NMHS Awards Dinner Recap: I Took My Wife on a Date

Several distinguished guests post for a picture during the NMHS Awards Dinner on 23 April.

Several distinguished guests post for a picture during the NMHS Awards Dinner on 23 April.

By Matthew T. Eng

I took my wife on a date. Well, it wasn’t quite a date, but I told her it was. I was working at an event in D.C., but dinner and drinks were involved. There were tiny hors d’oeuvres of bacon scallops and mushroom pastries filtering around. The dress code involved a cocktail dress for her and a business suit for me. It sounded like a date on paper – a fancy one at that. This wasn’t just a typical date for me, which would normally be a trip to Costco to eat food samples and a hot dog. Either way, she believed me.

I should take her out more…

Last night, my wife Angela and I attended the National Maritime Historical Society Washington Awards Dinner at the National Press Club. The Naval Historical Foundation helped coordinate and sponsor the event.

Angela has been to history-related like these before. She found most of them worthwhile and important, but rather lackluster in the end. I cannot blame her. The company is always good, but she is not a naval enthusiast. She is, however, a GREAT sport. She tolerates my obsession with naval history from time to time, to which I am always thankful. I am the guy at get-togethers that argues over the validity of using the word “blockade runner” in the Star Wars franchise because they do not resemble Civil War blockade-runners or even remotely touch on guerre de course strategy of U-Boats in the First World War. I assured her that yesterday’s line up of speakers, awardees, and guests would be different. I had an ace-in-the-hole. All I told her was that she’d “go fan-girl when she got there.” That was enough for her to get her dress on and go.

Angela is a keen observer of what she calls “fandom.” She herself is a lifelong lover of Japanese anime and Japanese culture. In order to gain her affection years ago, I attended an anime convention (or con) with her in Hampton, VA. The similarities between a historical society dinner and anime con are infinitesimal. It was something that meant a lot to her, and I wanted to support her. The same goes for last night.

To be honest, the world of anime is a world I do not understand. I can recall talking with several big names in the field of anime with her during that first con. “Can you believe we talked to somebody who worked on Ghost in the Shell,” she said to me. I shook my head in blind agreement, not knowing completely what it meant but knowing full well that it was special.

VADM Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force.

VADM Robin Braun, Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force.

Greenert. Braun. Warner. Winkler. Dudley. These are individuals who keep history relevant and inspire others to do the same. These are my rock stars. They are my heroes. Maritime and naval history is my fandom. I am their fan. And they were all in Washington, D.C. last night.

The evening began as many other awards do, with conversation flowing freely all along the top floor of the National Press Club. When the dinner and awards presentation began, my wife and I shuffled into the large ballroom and sat down next to several distinguished guests I immediately recognized. She saw the glow in my eyes and knew that THIS meant the world to me.

The evening’s festivities centered on the presentation of three awards for distinguished guests in the field of maritime history. Unfortunately, the first recipient of the NMHS Distinguished Service Award, Senator Barbara Mikulski, could not be there. Thankfully, Senator John Warner accepted the award on her behalf. He entertained the crowd during her “acceptance” speech and included an anecdote about Mikulski’s contributions to maritime history and for women in the Senate. Above all else, Warner wanted to highlight the role that the Senator played in making that position one where women could make significant and lasting programs and partnerships for everyone, not just in the state of Maryland. Mikulski is more than just a champion for the Port of Baltimore and the maritime industry; she is a trailblazer for women everywhere.

NHF Chairman Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Ambassador Middendorf present Greenert with an original 1975 Navy Jack.

NHF Chairman Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Ambassador Middendorf present Greenert with an original 1975 Navy Jack.

For the Naval Historical Foundation, the big event of the evening was the presentation of our inaugural Distinguished Service Award to the 30th Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert. This award is presented to individuals “who make extraordinary contributions for the advocacy of naval history.” Before Admiral Greenert went up to accept the award, we showed a short video highlighting CNO’s legacy and commitment to our Navy and the proud history is continues to make today:

“We need to bring history back into the mainstream,” he said. “We need to get back to our roots, to what makes us who we are. We are Sailors, we go to sea.” NHF Chairman Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) presented the award to Admiral Greenert. As always, Admiral Greenert was humble about his role in keeping the importance of naval history alive. I can only stand back and appreciate everything he has done for the field, from his support of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 to the current centennial of the Naval Reserve and Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He is a CNO at a tie when history is celebrated, and we are all thankful that he has embraced it like an old friend. CNO also received an original “Don’t Tread on Me” Flag, the official U.S. Navy Jack, by Ambassador J. William Middendorf II. Middendorf conceptualized the flag in 1975, the same year Admiral Greenert graduated from the United States Navy Academy to begin his long and illustrious career in the Navy. For a man who appreciates history, the symbolism was perfect.

The evening’s ace-in-the-whole for me, however, was the recipient of the other NMHS Distinguished Service Award to media entrepreneur and philanthropist Harold F. “Gerry” Lenfest. Among the many contributions he has made throughout his life to the preservation of maritime and naval history, his most recent piqued the attention of my wife the most. Mr. Lenfest recently made a contribution of nearly six million dollars to the SS United States Conservancy, the group responsible for preserving the former luxury liner. “The SS United States is worth keeping and worth saving,” Lenfest once said.

Picture taken of SS United States in my wife's collection from the 1980s, Norfolk, VA.

Picture taken of SS United States in my wife’s collection from the 1980s, Norfolk, VA.

As much as my wife loves anime, sewing, or making crafts, she treasures the SS United States above all others. I once asked her why she loved it so much. It’s a story I never tire of:

“Years ago the ship used to be docked over near the Norfolk Naval Base. It sat there for many years. My dad owned a small boat at the time, and back then you could get really close to the ships. I remember waving to the men on the ships we passed from time to time, and they always waved back.

Anyway, the United States was special. My mom and dad told me it used to be a passenger liner and it was just sitting in Norfolk until someone decided to do something with it. Me, I had just recently developed a healthy fascination with the Titanic and it intrigued me SO MUCH that an abandoned passenger liner would still be afloat. I used to ask my dad to coast our boat up next to it all the time, probably every single time we passed it. I remember staring up at the lifeboats and seeing plants growing out of them. I always wished our boat was big enough so I could see inside one of the portholes. I wanted to walk on that deck. Just one time. I think, as a kid, I always imagined something preserved and perfect inside, but of course that’s nowhere near the truth.”

With the help of Lenfest and the Conservancy, that dream might become a reality. We have planned a trip to see it in Philadelphia for many years now, but have not due to scheduling conflicts and our recent move into the area. Now, here was the main essentially responsible for keeping the ship afloat in the flesh. This was no longer fandom for her. It was a deep sense of purpose and an emotional connection to her past.

When the evening ended around 9:30, we began to file out. Looking around, I could not find Mr. Lenfest. Looking a bit disappointed, my wife sat patiently as I wrapped up things with the other NHF staff members. While I went to the bathroom, my wife had a chance to talk to Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.), NHF Executive Director. She explained her disappointment of not being able to meet Mr. Lenfest and tell him her story. “I’d be happy to introduce you to him,” he said. I did not see the look on her face, but it was apparently priceless.

Angela and Gerry Lenfest.

Angela and Gerry Lenfest.

By the time I got back from the bathroom, I had just enough time to snap a cell phone picture of Angela embracing Mr. Lenfest. It was a touching moment for me. It was nothing compared to what she felt at that moment. She had embraced the fandom. She had a chance to tell him how much the ship meant to her.

As she attempted to compose herself before she left, she continuously apologized to me for “making a scene.”

“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you,” she said over and over to me. The tears were still coming out.

“Why would you think that,” I said. “I am just grateful that you had a chance to tell him about the importance the ship has on your life.” She began to relax after that, and we ended the evening with smiles and laughter.

I hope I can find a way to top last night’s date. I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

You can see the postser we created in honor of CNO and the creation of the Navy Jack by clicking the image below.

Navy JACK NMHS_Final

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

CNO Jonathan M. Greenert – NHF Distinguished Service Award

Posted in Awards | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Society of Sponsors Visit NHHC Facilities

The sponsors during their visit on 20 April inside the National Museum of the United States Navy (NHF Photo/Released)

The sponsors during their visit on 20 April inside the National Museum of the United States Navy (NHF Photo/Released)

By Matthew T. Eng

This past Monday, several members of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy came to the Washington Navy Yard to tour their facilities and interact with staff members of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). The Society itself has been around since 1908. According to their website, they are a group “composed of women who have taken part in the time honored tradition of christening a ship to be commissioned in the United States Navy, or a ship that sails with the Navy, supporting the fleet in some specific way.”  Dr. Barbara Billing, Society of Sponsors President, coordinated the trip with Phyllis Tolzmann of the NHHC Communications and Outreach Division staff. Dr. Pilling wanted to learn more about the breadth of activities offered at the Command and develop a future plan for accessibility to historical documents. As a Board Member of the Naval Historical Foundation, she also wanted to find out more about their relationship with NHF. In the end, the Sponsors developed a greater appreciation of Navy history, with many coming away learning much more about the ship they sponsor.

RADM Cox addresses the sponsors.

RADM Cox addresses the sponsors.

The day opened with an introductory meeting and Command over at the Naval History and Heritage Command Headquarters, located just above NHF offices. Rear Admiral Sam Cox, NHHC Director, spoke briefly about the mission of the Command and the important role that ship sponsors play in the creation of naval history. “We owe it to the public,” he said to the sponsors, “to remember their sacrifices and preserve the lessons learned.” For Cox, ship sponsors give a legacy and a name that “truly means something” for every sailor who serves onboard. It is that cohesion that formulates the esprit de corps of each ship in the fleet.

NHHC Deputy Director next gave a short presentation about the Command itself and the extraordinary progress they have made preserving naval history over the last decade. The greatest achievement to Kuhn was centralizing and consolidating the Navy artifacts to a facility in Richmond, VA over the last three years. That move propelled them forward “from a 68-year backlog of our Navy’s collection.”

The group moved next to Photo Archives.

Lead archivist Lisa Crunk shows some of the sponsors materials within their collection.

Lead archivist Lisa Crunk shows some of the sponsors materials within their collection.

David Colamaria, current photo archivist and former NHF employee who worked closely with the Society of Sponsors, greeted old friends and colleagues warmly when they arrived. “Your presence is everything in this collection,” Colamaria said as he waved his hand around the entire facility. He impressed the distinguished guests by showing them a number of photographs from the Society of Sponsors collection held there. Colamaria’s personal favorite items from the collection are the images taken at the annual Sponsor luncheon. The visit with Colamaria and lead archivist Lisa Crunk proved highly beneficial for historians everywhere, as several sponsors expressed a desire to donate their christening and commissioning photographs to the archive. Both Colamaria and Crunk were quick enough to pull some of their relevant files to show them more about their ships.

NDL Staff Member Alexandra McCallen inside the Special Collections room.

NDL Staff Member Alexandra McCallen inside the Special Collections room.

The sponsors moved downstairs from the archives and spent some time with Navy Department Library (NDL) Director Glenn Helm and his staff. NDL staff member Alexandra McCallen brought the women into the library’s special collections room where a display of material related to the sponsors was laid out for viewing. It was truly a rare treat for all involved. One sponsor in particular, Ms. Rosalie J. Calhoun (sponsor to ballistic missile submarine USS John C. Calhoun), noticed a typographic mistake of her father’s name in one of the books written about the sponsors. Admiral William L. Calhoun’s middle initial was incorrectly placed in Ships of the United States Navy and Their Sponsors, 1958-1990. Glenn Helm asked her to make the correction (with an acid free pen) and sign her name by it. The women were tickled that in some way, history was being made for the permanent record.

NMUSN Curator Jennifer Marland.

NMUSN Curator Jennifer Marland.

The visit to NHHC ended with a brief tour of several artifacts at the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN). Curator Jennifer Marland showed the ladies several artifacts within the museum. Many of the women were particularly fond of the silver collection included in the NMUSN exhibit on the Steel Navy. Others were wide-eyed about the weight that history can have on our collective memory and understanding of American history. It is truly a powerful tool to remember and commemorate our past. “It’s been rewarding,” one of the sponsors remarked, “to see the connection of this history to some of the ships we have been a part of.”

Special thanks to Phyllis Tolzmann and Holly Quick for helping coordinate the event.

You can visit the Society of Sponsors website by going HERE.

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

Submarine History Seminar Recap: A Half-Century of US-UK Submarine Cooperation

Amidst the flurry of activity at the Sea-Air-Space exposition down the road in National Harbor, MD, the Naval Historical Foundation and Naval Submarine League held it’s annual Submarine History Symposium at the U.S. Navy Museum’s Cold War Gallery last Wednesday. The symposium’s topic and speakers were well received by an enthusiastic and attentive crowd. Over one hundred individuals were in attendance to socialize, reconnect, and learn from first-hand experts on the last half-century of US-UK submarine cooperation.

Before the lecture began, NHF staff had the opportunity to take a photo of several of our distinguished speakers and invited guests as they cut the cake during the reception. It’s not very often you get the opportunity take a photo of such an assembly of Admirals (15 stars in total)!

(Left to Right) Admiral Rich Mies, VADM Sir Robert Hill, Admiral Bruce DeMars, Admiral John M. Richardson

(Left to Right) Admiral Rich Mies, VADM Sir Robert Hill, Admiral Bruce DeMars, Admiral John M. Richardson

Seminar chair and moderator Dr. David Rosenberg built on the success of last year’s Sub History Seminar on torpedoes. Focus this year centered on missile technology and nuclear propulsion plant development between the United States and United Kingdom, namely POLARIS and TRIDENT and the one man unquestionably connected to the Nuclear Navy in both countries, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Many of the speakers at the Submarine History Seminar this year had first-hand experience coordinating US and UK submarine development from the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy’s nuclear reactor and missile programs. Attendees had the rare treat to hear behind-the-scenes insight of the modern nuclear submarine by some of the most influential leaders in the field.

Our distinguished guests from England were the evening’s first speakers.

Jock Gardner – From British U-Boat to Boomer in 21 Years

UK Ministry of Defence historian Jock Gardner gave an introduction to US-UK submarine relations in the years after the end of the Second World War. Gardner discussed the “trial and error” period that the Royal Navy went through in order to make their submersibles go “from faster boat to true submarine.”

That period did not always go smoothly for the British. According to Gardner, the Royal Navy intended to improve propulsion and hull form by initially following and studying the example of the German Type XXI submarines.   There were pitfalls along the way, including the development of the hydrogen peroxide submarines Explorer and Excalibur, which Gardner affectionately called the “Exploder” and “Excruciator.” Due to cost and reliability, that program was quickly cancelled. What got the UK back on track was their nuclear force, composed of the UK nuclear propulsion program and strategic weapons initiative both moving towards an “assumption of deterrent.” That assumption was pushed through with the help of the United States. Working with Admiral Arleigh Burke, Lord Mountbatten and his successors eventually settled on a US-UK POLARIS agreement despite the grumblings and misgivings of several upper-echelon staff within the Royal Navy. HMS Dreadnought, the UK’s first nuclear submarine, became a symbol of technological innovation and sea power, just as the battleship Dreadnought had in the early twentieth century.

VADM Sir Robert Hill, RN, Ret. – Admiral Rickover and Mountbatten: The UK Naval Nuclear Propulsion Programme

When anyone mentions the U.S. Navy and nuclear propulsion, one name always comes to mind – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. Indeed, Rickover helped revolutionize the industry as the first head of Naval Reactors. As polarizing a figure as Rickover was, however, he did not do it all alone. Rickover received the advice and expertise of the British. The relationship between Rickover and the British, for better or worse at times, was “extremely personal,” according to Vice Admiral Sir Robert Hill.

Vice Admiral Hill captivated the audience with the personal and professional stories of the UK Naval Nuclear Programme, from the construction of the Calder Hall and Shippingport power stations in the early 1950s to the launching of HMS Dreadnought a decade later.

Sir Robert Hill’s best stories came from the anecdotes he included about Rickover and his tenuous relationship with British naval leaders and scientists at Atomic Energy locations in England. That initial temper exponentially cooled once he met with Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord from 1955 to 1959. In the words of a 1981 article in Proceedings, “the introvert iconoclast from the Ukraine [. . .] fell under the spell and aura of Queen Victoria’s grandson.” Still, Rickover’s characteristic demeanor tested the patience of the British. Professor Jack Edwards, who would later establish the Royal Navy’s nuclear propulsion courses at the Royal Naval College, explained further:

“We had several occasions when Rickover tested our stamina and nuclear knowledge and explored our national resources and abilities, but these were just demonstrations of his raw and innate determination to expose any weaknesses.”

The personal friendship between Rickover and Mountbatten undoubtedly helped push the nuclear propulsion program forward. After a while, the UK had enough steam to take full control of operations, as Hill so eloquently demonstrated as his thesis throughout his lecture. “All this was done without further help from the USA,” Hill said, “justifying Rickover’s believe that given a kick start, the UK would be well able to stand on its own feet.”

Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) – A Naval Reactors Perspective on a Half-Century of Submarine Cooperation

DSC_7240 copy
Vice Admiral Hill’s counterpart in the United States, Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.), offered up his perspective on the US-UK relationship to submarine development. DeMars flipped focus to talk about the role that Naval Reactors here in the United States played in the development and cooperation of nuclear energy for civilian and military use.

NHF Chairman DeMars began by discussing the Atomic Energy Commission’s decision in 1954 to ask Rickover and his staff to build the world’s first civilian nuclear power station. Such a system would deliver clean electricity to the nation’s electric system. The task laid in front of Rickover was not small or simple. As DeMars noted, Rickover was admittedly nervous to take on such an ambitious assignment.

Such a herculean tasked would require cooperation with the British. Rickover planned to assemble a team of eight to meet with UK representatives over the course of the 1954 Christmas holiday at Harwell nuclear lab to discuss a plan of action and cooperation. The rest of Admiral DeMars’ talk highlighted the eleven days that Rickover’s team of experts and specialists spent at Harwell. Long full day sessions and grueling interviews between Naval Reactor and Westinghouse specialists with Harwell experts shortened Rickover’s visit by several days. He subsequently returned several times between 1955 and 1957.

These visits and talks, added by the launching of Sputnik in 1957 and Eisenhower’s NATO speech that year, sparked the need to make amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. By 1959, Rickover had met with the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the British Atomic Energy Authority about exchanging reactor information in order to conserve the scientific and engineering talent of the two countries:

“You have to remember that Rickover started dealing with the UK in a really unauthorized way in 1953. You finally get congressional approval in 1958, so he had operated on his own for about five years [. . .] moving things ahead.”

This type of cooperation, aided by Rickover’s respect for Lord Mountbatten as First Sea Lord, propelled both countries to become as leaders in nuclear energy and submarine technology with the use of the Westinghouse S5W reactor plant, used on USN submarines until the mid-1970s (A S5W reactor plant was used on HMS Dreadnought). The US would eventually cut the chord and leave the UK to run things independent. To ask the question of the evening, “Could the UK have done it alone,” DeMars’ answer is direct. “I think so,” he said as he closed his talk. “It would have taken longer and cost more money, but we both learned some things in the process.”

Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.) – A Strategic Systems Perspective on A Half-Century of Submarine Cooperation

The seminar closed with a point/counterpoint talk on the role that the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) played in US-UK submarine cooperation. Moderator Dave Rosenberg admitted having the “interesting combination” of two speakers together, one from a background in military weapons and the other from law, was unusual. Thankfully, both speakers ran with the new format and delivered an exciting lecture on SSP, ballistic missiles, and the 1962 Nassau Agreement.

NHF President Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.) opened his talk about the SSP perspective on US/UK cooperation with a promise that he would be brief and use only one slide. Rear Admiral Mitchell knew many of the intimate details of Strategic Systems from the inside out. He worked with SSP for thirteen of his thirty-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring after he served as its director in the early 1990s. He specifically discussed the fifty-five years of SSP history following the decade long decision for the British to use nuclear submarines and equip them with the POLARIS missile system.

“I want to start with the difficulties,” he said to open his talk, “about how getting a weapons system from another country can become very complicated.” Developing a ballistic missile system from the A3 to D5 that foreign countries like Britain also wanted took a lot of savvy business deals and cooperation. What strategy helped see those deals through along the way? No fancy computers or technology were necessary. “What’s important,” he said, “were the people to people interfaces that helped move the sales agreement along.” To him, personal interactions were “the glue that allows the arrangements that provide the foundation of understanding how two organizations can do good business.”

The US and UK finally drew up a document known today as the landmark Nassau agreement that set up the United States to provide the weapons system in principle to the United Kingdom – known as the Polaris Sales Agreement, or PSA. That agreement still exists between both countries. As Mitchell stated at the end of his introduction to his talk, “it is an unusual document [. . .] that has stood the test of time.”

Ms. Elizabeth Bahr – The POLARIS Sales Agreement

Missile production is only one side of the story. Nothing can be done until it’s put on paper. What happened to that document AFTER it was drawn up? How did we further cooperate with the production of missiles between the two countries?

The final speaker, Ms. Elizabeth Bahr, picked up where Rear Admiral Mitchell left off. She went into detail about the specific arrangements of the Nassau Agreement and PSA. Ms. Bahr is SSP’s Supervisory Associate Counsel for International Law and Arms Control Compliance and Implementation. Put simply in her own words, she is “really just a treaty attorney.”

Ms. Bahr has first-hand experience working with the PSA in her current position. To her, it’s a passion. She was the first to admit that she could “talk for hours about the PSA.” Indeed, she has intimate knowledge of the “incredibly unique” document that set up the brief agreement, totaling only twelve pages. That document, complete with its amendments and slight modifications, has stayed active since 1963. Ms. Bahr pointed out that, to this date, it is the only legal treaty AND foreign military sale. Put simply, it is both an arms export agreement and a treaty of law, which gives the United States “quite a bit of leverage.” The SSP Director essentially has the authority to dictate international law over the treaty. Such is the nature of a document created for its uniqueness “outside the system” of traditional arms agreements and treaties filled with bureaucratic meddling.

Rear Admiral Mitchell then discussed the next twenty years of US and UK cooperation under the confines of the PSA, marking the timeline of progression from the A3 to D5 missiles. According to Mitchell, engineers in the United States were busy designing the POSEIDON weapons system, followed rapidly by TRIDENT.

Eventually the British wanted to have the same system deployed in their Vanguard-class submarines as we had. As he pointed out, this was the first time that had happened since the 1960s. When they changed the weapon system, all they had to do is take off the word POLARIS and put in the word TRIDENT. Ms. Bahr brought the idea home with her final thoughts on the sales agreement. As a lawyer, she is still impressed with how well the same “enduring sales agreement” survives today.

“The genius of the way it was written with its provisions, allows any future modifications [. . .] to always integrate and innovate. Most importantly, it is the people that are the reason why this works, which have allowed our governments to cooperate to this day.”

A special thanks to the Naval Submarine League for helping us host the event. We look forward to next year!

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

Ditty Bag: Imperial Japanese Navy Collar Tabs

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

Ditty Bag: Imperial Japanese Navy Collar Tabs

DSC_5618The Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy shared rank titles during World War II. Ranks for the military ascended from Ensign (Shōi) to Sub-Lieutenant (Chūi) all the way through to Grand Marshal (Dai-gensui). In order to distinguish between the two branches, the respective branch’s name—rikugun (army) and kaigun (navy)—was stated before the rank designation. The Imperial Japanese Navy used a series of colored ribbons and cherry blossoms to indicate a sailor’s rank.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 1.17.36 PM
Lower ranks were designated with one golden ribbon surrounded by two ribbons of the rank’s respective color. Medium grade ranks displayed three, thin ribbons of the rank’s respective color on a gold field. High ranks did not exhibit any ribbons, rather they outlined a gold filed with the respective rank’s color. Cherry blossoms were added to indicate a higher rank within each of these three grades. Color tabs for the highest rank, Grand Marshal, exhibited a gold field with three cherry blossoms outlined with a dark blue color.

The Naval Historical Foundation received a large donation of Imperial Japanese Navy Collar tabs in 1972. The NHF# 1972-030-06 donation included collar tabs for 10 different IJN ranks.

Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content

Each collar tab would match the sailor’s shoulder boards which also used the ribbon and cherry blossom system to indicate rank. Sleeve rank badges followed a slightly different system but also articulated the seaman’s rank.

Imperial Japanese collar tabs are visible in Hayao Miyazaki’s recent film The Wind Rises, which follows the story of Dr. Jiro Horikoshi, one of Mitsubishi’s chief engineers during World War II.


Jane, Fred T. 1904. The Imperial Japanese Navy. London: W. Thacker & Co.

Nakanishi, Ritta. 2001. Nihon no Gunsō: Bakumatsu kara Nichi-Ro Sensō. Tōkyō: Dai Nihon Kaiga.

Nila, Gary. 2012. Japanese Naval Aviation Uniforms and Equipment 1937-45. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Rosignoli, Guido (1980). Naval and Marine Badges and Insignia of World War 2. Blandford Colour Series. Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1LL: Blandford Press Ltd.

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 Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Maryland 800 and the Call to Arms in 1917

“It is a real war call- the urgency is evident [. . .] as an assurance of appreciation of our community of their patriotism in this emergency we must engrave their names in a permanent record.” (The Baltimore Sun, 3 April 1917)

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 7.46.23 AM
Several weeks ago, the Foundation received an email from a woman seeking out information about her grandfather who served in the U.S. Navy during the First World War. We often receive emails and phone calls from members and individuals wishing to find information about their loved one’s service, especially in wartime. Maura Taylor’s case, however, was different.

Maura Taylor’s grandfather, Michael Kolakowski, holds a special place in U.S. Navy and Maryland state history. While researching his wartime service record, she came across two 1917 articles published in the Baltimore Sun that mentioned him. One article stated that his name was included on a tablet commemorating the first 800 U.S. Navy volunteers for America’s war effort against the Central Powers. That tablet still hangs today inside the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

The Sun article explained more about her father’s Navy connection:

“Four navy recruits who have had special places served for them in the Honor Tablet for that ‘first 800,’ signed up yesterday. The four have just been discharged from hospitals after undergoing serious surgical operations to quality them for a place among the 800. They have been under hospital care an average of 15 days each.” (Baltimore Sun, 8 May 1917)

Michael Kolakowski was one of those four recruits. Ms. Taylor contacted us to know more about the honor tablet and its relationship to her grandfather. Could it shed light on his time in the Navy during the war? Why was he hospitalized before enlisting in 1917.

All we had was a name and a city. That’s when it started to get interesting.

A Call to Arms

Dr. Frank Johnson Goodnow, Committee President

Dr. Frank Johnson Goodnow, Committee President

Michael Kolakowski enlisted in the United States Navy on 5 May 5 1917. His enlistment came one month after President Woodrow Wilson formally declared War against Germany on 6 April. In reality, Michael chose to serve around the same time that Wilson asked Congress. As previously stated, his name is included on a tablet in the Maryland State House in Annapolis honoring the first 800 sailors to enlist during World War I.

The campaign for Navy enlistees for the war began in early April. The 3 April edition of the Baltimore Sun ran with the headline “First 800 Recruits Going Down To Fame.” The article mentioned “a shibboleth” of men meeting at the U.S. Naval Academy the previous day to make a plan to recruit 800 individuals for the Navy by 20 April. Maryland wanted to be proactive and have men “at the ready” in the event that President Wilson declared war. Dr. Frank J. Goodnow, then President of Johns Hopkins University, served as the committee President.

A total of 15,000 prospects were sent out and coordinated by Navy recruiter Lieutenant P.L. Wilson around the state of Maryland. Wilson and the committee even called for a support drive “to arouse the congregations to the country’s need and the immediate demand for Maryland to uphold its traditions.” Recruits initially came in as a slow trickle and slowly filled up thanks to awareness campaigns. To sweeten the deal, the Sun article also mentioned that the first 800 to enlist would be enshrined in state history on a commemorative tablet to be hung at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. There were also incentives to have the family members of enlistees cared for in the event of their passing overseas. Most sailors during the war died from disease, not combat. The Sun also noted several recruits who signed up to become the first 800 but had otherwise “failed to make good and enlist.”   Men like Kolakowski were given a “last chance to redeem themselves.”

Somewhere between the call to arms and the 20 April deadline, Kolakowski declared his intent to join up and enlist. Why the discrepancy in time between his intent to enlist and his actual date? As it turns out, Mr. Kolakowski was in the hospital. The Sun article Ms. Taylor pointed staff to corroborates the story. It seemed his health was not as strong as his patriotism. Why then was he hospitalized?

No solid evidence exists as to why Mr. Kolakowski was hospitalized prior to enlisting. We turned the question to several noted historians of medicine. “Hernias, tonsillectomies, and dental work are certainly possibilities,” said Bureau of Medicine and Surgery historian Andrew B. Sobocinski in an email. To Sobocinski, the notion seemed “plausible” that these types of medical conditions would warrant surgeries in order for an enlistee to undergo to be deemed healthy enough to serve.

Further evidence is found in the period documentation. The 1917 Annual Report of the Surgeon General of the Navy showed that hernias and defective teeth were two of the principle causes for rejection. The reason why most men were rejected to serve in 1917? Weight. Over 31,500 men did not make the cut in 1917 because they were UNDER weight to serve.

By the second week in May, Kolakowski was on his way to begin his short career in the United States Navy. His full military record was found in the papers of the Maryland War Records Commission here at the Navy Department Library in Washington, D.C. From this war record, we are thankfully able to construct a story and timeline of Seaman Kolakowski’s service. We can provide a frame of reference to Michael Kolakowski’s time in the Navy. The following is his official war record included in the 1933 report. The original punctuation and spelling were kept for posterity:

423 S. Durham St. Baltimore; 17 Years 4 mos.
USN 5/7/17 app sea; sea 2c 6/23/17; sea 4/1/18

Awaiting orders; Recg ship Norfolk, VA 5/24/17; Rec ship New York, NY 11/30/17; USS Zeelandia 5/6/18; Rec ship Washington D.C. 9/13/19; Hon disch 9/18/19

Kolakowski’s War

Kolakowski enlisted in Baltimore, Maryland. According to records of the Maryland War Records Commission, 770 individuals from Baltimore city proper enlisted in the United States Navy during World War I. His address points to him living in the Upper Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, better known today as the recently posh “Fell’s Prospect” area.

USS Zeelandia (NHHC Photo)

USS Zeelandia (NHHC Photo)

Michael soon moved from his humble Baltimore surroundings to the bustle of wartime activity in Norfolk, VA. He waited on a receiving ship (floating barracks) until traveling to New York to await his first and only ship, troop transport USS Zeelandia. The former Dutch passenger ship carried troops across the Atlantic Ocean to the European Theater under the Navy’s moniker in the late months of the war. It’s only sighted activity against a hostile force came in August 1918, when the ship reportedly spotted a small pack of German U-boats near their convoy. Kolakowski was on board at the time. The ship spent the end of 1918 and majority of 1919 returning troops back to the United States. Seaman Kolakowski left Zeelandia on 13 September 1919 where he waited to be discharged five days later.

Michael’s time in the Navy was over. His name lives on today on the tablet commemorating Marylanders’ call to serve. The tablet itself was unveiled inside the Maryland State House rotunda on 13 January 1920. Several honored guests were in attendance, including Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Maryland Governor Emerson Harrington.

NHF Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) recently traveled up to Annapolis and took a moment to take a picture of the tablet. The tablet only tells a portion of the story. Kolakowski is one account amongst the countless others who swore to defend nearly one hundred years ago.

Maryland800 (1)
Special Thanks to Andrew B. Sobocinski and Dr. Bill Dudley for providing some background information for this story.

Source Information:
“Final Drive for 800: Over 280 Men Needed and time is Up Tomorrow Night.” The Baltimore Sun, April 19, 1917.
“First 800 Recruits Going Down to Fame.” The Baltimore Sun, April 3, 1917.
“Tablet is Unveiled Honoring First 800.” The Baltimore Sun, January 14, 1920.
United States Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Annual Report of the Surgeon general, U.S. Navy, Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918.
Zihlman, Frederick. “Increase of the Military Establishment.” The American Flint 8, no. 8 (June 1917): 1-4.

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

Ditty Bag: Trần Hưng Đạo

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

Ditty Bag: Trần Hưng Đạo Statue

Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content

Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.) received this statuette from Rear Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations of the Republic of Vietnam Navy, Tran Van Chon in 1972 when then-Vice Admiral Holloway was Commander, Seventh Fleet and the Vietnam War was still raging.  The statuette is a bronze depiction of Trần Hưng Đạo, one of the most revered and beloved figures in Vietnamese history (NHF # 1984-009-02).

In the mid-13th century Trần Hưng Đạo (born as Trần Quốc Tuấn) acted as the Supreme Commander of Vietnam. He was both the crown prince of Thang Long and the commander of the Dai Viet armies. Trần Hưng Đạo’s greatest success was the repelling of three major attacks by Mongol armies led by the legendary Kublai Khan.

The statuette stands 12” tall on top of a wooden base measuring 7 ¼” X 3 ¾” X 1 ½”.  The bronze was painted gold, though much of the paint has now been worn off due to age. There are several scuffs on the finish, and the wooden base has a slight split developing at the top.

Despite this, the statuette is still in relatively good condition, and continues to remind us of the partnership between the U.S. Navy and the South Vietnamese Navy during that turbulent period in our nation’s history.


Delgado, James P. Khubilai Khan’s Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008.

Forbes, Andrew, and David Henley. Vietnam Past and Present: The North (History and culture of Hanoi and Tonkin). Chiang Mai. Cognoscenti Books, 2012.

Taylor, K. W. A History of the Vietnamese (illustrated ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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

Mystery Individual Discovered in Paintings and Photographs

The U.S. Navy is currently on a worldwide search to identify a mysterious individual found in our nation’s most celebrated moments of naval history. Recent photographic evidence found deep in the archives of the U.S. Navy suggests one singular man appearing in navy art and photographs throughout the 240 history of the Navy. The man remains an enigma for both Navy and Foundation staff. Special thanks to NHF Volunteer Richard James for discovering the images.

This mysterious man can be seen in some of the United States Navy’s most iconic photographs. Look closely at the image below. Do you notice anything different?

We have highlighted the photographic anomaly for you below.

This gentleman appears to be a traveler of time, as his hair and clothing suggests he lived in the 1980s. Other photographs suggest he was even painted by artists depicting famous naval battles.


“I can’t believe I haven’t seen this before,” said Photo Archivist Dan Calamari. “It’s just strange that this kind of thing pops up out of nowhere.” Calamari insisted they are using their “top men” in their division to uncover this mystery. I know they won’t let us down. Calamari also mentioned that he and the other Photo Archives staff have known each other for so long and have yet to uncover this individual before.
We asked other experts in naval history how they’re feeling about it. We tried to make them understand how this strange occurrence has rocked the history community. Some were brought to tears at the sight of this strange individual. We need answers. If discovered and identified, this individual could become the critical linchpin of our collective history of the U.S. Navy.
We need your help to discover the identify of this man. He may carry vital information into the future telling of naval history. If you or any one you know has information about this man, please contact the Navy’s Chief Officer on this matter, CDR Richard Roll, at richardroll@navy.mil.

UPDATE: New video evidence of the mystery individual has surfaced! Go HERE to watch the uncovered video. Please help us identify him.






….Happy April Fools Day.

Posted in Featured, History, humor, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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 , , , , , | 1 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 , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment