Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 4 07/14/12

The Bombardment of Arctic Convoy PQ-17, Barents Sea, June 1942
This week I completed my bibliography on Armed Conflicts in the Arctic during the Second World War. This was a somewhat difficult topic. I quickly found out that military operations in the far north were generally avoided because of the extreme strains that the location and its environment put on military logistics. The military action taken in Greenland, the Russian Arctic, and the Barents and Kara seas were almost exclusively naval engagements. For the Allies, operations in the Arctic generally consisted in missions of reconnaissance and logistics. 

The pretext for the United States and Great Britain in the Russian Arctic was to continue their end of the lend lease agreement with the Soviets. Unfortunately, as the Russian state has lacked warm water ports for trade throughout history, any allied efforts to deliver arms and military hardware were forced northwards to the ice-ridden coasts of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in the northwestern USSR. The German navy was acutely aware of the logistical struggles of the russians, and devoted an entire fleet of U-Boats to pursue and sink the allied convoys to Russia. The most famous of these episodes was when American convoy PQ-17 was intercepted and 24 of 35 ships in the convoy were obliterated by German naval units in the Summer of 1942.

Aside from logistical concerns, the United States took great pains in patrolling the northernmost ends of the atlantic to prevent german U-Boats from reaching American harbors. The US set up and maintained radar and weather stations across Greenland, Iceland, and Northern Canada to both optimize aerial operations and detect the presence of enemy watercraft. In fact, towards the end of the war, the US Greenland Patrol was able to capture and destroy german constructed radar stations on the eastern coast of Greenland. By the end of 1944, the retreating Axis forces were almost entirely gone from the Atlantic, and most certainly from the Arctic.

As I initially stated, this was a difficult bibliography to complete because it involved a wide breadth of material that mostly lay on the margins of published material. There were very few books devoted exclusively to Arctic operations, and even then, those few in existence were extremely narrow in their focus. I do however feel that this bibliography is representative of the relavant materials that the library holds in its possession, and moreover, is representative of the little that has been published on the topic of Arctic Warfare in World War II.

Aside from the bibliography, I gave a tour of the library to a group of visiting librarians and their families. I was extremely nervous at first, but I found that I was able to answer the majority of their questions regarding our collection. They seemed more interested in the exhibits the library had to offer more than the functional aspects of the library, which was a relief for me because I was confident in my ability to guide them through the Wartime Training Comics exhibit, the Medal of Honor exhibit, and the Midwest Air Force Artists exhibition with relative ease.

Next week I will dive fully into my bibliography on Propaganda Art of the Twentieth Century. I have also been informed that my responsibilities at the library may diversify somewhat in the next few weeks, so I may be working on other projects in the future. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Week 3 07/07/12

This week at the library I was very productive. I managed to complete my entire bibliography on Operation Torch and the Tunisia Campaign. I believe it is highly comprehensive, spanning the years 1941-44, and highlighting military action in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and to an extent, Libya and Egypt.

Upon completion of the bibliography, I manned the main circulation desk. A woman and her daughter came into the library, requesting information on her mother who had served as an army corps nurse both on Guam and at Okinawa during the Second World War. Though I was unfamiliar with the procedures that entail searching for family military service records, another more experienced library employee was able to guide them through the process of filling a formal request for their relative's military papers. This was a great learning experience, as I am sure that I can now assist future library guests seeking information about their family members in the service.

Next week I will aim to finish my bibliography on Arctic Warfare. I will also begin working on my bibliography on World War I and II propaganda art and posters. This is a bibliography that I am very excited to begin, because by just browsing the library, I have found a very documentation of posters from wartime Germany, Britain, Italy, France, and the United States from both wars.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 2 - 06/30/12

I was very busy at the library today. Initially, I had set to work on my Arctic Warfare bibliography, but I noticed a series of documents another volunteer had left at the circulation desk regarding Operation Torch in North Africa. This encouraged me to begin my second bibliography on North African Campaigns in World War II simultaneous to my work on the Arctic.

This new bibliography will focus predominately on Allied involvement in North Africa, and will likely center around the activities of Operation Torch, the Allied forces' invasion of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The decision to base the bibliography around Operation Torch is both practical and opportunistic. First, I believe that library patrons are more likely to be seeking information on American involvement in North Africa than the involvement of the Free French, British, or German Wehrmacht forces. This is fortunate, because in beginning this bibliography I realized that I had located the exact shelf in the library where ninety-five percent of the Pritzker Library's materials on Operation Torch reside. If nothing else, that knowledge can provide a great resource for me when directing library patrons to materials. I am slowly mentally mapping out the contents of the library, which I hope will make me an increasingly more knowledgeable student intern.

My decision is opportunistic because I have recently returned from a study abroad trip in Tunisia, in which several significant battles took place during the Second World War, most notably the disastrous Battle of Kasserine, the Allied capture of Tunis, and the taking of Hill 609. I intend to use what I learned of American involvement in the Maghreb region of North Africa to enrich the knowledge of library patrons with the documents I discover within the library, hopefully augmented by some notes from my own travel experience. Most notably, I began to skim some maps of battle sites that I had unknowingly stood upon during my travels in Tunisia. In particular, I traveled to the town of
Sidi Bouzid, where unbeknownst to me, the initial raids that launched the battle of Kasserine occurred!

Throughout the rest of my day at the library, I assisted in running the main circulation desk. I also gave a tour of the library's new NATO photo gallery to a family. In order to give the presentation, I used the tour script that I composed last week on the gallery. It was extremely rewarding to be on both ends of the tour giving process. I was able to see my guide notes prove useful in highlighting the gallery.

Next week I plan to continue my Arctic Warfare and North Africa bibliographies. In particular, I will be looking for sources on the Allied troop's movements through Algeria and Tunisia from 1941-43, and the importance of German Weather stations in Greenland and neighboring Arctic outposts in World War II. If possible, I may begin to look for sources on the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland prior to and during the Second World War.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday 06/23/12 - Week 1

Today at the library I was tasked primarily with developing an auxillary tour script for the NATO photo gallery that will remain on display until July 7th. By compiling information from NATO press releases from the June Summit, existing captions to the photos provided by NATO, and background I recently obtained from articles I read while on my study abroad trip in Tunisia, I believe I was able to create a very thourough and explanatory tour script. It included a 1 page summary of the history and activities of NATO over the past 60 years, 4 pages of tour notes and photo captions, and a 1.5 page section devoted to frequently asked questions encountered on the tour. Also provided were quick weblinks both to  NATO's international webpage and Chicago's NATO Summit page. I believe this script will be a great supplement to the primary tour guide, allowing the Pritzker Library's volunteers to conduct guided tours to patrons with a greater degree of accuracy and professionalism.

Because of the time I devoted to the tour script, I was unfortunately unable to continue the work I had begun on my WWII Arctic Warfare bibliography. I hope that next week I will be able to focus my efforts on topics including combat in Greenland, Norway, Finland, and the efforts of Arctic Russian Convoys during the war.