Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Artifact Spotlight: Thanksgiving Menus, 1913 and 1918

 A Happy Thanksgiving to all.  

Please enjoy these two Thanksgiving Day menus in the museum collection.
Click on the images to enlarge.

Menu and Program of Activities
for the Thanksgiving Celebration at Naval Training Station, Newport in 1913.
The program was a gift of Mr. Robert Walker in 1995.

 Menu  for Thanksgiving Dinner at the Naval Torpedo Station, 1918

A Gift of Loren Weinberg, whose grandfather, Walter Weinberg
 attended the Seaman Gunner's Course in 1918.

Monday, November 22, 2010

FDR's Grandson Offers Insight into World War II Leaders

--John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

On 2 November, Curtis Roosevelt,  the grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, lectured on his recent book Too Close to the Sun: Growing Up in the Shadow of My Grandparents. During his youth, he either lived in the White House on the third floor or in close orbit around the world of his grandparents. Curtis was often included during meetings or meals and observed national and world leaders as they interacted with the president.

Curtis Roosevelt and Heath Twitchell
During his talk, Mr. Roosevelt gave brief descriptions of many of those leaders: Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall (brilliant but reserved), British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill (viewed as interfering by his military but often came up with good ideas), Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King (extremely influential and had an intimate rapport with FDR), advisor Harry Hopkins (very adaptable, every energetic), and Chief of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy (always kept FDR informed). Roosevelt noted that his grandfather was the ultimate arbiter and a master politician who had the amazing ability to keep multiple personalities and programs engaged.

After the lecture, Mr. Roosevelt answered numerous questions from the audience. Questions ranged from the role of the Navy prior to World War II and then the rise of air power during the war. Other questions sought amplification on the many personalities that were in Washington during the war, including Harold Ickes, Harry Hopkins, and Douglas MacArthur.

The lecture was part of the museum's popular 8 Bells Lecture Series. Please click here for a list of upcoming lectures or visit the museum's facebook page.

Image courtesty of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artifact Spotlight: Lt. Commander J.H. Wellings's Watch, c.1943

--John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar
--Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

1. LCDR J.H. Wellings aboard USS Strong, 7 Aug 1942

Among the many personal items donated to the museum by the men and women who served in the United States Navy is a broken wrist watch with an amazing story to tell. It's owner, Rear Admiral Joseph H. Wellings (1903-1988) had a close tie to the region during his career. Born into a naval family in Massachusetts, he was a student and staff member at the Naval War College (1946-48), served as commander of the Newport Naval Base (1953-55) and twice served as commandant of the First Naval District (1954-55, 1962-63).

2. USS Strong under way
Before America's entry into World War II, Wellings was sent to London to serve as Assistant Naval Attaché. While in this post he served as Chief Operations Officer on the HMS Rodney during the search and eventual sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. In 1942 Lt. Commander Wellings took command of a newly built Fletcher-class destroyer, the USS Strong (DD-467). Strong was sent to the Pacific and was involved in a number of engagements including the sinking of a Japanese submarine. On the 5 July 1943, Strong  was operating in Kula Gulf as part of a force of destroyers and cruisers supporting a pre-dawn marine landing on Rice Anchorage, New Georgia.

3. A crew member on USS Helena photographs
 USS Strong exploding after the torpedo attack.
Shortly after midnight on the 5 July, when the ships ceased their bombardment, a Japanese torpedo slammed into Strong's port side, destroying a fire room and engine room and ripping a hole in the side of the ship. The damaged destroyer began taking on water and listing. Explosions set fires below decks and some main deck plates collapsed. With a list of almost 45 degrees, Wellings gave the order to prepare to abandon ship. Moments later, at 0113, the USS Chevalier (DD-451) steamed into view and slammed into the side of  her sinking sister ship. She had cargo nets hanging over the sides in order to rescue as many of  the crew as possible. Taking heavy fire from the shore during the rescue, Chevalier saved the majority of the crew (234 enlisted men and seven officers) before being forced to head off. Certain his surviving crew were safe, Wellings decided to leave his command. At 0124, Wellings and a quartermaster, who refused to abandon ship until his commanding officer was ready, stepped into the water. Moments later Strong broke in two and sunk beneath the waves.

 The two men did not have long to reflect as a 300 pound depth charge from the sunken vessel exploded and briefly knocked Wellings unconscious. The men climbed on one of Strong's floater nets and attempted to make their way toward land when finally rescued by USS Gwin (DD-433) at 0510. By Wellings's recollection, 46 of his men were lost during the attack.

4. The Wellings Wrist Watch
Wellings recovered and returned to the Pacific Theater, ultimately taking command of Destroyer Squadron 2 in 1944. In 1963, after a long and distinguished career in the United States Navy, Rear Admiral Wellings retired and settled in Newport. In 1980, he donated the wrist watch he wore the night Strong went under to the Naval War College Museum. The stainless steel, Swiss-made watch manufactured by the Pierce Watch Co.  is missing its protective crystal. The dial is damaged and the hands are frozen when the watch stopped working in the waters of Kula Gulf on 5 July 1943, but it remains a powerful reminder of the cost the United States bore to capture Rice Anchorage in 1943 and defeat Japan two years later.

5. CDR Wellings points to a map indicating where USS Strong sunk

 1, 3, 5. Naval Historical Collection (NWC Archives)
         2. Naval History and Heritage Command
         4. Naval War College Museum

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Artifact Spotlight: Admiral Colbert Hard Hat, c. 1970

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

Vice Admiral Richard G. Colbert (1915-1973) was the 35th President of the Naval War College (1968-1971). Under his leadership, the College embarked upon innovative programs and a significant expansion to its curriculum and campus. He presided over the beginning of a massive building project that ultimately added three new buildings to the campus and modernized earlier structures.

The Colbert Hard Hat

This hard hat was worn by Vice Admiral Colbert during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Naval War College expansion program in October, 1970. The hat, manufactured by E.D. BULLARD Co. of San Francisco, is painted blue, and adorned with 3 stars, his surname, and rank.
The expansion proposal began before Colbert's presidency with a goal to increase enrollment to 700 students by 1980 and to allow more line officers the opportunity to study at the College. Following his predecessors' plan, Colbert found funding and began the three-building expansion in 1970. Spruance Hall, completed in 1972, is the College's state of the art auditorium. Conolly Hall, completed two years later, holds administrative offices as well as academic spaces.  Hewitt Hall, completed in 1976, was established as a building for additional study areas, classrooms, and now houses the College library.

The modern Spruance and Conolly Halls near completion
as the foundation for Hewitt Hall is prepared, c. 1974.
Vice Admiral Colbert was deeply involved in the design and construction phases of these three buildings. He met with sculptor Felix de Weldon and the Head of the National Gallery of Art, Carter Brown to discuss design. They decided to use granite facings from a quarry previously used in the construction of older buildings on campus so that the newer buildings would weather into the same hue as Luce, Mahan, and Pringle Hall . 

Despite his guidance during the expansion, Colbert is better known for other achievements. He was deeply interested and experienced in fostering cooperation in the international naval community. Before becoming President of the Naval War College, he became the first Director of the Naval Command Course/College in 1956. NCC invited senior foreign officers to come to the Naval War College for one year of study. Colbert  also conceived and hosted the first International Seapower Symposium, a meeting between the chiefs of the world's navies held biannually at the College since 1969. Finally, he established the Naval War College Foundation, a nonprofit organization funded by philanthropy of local businesses and corporations in order to support College activities that were not officially funded.
Admiral Richard G. Colbert

The hard hat, donated by Harold E. St. John in 1974, is a very significant artifact for the museum because it is a connection to the most ambitious  expansion in College history and was worn by one of the most influential College presidents. The artifact is currently being prepared for display in the exhibit: Sailors and Scholars: The History of the Naval War College.

Images are courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Artifact Spotlight: The Newport Naval Station Plaque, c. 1962

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

As most who serve or work for the U.S. Navy know, plaques are everywhere. Among the many commemorative plaques, gift plaques, and ship plaques in the museum collection is one that is certainly more than meets the eye.  It is a wooden shield that mounts a circular design of a 3-masted,  square-rigged ship over a gold anchor inscribed, "Service From 1883."  The plaque bears the emblem of Naval Station Newport , a design created by Louis Maurano for the 1962 Naval Station plaque contest. Maurano's submission took first place and earned him a $25 savings bond prize. This plaque, or an identical one, held a place of honor in the Fleet Room of the Officers’ Club here at the Naval Station.

Louis Maurano (1920-1994) worked at the Newport Naval Station with distinction for over 39 years. During this service he was the Director of Base Facilities and worked tirelessly at the Naval Education and Training Center. His hard work and dedication helped the Station win 3rd place in the national 1977 Keep America Beautiful Program. Maurano was decorated with the Meritorious Civilian Service Award  in 1969 and upon his retirement in 1978. This award is the second highest award given to a civilian by the Navy.

2. Capt. Oliver D. Finnigan (left)  presents the plaque for the O Club
with Maurano (center) looking on.
 Prior to his service here at the Naval Station, Maurano served in the Army’s 789th Field Artillery Battalion. While serving in Manila he received the American Theater Campaign Ribbon, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Bronze Service Star, Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. Although Maurano was born in Delaware, he was raised and educated in Providence and moved to Tiverton in 1954. Last year, Maurano’s plaque as well as a collection of photographs documenting naval station activities during his career were generously donated to the Naval War College Museum by his daughter  Patricia Christiansen and her husband Wayne.

The Naval Station at Newport was founded on June 4, 1883 after the Navy acquired Coasters Harbor Island as the site of the first recruit training station. In 1952, the Naval Training Station at Newport was disestablished as a result of the transfer of recruit training to Bainbridge, Maryland (all recruit training now takes place at Naval Station Great Lakes).  Today, NAVSTANewport is home to more than 50 naval and defense commands and activities including Officer Candidate School, the Naval War College, Surface Warfare Officer's School, and the Supply Corps School recently relocated from Athens, Georgia.  Though the base has changed dramatically in the last 48 years, Maurano's emblem remains the official logo of NAVSTA Newport.

1. Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum
2. Navalog, 31 Aug 1962