Living Flags: The Navy and the First Viral Photo Trend

by E.J.A. Prevoznak, LT, CHC, USN NMAS Volunteer

Everyone covets the perfect picture. However, even with the ubiquity and high-tech quality of cameras today, the perfect picture remains difficult to capture; because it is not just about the color and the lighting, but about the way the picture makes us feel. We snap picture after picture attempting to grasp onto a feeling that is on the edge of our emotion but remains distant. When we finally grasp onto that perfect picture, the meaning is self-evident. We share it with friends and family or even complete strangers when we post it online. Picture reach the coveted status of viral when others not only see and share it, but also copy it. This is exactly what happened at the turn of the 20th century with the viral trend of “living flags”.

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Midway: The Beginning of the Modern American Sailor

By E.J.A. Prevoznak LT, CHC, USN, NMAS Volunteer

The Pacific theatre of World War II was the first large scale naval war of consequence for the American sailor since the Spanish-American War in 1898. Ships were mainly crewed by enlistees and draftees who had never been to sea, let alone in major naval combat. Journalist Malcom Gladwell in his book Bomber Mafia writes that the U.S. and Japan knew less of each other than any other combatants in history.1  He further argues that as the sea war evolved into an air war the vastness of the Pacific “made it the kind of air war that no one had fought before.”2 The Battle of Midway was the first step for the U.S. Navy becoming the dominant world sea power, and doing so forever changed the American sailor from the 19th century seafarer trimming sails into a modern naval warrior forged by the fires of aerial combat. 

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A Helping Hand

By Tricia Menke, NMAS Curator of Education

The United States Navy may be best known as the premier naval fighting force on the planet, but there is more to the Navy than war prowess and high tech ships. Since the early 20th century, naval ships have deployed for humanitarian reasons around the world, supporting Americans and foreign nationals alike in times of crisis. Oftentimes, these humanitarian missions require partnerships with other branches of the U.S. military, with civilian organizations, and with foreign governments to successfully complete these aid-based missions.

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Full STEM Ahead!

by Kim Ortega, NMAS Museum Tech

While ‘STEM’ is a relatively new concept, only being established in the 1950s, the Navy’s interest certainly isn’t a new development. First, what in the world is STEM? STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. Together, these four fields place an emphasis on “innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking” as described by Best Colleges.

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Uncharted Waters: Women in Submarines

by Kelly Duffy, NMAS Deputy Director

The United States Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment serve as a driving force for all sailors. While women were not officially welcomed in the Navy until 1908 with the establishment of the Navy Nurse Corps, throughout the Navy’s history they embraced these core values by occupying unofficial roles since the Navy’s earliest beginnings. In 2010, the Navy lifted another barrier to women’s equality when then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lifted the ban on females serving on submarines.[1] In the twelve years since that ban lifted, women in submarines faced many challenges but through it all their drive for honor, courage, and commitment pushed them into uncharted waters.

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An Equal Chance in the Battle of Life: The Navy’s Camp Robert Smalls

by Samantha Belles, NMAS Collection Manager

During the early hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls, slave and the pilot of the Confederate Army armed transport CSS Planter, secretly commandeered the ship with the assistance of other crewmembers and delivered it to Union forces after sailing the vessel out of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Not only did he slip past the guns of five Confederate forts undetected, but he also delivered to the stunned Union forces blockading Charleston the Planter’s captain’s codebook containing Confederate signals and a map of mine locations in Charleston’s harbor. While Smalls’ voyage obviously served as an unexpected victory for the Union, it also brought freedom to the Planter’s other Black enslaved crewmembers and their families. With the latter stowed away on the potential journey to freedom that evening, all who sailed on the vessel risked certain death if captured. Now a war hero, the United States Navy lauded Smalls’ actions, with Rear Admiral Samuel DuPont writing “He is superior to any who have come into our lines…his information has been most interesting, and portions of it of the utmost importance.” 

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Caring for Home Collections: Photographs and Scrapbooks

by Jennifer Steinhardt, NMAS Archivist

Did you spend the past almost-two years of lockdown procedures to go through all your belongings? If so, you’re not alone! There was dramatic increase in the number of people contacting the National Museum of the American Sailor about donating their family member’s naval materials. If you are looking for guidance on how you can care for your archival collections at home, you’ve come to the correct place!

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A Life of Valor: The Navy’s Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor

by Tricia Menke, NMAS Curator of Education

The stories of sailors from the American Revolution to today consistently highlight the  Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment. in the s. Yet perhaps no sailor embodies these ideals more fully than Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Elliot “Willie” Williams. Over the course of Williams’ almost twenty-year career, he continuously demonstrated the leadership and dedication necessary to become the most decorated enlisted sailor in Navy history.

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Finding Love in Service

By Kim Ortega, NMAS Museum Technician

Joining the U.S. Navy comes with the beginnings of many new things. From learning a new way to speak, the proper way to march and salute, all the way to honing their specializations in time to join the fleet. However, one of the things that isn’t necessarily expected is finding or nurturing new relationships, including young love. Here at the National Museum of the American Sailor, we often hear stories of how someone’s enlisted grandfather met his future bride, a Navy WAVE, during World War II at a USO dance. Or a sailor stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes met a local girl and married her during or after the war. Examples of this unexpected “perk” can be found throughout several collections in the National Museum of the American Sailor’s permanent collection.

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