Season’s Eatings: Naval Holiday Meals


By Kelly Duffy, National Museum of the American Sailor Contract Curator

It’s that time of year again, where families and friends gather ‘round tables for delicious home-cooked meals made from recipes passed down through generations with an occasional new dish sprinkled in here and there. Continue reading

Navy Support for Native American Sailors in 1920

By Martin Tuohy, National Museum of the American Sailor Archivist

As a Navy recruit in training, Joseph LaPrairie stood out at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in January 1920. Among the young trainees, Joseph LaPrairie was older – 31 years old, almost the same age as the chief petty officer in charge of his company. LaPrairie came from Minnesota, a state rare for Navy enlistments. Continue reading

Navy Cooks: May the Packey Schwartz Be With You

By Therese Gonzalez, National Museum of the American Sailor Museum Specialist

It’s been said that the “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and for the United States Navy, that saying is certainly appropriate. Food builds not just bodies, but also morale. As stated in U.S. Navy and What It Offers, 1920, a “good cook is one of the most popular men aboard ship.” Continue reading

Old School Communications

12-28 -1912For most recruits, their time is Naval Station Great Lakes is their first time away from home. They take on new experiences and carry the memories of the loved ones they’ve left. For some, it’s a wonderful time of adventure. For others, it’s a difficult transition. This has been the case since recruits began arriving in 1911. Before the days of texting and social media, Sailors shared their thoughts and experiences on postcards and in letters.

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“Home” For the Holidays

11-23 1943-Menu-TgivingFor many young men and women, joining the Navy means leaving family, friends, and home for the first time. New friends and new routines replace the old, but some things just aren’t the same. This is especially true around the holidays when decorations in the barracks and a galley holiday menu can’t replace putting up the Christmas tree with family ornaments as tempting aromas waft from the kitchen while a Bowl game plays on the television.

For some lucky ones, leave is approved. For most, the holidays will be spent at the barracks and in the galley. But not for all…

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Like Father, Like Son

Charles and Geoffrey Bender wearing their dress blue uniform.

Charles and Geoffrey Bender wearing their dress blue uniform.

There might be nothing more traditional in the Navy than the dress blue uniform.  There have been subtle changes to the uniform over the years, but the essential style has remained the same.

This tradition gets personal for Charles and Geoffrey Bender, father and son who both served in the U.S. Navy.  While 30 years separate their service, they both wore the same uniform – yes, literally the same uniform.  When Geoffrey donated the uniform to the museum in 2013, he included details about how the uniform was worn and modified by his father, Charles, before Geoffrey himself wore it 30 years later.

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June, 1944 “Nothing of historical significance has happened.”

Have you heard the popular retort from the 1940s, “Don’t you know there’s a war going on?”

During the Second World War, naval commandants wrote diary entries about major events in their commands.  The subordinate officers submitted reports to their commandants who typed up “war diaries” for the Vice-Chief of Naval Operations.  The War Diaries were official U.S. Navy records, to be examined post-war as a source for histories of the various Navy commands.

But whose decided what was important enough to write down?

The answer, of course, was everybody.  And everybody had a different view of the same experience.  So the entries in War Diaries varied from one commanding officer to the next, and from one command to the next.  A hand-written desk diary kept by the Commandants of the U.S. Naval Training Station at Great Lakes shows how different people viewed the exact same place and experience in vastly different ways.

10-5 war_diary_1944-06According to one diary writer, “… nothing of historical importance has occurred at the Naval Training Center during June 1944.”

Ditto that judgment for July 1944.

We can only guess that the commandant was too busy during summer 1944.  Don’t you know there’s a war going on?

But another writer in the same diary had a vastly differing view just fourteen months earlier, in April 1943.  In fact, so much was happening that he had to record the times within each day:

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These entries contain subtle hints about historical changes happening in the Navy and in American society.

If you were at this naval training station in April 1943, would you attend the “National Barn Dance” performance, the “Musical Happy Hour” concert by Griff Williams and his band, or the Brazilian soprano singer’s concert?

Or would you have been a new recruit in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)?

Maybe you have been aboard the submarine USS Pompon (SS-267) as it mysteriously surfaced along the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Where did a submarine on Lake Michigan come from, and where was it headed?

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Where one observer left us copious information about the sounds and sights of the place, ranging from popular music to diplomatic visits by Allied nations, another saw almost nothing noteworthy.   Don’t you know there’s a war going on?




To learn more about the museum’s collections check out our website.

Creature Comforts

When I first started working at the museum, I would bring my dog Benny to the base with me after work and we would go for walks along Pettibone Creek.  Quite often during our walks we would run into sailors.  They always wanted to play with Benny, especially when he was a puppy.  Without fail, they would tell me about their pets  “back home.”

9-21 Kroscher-Album2-011During  World War I at Great Lakes, sailors didn’t have that problem.  While they didn’t have their own pets, the base was home to a “Ravinetta” park in Camp Dewey (where Recruit Training Command’s Camp Porter is located today).  In “Ravinetta” park, along with park benches, flowers and miniature ships, was an actual zoo.

9-21 Kroscher-Album2-023Great Lakes’s  zoo started when the Officer In Command was presented with two big brown bears, John and Susie, and eventually grew to include four bears, deer, three American eagles, mountain goats, badgers, rabbits, ferrets, owls, guinea pigs, a possum, and a hawk.  If that wasn’t enough for the sailors, they could also pet one of the many dogs belonging to the staff or visit the Aviation Camp to see the carrier pigeons.

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While the zoo/Ravinetta Park was dismantled in the post-war downsizing, during its brief existence it served as means of entertainment for sailors and their families stationed at the base.

Interested in hearing more about food and culinary specialists in the Navy? Check out these NMAS blog articles: Pigeons: Not Just Air Rats and E-3 Cindy.

For information about the National Museum of the American Sailor visit our website and our Facebook page.

A Sailor’s “Little Volume”

Sailor’s Attic has dug up some interesting things that used to belong to U.S. Navy Sailors – a football, a jersey, some snapshots, a written account of an adventure. Sure, these things are interesting. But how do these items become “historical” and end up in the archives of the National Museum of the American Sailor?

9-14 verrillo_apology2Sometimes, it’s the most ordinary items that grab our attention. One Sailor, a yeoman aboard the USS McCormick (DD-223) and the USS Black Hawk (AD-9) took advantage of his access to a typewriter and a camera to record his observations from 1924-1926. The Sailor, Fred Verrillo, gives a hint how something personal becomes historical – and how the museum’s archival collection benefits from donations.

He recorded the ordinary experiences of daily life in the Navy. In June, 1925, his ship docked at the U.S. Navy’s summer base for the Pacific (“Asiatic”) Fleet, the Chinese port city of Chefoo (now Yantai), near the Korean peninsula.

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Fred Verrillo also used his camera to freeze in time what he saw that day on the streets of Chefoo. (Note the “Navy Y.M.C.A.” banner, mentioned in his log.)

Sometimes, though, a Sailor gets caught up in a storm of larger events. Only with the passage of time does something like “internal trouble” in Shanghai in June, 1925 become “the May Thirtieth Movement,” a series of student-led protests throughout China during 1925-1926 that were sparked by a Shanghai police shooting of peaceful marchers on May 30, 1925.



Yeoman Verrillo and his ship then traveled to Ningpo, where Chinese and French Roman Catholic priests hosted the sailors for Mass and a Sunday outdoor party.

9-14 verrillo_ningopo1Yeoman Fred Verrillo wrote that his “log” did not “expect a place in the Library of Congress or the Hall of Fame.” But nearly 90 years after Fred Verrillo stepped off a Navy ship for the last time, one of his relatives recognized the value of his unvarnished storytelling and discussed donating the materials with the staff of the National Museum of the American Sailor.

Know of a collection of archival documents that might fill in more stories about U.S. Navy enlisted personnel from 1775 to the recent past – from the Mediterranean Sea or the African coastal waters in the 1950s-1960s, or from a Sailor of the 1800s?

The museum has a large collection of World War I and World War II artifacts and is working to increase our post World War II collection. To learn more about the museum’s collections, visit the Historical Collections and Research page on our website.