Comfort at Sea: History of Hospital Ships in New York City

The hospital ship USNS Comfort is en route to New York City. One of just two hospital ships in the Navy fleet, it has been dispatched from Norfolk, while its sister ship Mercy recently arrived in Los Angeles. Comfort will dock at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal (and some dredging is required to fit the converted oil tanker into the berth), while the counterpart Red Hook Cruise Terminal is being converted into one of the city’s five emergency hospitals, along with the Javits Center, Bronx Expo Center, Queens Aqueduct, and the College of Staten Island (which, coincidentally, sits on the former site of Halloran Hospital, the Army’s largest hospital in World War II).

>> Continue reading

Brownstoner: Virtual Prospect Park Launches to Help Brooklynites Adhere to Social Distancing

Brownstoner Logo, a white B on black background

Brownstoner, March 24, 2020

by Susan de Vries

While you can still appreciate the beauty of the park for brief respites of fresh air with appropriate social distancing, the Prospect Park Alliance is encouraging visitors to head online to explore the green space with a new resource.

Virtual Prospect Park includes resources from educators, historians, gardeners and others to allow a look into Brooklyn’s backyard while following the directive to stay indoors as much as possible during the crisis.

>> Read more

Slavery and the Brooklyn Navy Yard

After nearly 12 years of leading tours at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the most difficult questions we get – and almost always from young people – is this: Were there slaves here?

This question is vexing not just because of the complex and painful subject matter, but also because the historical record is incomplete. The result is usually an imprecise and unsatisfying answer. In short, yes, enslaved people were an integral part of life at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the 60 years leading up to the Civil War, just as they were across Brooklyn and New York City.

This is an effort to unpack that complexity and get somewhere closer to the historical truth of the matter.

>> Continue reading

Clayton Colefield and the Building of USS Missouri

Black and white photo of five naval officers standing on a large metal plate, one of them turning a long handle attached to a riveting machine.

They say a Navy ship has three birthdays: its keel-laying, its launching, and its commissioning. The World War II-era battleship USS Missouri has one more, its recommission in 1986 as part of President Reagan’s 600-ship Navy. But one person was witness to its first two birthdays, Brooklyn Navy Yard shipfitter Clayton Colefield, who sat for an oral history in 2009 with Sady Sullivan of the Brooklyn Historical Society.>> Continue reading

Americal Division: Brooklyn Army Terminal Sends First US Troops to Pacific

Black and white photo of two soldiers walking up a gangplank onto a ship at dusk.

Last week we looked at Operation Magnet, the scramble in the weeks after Pearl Harbor to move American forces into the European battle zone. Just one week after that, it was time to make a move in the Pacific, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal would again be key. 

Unlike Europe, America already had significant forces in the Pacific theater, and they were engaged in battle with the Japanese – but it was going very poorly. The Japanese began their invasion of the Philippines just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and within a month, American forces were penned in on the Bataan Peninsula and the island fortress of Corregidor, and the American Asiatic Fleet, along with Dutch and Commonwealth allies, was being battered across the Southwest Pacific. By May, 87,000 American and Filipino troops would be forced to surrender, and half the Asiatic Fleet was sunk.>> Continue reading

Brooklyn to Belfast: Red Bull Division Were First US Overseas Troops of World War II

Black and white photo of a soldier waving from the gangplank of a ship with soldiers in the background.

On January 15, 1942, ships of convoy AT-10 left the Brooklyn Army Terminal to make the journey across the Atlantic. Aboard the transports USS Chateau Thierry and HMTS Strathaird were mostly soldiers of the 34th Infantry Division, aka “Red Bull,” 4,058 in all. Codenamed Operation Magnet, this was the first deployment of American combat troops to foreign soil after the US officially entered World War II.>> Continue reading

Inside Industry at the Brooklyn Navy Yard: Women Welders, Past and Present, Mar 8

Celebrate International Women’s Day by exploring the past and present of women’s labor at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Learn about the history from the early nineteenth century, when women sewed flags and uniforms, to World War II, when women had the opportunity for the first time to work in the shipbuilding professions, as welders, shipfitters, and machinists. As we explore the Yard, we will visit the studios of two female metal artists who have worked in the Yard for a combined 60+ years, and see how Susan Woods and Michelle Greene welding in the Yard today, carrying on the traditions of the “Rosies” that came before them.

Inside Industry: Women Welders, Past and Present at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

icon-calendar  SUN, Mar 8, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $35 per person
icon-male Walking tour
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Inside Industry at the Brooklyn Navy Yard: Love Stories and Letterpress, Feb 9

Typeface collection at Woodside Press at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Get ready for Valentine’s Day on this special Sunday Inside Industry program at the Brooklyn Navy YardWe will first delve into the archives of the Yard to share stores of sailors, seamstresses, shipworkers, and entrepreneurs that have fallen in love at the Yard as we visit some of the most iconic sites of the shipyard. We will then head over to Woodside Press, a traditional letterpress printing studio, where participants will get a tour of their equipment and process, and then get to use these methods to print their very own valentine to take home.

Inside Industry: Love Stories and Letterpress at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

icon-calendar  SUN, Feb 9, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $35 per person
icon-male Walking tour
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Inside Industry at the Brooklyn Navy Yard: Digital Fabrication, Jan 31

Sitting at his desk using a mouse and looking at a screen with a chair on it, Scott Jordan builds a chair, virtually.

Many of the businesses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard bring together traditional handcrafts and advanced manufacturing techniques to create unique, high-quality products. On this tour, we will go “inside industry” with designers and fabricators that use both digital tools and traditional handcrafts to make everything from furniture to tech hardware, and we will learn how companies are integrating 3D printing, digital imaging, CNC machining, and other techniques and tools in order to survive in competitive (and expensive) New York City.

Inside Industry: Digital Fabrication at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

icon-calendar  FRI, Jan 31, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $35 per person
icon-male Walking tour
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Special Tours Mark 75 Years Since the End of World War II at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

World War II came to a close in 1945, and looking back 75 years, it is hard to believe that Americans on the cusp of war in 1940 were as removed from the Civil War as we are from World War II today. Imagine veterans of that war, fought with horses and muskets, still alive to share their memories in the Atomic Age.

Today, we have a dwindling number of World War II veterans, all now well north of 90 years old (unlike the Civil War, there were no 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old drummer boys or powder monkeys). So throughout 2020, we are offering special content on our World War II Tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the first Sunday of each month that will focus on different aspects of the human story of the war, utilizing our vast archive or oral histories and other personal stories of life on the home front and on the front lines.>> Continue reading