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Navy Christmas 

Holiday Menus from the Steam Era to the Nuclear Age

Christmas dinner at Naval Air Station (NAS) Anacostia, D.C., 25 December 1918

Christmas dinner at NAS Anacostia, Washington, DC, 25 December 1918 (NH86787)

In the Navy, the period between Christmas and New Year can be a poignant, introspective time, particularly during deployments and operations far from homeport and family. Recognizing this, the service has always strived to emphasize the joyous side of the holidays, not least through dinners that have drawn on everything that storerooms, reefers, and local markets have had to offer. A sampling of command menus from NHHC’s collections from the 1910s through the 1950s, from the mess spaces and wardrooms of the aging coastal monitor to those of the Cold War destroyer, follows.

U.S.S. Monterey, A Merry Christmas 1918.
USS Monterey (Monitor No. 6). In service since 1893, Monterey was serving as a station ship at the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, submarine base in 1918. Her crew was offered a choice of three entrees, including local red snapper.

Commander Yangtze Patrol Force, United States Asiatic Fleet, New Years Day Menu, January 1 1922.
USS Isabel (SP-521). As flagship of the U.S. Navy Yangtze Patrol Force, Isabel's New Year's Day menu fittingly included roast Chinese duck.

Photo #: NH 92174  USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6)
USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) off Guaymas, Mexico, 26 December 1915. Note Christmas tree mounted on her forecastle (NH 92174).

Cover - Christmas Day, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Destroyer Division Twenty-Five, U.S.S. Case (285), Villefranche, France, December 25 1926.

USS Case (DD-285). Villefranche, on the French Riviera, was a regular port call for Navy ships during the 1920s and 1930s. However, Case's Christmas Day menu is solidly American.

U.S.S. Colorado, San Pedro, California: Programme for Christmas Day 1926, Franklin D. Karns, Commanding, Louis P. Davis, Executive Officer.
USS Colorado (BB-45). On Christmas Day, 1926, Colorado was in port San Pedro (Los Angeles), California.

Photo #: NH 83973  Lieutenant and Mrs. Arleigh A. Burke, USN
Christmas card of 1930s vintage from future CNO Admiral Arleigh A. Burke and Mrs. Burke, featuring depictions of then-Lieutenant Burke at the camera, Mrs. Burke with accordion, and their great dane dog. The card was drawn by Mrs. Burke (NH 83973).

Joyeux Noel 1937, Squadron - 40 T, U.S.S. Raleigh, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, France.
USS Raleigh (CL-7). Another Villefranche port call: In contrast to USS Case above, Raleigh couched her entire dinner in French.

Cover - Children's Christmas Party On Board the United States Ship Oklahoma At Anchor in San Pedro Harbor, California, December 25, 1937.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37). The children's Christmas party was an early community relations event—an all-day affair that included two church services, baptisms, caroling, puppet shows, and a midday feast.

U.S.S. Bridge  Christmas Menu 1939
USS Bridge (AF-1). Commissioned in 1917, Bridge spent most of her active service before and during World War II in the Pacific. However, the inadvertent pun in this image of Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, from the ship's tour in the Atlantic during the 1920s, was likely too good to resist using on a holiday menu.

Merry Christmas 1940, U.S.S. Mississippi, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.
USS Mississippi (BB-41). Although home-ported in San Pedro, California at the time, Mississippi spent Christmas 1940 in Hawaii, where this expansive dinner was served. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor a year later, Mississippi was on patrol service in the North Atlantic.

Cover - Christmas Greetings, U.S.S. Astoria, Long Beach, California, 1937.
USS Astoria (CA-34). Commissioned four years previously, Astoria was a "treaty cruiser," constructed under the limitations of the London Naval Treaty. She was lost at the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942.

Cover - Christmas , U.S.S. Cushing (376), Pearl Harbor, T.H. [Territory of Hawaii], 1939.
USS Cushing (DD-376). Despite being home-ported in exotic Pearl Harbor in 1939, Cushing's Christmas dinner was as unremarkable as its menu card.

Photo #: 80-G-K-14451 "WAVES play Santa"
WAVES of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts help wrap Christmas presents for Navy and Marine Corps convalescents at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland, circa 1944. Admiring a package is Yeoman Second Class Ann G. Fee (80-G-K-14451).

U. S. Naval Station, New Orleans - Algiers- La [Louisiana], Merry Christmas 1942.
Naval Station New Orleans, Algiers, Louisiana. Despite being printed and mimeographed on base, creative talent is still apparent on this menu. Note that the two senior enlisted commissary billets are actually filled by retired chief petty officers.

U. S. Naval Training Station, San Diego, California. Merry Christmas.
U.S. Naval Training Station, San Diego, California. The station's commanding officer added an encouraging note to this 1943 menu. Although World War II's duration was still uncertain, its outcome was no longer in doubt.

Cover - Christmas Dinner, U.S. Navy Receiving Station, Boston Massachusetts, 1942; photo caption: Fargo Barracks.
U.S. Navy Receiving Station, Boston, Massachusetts. Countering the intimidating facade of the receiving station barracks, the command's chief commissary steward organized a veritable feast for the new Sailors being processed here.

Christmas 1945, U.S.S. Santa Fe.
USS Santa Fe (CL-60). At the time of the first peacetime Christmas in six years, Santa Fe was engaged in "Magic Carpet" operations, ferrying servicemembers from Pacific bases to the U.S. west coast to be discharged.

Photo #: 80-G-424639  USS Missouri (BB-63)
Teleman First Class Howard Bursley, USNR, carries bags of Christmas mail received onboard USS Missouri (BB-63) during operations off the Korean coast, 18 December 1950 (80-G-424639).

USS Iowa - 1955 New Year's dinner menu
USS Iowa (BB-61). In January 1955, Iowa was still flagship of Commander, Battleship-Cruiser Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, but was to detach shortly for an extended Mediterranean cruise with Sixth Fleet. This menu was produced in the ship's print shop.

Seasons Greetings, U.S.S. Barry DD-933 [1956].
USS Barry (DD-933). Barry was commissioned in September 1956, three months before this holiday dinner. At the time it was being served and prepared, the ship was still being fitted out at Boston Naval Shipyard. Nonetheless, the meal was extensive and included a challenge to most cooks: enough Yorkshire pudding for the entire crew.

Photo #: NH 97273  USS Essex (CVS-9)
As USS Essex (CVS-9) steamed toward a nine-day visit to Rotterdam, Holland, for the Christmas holidays, crewmen formed the traditional Dutch equivalent of America's "Merry Christmas" on the flight deck, 29 December 1961 (NH 97273).

Image Gallery: Christmas in the Navy 

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

Published: Tue Dec 17 14:04:40 EST 2019