Friday, January 25, 2019

One Century Ago: Quartermaster 1st Class (Aviation) R.L. Krauss Leaves the Navy but Saves Everything

Many of the artifacts in the Hampton Roads Naval Museum collection are significant objects from the life of a service member; fragments of a larger, less exceptional whole that has long vanished.  Veterans typically save a few exceptional souvenirs of service: Tokens of appreciation or totems signifying accomplishment.  Because of this, such items are fairly common today.  A veteran typically saves items of this nature to show children or grandchildren, who in turn occasionally show it to us.  Because of the ubiquity of such items we are frequently forced to turn down donations because of our own storage restrictions.  Meanwhile, the mundane ephemera of service life is consequently consigned to the flames.  

It's not every day that we come across the material legacy of a veteran who saved virtually all of his uniform items and much of his training materials, particularly one who served as long ago as Richard Louis Krauss, who enlisted in the United States Navy on March 22, 1918, and was honorably discharged on January 27, 1919.  What makes his collection even rarer was that he was among the first to enter the community of naval aviation at Naval Aeronautic Station Hampton Roads, which later became Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. Another thing that makes Mr. Krauss' collection unusual is that he apparently didn't talk about his service with his children nor share any details about all the items that he had squirreled away into a nondescript trunk. 

"As a child I had never seen these items," said the youngest of his four children, Janet Lambert.  "The World War Two generation didn't talk about their experiences, and nether did he."

"Everything was in his Navy trunk," said Martha Smith, who inherited it from her father, Krauss' only son.  "I opened it and said, 'Hey, this is a treasure chest!'"  

She then contacted our museum.
The side of a briefcase that belonged to Aviation Quartermaster 1st Class Richard L. Krauss was specially painted with the original bull's eye used on the fuselages of American naval aircraft during World War I.  (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Another view of Quartermaster (Aviation) 1st Class Richard Krauss' specially monogrammed briefcase. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum) 
The youngest of eight children whose mother passed away while he was still a teenager, Richard Krauss, along with his older brother Matthew, left Louisville, Kentucky, for the Navy after being raised by an older sister. 

Krauss wasn't necessarily a hoarder nor did a sense of nostalgia seem to inspire him.  He did not keep every ticket stub or piece of ephemera from his naval service; just everything a Sailor might be expected to use again if called upon.  Once he returned to Louisville at the end of his short enlistment, the result of an unexpectedly short war, he kept the clothing from his seabag and the voluminous notes from his aviation training as though he might need them again at any moment, and they stayed that way for the next century.
This Quartermaster (Aviation) second class rating badge is one of the century-old items in the collection in mint condition and is in far better shape than the service dress and undress white example in the Naval History and Heritage Command Headquarters Artifact Collection. Krauss probably did not have time to sew it on because he advanced to first class so quickly.  The rate of Quartermaster (Aviation) came into being in 1918, and was disestablished in 1921. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Richard L. Krauss' "flat hat" cover and one of his winter blue trousers, still rolled as they would have been for inspection. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Both Lambert and her niece Martha Smith used the same word when asked to describe him:

Two photos from the collection (from left) show a jovial Mr. Krauss near his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, presumably before entering the Navy, and later while working at the mess hall of Naval Training Center (NTS) Hampton Roads (later NTS Norfolk, which closed in 1943) during recruit training in 1918. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
Looking much more serious later in his recruit training, Krauss stands with his bed roll and seabag, seemingly ready for inspection. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Quartermaster (Aviation) 2nd Class Richard L. Krauss appears second row, second from right (under the "X") with the rest of his aviation detachment at NAS Hampton Roads. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
During his training at NAS Hampton Roads, Krauss filled a large ledger full of notes pertaining to his responsibilities as an aviation quartermaster, which included the rigging, maintenance, and inspection of a variety of aircraft. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
The location is not given, but this Curtiss N-9, surrounded by Sailors wearing aviation gear of the time (some of it civilian clothing appropriated for the purpose) was photographed on January 22, 1919. (National Archives and Records Administration via Naval History and Heritage Command)
About five months before Krauss enlisted, naval aviation was established in Hampton Roads when the very first naval aviators, mechanics, and other support staff relocated from the Atlantic Coast Aeronautical Station, a school founded in 1915 by Glenn Curtiss in nearby Newport News to train aviators from the east coast and Canada, to the newly opened Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads, which was officially opened on the former Jamestown Exposition grounds at Sewells Point on October 12, 1917.  In this photograph taken exactly two weeks later, we see a seaplane ramp being built on the spot formerly known as "Discovery Landing," which had welcomed such dignitaries such as President Theodore Roosevelt during the exposition ten years before.  At its edge is a Curtiss R-6 floatplane, seemingly throttling up for takeoff, while another R-6, a naval variant of the venerable JN-4 "Jenny," stands by at far left.  The clock tower in the background is part of the Pennsylvania House, an exposition building that still stands today on Naval Station Norfolk. (SEARCH Project image, National Archives and Records Administration) 
The whites in Krauss' seabag aren't exactly pristine, but after a century of not being washed (with most still rolled up and tied in the manner proscribed at the time), they're arguably not that bad. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
One of Krauss' dress or undress blue trousers shows the way uniform items were typically rolled and tied.  (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
Several seemingly nonstandard articles of clothing are in the collection, indicative that Krauss probably spent some time up in the air aboard the aircraft he was assigned to maintain and provision. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Another article of clothing probably particular to the aviation community during World War I is this wool vest, probably worn underneath his uniform while airborne.  (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Mr. Krauss even retained his heavy woolen socks, but it unclear whether he was issued this clothing or whether he procured them for his own use elsewhere. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Krauss saved everything, right down to his skivvies. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Krauss' Victory Medal citation he received over a year after leaving the Navy. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
(Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
Richard Krauss' WWI Victory Medal. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)

Although he was reportedly reticent with his children concerning his wartime service, Krauss did maintain a connection with fellow veterans as a member of the American Legion. (Richard L. Krauss Collection, Hampton Roads Naval Museum)
"He was always extremely well-dressed," said Lambert, "even in his retirement."

"A white shirt is always what he wore. We tried to buy him plaid.  Something to keep him warm.  But he wouldn't have it.  We called him 'the hard-headed German.'"  

Krauss died just shy of his 97th birthday in April, 1993, long retired after 43 years working for the Citizens Fidelity Bank and Trust Company in Louisville.

"He had everything in order for his passing with notes for all of us," added Lambert. "How to do this.  How to do that." 

"To be that organized," said Lambert, "is something that we could all take lessons from."

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