Return to Operational ArchivesImage of anchorSearch the Naval Historical Center Website
Flag banner

Painting, Navy ship behind sailboat
Operational Archives Branch
Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060

Papers of Captain
John Sylva,

Biographical Note

John Sylva was born on 4 March 1932 in New Jersey. In 1949 he entered the Naval Reserve as a Seaman Recruit.  He attended Stevens Institute of Technology and graduated in 1954. On 2 September 1954 Seaman Sylva was commissioned into the Navy as an Ensign.

In 1955, Ensign Sylva received his first promotion to Lieutenant (J.G.) and also went to NMCB-1 for his first tour of duty as Company Commander.

In 1957, Lieutenant Sylva was sent to Director, Atlantic Division, Bureau of Yards and Docks for his second tour of duty.

Sylva continued his education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, earning a B.C.E. degree in 1958, and that same year was promoted to Lieutenant.  After graduating, he served in Laos and Thailand as the Officer in Charge of Construction. As OCC, his main task was rebuilding parts of the base located in Laos. He served in Thailand 1961-1963 and was advanced to Lieutenant Commander while there. During his service in Southeast Asia, he made a point to go out and meet the local people and observe their way of life, evident from the photographs and slides in this collection.

After serving in Laos, he had duty in Hawaii and South Carolina as Public Works Officer. In 1968 he was stationed at U.S. Naval Public Works Center, Yokosuka, Japan as Operations Officer for a year and Executive Officer for a year and a half. 

In 1969, Commander Sylva was sent to Saigon, Vietnam as Officer-in-Charge of Construction, RVN. After serving in Vietnam for two years he was sent to Director Shore Installations Division. After two years, his next tour of duty was with Director Logistics Planning Division.

In 1973, Commander Sylva was sent to Athens, Greece with the Navy Fleet Support Office.

He retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain.

Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Captain John P. Sylva consist of news clippings, slides, personal papers, military correspondence, reports and photographs.

The collection is organized in four series. Series I is a file on Laos. It deals mainly with military papers and correspondence while Sylva was in Laos but there are also personal photographs, construction paperwork and United States Information Services papers. Of note in this series are foreign language documents as well as a transcript of a letter dated 1683. This date has been verified, and is not an error. 

Series II is just Newspapers and Magazines dating from 1961-1972. There are folders of Time magazines as well as some Navy publications. There are numerous newspaper clippings and five oversize boxes of newspapers.

Series III is a collection of reports and guides belonging to Captain Sylva. There are three boxes with just reports in them; mainly dealing with construction.

Series IV is a collection slides.

Series V is a collection of charts and maps made on blueprint paper.

Preferred Citation

Papers of John P. Sylva, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.

Subject Headings (LCSH)

United States. Navy--Military Construction Operations.
Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975.
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)--Newspapers.
Bangkok (Thailand)--Newspapers.


6 cubic feet

20 August 2003