Thursday, March 29, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Painting of USS SUPPLY

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

The museum is fortunate to have a very fine nineteenth century oil painting of USS Supply in the collection. In late 1846 the United States Navy purchased a ship-rigged sailing vessel for service in the Mexican-American War. That ship, the USS Supply, was commissioned in Boston on December 19, 1846.  During over three decades of service, the store ship supplied naval vessels and operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Middle East, Far East, West Africa, and the Mediterranean.

One of Supply's most notable missions occurred in 1853 when she served as Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s store ship on the expedition to open Japan. On July 8, 1853 the "black ships" of Perry’s expedition entered Toyko Bay changing the course of history for both nations. Just before the Civil War, Supply supported the operations of the United States Navy's African Squadron. During the war the vessel supplied blockading squadrons and even captured the Southern blockade runner Stephen Hart off Sarasota, Florida. The USS Supply was decommissioned April 23, 1879 in New York and sold five years later.

The oil on canvas was painted by W.R. May. Born in 1846, May served in the U.S. Navy and painted other vessels such as USS Franklin and the sloop-of war USS Portsmouth. His painting of Supply, possibly done in the 1870s, is currently on exhibit in the museum's art gallery. The work was orginally loaned for display at the Naval War College in 1956 but was gifted to the Naval War College Foundation in 1981.
Gift of John Sylvester Jr., Charles T. Sylvester, and Philip Yarnell                                               69.22.01

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Medals and Insignia of the First Female USN Master Chief Petty Officer

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

March is National Women’s History Month. Without a doubt, women have been an instrumental part of force readiness for every branch of service.  This week’s post honors a true trailblazer in naval and women's history: the first female Master Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, Anna Der-Vartanian.

A native of Michigan, Der-Vartanian enlisted in the WAVES in 1943 during World War II.  After the war ended, she transitioned over to the regular Navy. Her duty stations included Naval Station San Francisco, Naval Air Training Command Pensacola, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and Pacific Fleet Public Information Office Pearl Harbor. From July 1959 to April 1960, Der-Vartanian served on staff at the Naval War College, where she coordinated preparations for the 1960 Global Strategy Discussions.

While at the college in December 1959, she was promoted from Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8) to Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9). Der-Vartanian’s promotion made her not only the first female to achieve the rate of Master Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, but the highest ranking enlisted female in the United States military at that time. After YNCM Der-Vartanian's retirement in July 1963, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency as a counter-intelligence specialist. She passed away on 4 August 2011, just four years after her retirement from the CIA.

The shadow box shown here is a display of Anna Der-Vartanian’s twenty-year naval career. The box displays the rate insignias and medals she earned during her service. Below the master chief petty officer cap and collar device, are the insignias for senior chief petty officer and chief petty officer. The bottom row has her devices for first, second, and third class petty officer. Underneath the WAVE collar device are four medals (left to right): the USN Good Conduct Medal with four stars, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

The shadow box is currently on display as part of the museum's exhibit Sailors and Scholars: A History of the Naval War College . The box is displayed with the uniform of one of the first female captains in the U.S. Navy, Dorothy Council. The museum thanks the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the generous loan of the Der-Vartanian shadow box.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Yeomanette Photographs and Documents, c. 1919

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

 Doris Conway and her brother Jack, c. 1918

In the middle of Women's History Month, today's blog post focuses on a watershed event in naval history: on 19 March 1917 the Navy Department authorized the enrollment of women in the United States Naval Reserve.  These were the first women since the establishment of the Navy nurse Corps in 1908 to serve. With an imminent declaration of war against Germany, naval shore installations had dire need for clerical positions. The Navy recruited women to serve as telephone operators, bookkeepers, accountants, typists, and stenographers, and drivers. Some women also served as electricians, camouflage designers, and photographers. Their service was critical to a large scale mobilization and to ultimate Allied victory.
Called Yeomanettes or Yeowomen,  their gender was officially indicated by placing an “F” after their rate, e.g. Y (F) 3c. Several hundred yeomanettes served at Newport. Many of them trained at the Yeoman school and served with the Supply Office of the Second Naval District. One woman to take advantage of the new opportunity of military service was twenty-one-year-old New Hampshire native, Doris Elizabeth Conway. Conway enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve Force on 20 May 1918 in Newport, RI.  She was promoted to Yeoman (F) first class and served with the Athletic and Amusement Department at Newport. Her trade was listed as "cashier." 

Letter authorizing Conway's
release from active duty.

 Like all of the yeomanettes, Doris Conway's service was not to last a full four years. Just prior to Armistice Day 1918, the Navy stopped enrolling women in the Naval Reserves. The following year, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels began to have female reservists reassigned as inactive. Not wishing to waste the valuable talents women reservists had brought to the Navy, Secretary Daniels had them transferred to similar civilian positions with the Department of the Navy.

 On 9 August 1919, Conway was released from active duty to assume a temporary civil service position as a clerk at the Naval Training Station. After her discharge on 20 May 1920, she was awarded the Victory Medal for her service is the World War.
Award Letter for Doris Conway's
Victory Medal

The official end of Yeoman (F) came by a special act signed by Secretary Daniels. The act cut enlistments so all female reservists would be discharged by 24 October 1920 though the last Yeoman (F) was discharged in March 1921. Over 11,000 served women served in the Navy from 1917-1921 and those that served in Newport remain a vital part of the naval history of Narragansett Bay.

Gifts of Mrs. Paula Craig                                                                                                                       86.20

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Battle of Hampton Roads Painting, 1981

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Hampton Roads. Although many naval engagements took place during the Civil War, this battle between the ironclad warships USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack)  forever changed the manner in which naval vessels were designed and built.

On March 8, 1862, the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia sailed into Hampton Roads, Virginia with the James River Squadron.  Among the wooden blockaders of the United States North Atlantic Blockading Squadron were USS Cumberland,  USS Congress, and USS Minnesota. Virginia rammed Cumberland below the waterline, causing the wooden ship to sink rapidly. After forcing the surrender of USS Congress, the Confederate ironclad set fire to the Union frigate.  Minnesota then ran aground. The next day, Virginia returned to finish off the USS Minnesota but was met by the new ironclad USS Monitor. The two vessels pounded away at each other's armored plates. Though each would claim a victory, the battle was effectively a draw. Following the Battle of Hampton Roads, the Union Navy quickly built more "monitors" and put them into action. The days of the wooden hulled warship were at an end. The world's navies stepped up production of iron vessels which, with their revolving turrets, became forerunners of the modern battleships.
British maritime artist, Edward D. Walker commemorated the Battle of Hampton Roads in his 1981 oil painting. The turreted USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia dominate the foreground. The artist has enhanced the contrast of past and future by surrounding the revolutionary iron warships with the older wooden sailing and steam ships.

The Battle at Hampton Roads is currently on exhibit in "The Navy in Art" gallery at the Naval War College Museum.

Gift of Peter A. Brown to the Naval War College Foundation                                                          L2011.08.01

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: USN Mailman 3/c Badge, c. 1944-1948

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Mail service has always been an integral part of the United States military. In 1908 Congress authorized U.S. post offices on board naval vessels and the Navy established the rate of mail clerk.  In 1942, the Navy instituted the rate of Specialist—Mail  (Sp (M)) to deal with the challenges of increased mail delivery during World War II. These specialists often came from the civilian postal service and were assigned duties at stations but not vessels. One year later, the Navy established a training school for mail specialists. Recognizing the need for qualified individuals to handle mail, the Navy later created the new rate of mailman in September of 1944. This rate posed no limitation on service and thus a mailman could serve aboard ships. 

The Navy mailman shared many of the same responsibilities to their civilian counterparts. They  classified mail (first class, second class, domestic mail), prepared mail, and provided services such as return receipt, registered mail, airmail, special deliveries, and special handling. Mailmen sold stamps, sorted and examined mail, ordered mail supplies for sailors on board, and forwarded mail. One of their unique responsibilities was keeping a directory of all personnel aboard ship, those expected aboard, and those recently detached or transferred. On a ship with a fluctuating number of sailors on board at any given time, this was a large and ongoing responsibility.

The badge pictured is the rating badge of Mailman 3/c Jack O’Donnell.  The blue Petty Officer eagle is embroidered above an encircled “M” with four wavy lines representing a postal cancellation.

The mailman rating was utilized by the Navy from 1944 until 1948 when these duties were absorbed into the rate of teleman. The rate later changed to postal clerk in 1959. On 1 October, 2009, the rates of storekeeper and postal clerk were merged into one rate—logistics specialist.

Gift of Cheryl Moodie in memory of John (Jack) O’Donnell                                                                    2011.12.01