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Along With The Sealed JFK Files, Here Are 10 Historical Documents Being Held From The Public–For Now

Updated September 3, 2019 172.3k views10 items

Few things fuel conspiracy theories like learning that governments are actually hiding something. Though a tremendous amount of civic documentation in the United States is accessible to the public through various agencies' websites or via the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), when materials get locked away with years-long temporary seals speculation about their nature runs wild. While there are often legitimate reasons for withholding information from the public for a period of time - not wanting to interrupt ongoing investigations, keeping operational practices quiet, concealing vulnerable identities, etc. - withholding information from the public for long periods of time creates conjecture.

The FBI has a "vault" of sealed files, as do governments across the world. While it likely contains information on major cases ranging from the mundane to the highly controversial, a good deal of it will simply remain unknown for decades.

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  • JFK's File From Harvard's Psychological Studies Of College Men Is Sealed Until 2040

    JFK's File From Harvard's Psyc is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Along With The Sealed JFK Files, Here Are 10 Historical Documents Being Held From The Public–For Now
    Photo: National Archives at College Park / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In an attempt to glean information on happiness, lifetime earning potential, the role of relationships in healthy lives, and more, Harvard researchers initiated the Grant Study in 1938. Their methods were relatively straightforward: using interviews, biennial check-ins, and physicians’ records, they followed a group of 268 Harvard students over the course of their lives. The experiment continues even today, as new generations of researchers handle the regular collection of data on the 19 surviving participants.

    While the identities of the original 238 are largely anonymous, researchers have identified a number of them, including President John F. Kennedy. His record will not be accessible to the public until 2040. While many of Kennedy’s more salacious tendencies are fairly widely known - substance abuse and philandering, for instance - his Grant file would surely cast a new light on his life.

  • Documents Recording The Sinking Of The 'Lancastria' Are Sealed Until 2040

    Documents Recording The Sinkin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Along With The Sealed JFK Files, Here Are 10 Historical Documents Being Held From The Public–For Now
    Photo: Press Agency photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The sinking of the Lancastria is a largely forgotten episode from World War II in which anywhere between 6,000 and 9,000 British troops and French refugees lost their lives. Hard figures remain tough to come by due to the absence of publicly accessible documents on the tragedy, which are set for release in 2040.

    German planes bombed and destroyed the Lancastria, a Cunard liner requisitioned by the British government during the war, on June 17, 1940 - just weeks after the Dunkirk evacuations. It was ferrying soldiers off the Axis-occupied European mainland. After sinking the ship, German planes bombed the water to kill survivors.

    The government expected coverage of the tragedy to cause low morale, so Winston Churchill ordered a media blackout that persists today. Survivors of the attack advocate for the release of the files.

  • The Interrogation Transcript From Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess Is Sealed Until 2041

    The Interrogation Transcript F is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Along With The Sealed JFK Files, Here Are 10 Historical Documents Being Held From The Public–For Now
    Photo: German Federal Archives / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 de

    As deputy führer, Rudolf Hess was second only to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi government up until his capture in Scotland in 1941. Following his crash landing, the government interrogated him many times throughout his decades-long imprisonment, which stretched up to his death by suicide in the late 1980s.

    Hess likely risked a solo flight out of Germany during wartime to negotiate a peace agreement with Great Britain, but the sheer oddity of the circumstances surrounding the episode remain the subject of intense speculation.

    The case is marked by yet another frustratingly concealed document trail. The British government is set to unseal Hess’s correspondence with King George VI in 2041, 100 years after his arrest. Whether or not it holds the key to Hess’s true motives remains to be seen.

  • Records Concerning The RAF's Mistaken Killing Of Thousands Of Survivors Transported On A German Boat Are Sealed Until 2045

    Records Concerning The RAF's M is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Along With The Sealed JFK Files, Here Are 10 Historical Documents Being Held From The Public–For Now
    Photo: Hensser H (Mr), Royal Air Force official photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    On May 3, 1945, one day before Germany's surrender, the British Royal Air Force unleashed an attack on the SS Cap Arcona in Germany’s L Beck harbor. The boat was actually carrying concentration camp survivors, but the Air Force mistook the the passengers huddled onboard for fleeing German troops. While the incident claimed the lives of over 4,500 - 7,000, according to some sources - it’s a largely forgotten episode from a remarkably violent war, due both to its provenance and to its concerted coverup.

    The prisoners killed hailed primarily from the Neuengamme concentration camp, and German captors marched them to the harbor. Though what exactly the Germans intended to do with the prisoners at such a late stage is not entirely clear, the general consensus holds that they intended to carry out a mass killing by sinking the crowded ship. When the RAF swooped in, they effectively enacted the Germans’ ends for them.

    Once news of the tragedy made its way to Allied command, they quickly obscured the incident. The sealed records that would provide historians a full account of the day's events won't be available until 2045, a century after the attack.

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