Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On This Day in History: The Great White Fleet

P68.30
Gift of Mrs. Emily C. Yarnell and Ms. Ruth Thomas

On this day in 1907, the Great White Fleet departed Norfolk, VA on a fourteen-month cruise around the world. Initially commanded by RADM Robley D. Evans, the fleet included sixteen battleships painted gleaming white plus a handful of auxiliary vessels. President Theodore Roosevelt’s orders were to show the flag and signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. was capable of projecting power around the globe. It can be difficult to appreciate what an unprecedented undertaking this was for the time. Although small squadrons of ships had completed cruises around the world, nobody had attempted a circumnavigation with a battle fleet of this size. The journey covered 43,000 miles and included stops at twenty ports on six continents before concluding in February 1909.


The fleet arrived in San Francisco on May 6, 1908. So many people wanted to see the Navy’s new steel battleships that the number of riders on the ferries crossing the Bay reportedly increased by 450,000 during the first week alone. This photograph shows the fleet leaving on July 7, 1908 under the command of RADM Charles M. Sperry (tenth President of the Naval War College) who replaced Evans due to illness. The rear of the line is passing by Alcatraz Island while the lead ships are approximately where the Golden Gate Bridge stands today (it opened in 1937). The photograph was presented to the Museum in 1956 by Mrs. Emily C. Yarnell and Ms. Ruth Thomas. Their father, RADM Charles M. Thomas, served as second in command of the fleet until suddenly passing away from a heart attack in San Francisco.


Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Artifact Spotlight: Hawaiian Invasion Money


99.27.02
Gift of Mr. Robert D. Young

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the events of that day have been well documented, the American response to the attack in the months that followed has received less attention. Even while recovery efforts were still underway, military and civilian leaders began planning for the possibility of another attack, this time by a larger force bent on capturing the Hawaiian Islands and incorporating them into the Japanese empire. Officials hoped to minimize the damage should such a disaster occur, especially with respect to the effects on the U.S. economy. To that end, in January 1942 the military governor of Hawaii began recalling all U.S. currency then in circulation and replacing it with special “invasion money.” These bills had the word “Hawaii” printed on both sides with the intention that if they fell into Japanese hands, they would no longer be accepted as legal tender anywhere in the United States. About 65 million notes were produced in $1, $5, $10, and $20 denominations. It was not until October 21, 1944 that authorities deemed Hawaii secure enough to discontinue the use of invasion currency. Many service members who traveled through Pearl Harbor collected the notes and kept them as souvenirs after the war.