Archive for the 'Oral History' Category

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 »

 
Apr 15

I Still Hear Her Scream

Friday, April 15, 2016 12:01 AM

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NADC-FD-00004---image-of-1968-plane-crash_72dpi

Morning colors has just been played and Old Glory streams from the flagstaff. The morning muster formations are breaking up and the enlisted men and officers are heading for their duty stations. It’s Tuesday and I have a meeting with my boss to discuss a proposed air show that we are considering for Armed Forces Day. It is May 14, 1968, and the Vietnam War is raging in southeast Asia and enraging our nation. The consensus of the senior officers is that we should put on an aerial acrobatic display for the local community as part of the annual commemoration…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 22

Life as a Dependent

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 12:01 AM

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“I say ‘we’ because don’t tell me wives don’t have [duty], too.”—Mary Smith, wife of Commander Roy Campbell Smith Jr., U.S. Navy

Our men and women in uniform are not the only ones who serve their country; the spouses and families of each service member do so as well. John Mason Jr., the former director of the U.S. Naval Institute’s oral history program, interviewed Frances Smalley Mitscher and Mary Taylor Alger Smith to get their side of Navy life in first half of the 20th century. Mary Smith grew up on the U.S. Naval Academy grounds, where she met her future husband, Roy Campbell Smith Jr., who was a midshipman. They married on 1 August 1912 when he was an ensign. Over… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 8

A Lack of Seatbelt Saves a Life

Monday, February 8, 2016 12:01 AM

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De Havilland DH-4

Colgate W. Darden, a U.S. Navy aviator during World War I, received his wings in 1918 and went to France as a Marine Corps flier. Shortly before the end of the war, he was involved in a terrible plane accident. He was sitting in the rear of a De Havilland DH-4 with pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot (USMCR) on 25 October 1918. Darden, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was flung from the airplane, which burst into flames, killing Talbot. Below is an excerpt from Darden’s Oral History conducted by Dr. John T. Mason in… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 22

So You Want to Interview a Kamikaze

Friday, January 22, 2016 12:01 AM

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Kaoru Hasegawa. Naval Institute photo archives.

The call came to our headquarters at the Naval Academy’s Preble Hall in mid-1995. It was retired Navy Captain Bill Horn, asking whether I’d be interested in an interview with a Japanese kamikaze from World War II. Without logically pondering the idea, I blurted out “Of course!” Then it slowly began to sink in. Bill Horn is an intelligent and knowledgeable guy, but I wondered whether somehow he simply had been tricked by a crank caller. If this person were indeed a kamikaze, I wondered, how could he be alive to tell the tale? Captain Horn had the answer. At… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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