Archive for the 'Books' Category

May 26


Wednesday, May 26, 2010 7:10 AM

This week marks graduation for the Class of 2010 across the nation. High school students may be graduating and heading off to enlist in the Navy, and Naval Academy Midshipmen and NROTC students are soon ready to begin their careers as Navy officers. As part of our incredible collection the Navy Department Library contains some of the books that mark these momentous occasions. 

 Lucky Bags are an incredible resource from the Naval Academy and our collection dates from 1849 to 2001. We also have NROTC year books from universities and colleges such as Notre Dame, Marquette University, and the University of Washington. There are even books from the Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island from the 1950s and 1960s. Our collections also include large runs of training or recruit books from Naval Training Centers in San Diego, Orlando, Great Lakes, and Bainbridge. 

 While not every year or company is represented it is still an impressive and treasured collection. For a more complete listing of the training and education yearbooks in our library please visit our website. These books are available to the public in our library spaces or in some cases inter-library loans may be requested if you are unable to visit us in person.

May 19

Stories of the Past

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:59 AM

 Last week the Naval History and Heritage Command was host to the 2010 National Historical Conference and Naval History Workshop. This conference brought together those working to preserve and share naval history, allowing talk about how historians, museums, and libraries and archives are getting the job done and to learn from each other. One of the sessions focused on libraries and archives, highlighting the amazing naval history collections that are available. 

Staff members from the Library of the Marine Corps, Archives and Special Collections; the library at the National Naval Aviation Museum; and the Operational Archives of NHHC shared with attendees some of the interesting items they have in their collections, and why these collections are just as important as the objects held in the museums. 

Libraries and archives tell the stories behind the objects. The Marine Corps Archives and the NHHC Operational Archives mainly tell the official stories of the US Navy and Marine Corps. These are the command histories submitted annually, the after action reports, and deck logs. They also tell the more personal stories through collections of personal papers and diaries of both influential and not so well known Sailors and Marines. These collections also tell the social history of the organizations through recruiting posters, photographs, and menus from major events. 

Libraries such as the one at the National Naval Aviation Museum help to humanize the objects in the museum and provide the social history aspect of the conflicts and battles. Collections of photos, diaries, flight log books, maps, and film footage help tell the story of naval aviation to future generations long after those original aviators are gone.

The Navy Department Library helps to tell the scholarly and social history of the Navy. With over 150,000 volumes of naval history and an extensive manuscript collection there are many stories waiting to be discovered. We have everything from cruise books to ordnance manuals and most anything in between.

Whether you are looking for the official history or what it felt like to be a part of history, libraries and archives are the place to look. Call and arrange a visit to one of the historical libraries or archives, and let us help you research and tell your story.

May 5

This is Ann

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 1:00 PM

There is no doubt that we have some very unusual and unique items in our 150,000 item collection. Some are on display in our Rare Book Room, but others like this little book are tucked away safely on shelves waiting to be found. This particular item was found on a completely unrelated search last week. 

We had a question regarding whether or not a particular anchor could have come from a “Mosquito Boat” from the World War II era. After exhausting our anchor resources, including line drawings of anchors we decided to try searching for mosquito boats in our catalog. The record for this particular book showed up, and we were intrigued by the fact that the author was listed as Dr. Suess. Curious as to why we had a book by Dr. Suess in our collection we went up to Special Collections to find the undersized book. Sure enough here was a small book obviously illustrated by Dr. Suess and published by the Government Printing Office in 1944. 

This diminutive book chronicles the life and times of Ann, the Anopheles Mosquito and warns against the spread of Malaria. We’ve had the book digitized and it will join our collection in the Online Reading Room in the next couple of weeks. For now here is a preview of a few of the illustrations.

Apr 21

New Cruise Books in the Navy Department Library

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 10:00 AM

Last Friday, April 16th the Navy Department Library was the recipient of a very generous donation. Mrs. Mary Lou Mawdsley, her son Alan Mawdsley, and her grandson Jimmy presented us with 59 cruise books collected by her late husband, Dr. Dean L. Mawdsley. The collection ranges from World War I to the Cold War, with a majority of them coming from the World War II era. 

Cruise books are often compared to yearbooks, in that they tell the informal story of a ship and the people who have served onboard. Our collection contains nearly 3,000 cruise books and continues to grow. The publication of cruise books began in the late 19th century to commemorate special events such as the Great White Fleet’s world voyage, and a few were issued for vessels in World War I. World War II helped establish a more widespread practice. These books were not official US Navy publications, and were largely initiated, funded, and produced by the crew of the ship.

Dr. Mawdsley is the author of Cruise Books of the United States Navy in World War II, a bibliography published in 2004 by the former Naval Historical Center now the Naval History and Heritage Command. Dr. Mawdsley was a retired physician with a passion for collecting books. His passion grew into the bibliography, and he was considered an expert on World War II naval cruise books. The contributions he made to the publication and now to our library are significant to researchers and cruise book enthusiasts, and we are very grateful for this incredible donation.

Apr 14

Army of the Indus

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 10:21 AM

Representing a major accomplishment for the Navy Department Library we present to you, A Narrative of the March and Operations of the Army of the Indus. This digitized version of the book is now in our Online Reading Room. This very detailed work describes the march into Afghanistan in 1839 by the British Army combined with the Bengal and Bombay Forces. It is a fascinating look at military operations in Afghanistan in the past, and gives a context for much of today’s fighting. Compiled and largely written by the Judge Advocate General of the “Bengal Column and the Army of the Indus,” it describes in detail the conditions of the march into Afghanistan and the military operations in Ghuznee. Everything from the political climate, including a look at the history of the region, to the number of camels lost on the expedition is covered in this very thorough book. While this book does cover a British Army invasion and is not a work of naval history it does give us a sense of the history of the people of Afghanistan and what today’s sailors and other military members are facing in the region.

Apr 14

New Publications from the Naval History & Heritage Command

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 9:37 AM

Hot off the presses for your reading pleasure…

Navy Medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the Fall of Saigon, by Jan K. Herman, 2010.

Navy Medicine in Vietnam begins and ends with a humanitarian operation—the first, in 1954, after the French were defeated, when refugees fled to South Vietnam to escape from the communist regime in the North; and the second, in 1975, after the fall of Saigon and the final stage of America’s exit that entailed a massive helicopter evacuation of American staff and selected Vietnamese and their families from South Vietnam. In both cases the Navy provided medical support to avert the spread of disease and tend to basic medical needs. Between those dates, 1954 and 1975, Navy medical personnel responded to the buildup and intensifying combat operations by taking a multipronged approach in treating casualties. Helicopter medical evacuations, triaging, and a system of moving casualties from short-term to long-term care meant higher rates of survival and targeted care. Poignant recollections of the medical personnel serving in Vietnam, recorded by author Jan Herman, historian of the Navy Medical Department, are a reminder of the great sacrifices these men and women made for their country and their patients. Order from the secure GPO website

Mud, Muscle and Miracles, Marine Salvage in the United States Navy, by Captain Charles A. Bartholomew, USN and Commander William I. Milwee, Jr., USN (Ret.), 2d ed., 2009.

Mud, Muscle, and Miracles takes its reader on a gripping journey through the evolution of salvage — from the construction of a cofferdam to reveal the battleship Maine at the bottom of Havana harbor to the use of side-scan sonar and remotely operated vehicles to recover aircraft debris and complete vessels from the depths. The story is one of masterful seamanship, incomparable engineering, and absolute ingenuity and courage. It is also the history of one of our nation’s longest lasting public-private partnerships — that of the commercial salvage industry and the U.S. Navy.

This new edition chronicles another 8 precedent-setting marine salvage and deep-ocean recovery operations. Order from the secure GPO website

Apr 7

A Culture of Literacy and Scholarly Pursuits

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 11:52 AM

The US Navy has a deep rooted culture of literary and scholarly pursuits born out of the need for self-sufficiency. While at sea for months at a time with very little communication from home, naval officers had a need for a well rounded education to help make necessary decisions. World War II helped to further this tradition as many academics were pressed into military service. The tradition stretches from shipboard libraries in the early US Navy to those who have served in the Navy and went on to become authors and historians. 

Writings range from tales of the sea and biographies of famous naval officers by Herman Melville and James Fennimore Cooper, to books on Naval Strategy by Alfred Mahan. The author James Mitchner was a contributor to the US Naval Administrative Histories of World War II, most likely the section on the Pacific. The Navy has also produced many historians that have made major contributions to naval history. Samuel Eliot Morrison comes to mind as well as William Sims. Our collections include many volumes written by both Navy officers and enlisted men, too many to list, and even a certificate for William Sims’ 1921 Pulitzer Prize in History. We also have a few collections of naval personnel who were book collectors and donated them to our library; of note are the George Henry Preble Collection  and the Rodgers Family Collection .

Apr 3

South to Java

Saturday, April 3, 2010 12:26 AM


Twenty two years ago I was browsing a local bookstore when I happened upon a blue jacketed book with the exotic title of South to Java. Spying an old four stack destroyer profiled across the cover, I picked it up and when the inside cover revealed it was about an old navy destroyer caught up in the opening battles of the War in the Pacific and the vain attempt to stop the Japanese advances into the Dutch East Indies, it became my companion for the next few weeks. By the last chapter, I felt like I had sailed with the men of the fictional USS O’LEARY and gained an insight of what it was like to face overwhelming odds with what today would be called, “Taking a knife to a gunfight.” Not only did the story relate the Battle of Balikpapan, but told the personal drama faced by both civilians and sailors as the Japanese war machine bore down on them.

The book, penned by Vice Admiral William P. Mack, USN, (Ret) and his son, William Mack Jr. left me with a indelible interest in the Asiatic Fleet and the men who so valiantly served our country in the opening days of World War II. Admiral Mack tells this tale as no other could, because he served aboard the USS John D. Ford, DD-228 as part of Destroyer Squadron 29 in the battle of the Java Sea.

USS John D. Ford


One might question why a work of fiction would show up on a blog about naval historywhere empirical evidence and primary source documents are the rule. I would judge that sometimes fiction based on factual events allows one to recreate scenes of bravery as well as cowardice, without slandering or impugning the memory of someones shortfalls.

USS Houston CA-30

The battle for control of the Java Sea is best know for the loss of the USS Houston CA-30 in the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942. Less know, but no less brave is the story of the men who served aboard those elderly tin cans armed with 4″ deck guns, torpedoes, and a single 3″ Anti-aircraft cannon, suplemented by a few Lewis guns and a fifty caliber, to ward off what for several became their method of execution, the air attack.

Sixty years to the day after the Houston was sunk, March 1, 2002 was proclaimed to be Asiatic Fleet Memorial Day by President George W. Bush. It reads:

All of America’s service personnel and veterans deserve our gratitude, and it is fitting to pay tribute to the United States Asiatic Fleet.
The United States Navy’s presence in the Far East dates to 1822. The Asiatic Fleet was formed in 1902, reestablished in 1910, and continued to serve into 1942. Through years of unrest and disturbance, the Fleet protected American lives and interests along the China coast and the Yangtze River, bearing responsibilities that were as much diplomatic as Naval. The Fleet also assisted civilian areas devastated by the forces of nature and by internal warfare.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II, the Asiatic Fleet played a key role in the defense of the Philippines. Outnumbered and outgunned at sea and in the air, the Fleet was joined by ships of the British, Dutch, and Australian navies to oppose the Japanese advance through what is now Indonesia. The Fleet’s destroyers hit the Japanese at Balikpapan and Badung Strait, and the cruiser Marblehead fought her way through massive air attacks off Bali while submarines, short of fuel and torpedoes, struck Japanese supply lines.
The battle for the “Malay Barrier” reached its climax in the Java Sea. In the opening hours of March 1, 1942, the American cruiser Houston and the Australian cruiser Perth, outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese, fought to the last in the Sunda Strait. They went down with their guns still firing and were followed hours later by the British cruiser Exeter. The remaining Allied ships were then ordered to make their way to Australia.
The Asiatic Fleet was no more, but its heritage of courage and selfless dedication helped spur our Navy to victory in World War II. Since then, the Seventh Fleet has carried on the Asiatic Fleet’s duties, earning honor in Korea and Vietnam and helping to preserve peace and stability in East Asia. The men and women of our Naval services who saw the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion and won victory in Operation Desert Storm are worthy descendants of the sailors and Marines who earned glory in the Java Sea. As we pay tribute to the memory of the Asiatic Fleet, I call on all Americans to join me in saluting its proud heritage of bravery and honor.
The Congress, by Public Law 105-261, on October 17, 1998, has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in commemoration of the United States Navy Asiatic Fleet.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the Untied States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, March 1, 2002, as U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet Memorial Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-fifth.



There have been other good books written about this often overlooked series of battles. One, recent release is A Blue Sea of Blood: Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of the USS Edsall and currently out of print, The Fleet the Gods Forgot: The U.S. Asiatic Fleet in World War II from the USNI Press.

Over the years and after a couple of moves, my copy of this exciting tale became lost in the floatsum of a now forgotten move. So it was with great interest that I learned that the U.S. Naval Institute Press had re-released South to Java. I await it’s arrival in the mail so that I can reacquaint myself with the men of the O’Leary.

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