Thursday, September 29, 2011

Naval Namesakes: Porter Avenue

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.

Admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891)   Civil War Naval Hero and Torpedo Station Founder

Porter Avenue on Naval Station Newport is named for the famous admiral David Dixon Porter. The son of Commodore David Porter and foster brother of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, Porter first saw service with the Mexican Navy in the late 1820s before obtaining a midshipman's warrant in the U.S. Navy. During the Mexican War, Porter served as first lieutenant on USS Spitfire and after the attack on Tabasco he was given command of that vessel. He rose to prominence during the American Civil War and held command during several significant operations. As commander of the Mississippi Squadron, Porter supported U.S. Grant's successful assault on Vicksburg. After the unsuccessful Red River Expedition, Porter took command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and led his forces during both attacks on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. 
After the war, Porter was appointed Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and promoted to vice admiral. In 1869, while advising the Navy Department, he campaigned for an experimental facility where navy personnel could test torpedoes, mines, and other explosives. His efforts led to the establishment of the Naval Torpedo Station on Goat Island, Newport in July of 1869. The station was the first permanent naval installation in Newport and was soon followed by the Naval Training Station (1883) and the Naval War College (1884). Porter was promoted to admiral and made the navy's senior officer in 1870.

Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson
Porter Image, Naval History and Heritage Command

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Naval War College Convocation

On 16 August, the Naval War College held its annual convocation ceremony. The video, produced by the college's alumni affairs office, begins with an overview of the history of the college by Museum Director Dr. John B. Hattendorf.  President of the Naval War College Rear Admiral John Christenson speaks about the meaning of the college today as does this year's recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award, Dr. Clifford L. Stanley. Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, is a retired major general in the United States Marine Corps who graduated from the NWC College of Distance Education in 1983.

The very first academic convocation ceremony was held at the beginning of the academic year on 24 August 1972 when President of the Naval War College Vice Admiral Stanfield Turner addressed the staff and faculty in full academic attire.

VADM Turner leads first NWC convocation in front of Luce Hall

Video, Naval War College Alumni Affairs
Image, Naval War College Museum

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Porter Halyburton's POW Collection, 1965-1973

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Since tomorrow, September 16, is POW/MIA Recognition Day it is the perfect opportunity to showcase artifacts from the museum collection related to the Vietnam Prisoner of War Experience.

Upon his retirement in 2006, Naval War College Professor Emeritus Porter A. Halyburton donated objects and papers related to his seven years of captivity in North Vietnam. As a navy pilot, LTJG Halyburton flew in 75 combat missions over Vietnam off USS Independence (CVA-62) before his F-4B Phantom was shot down near Hanoi on 17 October 1965. Over the next seven years he was mistreated and tortured in various prisons, such as the "Heartbreak Hotel" and the "Hanoi Hilton."

Halyburton and his fellow prisoners endured because of their leadership training, their faith in their country, their unity and faith in each other, and because of their amazing resourcefulness. They invented a tap code to pass along news and encouragement through cell walls.  Halyburton used mental exercises to memorize names and details for over 300 fellow prisoners. He and the others also taught themselves to speak German based on their shared knowledge of the language. He even used a handmade bamboo ink pen to write a diary.

The artifacts in this collection are all powerful examples of the material culture of the prisoner of war experience as they all tell the story of this extraordinary resourcefulness. The collection contains two items used during all seven years of Halyburton's captivity: an enameled drinking cup and the T-shirt worn when he was captured.  Perhaps the most versatile piece of equipment was a pair of red socks he received in the first care package from his wife Marty. Though he wore them on his feet at first, Halyburton later used them as gloves and Christmas stockings before finally sewing them to a shirt to make a dickey for extra warmth in winter. Some of the other artifacts from the collection are:

 Metal strap used to repair rubber sandals made from old tires

Length of string knotted at 30", Halyburton's waist size before 1970

Pencil stub (part of Halyburton's clandestine survival kit)

Sewing needle made from copper wire

Gift of Porter A. Halyburton                                                                         Ac. No. 2006.05

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Presidential Flag, 1960

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

 Most who are familar with President Dwight David Eisenhower will immediately associate places such as Gettysburg and Camp David as the president's favorite getaway spots during his two-term administration (1953-1961). Few would think of  Newport, Rhode Island with its exclusive mansions, and extensive naval bases as the vacation spot of a former Army general. However, President Eisenhower vacationed here during the summers of 1957, 1958, and 1960 and lived at the Naval Station during the first summer visit.

President Eisenhower in front of the Naval
 Station's Administration Building , c.1957

Ike arrived at Quonset Naval Air Station on 4 September 1957. He gave a speech at the Old Colony House and proceeded to the base to set up residence. Staff and press offices occupied structural additions to the Administration building (now known as Founders Hall, the original site of the Naval War College and home to the NWC Museum) while the president and first lady resided in Quarters A (now home to the Naval Station commander). While occupying the home, Eisenhower signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act and ordered federal troops to Arkansas to enforce integration at Little Rock Central High School.

Upon returning to Newport in 1958, President Eisenhower set up his summer White House at the former Commandant’s House at Fort Adams. On his last visit in 1960, he presented this flag to the officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel of the naval base. The presidential coat of arms is surrounded by 50 stars. Eisenhower’s executive order adding the 50th star for the state of Hawaii became effective on July 4th of that year. The flag is currently on exhibition in the Naval Station gallery along with a guest register for the Naval Hospital Chapel signed by him and first lady, Mamie.

Why did the former Supreme Allied Commander and graduate of the U.S. Army War College choose to vacation on Coasters Harbor Island, home to the naval station and the Naval War College? The golf of course! The historic Newport Country Club maintained one of the oldest golf courses in the nation. His visits certainly left a legacy: in addition to "Eisenhower House" at Fort Adams, Newporters named the grassy space on Washington Square, "Eisenhower Park."

Click here to view Eisenhower's daily schedule for the month of September 1957 or here for his entire second term including Newport visits in 1958 and 1960.

Transfer from Naval Station Newport                                                                  88.47.01

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: U.S. Navy Boat Cloak, c. 1933

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

Admiral W.V. Pratt's boat cloak
and service dress blue coat
The museum has a substantial collection of material related to the naval career of Admiral William Veazie Pratt (1869-1957). The collection of medals, personal items, and uniforms  includes his regulation boat cloak. This type of boat cloak, first authorized in the late nineteenth century was worn by commissioned naval officers through both world wars but was omitted as a requirement in the 1947 uniform regulations. The garment, made of heavy wool with a  rolling velvet collar, is fastened below the neck with a frog. This same regulation cloak was often worn by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, most famously at the Yalta Conference in 1945.  Even the statue of the president (who also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy), at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. is seated wearing the cloak.

On 5 September 1925 Rear Admiral William Veazie Pratt began his term as President of the Naval War College. During his tenure, he restructured the staff to closely parallel the organization of fleet staffs and the Office of Naval Operations in order to ease the graduate’s transition to fleet duty. Pratt introduced the study of logistics, emphasized international relations, encouraged joint curricula and war games with the Army War College, and stressed the committee approach to strategic problem solving. He later became Chief of Naval Operations during the Hoover Administration.

Portrait of Admiral Pratt wearing the cloak as CNO
C.A. Slade, 1933. NWC Museum
 Gift of William Veazie Pratt, Jr.                                                                       75.03.08

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum