Sunday, December 6, 2009

U.S. Navy Technician

usn us technician

USN Technician hat badge & miniature device.
Cast brass; motto: U.S. TECHNICIAN.
1 screw, 1 non-rotating point.
37mm x 48mm (LxH).
manu: Officer's Equipment Co. Madison, NJ.
mini device: 15mm x 19mm.
Circa 1950.

Joseph Tonelli's book, Visor hats of the United States Armed Forces: 1930-1950 illustrates one of the most exquisite pieces of headgear worn by U.S. forces in the Second World War - that of the  U.S. Technician attached to the U.S. Navy. A passing glance could mistake it for something out of Fascist Italy: these hats have elaborate devices composed of a silver embroidered spread eagle. It faces dexter with a stylized wrench clutched in the left claw and an olive branch in the right. The lettering "U.S. TECHNICIAN" is centered on a brass or gold-plate device on the eagle's chest. The hat's chin-strap changed from gilt to black-braid by end of the war, and finally black leather. The last U.S. Technician hat Tonelli details on page 198 is from 1950 and presumably one in contemporary use.

With the onset of the Second World War, the technologies involved in weapon creation oftentimes surpassed the basic training of sailors, soldiers and their commanding officers. The technical advancements in aviation, computers, and RADAR required technical personnel of defense industry companies that created these new weapons of war to advise and train their military customers. The Navy, keen on maintaining hierarchical relationships and following Geneva Convention rules, and to insure the clear identification of non-combatants in its midst, drew up regulations for U.S. Navy Technician uniforms and devices. These regulations, for the most part, remain on the books and can be found buried in U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines uniform regulations. A survery of these regulations are as follows:

First public mention of the uniform was published by All Hands in October 1943:
New Insignia For Civilian Technicians

Civilian technicians, who may serve with the Navy, were authorized last month to wear a uniform similar to that worn by Naval officers, minus any insignia of rank or corps, or shoulder or sleeve marks. Caps with black chin strap and without cap device will be worn. Instead of Naval insignia, technicians will wear the insignia pictured herewith, on the left breast pocket of coat and shirt. (Details in N. D. Bul. [semimonthly], of 1 September 1943, R-1368.)

The insignia above was reproduced on uniform visor cap with a small gilt placard bearing the words "U.S. Technician" on the eagle's chest (detail toward the end of the post). By 1950, the elaborate device was no longer and was replaced with a gilt placard. All Hands also relates the same:
Navy Civilian Technicians Will Wear Uniforms With Emblem on Left Breast

A new directive authorizes civilian technicians serving with the Navy to wear uniforms that, except for insignia, are the same as an officer’s outfit.

For the most part, the uniforms will be worn by expert field engineers and scientists sent to Navy ships and shore bases by commercial companies to iron out difficulties the Navy is having with their equipment, Their most noticeable insignia, an embroidered badge about three inches square which shows an eagle and the words "U. S. Technician," will be worn on the left breast pocket of coats and khaki shirts. The uniform will be the same as a commissioned naval officer’s with the exception that no distinctive rank, corps device or other naval insignia will be worn. Plain buttons of the same size and color of naval officers’ uniforms will be worn on the coats. Here are the various insignia to watch for:

  • Cap insignia - Gilt badge one-and-a-half inches wide and one-and-seven-eighths inches high bearing the words "U.S. Technician," worn on the band of the combination cap with a plain black strap and plain gilt buttons.
  • Breast insignia - An embroidered badge three-and-a-quarter inches square. An eagle is shown clutching a group of tools in one claw and an olive branch in the other. The design and the words "U.S. Technician" are white on blue coats and blue on other coats and khaki shirts, on a background the same color as the coat or shirt.
  • Collar insignia - Gilt pin five-eighths of an inch wide and threequarters of an inch high bearing the inscription "U.S. Technician," for wear on both sides of the khaki shirt collar.
  • Garrison cap insignia - Same gilt pin as that worn on the collar. On the garrison cap it is worn on the left side only.
  • As announced in BuPers Circ. Ltr. 142-50 (NDR, 31 Aug 1950), the uniform will be of benefit in establishing the technician’s status in event of capture by an enemy, will provide ready identification as contractors’ representative at naval activities, and will assist area commanders and commanding officers in their control over them.

    The wearing of this uniform is limited to individuals authorized and designated by the Chief of Naval Operations.
    By the 1990s, the uniform regulation for U.S. Navy Technicians became quite specific, and they were mandated to only wear uniforms in forward combat areas and during travel to and from such areas outside of the continental United States (or, on any other occasion as deemed fit by the Chief of Naval Operations). This is to establish their official status as a non-combatant.

    U.S. Navy OPNAV INSTRUCTION 5720.3D § 9 states thus:

    Articles of Uniform. The articles of uniform shall be the same as those prescribed for a commissioned naval officer except that no distinctive rank, corps device, or other naval insignia shall be worn. Plain buttons of the same size and color prescribed for naval officer’s uniforms shall be worn on coats. Female technicians shall wear either the garrison cap or beret; combination hat is not authorized.

    Breast Insignia. An embroidered badge 3¼ inches square, consisting of a spread eagle, facing dexter; the left claw of the eagle shall be shown clutching a group of tools and the right claw an olive branch; immediately underneath the eagle shall be the letters: U.S. TECHNICIAN. The background of the badge shall be the same color as the coat/jacket or shirt, with the design and lettering white on blue coats and blue on other coats/jackets and khaki shirts. The breast insignia shall be worn on the left breast pocket of coats and khaki shirts for male technicians. The breast insignia shall be worn above the left breast pocket flap of the jacket (Service Dress Blue), for female technicians.

    Cap insignia for male technicians. A gilt badge 1¼ inches wide by 1-7/8 inches high bearing the inscription U.S. TECHNICIAN. Worn on the band of the combination cap with plain black chin strap and plain gilt buttons. Cap insignia for garrison cap (male and female technicians) and beret (female technicians). A gilt pin 5/8-inch wide by ¾-inch high bearing the inscription U.S. TECHNICIAN. Worn on the left side of the garrison cap 2 inches from the front edge and 1½ inches from the bottom edge of the cap when the garrison cap is prescribed for wear by naval officers. For female technicians, worn on the beret, aligned approximately above the left eye.

    Collar insignia. A gilt pin 5/8-inch wide by ¾-inch high bearing the inscription U.S. TECHNICIAN. Worn on both sides of the collar of the khaki shirt with the center of the insignia 1 inch from the front edge and 1 inch below the upper edge of the collar for male technicians. Worn on the white shirt collar with the center of the insignia 2 inches from the fold line at top of collar and ¾-inch from the forward edge of collar, for female technicians.
    The U.S. Marine Corps has similar directives, however without the "combination hat" and the stipulation that anyone wearing a Marine Corps uniform must abide by USMC grooming standards.

    These directives are still in effect. In terms of the insignia that accompany this entry, they were manufactured prior to the Korean War - as evident by the lack of Institute of Heraldry (IOH) numbers and the wartime keeper screw bolt. In the past, GEMSCO and Officer's Equipment Co. manufactured U.S. Technician insignia; Dondero is presently the only supplier of the collar insignia to the USMC - I am unsure about the hat badge and if it is even produced. I have yet to see these plain buttons.

    Marine Corps Order P12304.1, 25 October, 1993
    Contractor Engineering and Technical Services Personnel Manual.

    Marine Corps Order P1020.34G MCUB, 31 March 2003.
    Paragraph 8005, Civilians Serving With Marine Corps Units.

    Office of The Chief of Naval Operations OP-09B23T, 1 June, 1994
    U.S. Department of Defense Form DOD-OPNAVINST-5720-3D, § 9.

    Nicole A. Lavine. "Tactical Safety Specialist diffuse potential hazards" in Observation Post. Twentynine Palms, California: 26 January 2007, p. A5.

    Joseph J. Tonelli.  Visor hats of the United States Armed Forces: 1930-1950.  Atglen, Pennsylvania:  Schiffer Publicartions, 2003.

    U.S. Navy. All Hands October 1943, p. 69.

    U.S. Navy. All Hands November 1950, p. 51.

    USN Technician
    Hat badge & miniature device; reverse, hallmark and screw post detail. 1950s.

    USN Technician.
    U.S. Navy officers' hat with U.S. Technician insignia
    manu: Berkshire, New York, NY.
    Circa Early Second World War

    This khaki covered hat would have been worn with the jacket as detailed below. The hat itself has an early wartime Berkshire logo, and is the standard U.S. Navy officer model; the owner would have had to privately purchase the embroidered insignia. The rich embroidery is worth mentioning; it is speculated that the work was done in Great Britain - however, these findings are inconclusive.

    Do note the U.S. Navy side buttons holding the chin strap - which is of the same width as those found on standard U.S. Navy officer hat.

    U.S. Navy Technician hat

    USN Technician.
    Breast cloth badge; obverse & reverse.
    Circa 1950.

    usn technician

    As previously mentioned, a great majority of U.S. Navy Technicians worked in the field of RADAR & ASDIC (SONAR), computational devices and propulsion systems newly adopted by the U.S. Navy over the course of the Second World War and continued to do so after the close of hostilities.

    However, researchers and collectors oftentimes come across "emergency rates" or other insignia worn by sailors during this period who worked with the same technologies. The lower rates were hand-picked as evidenced by special aptitude during seamen training. The others were directly recruited by the U.S. Navy based upon prior civilian experience or training - they often became Petty Officer First Class or Chief Petty Officer after having completed boot camp; at the time, these CPOs were derisively called "Slick Sleeve Chiefs" due to the lack of service hash-marks. Directly-inducted Warrant Officers and newly-minted junior officers out of V-7 training with specialized knowledge were placed into special trade and officer corps groups (former and later). However, U.S. Technicians were another class entirely, they "belonged" to their corporations, had no military training and were "lent" for the duration to train or advise the later, repair or install their equipment or simply to operate it.

    A means to determine a wartime and post-war U.S. Technician patch is the lack of a border on the former.

    USN Technician.
    Breast cloth badge; obverse.
    From the collection of David Collar.

    Note: The eagle is clutching arrows as opposed to a wrench.

    usn technician

    USN Technician.
    Khaki Coat
    circa Second World War

    Despite regulations stating otherwise, this belted khaki coat has U.S. Navy officer gold buttons. The main difference between this jacket and its naval and maritime counterparts is the fact that it lacks loops for shoulder boards. It was also an expediently tailored piece as it not only lacks an interior liner, but also interior pockets - this common to other period pieces. The buttons are removable for coat cleaning in ship's laundry.

    Note: The eagle is clutching a wrench (of sorts) and a hammer.

    USAAF Technician.
    Silver plate; motto: U.S. TECHNICIAN.
    Silver plate; lettering: A.S.C..
    device: 15mm x 19mm.
    Reverse: non-rotating points.
    manu: no hallmarks or silver content noted.
    Circa Second World War through 1947 (n.b. ASC became AMC in Dec. 1947).
    from the collection of Joe Weingarten.

    Rarely seen, these silver collar devices were worn by civilian technicians attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces Air Service Command at installations such as Wright Field - from 1948, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. These technicians began working at Wright-Patterson from the Second World War through the Vietnam war when they were replaced by civilian civil service employees of the U.S. Air Force Material Command. They performed tasks much like their U.S. Navy counterparts; if such insignia is still worn or used, I am unaware.

    Korean War Period, U.S.A.F. Technician shirt patch.

    More on the USAAFASC activities at Wright-Patterson, may be found here.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Massachussetts Maritime Academy

    The late 1800s saw a flurry of state nautical school openings with funds provided by U.S. Congress. One of them, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy began its life as the Massachusetts Nautical Training School in 1891. In 1913, along with training vessel and curriculum changes, its the name changed to the Massachusetts Nautical School. And, along with its move to Hyannis from Boston in 1942, its name changed its present form.

    The Second World War saw many changes in the structure of MMA corps of cadets. Like other state and federal maritime schools and academies, cadets were ushered into a rush program of 16-18 months from matriculation to graduation. America's entry into the war called for an increased number of men to serve on the many convoy ships, merchantmen, and ocean-going vessels either under construction or underway. The US Navy instituted the v-12 program whereby to increase the number of young men joining the ranks of the Navy's officer corps.

    With each change in name, MMA's cadet insignia changed, with the exception of uniform buttons. The buttons depict the central device of seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MMA's hat and uniform insignia have mirrored those of the U.S. Naval Academy, albeit with hat badges having "M.N.T.S." and "M.N.S." above the anchor; if you look at this page, you can see an example of the later. In the 1940s until the present, MMA has used insignia indistinct from the USNA - including the abandonment of woven for metal anchor devices on hats. It is the aforementioned indistinct insignia that has prompted this entry and a means for sleuthing an insigne's period.

    When I had originally purchased this grouping, I was told that all items are from the United States Naval Academy and from the Second World War. I looked a bit closer and noticed the curious buttons. After examining the shoulder boards and corresponding rank ladders - those of a midshipman battalion lieutenant (junior grade) - I knew spot-on that the insignia was from the MMA and from the cited period.

    Here are my meandering notes:
    * Interestingly, unlike USNA boards, the stars are not metal, rather woven. The shoulder boards came from a private uniform shop, "Boston Uniform Co." - it was located at 66 Chelsea St. in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The company last appeared in public records in 1958. But! Embroidered shoulder boards were not worn in the 1950s.

    * The ladders are plainly marked with the Hilborn-Hamburger manufacturer's mark - "H-H" within a stylized eagle; such a mark was used on H-H insignia prior to the mid-50s. The fact that the insignia is clutch back - as opposed to pin - means that it was issued mid-war onward.

    * The buttons are brass and were manufactured by Waterbury Button Co. in Connecticut. Waterbury now has its archive online; however my specific button was not present - in this case, a useful tool proved not so.

    * Regarding the anchor devices: in an MMA setting, these would specify the class of wearer. Each collar insigne is unmarked. And, of the many examples present (4 pairs), they are either brass or gold-plated - you can still see the Brasso residue on a pair.

    * A blacklight test would show that the cap-band is not made of synthetics, but of Mohair; the band stitching corresponds to 1940s patterns. Mohair has a distinct warp and weft; the band has the correct texture for the period.

    If I hadn't the other items alongside the cap badge, I would have been hard-pressed to determine the correct era and I would have misidentified the piece as being merely a Navy ROTC or perhaps USNA hat badge. And such is the joy of collecting.

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    Cadet hat badge, reverse.
    Threaded screw and one non-rotating point (bent).
    Unmarked, cast. Gold metal plate over white metal.
    Circa Second World War.

    mma cadet insignia group

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    Shoulder boards.
    Cadet/Midshipman Battalion Lieutenant (Junior Grade).
    Wool over hard board, gold bullion woven star and rank stripes.
    Brass fastener with Commonwealth of Massachusetts seal.
    Manufacturer: Boston Uniform Co., Charlestown, Mass.
    Circa Second World War.

    mma cadet insignia group

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    Collar insignia, class rank anchors.
    Three examples, gold plate and brass.
    Manufacturer: no mark.
    Circa Second World War.

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    Collar insignia, rank ladder reverse.
    Cadet/Midshipman Battalion Lieutenant (Junior Grade).
    Gold plate.
    Manufacturer: encuse Hilborn-Hamburger mark (H-H in stylized eagle)
    Circa Second World War.

    Please see: Hilborn-Hamburger maker's mark on reverse of MMA rank ladder for detail.

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    Reverse hat band, stitching detail.
    Band: Mohair. Hat screw post holes, worn with stitching.
    Badge plate: Leather and wool.
    Circa Second World War.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    S/T Ocean Eagle

    In case you're curious about the header image, that is the Liberian Tanker Ocean Eagle sinking in the harbor off of San Juan, Puerto Rico on 3 March 1968.

  • NOAA Report
  • Office of Naval Research Oceanic Biology Program Report

  • The accident was devastating to local ecosystems as it was the most severe oil spill experienced in U.S. territorial waters up to that time; in its wake came improved methods for containing spills and improved tanker safety practices.

    I have gone through various U.S. government publications, however they are careful to remove references to owners and the name of the ship's captain. If anyone might know of the shipping company that manned the ship at the time of the accident, I would be keen to obtain their hat badge.

    American-Hawaiian Steamship Company

    American-Hawaiian SS Co. hat badge.

    Faint H & H (Hilborn & Hamburg) hallmark on eagle wing. Gemsco hallmark on flag. Eagle and shield sterling plate over copper; wreath brass/gold-plate. Second World War era.

    badge: 60mm x 65mm
    flag: 25mm x 22mm

    As follows is an essay on the history of American-Hawaiian Steamship Company. Collecting the data on this specific company is somewhat responsible for the prolonged hiatus in blog postings. I hope that the history behind the badge warrants the absence of images. More images will follow in a couple of weeks... I'm going on vacation for a spell.

    American-Hawaiian Steamship Company (A-H SS Co.), 1899-1956.

    The story of American-Hawaiian Steamship Company mirrors the fates of several large steamship houses in the United States: scramble for capital, flowering of activity, failed business models, take-over by a large conglomerate and final dissolution. A-H SS Co. is unique in the fact that at one point it had the largest U.S.-flag merchant fleet and then dwindled to nothing.

    A-H SS Co. was engaged in intercoastal (U.S. Atlantic-to-U.S. Pacific coast) and foreign trade - although, as it name implied, it originally provided the majority of the steamship freight service between the mainland United States and the Hawaiian Islands. After the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States on 7 July 1898, George S. Dearborn, who owned a fleet of sailing vessels, decided to establish a modern steamship service between New York and Hawaii. In order to finance this venture, he sold his fleet of sailing ships and raised additional capital from investors - notably his brother-in-law, Lewis Henry Lapham. Almost a year later, on 7 March 1899, Dearborn organized the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company. Dearborn served as president of the company, with Captain William D. Burnham as general manager - Dearborn was president until his death in 1920; Burnham held his appointed post until 1914.

    Immediately after incorporation, A-H SS Co. ordered new steamships from the local New York and New Jersey shipyards, with Dearborn securing contracts to bring sugar to the U.S. mainland from the Big Five (the main business conglomerates in the islands). Service was to begin in 1900, however A-H SS Co. found its ships requistioned by the U.S. Navy for emergency duty to counter the Boxer Rebellion in China. Only in January 1901 did the promised service begin. For the next 14 years, under the protective umbrella of U.S. cabotage laws, the relationship that A-H had forged with the Big Five proved mutually beneficial and was source of prosperity to the company's U.S.-flag ships.

    Of the of several innovations A-H SS Co. ushered into the steamship trade, starting with their first voyage, A-H SS Co. steamships used the Straits of Magellan rather than the longer route followed by sailing vessels around Cape Horn. A problem that faced steamships in the long voyage from New York to Hawaii was the logistic problem of coaling. Although Chile was a natural stop off point for re-supply, Chilean coal was of low-quality and quickly exhausted. This very problem vexed the great powers of the period, and colonial history is rife with seemingly far-flung islands annexed for the very purpose of servicing navies. A-H SS Co. did not have the luxury of arms, therefore resorted innovation. Alternatively, A-H SS Co. supported the efforts of Valdemar Frederick Lassoe, its chief engineer, to develop an oil burner for the company's steamships. The oil burner was first fitted in the S.S. Nebraskan, which completed its first voyage from the Pacific to New York in 1904; the results so impressed the U.S. Navy that it launched a program to convert warships from coal to oil.

    In January 1907 A-H SS Co. took advantage of the opening of the Tehuantepec Railroad across Mexico to divide its ships into two fleets: one operated on the Pacific Ocean, while the other fleet handled the cargo on the Atlantic between New York and Tehuantepec. This arrangement lasted until 1914, when revolutionary turmoil in Mexico shut down the Tehuantepec Railroad; while the opening of the Panama Canal on 15 August 1914 provided an economical alternative. However, landslides closed the Panama Canal between 13 September 1915 and 15 April 1916, thus forcing A-H SS Co. to use the Straits of Magellan one last time - albeit under oil power.

    The company's heyday was in this early period. With its offices at 8 Bridge Street Maritime Building in New York, A-H SS Co. steamers sailed from the renovated Pier 56, Bush Terminal, South Brooklyn, every six days laden with freight for Pacific Coast Ports and the Hawaiian Islands. Through bills of lading, cargo was accepted for Puerto Mexico and all points along the Tehuantepec National Railway, Vera Cruz & Isthmus Railway, Pan-American Railway and ports along the west coast of Mexico and Central America. From Hawaii and San Francisco, steamers left for New York every twelve days. The company used San Francisco and Puget Sound as a way station for freight destined for Vera Cruz and New York. Commerce was good.

    The positioning of the company in the Hawaiian trade could not have been more secure, yet when the First World War began in 1914, Dearborn gradually succumbed to the temptation of chartering out most of his fleet in order to profit from the record-high freight rates in the North Atlantic. In 1916 A-H SS Co. announced that it would suspend handling the sugar crop of the Islands; not surprisingly the Big Five and the Territorial Government of Hawaii felt betrayed. As a reprisal, the Big Five vowed that A-H SS Co. would never be able to return. Henceforth, the Matson Navigation Company, enjoying the full support of the Big Five, emerged as the principal ocean carrier of the Islands. Once the wartime profits evaporated, A-H SS Co. realized it had foolishly abandoned long-term stability for the sake of short-term gains - the company did keep its original name, in the hope of returning one day to Hawaii, but more as a reminder of the prosperous days when it had been the largest U.S.-flag merchant fleet.

    In 1920, after the government returned the vessels requisitioned during the war, A-H SS Co. decided to dedicate its fleet in intercoastal trade, mainly between New York and California. After Dearborn died on 28 May 1920, W. Averell Harriman became the principal stockholder of the company and assigned the management of the company to his United American Lines; all of this he affected in April 1920. The attempted merger proved more complex than expected, and soon Harriman realized that the financially troubled A-H SS Co. required its own separate organization, and to that end he appointed Cary W. Cook as its president on 20 March 1923. As a condition for accepting the job, Cook had specified that the company's headquarters be moved from new York City to San Francisco - not only because this was where he lived, but also because he felt the future of the company was in the Pacific. Cook put A-H SS Co. back on solid footing and also began the negotiations with the Grace Line - which was keen to sell its six vessels on the unprofitable intercoastal service. The purchase was concluded in June 1925 by Roger D. Lapham, who succeeded Cook as president that same month. The intercoastal route sailed every five days. As a further step to consolidate A-H SS Co. position as the leading intercoastal carrier, Lapham acquired one of its competitors, the Williams Line, in early 1929.

    Unfortunately, the intercoastal trade was proving to be rather unstable and subject to sharp rate wars, so Lapham correctly concluded that the company needed to enter into other trade routes. His most important move was the creation of the Oceanic & Oriental Navigation Company in 1928 to take over a line of U.S. Shipping Board vessels (USSB); A-H SS Co. and Matson each had a 50% stake in the venture, with Matson managing the government ships on the the Australia/New Zealand route, and A-H SS Co. managing those sailing to China, Indochina, Japan and the Philippines. When the Great Depression struck, A-H SS Co. was in an especially difficult state as the intercoastal trade so closely reflected the collapse of the American economy; Lapham considered a merger with the Dollar Line in 1930, but the negotiators failed to find a satisfactory arrangement. Ever the opportunist, in 1936, did Lapham purchase four steamers from the Dollar Line for A-H SS Co. as Dollar was desperately trying to remain solvent and not slip into bankruptcy.

    The U.S. government requisitioned the ships of A-H SS Co. and of all other lines during Second World War. The company received a War Shipping Pennant in 1944 with four stars - "4 Star Companies" were assigned anywhere from 75-100 vessels of Victory Fleet during the Second World War. Once the war was over, the company did not want the surviving ships back, which in any case were overage, and instead preferred to bareboat charter government vessels for the intercoastal trade and for a service to the Far East, at least until the post war shipping situation became clearer. After the war, these cast-off ships ended up as troopships for the MSTS or found service in the U.S. Navy. Despite not wishing to have its assets returned, A-H SS Co. did engage in litigation to recoup perceived losses at the hands of the U.S. Government. A particularly visible case was of the Alaskan, the Federal Courts upheld the Government's payment to A-H SS Co., claiming the A-H SS Co. was attempting to profit from war.

    With the ascension of Roger Lapham's son, Lewis A. Lapham, because the president of the company in 1947, his first action was to move the headquarters back to New York City from San Francisco. The company was wisely keeping its options open, but the Korean War panicked A-H SS Co. into buying six surplus ships on the mistaken assumption that high freight rates would continue indefinitely (obviously lessons were not learned from previous of the same sort). The ships had barely been brought when the intercoastal service took a downward plunge, and with each voyage piling up losses, the company had no choice but to suspend the intercoastal service in March 1953. For all intents and purposes, A-H SS Co. was no longer sailing.

    The question of what to do with the idle fleet vexed the stockholders, who reached the conclusion that the hope left was to shift to a foreign flag of convenience. Because the company had exclusively operated under the U.S. flag, the stockholders decided to bring in as an investor the billionaire Daniel Ludwig, whose experience with foreign-flag operations was renowned. Ludwig decided to use the company for his own plans, and in 1955, after a bitter takeover battle, he gained full control and sold off the ships and most of the assets of A-H SS Co., whose steamship career ended at this point.

    Ludwig, however, for purposes of tax advantages, kept A-H SS Co. as a paper company and involved it in real estate ventures. For the next ten years the company became embroiled in sundry schemes: first to build Roll-On/Roll-Off vessels, then container ships and finally nuclear-powered vessels. By 1968 the last of these schemes had failed, and Ludwig proceeded to liquidate A-H SS Co. as a first step toward making an extremely lucrative deal with Sea-Land.

    Principal Executives
    George S. Dearborn :1899-1920
    William D. Burnham : 1899-1914
    Cary W. Cook : 1923-1925
    Roger D. Lapham : 1925-1944
    John E. Cushing : 1938-1947
    Edward P. Farley : 1944-1955
    Lewis A. Lapham : 1947-1953

    House Flag:
    The A-H SS Co. house flag first appeared in publications in 1926; the flag was simply the white initials A-H on a blue field. After the takeover, the flag was never flown again as American-Hawaiian Steamship Company became a paper company; and in the 1970s nevermore.

    Thomas C. Cochran and Ray Ginger, "The American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, 1899-1919," Business History Review (Boston: The President and Fellows of Harvard College) 28 (December 1954): 342-365

    Rene De La Pedraja, Rise and Decline of U.S. Merchant Shipping in the Twentieth Century (Twayne's Evolution of Modern Business Series). New York: Twayne, 1992.

    Penton Publishers, Blue Book of American Shipping (17th Ed.). New York, New York: Penton Publishers, 1913. pp. 315, 324.

    New York Times, 26 November 1948, 28 February 1953.

    Pacific Marine Review, November 1926.

    Jerry Shields, The Invisible Billionaire: Daniel Ludwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

    War Shipping Administration, PR 2029. 24 September, 1944.

    F. J. N. Wedge, Brown’s Flags and Funnels. Brown, Son & Ferguson: Glasgow, 1926.

    Lloyd's, Lloyd's House Flags and Funnels. Lloyds: London, 1912.
    Facsimile edition available here:

    Legal cases:
    American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. v. United States. the Alaskan
    United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit. - 191 F.2d 26
    Argued May 8, 1951 Decided August 13, 1951

    Marvyn Gould, Executor of the Estate of J. Donald Rogasner,et al., Appellants in No. 75-1338. v. American-Hawaiian Steamship Company et al., Cross-appellants
    United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit. - 535 F.2d 761
    Argued Oct. 3, 1975.Decided April 8, 1976

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    American President Lines wool hat badge

    American President Lines wool hat badge

    Gemsco hallmark on flag.
    Wool backing and wreath of gold bullion thread.
    House flag, enamel with gold fill.
    Second World War era.

    badge: 70mm x 50mm
    flag: 25mm x 22mm

    As noted in a previous post, shipping companies' ships were appropriated for the duration of the war with seamen and officers militarized. This is an example of the cited officers' badge of wool backing.

    Some have subtly speculated that wool backed badges without an eagle (with an eagle, such hats are known as "high pressure" hats) were worn by warrant officers or chief petty officers. Whereas, the truth of the matter is that ships appropriated by the Maritime Service and run by the shipping companies by their own personnel were not as rigid in uniform distinctions between grades of officers; in fact, shipping companies did not use a rating scale: officers were ranked according to seniority and responsibilty (and licensure if in the Maritime Service proper). For example, seamen's documents from after the war, and belonging to sailors on MSTS ships, showed a corresponding rank and rate, as such things did not exist in the Merchant Marine. As for officers aboard American President Line ships, their uniforms were prescribed by their company, and any hats and devices, and reefer jackets and cuff braid were oftentimes custom made and personal purchases. This particular device came from S. Appel & Co, a uniform company that had shops in both New York and Miami.

    American President Lines
    House Flag.
    Woven cotton and canvas, no synthetics; attached to manila rope.
    Flag, 4 x 6 feet
    Circa Second World War.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Shipboard Organization and Stewards

    united states lines.The opening chapter of the fifth edition of The Blue Jacket's Manual United States Navy (1917), devotes some 28 pages on the subject of "Discipline and Duty." Afterward, the first section of the book meanders into opportunities of specialization, courts-martial, and customs. Only in the second and third sections are seamanship topics covered. The emphasis of the first section of the book underscores the fact that the smooth functioning of a man-of-war depends upon order, hierarchy, and the clear indication and compartmentalization of purpose; the same is also true to some extent on merchantmen.
    In Navy parlance, the Commanding Officer is the head of the ship; all officers and seamen report to him. Just as a ship is compartmentalized, so is its hierarchy. Officers have rank and specialty; each carrying with it a certain grade of responsibility - sometimes mirroring ability and time in the service. In the U.S. Navy there is a small constellation officer types: line, restricted line, limited duty, corps, and warrant. Positions among sailors (Ratings in the British Royal Navy and Enlisted in the United States) are known by "pay grade" or rank; and "rate" or field of specialty. Enlisted sailors may be: recruits, seamen, petty and chief petty officers. There are also officers-in-training: midshipmen at the Naval Academy, Navy ROTC midshipmen, and individuals in Officer Candidate School (aviation or otherwise).

    To some extent, merchant navies and large commercial fleets have historically mirrored these relationships among personnel, although not as elaborate or seemingly baroque. At the apogee of the U.S. shipping industry in the 1940s, most seamen found themselves licensed and arrayed in various divisions and departments. For example, a U.S. Liberty Ship during the Second World War usually held these Departments and rates:
    Master: Commanding Officer and Purser (who doubled as Pharmacist)
    Deck: Chief Officer, 2nd Officer, 3rd Officer, 3rd Junior Officer, Deck Cadet, Boatswain, Carpenter, Able Seaman (6), Ordinary Seaman (3)
    Radio: Radio Operator, Jr. Radio Operator
    Engine: Chief Engineer, 1st Asst. Engineer, 2nd Asst. Engineer, 3rd Asst. Engineer, Deck Engineer, Engine Cadet, Oiler (3), Watertender (3), Fireman/Stoker (3), Wiper (3)
    Steward's: Chief Steward, 1st Cook, 2nd Cook & Baker, Galley Utilityman, Messman (4)
    Over time, and especially during the late 19th and early 20th century, the British, German and American navies developed systematic indicators of personal shipboard position. These found manifestation in cuff lace, buttons, badges and various devices. The British led the way in defining this symbolic language and shipboard organization; the United States followed, reaching full elaboration in the period preceding the Second World War. Both the U.S. and British navies relegated rate to the arm; the U.S. Government marine - comprising of the Coast Guard, Coast and Geodetic Survey, Public Health Service and Maritime Service - followed the lead of the U.S. Navy.  Interestingly, the U.S. Army Transport Service, and not the U.S. Maritime Service nor the U.S. Navy provided its Petty and Chief Petty Officers with hats designating rate. In the latter two services, rate resided on sleeve or collar; it is an academic exercise for the reader to determine what is most important to the various services - shipboard trade or rank.

    Woven or stamped, as follows is a cursory list of some common devices: stars and fouled anchors for deck officers and boatswains, carpenter's rules and axes for ship's carpenters, quills and keys for clerks and yeomen, globes for electricians, sparks for wireless (radio) operators, propellers or cogs for engineers and machinists, ship's wheels for helmsmen, batons and swords for masters-at-arms, and increscent (a crescent moon with the points facing dexter) for stewards and commissary personnel. The latter insignia has the unique distinction of being silver in color for stewards in almost all foreign and merchant navies, and in the U.S. Army Transport Service.

    Silver and gold feature prominently in not only in maritime rank insignia but in all U.S. military services. Following U.S. military insignia lore, "gold is worth more than silver, but silver outranks gold." This is due to the fact that the U.S. Army decreed in 1832 that infantry colonels would wear gold eagles on an epaulet of silver and all other colonels would wear silver eagles on gold. When majors and lieutenant colonels received their leaves of rank, this tradition could not continue. It came to pass that silver leaves represented lieutenant colonels and gold, majors. However, the case of lieutenants differs: first lieutenants had been wearing silver bars for 80 years before second lieutenants had any bars at all; second lieutenants were granted a single gold bar in 1917. With the standardization of U.S. military insignia in the early 20th century, these insignia revisions applied to U.S. Navy officers. On naval uniforms - rank insignia notwithstanding - in particular, gold was applied to base elements of insignia, such as anchors on the U.S. Navy hat badge; and silver to mottos and symbols of the eagle and federal shield. Gold remained the province of officers and senior positions, whereas silver and pewter were relegated to the enlisted. Curiously, the motto "U.S.N."on the U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer hat badge was silver, whereas the "U.S.N." hat badge of a steward was gold. This follows the mentioned reversal of colors between officers and enlisted - with the steward belonging to a class attached to and not of officers.

    In rank-based shipboard society, it is only at dinner hour that some rules
    are suspended for the few - the stewards. During the Second World War, in the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Army sea services officers and men messed separately; furthermore, on British merchantmen at the time, officers and departments messed separately (as detailed by Lowery in Ultramarine). Up until the present-day, the U.S. Navy has the further distinction of having not only separate wardrooms and mess for officers and enlisted men, but also for Chief Petty Officers. By virtue of tradition, the latter have a separate galley serving portions greater in quantity and open later than those of their fellow sailors. Given the strict hierarchy aboard ship, and the stern rules banning enlisted personnel from the officers' wardroom and chiefs' mess, stewards and commissarymen transcend these strictures to serve food. An unauthorized sailor found in these spaces could find himself at Captain's Mast or at court-martial and suffering harsh disciplinary proceedings (it also goes the opposite way; officers may not fraternize with enlisted sailors on or off duty; doing so, they face dismissal from the service). Since instant recognition is important aboard ship, a special hat with a distinct badge and often always white square-rig sailor uniform or special white blouse and duck trousers (even when the uniform of the day may be service dress blue) marks the steward apart.

    The U.S. Army Transportation Service officer stewards have a tradition in their uniforms and insignia reaching to a time before even the color blue became a color associated with uniforms maritime. In pre-Enlightenment England, aristocratic lords gave their servants lead or pewter badges to sew onto their clothes to mark them as their own. From the 15th century onward, royalty in the British Isles distributed uniform suits of clothes to courtiers, as did leading bankers to all employees. In time, this became a practice of all British "great houses." It is worth mentioning that these suits of clothes, although well made, denoted the wearer as not being a member of the aristocracy, with the visual cue of silver braid. It came to pass that a traditional livery color became silver. By the 19th century, officer stewards became a facet of shipboard life in the Royal Navy; as they were considered servants, their uniforms followed precedent. In time, stewards wore prestige items, such as coats and visor hats; albeit, with markers of their inferior status - servants although a class apart, needed to impart a pleasing image in the wardroom. Nineteenth-century British commercial liners, offering first-class passage to the monied, mirrored military fashion - which in itself was a reflection of aristocratic costume - in the clothing its officers, sailors, and stewards. The U.S. Army Transportation Service, born out of necessity during the Spanish-American War, built a fleet of ships larger than that of the U.S. Navy; some of the larger transports (considered "show boats") ferried military personnel and U.S. diplomats to far-flung newly acquired U.S. possessions. The ships were manned by civilian personnel who wore uniforms following the fashion trends of the day: deck officers wore gold lace on their cuffs and stewards were accented in silver - as were their counterparts on the commercial liners. At the same time, the newly-imperial United States began to carry complements of Filipino nationals alongside African-American cooks as stewards onboard its ships. Taking this into consideration, ships could be construed as reproducing the "great house" tradition with colonials and second-class citizens filling menial roles.

    After the Second World War, with the independence of the Philippines
    and integration of the U.S. Navy, the servant status of stewards gradually faded away. In today's U.S. Navy, the traditional steward is no more - he is a Culinary Specialist (cum Mess Managment Specialist in 2004).  Up until 1975, Stewards and Cooks were two separate ratings in the U.S. Navy, sharing much of the same responsibilities - with a difference.  At that time, the Steward's Mate (SD) rating was abolished and combined with that of Commissary Specialist (CS) to form the Mess Managment Specialist Rating. Prior, stewards served as cooks or bakers for officers' mess; they also tidied-up officers' quarters and in a subservient role, served meals in the wardroom. The Commissary Specialist (CS) did nothing but cook for enlisted personnel but in a more democratic fashion.

    Old systems die hard, especially among those who enjoy a perceived, albeit subaltern privilege. Even with mandated rate reorganization, the older stewards did not wish to go into the crew's galley, and by the same token the Commisarymen refused to enter the wardroom; in effect, the indoctrinated segregation held, and the two classes of men remained in their respective work areas.  However, in the 1960s the U.S. Navy instituted a practice of rotating seamen in and out of ships and shore stations in an effort to broaden once compartmentalized skill sets.  Men new to the rate shifted easily between both the wardroom and the galley - especially with the abolition of many of the steward's servant duties; officers now shined their own shoes and made their own bunks.  However, despite the regulations and rate shuffling, the tradition of the "Tip system" remains; wherein an individual officer or CPO tips a "Mess Cook" to shine his shoes and tidy up his wardroom.  Moreover, with rate combination, the old mess cook system still applied to the wardroom with stewards merely renamed "Mess Attendants". In the present day, with 90-day rotations, they still do menial chores such as cleaning the wardroom, running laundry to the ship's laundry and maintaining "Officer Country."  It is also worth noting that the 90-day "Mess Cook" does all the cleaning, and most of the serving in the cafeteria-style enlisted mess deck; he also hauls food from the store rooms and reefer decks to the galley.  These days, apparently galleymen require direction from outside the ranks - previously the province of Chief Steward - as a non-CS First Class Petty Officer - also assigned 90-days at a time - oversees the Mess Cooks; he is the Mess-Decks-Master-At-Arms. As a historical footnote, during battle, Stewards were stretcher bearers; and Commissarymen served in gun crews and firefighters; no longer.

    Much can be said about the symbols worn by the stewards: from the 1930s onward, they wore the crescent over horizontal bars, their cook counterparts wore rank chevrons. With the institution of the rate in 1948, Commissarymen wore keys over a quill, and then in with rate integration, both badges changed to quills and a cookbook - the symbol of stewards in 1963.   As can be divined, over the decades, the rate has been dissolved and reconstituted, with various roles removed and added; including the loss of the traditional crescent.

    The images found with this entry illustrate different examples of insignia worn by stewards aboard various types of ships. It is worth mentioning that the crescent symbol has been used throughout the U.S. military to denote food stores and cooks (and outhouses); this symbol can be traced to either represent a camp cook's "crescent rolls" or the traditional heraldic symbol of "increase."

    Jonathan Alexander and Paul Binski (editors), Age of Chivalry, Art in Plantagenet England, 1200-1400. Royal Academy/Weidenfeld & Nicholson: London, 1987, Cat 448

    Jim Garamone, "Insignia: The Way You Tell Who's Who in the Military" in Defense Link. U.S. Department of Defense: Washington D.C., Novemeber 1999.

    Bureau of Naval Personnel, "Filipinos in the United States Navy." Department of the Navy - Naval Historical Center: Washington D.C., October 1976.

    P & O Lines (The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company)
    Catering Petty Officer.
    Badge, 50mm diameter. Silver wire on wool backing.
    Circa 1970s.

    British Royal Navy hat insignia has the following pattern:
    Tally - ratings.
    Fouled anchor surrounded by a gold rope, surmounted by crown - petty officers
    Fouled anchor surrounded by a gold rope and small wreath, surmounted by crown - chief petty officers.
    Fouled anchor on oval, surrounded by a wreath, surmounted by crown - officers.
    In this specific example, this is a private company, and they have employed the Royal Navy petty officer design for their own catering petty officers. In this case, a silver sun surrounded by an alternating band of blue and silver - blue and white being the traditional heraldic symbol for waves.

    The British are noted for their fine craftsmanship in regard to nautical insignia; I have been hard-pressed to find a poorly made British item of insignia from the middle of the last century.

    P&O Lines (The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company)
    Catering Officer.
    Badge, 65mm x 45mm. Silver wire on wool backing.
    Circa 1970s.

    This hat badge follows the classic British Passenger Lines steward badge design of taking an element of the deck officer's hat badge, enlarging and turning it silver. In this example, the P & O deck officer's badge is the setting sun on heraldic waves surmounted by a fouled anchor.

    This particular badge was issued in the 1970s, before P & O hat badges took on their current configuration.

    Military Sea Transport Service
    Commissary Chief Petty Officer Badge.
    35mm x 24mm , Cupro-nickel.
    Hallmark, Gemsco A.G.O. G-2 . Circa 1953-1963.

    The US Army Transport Service and US Navy Transport Service merged at the end of the Second World War to form the Military Sea Transport Service. This organization came under the purvue of the US Navy. In the mid-1960s, the service changed its name to the Military Sealift Command. Throughout each of its permutations, the MSTS/MSC retained the insignia of the ATS with slight modifications. With the change of MSTS to MSC, the crescent flipped.

    This silver crescent is worn by commissary officers as a collar device or by Chief Petty officers as within a wreath as a hat device. The old days of woven steward's hat badges are no more. The hallmark is consistent with Institute of Heraldry (IOH) manufacturer's numbers; in this case 1953-1963 - often a "-N" will mean that the Navy approved the insignia.

    US Army Transport Service
    Commissary Chief Petty Officer woven hat badge.
    Silver thread on wool backing; attached to mohair band. No synthetics.
    Device, 70mm x 40mm.
    Circa Second World War.

    During the Second World War, standardization was secondary to getting boots on the ground. In the specific case of the Army Transport Service/Transportation Corps - Water Division, the Mariners were civilian, therefore were not overtly compelled to adhere to uniform standards.

    Men did hold rank and rate aboard ship, and the distinctions were subtle. Chief Petty Officers wore visor hats with their rate on a hat badge. Unauthorized, but worn devices were woven. Issued devices were metal. In terms of steward hat insignia, I have noted three variations: silver-aluminum thread, yellow thread with small gold foil devices and stamped metal wreaths with un-affixed silver crescents.

    As a means of identification: ATS/TC-WD wore silver steward insignia; that is silver crescents and also silver metal hat badges. The U.S. Maritime Service and War Shipping Administration wore gold steward insignia - following the U.S. Navy precedent.

    United States Lines
    Steward Department Officer hat badge.
    Wreath, 70mm x 43mm. Brass with silver wash.
    Flag, 25mm by 23mm. Enamel on brass.
    Manufacturer: Gemsco. Circa Second World War.

    This hat badge can be definitively dated to the Second World War by the Gemsco hallmark on the reverse; the hallmark is Gemsco surrounded by a wreath. The enamel flag design is consistent with USL flags from the period. Other variations of the flag, from the l931-1938 period have the USL initials - these flags are seen on badges throughout the Second World War. A sleek eagle design debuted in the mid-1950s, around the time of the SS United States launch.

    Given the high quality and crisp detail of the stamped wreath, and fine enamel work, this hat badge was worn by a Chief Steward. The silver wash has flaked from the surface of the wreath but is especially present in areas of low relief.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Floating Plant & Dredging Fleet Personnel

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has traditionally operated a wide variety of watercraft in support of the water resources and infrastructure under its purview. These vessels are found in the major waterways of the United States and its territories - once including the Panama Canal Zone when it was a U.S. territory, and South Vietnam during the war. Floating Plant (including the Dredging Fleet), as these vessels are known, are manned by civilian crews. The officers are licensed by U.S. Coast Guard; and presently most are graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or other U.S. Maritime schools.

    The military-status of Floating Plant personnel has had a chequered past. During the Second World War and the Korean War, unlike their colleagues serving in the Army Transportation Service, they were militarized and called to active duty. At the tail end of the Vietnam War, during the organizational reforms of the U.S. Army, Floating Plant personnel were deemed civilians.

    In order to identify the officers serving on dredges, towboats, and ships of 60 feet or more, the Corps of Engineers directed they wear uniforms starting in 1969. The officers already wore khaki Navy-inspired uniforms with a variety of insignia denoting rank. Up until this point, hat badges were improvised and worn at the individual's discretion. Some wore a Maritime Service-style gold wreath with a Corps of Engineers branch insignia collar device in the center; others wore ball caps or garrison caps with the same.

    With the new regulations came an end to improvisation and officially sanctioned khaki uniforms, headgear and employee identification. The khaki uniform was retained and reefers abolished, and officers were given a combination hat. The means of determining an individual's position aboard is indicated by identification plates: Master, Engineer (rank) and Mate (rank). License state is indicated by the color of the wear hat's chinstrap: gold-colored for Coast Guard-licensed officers, black for all others. The Floating Plant personnel also wear a unique hat badge. The symbolism of the insignia is explained thus:
    [...] silver Engineer castle with a gold anchor supporting on its stock, a silver eagle, wings displayed. The anchor represents the maritime functions of Floating Plant Personnel and the eagle represents Federal service.
    The original directives provided for changing of hat cover from khaki to white, depending upon the season; current regulations do not state as such.

    Governing regulations for Floating Plant personnel uniforms:
    • ? (30 October 1969).
    • ER 670-2-3 (20 April 1987).
    • ER 1130-2-520, Appendix S & W (29 November 1996).

    It is really this hat badge and that of the U.S. Army Transport Service that piqued my interest in Sea Service hat badges. Having been raised in the Navy and always keen on matters maritime, I had never known that the USACE had a civilian-manned fleet of ships. I am still mostly unsure who strikes the current insignia, as they do not have U.S. Government contract manufacturer hallmarks; so for all I know, they may be made in some Army machine shop in Philadelphia.

    Floating Plant, 1970s
    55mm x 63mm. Gray gun metal body and gold anodized anchor.
    No hallmark.

    Floating Plant, 1990-present.
    55mm x 63mm. Grey gun metal body and gold anodized anchor.
    No hallmark.

    Reverse of badge is coated in thin layer of dark gray acrylic; also on reverse, not the crisp detail lacking in the earlier version. The beak is damaged; perhaps due to poor stamping/filing.

    U.S. Corps of Engineers Branch Insignia
    25mm x 18mm. Gold-plated brass.
    No hallmark. Circa 1950.

    This example was worn on Floating Plant personnel garrison hat. This device is pre-Second World War; apparently it was passed down from through the decades via a thrifty Quartermaster.  Note cut-out windows and fine detail.

    Floating Plant Variant
    60mm x 70mm. Copper with "gold coating"
    N.S. Meyer Inc., New York hallmark. Allegedly circa 1950s-60s.

    This is most probably a fantasy or fake. This badge is comprised of elements found in unofficial (pre-1968 ) woven and metal variants of Floating Plant hat badges: wreath, castle & eagle.

    The wreath is of traditional U.S. Army Transport Service & ROTC design; most Floating Plant variants are of contemporary period Maritime Service-style wreaths. The wreath has pitting as seen in casts. The reverse shows that the manufacturer had some difficulty in positioning the bars for soldering.

    The castle has an N.S. Meyer Inc. New York hallmark. If this were a poor fake, we'd see evidence of sheared-off keeper pin posts.

    Capping the emblem is an eagle; this eagle is MSTS officer-style (circa 1950s-1960s).

    Overall nicely polished. Not quite sure what to make of this. Fantasy, fake, pattern or variant. Who knows?