Thursday, May 31, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Admiral R.A. Spruance's Distinguished Service Medal, 1942

---Grace Christenson, Curatorial Assistant

Admiral R.A. Spruance's USN Distinguished Service Medal
with two Gold Stars for subsequent awards

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Midway, one the most crucial American victories of World War II.  Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance, Task Force Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet during the battle, was awarded the U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his exemplary leadership.
Famed historian Samuel Eliot Morison called Admiral Spruance’s performance,  “superb,” describing him as “calm, collected, decisive, yet receptive to advice.”

In 1948, the Naval War College released a report which detailed the overwhelming importance of the battle and the many accomplishments of Admiral Spruance and his forces. The report called the battle, "an overwhelming American strategically and tactical victory," and stated that, "By destroying four of Japan’s finest aircraft carriers together with many of her best pilots it deprived the Japanese navy of a large and vital portion of her powerful carrier striking force.” The report concluded that the victory improved American morale, demoralized Japanese forces, removed threats to Hawaii and the West Coast, and halted the dominant Japanese offensive action from the first six months of the war.

Spruance graduated from the Naval War College in 1927 and later returned to serve on the faculty as the head of correspondence courses from 1932-1933.  He also directed tactics instruction for the junior class from 1935-1936, and for the senior class from 1936-1937.  After the war, on 1 March 1946, Spruance returned as the College’s twenty-sixth president.   He oversaw educational preparations for the Cold War era, laid the foundations for a broader curriculum, and helped establish the Naval War College Review. The museum holds an impressive collection of Spruance's medals, swords, and uniforms. The Distinguished Service Medal is currently on display in the College's Spruance Hall along with other artifacts related to Spruance's naval service.

Gift of Mrs. Margaret Dean Spruance                                                                                    70.04.02

Friday, May 25, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Admiral Luke McNamee Commemorative Rug

---Grace Christenson, Curatorial Assistant

On 29 May 1934 Rear Admiral Luke McNamee retired from active duty after forty-two years in the United States Navy.  McNamee graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1892 and rose to the rank of admiral while developing a long relationship with Newport and the Naval War College. He graduated from the college as a commander in 1916 and served on the staff  during Admiral William S. Sims’s presidency in 1917.  During the war, Sims became Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters and operations at the college were suspended. After serving on Admiral Sims’s Planning Staff in London, Captain McNamee returned to the college to serve in the tactics department. He directed revisions of instructional war gaming pamphlets to reflect the latest fleet practices, recent wartime experiences and the use of airplanes and submarines. He deepened his ties to region when he married the daughter of Newport native Rear Admiral William T. Swinburne.

PNWC Admiral Luke McNamee

McNamee was promoted to admiral when placed in command of the U.S. Fleet Battle Force in 1933. Later that year he was appointed President of the Naval War College and served in the position until his retirement from active duty. He died at Newport Naval Hospital in 1952 at 81 years of age.

The origin of the commemorative rug, embroidered with a red and gold eagle over the words, “COMMANDER IN CHIEF, ADMIRAL LUKE McNAMEE USN, For Remembrance” is unknown. It may possibly be in connection with his official service with the Battle Force. The rug was donated to the museum in 2011 as part of a large gift of books, scrapbooks, uniforms, and other items related to the careers of Admiral McNamee, Rear Admiral William T. Swinburne, and Rear Admiral William Fullam.

Gift of Alexandra de Koranyi                    2011.21.03

Images Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Monday, May 21, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Portrait of Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry, 1911

---Grace Christenson, Curatorial Assistant

Throughout the Naval War College’s rich 128 year history, it has collected or commissioned portraits of all but ten of its presidents. In 1911, William S. Kendall painted this portrait of Rear Admiral Charles Stillman Sperry, who served as the Naval War College’s tenth president from 16 November 1903 to 24 May 1906 as a captain. Sperry later gave the oil on canvas to the college as a gift. The painting depicts Rear Admiral Sperry in 1908, during his time as the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. While many of the earlier portraits of college presidents were added to the collection as gifts, today the presidency of the Naval War College stands as one of only four commands in the U.S. Navy that have official commissioned portraits associated with the position. The other three positions are the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Captain Sperry was appointed President of the Naval War College after successful competition of the Summer Course in 1903. Sperry served as president until 1906, at which time he was promoted to rear admiral. During his tenure, Sperry developed an extensive knowledge of international law. This knowledge served him well at his first flag assignments. He served as a delegate to the International Conference to Revise Rules for Treatment of Sick and Wounded in Geneva in 1906, and later as a delegate for the Second Hague Conference. Rear Admiral Sperry would also go on to command the Fourth Division of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet during the world cruise of the Great White Fleet.

The artist William Kendall, is perhaps best known for his portraits of women and children. His portrait of Sperry is currently on display in the museum art gallery.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: "Together We Win" Poster, c. 1917

---Grace Christenson, Curatorial Assistant

During a recent inventory project, the museum came across a small collection of World War I and World War II posters from the American and British home fronts. This particular poster, entitled “Together We Will Win,” is a World War I era poster issued by the United States Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation. The  Emergency Fleet Corporation was an agency established to manage wartime merchant shipping after the United States declared war on Germany. James Montgomery Flagg painted the original scene of a seaman, civilian worker, and soldier walking arm-in-arm. Flagg is credited with creating nearly fifty other works to help support the home front war efforts during both World Wars. He is most famous for the iconic image of Uncle Sam in his  “I Want You for the U.S. Army” poster. 
Posters like this one were extremely effective during World War I and were therefore utilized again during World War II.  These posters were designed to unite the American people on the home front (irrespective of race, class, gender, or age) and help to coordinate efforts to sell war bonds, conserve food, build a labor force, and recruit for the armed forces. The posters shared common themes and ideas with propaganda used around the world, including the importance of patriotism in times of war, a need for sacrifice, and the idea that it was the duty of citizens to either become soldiers or serve in war-related jobs at home. The “Together We Will Win” poster illustrated the importance of both military and industrial wartime service and the need to unite these services in order to achieve victory.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Atlantic House Pitcher, c. 1860

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

On May 8, 1861, the frigate USS Constitution entered Newport Harbor carrying the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy.  During the opening weeks of the Civil War, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles authorized Superintendent George S. Blake to relocate the academy from Annapolis to Newport as the area had all of the attributes of a naval training installation and was safe from the threat of invasion. The school ships anchored off Goat Island, while the midshipmen occupied Fort Adams. Three months later the upperclassmen moved out of the fort's damp casemates to the luxurious Atlantic House Hotel located at the corner of Bellevue Avenue and Pelham Street opposite Newport's Touro Park.

The Greek Revival building was completed in 1844 when Newport was firmly set as resort town for the upper echelon of society. The hotel fell out of fashion by 1860 and was leased by the U.S. Navy. It provided a mess facility, administrative offices, classrooms, and quarters for upperclassmen. Amenities such as steam heating, and finely decorated wash pitchers like the one, pictured left, undoubtedly led underclassmen, called plebes, to dub the Atlantic House “Paradise,” while naming their classrooms and berths aboard USS Constitution, “Purgatory.”  
Constitution and USS Santee served as floating dormitories and classrooms for the incoming midshipmen. Predictably, the midshipmen preferred the accommodations at the hotel to the cramped conditions of a wooden sailing vessel. Park Benjamin, class of 1867, remembered, “Nothing could be more desolate than the outlook to the ‘plebe’ whose first experience brought him to these school-ships. During the day he sat and studied at one of the desks, long rows of which extended up and down the gun-deck, and occasionally marched ashore to the windy recitation rooms, where he contracted bad colds along with knowledge of arithmetic. The commissary department was always more or less out of gear, and the meals eaten in the blackness of the berth-deck by the light of a few ill-smelling oil lamps were wretched.”

Midshipmen pose with a Dahlgren boat howitzer
in front of the Atlantic Hotel, c. 1863.

Though confined to the hotel and nearby Touro Park for the majority of their time, the upperclassmen enjoyed Newport society while on liberty. Local families often invited faculty and students to dinners and social gatherings. Midshipmen were a fixture at regular band concerts and balls. The finely painted china pitcher, likely used by midshipmen to wash during their daily routines and before social functions, is currently on exhibit in the Early History of the Navy in Narragansett Bay Exhibit. Though the Atlantic House was demolished in 1877, this pitcher remains a witness to Newport's role in the naval history of the Civil War.

Some politicians and officers tried to permanently relocate the academy to Newport but classes resumed in Annapolis after the war.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Woods                                                                            P68.19.01