Thursday, May 26, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Russian Poster from Operation Coldfeet, c. 1962

 ---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

 On 19 March 1962 the Russians abandoned the Soviet Arctic research station, North Pole 8 (NP 8) after a pressure ridge permanently destroyed its air transport runway.  These drifting ice stations, used since 1937, hosted teams of scientists researching oceans, weather, and geological patterns in the Arctic. Both the United States and the USSR studied the region for strategic value so when news of the abandonment reached the Office of Naval Research, the Navy and CIA launched Operation COLDFEET to gather intelligence from the station. On 28 May operatives parachuted onto the ice and collected information on station operations and efforts to develop Arctic anti-submarine warfare techniques. The team and the collected items were recovered by a B-17 employing the Robert Fulton Skyhook on 2 June.

This Russian propaganda poster was left hanging in a mess hall when the station was abandoned. A note in both Russian and English written by Chief of the Station "Romanov" (possibly V.M. Rogachyov) is still visible on the poster's upper right surface. The note informs anyone arriving at the station after 19 March to visit the Arctic Institute in Leningrad. It was later presented to the operation's leader Captain John Cadwalader, USN and donated to the museum by his grandsons.

Click on this Link to learn more about Operation COLDFEET and the Fulton Skyhook.

A gift of Lt. Col. George Cadwalader, USMC and Thomas Cadwalader                            2010.22.01

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Capodanno Drive

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

 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.

Lt. Vincent R. Capodanno, USNR (1929-1967) Navy Chaplain, Medal of Honor Recipient

Capodanno Drive on Coddington Point, NAVSTA Newport was named for Lt.Vincent R. Capodanno, USNR (ChC).  Father Capodanno was a Roman Catholic priest who was commissioned a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps in December 1965. He reported to the Chaplain's School at Newport (then located in Building 117) on 2 January 1966 and completed the course on 24 February. Soon, Capodanno was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. On 4 September 1967 he found himself in combat with the Marines of the Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment  in Quang Tin Province.  While administering last rites to the dying and medical care to casualties, a mortar round peppered his arms and legs and severed part of his right hand. He refused aid and continued to care for the wounded throughout the firefight. While attending to a wounded corpsman, he was killed by automatic fire. For his heroism and service that day,  Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Today numerous tributes honoring the "grunt padre" include statues and roads in his native Staten Island, New York, and a chapel in Taiwan where he performed missionary work. The Naval Chaplain's School (located on NAVSTA Newport from 1951 to 2009) named their chapel, the Father Capodanno Memorial Chapel. USS Capodanno (DE-1093, later FF-1093) was also named in his honor.

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Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson, Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Capodanno Image, Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Statue of Commander Richard E. Byrd

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

This week’s artifact in spotlight honors one of America’s greatest explorers, Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN. On May 9, 1926  Byrd and Chief Machinist Mate Floyd Bennett boarded their Fokker tri-motor airplane to make the first flight over the North Pole.  For this momentous achievement, Byrd and Bennet were awarded the Medal of Honor. Byrd's citation read, "for distinguishing himself conspicuously by courage and intrepidity at the risk of his life on 9 May 1926, in demonstrating that it is possible for aircraft to travel in continuous flight from a now inhabited portion of the earth over the North Pole and return."

Years later, doubts rose as to whether or not Byrd reached the North Pole and the matter is still disputed today. However, the naval aviator subsequently made the first flight over the South Pole and organized pioneering explorations of the polar regions using airplane, radio and other modern technologies. The artifact featured is a plaster statue of Byrd in his Arctic gear sculpted by Felix de Weldon. This statue shows Byrd in a different pose from the more famous likenesses the artist produced for Arlington Cemetery and McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Gift of Felix de Weldon                                                                                  1983.17.03

Image courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial: Annapolis Comes to Newport

Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial: Annapolis Comes to Newport: "---John Pentangelo

During the Civil War, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis was relocated to Newport, Rhode Island. Though the m..."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Rear Admiral George Dewey's Two-Star Flag, 1898

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

The Flag of Acting Rear Admiral George Dewey
hoisted on USS Olympia, 11 May 1898

On 1 May 1898, Commodore George Dewey led the Asiatic Squadron in the stunning victory against Spanish forces at the Battle of Manila Bay. The decisive engagement paved the way for the capture of Manila and the defeat of Spain in the Pacific during the Spanish-American War. News of the battle spread rapidly, making Dewey an instant American hero, and his flagship, the protected cruiser USS Olympia, an American icon.  Several days after departing Manila Bay for Hong Kong, the U.S. revenue cutter Hugh McCullough returned bearing official communications, letters of congratulations and the notice of Dewey's appointment to acting rear admiral. The telegram from Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, dated 7 May, read:

Under the authority of section 1434 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, you have been assigned to the command of the United States naval force on the Asiatic Station, with the rank of rear-admiral. You will hoist the flag of a rear-admiral, will wear the uniform, and will affix that title to your official signature.

On the morning of 11 May, the broad pennant of commodore was hauled down and the two-star rear admiral's flag was hoisted at the main masthead. To mark the occasion, every warship in the bay fired a thirteen-gun salute.

Painting of USS Olympia in the Navy Art Collection

However, the flag hoisted on Olympia that day was not a ready-made article retrieved  by an aide upon receipt of the telegram. In 1898 there were only six billets for rear admiral authorized by Congress. In fact,  Congress ultimately passed a law expanding the number of rear admirals to seven in order to create a vacancy for Dewey's  permanent promotion. Since Dewey was the ranking officer on station, there simply would not be a two-star flag immediately available. As a commodore (the equivalent of today's rear admiral lower half), Dewey flew the broad pennant; a forked blue banner with one white star. The construction of the museum's two-star "Dewey" flag suggests that the flagship's crew cut a new hoist out of canvas, stitched two available commodore pennants together, cut off the forked fly ends, and replaced them with two squared pieces of fabric. The unique circumstances under which the flag was created and its connection to a seminal event in American history make this artifact one of the many treasures in the Naval War College Museum collection.

A Gift of  OCS Class of 507                                                                Ac. No. 1986.13.01

Flag image, Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum
Other images, Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command