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


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