Archive for the 'Oral History' Category

Feb 6

Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Maxie Brashear, the U.S. Navy’s First African American Master Diver

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 12:01 AM

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Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl M. Brashear, USN (Ret.) (1931-2006)

Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Maxie Brashear (1931-2006) used a rare combination of grit, determination, and persistence to overcome formidable hurdles to become the first black master diver in the U.S. Navy. His race was an obstacle, as were his origin on a sharecropper’s farm in rural Kentucky and the modest amount of education he received there. But these were not his greatest challenges. He was held back by an even bigger factor: In 1966 his left leg was amputated just below the knee because he was badly injured on a salvage operation. After the amputation, the Navy sought to… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 3

Captain Howard J. Kerr Jr., USN (Retired) on Admiral Zumwalt’s Z-grams

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 12:01 AM

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Captain Howard J. Kerr Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)

In this selection, Captain Kerr speaks about the impact Admiral Zumwalt’s Z-grams had among his crew. Kerr was an aide to Admiral Zumwalt as Commander U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam and commanding officer of the USS Hawkins (DD-873), a unit of the “Mod Squad”–a Zumwalt concept to give more junior officers greater responsibility. Kerr gave two interviews in September and November 1982. The transcript contains 164 pages. Captain Howard J. Kerr Jr.’s interview is one of five contained in the first of a series of volumes containing interviews with officers who served closely with Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. These interviews were conducted… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 29

Rear Admiral B. Robert Erly, USN (Retired) Recounts the Air Raid on Pearl Harbor

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 9:07 AM

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RADM Robert Erly, USN (Ret.)

In this selection from his second interview with Paul Stillwell at the U.S. Naval Institute on 7 September 1988, Admiral Erly recounts his arrival by car in the middle of the air raid on Pearl Harbor and his efforts to fight the fires on the drydocked destroyers USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) and the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) on 7 December 1941. Based on six interviews, conducted by Paul Stillwell from May 1987 to April 1992. The volume contains 459 pages of interview transcript plus a comprehensive index. The transcript is copyright 2015 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 25

Remembering the First U.S. Pilot Shot Down in the Vietnam War

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 12:01 AM

By

Commander Everett Alvarez Jr.

The new Ken Burns documentary series on the Vietnam War has generated a variety of responses, both positive and negative. Above all, it has rekindled the public’s interest in and awareness of a conflict that defined a generation. The U.S. Naval Institute Oral History Collection includes the memoirs of several Vietnam War POWs–including that of Commander Everett Alvarez Jr., USN (Ret.), the first U.S. pilot shot down in the Vietnam War. Based on two interviews conducted by Etta-Belle Kitchen in March 1976, Alvarez’s oral history contains 134 pages of interview transcript plus an index and appendix. On 5 August 1964,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 29

The Hudson River Chain

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 12:27 PM

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Tom Martin (My Dad) 1971

  We sometimes forget our parents were not born adults. They were children and teenagers first, who did silly things. When it comes to my dad, Tom Martin, the man who must follow the arrows in a parking lot, it is hard to imagine him pulling a prank, especially during his U.S. Coast Guard Academy years. Each year at the Coast Guard Academy, the fourth-class (freshman) cadets pull pranks the night before the first home football game. So during my dad’s fourth-class year in 1971, he and some classmates set their sights high. The Coast Guard Academy is home to… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Sep 2

Tales from a Tarawa Marine

Friday, September 2, 2016 3:05 PM

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Roy Elrod was a first lieutenant when he led his four-gun 37-mm antitank platoon ashore on Tarawa Atoll's Betio Island.

In the course of my duties as the oral historian for the U.S. Marine Corps History Division, I interview Marines, all ranks and all time periods. I was made aware of Lieutenant Colonel Roy H. Elrod in an unusual manner: through family friends from Muleshoe, Texas. This is where I grew up and, coincidentally, where Roy grew up, but about 30 years apart. Now Roy and I live within five miles of each other, but more than 1,500 miles from Muleshoe, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I was quite impressed when I met Roy. Here he was 93 years old; he lived… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 4

The Founding of the WAVES

Thursday, August 4, 2016 12:01 AM

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Captain Mildred McAfee, USNR. U.S. Naval Institute

On July 30th, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law legislation that authorized the U.S. Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers. These were the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service — the WAVES. The WAVES were led by Captain Mildred McAfee (1900-1994). Prior to the war she was President of Wellesley College. She commanded over 82,000 women in her role as director of the WAVES, helped found the Coast Guard’s SPAR program, and received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for her service. She married Dr. Rev. Douglas Horton after the war. In the early… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 26

‘Life was very simple. Very simple’

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 12:01 AM

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Midshipmen with sweethearts in 1903
(U.S. Naval Archive)

Mary Taylor Alger Smith was born on 1 May 1892 and grew up at the U.S. Naval Academy, where her father, Philip R. Alger, a naval officer, was assigned. Below are a few quick excerpts from her descriptions of life at the turn of the 20th century. Despite Mary Smith’s statement that “life was very simple” back then, I think these stories below demonstrate people have not changed: children getting into trouble, girls meeting boys, socializing, dating. Perhaps the things that have changed are our clothes and hairstyles.   Q: How did you arrange a date with a midshipmen if… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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