Hampton Roads During WWII

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Overhead view of Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation

The Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) was the Army command structure and distribution port in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was originally the Newport News Port of Embarkation when it was activated for World War I, and it was reactivated as the HRPE on 15 June 1942, in the wake of Pearl Harbor and the US’ entrance in World War II.

The main purpose of the Port was supporting the movement of personnel and cargo overseas, particularly to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). HRPE was the third largest US Army Transportation Corps port of embarkation during WWII. It served as a hub for the movements of millions of troops between 1942-1946.    Read more

“In the land of Submarines”: History of Nishimura 3746

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The Mariners' Museum and Park
Nishimura 3746 in storage, 2020.

Does anyone else look at this submarine and think of the Beatles, or is it just me? If we painted it, I think it could definitely pass for a (less artsy) version of the Yellow Submarine.  

Well, soon, this object is going to undergo a pretty big move and we are majorly excited about it. To that end, we have been doing a lot of prep work to get the object ready, and we wanted to share it with you!   Read more

OMG! WWII WACs @ TMM?

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PFC Beatrice Buck, Pvt. Clara Duff, and Pvt. Vivian Stonebreaker greet returning soldiers as their ship docks. Taken at Pier 6, HRPE, Newport News, VA.

Too many acronyms? There’s no such thing!

Over the past three years, our archival staff, with the support of several catalogers and the Digital Services department, have been working diligently on the Hidden Collections Grant sponsored by The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This grant allowed us to catalog and digitize items that have been sitting in storage for years. Through the process, we discovered many exciting images we never knew we possessed. One of my favorite collections was a series from the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation (HRPE) during World War II.   Read more

Photographs of the Photographers

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Sergeant Joseph Shere photographing three Navy photographers
Sergeant Joseph Shere photographing three Navy photographers

As we work through the HRPE collection, we see many images of the same subject matter – ships, stacks of crates, military vehicles, etc. – so it is always a pleasant surprise when we come across photos of something different. I recently cataloged a few photographs that show a little behind-the-scenes view of the photographers themselves.

While our collection of HRPE photos were taken by the Army Signal Corps photographers, the Navy had their own dedicated photographers. The first image shows Sergeant Joseph Shere of the Army photographing a Navy crew while Captain William R. Wheeler, the Port Historian, takes notes.   Read more

German POWs: Boys, Old Men, and Volkssturm

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Liberty ship Joseph Warren in quarantine at Newport News with 300 German POWs on board
Liberty ship Joseph Warren in quarantine at Newport News with 300 German POWs on board

During World War II, hundreds of prisoners of war from both Germany and Italy passed through Hampton Roads. Many of them stayed in prison camps on the Peninsula or in Norfolk while others were shipped to prisons all across the country. Eventually some were given jobs as laborers such as working in saw mills or repairing railroad track. The Army Signal Corps documented these prisoners as they arrived and were processed. From this we get a sense of how the POWs were treated and what their daily lives were like.

Late in the war something interesting happens: the demographic of German POWs entering Hampton Roads changes. We see fewer men of fighting age and a increase in the number of men in their 40s and teenagers. The Americans noticed this and interpreted it as a sign that the quality of Germany’s fighting force was in decline. It was a sign the war was drawing to a close.   Read more