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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

Das Kamera

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Eastman Kodak 35mm Submarine Periscope Camera Mark I. Catalog #: 2001.0038.000001

From Memorial Day until Labor Day, The Mariners’ Museum is hosting $1 admission for every visitor. As part of our offerings, we are getting artifacts that aren’t normally on display out of their storage spaces to share with our visitors. I’ll admit that quite a few of my colleagues far outpace my maritime knowledge. If there is something I know, however, it is cameras. I did some digging into the collection and was surprised and thrilled to find something that falls into my area of expertise.

This is an Eastman Kodak 35mm Submarine Periscope Camera Mark I. Which might well be the longest title ever assigned to a camera. Before this little beauty came along, submariners were restricted to holding regular cameras up to their periscope lens, taking a photo and hoping for the best. It rarely, if ever, worked as planned.   Read more

U-85 Lifejacket

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USS Roper, found on

On April 13, 1942 the destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) spotted the Type VIIB U-boat, U-85, sitting in shallow water off the coast of North Carolina.

After receiving heavy fire from Roper, the captain of U-85 scuttled the U-boat and the crew abandoned ship.  Roper dropped eleven depth charges after U-85 was abandoned, believing that other U-boats were nearby, killing the entire of crew of U-85.   Read more

Castles Shipbreaking Company

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Figurehead from HMS Formidable

Any visitor to the museum will most likely remember the large, gold eagle in our lobby as it is eye-catching and right in the path of the entrance.  But close to the eagle are two other impressive figureheads, those from HMS Formidable and HMS Edinburgh.

These figureheads (and one carving) came from a place called Castles Shipbreaking Company in London (to learn about the history of the company go HERE).  This company was known for breaking up ships (as their name implies), but they also had a furniture business.  While many figureheads, and carvings, were taken off of the ships before they came to Castles, many others were left on the ships and taken off by Castles.   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