HRPE: The American Red Cross

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Two American Red Cross volunteers hand out donuts to soldiers. Accession # P0003-01–L-16193

We return to our research on the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross played a vital role in maintaining morale and the mental health of those in the military, especially those abroad. During World War II, the Red Cross was the only civilian service organization authorized to work with overseas military personnel, and in fact began providing aid to civilian victims of the war in Europe before the US entered the war in 1941. Red Cross members were a mix of volunteers and employees, who served both at home and abroad. The Red Cross provided supplies, aid, and refreshments to all those who needed it. Many volunteers signed up to be nurses aids through the Red Cross. However, during WWII the Red Cross was probably most famous for their free donuts, to the point that many volunteers were referred to as ‘Donut Dollies’! 

Like many organizations at the time, the American Red Cross held applicants to a very high standard. Female volunteers had to be college graduates, at least 25 years of age, have excellent reference letters and pass physical examinations. The application standards were so high, only 1 in 6 applicants were accepted. After accepting the volunteer position, women were then sent for training in Washington D.C. before being assigned a position on the Homefront or abroad.    Read more

A World War II Camp Hill Mystery…

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S/Sgt. John B. Dyer, Jr., 34327356, Rockwood, Tenn., 3164th QM Company, Camp Hill, congratulates Mrs. Anna B. Palmer, Newport News, Va., who was just named the mother of Camp Hill, HRPE, Newport News, Va. (Archive #P0003/01-#E-13990)

Dearest Mariners’ Blog Readers, I need your help with something. A short while ago, I was perusing our collection as I often do, in search of an interesting February lecture topic. Each month, I meet with the docents (at present, this is done virtually), and give a short presentation on an object in our collection. And for February, I was on the hunt for something relating to World War II and Black History – I was hoping we maybe had an object belonging to Francis Wills or Harriet Ida Pickens. Alas, I had no such luck. But what I did happen upon is actually far more intriguing and exciting.

The initial object that caught my eye was the above photo that has the catalog title Anna Palmer, mother of Camp Hill. I instantly had many questions: Who was Anna Palmer? What is a Camp mother? And what is this Camp Hill? To my knowledge, Camp Hill was abandoned after World War I – could this be the same camp? Although, to be completely honest, I am far from an expert on the Hampton Roads Ports of Embarkation. As it turns out, this photo is one of over 600 in our collection that include some variation of “Camp Hill, HRPE”  in the inscription on the reverse – the Army Signal Corps was diligent in their accurate labeling of photos.   Read more

What is “Hidden Histories”?

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“Photographs of the Personnel of The Mariners’ Museum” dated 1935. INST-ST-28, Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

What is “Hidden Histories”?

Just as I was about ready to post this blog, I had to rewrite my opening because I just spent 45 rewarding minutes on the phone with a wonderful gentleman, Mr. Brown. Our mission at The Mariners’ Museum and Park is to connect people to the world’s waters – because through the waters, through our shared maritime heritage – we are connected to one another.    Read more

Hampton Roads History: The Founding of Newport News

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Map of Virginia. John Smith and William Hole, ca. 1624. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Although several sections of modern Newport News were visited when the English colonists first came to Virginia, Newport News remained just a place name on maps for more than 250 years. Yet, the Civil War brought attention to this point of land and 30 years later, the city of Newport News was born.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

So, where did the unusual name of Newport News come from? The city’s downtown was labeled Point Hope on Captain John Smith’s map of Virginia. The first references to “Newportes Newes,” with eight different spellings, appears in the Virginia Company’s record of 1619, making it one of the oldest English place names in the New World.   Read more

Why Newport News? Why 1930? Building a Museum and Park

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Today, Newport News is over 119 square miles and has a population of over 179,000 people, making it the fifth most populous city in Virginia. That is certainly nothing to sniff at, but, in 1930, Newport News did not extend southeast from Skiffes Creek. It was a concentrated area – only 4 square miles – centered around Newport News Point. The rest of the area that is now Newport News was various villages in Warwick County. Personally, I care most about Morrison (the area where the Museum and Park are), but Hilton, Stanely, Denbigh, ya know all those neighborhoods that still exist, were there, too   Read more