The Many Names of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War II

The names of the Brooklyn Navy Yard are etched in the landscape.

Some of the subjects we frequently have to address on our tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard are: where is it? and what is the official name?

So let’s start with the first question. The Brooklyn Navy Yard is located on the banks of the Wallabout Bay, a bend in the East River located opposite Manhattan’s Corlears Hook. The Yard has grown considerably since it was established in 1801 with the purchase of 23 acres of land on the bay’s western shore. Today, it encompasses 300 acres that encircle the bay from west to east, bounded by Little Street and Navy Street to the west, Flushing Avenue to the south, and Williamsburg Street, Kent Avenue, and Division Avenue to the east.  (more…)


Immigrants Who Made the Brooklyn Navy Yard Great: Frederick Lois Riefkohl

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War IWorld War II

Frederick Lois Riefkohl as a midshipman at the US Naval Academy, 1911

This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Frederick Lois Riefkohl (1889–1969)

The histories of Puerto Rico and of the US military are deeply intertwined, and much of that history runs through the career of Frederick Lois Riefkohl, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from the US Naval Academy, to win the Navy Cross, and to achieve the rank of rear admiral. Normally we would not consider someone from Puerto Rico an immigrant – they are US citizens – but Reifkohl lived in a complicated time. (more…)


Food Manufacturing Hub Opens at Brooklyn Army Terminal

Filed to: ArchitectureBrooklyn Army TerminalInside IndustryWorld War II

IMG_1206 1

Masaki and Yukimi Momose have been making their Japanese-style salad dressings for more than three years, but now, they are finally making it in a space they can call their own. Their company, MOMO Dressing, is the first tenant in the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s Annex, a former administration building for the military complex that is now being reinvented as a center of food manufacturing.

MOMO held their grand opening on August 10 with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which spent $15 million renovating the 55,000-square-foot building. Also in attendance was another food manufacturer who calls the Terminal home – chocolatier Jacques Torres. (more…)


Presidential Visits to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Part II

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWaterfrontWorld War II

President Roosevelt with admirals at the Naval Review at Oyster Bay, April 14, 1903. Credit: Library of Congress.

Three years ago, in celebration of Presidents Day, we wrote about the handful of times that sitting US presidents had paid visits to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At that time, we only mentioned two such visits – by William Howard Taft, once as president-elect on November 13, 1908, and as soon-to-be-ousted-president on October 30, 1912, and by Woodrow Wilson,  on May 11, 1914. But we have since done considerably more historical digging, and we would like to share a few more notable presidential visits. (more…)


From Perry To MacArthur: Flag Links Historic US Visits to Japan, in Peace and War

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War II

Gen. Douglas MacArthur delivers remarks at the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri, Sep. 2, 1945. The Perry flag can be seen in the top left corner. Source:  NARA

September 2 marks the 70th anniversary of the official end of the Second World War, when Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender in Tokyo Bay in 1945. While we are marking the event today, the actual anniversary took place at around 8pm on September 1, Eastern Standard Time. The largest celebration of the event in the world was held in Beijing, and has long since finished; the major commemoration of the event in the US will take place at 3pm EST in Hawaii, aboard the USS Missouri, where the original surrender took place. (more…)


Fleet Week Ships Carry Strong NYC Connections

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardEventsWaterfrontWorld War II

USCGC Sturgeon Bay. Credit: US Coast Guard

On Wednesday, May 20, a small flotilla of US Navy and Coast Guard ships will steam under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to mark the beginning of a week-long, city-wide celebration of our country’s Sea Services. The ships will be coming from different commands and homeports, but many of them have strong historic and contemporary connections to New York and the nautical history of this region.

The ships will be berthed along Manhattan’s West Side (at Piers 86 and 92) and at The Sullivans Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island. All will be open for public visiting hours (see here), but if you want to get a waterside view of them, join our Fleet Week Harbor Tours, May 22-25, with Classic Harbor Line(more…)


The Fall of Singapore, 1942

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWorld War II

Gen. Yamashita (third from left) at surrender negotiations at Singapore's Ford Factory, Feb. 15, 1942.

February 15 marks the anniversary of one of the most dramatic and shocking moments in the Second World War, the fall of the “Gibraltar of the East,” Singapore, in 1942. While Singapore is very, very far away from the places that we give tours, we have a special connection to that country, and to the people there conducting scholarship on World War II history, an area of particular interest to us.

Turnstile Tours had the opportunity to travel to Singapore in October 2013, at the invitation of the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board, where we led trainings for many of the country’s museums and attractions on how to make guided tours more engaging and interactive. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Changi Museum and meeting the team at Singapore History Consultants, Singapore Walks, and Journeys. This family of companies is in many ways a kindred spirit to Turnstile, for-profit businesses with a strong focus on research, education, and preservation. They operate many of the country’s World War II-related historic sites, but they also conduct an enormous amount of archival and archeological research to document and interpret this important history. (more…)


“We Need Your Skills”: Pearl Harbor and the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWaterfrontWorld War II

The Shipworker, Jun. 1, 1942. Credit: Brooklyn Navy Yard Archive

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is 5,000 miles from Pearl Harbor, and though the reverberations of the events there on December 7, 1941 were felt across the globe, they hit especially hard on this small stretch of the Brooklyn waterfront.

Already 140 years old at the time, the Brooklyn Navy Yard had established itself as one of the most venerable shipbuilding and ship repair facilities in the Navy, and the Yard would be pushed to the limit during World War II, building, repairing, and servicing more than 5,000 vessels in just four years. Not only would ships be brought from across the world to be patched up and pushed back into the service at the Yard, but the Yard’s skilled craftsmen would be dispatched to other shipyards to help keep the fleet in fighting order. (more…)


News 4 New York: Pearl Harbor Day

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardPressWorld War II

NBC4_Logo_FINAL

News 4 New York, December 5, 2014

Andrew Gustafson, vice president of Turnstile Tours, speaks with Roseanne Colletti regarding Brooklyn Navy Yard’s exhibit, “The ‘Can-Do’ Yard: WWII at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.”

“We’re especially proud of the fact that the Brooklyn Navy Yard built the USS Arizona, which was sunk on December 7, 1941, with the loss of 1,177 sailors aboard. We also built the USS Missouri, which is where the peace treaty that ended World War II was signed, so we have the bookends of the war that were built here at the Navy Yard.”

>> Watch Video


The Port Chicago Disaster: Race and the Navy in World War II

Filed to: Brooklyn Navy YardWaterfrontWorld War II

Sailors unloading ammunition from a boxcar Port Chicago. Credit: National Park Service

This summer marks the 70th anniversary of the tragic events of Port Chicago, California, the worst home front disaster of World War II. 320 people were killed, most of them US Navy sailors, in an explosion at a naval munitions loading station, but it was more than just a tragic accident – the events leading up to and following the explosion exposed the appalling racial discrimination and mistreatment faced by African-American sailors during the war.

Located on central California’s Suisun Bay, Port Chicago was one of the largest and busiest weapons stations in the country, loading explosives onto ships bound for the Pacific Theater. All of the enlisted sailors carrying out these dangerous operations were African-American; all of their commanding officers were white. While many of these men had received training to pursue a naval rating, or a specific skill, they, like most of their black counterparts across the Navy, were employed only for manual labor. And the conditions at the port were incredibly dangerous. Commanders utilized “speed contests” to push the men to load more quickly, and almost none of the men had received specific instructions in ammunition loading or proper safety training. (more…)