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Dr. Gordon W. Prange (July 16, 1910 - May 15, 1980) was an historian and history professor at the University of Maryland from 1937 until his death in 1980. While teaching at the University of Maryland, Prange published many books and articles on a variety of historical topics, but he is probably best known for his research on the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces during World War II. Prange conducted interviews and collected accounts from diaries, articles, and correspondence with many of the key participants in the battle, both Japanese and American, as well as completed extensive research on the causes, planning, build-up to, and execution and consequences of the attack. Prange's Pearl Harbor research was published posthumously in three volumes: At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor (1981), Pearl Harbor: The Verdict of History (1986), and December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (1988). The Gordon W. Prange Papers cover the period from 1866 to 2002, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1936 to 1980. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers and includes unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, interview notes and transcripts, research notes, articles, maps, and photographs related to Prange’s research on the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the Russian spy Richard Sorge, and the speeches of Adolf Hitler. There are also materials related to Prange's tenure as a history professor at the University of Maryland and Prange's service as an historian for the US Army under General Douglas MacArthur during the Allied occupation of Japan.
This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
Some files in this collection are restricted. Please refer to individual folder headings or contact Special Collections for more information.
Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.
Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.
Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.
83.75 Linear Feet
The Gordon W. Prange papers cover the period from 1866 to 2002; the bulk of the materials date from 1936 to 1981. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers including unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, interview notes and transcripts, research notes, articles, maps, and photographs and slides related to Prange's research on the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the Russian spy Richard Sorge, imagry of occupied Japan and Japenese daily life, as well as the speeches of Adolf Hitler. Prange's tenure as a history professor at the University of Maryland; and Prange's service as an historian for the US Army under General Douglas MacArthur during the Allied occupation of Japan are also covered.
Dr. Gordon William Prange (July 16, 1910 - May 15, 1980) was born and grew up in Pomery, Iowa. Prange graduated high school in 1928 and turned a high school track and field career into a scholarship to the University of Iowa where he also played baseball. After graduating with a B.A. in History in 1932, he turned down a contract offer by the Chicago Cubs to continue to study history at Iowa. Prange received his M.A. in History in 1934 and Ph.D. in European History in 1937, both from Iowa. During his doctoral work, Prange was a foreign exchange student at the University of Berlin and University of Vienna from 1935 to 1937.
Prange married Anne Davidson Root in June 1937 and began teaching in the University of Maryland History Department that fall. After publishing a few articles about German National Socialism (Nazism) and his own experiences in Germany, Prange's first book, Hitler’s Words: Two Decades of National Socialism, 1923-1943, was published in 1944. Prange joined the US Navy in 1942, taking leave from the University of Maryland, and after completing classes at the Navy School of Military Government at Columbia University, Prange taught courses in Japanese administrative policy for the Navy at Princeton University. The Pranges' first child, Winfred, was born in 1944. Following the war in 1946, Prange was assigned to the G-2 Historical Division, General Headquarters, Far East Command in Tokyo, under General Douglas MacArthur, as a civilian historian where he eventually became the division director. The Pranges' second child, Nancy, was born while the family lived in Tokyo. While in Japan, Prange began his research on the Japanese perspective of the Pearl Harbor attack, conducting interviews with many former Japanese navy and army officers. He also secured for the University of Maryland, in competition with several other institutions including Stanford University, the records of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) of the Allied Occupation. This collection was named the Gordon W. Prange Collection in his honor in 1978.
By the time Prange returned to the University of Maryland in 1951, a third child, Polly, was born and the family moved into a home in nearby University Park. Prange continued to expand his research, working on three major research projects on the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battle of Midway, and the Russian spy, Richard Sorge. Book condensations of all three of these projects were published in Reader’s Digest in the 1960s and 1970s. His Japanese-language book, Tora! Tora! Tora!, was published in 1966 and was later turned into a movie by the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, a project for which Prange served as a history advisor. Prange taught at the University of Maryland until shortly before his death and is still remembered by colleagues and former students as a dynamic teacher who was able to inspire and engage the students in his European History classes. Prange worked steadily on his Pearl Harbor research during his entire teaching career and had two volumes of what was to be a four-volume work in proofs when he died in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1980. Following his death, two of Prange's former graduate students, Dr. Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, worked with McGraw-Hill editors to posthumously publish Prange's manuscripts.
The Gordon W. Prange papers are organized as eleven series:
The bulk of the collection was donated to the University of Maryland Special Collections in October 2001 by Polly Prange, Gordon Prange's daughter. Two further accession were donated in August 2007 and February 2008 by Prange's son, Winfred Prange. Facsimiles of Prange materials currently housed at the University of Pittsburgh were added to the collection in August 2008. Polly Prange donated over 1,100 slides in November 2018 as well as over 400 photos in 2019.
Processing of the Gordon W. Prange papers began in the summer of 2010 and was completed during the summer of 2012. The deteriorating state of the materials necessitated full processing of the collection. Paperclips and staples were removed to prevent or halt damage to the materials from rust and replaced with plastiklips or acid-free paper dividers to preserve the original groupings of the materials. Original folders were replaced with archival quality folders, and any notes on the folders were photocopied and placed in the new folder. Newspaper clippings were photocopied to halt further acid damage to adjacent materials, and the original clippings were discarded. Photographs and slides were sleeved in archival photo sheets and, along with oversize materials, were separated from the collection for more appropriate storage.
The original order of the collection was not always readily apparent nor conducive to easy researcher access so some changes were made during processing and arrangement. Original folder titles were kept whenever possible, but changes, such as adding full names where the original folder title only indicated a last name or adding a content designator to a folder (e.g. Yamamoto was changed to Yamamoto, Isoroku – Interviews, or Draft was changed to "Tora! Tora! Tora!" – Draft), were made to make titles more descriptive of the folder contents, eliminate ambiguity in names, and facilitate easier access to the collection via the finding aid. For the sake of consistency in naming conventions across the whole collection, all Japanese and other Asian names are listed in the standard Western style (i.e. Surname, Given Name). At the series level, there was no consistent original order to the materials, but the series arrangement of the collection reflects groupings in Prange's original order based on major projects on which Prange worked during his career. For example, the Sorge Series (Series 6) was created by combining two large groupings of research and correspondence regarding the Sorge projects and a few stray folders that were elsewhere in the collection. Within each series the folders are arranged in alphabetical order for ease of access.
A few folders of original correspondence in the Pearl Harbor series were heavily damaged by water and mold. These materials were photocopied and the originals discarded.
Some of the materials in this collection are photocopies of notes, articles, and other research materials that were collected by Prange but are currently housed in the Donald M. Goldstein Papers at the University of Pittsburgh. Goldstein used these materials to finish preparing Prange's manuscripts for publication. These materials are designated in this finding aid as folders bearing the [facsimile] tag after the folder title. Each of these folders has an indication written on its cover detailing where the materials can be located in the Donald M. Goldstein papers.
In 2019, the Slides series was added to incorporate a recent donation of slides to the University. In 2021, additional photographs were added as an unprocessed accession to that series.
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