A Sampling of Navy Thanksgiving Menus Through the Eras
The U.S. Navy has celebrated Thanksgiving in one fashion or another since before it became an official American holiday. Arrayed below are selected Navy Thanksgiving menus from NHHC's collections that span the first half of the 20th century. Although some dishes (“Mayonnaise Salad” on battleship Arizona in 1917; “Baked Spiced Spam à la Capitaine de Vaisseau” on cruiser Augusta in 1942) have not transcended time and post-dinner cigars and cigarettes have also been left pierside, roast turkey, baked ham, and pumpkin pie have been the anchors of nearly every Thanksgiving feast at sea or on shore to the present day.
USS Augusta (CA-31), 1942. Augusta served as flagship of Rear Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt's Western Naval Task Force during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa. Her holiday menu reflects the recently concluded operation, with an emphasis on French culinary terms and naval ranks, local geography, and the names of U.S. commanders. It is unknown how popular the Spam dish was compared to roast turkey, but its inclusion likely reflected what was available in the ship's food stores.
Amphibious Training Center, Tulagi, Solomon Islands, 1944. Located in Tulagi’s Purvis Bay, which also sheltered a large U.S. Navy repair facility, the command provided training to forward-deployed forces. This very basic mimeographed document displays the amphibious forces’ emblem. Despite the menu’s modest appearance, the command proudly offered a true feast to its far-from-home Sailors.
USS Iowa (BB-61), 1943. On Thanksgiving 1943, Iowa was underway in the Atlantic, having just conveyed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Morocco in the first leg of his trip to the Cairo (23–26 November) and Tehran (28 November–1 December) conferences. Typically, the menu was designed in the ship’s print shop and mimeographed.
USS Coral Sea (CV-43), 1948. Coral Sea was completing an overhaul period in Norfolk, Virginia, on Thanksgiving 1948. Her menu includes an increasingly popular item: Parker House rolls—very easy for ship’s bakers to prepare. The turkey motif appears to have been a standard period design available in many Navy print shops.
USS Sperry (AS-12), 1950. In 1950, Sperry was home-ported in San Diego, servicing Pacific Fleet. The generic turkey design has again been used for this chief petty officers’ mess menu. Sperry’s chiefs did themselves proud: In addition to holiday staples, they enjoyed fresh shrimp cocktails and Waldorf salad.