Lionel Hampton, Jazz legend and President’s “Ambassador of Goodwill”

by Mr. James Carroll

IEA Area Subject Files (RG 306 U.S. Information Agency – Record Entry ID: HS1-65869038. Finding Aid: UD-2010 44). Records that have been recently declassified include cultural presentations, fairs, expositions, and educational and cultural exchanges.

While recently processing declassified materials at the National Archives, College Park location, I came across some fascinating photos and supporting documents related to Lionel Hampton.  Okay, I admit it, some younger folks reading this may scratch their heads and mumble “who?”  But, as I learned, Mr. Hampton was an American icon and jazz legend who rubbed elbows with presidents and spread American goodwill (and great jazz) around the world.

In 1969, when Mr. Hampton was already a “rock star” of the jazz world, and in his early 60’s, he was tagged by then-President Nixon to travel to the Far East, including gigs in Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan. The U.S. State Department facilitated the tour. Mr. Hampton, known as “The Hamp” traveled with his band on a month-long tour, giving performances which were well received, while meeting foreign royals and learning more about other cultures and traditions. His instrument of choice was the vibraphone, but he also played piano and percussion.

President Nixon sent a letter to Mr. Hampton and his wife Gladys as they embarked on their Far East journey.  In it he wrote, “I am delighted to hear that you are traveling again to the Far East to continue the effort which all of us share in creating understanding and goodwill between Americans and people everywhere.  Mrs. Nixon joins me in wishing you and Mrs. Hampton every success in your latest venture as Ambassador of Goodwill.”

Sadly, at the outset of the tour, former President Eisenhower died, and the news was relayed to the Hamptons, who were friends of the late president. Mr. and Mrs. Hampton knew President Eisenhower and had performed at both of his inaugural balls. It was Eisenhower who in 1957 officially bestowed upon Lionel Hampton the title “American Goodwill Ambassador.”

The Far East tour was a huge success! One of the documents in the Archives described his time in Thailand: “Lionel Hampton has a charisma all his own.  His personality reaches out to people and they react favorably. He is completely cooperative and equally engaging to the Thai public whether playing clubs, giving jazz workshops, performing for the Royal Household or touring the markets and landmarks of the city.”  In Tokyo it was reported that “Hampton was joined onstage by leading Japanese jazz musicians for a rousing jam session.”  He used music as a bridge between national cultures; they were all speaking the same language: Jazz.

In 1936, Mr. Hampton became part of one of the first racially integrated jazz groups, The Benny Goodman Quartet. The group would go on to record and tour to large audiences around the country.  Yet, Mr. Hampton would become a superstar in his own right, headlining his own big band.  Some of their hits included: Stardust, Toledo Blade, Flying Home, and Hamp’s Boogie Woogie. A little known fact not publicly known about Mr. Hampton was that the music he made helped pave the way for rock ‘n’ roll.

Mr. Hampton worked with many young rising African-American musical legends, such as Charles Mingus, Dinah Washington, and Wes Montgomery.

Over the course of his illustrious life, Mr. Hampton would receive awards and accolades, including numerous honorary doctorates in Music, Humanities, and Fine Arts and the presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho is named in his honor. This year’s festival is February 20-23.  Lionel Hampton passed away in 2002, at the age of 94, yet his legacy continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

So, we’ve introduced you to Lionel Hampton and described part of his legacy, alive at the National Archives.  Now, go check out some of his music! I think he’d really get a kick out of that.

Additional NARA references of interest:

  1. Lionel Hampton Memories of Japan (motion picture/film).

(Archival Research Catalog) ARC ID: 48561. Local ID 306-2107

  1. Lionel Hampton Interview (sound recording). ARC ID: 134842. Local ID: 306-EN-71-4542.
  2. Nelson interview with Lionel Hampton before European Trip 3/3/1971. (sound recording). ARC ID: 134731.  Local ID: 306-EN-71-2676.

Hamptom Blog Images

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Nobel Prize winning scientists associated with the Manhattan Project.

by Ms. Rania Mahmoud

Patent records (RG 326 – Records of the Atomic Energy Commission, Office of the General Counsel: Subject File Relating to Patents, 1942-1965, Entry A1 66) that have recently been declassified include signed original documents by several renowned Nobel Prize-winning scientists associated with the Manhattan Project.

These AEC records from the 1940’s and 1950’s contain a variety of documents to include daily correspondence letters signed by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the Director of the Manhattan Project, and Enrico Fermi’s 1953 General Release and Waiver letter.  Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938.  Other original signatures in this record series include 1939 Nobel Prize recipient Ernest Lawrence, 1951 Nobel Prize recipient Glenn Seaborg and famed nuclear physicist, Edward Teller.

Major General L. R. Groves, letter dated 27 May 1944.

Edward Teller Letter, dated 17 July 1944.


Enrico Fermi, Docket, dated 15 June 1953


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Project 1794 Documents in ARC

By Michael Rhodes

Last year, the National Declassification Center released, scanned, and posted several pages from declassified U.S. Air Force reports. Digital copies of those same documents are now available, in full, on the National Archives Archival Research Catalog (ARC) []

Project 1794 Final Development Summary Report, 06/1956 [ARC ID 6920770]

Program Planning Report, Project 1794 Extension Program, 04/1957 [ARC ID 6981836]

The Air Force declassified these records in June 2001. The NDC processed and released them in 2012.

Source: RG 342: Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations, Entry UD-UP 138, Research and Development Project Files, compiled 01/01/1952 – 12/31/1969 (ARC Identifier 6919785)


Cover of Program Planning Report Project 1794 Extension Program

Cover of Program Planning Report Project 1794 Extension Program

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National Declassification Center Releases its Sixth Bi-annual Progress Report

The NDC is pleased to release its Sixth Bi-annual status report. This report details the progress made since January 2010 in meeting the President’s December 29, 2009 charge to eliminate the approximately 400 million page back log of reviewed, but not publicly available records at NARA.   The report specifically focuses on progress made during the second half of 2012, including completing assessment analysis of all records in the backlog as well as challenges that remain. You may comment on the report by posting a comment to this blog or sending an email to

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Rickover and the Whale

By Ms. Brewer Thompson

While going through boxes of documents for declassification, we occasionally come across things that are interesting, though unclassified. This comes from Record Group 326: Atomic Energy Commission, entry P 14-B, Subject Files of John McCone, Chairman; box 20 folder 3, O & M 2-2 R Correspondence with Individuals “RICKOVER”. It is a letter from H.G. Rickover to J.A. McCone, reporting on an incident that occurred during the sea trials of the USS Seadragon.

Letter from H.G. Rickover regarding sea trials of the U.S.S. Seadragon

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The Middle East: A 1945 Perspective

This post is from NDC Archives Specialist John Ritz.

While working on a FOIA request for Department of State records, I came across a document which immediately caught my attention.  I showed it to several coworkers who encouraged me to share it with a broader audience.

The document is a Memorandum of Conversation between President Roosevelt and King Abdul Ariz. Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia which took place on February 14, 1945.  The conversation focused on three primary areas: the Jewish settlement in Palestine, the French influence in, and future independence of Syria and Lebanon, and the use of irrigation to improve farming in Saudi Arabia.  Perhaps the most candid part of the discussion involves the President and King discussing a future Jewish homeland and Arab-Jewish tension in the Middle East.  This document provides insight into Roosevelt’s views on a topic that remains a global issue today.

This document comes from R.: 59 Entry A1 1434. Records of the Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian & African Affairs:  Office of Near Eastern Affairs; Subject Files, 1920-1954, Box 15.

Memorandum of Conversation between President Roosevelt and King Abdul Ariz. Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia which took place on February 14, 1945

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Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings Declassified

Our colleagues in the Special Media Services Division recently announced on their blog “Media Matters” the declassification of nearly 200 new items.  Follow the link below for a listing of the new releases.

Declassified Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings – 1st Quarter

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The Public Interest Declassification Board Releases its Report to the President

Today, the Public Interest Declassification Board released online its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System.  The full Report can be found at  The report centers on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, and the imperative for using and integrating technology into these processes.  In advance of today’s release, the Board publicized some of its recommendations on its blog Transforming Classification.  A public release event is taking place today at the National Archives to discuss the report with current Board members.

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The Public Interest Declassification Board Announces its December 6, 2012 Meeting

The Public Interest Declassification Board will host an open meeting on Thursday, December 6, 2012 to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System.  The full Report to the President will be published online on December 6th at  The meeting will focus on the Board’s fourteen recommendations.  The recommendations center on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, and the imperative for using and integrating technology into these processes.  Press and media are welcome to attend.

 When: December 6, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Doors Open: 8:45 a.m.

Where: The Archivist’s Reception Room, Room 105 in the National Archives Building

Address: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

            (Note:  Attendees must enter through the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.)


 Space is limited and attendees must register via; provide your name and professional affiliation (if applicable).  You will receive a confirmation e-mail from the Public Interest Declassification Board staff confirming your reservation.  Please note that one form of Government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license) is required to gain admittance. 

 In anticipation of the report’s release, today the Board will re-engage its followers by re-opening its blog, Transforming Classification, where it will post summaries of some of the key recommendations in the report.  Be sure to stay connected to the Board’s activities and look for more information about the Board on its website:

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A Mysterious Medal

I want to thank NDC staffer Stephanie Coon for her discovering these records and writing  the following article.

Inside a box of recently declassified records related to awards presented to foreign nationals, the NDC discovered a certificate and medal for Exceptional Service presented by the United States Air Force to Dr. Cristjo Cristofv, in recognition of his Patriotic Service from 1947 to 1963. When the medal was discovered, the question came to mind, why was this medal part of records accessioned into the National Archives instead of with the family of Dr. Cristofv?

Certificate for Cristofv award

Certificate for Cristofv award

Cristofv, a Bulgarian scientist who escaped following World War II, came to the attention of the U.S Air Force through A. E. Stoll for his theories related to electrometric pulse, known as the “Cristofv Effect.” Dr. Cristofv voluntarily disclosed information related to a “physical phenomenon which opened new horizons in the detection of explosions.” Following this initial disclosure the theory was used to develop an electromagnetic system for detecting explosions, which the U.S. disclosed to the world during the Geneva Conferences of the atomic testing moratorium.

Obverse of Cristofv medal

Obverse of Cristofv medal

A Google search revealed multiple newspaper articles dated from 1963 to 1965 related to Dr. Cristofv, including one from New Orleans Times-Picayune, that military leaders in Bulgaria and Germany were aware of the “Cristofv Effect” in the early 1930s, but the work was kept secret. According to the Times-Picayune article, the United States was comfortable signing the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty because of this method for detecting the explosions. Today, the “Cristofv Effect” is more commonly known as electromagnetic pulse detection and as recently as 2011 was being used in experiments for underground nuclear tests.
Whether the medal was ever officially presented to Dr. Cristofv remains a mystery that even the Air Force Historian’s office acknowledges.

Reverse of Cristofv medal

Reverse of Cristofv medal

• The medal, the certificate and a copy of the citation were at the front of the box outside of the folder labeled Cristofv, Cristjo. The rest of folder related to Cristofv has been withdrawn. The withdrawn material includes the Air Force’s decision to withhold the medal pending further investigation into Cristofv. The investigation included his finances, whether he qualified for a TS clearance, and whether the information he provided to the AF was actually original or if he acquired the information from another source. The source of these records is United States Air Force (USAF) Military Personnel Center (MPC), Randolph Air Force Base Records (RG 341 UD-UP 228; NND 59468; Box 1).

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