Ditty Bag: World War II Japanese Parade Victory Flags

Ditty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation
An Artifact and Collections Blog Series

World War II Japanese Parade Victory Flags

These small, silk Japanese flags were used locally in Japan to cheer on Imperial Japanese sailors and soldiers before they left the comforts of home for the battlefield.

This first flag bears the typical Hinomaru, “circle of the sun,” image. The flag is small, measuring 6” X 8 ½”. Its flagstaff is marked with black stripes and a painted-gold filial. The staff measures just under 12”.

This small “Z” flag (6” X 8 ½”) is used for vessels to indicate that they require a tug assistance. In a now famous move, however, Admiral Heihachiro Togo hoisted this flag during the 1905 Battle of Tsushima against Russia. The flag was used by Japanese coders to communicate a much different message.

When Admiral Togo raised his “Z” flag he was telling his sailors, “The Empire’s fate depends on the result of this battle, let every man do his utmost duty.” The flag also bears the Japanese hiragana marks reading “Mikasa,” the name of Admiral Togo’s vessel. Both the “Z” flag and Admiral Togo’s ship Mikasa became symbolic in Imperial Japan for the victory and longevity of Japan.

This Rising Sun flag, or Hachijo-Kyokujitsuki, also measures 6” X 8 ½” and flies from a 12’’ staff. This became the typical ensign for the Imperial Japanese Navy perhaps as early as 1897. This form of the flag is distinct from the similar ensign of the Imperial Japanese Army because of the sun-disk’s off centered placement, closer to the lanyard side.

These silk flags are all in surpassingly stable condition despite the delicate material and the years of use and storage behind them. This close-up image of the Imperial Japanese Navy parade flag depicts a small run which has formed in the silk weave. This flag has also lost its painted gold filial (visible in the picture above). Despite these small imperfections, the parade flags remain a physical representation of Japanese wartime civilian experience.


Asada, Sadao (2006). From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. US Naval Institute Press.

Publishing, DK. 2010. Commanders. London: DK Pub. public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=727983.

05d807eDitty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation is a new artifact blog written by Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf Curator. She will periodically write posts about various artifacts and accessioned items in the Naval Historical Foundation collection and their impact on naval history. You can view all of the collections highlighted in Ditty Bag on our Flickr page HERE. To contact Emily or to inquire about NHF collections, please email Emily Pearce at epearce@navyhistory.org.

For previous releases of Ditty Bag, Please go HERE.

Posted in Collections, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iwo Jima 40th Anniversary Exhibit at the Cannon House Office Building, 1985

It’s amazing what you can find at work.

When you work for an organization that’s been around since 1926, you are bound to come across some really interesting items untouched over the years. We aren’t talking Holy Grail here, but interesting nonetheless. One such item popped up at the office this week:

Poster found in the NHF Offices.

Poster found in the NHF Offices.

The edges were well worn and smelled faintly of mildew. Whatever pile of papers and books stacked above it stayed that way for a number of years – Dust marks of a forgotten past once again uncovered under fluorescent light thirty years later.

Looking at the faded poster, I knew I had to find more information about the exhibit. D.C. is home to thousands of art exhibit openings. It is a rare occurrence, however, to hear about one held in Congressional offices.

The Island War
In honor of the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, a short art exhibition was held at the historic Cannon House Office Building in February-March 1985. The exhibit, titled “Island War: Marines in the Pacific,” drew from the collections of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard. Shown above is a framed poster promoting the exhibition. It officially opened on 19 February 1985, exactly forty years after the opening of hostilities at Iwo.

Events commemorating the anniversary of Iwo Jima like the Cannon Building exhibit were held around the country in February. Americans took a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of few for the benefit of so many. The majority of participation from veterans was in Washington, D.C. One day before the 40th anniversary of the landings at Iwo, a large ceremony was held at the Washington Cathedral. Over 350 combat veterans of the battle were present. A ceremonial wreathe laying at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and a meeting of veterans with President Reagan on the anniversary date rounded out the Capitol’s main commemorative efforts.

No mention of the exhibit opening was included in the long Washington Post article covering the Cathedral event or wreath laying. Only two short mentions in the “Museum and Galleries” section of the Post have the exhibit listed during the exhibit’s run in February and March 1985.

Marines in Cannon

Cannon House Office Building (LOC Image # LC-H824- 1144-004)

Cannon House Office Building (LOC Image # LC-H824- 1144-004)

Located at the intersection of First Street and New Jersey Avenue, SE DC (bounded by First and C Streets), the Cannon House Office Building is a historic piece of architecture within the United States Capitol Complex, complete with elegant Beaux-Arts architecture and coffered dome. The Cannon building was the first set of Congressional offices outside the U.S. Capitol. Completed in 1908, the building is named for former Republican Speaker of the House and outspoken Woodrow Wilson critic Joseph Gurney Cannon. The USMC Museums Branch responsible for coordinating the exhibit displayed the artwork around the building’s picturesque rotunda.

According to an article about the exhibit written by Colonel Brooke Nihart in Fortitudine, the Congressional Marines Breakfast viewed the exhibit opening on the morning of 19 February, composed of former Marines now working on Capitol Hill in various capacities from Senators to Capitol Police (breakfast meetings are still a regular occurrence today). In the evening, the DC Council of the Navy League held a small reception in the Cannon Building.

Unfortunately, “there was too little art done of that battle to mount a full scale show,” said Nihart. Marine participation in battles from Guadalcanal to Okinawa filled gaps in the historical timeline around the rotunda’s Corinthian columns. All in all, twelve Marine combat artists were represented in the exhibit.

Instructions to a Patrol by Capt Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. USMC Combat Art Collection

Instructions to a Patrol by Capt Donald L. Dickson, USMCR. USMC Combat Art Collection

Col. Nihart’s summary of the exhibit is brief and heartfelt. He called the engagement at Iwo “the toughest nut to crack” of any theater during World War II. Few would disagree. By the end of the 36-day battle, over 6,000 men were dead, including one Navy Escort Carrier sunk by kamikazes. Nihart knew well about the combat stress and fatigue shown in each painting. Colonel Nihart himself was a World War II and Korean War veteran who fought at Wake Island and Okinawa as a gunnery officer aboard USS Saratoga.

Explosion of USS Bismarck Sea. NHHC Photo # 80-G-335103

Explosion of USS Bismarck Sea. NHHC Photo # 80-G-335103

Nihart also remarked on the need for such an anniversary. Such an event seems odd, so close to the 50th in 1995. Why not wait for ten more years? Nihart noted that in ten years, he would “see only about half of today’s number.” Most of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima were well into their sixties by the mid 1980s. Today, only a handful is still alive. Let’s hope their memory never remains as faded and weighted down as the poster I found on a short art exhibit inside the Capitol thirty years ago.

To all the men who fought and died on the sands of Iwo: Semper Fi.

If you like the poster, you can actually bid on it at NHF Sales, our ebay site.

Source Information

McCombs, Phil. “From the Sands of Iwo Jima.” The Washington Post, February 19, 1985.

Nihart, Brooke. “Center Aids Observances of Iwo Jima 40th Anniversary.” Fortitudine 14, no. 3 (Winter 1984-1985): 10-12.

Schudel, Matt. “Marine Col. F. Brooke Nihart; Wrote Military Code of Conduct,” The Washington Post, September 30, 2006.

This article was originally posted at District Curiosities.

Posted in Collections, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding an Old Salt a New Home: CDR Vicente Donates Zuccarelli Print

CDR Caridad A. Vicente, USN (Ret.) with "Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet" (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

CDR Caridad A. Vicente, USN (Ret.) with “Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet” (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

On Tuesday of this week, retired Navy CDR Caridad A. Vicente stopped by the NHF office to drop off a print of a painting done by well-known marine artist Frank E. Zuccarelli. The painting in question, titled “Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet,” is considered by many to be Zuccarelli’s most famous painting. The painting (88-163-AY) perfectly encapsulates its title: an old and seasoned sailor, complete with grizzled beard, faded dungarees, and a coffee mug. It’s simplicity of presentation for the subject matter makes this an interesting piece of artwork. Zuccarelli himself served with the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II. He later painted a large body of work for the Combat Art Collection, which included “Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet.” Zuccarelli died in Somerset, NJ, in 2012.



Print reproductions of Zuccarelli’s paintings like the one above can be seen everywhere from homes and offices to the Internet. The original 1972 painting, however, has an interesting place in recent naval history. “Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet” was highlighted as one of four paintings discussed in an April 2010 Naval History blog post about “Misappropriated Navy Art.” The article, written by Navy Art Gallery Head Curator Gale Munro, detailed the adventures of chasing down various pieces of art within the Navy Art Collection from their irresponsible borrowers.

According to the blog, the painting disappeared in 1998 in the Pentagon. When asked about the whereabouts of the painting, one staff member shrugged it off. Unconvinced, Navy Art Gallery staff went so far as to make a “wanted” poster for the priceless piece of art and posted it around the Pentagon. The painting was eventually found through the help of some careful research and backtracking by the staff. The painting had been given to a Pentagon official as a going-away present upon his departure. “If you don’t own something, no matter how many times it changes hands, ownership of the item doesn’t magically become legal at some point,” remarked Munro at the end of the post.

The painting is now back in the capable hands of the Navy Art Gallery with Gale Munro, better known by NHHC as the “Monuments Woman of Navy Art.” Special thanks to CDR Vicente for donating the print, which will be available as office decoration art.

Posted in Collections, Donation, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Submarine History Seminar – Mutual Defense: A Half Century of US-UK Submarine Cooperation

Join the Naval Submarine League and the Naval Historical Foundation this year for the 2015 Submarine History Seminar, “Mutual Defense: A Half Century of US-UK Submarine Cooperation.” Featured speakers this year will include NHF Chairman ADM  Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and NHF President RADM John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.). For more information on the conference, please see the informaiton provided below in the attached flyer. You can download a PDF of the flyer HERE: SubSeminar 2015
SubSeminar 2015_PROMO_10_2 Sections_FlatImage-page-001

Posted in Cold War Gallery, Featured, History, Navy Museum, News, Speakers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – Ready Then, Ready Now, Ready Always: More Than a Century of Service by Citizen Sailors

Navy Reserve BookBy David F. Winkler, Navy Reserve Centennial Book Committee, Washington, DC. (2015)

Reviewed by David F. Winkler, Ph.D.

As managing editor of the Naval Historical Foundation’s Naval History Book Reviews I’m taking the prerogative of reviewing my own book as I have some thoughts about its production, content, and some subjects covered in the book that are worthy of additional serious scholarship.

The genesis of the book can be credited to several individuals. Captain John Lynn Shanton produced a self-published manuscript about the Naval Reserve for a 90th anniversary book and envisioned a book for the centennial. After reading the Wikipedia history of the Navy Reserve, former Chief of Navy Reserve F. Neale Smith contacted the Naval Historical Foundation to express embarrassment about the lack of substance, only to be told that the content had been taken from the Navy Reserve’s website. Then the Navy Reserve commemoration team recognized that a narrative history was sorely needed but having the Naval History and Heritage Command publish a book through the Government Printing Office would be an expensive proposition.

Instead, two former Chiefs of Navy Reserve, Vice Admirals John Totushek and Dirk Debbink opened discussions with the Naval Historical Foundation on the feasibility of publishing such a book through a non-profit consortium of Navy-support organizations. Vice Admiral Debbink, who presently operates a family-owned contacting company based in Nashotah, Wisconsin, agreed to chair a Naval Reserve Centennial Book Committee. Debbink used his leadership and entrepreneurial skills to assemble a remarkable editorial board to include two other former Chief of Navy Reserve and two Force Master Chiefs, and built a coalition consisting of the Navy League, Navy Memorial Foundation, Association of the U.S. Navy, and Naval Historical Foundation to publish and market the book. Furthermore, after reviewing the products and offers of several publishing houses who expressed interest in authoring and producing the book, Debbink came to the conclusion: “You know, we can do this ourselves!”

Debbink persuaded the leadership of the Naval Historical Foundation to make their historian available and through Navy Reserve connections was able to recruit Jeff Lukes of Saw Saw Creative based in Colorado to do the layout. Master Chief Jim Leuci made his archive of digitized images available and Captain Shanton provided research material from his efforts, earning both acknowledgement accolades on the title page as lead contributors. In addition, a dozen authors, most with USNR lineage, were recruited to write sidebars.

With less than a year to produce a book, the team proved up for the challenge. Regarding the narrative, the editorial board allowed the author to go in greater depth than what might be expected of a centennial commemorative piece. Thus, the reader will immediately realize that the catchy title of the book is somewhat of a misnomer. While it is evident that the Navy Reserve is “Ready Now,” history shows the force was not always “Ready Then.” At the outbreak of World War I, the number of Naval Militia and Naval Reservists available hardly met the Navy’s needs and it would take a good year to recruit and train the numbers needed for the war effort. During the 1920s and 1930s the Naval Reserve dropped thousands of billets and cancelled training due to budgetary priorities. When six air squadrons were activated in 1968 following the Pueblo incident, the aircraft were found incompatible for aircraft carrier operations and the squadrons were undermanned, requiring cross-transfers of active duty personnel. As for equipment, the reserves always seemed to make due with hand-me-downs. For example, during the age of the emerging steel navy, naval militia trained on wooden ships of the line. With Naval Reservist John F. Lehman serving as Secretary of the Navy in the 1980s, the Naval Reserve finally received equipment direct from the production line. Throughout the book, the cause and effect role played by politics is a recurring theme. The bottom line is if the Navy Reserve is going to be “Ready Always,” it needs to appreciate past instances where political support was lacking and continue to foster good relations within the Navy, on the Hill, and in local communities, especially in an era where many scholars are seeing an increasing disconnect between the military and civil society. Certainly, nationwide centennial celebrations will provide opportunities to bridge those divides.

To say that the Navy Reserve was not always ready then does not disparage the millions of men and women who served in the Navy thanks to the existence of the Naval Reserve Force/Naval Reserve/Navy Reserve. Individually they were ready and willing and if you consider the context of the service and sacrifice of these individuals throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the book’s title holds up well. One of the benefits the Navy Reserve is it has provided a portal for talented individuals to serve the Navy who otherwise would not have the opportunity through normal enlistment and officer commissioning programs. The artist who created the recruiting poster used for the cover – McClelland Barclay – was a successful commercial artist who joined the reserve because he had an affinity for the Navy. He would lose his life when the LST he was embarked on was torpedoed in July 1943 by a Japanese submarine. During World War I and II the Naval Reserve provided an opportunity for women to serve, and the book pays homage to these fine Sailors. The Naval Reserve also provided officer commissioning opportunities to men and women of color during World War II. Of personal note, I was commissioned by Vice Admiral Sam Gravely at Penn State back in 1980, the Navy’s first African-American admiral who obtained his commission through the V-12 program during World War II.

While the book goes into greater depth than what might have been expected for a centennial celebratory work, it still is a general survey and there are topics touched on that deserve greater historical scrutiny. The naval militia movement within the context of the Gilded Age could be a fascinating topic to examine the interface between the Naval Militia and social elites within their respective communities. Ready Then, Ready Now, Ready Always touches on how some in the regular Navy looked down upon the militias as egocentric yachtsmen. For a historian of labor studies, the animosity between the Naval Reserve Officers Association and the Bureau of Navigation in the 1930s could be examined within the context of labor/industrial relations during that era. Finally, a topic for a Cold War historian to further explore is the Berlin Crisis of 1961 from the perspective of the recall of some 500,000 reservists from the different reserve service components. The political repercussions would have implications on the use of the reserve component for decades to come.

 Buy the Book HERE

Dr. Winkler is the historian in residence at the Naval Historical Foundation.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – Against the Tide: Rickover’s Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy

Oliver_Against the TideBy Rear Admiral Dave Oliver, USN (Ret.), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, (2014)

Reviewed by Phillip G. Pattee, Ph.D.

Rear Admiral Dave Oliver, USN (Ret.), A 1963 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was a nuclear-trained submarine officer who spent thirty-two years leading within the U.S. Navy. After retirement, he served as the Principal Deputy Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics during the Clinton administration. In the Bush administration, he was the Director of Management and Budget for Coalition Forces in Iraq. He also held executive positions with Northrop Grumman and Westinghouse, and become the CEO of the EADS, North America Defense Company. His purpose for writing is to share a lifetime of acquired knowledge and practice in the art of management and leadership.

Against the Tide: Rickover’s Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy is Dave Oliver’s second book on leadership. His first book, Lead On!: A Practical Approach to leadership (1992), distills some hard learned lessons on leading from his naval career. Since both books discuss leadership with the idea that leadership principles have wide applicability both in military and civilian organizations, there are areas where the two books cover similar ideas. With another twenty-two years of perspective, experience and wisdom gained in his post navy career, however, Rear Admiral Oliver does not succumb to just updating his ideas. He instead presents numerous vignettes he tackles the leadership principles of one of history’s more controversial figures, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.

I loved this book. At first, I could not say why. After finishing the book, I could not elegantly state what Rickover’s leadership principles were, or where Rear Admiral Dave Oliver listed them in the book. I discussed that with one of my peers who proposed that I simply enjoyed the stories. I did enjoy them. Oliver is a masterful storyteller, but that wasn’t it. The chief appeal of the book is that it made me think.

In Oliver’s earlier book, Lead On!, each chapter is focused on a key leadership idea, supported with judiciously selected anecdotes to illustrate the principle. At the book’s end, Oliver includes a chapter that summarized each point to tie the whole together in a tidy, well-organized package. Against the Tide does not follow that pattern. Instead, it leads the reader to engage the challenges faced by Rickover as he sought to integrate an entirely new technology into navy culture. Oliver does this by telling stories related to the rise of the nuclear navy. The stories are often Dave Oliver’s personal experiences, as he was positioned throughout his career to observe Rickover’s actions. He also integrates various perspectives from many other officers who served. The memoirs of numerous retired officers, interviewed by Paul Stillwell and published by the Naval Institute, populate the bibliography.

Readers will not find a summary of Rickover’s leadership principles within the book. Instead, Oliver asks a series of Socratic questions at the end of each chapter that, if honestly reflected upon, will divulge principles, where they were used purposely and consistently, where mistakes occurred, and that will inform judgments about using them to bring about cultural change or manage a start up in their own circumstances. Oliver is not trying to persuade his readers to copy Rickover, but to examine him. I am sure I will find myself reading this book again and I have already recommended it to others.

During his naval career, Dave Oliver also observed the leadership of Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt. As a bonus, in the chapter titled, “Elephant Instincts,” Oliver contrasts Zumwalt’s leadership with that of Rickover. While these men were not rivals, neither shared the same goals and vision for the navy. Oliver judges Rickover’s efforts to build a nuclear navy and a culture that would sustain it completely successful. In contrast, considering the differences in time available (decades for Rickover and four years for Zumwalt), the latter only made progress toward his goals. Oliver invites the reader to ponder which methods were effective and which less so. He does not crown a winner, but asks how each leader might have benefitted from the methods employed by the other.

The book contains a comprehensive bibliography and index. The endnotes do provide some source information for each chapter, however, they mainly serve the role of providing ancillary information—some notes that did not make it into the body of the work are over a page long. Much of this material provides additional insight into Rickover’s leadership and if not read in conjunction with the main body of the book, loses context. Full understanding necessitates frequent flipping back and forth from the notes to the chapter at hand. For example, Oliver devotes a chapter to Rickover’s controversial interview process, wherein the Admiral personally approved each officer’s entrance into the program and Oliver’s own interview experience is buried in the notes.

That criticism aside, anyone aspiring to leadership can benefit from reading Against the Tide. I do not recommend it as your first book on leadership, particularly if you are a junior leader. Your time would be better spent with Lead On! If you have read other leadership books, or are at a middle level or higher position in your organization, this book will richly reward your effort.


Dr. Pattee is a member of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – A Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King

Dunn_A CowardBy Steve R. Dunn, Book Guild Publishing, Sussex, England, (2014)

Reviewed by Capt. John A. Rodgaard USN (Ret.)

What is cowardice? Can cowardice be reinterpreted as an act of reasoned restraint or self-preservation? Is cowardice situational, or is it a character trait? Does it possess a moral dimension? That is, “Can a brave man also be a coward?”

These are the questions author Steve Dunn explores in his biography of Ernest Trouridge. A Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King is Dunn’s second biographical work, once more examining the life of a noted Royal Navy officer of the Victorian and Edwardian era. It is a story of a man “thought to be brave, and of great lineage who, for one instant’s decision, was forever associated with an act that many saw as that of a coward.”

Through the life of Earnest Troubridge, readers learn what happens when a single act of what many consider to be cowardice follows a naval officer throughout the remaining years of his career and beyond the grave. We glimpse into the far-reaching effects of that single act, not only for Troubridge, but for Britain and its allies, years later, as the events of the Great War of 1914 unfolded.

Troubridge came from one of Britain’s great naval families beginning with Earnest’s great grandfather, Sir Thomas Troubridge. Sir Thomas, served with Nelson as a midshipman and rose through the ranks to become one of his ‘band of brothers.’ He was considered by Nelson to be “…the most meritorious sea officer of his standing in the service.” As with Nelson, Earnest’s lineage was rooted in the English countryside of West Norfolk, an area of England that this reviewer knows intimately. Troubridge’s mother, the daughter of a wealthy Norfolk banker, Daniel Gurney, was also from another famous naval family – that of Thomas Cochrane – the ‘seawolf’ of the Napoleonic Wars.

Born in 1862, Earnest came from an aristocratic and wealthy family whose social connects included royalty. He was the product of the British ‘public school’ system. As a younger brother, his life’s profession was either the Church of England or the Royal Navy. As Dunn wrote: “He could hardly have done anything else with the example of his ancestors before him.” At the age of 13, young Earnest Charles Thomas Troubridge entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, otherwise known as HMS Britannia.

The author then portrays Troubridge’s rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy. He shows how this man of pedigree obtained high rank through influence and a promotion system that relied less on initiative and merit than being the next in line. His assignments found him mostly in the Mediterranean, but were interspersed with assignments to North America and the Pacific. The latter of the two were career changing for the man whose massive flock of hair turned silver-grey. He came to be known throughout the Fleet as the “Silver King.” The ‘most handsome officer in the Fleet’ married the bell of Halifax in 1891. His marriage appears to be a typical one for someone of Troubridge’s background. It ended with his wife’s tragic death after the birth of his fourth child, a stillborn, in 1900. He would later remarry in 1908 to a much younger woman. She was Margot Elena Gertrude Taylor, more commonly called by her family as Una. She was beautiful, intelligent and artistically gifted. Their marriage would fall apart, primarily due to Troubridge’s attitude toward a “wife’s duty” and Una having a relationship with John, aka, Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall.

Whilst the flag lieutenant of the North American Station, he became friends with one of the squadron’s captains – the future King George V. Their friendship would last for over a quarter of a century. For Troubridge, it was career enhancing.

In 1901, Troubridge became the Naval Attaché to Japan, where he witnessed the effects of modern weaponry on men and ships during the 1905 Russo-Japanese war. The author leaves the reader with the impression that the experience would play a part in Troubridge’s decision when confronted with what would have been the first clash of modern warships during the Great War.

This comes to pass in 1914 with the outbreak of the Great War. Troubridge is back in the Mediterranean as second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet as well as the commander of the First Cruiser Squadron, which consisted of four armoured cruisers. The powerful German battlecruiser Goeben and her consort the light cruiser Breslau were stationed in the Mediterranean at the time threatening French troop convoys departing Algeria for metropolitan France. The two ships proceeded to join the Austrian Fleet, they would potentially tip the naval balance of power in favor of the Triple Alliance. The author does a creditable job describing the uncertainty on the part of the British about German intentions, as well as the difficulty that the Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Milne, and his second in command, Troubridge, had in reconciling the instructions emanating out of Churchill’s Admiralty, especially the instructions to him about not engaging a “superior force” with his cruiser squadron.

Initially, Troubridge had every intention of engaging the German battlecruiser and her consort just before daylight in the hope that it could negate Goeben’s superior firepower and maneuverability. After listening to his flagships captain’s appeal as a gunnery expert that the admiral should not engage, Troubridge, keeping his own counsel, sent a signal to his superiors that he had given up the chase only hours before the expected engagement. The Germans sortied to Turkey. Troubridge faced court martial for his decision. Although he was exonerated, he would never assume command at sea again. Neither would the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Milne.

Although author captures the events leading up to the ‘decision’, I would have liked to see a map or two showing the overall situation in the Mediterranean at the time as well as a tactical plot showing the movements of the antagonists. A few additional photos of the ships would have complemented his section on the respective order of battle between the antagonists. I had hoped the author would have also included photographs of the main characters as well.

Dunn accurately explains the consequences of Troubridge’s decision. One immediate consequence was that Goeben and Breslau arrived in Constantinople, which influenced the Ottoman Empire’s decision to enter the war on the side of the Triple Alliance. There were two other farther-reaching consequences attributed to Troubridge’s decision.

The first Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s decision to engage the powerful German squadron under Vice Admiral Von Spee at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. The battle was a disaster for the Royal Navy. In a letter written before the battle, Cradock specifically stated that he would not suffer the same fate as Troubridge.

The second consequence was the decision by Commodore Henry Harwood RN to engage the Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate twenty-five years later. This decision, however, had more favorable results for the Royal Navy. In contrast to Troubridge’s missed opportunity, Harwood demonstrated that with imagination and determination, a well-trained, but inferior force can succeed in battle. Harwood’s squadron of three cruisers forced the Graf Spee to seek refuge, leading to her eventual destruction by her captain’s own hand.

Although Troubridge was never given another sea-going command, he did provide worthwhile service, co-operating with the Serbs in their war against the Austrians and their allies. He was also given command of a force on the Danube in 1915. After the war he returned to the region to supervise the Inter-Allied Danube Commission, and Mr. Dunn shows that Troubridge was an effective administrator. He returns to Britain in 1923 with tremendous accolades for his service. He returned to a broken and scandalous marriage as well as continued controversy regarding his decision not to engage the Goeben. Ironically, because of the Royal Navy’s promotional system of the day, Troubridge is promoted to full admiral. For this, the navy he served for over 40 years shuns him. He lives for a short while afterwards as a self-imposed exile in France.

Although Mr. Dunn does not unveil new information concerning Troubridge’s fateful decision, the author’s chapter “Verdict” weighs all the factors in a very concise manner. He succeeds in painting a picture of Troubridge as a man of his time and of his ‘pedigree’, “…a somewhat vain and self-obsessed character…” who ultimately failed in his most important duty as a naval officer — to fight with determination, imagination and skill.

Although a century has passed since the ‘decision’, I feel this book will resonate with serving officers, who like, Troubridge, serve in a navy that had not faced inter-state war at sea through their careers. As with Troubridge’s navy, the U.S. Navy of today lacks the collective memory of what war at sea can be. When and if that time comes, will they fight with determination, imagination and skill?


Captain Rodgaard leads the National Capital Commandary of the Naval Order of the United States.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – US Heavy Cruisers: 1943 – 75: Wartime and Post-war Classes

Still_Us Heavy CruisersBy Mark Stille, Osprey, New York (2014)

Reviewed by James H. McClelland, Sr.

US Heavy Cruisers: 1943 – 75 is a gold mine of information concerning the U.S. Navy’s heavy cruisers of World War II and beyond. Mark Stille, a retired navy commander who has held posts in the intelligence community, faculty positions at the Naval War College, the Joint Chief of Staff with the fleet, is currently working in the Washington D.C. area as a senior analyst. To complete this book, Stille married his knowledge and expertise with the talents of artist Paul Wright. Mr. Wright, a Falmouth School of Art alum who has spent the last 14 years developing his art and perfecting his gift while a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. His artistry has truly brought this book alive with his outstanding illustrations and paintings.

This book begins by discussing U.S. cruiser weaponry. Starting before the war with an effective weapon in the 8”/55 Mk main guns to the development of the rapid fire 8”/55 MK 16. The reader is then walked through each successive class of heavy cruisers, from a brief history and description of the last of the Treaty heavy cruisers (the unique Wichita class) through to the Des Moines class completed with the new rapid fire 8” gun too late to see war service.

Surprisingly, Stille also provides a detailed description of the Navy’s CB’s, or “Large Cruisers.” All 808 feet, 34,250 tons of her built to fill the spot between the heavy cruiser and battleship. From there, Stille compares and contrasts each class of ship with enough detail to give you a real feeling for the size, weapons, armor and power of each class of ship. As well as describing the role of the heavy cruisers in the war effort such as ship to ship sea battles early on in the war to shore bombardment, supporting of troop landings and air defense where their 5” secondary and many 20 and 40mm medium range anti-aircraft weapons protected the fast aircraft carriers and transports. Following the war, the United States Navy was left with many heavy cruisers but no natural enemies. Orders were canceled, ships put into the reserve fleet, and others sold to foreign nations or the scrap yards. The Navy simply did not need such a huge number of heavy cruisers (or battleships, aircraft carriers, or destroyers for that matter).

When the United States entered the Korean War, however, the army needed the benefit of 8” guns for ground support of which was well suited for the heavy cruiser. During the Vietnam War the heavy cruiser again played an important supportive role. During the sixties and seventies, the author explained how the heavy cruiser was found to be well suited for updates, modification and modernization to their machinery electronics and weaponry. Some ships received minor updates, while other ships received extensive rebuilds and replaced turrets and 8” guns with sophisticated missiles, new radar, and sonar for sub hunting and killing capabilities. Stille does a brilliant job describing the evolution of electronics and weapons the navy was developing for its heavy cruisers. But as these World War II heavy cruisers aged and the continued advancement of weapons and electronics as well as the changing role of the navy, it became more cost effective to build new cruisers designed specifically for new weaponry. It was here that these heavy cruisers passed into history as distant memories.

Throughout this book, you will find facts and figures, comparisons and information concerning each class of ship. Stille packed a tremendous amount of information about these fine ships, the real workhorse of the navy for over 30 years. Stille’s infinite knowledge and excellent writing skills and the beautiful paintings and illustrations of Wright bring these grand and majestic warships to life. Not only did I enjoy this book immensely it will always have a place on my reference shelf for future use.


James H. McClelland Sr. is a frequent contributor to NHBR

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – A Handful Of Bullets: How The Murder Of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces The Peace

Ullman_A handful of bulletsBy Harlan K. Ullman, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, (2014)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

Readers with an interest in grand strategy and a forceful and candid presentation of a wide variety of threats to the peace and well-being of the world will find a great deal of interest in this particular book. Although this is a book that deals with the lengthy origins of our contemporary troubles and repercussions of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and World War I, the book demands no particular understanding of jargon, as the author uses clear and easy-to-understand language. Even where one disagrees with his particular analysis or recommendation, one clearly understands where he is coming and recognizes the reasons why he makes the case that he does. This 214-page book (followed by an index) contains twelve chapters divided into three sections, followed by two appendices.

The first part contains three chapters that introduce the unraveling in state power that took place as a result of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Ullman examines how globalization has so far diffused power to non-state actors and individuals and reduced the comparative ability for states (and militaries) to respond effectively and how failed government, economic scarcity, ideological extremism, and environmental disaster menace the peace and safety of the world. He further argues such crises have had dangerous consequences for United States because of inexperienced and unqualified presidents, the failures due to gridlock and incompetence of our national political system, and the change of the strategic situation to one where disruption rather than destruction is the aim of our enemies.

The second portion of the book looks at the looming threats around the world relating to regional warfare, economic problems, the threat of cyber warfare, as well as other wildcard scenarios that cause foreign affairs analysts to lose sleep at night.

The third section of the book contains five chapters that examine failed government, economic scarcity, ideological extremism, and environmental disaster in detail. He comments on the failure of strategic thinking in the current United States military, which has led to massively expensive and harmful interventions that have cost lives, damaged our reputation, and expended precious resources and goodwill as a result of failing to consider the consequences of removing dictators and the difficulties of nation-building. The conclusion makes a forceful recommendation for a brains-based approach to strategy instead of focusing on attritional warfare. The two appendices recapitulate arguments from the book with an open letter to the Secretary of Defense. He also makes a case for a future maritime force that takes advantage of low-cost and flexible ships developed by other nations (like Sweden) for littoral operations, less expensive options to an all-nuclear submarine force, and the creation of a reserve force that avoids scuttling valuable carriers in the face of looming budget difficulties.

Although this is a book written primarily to shape policy and grand strategy within the United States, this book will be of potential interest to a much wider audience of people.

That being said, there are some tensions in this book that will make it provocative and offensive to many readers, which will lead few people to agree wholeheartedly with the author. For example, the author claims to be nonpartisan, but his particularly hostile criticism of advocates of small-government and his contention that our constitutional checks and balances are obsolete will strike some potential readers as progressive in nature and therefore highly partisan. The author’s defense of American freedoms and the problems of spying on American reputation are counterbalanced by the author’s vituperative rhetoric towards bloggers, which is hard not to take personally. Additionally, the author seeks both to defend the importance of morality in American behavior (especially with regards to other nations) but is immensely critical of that group of people who care most deeply and openly about questions of morality through his hostility towards evangelical Christianity and his novel reinterpretation of biblical prophecy. This sort of ambivalence between the points the author is trying to make and the offenses he causes towards potential readers limits the effectiveness of the author in making a case for specific and detailed recommendations that require drastic changes of approach and behavior within the military and political establishment of the United States. At the most fundamental level, the author’s brain-based approach to analysis and policy would be better served with an approach that was less overheated and overemotional in its rhetoric.

Nevertheless, this is a book that contains immensely thoughtful and cogent analysis about the multifarious causes of difficulty in the present world, many of which range from the fateful consequences of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914. The author’s pointed critique about the universal failure of governments to perform as desired and expected and about the catastrophic effects of partisan gridlock within the United States in particular is a much-needed counter to conspiratorial fears, and a warning that reforms to our political system are necessary to deal with the looming threats to legitimacy that governments face around the world, and here at home. Readers of an analytical bent will be pleased with the author’s desire to increase study to demonstrate facts on an objective level, rather than to allow different sides in a dispute to claim their own facts to muddy the waters and spread confusion and chaos. The author undertakes a difficult task in suggesting drastic and serious recommendations of a political and military nature, some of which will drastically change decades of behavior and others which will require constitutional amendment. Despite its flaws, this book represents a serious and mostly successful attempt to diagnose the causes of contemporary crises, give a clear eyed view of what potential futures exist, and give some thoughtful and thought-provoking recommendations as to how to best achieve those futures that are the most favorable to the United States and its people, and to the people of the world at large.

Nathan Albright is a blogger who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BOOK REVIEW – The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO

Stavridis_Accidental AdmiralBy Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2014)

Reviewed by Stephen Phillips

Admiral James Stavridis is a prolific writer who is known for countless journal articles and several books that should be in every naval officer’s collection, such as Division Officer’s Guide, Destroyer Captain, and Command at Sea. Fans and followers of the admiral’s writing knew that he would publish another volume upon the completion of his thirty-seven year career. Thus, the Naval Institute Press published The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO in October 2014.

After serving as the Commander Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Admiral Stavridis to serve as Supreme Allied Command of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), a role that is dual-hatted as Commander, U.S. European Command (EUCOM). Stavridis was the first naval officer to serve in this capacity, perhaps because he is a recognized as a strategic thinker. The aforementioned prolific author holds a doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is currently the dean.

Stavridis took the helm at an interesting time when transition was being considered in Afghanistan, when the Arab Spring gave birth to a new wave of conflicts that are still evolving, and when social media emerged as a force multiplier for sharing information, ideas, and coordinating the movements of everyone from missionaries to mujahedeen. This created the foundation for the two main themes within The Accidental Admiral. First, Stavridis provides valuable historical perspective of the major conflicts that occurred or were ongoing during his time at the helm of NATO/EUCOM. Second, he shares his views on strategic leadership to include the advantages and pitfalls that come with Twitter, Facebook, and the other tools of a more interconnected world.

Much will be written about the most recent phase of conflict in Afghanistan as the United States withdrawals over the next few months. Admiral Stavridis’ chapter on this may prove the most interesting of this entire book. He noted that while the country is often referred to as the “graveyard of empires,” the external elements operating in the country represent a coalition of over 50 nations, not an empire. Equally prescient were suggestions given by former Soviet generals who said, “Build mosques. Fill them with imams that will teach the true Islam. Then, you will win the war of ideas.” In the summer of 2009, there was a sense that things were not going well in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal who led forces in Afghanistan thought the coalition was losing. Admiral Stavridis thought the changes for success were 50/50. When asked to send options to the White House, a variation of McChrystal’s ‘medium risk’ approach was selected that included 30,000 U.S. and 10,000 NATO troops. Stavridis had to garner NATO support, doing so with agreed upon caveats and guarantees.

After discussing Afghanistan, Stavridis discusses Libya, Israel, Syria, the Balkans, and Russia. In each chapter, he places the country or region’s issues in context and relays personal interactions with their leaders. The reader can feel as if they were a member of his staff as he meets with generals and heads of state.

The second part of this book is the admiral’s reflections on leadership. His makes it clear that leadership at the strategic level may require practices different from subordinate echelons. Those in positions of national leadership can always expect to be under scrutiny. Many great leaders, Stavridis included, must respond to allegations true and imagined, on a scale that becomes distracting. For example, while relaxing in the presence of an unknown reporter, General McChrystal’s staff made inappropriate comments directed at President Obama. Published in the Rolling Stone, this lapse led to McChrystal’s dismissal. Stavridis, on the other hand, endured a long investigation into employment of military assets for personal travel and anomalies with reporting official gifts. All accusations proved to be false, but they had a negative impact on the admiral.

The best overall chapter in the Accidental Admiral on leadership describes “How Leaders Make Things Happen.” These include: “Speak with simplicity and precision,” “Prepare thoroughly for key events,” “Look at the law or regulation yourself,” and “Carve out time to read.” By itself, these sections should be assigned in any leadership course.

Fans of Admiral Stavridis’s previous works are surely going to enjoy The Accidental Admiral. For new readers, it can serve as a valuable introduction that will then pull them toward his other works.


Stephen Phillips served in the U.S. Navy as a surface warfare officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. He is the author of The Recipient’s Son, a novel about the U.S. Naval Academy published by the Naval Institute Press. Phillips also reviewed Admiral Stavridis book about command at sea Destroyer Captain.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – Call Me Gus – The Story of Admiral George E. R. Kinnear II, USN (Ret)

Carter_Call Me GusBy Admiral Kinnear as told to James Carter, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN (2014)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

The heart of this autographical book centers around four topics the Admiral feels are important for success: have a vision of what you want to achieve, take advantage of continuing education opportunities, spend time developing personal networks, and learn how organizations function. Kinnear never directly states that this is the purpose of his book. Rather, he lets the message he wishes to convey to slowly permeate the conscientious of the reader as they follow his progression upward through the Navy’s chain of command.

As a high school dropout, Kinnear joined the U.S. Navy in the last year of World War II. Through a remarkable set of circumstances, he would advance from E-1 to O-10. Almost immediately upon joining the Navy, Kinnear realizes the limitations his lack of a high school degree places upon his desire to enter the aviation field. The story of how he used networking to get his high school degree and be sent to college by the Navy reads like a Horatio Alger story. Yet the common core of his story is that he did what was necessary to meet U.S. Navy requirements to be a pilot.

Once Kinnear received his wings, he followed a career of advancement through multiple jobs within the Navy’s aviation community. It was path heavy on education and staff duties. Every job the Navy gave him, he used as a learning exercise. This learning is not limited to his area of his responsibility, but he continually sought to learn more about the world around him. He used his tour of duty onboard the training carrier USS Antietam (CV 36) to become proficient as both a deck and an engineering officer. Examples of how a leader leads and mentors his men are laced throughout the book.

His tale of working as a Congressional liaison officer for the Navy is a tale of how to achieve goals by developing relationships with Congressional staffers and taking the time to learn how Congress works, not how it should work. He constantly emphasized that the key to success in getting a matter resolved in Congress is to find the lowest staff person who can make it happen. He included high-level networking stories of how the Ohio class submarines received their class name, how a Nimitz carrier was authorized and de-authorized, and why the F-18 was chosen over the F-17.

The book also contained an interesting number of short stories describing encounters the Admiral had with various people of power and his impression of them. What is missing from the book is information on his family or how they coped with his absences and constant movement around the country. Overall, this is an informative read concerning some of the outside and inside forces that were impacting the Navy, both positively and negatively, during the Admirals time in the Navy. The book is well worth reading by anyone interested in the Navy of the 1950s and 1960s or making a success of their life. The fundamental fact that I took away from the book is: if one wishes to succeed in this world, one must never stop learning about the world around oneself.


Charles H. Bogart is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – Naval Air Station Patuxent River

Chambers_Naval Air Station Patuxent RiverBy Mark A. Chambers, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2014)

Reviewed by Richard P. Hallion, Ph.D.

This pictorial history is a useful and appealing introduction to what naval aviators—specifically, test pilots, flight test engineers, test crews, and technical support staff—have accomplished over the last seventy years at one of the world’s finest and most historic flight test centers. Author Mark Chambers, a technical writer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the NASA Langley Research Center (another legendary Tidewater flight research site), has assembled an impressive collection of visual images capturing various programs and test areas through the years.

Readers will find themselves marveling at the wide range of programs and activities captured in the images he selected. While some are well known—for example, Marine Maj. Gen. Marion Carl’s late-career formal portrait (p. 17), or an air-launch of the second Douglas D-558-2 from its Boeing P2B-1S (Navy B-29) mothership during its contractor flight test program (p. 83), most are not. Casually paging through this volume, one encounters captured enemy aircraft undergoing technical evaluation, experimental V/STOL and high-speed designs, prototypes of operational fighters, attack aircraft, and maritime patrol airplanes, early efforts to develop “drone” guided missiles, and a plethora of rotary-wing craft and other, more specialized designs.

This is very much an aircraft-centric book. Although there are some photographs of people and places, the vast number of images simply show a succession of aircraft, running from the heyday of the piston-engine propeller-driven airplane through the transition into the jet age, and the transformation of aircraft design from subsonic straight-wing aircraft through early swept-and-delta wings, to the variable-geometry Grumman F-14, and on to more exotic canard, fly-by-wire, and hybrid designs made possible by the marriage of conventional aeronautical technology—the technology of structures, propulsion, controls, and applied aerodynamics—with the powerful Moore’s Law-driven computer.

Books in this series are primarily photographic histories. Chambers has done an excellent job captioning his photos, giving the reader ample information and a solid context within which to review and ponder the illustration under examination.

Where this book is less successful is in telling the story of Pax River and the legendary people tied to it. One searches in vain for images, for example, of the Test Pilot School, its students, and its classrooms, or for any indication of how the center grew over time reflecting the needs of the Cold War, and then experienced a major reorganization when Naval Air Systems Command moved from Arlington, VA to Lexington Park, MD. There are no organizational tables, charts, or data compilations on budgets, work forces, etc.

However, these are not criticisms—the publisher and author are quite “up front” about their work being a photographic history (albeit primarily one driven by aircraft images), and it is certainly a well-researched and well-presented work that anyone interested in naval flight testing will want to have on their shelf. But however satisfying it is, Chambers’ excellent introduction is just that—an introduction—that whets the appetite for its author, or someone else, to prepare a full-length detailed history of Pax River and its extraordinary contributions to aerospace.


Dr. Hallion is a retired Air Force historian with extensive service to various government agencies.


Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW – HARNESSED TO THE POLE: Sledge Dogs in Service to American Explorers of the Arctic, 1853-1909

Nickerson_Harnessed to the PoleBy Sheila Nickerson, University of Alaska Press, Anchorage (2014)

Reviewed by Jan Churchill

The North Pole was the ultimate prize. Before aviation, ships could only go so far thanks to polar ice. The best way to travel, with supplies and food, was by dog sledge. However, the British Royal Navy made men, not dogs, haul sledges for Sir John Franklin’s expedition, when he was searching for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole. The Franklin Expedition with its two ships, Terror and Erebus, left England on May 19, 1845, and was last seen by a whaler in Lancaster Sound on July 26, 1845.

Many explorers from around world in the second half of the 19th century hoped to stake their claim on the Arctic by reaching the North Pole, the highest goal attainable. The greatest success came to those who recognized that the fastest way to travel was by using a team of hardworking sledge dogs driven by native men. This book reveals how critical dogs were to Arctic conquest. Besides transportation, sledge dogs drove off predators, helped in hunting, found their way through devastating storms, and provided warmth. They also faced cruel conditions, rough handling, starvation, and the possibility of being left behind if injured or too weak. The dogs were exploited and discarded, no matter how loyal they had been.   Nickerson gives a picture of the rugged, tenacious and most vital animals. Without them, the great arctic journeys would have been impossible. Nickerson recounts their stories with fascinating detail, giving these magnificent dogs the recognition they deserve.

Americans were among last to enter the effort to find Franklin and reach the geographic North Pole. American expeditions covered in this book include those of:

— Elisha Kent Kane, The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, (1853-1855)

— Isaac I. Hayes, A Voyage of Discovery Toward the North Pole, (1860 – 1861)

— Charles Francis Hall, First Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, (1860 – 1862), Second Arctic Expedition, (1864 – 1869), and North Polar, Polaris, Expedition, (1871 – 1873)

— Frederick Schwatka, Seeking the records of the Lost Franklin Expedition, (1878 – 1880)

— George Washington De Long (a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy), The Polar Expedition, (1879 – 1881)

— Adolphus Washington Greely, The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, (1881 – 1884)

— Frederick A. Cook, The Expedition That First Reached the Boreal Center, (1907 – 1909)

— Robert E. Peary, The North Pole Expedition, (1908 – 1909)

It was the Americans that came late into the Franklin search late (and increasingly intent on claiming the North Pole), who made consistent use of dogs, and began to write about their exploits. Most of the dogs came from Greenland as well as from Newfoundland and Alaska. The Greenland dog was an ancient breed tracing back to original Inuit dogs from Siberia with remains found as far back as 7000 BC. The Greenland dog is also known as the Esquimaux Dog and Greenland Husky. The Greenland dogs and the Inuits forged a bond even though the men used a whip (six yards long) as a tool for driving the dogs. Conditions were treacherous for men and dogs. Sometimes when food was scarce, dogs might be fed once a week. The dogs were named and known as individuals to their drivers.

The dogs were harnessed individually in a “fantail” hitch allowing dogs to spread out in front of a sledge in semi-circular fashion, not the two-by-two tandem more commonly used today which is suitable for narrow trails and forests. The fantail hitch enabled the dogs to work around large chunks of ice. The most spirited dog had a longer trace and was proclaimed leader.

U.S. Navy connections abound. A First Day Cover issued 1959 for “50 Years of Arctic Expeditions, 1909 – 1959” honored Robert E. Peary as the “Discoverer of the North Pole.” Peary was on leave from the U.S. Navy during explorations, but was later made a Rear Admiral. Hall’s Polaris expedition had Congressional support while Hall had to report to the Secretary of the Navy. Elisha Kent Kane was a Navy doctor traveling under orders from the U.S. Navy. Several images in the book were credited to the Naval Historical Foundation.

The background information is extremely well detailed in chapter notes. There is an extensive bibliography and index. The book is well illustrated with images on the construction of sledges, harness, and dogs. Numerous maps are used throughout.

This compelling story is a must-read for Navy historians with its fascinating details of Polar history. Utilizing new sources and original research, Nickerson provides the magnificent dogs the recognition they deserve. She portrays them as the most rugged, tenacious and significant polar travelers. Without the dogs, these explorations would have been impossible.


Jan Churchill is a retired Coast Guard aviator.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NHF Staff Visit NHHC Collections Management Facility

By Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf Curator

RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 1, 2014) - The U.S. Navy's collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, are being moved to the Naval History and Heritage Command's Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts.  NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 1, 2014) – The U.S. Navy’s collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, are being moved to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

The Navy has not always done its due diligence in preserving its material heritage. The practice of collecting naval artifacts dates to the early nineteenth century under patrons such as Thomas Tingey, but these objects were not always handled with preservation practices in mind. It was not until 1961 that Admiral Arleigh Burke established a national museum to house and protect the United States Navy’s collection. Since this decision, the Navy has done its best to collect, protect, and preserve its material culture. The latest demonstration of this mission is the Naval History and Heritage Artifact Consolidation at the Defense Supply Center Richmond.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command's warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Bells from Navy Ships wait to be transferred to Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

NHF staff had the privilege of visiting the new facility earlier this month. The visit included a tour of the new space guided by Collections Manager Melanie Pereira. Ms. Pereira informed the staff of the plans and procedures for the facility and indicated designated spaces for research, conservation, and storage of artifacts. The refurbished warehouse is being outfitted with high quality shelving units, laboratory spaces, and digital tools to ensure the longevity of this massively important collection.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of our visit was witnessing the high level of care the curatorial staff employed when working with the artifacts. Every member of the team whom we were introduced to explained to us with ferocious enthusiasm what object they were working on and how each facet of the object spoke to the history of the United States Navy. Every artifact—including those donated by NHF!—is being cared for with extreme passion and expertise at the Richmond facility.

The innovative technology utilized in the building couples with the skills of the collection teams to provide a safe and stable environment for this immense collection. The Artifact Consolidation is proving to be a phenomenal benefit to the study of and preservation of naval history. Curators, conservators, and collection team members continue to develop and implement best practices within this space, giving the Navy’s collection a state-of-the-art new home.

Posted in Collections, History, Navy Museum, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ditty Bag: Thai Sterling Silver Cigarette Set

Ditty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation An Artifact and Collections Blog Series

Thai Sterling Silver Cigarette Set

The travels of Admiral Arleigh Burke are the topic of fascination and awe for many United States Navy enthusiasts. Some of our exotic and unique collection items were products of his travels. This silver cigarette set from Thailand is no exception.


This cigarette set (NHF # 1976-639-04-D) was a gift to Admiral Burke during his 1956 visit with Mrs. Burke to Thailand. The set is comprised of four pieces: Tray, ashtray, cigarette box holder, and match box. Each piece is silver (note the tarnishing) and speaks to the high level of Thai craftsmanship.

Tray measures - 9 ¾ ‘’ x 6’’

Tray measures – 9 ¾ ‘’ x 6’’

Ashtray  measures  - 2 ¼ ‘’ x 1 ¼’’

Ashtray measures – 2 ¼ ‘’ x 1 ¼’’

Cigarette box holder measures  - 3 ¼’’ x 2 ½’’

Cigarette box holder measures – 3 ¼’’ x 2 ½’’

Match box measures  - 3 ½’’ X 2 ¾’’ x 1 ½’’

Match box measures – 3 ½’’ X 2 ¾’’ x 1 ½’’

MarkingThe reverse of each piece is marked ZN800, denoting deluxe quality silver. These pieces are beautiful, despite their tarnish, and represent the high quality of vintage, Thai silversmith work.

05d807eDitty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation is a new artifact blog written by Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf Curator. She will periodically write posts about various artifacts and accessioned items in the Naval Historical Foundation collection and their impact on naval history. You can view all of the collections highlighted in Ditty Bag on our Flickr page HERE. To contact Emily or to inquire about NHF collections, please email Emily Pearce at epearce@navyhistory.org.

For previous releases of Ditty Bag, Please go HERE.

Posted in Featured, History, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment