BOOK REVIEW – Ambushed Under the Southern Cross

Ambushed Under the Southern CrossBy Captain George Duffy, Xlibris Corp., Bloomington (2008)

Reviewed by Captain J.A. Peschka, Jr.

If you still get excited and riveted to your chair when you read a good sea story, then Ambushed under the Southern Cross is for you. This is not a history book written in academic prose with precise references and intellectual assertions to the event’s impact on history. Indeed, there are no footnotes, and the extensive bibliography suggests it is a compendium of everything that Captain George Duffy ever addressed concerning the period of his education and service as Third Mate, his subsequent incarceration, and his post war activities with former shipmates and captors. Neither the bibliography nor the absence of footnotes detract from the story.

Ambushed is a documentation of the experiences and adventures witnessed by Captain Duffy throughout his life. His tale commences in October 1939 when he and thirty fellow cadets joined the school ship Nantucket where. There, he invested two years in preparation for shipboard duties at Massachusetts Nautical School. He goes on to describe his first trip as Third Mate, his captivity by two Axis powers, and finally his safe return to his family in October 1945.

This compelling story tracks the journey of a young man through the last class at Massachusetts Nautical School (which now operates as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which continues to train and educate knowledgeable deck and engine officers of good character, dependability, industry and integrity). The story continues with his experiences on his first ship, SS American Leader, subsequent sinking and captivity in the German raider Michel, the German supply ship Uckermark (ex Altmark of Graf Spee infamy), and finally through a series of Japanese prison camps.

The real strengths of Ambushed are threefold: Captain Duffy’s propensity for detailed journal keeping, his most excellent ability to sketch, and his detailed memory. Of course any seaman worth his salt is adept at spinning a fair sea story. Typically, the details either wax or wane with each repetition, usually to the enhancement of the role of the teller. It is fair to say that any deviations from veracity in Captain Duffy’s case are virtually non-existent because of his aides de memoire in the form of his meticulous notes and detailed sketching.

What is the benefit of Ambushed beyond a good sea story by an articulate and accomplished author? This should be another reminder of the nation’s dependence on merchant shipping in peace, crises, and war. Sadly, that dependence is rapidly forgotten in peace and in budgetary cycles. We do not have mariners of sufficient numbers and skills, nor sufficient modern ships with the unique military characteristics necessary. Our experiences in past conflicts demonstrate the ever-recurring reality of this point. As one example, merchant marine manning was so deficient that intra-theater was accomplished in part by two squadrons of LST’s in US Navy livery, one of which operated from Pusan, Korea, and manned by Korean seamen, while the other operated from Sasebo, Japan and manned by Japanese seafarers. This is hardly the mark of pride for a superpower. The need for the generational equivalents of Captain George Duffy and SS American Leader is the lesson that comes through. We owe a continuing debt of gratitude to both.

All in all, you will find this an interesting and engaging armchair work, so put it on your “fun” reading list and enjoy it.


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BOOK REVIEW – The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World

seaBy Lincoln Paine, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY (2013)

Reviewed by Sam Craghead

This book could easily be titled, “The Greatest Sea Story Ever Told.”  The subtitle proffers the scope of the work, which Lincoln Paine delivers in grand style.  With 599 pages of text, 48 pages of bibliography, 17 maps, 26 pages of color images, and 46 illustrations, it was a prodigious undertaking. The Sea and Civilization is a worldview rarely seen today. It ventures far to acquaint us with the influence of the seas and rivers and relates where man has been and how he arrived to where he is now.  This noteworthy volume is written in a prose style as engaging as the stories included in the volume. Paine tells of the people throughout history who have explored, pioneered, traded, fought, and died; built and lost ships; opened markets; conquered adversity; established and spread religion; made and lost money; and used the waters comprising seventy percent of our planet to further human civilization. This monumental product of intense research is presented in a manner easily readable by scholar and layman alike.

The book contains detailed descriptions of the vessels employed and the means of navigation utilized throughout. The author begins with the astounding distances and means employed by the inhabitants of the Pacific, the dispersion of people to the Americas, and the founding and expansion of contact, communication, and trade by sea and river.

As trade developed along the Nile, Pharaonic Egypt stretched its influence along the Eastern Mediterranean.  As this influence declined other peoples filled the gap in succession.  The Phoenicians were followed by the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans.  In the East, the Indian Ocean trade centered on seaborne communications and trade to Southeast Asia, China, and Japan.  As maritime traffic grew, nations recognized the need for protection of their interests. Navies and maritime laws became established.

Today, few of us dream of going to sea.  A trip to cities that were once ports of call for ships resembles little of those by-gone days.  With its shipping and the variety of seamen from around the world, as described by author Herman Melville, the port of Nantucket of his day, as well as other previously well-known ports of call for ships indeed have vanished.

If there is any criticism of this work, it would be the anchoring of maps at the front of the volume. This makes the reader to mark their place when referring to the map.  That being said, it is a small inconvenience for such an overall rewarding experience.

Craghead serves with the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA.


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BOOK REVIEW – The Port of Houston

port-houston-mark-lardas-paperback-cover-artBy Mark Lardas, Arcadia Publishing, Mt. Pleasant, SC (2013)

Reviewed by Terry Miller

Mark Lardas takes the reader through the history of the Port of Houston from its earliest days in the new Republic of Texas in 1836 to the present day. The 128-page book is more than half filled with photos, which adds to his well-written narrative. Anyone who really knows Houston appreciates the importance of the Port and its economic impact on the city and area. Published by Arcadia Publishing as a part of their Images of America series, the book helps fill gaps in the knowledge of long-time Houstonians who think they know their city, but may not know the Port or its history.

Lardas utilizes many B&W photos and data from various archives including the University of Houston, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Houston Authority, and several published books and accounts to create his clear and concise account. The one thing the book lacks is a map of the Houston Ship Channel and its environs. There is a half-page image of a map from the 1950s, but it is too small to follow along with the locations specified in the text. 21

The value of the photographs alone is nearly inestimable. They help tell the story of the beginning of an idea, the daring of two land-speculator brothers from New York City, and the impact of the Civil War and “King Cotton.” The Port always trailed the Port of Galveston in importance until the hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston, pushing Houston to prominence. Then the discovery of oil in Texas and the need to shave off the additional 50 miles of rail costs from shipments to port led to the development of the Port of Houston as a petroleum and petrochemical mecca for the nation.

Lardas details how today’s Port of Houston operates and discusses its probable continued growth in the future, while at the same time providing an interesting look into Southeast Texas history. I highly recommend this book highly to anyone who lives in the Texas Gulf Coast or has an interest in the history of the State of Texas or in American ports and shipping.


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BOOK REVIEW – Naval Air Station Jacksonville

Naval Air Station JacksonvilleBy Ronald M.Williamson and Emily Savoca, Arcadia Publishing, Mt. Pleasant, SC, (2013).

Reviewed By: Rodney Carlisle, Ph. D.

This short photographic collection is one of more than 8,000 volumes produced by Arcadia Publishing in its “Images of America” series on a wide variety of towns, forts, historic places, and locales scattered across the United States. Like most volumes in the series, Naval Air Station Jacksonville contains a very short Introduction (in this case, about 3,000 words), followed by 208 black and white photographs, mostly U.S. Navy photos from local archives.

Although by the standard of most historical works, the “Images of America” volumes are light in text, they do convey a massive amount of historical information through the carefully-selected images and the deep captions, each running as long as 100 to 120 or more words. With the photos and captions, this volume succeeds in conveying the story of the physical appearance of the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, from its predecessor, Camp Johnson and Camp Foster, to its modern role as a base for special project reconnaissance squadrons and Helicopter Squadron Marine (HSM) units, as well as other small contemporary naval air units.

Originally, the base conducted basic aircraft training and seaplane training. Over the decades, it evolved into a training facility for pilots in almost every type of aircraft flown by the Navy. Naval Air Station Jacksonville (“Jax” to its friends and neighbors), now houses some 15 aviation squadrons, about 115 tenant commands, and a total of approximately 20,000 military, civilian, and contractor employees.

Through the selection of archival photos and the detailed captions, the reader gets an impressionistic view of training methods and training venues, recreation, generations of equipment, recovery and repair work on nearby crashed aircraft, and notable ceremonies at the Air Station. The volume will serve as a keepsake for Jax veterans; it will also be of interest to aircraft history buffs and students of Naval Aircraft history, as well as readers interested in local history of the Jacksonville, Florida, area.

Given the approach of Arcadia Publishing in this massive local history series, the work is not intended to explore deeper issues of aircraft evolution, technological development, naval organization and facilities management, race and gender relations in the military, or the difficulties of transition from peace to war and back to peace, which characterize all U.S. military facilities. Even so, individual photographs within this work touch on all these areas and could readily serve to help illustrate studies of such topics.


Dr. Carlisle is Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University; Vice President Emeritus, History Associates Incorporated

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BOOK REVIEW – Rag Man, Rag Man

Lacivita - Rag ManBy Michael J. Lacivita, Pig Iron Books, Youngstown, OH (2004)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

The curious title of this memoir refers to the garbage man who came to pick up items for recycling purposes. This is just one of the many jobs the author talks about during the course of this very personal story.  Explicitly, the author compares his own stories collected in a sort of stream-of-consciousness approach with the scraps that a “rag man” would collect during the Great Depression.  This sort of book resembles memoirs like Angela’s Ashes in its focus on education, hard times, family, and immigrant experience.  Even more so, this book reads like the transcribed stories of a chatty and somewhat crotchety grandfather.

Some comment must be made of the contents of this book, as it is a work best read in small bits. The connections between different short essays can be tenuous.  The content of this book ranges from an appreciation of hobbies like gardening and photography to stories about Amish horse buggies, the troubles of buying cameras in Japan, or the persistence that was required to find a job in Depression-era Youngstown, Ohio. There are also stories of the serendipitous nature of running into veterans from the same small area, and also the divided and impoverished nature of early 20th century rural Italy.  All of these essays have to do with the life of the author, but it appears the order of essays is determined by something in one essay reminding the author of another story to tell in a way that can sometimes be repetitious, but nonetheless personal and genuine.  As could easily be imagined, the author spends a great deal of time explaining terms from Italian as well as his own childhood that are no longer in common currency.  These explanations, which fill many pages, add to the educational interest of this particular work as well.

This volume is intriguing from the perspective of the historian for several reasons. The first is the way the book provides insight into language and culture rooted in the Italian immigrant experience of the early 20th century.  Second, this book shows an intriguing perspective on the experience of workers on the home front of World War II, as he instructed women in a factory on welding the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) boats and later served on the crew of a few of the same boats in the war.  Although his life as an enlisted sailor only took up a few years of the author’s life and subsequently only about a fifth of this book, it nonetheless is of interest to students of naval history, especially from the perspective of an enlisted seaman.  Also of interest to those students of war and society is the way in which enlistment in World War II helped people like Lacivita show their loyalty to the United States (though it is telling that as an Italian-American he was sent to the Pacific front), and helped them find educational opportunities thanks to the GI Bill.

The book is organized in a broad chronological fashion despite its somewhat scattered contents. The book has a short forward from one of the grandsons of the author, a sixteen year old who accurately captures his grandfather’s passion as a writer as well as a measure of his personality that comes through the pages of this work.  The first part of the book, “Atop The Apennines,” looks at the Italian background of the author and his wife, and contains a lot of humorous stories about mules floating to the Adriatic and other more poignant tales of divided families struggling in near-starvation conditions because of remarriage and feuding over limited resources in an atmosphere of limited opportunities for advancement.  The second part, “The East Side and the Great Depression,” looks at the author’s life growing up in Youngstown, Ohio during the Great Depression. This part of the story is full of poignant stories of a family too proud to take government assistance.  The third part of the story, “Aboard the U.S.S. LST 582,” looks at the author’s war experiences, and is of the most direct interest to those who are interested in naval history.  The fourth part, “Settling Out,” closes the book with a look at the author’s life since World War II, spending far more time on the author’s hobbies and interests and sports than on the details of his courtship of his longtime wife.  There is a reticence about personal matters that is rather telling, but also a bit unfortunate in that it leaves a bit of a gap in the life of the author.

Taken as a whole, this is a book of interest both as an account of a talented writer of his life and times and a source of stories about World War II from a generation slowly dying away.  Fortunately for us, this author left us an engaging and warm account that has an obvious aim of teaching the critical comparison between past generations and our own.  Intriguingly, the volume contains a few photographs from the author that help to explain the story of his life, a story well worth reading.


Nathan Albright is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

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BOOK REVIEW – SUBIC: A Sailor’s Memoir

Perkins Brown-SubicBy Barbara Perkins-Brown, Self Published

Reviewed By Lori Bogle. Ph.D.

Barbara Perkins-Brown’s Subic: A Sailor’s Memoir is a tribute to her father Bobby Earl Perkins.  Perkins joined the Navy in the late 1960s to escape the segregated South only to become a victim of racial discrimination at Subic Bay Naval Base, Philippines.  Written in the first person with well under 100 pages of double-spaced, large font text, Subic appeals more to the high school student than the scholar.  The narrative, however, still packs a powerful emotional punch for any reader.  It also contains a number of primary documents including a 1968 letter from The Robert Brown Elliott League to Congressman Phillip Burton asking for an investigation of the court-martial of Morris G. Ervin for speaking out against the base’s discriminatory practices.

Scholars interested in pursuing the topic further should consult Yen Le Espiritu’s Home Bound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communities and Countries (University of California Press, 2003);   Hollis Earl Johnson, Annie’s Child: Memories of Racism on the Journey to Hawaii (iUniverse, 2010); Herman Graham, The Brothers’ Vietnam War: Black Power, Manhood, and the Military Experience (University Press of Florida, 2003); James E. Westheider, Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War (NYU Press, 1999)and Carol Readron, Launch the Intruders: A Naval Attack Squadron (University Press of Kansas, 2009). For more information on the history of Subic Bay see Lewis E. Gleeck, Jr., “A Synoptic Account of the Life and Death of Subic Naval Base,” Bulletin of the American Historical Collection Foundation,” volume 26, issue 4, 1998, 7-15.


Dr. Bogle teaches history at the United States Naval Academy.



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World War II-Era Bottles Donated to the Naval History and Heritage Command

Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) pours the contents of a Ballantine's Beer out. The bottle and cap were donated to the Naval History and Heritage Command Curatorial Branch Wednesday.

Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) pours the contents of a Ballantine’s Beer out. The bottle and cap were donated to the Naval History and Heritage Command Curatorial Branch Wednesday.

A few of us in the room stared at the vase as the amber-colored liquid poured out of the bottle.  There was a surprising hiss of carbonation once the bottle cap came off. NHF Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) picked up the contents and sniffed it.

He looks up surprisingly and exclaims, “It smells like beer.” It did. There was a mild sour and vinegary note to it as well. Other than that, it smelled like old beer.

If you are wondering what 70-year-old beer looks like, here is your proof.  If you are wondering what it tastes like…well…you will have to find out for yourself.

The box of Ballantine's Beer originally donated by Wayne Yoakum to the Foundation in 2012

The box of Ballantine’s Beer originally donated by Wayne Yoakum to the Foundation in 2012

On Wednesday, The Naval Historical Foundation donated two World War II-era beer bottles to the Curatorial Branch of the Collections and Management Division at the Naval History and Heritage Command.  NHHC Curators Clarissa Frank and Connie Beninghove were on hand with several NHF staff members (former and current) to witness the transfer of bottles. The bottles originally belonged to former Navy Lieutenant Wayne L. Yoakum. Yoakum served on the USS Coghlan (DD 606) during World War II, where he procured the bottles.

How the bottles come to the Foundation is an interesting story in itself. Mr. Yoakum interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project back in 2011. During the course of the interview, Yoakum mentioned a few possessions he kept during the time he served in WWII that he intended to donate.  Among the items was an entire case of Ballantine’s Beer, a popular libation for sailors and civilians alike during the war. Yoakum donated the case to the Naval Historical Foundation in 2012.


According to Yoakum, ships routinely carried certain alcohol stores for the crew for medicinal purposes or in the chance liberty was granted at a designated recreation area.  The case of Ballantine’s Beer donated to the Naval Historical Foundation was originally offloaded by Yoakum from the USS Coghlan (DD 606) at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1945. The box of beer and several other items traded from troops ashore following the battle for Saipan arrived at the Foundation in January 2012.

The case of 15 bottles came packed in a box with sawdust. It also included its on bottle opener with the case. The description on the box reads:


Under government policy, the Naval History and Heritage Command cannot accept artifacts with liquids.  We had to empty the contents of the donated items, much to the delight of NHF and NHHC staffers.

When You See the Three Ring Sign, Ask the Man for Ballantine’s


Sailors at NAS Beaufort, SC Celebrate VJ Day with Ballantine Beer

Sailors at NAS Beaufort, SC Celebrate VJ Day with Ballantine Beer

The Ballantine’s label is a brand with a rich history and proud heritage in Americana dating back to the mid-19th century. It was the beer that sailors like Yoakum drank in peace and victory, and the official sponsor of the New York Yankees during their Golden Era. The remaining bottles could become an excellent addition to specialty breweries, museums, or historic societies seeking such a historic item.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact breweries related to the Ballantine’s label over the past two years, we are opening up bottles to those deserving institutions. We are currently looking for repositories, including beer museums and military museums that might want to add a bottle of this beer to their collections.

Do you know a place that would like to have one of these vintage WWII-era bottles in their collection?  If so, please contact NHF Executive Director Todd Creekman at  Or call the main NHF line at (202) 678-4333.

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The Hanoi Hilton and Racial Adversity: Junior Naval Historians Shine at National History Day

The parade of students at National History Day

The parade of students at National History Day

Thousands of excited and energetic students from around the country packed into the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center last Thursday to participate in the awards ceremony for National History Day. The event is the culmination of a busy week for these young scholars. Students in middle and high school showcase their history projects, ranging from a variety of topics and presentations, to a group of expert judges. Awards are given according to type of presentation and subject matter, including naval history.

Naval Historical Foundation staff once again attended the event to help hand out the Captain Kenneth Coskey Naval History Prize. The prize is named for the late Captain Ken Coskey, a Vietnam War combat aviator and Prisoner of War, and former Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation. Rosemary Coskey, wife of Captain Coskey, and Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.) presented the award and generous $1,000 cash prizes to the junior and senior devision winners in the documentary category. This is the first year that the awards were given to both high school and middle school representatives for the best naval history projects in their category. Captan Coskey was a long time supporter of National History Day up until his death last year.

The Junior Division Winners from Vancouver, WA

The Junior Division Winners from Vancouver, WA

Vietnam Prisoners of War: Taking Responsibility When Deprived of All Rights
Jethro Abayo and Logan Gilbert 

The Coskey Prize in the Junior Divison at National History Day went to Jethro Abayo and Logan Gibert of Pleasant Valley Middle School in Vancouver, WA, for their documentary, Vietnam Prisoners of War: Taking Responsibility When Deprived of All Rights.  In this compelling film, Jethro and Logan tell how POWs in Vietnam with no rights at all took responsibility for themselves and each other in one of a most difficult circumstance.  Their work is based on the true story of two aviators, Navy Commander Porter Halyburton and Air Force Colonel Fred Cherry. They detail how they saved each others’ lives under the cruel conditions imposed by their North Vietnamese captors at the Hanoi Hilton.  Cherry, an African American pilot from Southside Virginia, was badly injured and received no medical attention whatsoever. Halyburton, a NC native, was thrown into his cell and told to take care of the Air Force officer.

Visiting the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy

Visiting the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy

Ms. Irene Soohoo, their teacher, pointed out the serious and original historical research they conducted to prepare the documentary.  They obtained oral history interviews with both Halyburton and Cherry, as well as other POW survivors and their families.  They spent countless hours doing research in other primary sources to build their documentary.   Abayo and Gilbert also took home the the first place prize in the Junior Group Documentary category, beating out over 100 other entries from around the nation, as well as China, Korea, and Singapore.


After the awards ceremony, Jethro and Logan traveled with their families to the Naval Historical Foundation in the Washington Navy Yard to visit with Executive Director CAPT Todd Creekman. Captain Creekman presented the young scholars with NHF Commemorative Coins.  They went on to spend the afternoon touring the National Museum of the United States Navy and its Cold War Gallery. It was a fitting visit, as the found the Cold War Gallery’s Vietnam POW exhibit appealed to their historical interests. Jethro’s father whispered to Captain Chadbourn that the boys decided they wanted to attend the United States Naval Academy where they will aspire to become Naval Aviators!  Both plan to do NHD again next year once they get into high school.

The Golden 13: Civil Responsibility Before Self
Katharine Journaey, Mark Cochran, Hannah McDonnell, Colby Gould and Emily Pierce

Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.), Rosemary Coskey, and the Senior Division Winners from Exeter High School

Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.), Rosemary Coskey, and the Senior Division Winners from Exeter High School

After ten months of research and preparation, students from Exeter High School (EHS) in Exeter, NH, competed at the annual National History Day competition. Their documentary, Golden 13: Civic Responsibility Before Self, by Katharine Journaey, Mark Cochran, Hannah McDonnell, Colby Gould and Emily Pierce, earned first place in the senior group documentary and a National Archives award at the New Hampshire state competition. EHS Advisor, Ms. Molly Stevenson, shared that the students “should be commended for their dedication to the historian’s craft. They have learned research, writing and presentation skills that will serve them throughout their lives.”  When asked what were highlights of the experience, each of the students cited the chance to study original manuscripts, interview experts and individuals directly connected to their topics, and design a project that would increase the public’s understanding of the subject.

A special thanks to Captain Chadbourn and Rosemary Coskey for attending the event and representing the proud traditions of naval history.

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8 Groups of Sailors Ready for the Weekend

1. A Good Weekend Requires Planning5190623320_e272a6d5bf_o

(NARA Photo: 80-G-431069)

2. Playing Cards Will Help Pass the TimeUSS Maine

(LOC Image: LC-DIG-det-4a14373)

3. It Might Require Travel8c01352v

(LOC Image: LC-USF34-039283-D)

4. Get Plenty of Rest the Night Before5190623428_b3bc39415c_o (1)


(NARA Image: 80-G-471182)

5. Grab a Snack Before Heading Out82-13673-2203

(Image: San Diego History Center)

6. Grab Your Friends09957v (1)

(LOC Image: LC-B2- 2332-11)

7. Take It All In1_Sailors_Glen Echo

(LOC Image: LC-USW3-022792-E)

8. Relax and Enjoy the Fun!8d28137v

(LOC Image: LC-USW3- 022807-E)

9. PS: Don’t Forget a Camera!8d07710r

(Yale Library Photo# 8d07710r)


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Ambassador Middendorf Honored at 2014 NHF Annual Membership Meeting

Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.), Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, and Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.)

Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.), Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, and Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.)

Each year, the Naval Historical Foundation holds a meeting in Washington, DC to meet with our members, volunteers, and friends to discuss our current and future plans.  Nearly one hundred supporters gathered in the Navy Museum last Saturday for a day of celebration, commemoration, and friendship.

This is certainly a year of many commemorative celebrations: The 70th anniversary of pivotal World War II events, the ongoing sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, and the beginning of the centennial of World War I. This year focused on the continuing bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812. The Annual Meeting was held in coordination with the Smithsonian Institution’s Raise it Up! Anthem for America Flag Day event held in Washington, DC and around the country, which honors the flag, on display at the National Museum of American History, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words 200 years ago this September, that became our national anthem.  The Naval Historical Foundation and National Museum of the United States Navy were partners for the event.

The day began with a meeting of our Board of Directors. Rear Admiral Kathleen Paige was elected as the Foundation’s newest board member.  We are very pleased to welcome RADM Paige to the board, and look forward to her expertise and insightful comments as a board member. Naval History and Heritage Command Director Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN also offered his remarks during the Board of Directors meeting.  Captain Hendrix will retire from the Navy at the end of this month (You can read about Captain Hendrix in the latest issue of Pull Together).

Steve Vogel addresses attendees

Steve Vogel addresses attendees

At the Annual Meeting venue, after a brief welcome by NHF Historian Dr. David Winkler, Vice Admiral George W. Emery, author of In Their Own Words: The Navy Fights the War of 1812, introduced the David Leighton lecturer to members and special guests in attendance.  Washington Post reporter and noted author Steve Vogel delivered a timely talk about his book, Through the Perilous Fight: From the Burning of Washington to the Star-Spangled Banner: The Six Weeks That Saved the Nation. Vogel expertly recounted the series of events in the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas that culminated with the writing of the National Anthem, preceded by the Battle of Bladensburg, and the burning of the Capitol, White House, and Washington Navy Yard where he was speaking. Both authors remained after the lecture before the business meeting to inscribe copies of their books for the guests.

The Annual Meeting’s business component kicked off at noon with a brief introduction by Foundation Chairman Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.). War of 1812 period musicians David and Ginger Hildebrand then led all in attendance in singing “The Defence of Ft. M’Henry,” better known as the Star Spangled Banner.  After Foundation president Rear Adm. John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.) discussed the year in review with the President’s Report, Executive Director Capt. Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) announced a series of Foundation award winners.  Recipients included the Captain Beach Award Winner (USNA) and the four newest historians to be awarded the Foundation’s Dudley Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award (Dr. Craig Symonds, Dr. William Dudley, Dr. John B. Hattendorf, and Dr. Harold D. Langley).Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) received this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his work writing for the Foundation’s Naval History Blog. George wrote a series of very popular posts about Fletcher Class Destroyers in WWII and his own personal experiences aboard commercial tankers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) accepts the Volunteer of the Year Award from Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.)

Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) accepts the Volunteer of the Year Award from Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.)

The highlight of the Annual Meeting was the recognition of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II as Director Emeritus of the Naval Historical Foundation.  Ambassador Middendorf served as a director of the Foundation for forty years. Among his many accomplishments, he served as the Secretary of the Navy and US Ambassador to the European Union.

David and Ginger Hildebrand sang two War of 1812 songs in honor of Ambassador Middendorf, “Decatur and the Navy” and “Perry’s Victory:”

Chairman Emeritus Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.) presented his former colleague and good friend with a congratulatory certificate and silver War of 1812 Medal. Both Emeritus members had many insightful and heartfelt things to say to one another about their combined 68 years of service to the Naval Historical Foundation.

A true renaissance man, Ambassador Middendorf is also an accomplished composer and artist (He sketched NHF Chairman ADM Bruce DeMars during the meeting!). In recognition of his myriad achievements, the formal meeting adjourned to the sounds of his “Midway March,” a popular Navy Band march composed in honor of the U.S. Navy’s decisive WWII victory at Midway.

The final event of the day was a catered lunch, which the Foundation was able to provide thanks to the generosity of Foundation director Dr. Jack London. David and Ginger Hildebrand serenaded guests at the luncheon with a selection of music from the 1812 time period. Members old and new had a chance to swap stories and catch up with one another. Colin McNulty, A US Army officer working for the Naval History and Heritage Command at the National Museum of the United States Navy, met a former colleague from his time serving overseas in a joint command during the meeting. As this was a year of several staffing changes, Foundation staff old and new were in attendance to converse with the men and women who support the Foundation and make it a continued success.  Thank you to everyone who attended, and we look forward to another successful year.  See you at next year’s meeting!

Thinking about becoming a member? Need to renew?  GO HERE.

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So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag

By Aaron McDougal, 2014 NHF Summer Intern

SoProudWeHail_BookToday marks the annual Flag Day celebration commemorating the adoption of the Star Spangled Banner as the national flag in 1777. The importance of the flag as the symbol of our country cannot be stressed enough. In light of this, it seems appropriate to draw attention to a book that delves into the history of the flag. This book, fittingly titled “So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag”, is one of the only compendiums of knowledge that succinctly and accurately describes the various flags (Notably Old Glory, Naval flags, Army flags etc.) used throughout the history of the United States. The book contains a rich historical narrative that begins with early flags preceding the creation of the United States and ends with modern flags such as the current 50 star flag.

The authors of the book, Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong and Commodore Byron McCandless, both served with distinction during the First and Second World Wars.
Furlong was born in Allenport, Pennsylvania, on May 26, 1881. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1905. During the First World War, he served in various capacities, notably as a gunnery observer. From 1923 to 1926, he served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Navy Department. He would later to return to the office in 1928, where he headed the Policy and Liaison Section, Office of Island Governments. He served for a short time as Operations Officer on the Staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. He was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1937, and served as the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department. From April 18 to December 25, 1941, he served as Commander Minecraft, Battleforce, and survived the torpedoing of his flagship, the USS Oglala, during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His greatest contribution to the war effort proved to be his time as Commandant of the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor. His duties included the management of a salvaging project of sunken ships as well as the repair of ships damaged during the attack. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Gold Star for his efforts in this endeavor. He retired from all active duty on March 4, 1946.

McCandless was born in Endicott, Nebraska, on September 5, 1881. Like Furlong, he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1905. He served aboard the USS Maine in 1907, which undertook a trip around the world as part of the Great White Fleet. Between 1915 and 1916, he served as Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations and then Aide to the Secretary of the Navy (Josephus Daniels). He was commander of the newly commissioned USS Caldwell from 1917 to 1920. As a result of his actions during the war (patrolling and escorting convoys through the Atlantic), he received the Navy Cross. During the Second World War, he served as Commandant of the Naval Repair Base, San Diego, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his efforts in managing the base. He was relieved of active duty for the second time on September 25, 1946. In addition to these exploits, he also invented aids to increase the efficiency of gunnery and a salvage device for freeing barges/craft that were stranded in landing operations.

Admiral Furlong notably was asked by President Eisenhower to submit a new design for the Star Spangled Banner, due to the addition of two more stars as the result of the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii into the Union. This design was subsequently adopted and the 50 star flag remains with us to this day.
Commodore McCandless advised Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S Truman on flag matters as a result of McCandless’s expertise.
Furlong and McCandless knew one another due to their time at the Naval Academy. During their time spent working at the Navy Department, they answered inquiries on flag issues, hence the development of their interest and expertise on flag matters.

As a result of their experiences, Admiral Furlong and Commodore McCandless understood the importance of the flag as a national symbol. The two were inspired to write a book on flags after discovering that existing sources of information were not up to the task of providing a definitive body of knowledge concerning flags. They therefore sought to compile research on the flag and mold said research into a form that was accurate, concise, and most importantly definitive. Unfortunately, Commodore McCandless passed away before the book was finished. Admiral Furlong finished the book, but passed away before it was published. Dr. Harold D. Langley (Division of Naval History, National Museum of American History) continued to edit the book and published it in 1981, thereby fulfilling the goal of both Furlong and McCandless.

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A Young Man in a Brave New World: William Speiden Jr. and the Opening of Japan


“This has been an important and great day and on which the Second grand landing of the Americans in Japan took place. I was fortunate enough on the occasion of the First landing to be one of those who landed.” (8 March 1854)

David Dixon Porter. David Glasgow Farragut. Ernest King. William Halsey. These names are well known in the annals of American naval history. Like their contemporaries also included in the Naval Historical Foundation manuscript collection at the Library of Congress, their careers are often bookended by the wars and conflicts we continue to study today. These manuscripts, albeit important, do not give a complete picture of the history of the United States Navy. Holes exist in this supposed narrative. Other files in the manuscript collection tell a different story of the U.S. Navy’s myriad peacetime exploits. These collections are what former Library of Congress Manuscript Historian John McDonough called both “prominent and obscure.”

One of the more intriguing of these “obscure” aspects of 19th century naval history is the 1852-1854 Japan Expedition, led by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. Although well known for his exploits during the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, Perry’s greatest contribution to naval history is his mid-century expedition to open Japan.

Only a handful of sources faithfully documenting Commodore Perry’s expedition exist today. Fewer are written from the perspective of the crew, not the officers in charge. Thankfully, one recently published source formerly in the NHF collection gives ample information on the expedition. The two volumes comprising USS Mississippi Purser’s Clerk William Speiden, Jr.’s meticulous journals are now available in With Commodore Perry to Japan: The Journal of William Speiden Jr., 1852-1855. Book editor David A. Ranzan stopped by the National Museum of the United States Navy Wednesday to talk about the book and the exploits of an ambitious young man with his eyes open to a new world.


Ranzan spoke briefly about Speiden’s life and his “youthful perspective of the expedition” covered throughout With Commodore Perry to Japan. By all accounts, Ranzan’s description was perfect. Speiden, a Washington, DC native, accepted an appointment as a sixteen-year old purser’s clerk aboard the USS Mississippi alongside is father in 1852. From there, he traveled to far and exotic places, often doing what teenagers his age do best. Whether it was sneaking into the gravesite of Napoleon with his shipmates at St. Helena or setting off firecrackers “like a set of demons” in the streets of Canton, China, Speiden found ample opportunity for amusement while traveling on the squadron’s flagship.

During the squadron’s exploits to Japan in 1853 and 1854, Speiden took a back seat. He was nonetheless there, documenting everything in rich detail:

Friday, March 3: This evening some Japanese officers came on board, this is the first occasion any of them have been on board. They have been exceedingly anxious to see the ship on account of her formidable appearance [. . .] They were friendly and sociable, and before leaving, two of them, the Imperial Interpreter and Lieutenant Governor of Uraga were quite merry.”

Other exciting accounts in Japan include the squadron’s first sighting of the Japanese in Yedo Bay. The nearby Japanese ships attempted to board the American vessels, which were soon repelled. “They must certainly have all come to the opinion that we were a queer sort of people,” Speiden mused in his journal of the event. According to John McDonough, Speiden was “enthusiastic and alert, and made the most of his situation and the opportunities it presented.” The approximately 300-page journal is revised and condensed for interested readers to thumb through. As one may guess when reading, the journal does not appear to be written by a carefree young man diverted by adventures. McDonough explains:

“The journal has a polished and finished appearance, suggesting that Speiden prepared it at a later date or during leisure hours and based it on a rougher version recorded closer to the actual time of the events described.”  (Library of Congress Acquisitions: Manuscript Division, 1994-1995)

The most impressive aspect of Speiden’s journal are not the words themselves. Rather, Ranzan noted that the journal included nearly fifty “eloquent drawings and illustrations” done by Speiden throughout the voyage. “He was a very gifted artist,” said Ranzan during his lecture. The most impressive sketch is a diagrammatic of the Yokohama landings where the Treaty of Kanagawa negotiations took place, ending the 200-year old Japanese policy of Sakoku (seclusion). Speiden sketched the impressive and informative picture almost two years to the day from the start of his voyage at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

"Diagram of the Landing" (From (With Commodore to Japan)</em))

“Diagram of the Landing”

The final words in his journal are a somber ode to two dogs that died while at sea. The dogs were apparently gifts from the Japanese to Perry. His simple and beautiful poem is an introspective end to a historic cruise to the far edges of the map.

“Happy dogs to die
Upon the broad blue sea,
For there your bones will lie,
Buried, and forever be.”

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35 Tweets to Midway: The U.S. Navy’s Greatest Battle in 140 characters or Less

Over the past two weeks, we have live-tweeted the significant events of the Battle of Midway from the perspective of the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy. Our account, NHFTweetsMidway, helped bring the story to live 140 characters at a time. Don’t want to read over 700 tweets for the recap? Here are 35 tweets from that dataset that helped tell the story of the U.S. Navy’s greatest battle. Please let us know what you think about @NHFTweetsMidway by commenting here or on Twitter/Facebook.


The tweets below are separated by the 5 major events that occurred in the Midway Operation, from the middle of May to 7 JUNE. Click on the items below to expand the tweets.


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Get the full list of Tweets at NHFTweetsMidway. For more information on the project, go HERE.

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“The People Who Fought and Won:” Admiral Harvey Captivates Crowd at 72nd Battle of Midway Celebration Dinner

“Midway would not be fought by the fleet we needed. It would be fought by the fleet we had.”  - Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.)

“Midway would not be fought by the fleet we needed. It would be fought by the fleet we had.” – Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.)

This year marks the 72nd Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the most decisive battle in the Pacific Theater. During the pivotal day of 4 June 1942, the United States Navy managed to engage an imposing Japanese fleet and inflict crippling losses to their four carriers and surface ships near Midway Atoll.

A large crowd of VIPs and distinguished guests gathered at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington on Wednesday to celebrate and commemorate the battle. Among the honored guests were several Midway battle veterans. Although their numbers dwindle each passing year, you could still see the magnetism and fighting spirit in each of their eyes.  That same spirit was with them 72 years ago near a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Bottom Row (L to R): LTJG Paul J. Muzychenko, USN (Ret.), MAJ Albert Grasselli, USMC (Ret.), CAPT Jack Crawford, USN (Ret.) Top Row (L to R): GMC Hank Kudzik, USN (Ret.), LCDR Joseph E. Miller, USN (Ret.), CDR Ellis Skidmore, USN (Ret.)

Bottom Row (L to R): LTJG Paul J. Muzychenko, USN (Ret.), MAJ Albert Grasselli, USMC (Ret.), CAPT Jack Crawford, USN (Ret.) Top Row (L to R): ADM John Harvey, USN (Ret.), GMC Hank Kudzik, USN (Ret.), LCDR Joseph E. Miller, USN (Ret.), CDR Ellis Skidmore, USN (Ret.)

The evening’s keynote speaker was former Fleet Forces Commander Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.). Admiral Harvey gave an insightful talk on the memory and meaning behind Midway.  Rather than focus on the strategy and legacy of the battle itself, Harvey focused on what he feels was the most decisive weapon of the battle – the people. His words were both spirited and passionate. He commands the audience as a man who understands naval history and its ability to empower both civilian and sailor alike. His talk, “The People Who Fought and Won,” is a shining example to his dedication and love of the United States Navy and the men and women who continue to serve today.

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, USN introduces Admiral Harvey

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, USN introduces Admiral Harvey

Admiral Harvey dedicated his speech to the memory of a Pearl Harbor and Midway veteran, Chief Petty Officer Howard Snell.  A longtime friend of Harvey’s, Snell recently passed away in January of this year. “He was the prototypical sailor,” Harvey mused at the beginning of his talk. He went on to discuss Snell’s own personal experience in the Navy from enlistment to Midway and beyond. After surviving the attack at Pearl Harbor, Snell was assigned to USS Enterprise and had a ringside seat on the bridge to one of history’s greatest battles. “What he remembered most on 4 June was Spruance’s coolness under fire.” That same coolness became a trademark of Spruance throughout the war.  Snell went on to survive several harrowing conflicts in the Pacific Theater, retiring in 1976 after a life-long career and association with the Navy.

“What a sailor. What a shipmate.”

With clear emotion still hanging in the timbre of his voice, Admiral Harvey shifted course to the question of Midway.   Why bring up Chief Snell and his relationship with the Admiral?  He had an answer: “It is the perfect illustration of the power of our people, and particularly, the people that fought at Midway.”


Admiral Harvey eschewed all doubt of luck or skill as the decisive factor for victory.  Although those played a part, he felt those qualities alone do not complete the epic story.  “How did a Navy that hadn’t fought a war in 20 years – a Navy that hadn’t fought a major battle in 33 years [. . .] engage in a brutal conflict with a skilled and determined enemy. How did this victory happen?”

To Harvey, it was the men who fought 72 years ago that made this happen, like the six in attendance on Wednesday. “At Midway, it was the American sailor and the Marine who made up for those significant deficiencies in our ships and aircraft,” Harvey noted. “These men filled whatever tactical gaps in tactical training unanticipated by warfare.”

Although the men and ships needed to properly match such a formidable Japanese foe would not be available until 1943, the calculated decisions of sailors like Lieutenant Dick Best, Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky, and Commander Max Leslie helped make the Navy’s luck:

“(They) believed that they were primarily responsible for their own and thus their Navy’s fate – and acted on that belief. And their actions clearly demonstrated what was by far the most salient characteristic of the American sailor ever since America first put her Navy to sea – and that is intelligent initiative at the decisive time and place.”

The machines and mechanisms of war do not achieve victory in combat. They are at best a minor player in the combat narrative. The brave men and women who go into harm’s way and make the decisions that ultimately prove successful. Admiral Harvey’s message is a casual reminder of the Navy’s most important asset – its sailors.  “The ability to act decisively despite the risk of life,” Harvey ended his talk with, “is the main reason for victory.” Certainly, this lesson is as important today as it was 72 years ago:

“Remember the people that fought at Midway. It is their sterling example that will surely show us the way ahead, if only we took the time to look at that example and follow that example.”

You can see the full video of Admiral Harvey’s speech here:

Special Thanks to all of the sponsors of the event: Association of Naval Aviation, Association of the United States Navy, Marine Corps Aviation Association, Naval Historical Foundation, Naval Order of the United States, Navy League of the United States, Surface Navy Association, Tailhook Association, and United States Navy Memorial Foundation.



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9 Summertime Things Sailors Also Do

Well – Warm weather and summer are here.  Time to get out the grills and sun tan lotion, because this summer should be a hot one! There are a lot of ways you can go out and have fun this summer. That doesn’t mean our fighting men and women don’t try to have a little fun too!

With so much going on in the Navy around the world, it is important that our fighting men and women have a little rest, relaxation, and diversion every once in a while.  Here are ten things that most Americans do in the summertime and their US Navy equivalents.  Enjoy!  Have any others to list?  Let us know in the comment section below!

1. Swimming1_Swim Call2. Backyard BBQ 2_Steel Beach

3. Talent Show3_Talent Show

4. Comedian/Comedy Club4_Comedy Club

5. Pick-Up Basketball5_Pick Up Basketball

6. Running6_Running

7. Outdoor Concerts7_Outdoor Concert

8. Outdoor Sporting Matches8_Outdoor Sports

9. Outdoor Movie9_Outdoor Film

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