7 Replies Latest reply on Aug 23, 2021 8:16 AM by Bob Scott

    What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?

    Bob Scott Wayfarer

      In September 1942 several projectiles hit the east side of the Lincoln Memorial. What's the story behind this?

        • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
          Ceri McCarron Wayfarer

          Dear Mr. Scott,

           

          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

           

          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the Subject Index to General and Formerly Confidential Correspondence, 1917 - 1954 which is an index to the General Correspondence, 1917 - 1947 in the Records of the Office of the Inspector General (Army) (Record Group 159) that may include a file if an investigation was held at the Army level. Otherwise, the investigation may have been conducted by the unit. For more information about these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) at archives2reference@nara.gov.

           

          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT2. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

           

          We also searched the internet and located a picture of a small newspaper article at the California Digital Newspaper Collection, which is a project of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) at the University of California, Riverside. There is a longer article that explains what happened from Architect of the Capital, Hidden History in Washington, D.C.

           

          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

          1 person found this helpful
          • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
            Aaron Garber Newbie

            Family history as told by my uncle:

            My grandfather was stationed in Burma during WW2. He got super sick and they sent him state side and he finished his time in DC. He was stationed on top of the treasury building(.50 cal duty). One day, he didn’t check the chamber after a shift switch, thinking it was clear... 3 rounds landing on the side of the Lincoln Memorial.  Hope this adds to your search.

              • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
                Bob Scott Wayfarer

                Aaron

                 

                I'm really sorry to hear about your grandfather. Conditions in Burma at the time were horrendous, with continuous Allied retreats and poor health conditions. He's lucky he made it back stateside at all

                 

                This is really good info, confirming my thought about the nature of the weapon (.50 caliber) but adding a new location to the possibilities (Treasury.) There have always been questions as to whether the weapon might have been a 37 mm anti-aircraft gun and whether the shots came from Interior, the 14th Street Bridge, or perhaps another location.

                 

                I found a short article in the Washington Post from September 4, 1942 confirming that the event did occur. It stated that four shots were fired but only three hit the Memorial. Do you recall any info about a fourth bullet? The article also announced the start of an investigation by the Public Buildings Administration but I've not been able to find any results of such an investigation, although I've not tried to obtain such info through a FOIA request ( a long process.)

                 

                The reason for the questions is that next year is the centennial of the Memorial and a fellow history buff and I have the thought of suggesting they advertise the event as an interesting piece of the history of the Memorial that few know anything about. I'd like to use whatever info you provide in our efforts in this regard but do not need to mention names, if  that would be your preference.

                 

                Looking forward to hearing further from you.

                 

                Bob

                • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
                  Bob Scott Wayfarer

                  Aaron

                   

                  Do you happen to know what military unit your grandfather was attached to? We have some info that indicates that the 71st Air Defense Artillery Regiment was assigned to DC at that time but that may only be conjecture. Do you know anything about his military career before, during, and after that time? Hopefully he recovered quickly, Anything you could add to our story would be a big help.

                   

                  BTW - We have a grandfather connection - mine, Irving C. Root, was the Superintendent of National Parks at the time of the incident and told me about it when I was quite young. However, he did  not give me a lot of details.

                   

                  Thanks.

                   

                  Bob

                    • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
                      Aaron Garber Newbie

                      Hi Bob, sorry, life got away. I’ve been trying to reach out to my uncles and Aunt(4 kids of my Grandpa)trying to get any info. I will keep you updated.

                      so here’s the verbal account:

                      “..During WWII he was station in Burma until he had a serious attack of Malaria. He was sent back to Washington DC. While there he was placed in charge of a machine gun unit located on top of the Treasury building [ his rank E-9 First Sergeant (( Top Sergeant )) at every shift off going shift where to clear all weapon and the starting shift reload the guns. Well one day going onto a starting shift and BEFORE reloading the machine guns he decided take aim at Lincoln Memorial . He press the trigger and three rounds hit the memorial, one round I do remember hit just below the "X" in Texas, I believe it the border right of Maryland and a third round not sure if it was Virginia or West Virginia can't remember. So I guess you can say your grandpa SHOT UP WASH.DC . I saw them 1968 , whether they are still there or not you'd need to contact the Park Authority. The Park Ranger I spoke to didn't know how it happen until I told him about. He made a LOG entry in a log book covering AUGUST 1968. Book still should be on file...”

                        • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
                          Bob Scott Wayfarer

                          Good to hear from you, Aaron. Thank you for these additional details. I gather that you actually saw some of the damage - I'd love to but have not made contact with the right person yet - still working on that. You're right about the damage below Texas - I saw a photo of that with Park Ranger Mike Litterst showing it. Still a lot of questions about where other damage occurred - supposedly much of it was repaired. I'll check with the Park Service about the August 1968 logbook - that would be helpful. And I think it's time for a FOIA request on this topic. If any else comes to light that you'd be willing to share, please let me know. I have several emails into Park Service departments asking for more information so the research continues. Cheers.      Bob

                           

                          BtW - I misspoke in an earlier entry that my grandfather Irving Root was Superintendent of National Parks at the time of the incident. No - he was Superintendent of National CAPITAL Parks. Big difference.

                          • Re: What's the story behind the Lincoln Memorial bullet holes?
                            Bob Scott Wayfarer

                            Aaron

                             

                            Rereading your response I realized that it's a quote, probably from your uncle, and that you have not seen the damage yourself. My mistake. I hope to see it someday.

                             

                            We've been asked to share any info we find about the incident with our contacts in the Park Service. So far we've only mentioned your info as coming from "an unconfirmed source" and we've only mentioned the Treasury Building as the weapon site. How do you feel about making the info more public? We'd love to know your grandfather's name and more about his military career. However, you may consider this info private, and we respect that. We're conidering submitting FOIA requests but that would be a different matter. Please let me know your thoughts on this subject. Thanks.

                             

                            Bob

                             

                            BTW: My name is Bob Root (Irving Root's grandson,) not Bob Scott. Not sure how this got confused in this thread from the start. I'll need to get it changed.