U-85 Lifejacket

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USS Roper, found on Navsource.org

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

Research Request

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76-34-02 (25)

We frequently receive research requests here.  And we try to fulfill them as best we can, although often we have to send people over to our library.  Many times people want to come in and view and photograph an object that they are interested in, which we are happy to oblige.  Usually in the process of aiding someone in their research, we learn something as well.

Recently I had a researcher come in to look at our triptych’s, of which we have four.  One is currently displayed in our A-Z gallery, but the other three have been in storage the entire time I’ve been here, so I’ve never been able to see them until now, and they are very beautiful!   Read more

Posters, part 8

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Thought it was time to share some more posters, so here we go.  The first one is from the 1960’s and encourages young people to stay in school.  As for the second poster, it was an effort to save the old USS Oregon.  The ship was scrapped in the 50’s, but pieces of it remain in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland Oregon, including the mast.  The third is a recruiting poster ca 1917 by artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker.

The first poster in this set is also WWI and encourages people to buy victory notes.  The second is WWII by artist Allen Saalburg and works at encouraging patriotism by reminding people of the lives lost in the Pearl Harbor disaster.  The third is also WWII (1944) and stands as a reminder that Americans were also fighting on the Pacific front, not just in Europe where the fighting was coming to a close.  It was done by artist P. Kolada