Jerry Holland has been a frequent contributor lo the Naval Submarine Review. He is presently Vice President of the Naval Historical Foundation where he edited their book, The United States Navy.
The Naval Submarine League is justly proud of its monumental display Fast Attacks and Roomers: Submarines in the Cold War which occupied space in the National Museum of History of the Smithsonian Institution for four years after the Centennial of the Submarine Force. When that fine exhibit was dismantled, the artifacts, which belong to the Navy, were placed in storage at the Washington Navy Yard. There they will form the starting point and a major portion of the coming addition to the U.S. Navy Museum, “The Navy in the Cold War: Korea, Vietnam, and the Soviet Confrontation.”
Many Submarine League members have visited the U.S. Navy Museum in the Navy Yard, one of the most popular attractions in the Washington area. The annual Fall Submarine Cocktail Party was held there for many years. The submarine exhibit in that building, while small was very popular- especially the working Type 2 periscope through which one could get a 45 degree angle-on-the-bow close aboard look at the display ship, ex-USS BARRY (DD-933), berthed along the Yard’s southern side. The U.S. Navy Museum’s present building, formerly a facility of the Naval Gun Factory, is full to overflowing with memorabilia commemorating the history of the Navy from the Revolutionary War and the end of World War II. The fifty years of the Navy’s history since the end of World War Two needed a home, but curator’s and historians were loath to reduce the exhibits in the original building to try to shoe-horn in room for a new period.
That additional space is now available in another historic building adjacent to the present museum in a structure that was the Navy’s original model basin. The Navy has completed rehabilitating that building and exhibit designers, historians and curators now are moving forward with exhibits that will populate the new museum addition. This new gallery will honor those who served with the U.S. Navy of the period from 1945 through 1990. These individuals, to paraphrase former CNO and Naval Historical Foundation Chairman James L. Holloway III, “were the unsung heroes of the Cold War”. The project is a joint endeavor of the Naval Historical Center that operates the Navy Museum and the Naval Historical Foundation, a privately funded non-profit organization that supports a number of efforts to memorialize the Navy’s history.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors learn about the rich history of the U.S. Navy when they enter the doors of the U.S. Navy Museum. While increased security measures in the Navy Yard after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 made entry to the museum area difficult, steps since then have substantially eased access. Today, tour buses with advanced notification can gain entry to the Yard to deliver tourists and anyone with a picture identification card can get a pass through the Yard’s Pass and Badge Office. Planned is a dedicated parking lot and public access using the sidewalks of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. This project of the District of Columbia, when completed, will stretch from Georgetown to the National Arboretum. The Navy’s portion of this public promenade along the Anacostia River has been completed. Two access points into the Museum portion of the Yard will be provided and a security system to promote free access from the Walk to the Museums is being procured by the Naval District, Washington.
The exhibits themselves will be produced by the same organization that produced the Fast Attacks and Boomers exhibit for the Naval Submarine League, Design & Production, Incorporated (D&P) of Springfield, Virginia. ln addition to the submarine exhibit, D&P has produced other major exhibits for the Smithsonian, the Naval Academy Museum’s display of history from the Spanish-American War through World War II, and displays at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museums.
The design team envisions the gallery being divided into four thematic sections. The first section will provide the visitor a general overview of the Cold War-very important considering today’s younger generation has no recollection of this dangerous era. Particular care will be taken to help visitors understand the threat posed by the militaristic Soviet Union and its Marxist-Leninist ideology
Since nuclear deterrence was a prime reason the Cold War did not escalate to World War 111, the second section will focus on this critical aspect and the Navy’s contribution. Here is where the SSBN story will unfold. The centerpieces of technical equipment will be buttressed by the stories of those who spent years at sea in a deterrent role. The nature of this silent duty that became the comer stone of deterrence will feature cameos of individuals, ships and stations. This section will showcase those leaders and technologies that dramatically advanced the Navy’s global reach. Featured will be significant technocrats and leaders such as Hyman Rickover and Levering Smith.
Meriting comparable attention in the third section will be the extended operations of American attack submarines and their roles in scouting and ultimately thwarting the Soviet Navy. Since this section will cover the conventional confrontation with the Soviet Union, the SSN role in the ASW mission will be placed in context
with the SOSUS network, and surface and air platforms. The exhibits will make clear that America’s Cold War Sailors, such as the crews of the THRESHER and SCORPION, were at peril even when not engaged in combat operations. The Cuban Missile Crisis will be covered in this section along with the Navy’s response to numerous other challenges.
The social revolutions of this period are perhaps among the most long-lasting events of this period of our history. The stories told in the exhibits will follow the racial integration that started in the late forties and show the assignment of women to leadership and seagoing billets- including command of combatants- near the end of the period. The visitor will see the incremental but steady improvements in training and quality of service life that occurred through the period.
The fourth section will focus on the instances when the Cold War turned hot. Exhibits will show how vital seapower was to the successful conduct of operations in the Korean Theater detailing the struggle to hold the port of Pusan, the decisive amphibious assault at Inchon, the withdrawal from Chosin Reservoir and the evacuation from Hungam. The Vietnam conflict will occupy significant area with details of the maritime related activities in that war.
Work on the exhibits for this new museum is proceeding funded by the Naval Historical Foundation. Unfortunately, the Foundation does not have sufficient capital in hand to do any more than provide for the initial design and development. To complete the project, the Naval Historical Foundation will conduct a Capital Campaign in the near future to raise ten million dollars to complete the design and produce the exhibits. President George H. W. Bush has agreed to serve as the Honorary Chairman of this drive which will be a onetime campaign. Members of the Naval Submarine League will be contacted as part of this campaign as donations are solicited from organizations, enterprises and individuals.
This new museum aims to honor the veterans of this conflict and to recognize the efforts of those who fought in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere, who stood watches with nuclear weapons and who sailed in harm’s way to confront the Communist threat. The exhibits will depict the evolution of the Navy into an all-volunteer force of professionals from a diversity of backgrounds and will acknowledge the contributions to the Navy made by civilian employees of the government and private industry. The new museum promises to be a worthy locale for resurfacing the submarine exhibit