The Arnett Institute Inc is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation founded in 2008 with the mission statement to "research, document, present and preserve events of historical and educational value." Charles W Arnett (1919 - 2008) was a pilot with the 492nd Bomb Group, flying bombing missions out of England in the European Theater of Operation. His B-24 Liberator was shot down in May of 1944 by the Luftwaffe, forcing him to spend the remainder of WWII as a POW.
The 492nd Bomb Group went on to achieve the unwanted distinction of suffering the highest casualty rate of any military unit in US history with a staggering loss of 442 for every 1000 combatants, contributing greatly to their disbandment after only 89 days of operation.
In 2005 Charles' sons Paul and David Arnett set out to tell their father's WWII story online. That quickly led to building the 492ndBombGroup.com website to document the crews, missions and aircraft of the entire 492nd Bomb Group. At the risk of breaking our hands patting ourselves on the back, we developed one of the better, if not the best, military unit websites ever. Check it out for yourself.
It was while researching for the 492nd Bomb Group website that we became aware of three things...
Getting copies of WWII records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is labor intensive, time consuming and can be rather expensive. Records on microfilm we were able to buy were incomplete and too often illegible, having been photographed by convict labor that put little care into the task.
NARA's WWII records are in grave peril and are disintegrating as you are reading this! Most of the paper used during the war years was heavily acid based, and time is taking its toll. Documents from previous eras, World War I, the Civil War, even the American Revolution, will outlast those from World War II.
Congress has mandated that the entire National Archives be digitized, but with millions upon millions of records, they cannot do so without some big-time private sector help. We have stepped forward to do what we can to prevent these important records from being lost for all time.
To become an official partner of the National Archives so we can assist in this mammoth undertaking of scanning their WWII documents, we have to accomplish the following...
Form a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Done!
Recruit a qualified person in the Washington DC area to do the scanning. Done! His name is Chris Clark. He lives just across the Potomac and has over 20 years experience scanning documents in the National Archives, where he is well known and respected. He is enthusiastically ready to begin.
Do a test or "model" scan to NARA's specifications, which we would like to be the 17 boxes of records of the 492nd Bomb Group on the first floor of the National Archives building in College Park, Maryland. There are many boxes of 492nd photographs on the second floor, but they were printed on sturdier photo paper and are not in imminent danger of deterioration. Much as we'd like to scan them (and eventually we will), they'll have to wait. This model scan will enable the Arnett Institute to become an official partner so we can ramp up our efforts and regularly scan WWII documents of other military units.
NARA has their specifications for document scanning, but we need to take things a step further by converting what we scan into web-friendly, searchable PDF files and put them online for researchers and historians worldwide to access free of charge at any time day or night.
The only thing needed to proceed is ... money! We need a minimum of $15,000 to get us to the next phase. Whether one person donates the entire $15,000 or 15,000 people donate $1.00 apiece or something in between, the $15,000 must be raised.
This Scanning WWII website is being developed as an awareness endeavor of the Arnett Institute's WWII Scanning Project. We're reaching out to others that share our passion for World War II.