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).

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Virtual Session: Inventions of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Thursday, March 19, 11am

For over two hundred years, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been on the cutting edge of innovation, first as a leading shipyard for the US Navy, and today as a home to 500+ industrial, manufacturing, design, and technology companies. We’ll look back at inventions – some small enough to hold, some as large as ships – both groundbreaking and mundane, that shaped the history of the Yard and the wider world. Hosted by Andrew Gustafson. Register here.

Virtual Programs
icon-calendar  Every Day at 11am + weekends at 4pm
icon-clock-o  30-45 mins
icon-map-marker  Virtual sessions via Zoom webinar

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.

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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

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 Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan, Mar 1

8-10 female workers lining up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to punch in wearing heavy smocks for welding.

Take a special World War II history tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard co-led by Jennifer Egan, author of the award-winning novel Manhattan Beach, and our own resident historian, Andrew Gustafson. As we explore the Yard, visiting many sites mentioned in the book, we will delve into the Jennifer’s research process, discuss the materials she used to bring the Yard of the 1940’s to life, and listen to selections of oral histories of real women war workers that inspired many of the characters and incidents in the book. Jennifer will also reach excerpts from her book and answer questions about her remarkable work. 

Brooklyn Navy Yard Tour with Jennifer Egan

icon-calendar  SUN, Mar 1, 2020
icon-clock-o 2 hours
icon-ticket $39 per person
icon-truck  Bus and walking
  BLDG 92, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

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