG) 127, National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States, which covers the history of the Corps from its creation in 1798 through World War II (WWII). Physically, the records are at the National Archives building in downtown Washington, D.C., and the federal records center at Suitland, Maryland. Some of the WWII organizational records and the documents of Headquarters (HQ) staff sections, posts and stations, detachments and units of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) since WWII remain in the hands of the Operational Archives Branch of the Marine Corps History and Museum Division at the Marine Corps Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard, the staff divisions of Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), and the HQ of Marine Corps posts and stations.

Within the RG 127, the most significant group of documents is the correspondence, issuance, and other records of the Office of the Commandant, 1798–1939, which also includes important collections of recruiting, operations, training, intelligence, and Marine Corps history. In the last-named category, one finds critical documents on Marine activities in the Philippines and China [1899–1901] and Marine Corps history between 1899 and the outbreak of WWII. For the internal management of the Corps during the 1798–1949 period, one should also consult the correspondence of the Adjutant and Inspector’s Department, which handled personnel matters for the Commandant and supervised the compliance with official orders. Also part of RG 127 are the records of the Paymaster’s Department [1808–1939] and the Quartermaster’s Department [1811–1942]. The same RG includes scattered records from Marine ships detachments and field organizations to WWII. The most important collections for Marine overseas organizations are the records of the Marine legation guard in Peking, the Marine units deployed to Cuba [1898–1912], the Marine brigade in Nicaragua and the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua [1927–1932]; the records of selected Marine detachments, organizations, and squadrons, during the interwar period; and the records of Marine defense battalions during WWII. All these records are described in Maizie Johnson, comp., Records of the United States Marine Corps (Washington, D.C.: The National Archives, 1970), supplemented by the announcements of accessions by the NARA.

The NARA also holds collections of Marine Corps maps and photographs. Both are identified as RG 127 in their respective National Archives divisions. The cartographic records are divided into three basic sub-collections: maps of Marine Corps bases, maps of geographic areas that interested Marine Corps planners up to WWII, and maps of Marine Corps operations in France in WWI. The photographic records are still photographs accessioned from the Marine Corps that portray Marine subjects through WWII. The History and Museum Division, however, still retains custody of many still photographs and the basic archives of Marine Corps motion pictures, as well as its own map collection.

RG 127 does not exhaust the relevant Marine collections in the NARA. Although there is some duplication in the records, one should consult the correspondence of the Secretary of the Navy with the Commandant of the Marine Corps and other Marine officers [1804–1886] in the General Records of the Department of the Navy, RG 80. In the same RG are additional Marine materials in the General File, Office of the Secretary of the Navy (SecNav) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) [1917–1919]; and the Confidential Correspondence, Chief of Naval Operations Planning Division to the Secretary of the Navy [1919–1926]. In addition, one should consult the Records of the Office of the CNO (RG 38) for the records of the Military Government of Santo Domingo [1916–1924]. Of special importance are the collected documents of the Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library (RG 45), which covers a variety of naval subjects up to WWII. In this collection, one finds the correspondence of the Board of Navy Commissioners to the SecNav, 1815–1842, and a variety of special subject files that deal with Marine activities. Among the latter are files “VR” (governmental relations: USMC), “OJ” (joint military and naval operations), “OH” (shore operations and landing parties), “VA” (Dept. of the Navy organization and administration), “NL” (naval personnel), “WA7” and “ZWA7” (Haiti and Santo Domingo), “ZK” (Marines in China). In creating RG 45, naval historians organized a special collection of unpublished histories, labeled the “Z” File, which includes material on Navy–Marine Corps activities, many written by participants. The holdings of the “Z” File are described in Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Division, Checklist: Unpublished Naval Histories in the “Z” File, Record Group 45, 1911–1927 (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Division, 1971).

Naval records outside the the custody of the NARA also yield substantial information on the history of the Marine Corps. The Operational Archives Branch of the Naval Historical Division, Washington Navy Yard, consults records of the General Board [1900–1947], selected documents from the Command File for the post-WWII period, the diaries of SecNav and Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, the papers of the CNO Forrest Sherman, the records of the Immediate Office of the CNO [1942–1950], the office files of the Deputy CNO (Air) [1942–1950]; and the Central Security-Classified Records of the Office of the CNO [1942–1947]. The Naval Historical Division also retains custody of a large collection of unpublished histories related to WWII that are described in Naval Historical Division, Guide to the United States Naval Administrative Histories of World War II (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Division, 1976) and World War II Histories and Historical Reports in the U.S. Naval History Division (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Division, 1972). Another significant source of documents are the copies of correspondence, reports, memoranda, newspaper clippings, photographs, and studies collected in the subject and biographical files of the Reference Section, History Branch, History and Museums Division of the Marine Corps, also located at the Marine Corps Historical Center.