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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Playing With the Navy

12-21 DSC_0006Television commercials and Internet ads for Christmas and Hanukkah presents are ubiquitous today. But a century ago it was newspaper advertisements and engraved drawings in mail-order catalogs that depicted the newest toys and games, sparking children’s visions of what they might get. Toymakers knew that children’s play often reflected world events and far-away experiences. From the 1880s through the 1930s, toys and games about naval sailors captivated boys and girls in farmhouses and in row houses across the United States.

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Here to Help

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Each year, approximately 40,000 recruits pass through Recruit Training Command (Boot Camp) at Naval Station Great Lakes.  These young men and women volunteer to serve in the United States Navy.

But there is another group of dedicated individuals, albeit somewhat smaller, who also donate a portion of their time and energies to the U.S. Navy.  They require no PFT, no uniform issue, and will not have to go through the rigors of Battle Stations 21.  They are the volunteers at the Great Lakes Naval Museum.  Their contributions to the preservation and interpretation of the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy can not be understated.

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A Sailor’s View of Humanitarian Aid to Japan

12-7 Ward_View_of_YokohamaOn the morning of September 1, school children finished class like any late summer day.  Teachers dismissed them for lunch.  They ran outside and raced each other down the narrow streets to their homes where mothers and grandparents were cooking.

At 11:58, the Earth shook suddenly and violently.  Stoves overturned.  House walls collapsed on the children, grandparents, and the burning coals.  Sounds of rumbling, crashing, and voices screaming filled the streets.  Flames roared.
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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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Double Duty

Hrbaczewski MedalA recent donation to NMAS revealed the curious case of Walter Joseph Hrbaczewski. Hrbaczewski joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February, 1946 at age 17, getting his parents to sign him up as a minor. He completed boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois and then attended service school in California. After six months on active duty, he became an inactive member of the Naval Reserve.

All was normal for Hrbaczewski for a few years.  But then things got weird.

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A Curious Jacket

11-2 MCPON Black Uniform (2)What’s up with this jacket?  I came across it during an inventory of the NMAS uniform collection. The three stars above the rating insignia told me this was no ordinary Chief’s jacket. But then what is it?

A quick search taught me that three stars above the insignia are only worn by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), the senior most enlisted member of the U.S. Navy. Problem solved, right?  Not quite.

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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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