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Navy Thanksgiving 

A Sampling of Holiday Menus Through the Eras 

Commander and Mrs. Ellis Thanksgiving Dinner at the First Regiment at the U.S. Naval Training Camp, Charleston

Head table with guests at the Thanksgiving dinner with the First Regiment, U.S. Naval Training Camp, Charleston, South Carolina, c. 1917 (NH116412).

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.

1903 USS Hartford Thanksgiving menu

USS Hartford (screw sloop), 1903. Admiral David G. Farragut’s flagship at the Union forces’ capture of New Orleans in April 1862, the aged Hartford was still serving as a midshipman training and cruise ship on the Atlantic coast during this period.

U.S.S. Arkansas Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1919.

USS Arkansas (BB-33), 1919. Cigars and cigarettes were to remain post-dinner options for many decades.

Cover - Thanksgiving Menu, U.S.S. Oklahoma, Bremerton, Washington, 1935.

USS Oklahoma (BB-37), 1935. The Sailors of the ship's commissary branch wasted none of their turkeys: along with the centerpiece roast turkey, turkey broth and giblet sauce are on the menu.

Thanksgiving Day 1938, U.S.S. Craven 382.

USS Craven (DD-382), 1938. Although Craven's wardroom and messes were only served one main entree, flourishes such as sage dressing and fresh tomato-lettuce salad rounded out the holiday meal.

U.S.S. Arizona Thanksgiving Dinner, November 29, 1917.

USS Arizona (BB-39), 1917. Note the "Mayonnaise Salad" menu item. This was a cold, layered sweet-savory dish that included mayonnaise, sugar, and lettuce.

Cover - Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, U.S.S. Case, Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pa., 1929.

USS Case (DD-370), 1929. As was typical during the first decades of the 20th century, "oyster dressing," a sauce that included the juice of shelled oysters, was a set component of the holiday menu.

Photo #: NH 99608-KN  USS Chaumont

USS Chaumont (AP-5), 1936. Chaumont was a transport deployed in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific during the inter-war years. On Thanksgiving 1936, she was underway from Hawaii to Guam (NH 99608-KN).

Photo #: 80-G-291498  Admiral William F. Halsey, USN,

Admiral William F. Halsey (left center), Commander Third Fleet, eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of his flagship, USS New Jersey (BB-62), 30 November 1944 (80-G-291498).

Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, On Board the U.S.S. Augusta [Flagship Commander Amphibious Force].

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.

Cover - Thanksgiving Dinner Menu, U.S. Naval Repair Base, San Diego, California, 1944.

Naval Repair Base, San Diego, California, 1944. The old salt with the peg leg not only symbolizes the command’s mission, but also that this menu is for the “goat locker”—the chief petty officers’ mess.

Left side: Commanding Officer A. L. Hutson, Commander, USN; Executive Officer C. F. Esmiol, Lt. Comdr., USNR; Supply Officer David Sachs, Lt., USNR; Commissary Steward J. M. Roberts, CCS, USN; Cooks - Chenoweth, A. J., Dunn, F. L., Knapp, R. G., Konocheck, R. D., Phillips, W. J., Pizzurro, F., Jr., Randall, E. L., Reviea, A. L., Rivera, S. S., Roberts, C., Rock, F. O., Rollo, R. E., Scott, J. W., Scott, S. E., Steele, G. E., Willburn, E., Williams, L. E., Yates, T. D.; Bakers - Greenwood, B. C., Jennings, R. T., Plummer, J. R., Prince, L. M., Stallings, R. L., Vrabel, G. M., Withers, F. H., Woodhuhll, G. W.; Butchers - Russel, W. D., Zoen, J. G.  Right side: Amphibious Training Center, Navy 152, c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, Calif.

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, 1943. Commanding Officer - Captain John L. McCrea, U.S.N., Executive Officer - Commander T.J. Casey, U.S.N..

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.

Cover - Thanksgiving Dinner, Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, 1945.

Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, 1945. Despite its eye-catching cover, this training command’s holiday offerings are surprisingly basic, perhaps indicative of mandated wartime austerity measures.

Photo #: 80-G-436055  Korean War Armistice Negotiations, Panmunjom, Korea

United Nations' delegates Rear Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN (left), and Major General Henry I. Hodes, U.S. Army, eat Thanksgiving dinner at the U.N. negotiating team's base camp, Munsan-Ni, Korea, 26 November 1951 (80-G-436055).

1948 USS Coral Sea Thanksgiving menu

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.

Cover - Thanksgiving ..1956 Menu, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma.

Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma, 1956. The command trained aviation mechanics and machinists during World War II and again from 1952 to 1959.

Cover - Thanksgiving Menu, U.S.S. Sperry, 1950.

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.

Cover - Thanksgiving Dinner, Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, 1958.

Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, 1958. NAS Norfolk apparently drew on its own talent in the design of this menu. Among other offerings, the “Raw Salad Bar” and numerous sweet and savory condiments reflect the heightened expectations of America’s increasingly affluent post–World War II society.

The Navy Library's extensive collection contains command menus for a variety of holidays. View them here. 

Published:Mon Nov 20 08:06:17 EST 2017