Thursday, March 31, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Portrait of Rear Admiral James P. Wisecup, 2010

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

Rear Admiral James P. Wisecup
52nd President of the Naval War College
by Gerald P. York, 2010

The Naval War College held a Change of Command ceremony on 30 March 2011 during which Rear Admiral John N. Christenson relieved Rear Admiral James "Phil" Wisecup as President of the Naval War College. As part of tradition, the College commissioned an official presidential portrait of Wisecup which was unveiled prior to the ceremony.

Rear Admiral James P. Wisecup
The framed oil on linen portrait by Gerald P. York depicts Rear Admiral Wisecup in his service dress blue uniform with officer's sword.  The artist, a graduate of Yale College, has painted a number of notable individuals, executives, and public figures. In 1995, Mr. York was selected by the chairman of Sotheby's to paint the official portrait of Yale University President Benno C. Schmidt, Jr.  His painting of Rear Admiral Wisecup is reminiscent of the earliest portraits including the one of the first president, Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce, painted by Frederic P. Vinton in 1900.

A sailor and scholar, Rear Admiral Wisecup graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1977.  He earned a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and was an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Strasbourg in France before graduating from the Naval War College in 1998.  Wisecup held several commands as a surface warfare officer. He has also served as  Director of the White House Situation Room and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Korea. Immediately before becoming President of the Naval War College on 6 November 2008, he was Commander, Strike Group 7.

Artist Gerald York looks on as RADM Wisecup and his
wife Anne unveil the portrait on 29 March 2011.

As President of the Naval War College, Wisecup inaugurated the Chinese language library for the China Maritime Studies Institute and oversaw the College's 125th anniversary commemoration. He hosted the Current Strategy Fora and co-hosted the Nineteenth International Seapower Symposium which was the largest gathering of naval leadership in world history. Wisecup will serve as the next Navy Inspector General and has been confirmed for appointment to the rank of vice admiral.

The presidency of the Naval War College is one of four positions within the U.S. Navy that has an official portrait associated with the position. The others are Superintendent of the Naval Academy, Chief of Naval Operations, and Secretary of the Navy. While there are ten former presidents not represented in the collection, the museum has a complete collection of oil portraits depicting every president since 1939. To learn more about the presidents and their portraits view the catalogue for the recent exhibit, Faces of the Naval War College.

1. Naval War College Museum
2. U.S. Navy Photograph
3. U.S. Navy Photograph by MCC Robert Inverso

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Hopkins Avenue

---Christina Anderson, Curatorial Volunteer

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

Commodore Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) First Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy

Hopkins Avenue, on Coasters Harbor Island, Naval Station Newport, was named for Esek Hopkins. The native Rhode Islander, born on April 26, 1718, began his career as a merchant ship captain. In 1765, Hopkins commanded the slave ship Sally for the Brown Company. When the American Revolution erupted in 1775, Hopkins was appointed the commander of Rhode Island’s military forces. Later that year he became the first Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, with orders to attack British forces in the Chesapeake Bay, along the southern coast and off Rhode Island. Instead, he conducted an assault on New Providence Island in the Bahamas on March 3, 1776. During what was the Navy’s first amphibious offensive, his forces captured equipment and supplies needed to support the rebellion. During the return voyage, his ships captured two small British warships and engaged HMS Glasgow. Hopkins’ conduct resulted in considerable controversy. He was censured by the Continental Congress and dismissed from service in 1778. He later served in the Rhode Island legislature and remained active in state politics. His brother, Rhode Island delegate Stephen Hopkins, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Two destroyers (DD-6 and DD-249), a converted merchant ship, and a Providence middle school were also named after the sea captain.

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Images courtesy of Naval War College Museum and Naval History and Heritage Command

Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson

Monday, March 21, 2011

Volunteer Profile: Karin Elmore

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Karin cataloging a sextant and display Medal of Honor
The Naval War College Museum bids farewell to one of its curatorial volunteers this week. Karin Elmore came to the museum in June 2010 when her husband, an officer in the United States Navy, started at the Surface Warfare Officers School at Naval Station Newport. A native Californian, she earned her master's degree in museum studies from San Francisco State University in 2009 and interned with the California Academy of Sciences. Karin's wealth of collections management experience enabled her to immediately tackle the museum's registration backlog. Since her arrival in June, she has created over 600 new electronic artifact records in the collections database and taken nearly 2000 digital images of artifacts (many of which are now attached to new and previously created database records). She has also permanently numbered hundreds of three-dimensional objects, photographs, documents, and textiles using professional methods. Karin has assisted in packing and preparing artifacts for storage in acid-free boxes and helped to provide accurate locations for over 1500 items in the collection during our storage inventory. Thanks to Karin and our other curatorial volunteers, the museum is able to collect, preserve, interpret, and educate the public about the naval heritage of Narragansett Bay by following the standards of the museum profession for care and management of historic collections.

The museum wishes Karin and her husband well at their new duty station and extends deep appreciation for her hard work and expertise. Those interested in volunteering with the curatorial department can call 401-841-1296 for more information.

Image courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Brass Model of HMS Holland 1, 2005

1. J.P. Holland
---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

 Few vehicles have captured the imagination more than that of the submarine. Submarines have been written about in works of science fiction, popular literature, and military tactics for hundreds of years. This week’s artifact in spotlight is a solid brass model of the HMS Holland 1 which was custom built in England.

The first submarine named Holland was designed by John Phillip Holland, an Irish immigrant who owned the John P. Holland Torpedo Boat Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey. J.P. Holland originally built this vessel for the United States Navy. The USS Holland (Submarine Torpedo Boat 1) was launched March 17, 1898 and was officially purchased by the Navy in October of 1900. By that time the Electric Boat Company bought Holland's operation and the submarine’s design was licensed and purchased by the Royal Navy. In 1901 the Royal Navy launched the HMS Holland 1 in Barrows-in-Furness. Both vessels were decommissioned in 1913. 

2. Brass Model of HMS Holland 1
The USS Holland  was commissioned, tested, and fitted out in Newport before being shipped to the US Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1901. She spent the majority of her career in the Chesapeake Bay training personnel at Annapolis and later at Norfolk.

The HMS Holland was 63 feet long and displaced 105 tons when submerged. She was manned by a crew of eight and was able to carry three 18 inch torpedoes that she fired out of her one torpedo tube. Many in the Royal Navy were against the idea of submarines, calling them “underhanded, unfair, and Un-English.” The submarine showed great promise as a defense craft for ports but was believed incapable of offensive actions. HMS Holland spent much of her career in the harbor of Portsmouth. By 1913, a new and improved offensive fleet of submarines was underway and Holland was declared obsolete. Under tow to the scrapyard in 1913, the HMS Holland sank. In 1981 she was located and salvaged. The pioneer design is now located at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in a climate controlled gallery for the public to experience.

This brass model, currently on display in the museum's Torpedo Exhibit, was commissioned by Trevor Williamson and dontated to the museum in honor of his grandfather John William Kershaw Pope, who was a crew member of the HMS Holland 1 and Holland 3. Williamson had two other models built for display in England. One of the models is now located in the Royal Navy Submarine Museum along with the original vessel. The other was presented to the city of Derby in honor of Pope, the city's first submariner.

1. Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command
2. Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Captain Dorothy I. Council's Uniform, 1972

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

CDR D.I. Council, c. 1964

In honor of Women's History Month it is hard to think of a more fitting subject related to the Naval War College than Dorothy Irene Council. Captain Council joined the United States Navy in 1942 as an ensign in the newly created WAVES program (Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Throughout her career, Council was a trailblazer among women in the Navy. In 1948, with the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, she was among the first 288 women officers to be commissioned as a lieutenant in the regular Navy. Later, in 1967 while stationed at the War College, Council became one of the first seven women to be appointed captain.  When she retired from active duty in 1972, she was awarded the Legion of Merit and was recognized as the first female line officer to complete thirty years of continuous service in the U.S. Navy.

Capt. Council Uniform, c. 1972
During her time in the Navy, she served all over the country. Upon leaving Mt. Holyoke College in 1942 she served as a personnel officer at the Congressional Liason Office of the Navy Communications Department in Washington D.C.  From 1946 to 1950, she worked in San Francisco as an administration and personnel officer in communications.  Council's first tour in Newport, at the Central Torpedo Command, lasted from 1953 to 1957. For the next four years, Council worked in Paris at the U.S. European Command. Before transferring back to Newport and the Naval War College in 1964, she served as commanding officer of Recruit Training Command for women at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, MD.

From 1964-1968, she worked at the Naval War College as the Assistant Secretary in the Department of Administration and Personnel. Her final position before retirement, from 1968 to 1972, was with the Manpower Plans and Policies Branch at the Pentagon. After leaving the service she returned to live in Newport.

 Upon retirement she remarked, “We had a song called ‘Ensigns Forever.’ No one told us that we would ever be promoted. So the fact that I was able to make jay-gee then lieutenant… and then all the way to Captain! Is something I am very proud of.”  Captain Council was decorated with the Legion of Merit, the Army Commendation Medal, The National Defense Service Medal and several campaign medals from her service during the Second World War. Her uniform is on display in the museum's exhibit on the history of the Naval War College: Sailors and Scholars.
Images Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lecture Looks at the Medal of Honor

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

Dwight Zimmerman and John Gresham were the guest lecturers on 3 March as they discussed their recent book Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned it in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the war in Vietnam, there were 246 Medals of Honor awarded, 154 were awarded posthumously. Since that time, and prior to the publication of this book in 2010, there have been only eight men who earned this honor for their actions deemed “above and beyond the call of duty.” All of these medals were awarded posthumously, two in Modgdishu, Somalia, in 1993 and the remaining six during the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book gives a short, detailed description of each of the six, the circumstances they found themselves in, and why they responded as they did to the situation. To read only about the individuals is a worthwhile endeavor for all.

Authors, Dwight Zimmerman (l.) and John Gresham (r.)
with Army Major Michael Baka
Yet, another aspect of the book is to look at the medal, itself, in relation to the other medals given for valor. Of the three categories, the Medal of Honor and the Crosses (Army Distinguished Service, Navy, and Air Force) are uncommonly awarded. The Bronze and Silver Stars, on the other hand, are able to be awarded locally and, therefore, easier to award for specific actions. In illustration of the point as to the difficulty associated with getting a citation for the MOH approved, the authors were able to use the example of SPC Ross McGinnis who was killed in 2006 in Iraq. In the audience was the company commander for McGinnis, Major Michael Baka, presently a student at the Naval War College. He was leading the six-vehicle patrol when the incident happened and was the one who did the paperwork that initially started the process of getting the necessary statements to the event and ensuring the correct procedures were followed. The authors pointed out that this well documented action met all of the criteria for the MOH and was the fastest award to approval of the six that had been awarded. From start to finish, the process took eighteen month. The Medal of Honor was not awarded to the family until 2008.

Upcoming Eight Bells Lectures include:

10 March: Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea: Expeditionary Operations in World Politics by CDR James Kraska

29 March: The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-first Century by Bernard "Bud" Cole
Please call 401-841-2101 to make a reservation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Uniform Coat, 1946

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

CDR Cherry's RNVR coat

 Before the United States entered World War II, a group of twenty-two Americans, outraged by Nazi Germany's invasions in Europe, decided to join the British Royal Navy as the first American officers in the service.  Though this was forbidden by America’s Neutrality Act, these men risked everything to join a war that was not yet their own. While their counterparts in the Air Force have been written of extensively, little has been published on these Americans in the Royal Navy. This week’s artifact is a British uniform coat belonging to Commander Alex Cherry, an American serving in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).

CDR Alex Cherry, RNVR
 Alex Henry Cherry was thirty-eight-years old when he left his life as an extremely successful Wall Street investment banker behind and joined the British Royal Navy. He was both a very competent oceangoing yachtsman and a pilot, so the toss of a coin led to his choice of joining the sea service over the Royal Air Force. Cherry arrived in Britain in 1941 and trained at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich before obtaining his commission.  Commander Cherry served on a number of vessels throughout the war and was involved in many key engagements including the Invasion of Normandy.

This officer’s jacket dates to 1946 when Cherry served on the HMS Katherine. He wore the coat when he became an Officer in the Order of the British Empire, an award given to him in recognition to his devoted service to the Royal Navy as a foreign citizen. Commander Cherry also played an important role as a liaison between the US and Royal Navy during the war and later worked tirelessly to improve tactics and procedures for merchant shipping safety. The distinctive wavy sleeve braiding on the coat distinguished officers in the RNVR from their counterparts in the Royal Navy and Royal Navy Reserve who wore straight rings around their sleeves. This led to their service's nickname: "The Wavy Navy."

In 1951, Cherry wrote Yankee R.N., a book about his experiences in the Royal Navy. More recently, CDR Eric Dietrich-Berryman, USN (Ret.) has written Passport Not Required: U.S. Volunteers in the Royal Navy, 1939-1941 along with Charlotte Hammond, and R.E. White. This book chronicles the history of the twenty-two Americans that joined the Royal Navy and follows the men throughout their different theaters of operations. CDR Dietrich-Berryman recently visited the museum to discuss the book and donated Cherry's coat to the museum along with a set of documents associated with Cherry's career deposited in the Naval War College Archives.

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Naval War College Museum on List of 15 Most Impressive College Museums

Online College, an internet resource that promotes online higher learning has recently named the Naval War College Museum as one of the most impressive college museums. Listing the museum as number 7 on a list of 15 colleges worldwide, the Onling College Blog post reads:

 "one of 15 [12 as of 2011] official museums operated by the US Navy, the Naval War College Museum offers collections that tell the history of naval activities in the area since the colonial period. You'll also find works that share the history of the art and science of naval warfare since ancient times.

Thanks to the people at for this recognition. To read about the other 14 college museums listed click on the link below.