Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Nov 7

Embracing Steel: In 1880s Navy Transitions from Iron Ships

Friday, November 7, 2014 8:00 AM
USS Dolphin, USS Atlanta, and USS Chicago, off New York City, about 1890. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 69190. USS Atlanta, USS Boston, USS Chicago, and USS Dolphin were the first four steel ships built during the "New Navy" period.

USS Dolphin, USS Atlanta, and USS Chicago, off New York City, about 1890. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 69190.
USS Atlanta, USS Boston, USS Chicago, and USS Dolphin were the first four steel ships built during the “New Navy” period.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

He was Northern by birth, but Southern by choice. During the Civil War, while living in New Orleans, he was forced to serve in the Confederate Army, yet his sympathizes were against secession, and for the Union. He rejoiced when New Orleans fell to the Union in 1864.

Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt, Jan. 7, 1881 to April 16, 1882. Artwork: E.P. Andrews. NHHC Photograph Collection,

Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt, Jan. 7, 1881 to April 16, 1882. Artwork: E.P. Andrews. NHHC Photograph Collection,

It was through that series of juxtapositions that defined William Henry Hunt; lawyer, professor, Confederate Army officer and in March 1881, the Secretary of Navy.

Hunt had but a short tenure in that position, but during the time he was there, his legacy was rebuilding a Navy neglected by a country still recovering from a four-year Civil War. Hunt began with the creation of a Naval Advisory Board that on Nov. 7, 1881, dared to ask Congress for $30 million to build 21 armored ships, some with steel hulls rather than iron, and nearly 70 unarmored vessels.

Hunt would face more than a few hurdles in pushing his agenda through the bureaucracy. He was a Southerner in the North. President James Garfield, who appointed him, was shot just four months into his presidency, succumbing to his assassin’s bullet Sept. 19, 1881. Less than two months later, SECNAV Hunt would present his advisory board’s recommendation to Congress.

“The condition of the Navy imperatively demands the prompt and earnest attention of Congress. Unless some action be had in its behalf it must soon dwindle into insignificance,” Hunt said.

About 18 months later, on March 3, 1883, Congress would approve the Naval Appropriations Act of 1883 that included only $1.3 million to build a fraction of the ships requested in 1881, but with steel rather than iron hulls. They authorized building three cruisers and a dispatch ship, most commonly known today as the ABCD ships – cruisers Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and dispatch ship Dolphin – the beginnings of a steel Navy.

 

USS Boston (1887-1946), left and USS Atlanta (1886-1912), tied up together, probably at the New York Navy Yard, circa the late 1880s or early 1890s. Note that their yards have been cocked to avoid striking each other. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

USS Boston (1887-1946), left and USS Atlanta (1886-1912), tied up together, probably at the New York Navy Yard, circa the late 1880s or early 1890s. Note that their yards have been cocked to avoid striking each other. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

 

Iron vs Steel Hulls

The first Advisory Board, which convened June 29, 1881, was made up of 15 representative officers and materiel corps of the Navy. The use of mild steel for construction of hulls was so fully discussed and the difference of opinion so varied the Nov. 7, 1881 report was “divided” in its recommendation. Three of those dissenters would be officers of the Construction Corps of the Navy, who were concerned more about the ability of American manufacturers to produce the steel without excessive cost rather than using the steel itself.

Presenting a divided report on Nov. 7, 1881, gave the Naval Committee of the House of Representatives a chance to add two-cents. A four-month “exhaustive examination” included meetings/interviews with ship-builders and iron and steel manufacture workers, visits to those factories and testing at the Washington Navy Yard.

One who gave testimony to the committee was George Wilson, the superintendent of machinery at the Washington Navy Yard, who pointed out the biggest difference in working with iron and steel was the greater chances of “spoiling” up to 10 percent of iron flanges.

“You may have men working 10 days on a sheet of iron, and then have it spoiled. But we have never spoiled but one sheet of steel. In the many thousands that we have used in the last four years we have spoiled but one; and even that we could have used,” he said.

USS Chicago (1889-1936), underway at sea, circa the early 1890s. She was the last of the four steel-hulled “ABCD” ships to be launched.

USS Chicago (1889-1936), underway at sea, circa the early 1890s. She was the last of the four steel-hulled “ABCD” ships to be launched.

At the time, only one company had constructed any ships with steel plating: Pusey & Jones Company of Wilmington, Del. The owner spoke to Congressional members about the reliability of steel hulls in collision and groundings of his river-steamers, claiming “vessels built with these sheets of steel, much thinner than we have ever used for iron vessels, and they have been thumped and banged against rocks and stones until one of those boats is all dinged…yet there has been no sort of fracture.”

The House Committee on Naval Affairs was sold on the idea. In a follow-up report accompanying H.R. Bill 5001 on March 8, 1882, it states that “after carefully taking the opinions of the most extensive and experienced manufacturers of steel and iron in this country whom we could reach, we have unanimously decided that steel should be used instead of iron…”

The House Committee went on to say if the members of the Naval Advisory Board could have had the same information before them and had been as “fully informed as to the progress, extent and present condition of the manufacture of steel in this country as the committee have been, they would have all united in recommending steel as the only proper material for the construction of vessels of war.”

They weren’t too far off. Once presented with the information, all but one of the Naval Advisory Board dissenters agreed steel was the way to go.

The committee was also pleased to report the United States was able to manufacture steel better than it is made in Europe through the open-hearth method, which was best for ship-building, and there should be no problems in procuring steel “in sufficient quantity and at a reasonable cost.”

It took another year for both sides of Congress to maneuver the March 3, 1883 Naval Appropriations Act that approved four ships with steel hulls for $1.3 million, a far cry from the nearly 90 ships and $30 million the first Naval Advisory Board had recommended. But it was a start.

USS Dolphin (1885-1922), as photographed during the 1890s. Launched in 1884, the dispatch ship Dolphin was the first of the four steel-hulled ships known as the “ABCD” ships to create the “New Navy.” Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

USS Dolphin (1885-1922), as photographed during the 1890s. Launched in 1884, the dispatch ship Dolphin was the first of the four steel-hulled ships known as the “ABCD” ships to create the “New Navy.” Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

William Hunt, the man who jump-started the Navy’s reconstruction in 13 months, would never see his dream come to fruition. He was replaced as SECNAV by President Chester A. Arthur in April 1882 with one of his own political choices: William Eaton Chandler. Despite his ill health, Hunt was appointed ambassador to Russia, and he died at Petersburg in Feb. 1884, just two months before USS Dolphin, the first of the steel-hulled Navy he helped formulate, was launched in April.

 –NHHC–

 NOTE TO MEDIA: For additional information about naval history, please contact the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division at 202-433-7880 or via email at NHHCPublicAffairs@navy.mil

 
Nov 6

Navigating the WAVES in World War II

Thursday, November 6, 2014 6:00 AM
U.S. Naval Training Center, Women's Reserve (USS Hunter), The Bronx, New York Some of the schools trainees march in formation behind their color guard, during World War II. This Training Center, located in the facilities of Hunter College, provided basic training for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard women recruits. The Center's flag features the fouled anchor and propeller device of the Women's Reserve. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

U.S. Naval Training Center, Women’s Reserve (USS Hunter), The Bronx, New York
Some of the schools trainees march in formation behind their color guard, during World War II.
This Training Center, located in the facilities of Hunter College, provided basic training for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard women recruits. The Center’s flag features the fouled anchor and propeller device of the Women’s Reserve. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

 

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

It was 72 years ago today when Navy installations were hit with a tsunami of WAVES. Not the watery kind, but Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.

Earlier that summer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed Public Law 689 allowing women to enlist in the newly formed U.S. Naval Reserves (Women’s Reserves). To say it was a success is an understatement. Within the first year, there were more than 27,000 WAVES in the Navy’s ranks.

After the United States was dragged into World War II by the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the need for men to go to sea was a top priority. The Army had already established its WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps), but that was an auxiliary corps that worked with the Army. The WAVES were in the Navy. It wasn’t until July 1, 1943 that WAAC lost that second “A” to become Women’s Army Corps.

But with thousands of women willing to serve, how best to integrate them into the Navy? With boot camps, of course. Although that didn’t happen for the first WAVES class, according to Jacqueline Van Voris in her unpublished manuscript “Quiet Victory: The WAVES in World War II.”

Specialist (T) Katherine Dillon, USNR (W) monitors a radio range chart, while serving as a Link Trainer Instructor at Naval Air Station, St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 3, 1943. She follows the Link trainer's "flight path", and, if the pilot becomes "lost", points out his error. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

Specialist (T) Katherine Dillon, USNR (W) monitors a radio range chart, while serving as a Link Trainer Instructor at Naval Air Station, St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 3, 1943.
She follows the Link trainer’s “flight path”, and, if the pilot becomes “lost”, points out his error.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

Van Voris instructed pilots on instrument flying as a Link Trainer (the flight simulators in which Navy flight students learned instrument flying) from 1944-46.

“At one point it was thought Navy training and job training could be done at the same time,” Van Voris wrote. That was soon recognized as a mistake, but for the first two months, there was no boot camp for WAVES.

All recruits started as Seamen. Masses of material were covered in class, Van Voris wrote.

“New recruits were warned that one midshipman dropped her pencil during a history lecture and while she was picking it up missed all of the naval battles of the civil war,” quipped Van Voris.

Once it was established the recruits needed a boot camp to learn Navy traditions, customs, courtesy and discipline, New York became the training base for all WAVES by 1943 when USS Hunter opened at the Bronx campus of Hunter College. The Navy, at the cost of $1 million a year, rented the entire campus for WAVES training. And since the school had no residential dorms, New York City paid to move residents from 17 apartments adjacent to USS Hunter, Van Voris writes in “Quiet Victory.” Within two months, all was approved and USS Hunter U.S. Navy Training School (WR) was commissioned Feb. 8, 1943.

The first regiment of women totaled 1,993. Every two weeks, another 1,600 to 1,700 women would begin indoctrination.

Most of the key officers were men, many who had no idea what the (WR) meant on their new billet orders. “After recovering from the initial shock of being assigned to new duties involving Navy women, they used their experience in accomplishing the apparently impossible,” Van Voris wrote.

One in particular was Lt. Herbert S. Schwab, a supply officer, whose job was furnishing the first 13 apartment buildings to house 6,000 women, with 10 girls to each apartment with bunk beds, a chest of drawers, a table and a couple of chairs. After 16 months at sea, he was halfway home to Flatbush when he realized the WR meant Women’s Reserves. In an interview with the New Yorker, Schwab said the job was a revelation. “Don’t think it doesn’t make you feel peculiar to be ordering face powder instead of chewing tobacco,” he remarked.

When questioned by a mirror vendor whether to hang the mirrors vertically or horizontally so they could share, the married Schwab wisely pointed out two women would never use an 18×20-inch mirror at the same time, so hang them vertically.

Each recruit got four sheets, two pillowcases, four towels, a bed pad and two blankets. The first 6,000 bedspreads came from the converted passenger liners Manhattan and America.

Lt. j.g. Harriet Ida Pickens (left) and Ensign Frances Wills are photographed after graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Northampton, Massachusetts, in Dec. 1944. They were the Navy's first African-American "WAVES" officers. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Lt. j.g. Harriet Ida Pickens (left) and
Ensign Frances Wills
are photographed after graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Northampton, Massachusetts, in Dec. 1944. They were the Navy’s first African-American “WAVES” officers.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

It took two weeks for the women to get their tailored uniforms by fashion designer-label Mainbocher. Until then, they wore their uniform cover (hat) with blue crown and brim, civilian clothes, and GI-issued shoes. It cost only $5 more to outfit a WAVE than a Sailor, Van Voris noted. For $200, recruits received two blue suits, three long sleeved navy blue shirts, two white shirts, two navy ties, two light blue ones, one pair of navy gloves, two pairs white gloves and one navy topcoat, two hats and a rain cover. That also included four pairs of stockings, shoes, galoshes, a leather purse and summer work clothes.

There were a lot of adjustments for all involved. But as the first WAVE Director Lt. Cmdr. Mildred McAfee pointed out, WAVES had the ability to safely navigate troubled waters as they set up the administrative chain of command, and sailed to the end with “sturdy grace.”

Navy WAVE trainee leans on a swab while cleaning her barracks, soon after she arrives at a Naval Training Center during World War II prior to April 1944. Note her suitcases at right, and dungaree working uniform with button fly. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Navy WAVE trainee leans on a swab while cleaning her barracks, soon after she arrives at a Naval Training Center during World War II prior to April 1944. Note her suitcases at right, and dungaree working uniform with button fly. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

The cafeteria at USS Hunter served 15,000 meals a day for the WAVES. Almost immediately, the male cooking staff discovered some differences between male and female recruits. The women required more than 23 minutes per meal than had been allotted to their male counterparts at their boot camp, and while men might eat and grumble about the food, the commissary officer immediately heard a “gabble of high-pitched voices informing him of women’s food preferences,” Van Voris recounted.

Those problems were resolved as an increasing number of WAVES were used in the commissary, and by August 1943, a school for cooks and bakers was established. After that, Hunter became known for its good food, strong coffee and fresh baked bread, Van Voris noted.

Everywhere they marched they sang. From maudlin to the irreverent. Popular songs, spirituals, even men’s service songs, plus their own WAVES songs they made up, including this one:

Three worthy gents we all admire,

Three who saved the day,

Three who made our lives worthwhile,

Dewey, Decatur and Mainbocher.

"WAVES' Anniversary", 1943 Cartoon by Sixta, USNR, depicting events and activities in the first year following the 30 July 1942 authorization of the WAVES. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. NHHC Photograph.

“WAVES’ Anniversary”, 1943
Cartoon by Sixta, USNR, depicting events and activities in the first year following the 30 July 1942 authorization of the WAVES.
Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC.
NHHC Photograph.

President Roosevelt, in a speech on the second anniversary of the Women’s Reserves, noted “history will record that the WAVES fulfilled a great purpose. In 500 shore establishments of the fleet, women in uniform took over the work of Navy men. They released enough of them from noncombatant duty to man all our landing craft in two important operations: the Normandy landing on June 6 and the Invasion of Saipan on June 15. The Women’s Reserve will continue to speed the victory day by efficient performance of vital duties ashore.”

WAVES study aircraft mechanics at Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N.J., during World War II. Seaman 2nd Class Elaine Olsen (left) and Seaman 2nd Class Ted Snow are learning to take down a radial aircraft engine block. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

WAVES study aircraft mechanics at Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N.J., during World War II.
Seaman 2nd Class Elaine Olsen (left) and Seaman 2nd Class Ted Snow are learning to take down a radial aircraft engine block. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection.

At their peak strength in 1945, there were 86,000 reservists on duty in nearly every type of shore activity, and more than 104,000 women joined the WAVES. Within three years of their formation, women made up 18 percent of total naval force ashore.

“The war experience has underscored the conviction that there is no satisfaction more profound than the commitment of oneself to a cause bigger than one’s own immediate self-interest.” Capt. Mildred McAffee wrote in 1944.

That commitment has continued to this day. In 1948, the Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act allowed women to enlist directly into the military rather than through women’s organizations like the WAVES or WACs. According to the Department of Defense, 14.6 percent of the active-duty force are women. That number swells to 19.5 for women in the reserves and 15.5 percent for those serving in the National Guard.

Information for this blog came from the unpublished manuscript “Quiet Victory: The WAVES in World War II” by author Jacqueline Van Voris. She instructed pilots on instrument flying as a Link Trainer with the WAVES for the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. A copy of the manuscript is in the U.S. Navy Library at the Washington Navy Yard.

 

 DID YOU KNOW

With women now serving on submarines and a female four-star admiral as Vice Chief of Naval Operations, it’s hard to imagine a time when female recruits spent their time singing while drilling. But so it was back in 1943, as reflected by these bits of information published April 1, 1943 in the second edition of the weekly newsletter Great Lakes ALWAV, as well as some insight from those who attended USS Hunter.

Drills opened with a five-minute sing before reviewing and re-emphasizing fundamentals of indoctrination of WAVES in keeping up-to-date on current Navy news, activities of war fronts and Navy leadership.

WAVES training in communications rates (i.e. radioman) were warned to be cautious when people asked what they were being trained for by saying as “hostesses on battleships.”

The beloved designer Mainbocher gave the WAVES a bit of a foreign-legion feel to their uniforms with shoulder-length rain attachments to their covers, making people believe they were a strange order of nuns.

At one point, the rumored nickname for women Marines was “Feathernecks.”

The Arctic Class of 1943 (Jan. 1943) remembered they “slid to breakfast, slopped to lunch and skated back to dinner.” Forward mush was the command given by a platoon leader.

“We are learning the Navy way here,” the girls wrote home. “We hurry up and wait.”

Another girl wrote home from USS Hunter that “People got over fainting in a hurry after a Specialist (enlisted WAVE in charge of platoon) sardonically told the girls ‘that if one fainted while we were marching in formation just to step over her.’ That calmed down the fainting.”

Watches and endless drills. The watch consisted of going into each of 30 apartments once an hour and yelling “All Secure.” Also delivering messages and calling people to the phone.

Captain’s inspection on Saturday that required obsessive cleaning Friday nights to pass the white-glove test. As one girl wrote home: “If they can’t find dust, the beds aren’t smooth enough, the mirror’s streaked, something has to be wrong. It does give purpose to the cleaning and like banging your head on a brick wall, it’s lovely when it’s over.”

Enough WAVES served during World War II to man a major task force: A battleship, two large aircraft carriers, two heavy cruisers, four light cruisers and 15 destroyers.

 

–NHHC–

 

NOTE TO MEDIA: For additional information about naval history, please contact the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division at 202-433-7880 or via email at NHHCPublicAffairs@navy.mil

 

 

 
Nov 5

Sink or Sail: The Options for a Continental Navy Hurting for Professional Military Sailors

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 8:00 AM
Commodore Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1777 Painting by Orlando S. Lagman, after a 19th Century engraving by J.C. Buttre. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Commodore Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1777. Painting by Orlando S. Lagman, after a 19th Century engraving by J.C. Buttre. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

As the American colonies came closer to waging outright war against Great Britain, the Continental Congress was faced with determining how best to protect against invading forces. George Washington had already been tapped as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Many in Congress argued there was a need for a Continental Navy to protect against the British threat of stopping the colonies’ trade and to wreak destruction among shore settlements.

And so it was on Nov. 5, 1775, when it was suggested the new Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy – all seven ships – would be esteemed privateer captain Esek Hopkins from Rhode Island.

Rhode Island had already taken the lead for a nationalized navy Oct. 3, 1775, when its delegates presented to Congress a resolution to build and equip an American fleet. It was a bold move, but lacked specifics.

For days, that resolution to equip two national ships lay on a table. Then on Oct. 13, 1775, Congress learned that Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. George Washington had commandeered three schooners, including one he paid for himself, to intercept enemy supply ships. Pre-empted by Washington, the naysayers gave way and a resolution was passed that day to outfit two more warships to increase the Continental Navy to five ships. By Oct. 30, the Marine Committee got Congress to authorize two additional armed vessels and increase the size of the committee to 11 to handle all naval regulations, guidelines and shipbuilding.

With the decision to form a Continental Navy behind them, Congress was then faced with finding the right commander in chief to lead their ships into battle against the formidable Royal Navy. At the time, the American colonies had plenty of captains with experience either as merchantmen or privateers guarding specific towns and harbors.

Again, Rhode Island took the lead. Gov. Stephen Hopkins served on the Marine Committee because his family owned a shipbuilding company. He suggested his older brother, Esek Hopkins, a privateer captain in his 60s who had just been named commander in chief of Rhode Island’s armed vessels and a brigadier general.

Not that the elder Hopkins didn’t have experience. As a privateer, he had sailed for England against the Spanish merchant fleets during King George’s War of 1743-48 and the French merchant ships during the French and Indian War of 1754-63.

As he gained experience as a captain, his reputation and wealth grew from his captures. He had a strong, magnetic and charismatic personality that helped him recruit and lead his crew.

On Nov. 5, 1775, Hopkins was appointed as the man to lead the Continental Navy. It was not an easy transition for either Hopkins or Congress.

The British, with their long tradition of naval superiority, had trained their top commanders from the bottom up, as had the French navy. As professional naval officers, they had rules and regulations in place that offered guidance to the lowliest seaman to the most senior of admirals. Throughout their careers they had been taught and groomed to plan for and execute employment of naval forces in support of national objectives.

With no national navy, the Americans didn’t have at their disposal a cadre of well-trained career naval officers versed in leading strategic fleet battles. Hopkins, as a privateer, also had no real guidance on how to act as the top national naval officer.

According to Dennis Conrad, Ph.D., historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command, this was a huge challenge for many entering service in the fledgling Navy but especially from those expected to lead it.

“They went from being free agents to managing a fleet, and they didn’t have that type of experience,” said Conrad. “Instead of attacking strategically as a fleet, they tended to attack individually.”

Further complicating Hopkins’ job was that on Nov. 25, 1775, Congress began issuing commissions for captains of cruisers and privateers authorizing them to begin engaging British maritime traffic. However, those crews were allowed to keep everything they captured, while Continental Navy crews were allowed to keep only half (the other half went to the treasury). In effect, Hopkins was competing for talent that we being recruited by privateers at twice the money he could offer.

“It was hard to get a full complement of crew on his ships,” Conrad said. “It was difficult to compete against the more lucrative privateer trade. And he was under a lot of pressure to capture ships.”

In mid-February 1776, Commodore Hopkins, in his flagship man-of-war Alfred, sailed from Philadelphia under orders to attack British maritime forces in the Chesapeake Bay, along the southern coast and off Rhode Island.

Oil painting on canvas by V. Zveg, 1973, depicting Continental Sailors and Marines landing on New Providence Island, Bahamas, on March 3, 1776. Their initial objective, Fort Montagu, is in the left distance. Close off shore are the small vessels used to transport the landing force to the vicinity of the beach. They are (from left to right): two captured sloops, schooner Wasp and sloop Providence. The other ships of the American squadron are visible in the distance. The operation was commanded by Commodore Esek Hopkins. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Oil painting on canvas by V. Zveg, 1973, depicting Continental Sailors and Marines landing on New Providence Island, Bahamas, on March 3, 1776. Their initial objective, Fort Montagu, is in the left distance. Close off shore are the small vessels used to transport the landing force to the vicinity of the beach. They are (from left to right): two captured sloops, schooner Wasp and sloop Providence. The other ships of the American squadron are visible in the distance. The operation was commanded by Commodore Esek Hopkins. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Hopkins decided his orders were too ambitious for his cobbled-together 7-ship fleet. So instead his ships undertook the Navy’s first amphibious offense when on March 3, 1776, a landing party put Marines ashore on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. The Marines seized local defense works and captured equipment and supplies crucial for the rebellious American colonies.

After capturing two British warships early in April, Hopkins faced the 30-gun frigate HMS Glasgow. Although seriously damaged, Glasgow managed to get away. When he returned to New London, Conn., on April 8 with much-needed munitions, John Hancock, president of Congress, initially praised Hopkins’ actions. But for the southern delegates, Hopkins’ disobedience of orders to cruise in the Chesapeake Bay created dissent against the Rhode Island native.

Another strike against Hopkins, ever loyal to his birthplace, was when he delivered 26 cannons captured from those warships to Newport rather than turning them over at Philadelphia. Congress demanded 20 of the heaviest cannons be returned.

Hopkins asked the Rhode Island council to comply, but they refused to give up the armament providing defense and protection of the colony’s harbors.

He was censured for breach of orders on Aug. 12, although he remained in charge of the national fleet. For the next several months, at a variety of locations, Hopkins continued to run into the problem of manning his ships, hampered by illness, desertion and seamen joining the more lucrative legalized piracy of the privateer ships. By December 1776, back in Providence Harbor and bottled in by the British fleet, Hopkins was a commodore without a fleet to sail.

He wrote to a Rhode Island delegate in Congress expressing his wishes that while “I shall not desert the cause,” but he wished “with all my heart” the Marine Committee would replace him with someone who could achieve more.

Congress gave him his wish on March 26, 1777, when they suspended him from his command, but not because Hopkins was unable to man his ships: Two of his former officers had accused him of ordering the torture of British prisoners of war.

The suspension became permanent on Jan. 2, 1778. Hopkins filed a criminal libel lawsuit against the two officers, both of whom were from Rhode Island. The whistleblowers reported back to Congress on July 23, 1778 they had been jailed and were being persecuted for doing what they felt was right. Congress threw their support to the younger officers, terminating Hopkins from the Navy on July 30, 1778 and enacting what is now known as the “whistleblowers protection act.” On May 22, 1779, Congress authorized the payment of $1,418 to cover the defendants’ attorney fees after winning their case in the Rhode Island court.

USS Hopkins, at anchor circa 1904, a 408-ton destroyers built at Wilmington, Del., was commissioned in September 1903. Hopkins accompanied the "Great White Fleet" on its long voyage around South America to California. In May 1917 Hopkins began World War I escort and patrol work off Central America, the Atlantic Coast and Bermuda. No longer needed after the fighting ended, USS Hopkins was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, in June 1919. She was stricken from the Navy List in October 1919 and sold for scrapping in September 1920.

USS Hopkins, at anchor circa 1904, a 408-ton destroyers built at Wilmington, Del., was commissioned in September 1903. Hopkins accompanied the “Great White Fleet” on its long voyage around South America to California. In May 1917 Hopkins began World War I escort and patrol work off Central America, the Atlantic Coast and Bermuda. No longer needed after the fighting ended, USS Hopkins was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, in June 1919. She was stricken from the Navy List in October 1919 and sold for scrapping in September 1920.

It was a slow and rocky start, perhaps, for the Continental Navy, but by the end of the American Revolution, the Continental Navy sent to sea more than 50 armed vessels of various types. They took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. In addition, the navy provided diplomatic crises that helped bring France into the war against Great Britain.

But perhaps most important, the Marine Committee created the rules, regulations, training and education that would build and train generations of professional Sailors, equipping them for decision making positions and command in today’s Navy.

 –NHHC–

 NOTE TO MEDIA: For additional information about naval history, please contact the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division at 202-433-7880 or via email at NHHCPublicAffairs@navy.mil

 

 

 
Nov 1

Two Services, One Fight: Navy, Coast Guard Remain Important Maritime Partners

Saturday, November 1, 2014 8:00 AM
USCGC Northland, pictured above in Greenland, circa 1944, had an active career with the Coast Guard during World War II rescuing stranded Army Air Force crewmen in Greenland and attacking German weather stations and supply trawlers.

USCGC Northland, pictured above in Greenland, circa 1944, had an active career with the Coast Guard during World War II rescuing stranded Army Air Force crewmen in Greenland and attacking German weather stations and supply trawlers.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

While most of the nation was adamant about keeping the United States out of what was developing into World War II during the early years of 1939-40, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of his cabinet were probably all-too aware it was just a matter of time before the country would be pulled into another war in Europe.

And so it was during a series of moves on Roosevelt’s part from 1939 to just a month before Pearl Harbor that he quietly orchestrated getting the country ready for war.

Available Here: http://youtu.be/aPptcCivb9E Produced by the National Naval Aviation Museum, this video provides a 40 second overview of the Coast Guard’s role as a part of the Navy in World War II.

Available Here: http://youtu.be/aPptcCivb9E
Produced by the National Naval Aviation Museum, this video provides a 40 second overview of the Coast Guard’s role as a part of the Navy in World War II.

 

One of those moves was Nov. 1, 1941, when Roosevelt placed the Coast Guard under the Department of Navy. The announcement was made the day after USS Reuben James (DD 245) became the first ship lost to enemy action in World War II when it was sunk by a German U-boat torpedo, killing 115 of her crew.

Roosevelt was already using the Coast Guard for enforcement of the Neutrality Act as far east as Greenland. The country was operating under an “unlimited national emergency” when the Coast Guard cutter Northland (PG 49) seized the Norwegian trawler Buskoe en route to establish German radio weather stations in Greenland. It was the first U.S. seizure of a ship since the War of 1812.

At the time of the Nov. 1 announcement, the Coast Guard brought 613 officers, 764 warrant officers, 17,450 enlisted, 199 Cadets and 525 ships.

At the height of World War II, the Coast Guard had 170,000 in the fight, including 1,000 officers and 10,000 female SPARS, with 3,395 vessels.

It wasn’t the first time, and certainly wasn’t be the last, that the Coast Guard has worked side-by-side with her sister service. In fact, they have done so in every conflict since during every conflict since the ratification of the Constitution.

But this time it was different. During World War I, the Coast Guard was integrated within the Navy Department, but Coasties were often mixed in with Navy crews. During World War II, however, the Coast Guard remained its own separate force, similar to how the Marines operate under the Department of the Navy, according to historian Chris Havern of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Historian’s Office Office .

“The biggest difference was the organization and the manner in which the transition was conducted,” Havern explained.

“Late in the war, when the Navy didn’t have the manpower to man some of their vessels, especially patrol frigates, those ships were commanded and manned by Coast Guard personnel,” Havern said. “They also manned Army and Navy transports and logistics vessels in both theaters of operations.”

Commander Frank Erickson poses with a Hoverfly Commander F. A. Erickson, USCG, an expert helicopter pilot and one of the pioneers in the adaptation of this craft for practical purposes is shown here congratulating the rescuing pilot, Ensign W. C. Bolton, USCG, for a job 'well done.'"

Commander Frank Erickson poses with a Hoverfly Commander F. A. Erickson, USCG, an expert helicopter pilot and one of the pioneers in the adaptation of this craft for practical purposes is shown here congratulating the rescuing pilot, Ensign W. C. Bolton, USCG, for a job ‘well done.'”

The Coast Guard brought two very unique skill sets to the Navy: the handling of small boats and craft and the use of helicopters.

“Coast Guardsmen were primarily experienced in handling of small boats and craft, and that was generally not something the Navy did,” Havern said. “Coast Guard personnel participated in amphibious operations on both sides of the war. And when the Navy needed personnel trained in small boats, the Coast Guard became the cadre force that helped in the Navy’s training of landing craft coxswains.”

As the war went on, the Navy devoted more personnel to small boat operations.

“The Coast Guard was integral in disseminating that knowledge to those who would conduct those missions,” Havern said. “They also served in key capacities in planning amphibious missions in both Europe and the Pacific. Coast Guard vessels would be modified so they could become command vessels for amphibious operations in the Pacific.”

The Coast Guard’s value to the Navy during World War II wasn’t limited to the service’s boat skills. The Coasties, with search and rescue as one of its missions, also made an impact in naval aviation.

“One of the Coast Guard’s most significant contributions to the Navy during World War II was the introduction of the helicopter to naval aviation,” according to Hill Goodspeed, historian at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. “It was Coast Guard personnel led by Coast Guard Cmdr. Frank Erickson who evaluated the HNS Hoverfly and conducted experiments in shipboard operations and the use of rotary-wing platforms for search and rescue. The foundation for helicopter operations today rests on the work of these wartime Coast Guardsmen.”

The responsibility of “seagoing development of the helicopter” was given to the Coast Guard by a directive from Adm. Ernest J. King, who at the time was serving as both Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.

In January 1946, control of the Coast Guard reverted back to the Treasury Department until it became part of the Transportation Department in 1967. Nearly 242,000 Coast Guardsmen had served during the war, with 574 combat deaths, plus an additional 1,343 dying from non-combat-related causes (crashes, accidents, disease or drowning).

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team fast rope from an MH-60T Jay Hawk helicopter onto the deck of Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1664 during a joint training event Oct. 6, 2014, in Virginia Beach, Va. LCU-1664 is assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, providing premier ship-to-shore operations in support of combatant commander's tasking. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Patrick Nolan/Released)

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team fast rope from an MH-60T Jay Hawk helicopter onto the deck of Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1664 during a joint training event Oct. 6, 2014, in Virginia Beach, Va. LCU-1664 is assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, providing premier ship-to-shore operations in support of combatant commander’s tasking. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Patrick Nolan/Released)

In 2003, the Coast Guard became a key component in the stand-up of the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security, created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Coast Guardsmen participated in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. A Coast Guardsman killed in action during OIF became the service’s first combat death since the seven lost during Vietnam.

The Coast Guard continues to adapt and evolve within the Department of Homeland Security. The service has 11 statutory missions that include port and waterways security, search and rescue, conduct of military operations, law enforcement, and environmental protection and response.

Havern said the Coast Guard is unique in that it is, by statute, one of the nation’s five armed services, but is outside the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard’s status as an armed service was part of the legislation that combined the Revenue cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915.

He pointed out that Paul Yost, who later became Commandant of the Coast Guard, was the only Coast Guard officer to command a Navy unit during the Vietnam War. He was also instrumental in putting the Harpoon missiles anti-ship missile system onto Coast Guard vessels in the 1980s.

The partnership between the sister services continues today as Coasties and Sailors work together providing joint training with allies, maritime security at sea, counter transnational organized crime operations, as well as diving, salvage and rescue missions.

For additional information about naval history, please contact the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division at 202-433-7880 or via email at NHHCPublicAffairs@navy.mil

 
Oct 25

There’s Ghosts Among the Guns and Galleries at US Navy Museum

Saturday, October 25, 2014 12:13 PM

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

With apologizes to the Addams Family tune

 

It’s creepy and sometimes kooky,

Mysterious and spooky,

With Marines always on duty,

At the Washington Navy Yard

 

On Saturday at the museum,

there will be lots of screamin,

Free from 4-10 to see’em,

At the Washington Navy Yard.

 

The shipyard was put afire,

When the enemy was so dire,

Tingey’s home survived the fire,

At the Washington Navy Yard.

 

Tucked in a wall is a limb,

Of an unlucky colonel so grim,

But it’s no longer used for shim,

At the Washington Navy Yard

 

After the assassination of Lincoln,

As all the people mourned him,

The body of Booth was brought in,

At the Washington Navy Yard.

 

There’s a ghost of a Commodore,

For 52 years walked the corridor,

1881 ends his nocturnal monitor,

When it became Naval Gun Factory.

 

The soldier who was unknown,

Came to peace back at home,

On a ship the color of bone,

At the Washington Navy Yard.

 

After years of shooting weapons,

The residents are still deafened,

Yet a new name again beckons,

Back to the Washington Navy Yard.

 

So now the Yard holds commands,

Like the CNO and the Navy Bands,

Where admirals & COs shake hands,

At the Washington Navy Yard.

 

Go get your cover or cap on,

Or catch a slug to come in on,

Be sure to make a call on,

The Washington Navy Yard.

 

For more about the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s Haunted Gallery from 4-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, click here.

 
Oct 24

Ghastly Ghouls and Ghosts: Something Creepy Comes to the Cold War Gallery

Friday, October 24, 2014 6:00 PM
 Laura Hockensmith, the National Museum for the U.S. Navy's Director of Education and Public Programs, decorates the Cold War Gallery of the NMUSN as part of their 'Haunted Gallery' for Halloween event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

Laura Hockensmith, the National Museum for the U.S. Navy’s Director of Education and Public Programs, decorates the Cold War Gallery of the NMUSN as part of their ‘Haunted Gallery’ for Halloween event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Come on in, my pretties….don’t mind the dark; we’re upgrading the electrical system to stand up to apparitions that go bump in the night. So just follow the person with the flashlight, because nothing could possibly go wrong during your visit to the Haunted Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy, right?

At least that’s Laura Hockensmith’s plan from 4-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25. As the chief ghoul for the All Things Creepy Division within Naval History and Heritage Command, Hockensmith will be inviting one and all to come visit her dark and twisty department hidden among the static displays of the National Museum’s Cold War Gallery.

Spiders galore stalk those brave enough to enter the Haunted Gallery event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25 at the National Museum of the United States Navy.

Spiders galore stalk those brave enough to enter the Haunted Gallery event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25 at the National Museum of the United States Navy.

There’s Arachnophobia Alley where creepy, crawlies wait to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Those who make it past the eternal-looping NMCI web will then be treated to Autopsy Avenue. Who knows, perhaps it will be the body of John Wilkes Booth once again being examined at the Washington Navy Yard…but WHY IS IT STILL MOVING?? And over there, could that be the missing leg of Col. Ulric Dahlgren?

Bonnie Holm decorates the Cold War Gallery of the National Museum for the U.S. Navy as part of their 'Haunted Gallery' for Halloween event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

Bonnie Holm decorates the Cold War Gallery of the National Museum for the U.S. Navy as part of their ‘Haunted Gallery’ for Halloween event from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 25. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

Still unscathed? Then peek into Black Hole Boulevard, because what Cold War Museum wouldn’t have a section to feature the Space Race between Russia and the United States? But don’t look too deep, because that screaming from deep within may be the last sound you hear on Earth.

Tours will be from 4-7 pm. for children 12 and under, while those braver teens who know it all may try to make it through from 7:30-10 p.m.

While the sweet innocents…er…children are waiting to enter the haunted gallery, they can take advantage of arts and crafts time, making treat bags, Halloween-themed picture frames, masks and key chains. There were also be Halloween-themed movies playing in the Constitution Gun Deck, Hockensmith said. And what visit to a Navy Yard wouldn’t be complete without a tattoo (temporary, of course).

Hockensmith commanded her first terror troupe in 2006 when it was hosted onboard the Historic Display Ship Barry. It was held every year since then on the ship until 2013 when the base tightly restricted assess following the Washington Navy Yard shooting the previous month. In previous years, more than 1,000 people would attend the free, family-friendly event, depending on the weather.

But this time, Barry is closed to the public while it prepares for annual maintenance and the pier gets renovated.

It takes about a week to set up the haunted galleries, Hockensmith said, and getting the nearly two-dozen actors/tour guides prepared for their night of terror. While getting on base requires a little extra time, Hockensmith said there will be escorts at the Visitor’s Center bringing people in regularly. All they need is a photo identification for those 18 and older.

“We’ve had a few visitors pee their pants, but mostly it’s all for laughs and having a good time,” Hockensmith said.

For event and access information, call 202-433-6897. And just in case, pack some extra diapers…for children and adults.

To read our nod to the Addams Family tune, click here.

 
Oct 18

Senior Naval Aviator Recognized with Gray Eagle Trophy

Saturday, October 18, 2014 5:06 PM
The Gray Eagle honors the most senior Naval aviator with continuous active-duty service. It started in 1961, but those who would have earned it have their names inscribed on the trophy, beginning with Cmdr. Theodore Ellyson, Naval Aviator No. 1, who would have held the title from June 2, 1911 to Feb. 27, 1928. NHHC photo

The Gray Eagle Trophy honors the most senior Naval aviator with continuous active-duty service. It started in 1961, but those who would have earned it have their names inscribed on the trophy, beginning with Cmdr. Theodore Ellyson, Naval Aviator No. 1, who would have held the title from June 2, 1911 to Feb. 27, 1928.
NHHC photo

From the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

While ribbons and medals adorn uniforms and depict a service member’s professional journey, there’s one honor unlikely to be shared by any other naval aviator or worn on a uniform: the Gray Eagle.

It’s exactly as it sounds: A nod to distinguish and recognize the pilot who has the earliest Naval Aviator designation for the longest continuous active-duty service.

For the time the recipient remains the most senior aviator, the trophy may be kept at their command or in the custody of the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. It features a silver eagle landing on the arresting gear of the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1).

The inscription: “The Venerable Order of the Gray Eagle. The Most Ancient Naval Aviator on Active Duty. In recognition of a clear eye, a stout heart, a steady hand, and a daring defiance of gravity and the law of averages.”

Retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, Sector Vice President for Global Logistics and Operational Support at Northrop Grumman, presents Adm. William E. Gortney, the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, with the Gray Eagle Trophy award during a ceremony aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Oct. 18. The Gray Eagle Trophy is presented to the most senior Navy or Marine Corps aviator serving on active duty. Gortney will keep the title as Gray Eagle until he retires and a new active duty Navy or Marine Corps aviator can be named by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations who maintains the official precedence list of prospective Gray Eagles. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan E. Donnelly/Released)

Retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, Sector Vice President for Global Logistics and Operational Support at Northrop Grumman, presents Adm. William E. Gortney, the Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, with the Gray Eagle Trophy award during a ceremony aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Oct. 18. The Gray Eagle Trophy is presented to the most senior Navy or Marine Corps aviator serving on active duty. Gortney will keep the title as Gray Eagle until he retires and a new active duty Navy or Marine Corps aviator can be named by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations who maintains the official precedence list of prospective Gray Eagles. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan E. Donnelly/Released)

 

The newest person with that “clear eye, stout heart and steady hand” is Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. He received the Gray Eagle Trophy Award Saturday afternoon, Oct. 18, just prior to the U.S. Fleet Forces Band Birthday Concert aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during Fleet Week Hampton Roads’ celebration of the Navy’s 239th birthday.

Adm. “shortney” Gortney has amassed more than 5,360 mishap-free flight hours and 1,265 carrier-arrested landings over his nearly 38-year career, primarily in the A-7E Corsair II and the F/A-18 Hornet. He spent that time flying in support of maritime security operations and combat operations in the U.S. Central Command for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, including stints with Carrier Strike Group 10 onboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Carrier Air Wing 7 onboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and VFA-15 onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

GRAY EAGLE AWARD (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan E. Donnelly/Released)

GRAY EAGLE AWARD (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan E. Donnelly/Released)

 

Prior to that, Gortney served with Attack Squadron 82 onboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68), VFA-87 onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt; served as executive officer of both VFA-132 onboard USS Forrestal (CV 59) and VFA-15 onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, and deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing Seven onboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

The Gray Eagle Trophy Award was established in 1960, making its first appearance in 1961 during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Naval Aviation when it was presented to Adm. Charles R. Brown. Naval aviators who would have earned the distinction if it had been in existence were also given the honor, beginning with Cmdr. Theodore Ellyson, Naval Aviator No. 1, who would have held it from June 2, 1911 to Feb. 27, 1928, up through and including Vice Adm. Thomas S. Combs. Combs would have held the honor from Oct. 1, 1959 to April 1, 1960.)

The trophy was originally sponsored by Chance Vought Aircraft, which after several acquisitions, was folded into Northrop Grumman Corporation in 1994. Retired Vice Admiral Jim Zortman presented the trophy to Gortney.

Gortney’s military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (four awards), Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Air Medal (three awards: Gold Numeral One, two Strike/Flight), Defense Commendation Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Sea Service Ribbon (8 awards), and the Overseas Service Ribbon (2 awards).

 

 
Oct 17

Remembering the First Black Women Naval Officers

Friday, October 17, 2014 12:01 PM
Lt. j.g. Harriet Ida Pickens (left) and Ensign Frances Wills are photographed after graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Northampton, Massachusetts, in Dec. 1944. They were the Navy's first African-American "WAVES" officers. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Lt. j.g. Harriet Ida Pickens (left) and
Ensign Frances Wills
are photographed after graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Northampton, Massachusetts, in Dec. 1944. They were the Navy’s first African-American “WAVES” officers.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

 

By Regina T. Akers, Ph.D., Naval History and Heritage Command, Histories and Archives Division

 “Navy to admit Negroes into the WAVES,” so read the newspaper headlines Oct. 19, 1944. For the first time black women would be commissioned naval officers as members of the Navy’s female reserve program.

The program first made news July 30, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law. Their official nickname was WAVES, an acronym for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. It would be two more years before the WAVES became open to all women.

It was not an easy journey. During the Congressional hearings Thomasina Walker of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Non-Partisan Political Council testified the legislation creating the Navy’s female reserve program should include a non-discrimination clause so all eligible women could volunteer to serve. Her argument fell on deaf ears. Public Law 689 creating the program did not specify blacks could not be recruited, yet they were denied the opportunity to do so for most of the war.

Whites and blacks representing civic, religious, and civil rights organizations across the country urged the Navy to recruit black women. The black press published articles about blacks being turned away at recruitment offices and the individuals and organizations demanding the Navy reverse its policy of exclusion. During a campaign speech in Chicago, Thomas Dewey, the Republican candidate in the 1944 presidential election, accused his opponent President Franklin D. Roosevelt of discriminating against blacks by not allowing them to become WAVES.

Citizens expressed their opposition to the Navy’s policy of excluding blacks from the WAVES by sending letters and petitions to President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy William “Frank” Knox. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt held a meeting with military and civilian leaders to discuss the issue.

Capt. Mildred McAfee, the WAVES director, supported diversity but she was well aware of Secretary Knox’s objections. She is reported to have overheard him saying that “[Blacks] would be in the WAVES over his dead body.” James Forrestal succeeded Knox after a fatal heart attack in April 1944. The new Navy Secretary did not believe a segregated Navy was cost-effective or made the best use of naval personnel. Under his leadership, the WAVES and the Navy Nurse Corps integrated.

Frances Wills(left) and Harriet Ida Pickens are sworn in Nov. 16, 1944 as Apprentice Seamen by Lt. Rosamond D. Selle, USNR, at New York City. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Frances Wills (left) and Harriet Ida Pickens are sworn in Nov. 16, 1944 as Apprentice Seamen by Lt. Rosamond D. Selle, USNR, at New York City. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Harriet Ida Pickens, a public health worker, and social worker Frances Elizabeth Wills distinguished themselves in mid-December, 1944 as the first black women to receive their commissions in the U.S. Navy. Pickens’ father, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People advocated for the diversity of the WAVES program.

Interestingly, there were Japanese and Native American WAVES before Pickens and Wills. The Navy assigned Pickens as a physical training instructor and Wills as a classification test administrator at the main enlisted WAVES training facility at Hunter College in New York City, also known as USS Hunter. More than 70 blacks joined the enlisted ranks by Sept. 2, 1945. Among them was Edna Young, one of the first enlisted WAVES to later be sworn into the regular Navy.

Rear Adm. George L. Russell, USN, swears in the first six women in the Regular Navy on July 7, 1948, while the Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, far left, looks on. Capt. Joy B. Hancock, Director of the Women's Reserve, is to RADM Russell's left The first six enlisted women are: Front row: (left to right) Chief Yeoman Wilma J. Marchal, USN; Yeoman Second Class Edna E. Young, USN; Hospital Corpsman First Class Ruth Flora, USN Second row: (left to right) Aviation Storekeeper First Class Kay L. Langen, USN; Storekeeper Second Class Frances T. Devaney, USN; and Teleman Doris R. Robertson, USN NHHC Collection

Rear Adm. George L. Russell, USN, swears in the first six women in the Regular Navy on July 7, 1948, while the Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, far left, looks on. Of the six enlistees, Yeoman Second Class Edna E. Young is in the center. She later becomes the first female African American promoted to rank of chief petty officer.NHHC Collection  

During the past 70 years, black women across the ranks, ratings and communities have had outstanding careers in the Navy, including the following:

Edna Young was the first of her race and gender to be promoted to the rank of chief petty officer.

Brenda Robinson, the first black aviator, and Matice Wright, a naval flight officer, excelled in naval aviation.

Vivian McFadden integrated the Navy Chaplain Corps.

Janie Mines was the first black woman Naval Academy graduate.

Joan C. Bynum, a Navy nurse was the first black woman naval officer to attain the rank of captain (0-6).

  • Rear Adm. Lillian E. Fishburne, was the first African American woman to achieve that rank in the U.S. Navy.

    Rear Adm. Lillian E. Fishburne, was the first African American woman to achieve that rank in the U.S. Navy.

Lillian E. Fishburne, a communications officer, was the first of her race and gender to reach the rank of rear admiral in 1998.

Fleet Master Chief April Beldo is one of a select few men or women to become a fleet or force master chief.

Annie Anderson is the third black woman flag officer

  • WASHINGTON (July 1, 2014) Adm. Michelle Howard lends a hand to Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus as he and Wayne Cowles, Howard's husband, put four-star shoulder boards on Howard's service white uniform during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Howard is the first woman to be promoted to the rank of admiral in the history of the Navy and will assume the duties and responsibilities as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations from Adm. Mark Ferguson. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

    WASHINGTON (July 1, 2014) Adm. Michelle Howard lends a hand to Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus as he and Wayne Cowles, Howard’s husband, put four-star shoulder boards on Howard’s service white uniform during her promotion ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Howard is the first woman to be promoted to the rank of admiral in the history of the Navy and will assume the duties and responsibilities as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations from Adm. Mark Ferguson. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

On July 1, 2014, Michelle J. Howard reached unprecedented heights with her promotion to the rank of four-star admiral and assignment as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Navy’s first woman to hold that rank and position. Media outlets around the world celebrated her achievements. Howard is making history and doing a job that is reflective of her outstanding warfighting, leadership, and command abilities.

Just as the Navy was better with Pickens, Wills and the 70 enlisted women who followed them, it is better with Adm. Howard. Howard, like the first black female naval officers before her, is paving the way for even greater opportunities for women.

 

Regina Akers, PhD

Akers

Regina Akers, Ph.D., is an archivist and historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command based out of the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

 
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