To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we are listening to the voices of men and women who lived through the war in Brooklyn. We will share a selection of the 100+ oral histories that make up the collection in the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archives to bring the city at war to life. Learn what it was like to be one of the first female shipworkers in 1942, or to face discrimination as a Black sailor in the segregated Navy, or to witness battered ships and sailors limp into the Yard from the war zone. Our team will also share our experiences recording oral histories with these remarkable people over the past 12 years.>> Continue reading
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we are looking back at the remarkable careers of the ships where the war began and ended for the United State, both built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. USS Arizona was built in 1916, and 25 years later, it was destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, killing 1,177 aboard and drawing the US into the war. In 1944, USS Missouri slid off the ways in Brooklyn, and it would become the site of the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay on Sep. 2, 1945. We will share stories of the ships’ construction and service, and our experiences visiting both, sitting side by side today, one afloat and one at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i.>> Continue reading
To mark Memorial Day weekend, this virtual program will examine the connections between the residents of Green-Wood Cemetery and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Following both World Wars, the Terminal was a principal destination for the repatriation of servicemen killed overseas, many of whom were buried in nearby Green-Wood. We will also look at the monuments of many people who built, worked, and served at the Army Terminal, as well as other important figures in the development of Brooklyn’s military and industrial waterfront over the past century.>> Continue reading
Dive into the collections of South Street Seaport Museum with Director of Collections Martina Caruso, who will share some of the highlights among the museum’s 28,000+ artifacts and 55,000+ archival materials that document the rise of New York as a port city. In honor of the recent visit of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, we will look at items related to past hospital ships that have visited New York, and we will examine some fascinating shipbuilding tools, including those used by workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other nearby shipyards.
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- History of Hospital Ships in New York City
At 3:57 p.m. on May 2, 1982, the British submarine HMS Conqueror fired a spread of three torpedoes at the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano, located approximately 230 nautical miles southwest of the Falkland Islands. Two of the weapons found their marks, fore and aft of the ship’s protective belt armor on the port side. In less than 30 minutes, the order was given to abandon ship, and Belgrano sank, taking 323 souls with her.
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).
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
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
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
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