The Navy Department Library's growing collection of historic Navy Thanksgiving, Christmas and miscellaneous dinner menus offer an excellent glimpse into the social life of the Navy. Over many years, the library has collected hundreds of examples of ship and shore menus, with the pre-World War II examples considered especially detailed and artistic. Holiday dinners are important memories and experiences for past and present Sailors, with many remembering these special times away from home and with their fellow shipmates. Even in wartime, traditional holiday dinners, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are served to our nation's Sailors deployed off foreign shores or in combat theaters. For example, sixty-nine years ago this Thanksgiving, Sailors on board USS Wake Island (CVE 65) were taking on supplies at Astoria, Oregon, as the ship began its wartime assignments, while cooks below prepared a traditional meal of roast turkey and Virginia ham. Likewise, our Sailors on a high state of readiness on board USS George Washington (CVN 73) as they supported Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003), enjoyed their Thanksgiving feast in much the same way. In contrast to today's more health conscious military, however, the historical menus on display show a different emphasis in the types of food that were served years ago. Veteran Sailors will also notice formerly popular items missing from modern holiday menus, such as cigars and cigarettes, which were regular menu items for the first half of the 20th century.
Note: In addition to ship and shore holiday menus, the Navy Department Library remains strongly interested in acquiring donations of non-holiday ship and shore menus, as well as other US Navy paper ephemera including ship newsletters, "smoker" boxing programs, ship minstrel show programs, etc. See Gifts and Donations to the Navy Department Library for further information on donating to the library.