Preserving Pearl Harbor Documents
Service jacket and salvaged service record, with Navy envelope, of William Wells. Wells enlisted at Kansas City, Mo. on Jan. 1, 1940, and died Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor after achieving the rank of Signalman 3rd class. Also lost that day was his brother, Raymond Virgil Wells. They were one of 23 sets of brothers on the Arizona who died that day.
One of the most important decisions a conservator can make is not how to complete a treatment, but when NOT to treat. An important example of this can be found in the records salvaged from the U.S.S. Arizona after it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. These service records, which were held one level below the main deck, were not submerged in water but were subjected to heat, fire, and high humidity. Salvaged by the Navy and sealed in envelopes which contained the damaged documents, the records came to NARA in the 1950s and are now housed at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
Note: This is the first in a series of posts on conservation of Pearl Harbor documents.