Listening to WWII: Voices from the Brooklyn Navy Yard | Free Virtual Program | Tuesday, November 10

November 10, 2020 6:00 pm EST

On the eve of Veterans Day, join us as we explore Brooklyn’s homefront during World War II through the experiences of those who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Center for Brooklyn History archivists Amy Lau and Mary Mann team up with Turnstile Tours’ Andrew Gustafson to lead us on an intimate journey that weaves together oral history clips from CBH’s Brooklyn Navy Yard collection, excerpts of letters to loved ones overseas, and photographs of the Yard and its workers. These first-hand stories, primarily from women and people of color, bring to life the WWII efforts of those who remained at home.

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This program is presented by the Center for Brooklyn History of the Brooklyn Public Library.

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“Every Day Is a Holiday” Film Screening and Discussion | Episode 136

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Chinese-American filmmaker Theresa Loong knew little about her father’s past. One day, she found his secret diary, written when he was a POW in a Japanese work camp during World War II. In remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, we will be screening “Every Day Is a Holiday,” followed by a Q&A and discussion about personal storytelling with Theresa. “Every Day Is a Holiday,” is the painful but life-affirming story of Paul Loong’s unlikely journey from Chinese teenager in Malaysia and a prisoner of war in Japan to merchant seaman, Veterans Affairs doctor and naturalized citizen of the country that liberated him: the United States.

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Brooklyn Army Terminal: Nerve Center of World War II | Episode 131

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Celebrate the 101st birthday of the Brooklyn Army Terminal’s opening on this special program about the facility’s unique role in World War II. BAT served as the headquarters of the New York Port of Embarkation, the largest port operation in the country that oversaw the transportation of millions of troops and tons of supplies. We will listen to oral histories of workers and service members from the period, view archival images that highlight the incredible scale of activity, and share stories of some of the remarkable operations conducted from the Army Terminal across the globe.

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From Arizona to Missouri: Bookends of World War II | Episode 130

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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.

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U-Boats, Bootleggers, and Buoys: The History of the Coast Guard in New York Harbor | Episode 119

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To mark the 230th birthday of the United States Coast Guard, we’re looking back at the history of the “always ready” service. Due to New York’s position as one of the country’s largest ports, the Coast Guard has ensured its safety and security for more than two centuries, and today they have the largest presence of any military service branch in New York City. We will share stories of the Coast Guard fighting U-boats in both World Wars, hunting bootleggers during Prohibition, and ensuring the safe navigation of the harbor for everybody from container ships to kayakers. We will also be joined by Coast Guard veteran Ramon Ortiz, who served aboard the icebreaking tug USCGC Sturgeon Bay and in Coast Guard Sector New York.

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War Comes to Brooklyn: Green-Wood Cemetery and the Brooklyn Army Terminal | Episode 76

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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.

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“Manhattan Beach”: The Brooklyn Navy Yard of World War II with Jennifer Egan | Episode 66

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Take a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in World War II with Jennifer Egan, author of the award-winning novel Manhattan Beach, and our own resident historian, Andrew Gustafson. We will highlight many of the sites featured in the novel and 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 read excerpts from her book and answer questions about her remarkable work.

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This program is presented with support from Brooklyn Historical Society.

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ARA General Belgrano: A Lost Ship, A Stolen Photograph

Color photo of a cruiser sinking with ocean in foreground and orange lifeboats on the water.

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.

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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