Thursday, July 31, 2014

Naval Air Station Norfolk

World War I erupted in Europe 100 years ago this week. Though the United States managed to avoid entry into the war for over two years, the war presaged the build-up of naval forces in the Hampton Roads region. Among those forces was naval aviation, with a detachment of pilots, mechanics, and seaplanes. Initially located in Newport News, a more suitable location was identified in the fall of 1917 to establish a permanent aviation detachment.
In this photo you can view a seaplane in the foreground and the tower of the Pennsylvania House
in the background, the initial home of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in 1979.
The site selected was a plot of 150 acres on the former Jamestown Exposition, located in the northeastern corner of the Naval Operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia. With seven seaplanes, five officers, and 20 mechanics on board, the Navy constructed several canvas hangars to house aircraft, framed buildings for repair, smith, and fabric shops, and erected three two-story barracks, along with mess halls. By the end of 1917, the Navy added two H-12, one H-16 seaplane, and one Sopwith Speed Scout to the inventory of planes assigned to the unit. Other aircraft assigned included R-6 and R-9 seaplanes and the HS-2 flying boat. As the result of increased operations, four hangars, an administrative building, a lighter-than-air hydrogen plant, and a dispensary were also constructed.
P. N. L. Bellinger


By the end of the war, the air detachment was recognized as one of the most important sources of trained naval aviators. In recognition of its importance, on August 27, 1918, the detachment became Naval Air Station Hampton Roads, a separate station under its own commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick N. L. Bellinger. The Naval Air Station existed as a separate command until the Navy consolidated it with Naval Station Norfolk in 1999.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Education Director Lee Duckworth.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Golden Thirteen: The Navy's First African American Officers and the Hampton Roads Connection


The Golden Thirteen were put into a consolidated training program that compressed four years of courses into three months. “We decided early in the game that we were going to either sink or swim together – even to the point of studying together after we were supposed to be in bed,” George C. Cooper stated in Paul Stillwell’s book, The Golden Thirteen: Recollections of the First Black Naval Officers.

George C. Cooper, a member of the Golden Thirteen, has a personal connection to Hampton Roads. Cooper graduated from Hampton Institute with an undergraduate degree in vocational education. In 1942 Cooper applied for a position teaching metal smiths at Hampton Institute and through this position Cooper met Commander E. Hall Downes, who ran the naval training school in Hampton, Virginia. 
George Cooper is directly in the center, bottom row.
Cooper joined the Navy in 1943 as a petty officer, and Commander Downes used his influence to get Cooper transferred back to Hampton. Soon Downes had another opportunity for Cooper. An opportunity of a lifetime at Great Lakes Naval Training Station awaited him. After a few rigorous months of training, Cooper became a member of the Golden Thirteen and was transferred back to Hampton Institute, where he became personnel officer for Downes. 

After one year in his new position, Cooper received orders to go to the Pacific. Before going to the Pacific, Cooper was sent to Norfolk, Virginia. While receiving his first real medical exam, the doctors in Norfolk discovered a back injury that Cooper had received while undergoing training in the Great Lakes. They refused to send Cooper to the Pacific and he was released from the Navy on medical discharge.

Cooper and the other members of the Golden Thirteen have left their mark on not just U.S. Naval history, but on American history. “I was the only one of the 13 who could go into the Navy store and put on a uniform and walk out with it,” Cooper explained to Paul Stillwell for his book, The Golden Thirteen: Recollections of the First Black Naval Officers. He further stated, “I was the first black man to wear a naval officers’ uniform because my size was just right.”  

(This blog post was written by HRNM Public Relations Coordinator Susanne Greene.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Captain Arthur Sinclair II, Early American Naval Hero


This historic painting depicts Virginia native Arthur Sinclair II (1780-1831), a man who became known for his naval exploits around the globe. As one of the Commonwealth’s most decorated naval war heroes, Sinclair served aboard USS Constellation in several of its important early engagements and was a Commanding Officer Afloat at Gosport Navy Yard from 1819 to 1830. Sinclair served during three wars: the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812. His three sons also served in the U.S. Navy, but all three resigned in 1861 to fight with the Confederacy.
USS Constellation model 
For much of the War of 1812, Sinclair was assigned to the Great Lakes as part of Commodore Isaac Chauncey’s squadron, where he commanded the warship General Pike in an engagement on Lake Ontario in September 1813. For his valor during another engagement on Lake Erie in 1813, Sinclair received a presentation sword from the Commonwealth of Virginia (now in the Virginia Historical Society’s collection). In 1814, Sinclair commanded the Niagara on Lake Huron and Lake Superior, during which time he directed actions against Fort St. Mary’s and Fort Nautauwassauga. In September of 1818, under the direction of Captain John Cassin, Sinclair superintended the construction of a seventy-four-gun ship at Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. The following year, Sinclair was ordered to take over the commanding duties of Captain John Shaw at Gosport and became Commanding Officer Afloat there from 1819 until 1830. In addition to these duties, Sinclair was instrumental in the establishment of a nautical school for young officers of the Navy on the frigate USS Guerriere in 1821 (the Naval Academy would not open until 1845).  The school operated until 1828, when Guerriere was ordered to duty in the Pacific.

The painting of Arthur Sinclair is currently in the Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s collection.

(This blog post was written by HRNM's Public Relations Coordinator, Susanne Greene.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Hope to "Sea" You at the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference - September 2014

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is partnering in a week-long conference of everything maritime. If your interest is naval history, ship history, Coast Guard, or even pirate history, the downtown Norfolk Marriott is the place to be this September 17-20. In addition to several HRNM staff presenters, there will be an array of noted speakers and historians. Nationally-known author, Clive Cussler, will offer the banquet keynote. So check out the links below and register for the conference today!





(Information for this blog post was provided by HRNM Special Events Coordinator Chris Allen-Shinn.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Return of the Mayflower, by Bernard Gribble



We have several paintings in HRNM’s gallery, but one in particular stands out as we approach the 100th anniversary of the United States’ involvement in World War I. The Return of the Mayflower, by Bernard F. Gribble, illustrates Norfolk-based Destroyer Squadron 8 heading into Queenstown, Ireland, in May of 1917—only a month after the United States declared war on Germany. These U.S. destroyers were the first American ships to arrive in Europe. Britain suffered immense shipping losses due to German U-boat attacks, and this convoy helped turn the tide on the battle against underwater warfare. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned the painting in 1919. In 1933, when Roosevelt became President of the United States, the painting hung in the oval office. Our museum proudly displays a copy of the original piece (the original can be viewed at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland).

Bernard Gribble, a master in oils and watercolors, used darker tones to create a dramatic feeling while filling the canvas with a setting full of crashing waves and eerie clouds. He strategically placed a local British fisherman’s boat on the left side, full of darker shadows, expressing Britain’s despair and turmoil over the war. The fisherman’s boat fills the left side of the canvas, leading the viewer’s eye toward the center, where a United States destroyer steams straight ahead. This particular destroyer is USS Porter (DD 59), which was one of the six destroyers that was part of the mission; the rest include USS Wadsworth (DD 60), USS Conyngham (DD 58), USS McDougal (DD 54), and USS Wainwright (DD 62). The American destroyers are highlighted by sunlight peering through the parting clouds, emphasizing these ships as signs of hope. This dramatic painting not only displays the artist’s knowledge and skill in oil work, but also shows the power and hope the United States Navy provided worldwide.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Educator Diana Gordon.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

USS New Jersey (BB-16) in World War I



The picture here shows the Virginia-class battleship USS New Jersey (BB-16) in 1918. She is painted in one of the wartime camouflage paint schemes. Commissioned in 1906, she took part in the Jamestown Exposition in 1907 and sailed a few months later with the Great White Fleet for a 14 month cruise around the world. She also participated in the Vera Cruz expedition in 1914.

By the outbreak of World War I, New Jersey was too outdated to actively participate in fleet action. Like her sister ship USS Nebraska, the ship proved a valuable training tool for the wartime Navy, operating in the Chesapeake Bay. In 1923, the ship was sunk off of Cape Hatteras as part of Billy Mitchell's famous bombing tests.

New Jersey being bombed in 1923

Monday, July 7, 2014

Atlantic Fleet in Iceland, July 7, 1941

On July 7, 1941, a strong Atlantic Fleet escort force dropped anchor in Reykjavik harbor, Iceland. The U.S. 1st Marine brigade disembarked - the first large scale American military operation of World War II, the occupation of Iceland. 
 
The escort force steaming into Reykjavik harbor, as seen from the quarterdeck of USS
New York (BB-34). The ship astern of New York is USS Arkansas (BB-33), followed by
USS Brooklyn (CL-40) and USS Nashville (CL-43). The gun mount is a 3"/50 caliber gun.
On the left is a quick-release life ring. National Archives photo.     
Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt had become increasingly concerned about German interest in Iceland, an island which Churchill referred to as “a pistol firmly pointed at England, America, and Canada.” Iceland, which was defenseless after the German invasion of Denmark, had tried to maintain neutrality but in the end reluctantly accepted British occupation.

The United States – not yet at war – was determined to help Britain by directing American resources to places they could be legally used, like Iceland. And, as Roosevelt stressed in his message to Congress on July 7: “The United States cannot permit the occupation by Germany of strategic outposts in the Atlantic to be used as air or naval bases for eventual attack against the Western Hemisphere.” The operation was carried out swiftly and with dispatch. The Marines’ orders were to the point: “In Cooperation with the British Garrison, Defend Iceland Against Hostile Attack.”

Visible through barbed wire are USS Livermore (DD-429) and other destroyers on guard
in Reykjavik harbor, July 1941. The vessel to the right is an armed British trawler.
National Archives photo.
One very important American policy was on view at this time – the doctrine that troopships were to be massively guarded by the Navy. Admiral Ernest J. King was proud of the Navy’s World War I record of safely delivering the American Army overseas and he was determined to be equally successful during World War II. Within a few months, Iceland was an impregnable military fortress. The American action incensed the German navy, but their plea to begin attacking American warships was not heeded by Hitler, who was then preoccupied with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. 

The Marines were going with the blessing of Churchill, who had written the President earlier that: “I am much encouraged by ... your marines taking over that cold place... It would give us hope to face the long haul that lies ahead.”

(This blog post was written by HRNM Curator Joe Judge.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Development of Naval Station Norfolk

One of the next Daybooks we’re working on at HRNM is about the World War I Navy in Hampton Roads. This Daybook will be published in time for the World War I Symposium that the MacArthur Memorial is running in partnership with HRNM and Old Dominion University’s History Department (November 14-15, 2014). We will periodically preview snippets of our planned articles on the blog as we commemorate the centennial of the Great War. To that end, one of the articles I’m working on right now is about the development of Naval Station Norfolk.

The Jamestown Exposition Company used the farmland of Sewell’s Point to mount its large world’s fair in 1907, on the 300th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown. After the Jamestown Exposition ended and the Great White Fleet began its around-the-world trip, Norfolk residents began a campaign to make Sewell’s Point into a naval base. Congress’s Committee on Naval Affairs heard their arguments as early as 1908. 
The first page of the official report from the Committee on Naval Affairs, 1908.
Jamestown Exposition Attorney Theodore Wool wrote a pamphlet he called Reasons, in which he outlined the reasons he believed the Navy should purchase Sewell’s Point. These reasons included the deep anchorages of the Chesapeake Bay and the fact that it is normally ice-free; the availability of vacant land that the Navy could use for expansion; Virginia’s mild climate that supported year-round military operations; and the fortuitous existence of transportation networks in the area—both railroads and maritime.
Page one of Theodore Wool's Reasons
It took ten years and the United States’ entrance into the First World War for the federal government to purchase Sewell’s Point for Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (later to be named Naval Station Norfolk). NOB Hampton Roads started with 474 acres and has now grown to over 6,000. Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dazzle! USS Nebraska in Norfolk, 1918


The ship seen here is USS Nebraska (BB-14), painted in a common WWI paint scheme called “dazzle,” also known as “razzle dazzle.” The idea of this camouflage was not to hide the ship, but to try to make it hard for enemy ships or submarines to pinpoint the ship’s location, speed, or heading. In theory, this would prevent the ship from being accurately targeted by enemy guns or torpedoes. While not all paint jobs were quite as elaborate as this one, the dazzle scheme was a popular one for warships and merchant ships alike.

This particular picture was taken in April 1918, while Nebraska was in Norfolk for repairs. A participant in the Great White Fleet in 1908 (after joining the fleet in San Francisco), the obsolete battleship mostly conducted training during World War I, but also protected convoys in the last few months of the war.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Educator Elijah Palmer.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Joint Women's Leadership Symposium, 2014

The following post comes from Naval Reserve Commander Colette Grail, who is helping us at HRNM by writing both blogs and articles for an upcoming issue of the Daybook. Thank you, Commander, for providing us with a good overview of this year's Joint Women's Leadership Symposium!


The 2014 Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium at the Waterside Marriott in Norfolk, VA, was standing room only. This year’s conference hosted by the Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) was framed by the question:  why do YOU serve? On hand to answer that question were members of the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Army National Guard. Those attending ranked from junior Enlisted and Officers to senior Enlisted to Flag officers of most of the services. The keynote speaker was the Navy’s next four star – VADM Michelle Howard, whose inspiring talk ascribed the traits necessary to pioneer in any territory. VADM Howard recently left Hampton Roads after being deputy commander at US Fleet Forces in Norfolk.

VADM Michelle Howard
The first day of the conference was dedicated to joint issues shared by all the services, as well as appreciation of varied approaches to those issues. The day began with opening remarks from US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Cari Thomas and continued with US Coast Guard Rear Admiral (ret) Mary Landry. Master Gunnery Sergeant Rolanda Bailey, USMC, followed with a clever and intense discourse on her thoughts on “Why I Serve.”

For the second day, the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard had separate tracks to focus on service-specific agendas.  For the Navy, the morning incorporated three breakout sessions with items from career management, to work-family relationships, to self-care for better resiliency and leadership. VADM Nora Tyson, the most recent deputy commander for US Fleet Forces, was also on hand to speak during a morning session.

The Chief of Naval Personnel, VADM William Moran, listened to Sailors’ concerns and provide guidance on Navy personnel matters. A Senior Leadership Panel consisting of three Navy Vice Admirals highlighted the afternoon.  VADM Nanette DeRenzi (42nd Judge Advocate General), VADM Robin Braun (Chief of Naval Reserve), and VADM Jan Tighe (US Fleet Cyber Commander) shared personal experiences from their careers and answered questions from the audience. The Navy agenda wrapped up with a brief on Enlisted women in submarines and a uniform policy update.


The 2014 Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium was a very positive, upbeat conference that encouraged women and men of all ranks and all services to continue developing their leadership potential by promoting a command climate embedded in respect for all.

(This post was written by Commander Colette Grail.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

U.S. Navy Gunboats at Deep Bottom, James River, 1864


This is an Alfred Waud sketch of the Deep Bottom/Jones Neck section of the James River during the 1864 Bermuda Hundred Campaign. The sketch is currently in the collection of the Library of Congress. We are currently working on a major article about the U.S. Navy's role in the campaign for the next issue of the Daybook.

Shown in this sketch is one of the pontoon bridges constructed across the James River, set up to establish a communications and supply link between the Army of the Potomac, approaching from the north, and the Army of the James, which was approaching from the east. Soldiers forming the 2nd Division of the 10th Corps are crossing the bridge. In the center of the image stands Major General Robert Sandford Foster. At the time (the Army gave him many roles throughout the war), Foster was the 2nd Division's commanding officer.

In the upper right corner are USS Mendota and Mackinaw, two of the U.S. Navy's "double-ender" gunboats. The two ships are at anchor where Fourmile Creek (correctly spelled as one word) empties into the James, and they are keeping watch to the north for Confederate ground forces. The ships' presence in many ways represents the U.S. Navy's role in the campaign. While General Grant and his lieutenants tried to figure out how to defeat Robert E. Lee's ground forces, Acting Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee's units stood on alert ready to assist Union ground forces (in many cases, bailing them out of a tough fight). Lee wanted to use his ships more aggressively, but Grant worried about Confederate naval forces severing the Army's bridges and requested that the Navy play a more defensive role.

Did you notice that, on the left side of this sketch, Waud has drawn a man fishing near the gunboat? Even with all the activity going on, and both U.S. Naval and Army forces preparing for battle, one man apparently made his decision about he was going to spend the day. As Waud's sketches are considered to accurate and reliable depictions, there is no reason to think that the artist made up the subject.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Naval Review in Hampton Roads, 1957

The museum is remembering many events in June, like the Battle of Midway in 1942, and our own relocation to Nauticus in 1994. Not to be forgotten are the exciting weeks of June 1957 when an International Naval Review entertained the residents of Hampton Roads.
The program for the Naval Review, from HRNM's collection. Participating countries
included France, Canada, Columbia, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, France,
Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom,
Uruguay, and Venezuela.     
Like the 1907 naval review, the 1957 review was tied to the anniversary of the 1607 Jamestown Colony. The State Department invited members of NATO and other countries thought to have an interest in celebrating the colonization of North America. The result, gushed the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, was “one of the mightiest peacetime armadas in history.” Thirty warships representing 17 countries joined 80-some U.S. naval vessels for review by Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson on June 12, 1957.

A searchlight display, open houses at naval installations, television specials, and ship visits comprised some of the festivities. Concerning the opportunity to visit foreign naval ships, the Virginian-Pilot newspaper quoted the advice of two local civilian women: “Don’t say ‘yes’ to anything.  You don’t know what they’re asking.”

Blimps ride herd over the International fleet on June 12. Admiral Claude V. Ricketts,
USN commander of Destroyer Flotilla Four, was the “traffic director” for the ships. 
He did his job from one of these aircraft.

Spectators viewed the parade of ships from the south end of a new bridge off of Willoughby Spit – part of the new Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, which would open in November of 1957. These thousands of spectators probably did not imagine that sitting immobile on that bridge would become a regular feature of transportation in Hampton Roads for decades to come.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Curator Joe Judge.)