USS Arizona, Brooklyn’s Most Famous Battleship

Today marks the anniversary of the launching of USS Arizona at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We have written about the Arizona many times before, including about the impact the sinking had on the Yard’s workers half a world away, and about our visit to the memorial in Pearl Harbor. It remains one of the most well-known and written about ships in the history of the US Navy, but we want to take a look at some lesser-known incidents in its storied history connected to the Yard.

When looking back at the ship’s history from the perspective of its tragic end, one can’t help but find many omens; when taken together, they seem to have foretold its fate. They are, of course, coincidences, not curses, but fascinating nonetheless.>> Continue reading

The Pickabacks, Unsung Heroes of D-Day

Operation Neptune, the seaborne component of the Normandy invasion, required nearly 6,500 vessels to deliver the vast Allied armies and their supplies and equipment onto the continental beaches. This didn’t just include warships and landing craft, but also more mundane vessels, like barges.

Allied planners scoured the British Isles for craft of any kind to use in the invasion, and they encountered a major shortage of large barges, capable of carrying 1,000 tons or more, and with a draft of less than six feet. Enough simply could not be found or built. Barges of this size were too large to load onto the decks of even the largest transports, and too fragile to tow across the stormy North Atlantic. So in February 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent an urgent message to Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall asking for a solution.>> Continue reading

Brooklyn Navy Yard: When Brooklyn Was Queer Tour, June 22

Black and white photo of two men turned away from the camera with linked arms with pink text overlay that reads, "When Brooklyn was Queer"

Queer history is linked to Brooklyn’s diversity, creativity, and vibrancy as a borough, yet this history is often forgotten or overlooked. Join us for this special tour about the queer history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, co-led by Turnstile Tours and scholar, curator, and author Hugh Ryan, as we discuss his groundbreaking book When Brooklyn was Queer.

This in-depth tour of the Yard’s history will include insights and excerpts from Ryan on queer histories at and around the Yard, from the nineteenth century and through World War II. The experience culminates at the Kings County Distillery’s Sands Street Gatehouses, a street once known for its bars and nightlife that provided rare spaces for expression of queer identities.  Hugh Ryan’s meticulous research and engaging storytelling have gained his book much praise, and we are so excited to partner with him on this experience as part of WorldPride2019. Books will be available for purchase and signing.

When Brooklyn Was Queer Tour

icon-calendar  SAT, Jun 22, 4:30pm
  2 hours
  Bus and walking tour
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

The Easter Bunny Goes to War

While many children will be gorging themselves on chocolate Easter bunnies and eggs this morning, these treats were absent from most baskets during World War II.

On December 5, 1942, the War Production Board, which supervised wartime industry, issued Conservation Order M-145, banning the manufacture of chocolate novelties, including “products manufactured in a special shape commemorating, symbolizing, or representing any holiday, event, person, animal or object.” The board proclaimed that, “American children will contribute to the war program by sacrificing chocolate Santa Clauses, St. Valentine’s hearts, Easter bunnies and eggs and other chocolate novelties.”>> Continue reading

Transit at Brooklyn Navy Yard, Past and Present

Former World's Fair shuttle at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, 1942

Yesterday the Brooklyn Navy Yard announced that they will be rolling out the first autonomous vehicles in New York City, which will provide a self-driving shuttle service inside the Yard’s gates. This exciting announcement inspired us to look back at the history of transit in and around the Yard. Poorly served by mass transit, getting tens of thousands of workers in and out of the Yard has been a 200-year struggle, but recent upgrades, and a willingness to experiment, have vastly improved the Yard’s transit connectivity in recent years.>> Continue reading

Brownstoner: Fighting World War II at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brownstoner Logo, a white B on black background

Brownstoner, January 22, 2019

by Susan De Vries

While the Brooklyn Navy Yard is being transformed with new buildings and uses, during World War II thousands of workers toiled to keep America’s battleships and aircraft carriers ready for the troops. Learn more about the busy shipyard and its role in the war with a winter bus tour around the complex. The tour includes stops where battleships like the USS Arizona and Missouri were launched, ship assembly shops and other significant sites. You’ll also be able to hear stories of what it was like to work on site during the era thanks to audio clips from oral histories of sailors, ship workers and women working industrial jobs.

>> Read more

Aircraft Carrier Visits Now a Rare Sight in NYC

Last week, New York City was visited by the flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth. This 65,000-ton carrier has spent several weeks in the US while undergoing flight testing with the F-35B fighter, which will be the primary component of its air wing. The seven-day stopover in New York was mostly for crew R-and-R, though the ship also hosted the Atlantic Future Forum on cybersecurity.

New York City is home to the Intrepid, permanently docked on the Hudson River and home to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, and the city still hosts Fleet Week every year around Memorial Day (with some exceptions), but aircraft carriers have not been part of the festivities for over a decade. Let’s take a look back at some of the floating airfields that have visited the city.>> Continue reading

Lecture: “Wendy the Welder: Work in World War II,” Oct. 15

An African-American female wearing a welder's helmet flipped up. She is smiling and looks surprised.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard reached its peak in World War II, employing 70,000 civilian workers. Desperately short of labor, the Navy employed more than 10,000 women at the Yard, in jobs ranging from seamstress to draftswoman to welder. This lecture by Andrew Gustafson will look back at the history of the Yard, and how World War II represented a major change in the culture of work, but also continued traditions of female labor dating back more than a century, utilizing documents, artifacts, and oral histories form the Brooklyn Navy Yard Archive, including many than we’re used in creating the world of Jennifer Egan’s bestselling novel Manhattan Beach.

Monday, Oct. 15, 6:30pm | New Canaan Library | >> More Information <<

Bklyner: Jennifer Egan Discusses ‘Manhattan Beach’ at Brooklyn Public Library

Bklyner, September 18, 2018

by Robin Kaizer-Schatzlein

Last night author Jennifer Egan was in the green room of the Brooklyn Public Library‘s central branch getting ready to go on stage for a talk about her book Manhattan Beach. She is a self-possessed and open woman with the look and delivery of sharp news anchor. Part of the 2018 Brooklyn Book Festival, the event was a panel discussion with Zaheer Ali of the Brooklyn Historical Society and Meredith Wisner formerly of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, moderated by author Alexis Coe.

>> Read more

The Photo That Inspired NYC’s Merchant Mariners’ Memorial

On June 9, 2018, Reinhard Hardegen, the last surviving German submarine commander of World War II, died at the age of 105. With his passing, he joins the ghosts of American merchant mariners who still haunt Manhattan’s Battery Park.

Dedicated in 1991, the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial was created by sculptor Marisol Escobar as tribute to the 9,000+ American Merchant Marine sailors killed in the war. The Merchant Marine provided a vital service to the war effort, shipping troops and supplies across some of the deadliest seas in the world. American mariners received fire from the enemy, and they returned fire, as many merchant vessels were armed, while suffering the highest casualty rate of any service branch in World War II.>> Continue reading