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

What was the First Ship Built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

Diagram showing the lines of the sloop Peacock.

For the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work with third and fourth graders in the Brooklyn Historical Society’s CASA program. These young scholars are tasked with writing a book about a place or story important to Brooklyn’s history. In 2018, we helped students learning about Prospect Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Greenpoint, and the Empire Stores. This year, students from PS 380 in Williamsburg took on the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The students decided to look at the Yard’s history through the lens of some of its famous ships, ArizonaMaine, and Fulton among them, but also the little-known Peacock.>> Continue reading

Italian Service Units in the New York Port of Embarkation

Solider wearing a uniform with "Italy" written on his left arm sings with three guitarists on a bandstand with a crowd in the background.

During World War II, nearly half a million Axis prisoners of war were held in the United States. The vast majority of these POWs were German, and a small number (less than 1%) were from Japan, but the remainder were Italian, and they fell into a special category. 34,000 Italian soldiers were allowed to work and live relatively freely at military installations across the country, including at the New York Port of Embarkation, and they provided vital labor and skills to the American war effort. So why were these Italians treated differently than their German and Japanese counterparts?>> Continue reading

Happy Leif Erikson Day! Two Voyages Tell The Story of America

Woman in a blue jacket standing underneath a bronze abstract sculpture with a meadow and ocean in the distance.

We couldn’t let Leif Erikson Day pass without boasting that we stood in his bedroom. And not in Norway or Iceland or Greenland, but right here in North America, at L’Anse aux Meadows, a National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern tip of Newfoundland. But to understand what this place is, and what it has to do with October 9, we actually need to walk back through three separate journeys.

First, how did we wind up there? Last month, Cindy and I spent eight days in Newfoundland for our (five-year-delayed) honeymoon. We traveled up the island’s west coast from Gros Morne National Park (also a UNESCO site) to Quirpon Island in the extreme north, and L’Anse aux Meadows was a stop along the way.>> Continue reading

Cass Gilbert’s New York: Explore the Woolworth Building & Brooklyn Army Terminal

Mosaic in Woolworth Lobby showing figure of Commerce holding a globe

Join us for this special exploration of two of renowned architect Cass Gilbert’s most impressive works: the Woolworth Building and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. This 3-hour guided experience includes a tour led by the experts at Woolworth Tours of the building’s stunning lobby, with its soaring mosaic ceiling, intricate stained glass, and amusing corbel characters. We will then walk through the heart of the Financial District to Pier 11 to board the NYC Ferry to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to explore a building radically different in appearance, design, and function.  This engineering marvel on Brooklyn’s Sunset Park waterfront was built in 1918-1919, serving as a supply base for the American military for nearly 50 years. Today it is home to over 100 companies in industries ranging from precision manufacturers to biotech researchers, online retailers to chocolatiers. 

Public Tours

icon-calendar  Select SAT, 1:15pm
  3 hours
icon-male  icon-anchor  Walking & Ferry
  Woolworth Building, Lower Manhattan

Taste the Yard: Brooklyn Navy Yard Food Tour, August 16

Close-up photo of microgreens growing in a tray in a greenhouse

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Yard is a growing community of food manufacturing businesses. On this tour, go behind the scenes at some of the Yard’s most delicious tenants! Participants will learn about different aspects of food production, distribution, and retail, while sampling treats along the way. In addition, guests will gain a better understanding about the history of theYard and learn more about the 450+ businesses that call the Yard home today. As a bonus, the tour gives visitors amazing views and access to the Yard that is only possible on a tour. Perfect for a Summer Friday outing with colleagues or friends, this new tour is not to be missed!

Taste the Yard Tour

icon-calendar  FRI, Aug 16, 1pm
  2 hours
icon-male Walking tour
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn