Thursday, January 26, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: CAPT. R. Conolly's DESRON 6 Pennant, 1941

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

On 30 January 1941, Captain Richard Lansing Conolly took command of Destroyer Squadron Six (DESRON 6), Pacific Fleet. DESRON 6 was a squadron composed of nine destroyers with the Porter-class USS Balch (DD-363) serving as flagship.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, DESRON 6 was attached to Admiral William Halsey’s Enterprise group. In April of 1942, the squadron escorted the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) prior to the famous Doolittle Raid on Japan. Shortly after, Conolly was detached from the squadron. His former flagship Balch, rescued over 500 survivors from the sinking USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Hamman (DD-112) during the Battle of Midway. Conolly was promoted to Rear Admiral in July 1942 and transferred to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King.

USS Balch
The broad pennant shown here was Conolly’s personal flag, flown at the masthead of USS Balch. The pennant measures 38” by 23 ½” and has two border stripes of navy blue and a white center stripe specific to squadron commanders. The blue “6” in the center signifies DESRON 6. On the opposite side there is a white patch printed with “Commander Destroyer Squadron 6, Captain R.L. Conolly January 30, 1941 to April 27, 1942” and containing the names of officers on Conolly’s staff. 

Admiral R.L. Conolly
After his promotion in 1942, Conolly facilitated the planning of the invasions at Guadacanal and North Africa. In July 1944 as commander of Amphibian Group 3, he led the landing at Guam and was instrumental in the capture of that island.  A 1931 Naval War College graduate, Conolly served as president of the College from 1 December 1950 to 2 November 1953. His insights, gleaned from his experiences in World War II, led to the creation of a research and analysis department, advanced strategy and sea power courses, and the return of civilian professors to the College. After his retirement he served as President of Long Island University. Admiral Conolly and his wife were killed in an airplane crash in 1962. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Education Update: 8 Bells Lecture on USS FRANKLIN (CV 13)

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

On 19 March 1945, just off the Japanese mainland, two semi-armor piercing bombs struck the USS Franklin (CV 13). One struck the flight deck centerline and penetrated to the hangar deck. The second hit aft and descended two decks. Explosions and fire followed.

The officer in charge of cataloging bodies and personal effects, Dr. Sam Sherman, the air group medical officer, counted 832 bodies for burial. Without the heroic efforts of the survivors, this number would have been higher and the ship would have been lost. Two men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their part, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan, USNR (ChC), a Jesuit priest and ship’s chaplain, and Lt (j.g.) Don Gary.

The author (left) poses with LCDR William Nott.
“Jack” Satterfield has authored a new book, Saving Big Ben: The USS Franklin and Father Joseph T. O’Callahan, to recount the events on Franklin and to tell the story of Father O’Callahan, the first chaplain to win the Medal of Honor. Satterfield discussed his research, his book, and then answered questions about both the incident and the life of Father O’Callahan at the latest 8 Bells Lecture held on 19 January at the Naval War College Museum.

In addition to the excellent lecture, the audience was treated to an eye-witness account given by LCDR William Nott, USN (ret.), who served on board USS Franklin as a Machinist Mate (MM2) from “her commissioning to her layup in the Brooklyn Navy Yard." He was able to confirm and add to the descriptions in the book, describing the events leading up to the attack and the personalities of the various key figures involved. As a side note, LCDR Nott had a copy of the book written by Father O’Callahan in which he is mentioned by name as one of the heroes that day who was instrumental in saving the ship.

February will have three 8 Bells Lectures. On 9 February, George Daughan will present 1812: The Navy’s War. Bruce Parker presents his book The Tide Predictions for D-Day on 16 February. Lastly, on 23 February, Fredrik Stanton will discuss his book, Great Negotiations: Agreements that Changed the Modern World. If you are interested in any or all of these lectures, please contact the Naval War College Museum at 841-2101 for reservations or more information.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Chart of Narragansett Bay, 1832

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Narragansett Bay has long been considered a suitable location for naval installations. In 1764, the Admiralty of the British Navy ordered a survey of the bay and the town of Newport to determine the area’s suitability as a potential naval base. Charles Blaskowitz, a surveyor under Samuel Holland, produced a series of surveys of the area dating from 1764 to 1775. The onset of the Revolutionary War and subsequent independence of the United States halted plans by the British to establish a naval base in Newport. The United States Navy bypassed Newport as a suitable location for ship-building in 1799 but a small station and hospital were located here briefly in the early 1820s. Some years later, in February 1832, the United States Congress ordered another survey of Narragansett Bay in order “to ascertain the practicability and expediency of establishing a naval depot therein.”

Detail of 1832 chart showing Coasters Harbor Island and
one of the earliest illustrations of the Newport Poor House.
The new interest brought together a group of naval officers to survey the bay and surrounding areas in June of 1832.  Captain Alexander S. Wadsworth, led Lieutenants Charles Wilkes, Thomas Gedney, George Blake, and Passed Midshipmen William Ward and Ralph Semmes on the six-month operation. The group ultimately produced the first systematic survey of the bay since the 1770s.  Secretary of the Navy Levi Woodbury submitted the report to Congress on December 20 but no immediate action was taken.
Almost thirty years later, the U.S. Naval Academy was relocated to Newport for the duration of the Civil War. Renewed interest in a permanent installation at Newport, generated by the academy's move, soon influenced the establishment of the Naval Torpedo Station (1869), Training Station (1883), and Naval War College (1884) to the city by the sea.

Last November, the museum acquired an original copy of the chart with funds generously provided by  the Naval War College Foundation. The map is engraved by W.J. Stone and consists of four separate pages which when joined together reveal the shores and depths of Narragansett Bay. The map is extremely thorough; detailing shoreline topography, various islands in the bay, vegetation, marshes, lighthouses, ferry landings, as well as the towns of Newport, Bristol, and Wickford. It even contains the second earliest published illustration of the old Newport Poor House on Coasters Harbor Island. The structure, built in 1819, became the original site of the Naval War College in 1884 and now hosts the museum. This new treasure of the museum's collection is a significant example of the Navy's long interest in the area. Plans are underway to exhibit the entire chart in the Early Naval History of Narragansett Bay Gallery.

A full copy of the chart, from the Harvard Map Collection, can be fully explored here.

Incidently, members of the 1832 survey group went on to have distinguished naval careers. George S. Blake was Superintendent of the Naval Academy when the Civil War started. Under the command of Thomas Gedney, the brig Washington captured the slave ship Amistad in 1839.  Ralph Semmes resigned his commission during the Civil War and commanded two Confederate commerce raiders, CSS Sumter and CSS Alabama. Charles Wilkes later led the United States Exploring Expedition from 1839-1842 and, in command of USS San Jacinto during the Civil War, stopped the British mail steamer Trent and removed two Confederate diplomats from her decks. The 1861 incident set off a near diplomatic crisis between the United States and Great Britain.

Museum Purchase                                                                                                                           2011.23.01

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Liberty China, c. 1918

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Liberty Queen's Ware sugar, teapot, cup and saucer, and creamer
The museum recently acquired a "Liberty" Queen's Ware tea set consisting of a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl, six cups, six saucers, and six small plates. Shortly after America entered World War I,  American socialite Lillian Gary Taylor devised a unique fundraising strategy to support Allied charities and aid the war effort.  She designed a porcelain china pattern called "Liberty China" and commissioned England's world famous pottery firm Josiah Wedgwood and Sons to refine and manufacture the pieces. The pattern, designed by Mrs. Taylor, contained the shield of the United States flanked by the flags of eleven Allied nations. The British and French flags are placed on either side of the Belgian flag. The other flags depicted are Cuba, Romania, Montenegro, Italy, Russia, Japan, Portugal, and Serbia. A narrow band of gold adorns the edges of these pieces.

The pieces were a “private order” and were never advertised or sold to the public. Select clientele who ordered and received Liberty China included President Woodrow Wilson, former President Theodore Roosevelt, King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom, King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, General John Pershing, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Admiral and Mrs. William S. Sims. Sims, most recently President of the Naval War College, had recently departed the U.S. and was now serving as Commanding Officer of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

Eventually, additional pieces such as breakfast trays and various size plates were produced. As Taylor reported in her privately-printed book on the subject, $14,203 was raised and donated to various Allied charities all over the Europe and the United States. Beneficiaries and causes included the American Red Cross, Argonne Auxiliary, Belgian Children’s Fund, YMCA, Russian Refugee Relief, Occupational Therapy for Ex-Service Men, Italian Orphans, and the International Serbian Education Committee.

After the war ended in 1918, Frank H. Wedgwood destroyed the copper plate of the engraving at Mrs. Taylor's request to insure no more could be produced. This set came from the estate of Vice Admiral John T. Hayward, President of the Naval War College (1966-1968).

Museum Purchase                                                                                                                     2011.19

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Painting of USS HOPPER, 1997

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Twelve years ago, on 6 January 1996, the USS Hopper (DDG-70) was launched in Bath, Maine. The Arleigh Burke-Class guided missile destroyer was commissioned in San Francisco one year later on 7 September 1997. The vessel was named for Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992), a pioneering computer programmer who served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946. During her first assignment she worked with the Mark 1 computer at the Bureau of Ships Computation Program at Harvard. Later she developed FLOW-MATIC a data processing language close to English and was instrumental in developing and inspiring COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) which is still used today to run most operating systems.

The ship is currently part of Destroyer Squadron 31 and is based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Artist Wilma Parker painted this oil on linen, titled "Amazing Grace" in 1997 to commemorate the ship's commissioning.

A Gift of the Artist to the Naval War College Foundation                                                                  L2010.10.01