For those who served aboard at the Fleet Post Office, New York, their naval careers have already been terminated. For others of us, the close of our service to the Navy lies in the near future.
So that the coming years may not dim, too much, the memories of duty at the Fleet Post Office, New York, during World War II, we present this memento.
May it bring you many moments of pleasant recollections in the years which lie ahead and remind you of the part you played in performing a job -- WELL DONE!
Lt. Cmdr., U.S.N.R.
CAPTAIN JOE W. STRYKER, USN Communication Officer, Third Naval District
LT. COMDR. WILLIAM T. MARTIN, U.S.N.R., District Postal Officer
COMDR. VERNER A. HENDRICSON, U.S.N.R., Assistant District Communications Officer
OFFICERS ON BOARD JANUARY 1946
Seated (left to right) - Lt. Cmdr. Barney Koplin, Lt. Cmdr. Willet J. Hegarty, Lt. Cmdr. John J. Lamb, Lt. Cmdr. George A. Bergen.
Second Row (left to right) - Lt. Armand F. Cirilli, Lt. Robert L. Decker, [Lt.] William W. Woodbridge, Jr. [sic, no rank], Lt. John L. Sullivan, Lt. Bun B. Bray, Jr., Lt. Robert B. Fisher.
Top Row (left to right) - Lt. (j.g.) Margaret H. Duff, Lt. (j.g.) Mark J. Burns, Lt. (j.g.) Lester B. Bast, Lt. (j.g.) Daniel M. McDevitt, Lt. (j.g.) Marrie J. Courtois.
OFFICERS ON BOARD OCTOBER 1944
Seated (left to right): Ensign Charlotte S. Iliescu, Lt. Willet J. Hegarty, Lt. Comdr. Andrew E. Newton, Lt. Jack G. Nussbaum, Lt. Richard C. Gifford, Ensign Marrie J. Courtois.
Second Row (left to right): Lt. (j.g.) Isaac C. Behage, Lt. (j.g.) Robert L. Decker, Lt. Jerome S. Newland, Lt. Lloyd D. Gull, CWO Michael L. Heinrichs, USMC, Lt. (j.g.) James R. Hoag, Lt. (j.g.) Bernard A. Kenner, Lt. Edward F. O'Day, Lt. (j.g.) William L. Dawson, Jr.
Third Row (left to right): Lt. (j.g.) Sidney Ritt, Lt. (j.g.) Charles Dearden, Ensign Surrell A. Hukill, Lt. (j.g.) Alan F. O'Farrell, Lt. (j.g.) Delbart Harris, Lt. (j.g.) John F. Warfield, Lt. Ernest F. Gaskins, Ensign Lester G. Bast, Ensign John D. Heaney, Lt. (j.g.) Gephart T. Stiles.
Top Row (left to right): Lt. (j.g.) Edgar O. Kern, Ensign Alipio M. Santiago, Ensign Horace A. Byrd, Ensign Jack E. Triplett, Lt. William A. Sawyer, Ensign Paul M. Hodges, Ensign Marion J. Pritchard, Lt. (j.g.) Lewis A. Rodwell, Ensign Wilbert C. Trautwein, Ensign James M. Seeley.
THE ANNALS OF F.P.O. NEW YORK
by Lt. John L. Sullivan, U.S.N.R.
The Fleet Post Office was originally established as a naval activity at 80 Varick Street, New York, on 1 July 1943. Prior to that date, mail addressed to naval personnel serving overseas and afloat was handled by Navy mailmen at the Morgan Annex of the New York General Post Office.
The building, formerly occupied by a manufacturing concern, left much to be desired in its use as office space and as a Post Office. At that time, Lt. A. E. Newton assumed the duties of officer in charge and under his direction there began a series of renovations, alterations and additions which transformed all quarters into their present clean, well lighted condition, and brought about a pleasant atmosphere generally. A Ship's Service was opened for the convenience of all hands; a recreational area was set aside and equipped with ping-pong tables; an officer's wardroom was constructed and these were only a few of the large number of improvements made.
The first sections to occupy the quarters at 80 Varick Street were the Atlantic Fleet Records Office, the Air Mail Section and the V-Mail Laboratory and Section. Other departments moved from the Morgan Annex as quickly as space was made ready for them.
As more and more naval personnel shipped out to carry on the campaign in the Mediterranean and to build up forces in the preparations for the invasion of "Fortress Europe", the volume of mail handled through the Fleet Post Office increased by leaps and bounds. In order to expedite the handling of such vast quantities of mail, there followed a corresponding increase in the number of personnel on board.
As forces in the European Theater grew larger and larger, it was found that the space available at 80 Varick Street, which had seemed entirely adequate but a short time previously, was being rapidly utilized to capacity. Anticipating an avalanche of parcels for the 'Christmas Rush', space was acquired on Pier 51, North River, and the Parcel Post Section was moved to that location in September, 1944. The avalanche of parcels did materialize and, it might be added, was dispatched within record time and without a hitch.
In April 1945, Lt. Comdr. Newton was detached from duty at the Fleet Post Office and ordered to the Pacific for duty on the staff of the Commander Service Force Pacific Fleet. He was succeeded by the Executive Officer Lt. W. J. Hegarty. Upon assuming the increased responsibilities and duties of Officer in Charge, Mr. Hegarty was advanced to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Lieutenant John J. Lamb, after completing a tour of duty in the South Pacific and Western Carolines, took up the duties of executive officer.
Shortly after the termination of the European war there began a steady decline in the volume of mail passing through the New York Fleet Post Office. This decrease was reflected in the personnel on board as large drafts of mailmen ratings and a considerable number of officers departed for duty on the West Coast and in the Pacific Areas. The collapse of Japan in August, 1945, brought about a still further decrease in the operations of the Fleet Post Office.
Soon thereafter, plans were taken under consideration looking towards the return of the Fleet Post Office functions to the General Post Office. During December 1945, the transfer of the operations of several sections was effected. Pending developments of the Christmas volume, however, the Fleet Post Office remained substantially intact. January 1946 brought a large scale return of functions to the General Post Office. Among the sections transferred were First Class, Air Mail, Registry and Parcel Post. As rapidly as conditions allow, other sections will be transferred or eliminated.
And so, in the near future, all remaining personnel will pass down the gangway for the last time and, with a salute and feeling of nostalgia, say "Happy Sailing" to the good ship S. S. Castoria - A GRAND OLD GIRL.
Most of the following pictures of the various sections were taken during January 1946 by Paul Del Nero, when the personnel on board was being rapidly reduced through discharges and transfers. It is regretted that many pictures taken when the Fleet Post Office was at its peak of activity proved to be unsuitable. The majority of these pictures were of large groups and it was impossible to reduce them to the proper size so that they could be included herein.
FIRST CLASS AND AIR MAIL SECTION
First Class and Air Mail, the "bread and butter" of the United States Post Office Department, also remained the main item in the Navy Mail Department.
Originally consolidated into one section, this department had its beginning at the Morgan Street Annex of the New York Post Office with a complement of six men and a petty officer first class in charge. Their average volume of mail amounted to twelve pouches of First Class and two pouches of Air Mail daily. But as the Navy grew, so did the First Class and Air Mail Section.
Upon establishing new quarters at 80 Varick Street, the volume of Navy mail grew to such proportions, it was necessary to separate the section into two parts, and add as many as 297 persons to the complementary personnel. The volume of First Class grew to a daily high of 634 pouches which amounts to 793,750 pieces, and Air Mail grew to a daily high of 449 pouches or 673,500 pieces.
The Administration Deck, known at the activity as the Personnel Section, is where the offices of the F.P.O. officials are to be found. With Lt. Cmdr. W. J. Hegarty as skipper of the ship, and Executive Officer, Lt. Cmdr. J. J. Lamb, second in command, the seventh deck is the nerve center of the New York Fleet Post Office.
Organized in December 1943 when the service records were received from the Third Naval District Headquarters, Lt. (j.g.) D. J. Harris (then Warrant Ship's Clerk) was the first Personnel Officer. In December 1944 he was succeeded by Lt. E. F. Gaskins and one year later by Lt. R. L. Decker
From a small beginning of a handful of Waves, the Personnel Section grew to an organized office force of 50 trained yeomen in less than a year. Through their hands have passed the records of almost 5,000 MaM's with a peak standing complement of over 2,000 in Ship's Company.
Unexperienced in mass-transfer, the personnel got its first work-out in the latter part of '44 when the ComServLant Pool, with 100 men, was formed. From that time on until June 1945, the turnover was terrific, with the largest draft being the AFRO departure to San Fran that month.
From the time of its establishment in November 1943, until the General Post Office reassumed the handling of current mail in December 1945, this section maintained 24-hour, 7-day service for the crews of Merchant, Army Transport and Army Hospital Ships. The primary function, at present, is to dispatch mail, which, for various reasons, failed to reach ships on dispatches prior to December 1st. When this function is completed, the Fleet Pony's "Obituary' will be official.
Despite the "Obituary" which appeared in the November 1945 edition of the Fleet Pony, the Merchant Marine Section is still alive and functioning. True, the volume of mail being handled is a far cry from the approximately 350 pouches of First Class mail, 2,000 sacks of Parcel Post and 1,000 sacks of prints which were received and dispatched monthly during the first 25 months of its existence, but the personnel has been cut proportionately from the then average complement of one officer and seventy-five enlisted men and Waves.
During the war, some twenty-two thousand (22,000) United States Navy Units -- from crash boats to carriers -- were shifted 'round the world from Canarsie to Constantinople, from Malaya to Murmansk and back again. The Fleet Post Offices were required to know not only where the units were at any given moment, but where they would be at a nebulous future date on which mail could be delivered to them. Like the gunner or torpedoman who 'leads' his target by firing ahead of the moving object, the Locator Section was required to 'lead' the ships, firing the mail at the next post of call. During the SECRET days, information on the deployment of every task force, fleet and flotilla was available in the Locator's monkey-cage; and, with the aide of a modified 'numbers' game, it was possible to tell all hands where to pitch mail, without telling them the whereabouts of the units.
Since V-J day and the relaxation of security, the Locators have been permitted to divulge the location of most Navy units; and this section will be retained as a permanent peacetime function of the postwar Fleet Post Office, to provide routing instructions to the Government Post Office System, with the additional duty of advising the girls from Brooklyn where to send urgent telegrams to their boys in blue.
ATLANTIC FLEET RECORDS OFFICE
The Atlantic Fleet Records Office was established 1 July 1943 for the purpose of expediting delivery of mail which had been undeliverable as addressed, due in the main to the many changes in stations and billets of personnel during the rapid expansion of the Navy. Ensign I. W. O'Neill was assigned Officer in Charge.
Beginning with fewer than 50 people AFRO grew to a complement of over 300 - the largest single department in the Fleet Post Office. Maintaining an active file of over two and one-half million cards for all naval personnel located in the Eastern half of the United States and European waters, they utilized muster rolls, rosters of officers, reports of changes and change of address cards to keep their cards current at all times. With the aid of these directory cards, hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail were worked weekly. This meant mail for servicemen in the far corners of the world would be received several weeks earlier than might otherwise be the case.
With the cessation of hostilities in the European Theatre, the Navy Department combined the Atlantic Fleet Records Office with the Fleet Records Office of San Francisco to be known as The United States Fleet Records Office. This consolidation was brought about in June 1945. As part of the consolidation, over two hundred AFRO personnel were sent to San Francisco.
Now with hostilities ended and Merchant ships disarming, the volume of mail has gradually decreased until now handling of this mail has been returned to the Armed Guard Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
With the rapid expansion of the Merchant Marine, a sub-division had to be made for the Armed Guard crews afloat. At first, this division was established at the Armed Guard Center in Brooklyn, but as the volume of mail increased, it was decided to transfer the section to F. P. O., New York.
Taking over the entire fourth deck, with one end for First Class mail and the other for Parcel Post and Prints the gunners mates hit a peak dispatch of approximately 70 pouches and 120 sacks of mail per day. They wrote their own chits and dispatched mail according to the information received from Washington. However, for security reasons, this was done away with when the "Glass House" was created, limiting the vital movements of ships to a select few.
V-Mail - a World War II innovation of sending a message on a small strip of film, was one of the most widely talked of and advertised mailing methods the Post Office Department has ever sold to the public. However, once the public caught on to the idea, military personnel had to be trained quickly to handle the enormous volume.
At first this training took place in the Navy Department at Washington, but upon the completion of the V-Mail photo laboratory at 80 Varick Street, the training program was shifted to F.P.O., New York. Millions of V-Mail letters were processed through this office with the peak reached about D-Day. Once the European victory was ours, the volume declined steadily until finally all stations in that area were closed. At this time, our V-Mail Section ceased "sending" operations and several months later with the fall of Japan, the V-Mail program was discontinued by the Navy.
The Registry Section was operated by the Navy Mail Clerk of the New York Fleet Post Office - Chief F. W. Nicholson. It, like most Navy Post Office divisions, also had its beginning at the Morgan Street Annex; and when the Navy unofficially commission-ed the S.S. Castoria to handle Navy mail, the Registry Section made its headquarters on the south end of the seventh deck. Beginning with a small crew of MaM's, which increased to 49 at the peak of the war and decreased to 16 at the time of this writing, all registered mail was given accurate handling to naval personnel throughout the world.
FIRST LIEUTENANT'S OFFICE
From lead pencils to trucks and tractors has been the assignment of the First Lieutenant's Office, composed of the supply and maintenance sections. It was the task of the supply section to get all the necessary materials and gear to operate the activity. To the men of this section fell the responsibility of maintaining continuous inventories of all equipment, of rationing scarce items, and of storing or shipping surplus gear.
The maintenance shop, made up of carpenters, painters, electricians, and ship fitters, not only kept the building at 80 Varick Street and Pier 51, North River, in good condition, but were ready at all times to construct a loading platform or paint the skipper's door marker.
SEAMAN GUARD AND TRANSPORTATION SECTIONS
In its embryonic stage, what was later to be the Ship's Service Store, was part of a stamp cage on the seventh deck -"Smiling Sammy" Cohen passing out stamps, personality, wisdom, hot coffee and tooth paste.
As the Fleet Post Office expanded feverishly, in step with our widening war fronts, new personnel poured into this activity. After much effort, permission was secured to open a Ships Service on the third deck. At the start it was a 'hole in the wall' known as "Charley's Place", after Lt. (j.g.) Charles Dearden, the genial Ship's Service Officer. But the store grew like the proverbial Topsy to a half-million dollar business.
With Parcel Post ensconced at Pier 51, it became necessary prior to the Christmas rush of 1944, to open a Ship's Service Store Annex there. This little store gave much aid and comfort to the personnel in the frigid climate of the North River Pier.
The Marine Corps has made amphibious landings on almost all decks of the S. S. Castoria. With squeegees a-flying, they took over parts of one deck after another. Casualties remained nil though - even when the personnel diminished from a high of 42 men at Christmas 1944 to a low of 5 in January 1946.
The Marine Corps Section was established at the Morgan Street Annex with C.W.O. Heinrichs in charge. It came to 80 Varick Street in September 1943 with duties similar to Navy Mail separation. In July 1945, C.W.O. Heinrichs was detached and Master Sergeant N. Tushoph took over and remained in charge until the section was returned to the Civilian Post Office 14 January 1946.
THE FLEET POST OFFICE BAND
"The best band in the Third Naval District" was the axiom the Fleet Pony band-masters were proud of.
There was no dispute as to why they received this unofficial title after hearing their versatility of going smoothly from waltzes to polkas and then to boogie-woogie.
Starting from "scratch" with most members furnishing their own instruments, the boys quickly developed from individualists to a smooth-flowing team of harmonists.
With 203 public appearances to their credit at dances, ships commissionings, ship arrivals, bond rallies, wedding receptions, moonlight sails and many other occasions too numerous to mention, the boys grew so popular that they were in constant demand all over the Third Naval District in addition to playing on their own weekly Saturday afternoon radio program on WMCA.
After holding three "final Farewell" dances, the curtain has been rung down on the activities of the Welfare and Recreation department. This was a department organized by Lt. Sidney Ritt and carried on by Lt. Bun B. Bray, Jr. for the well-being of every person stationed at the "fleet". The "fleet" band grew from an activity organization to the best dance orchestra in the Third Naval District. An extensive athletic program was continuously sponsored to get as near as 100% participation as was possible - soft ball leagues, bowling tournaments, a baseball team, a basketball team, and ping-pong tournaments were only a small part of this program. Thousands of dollars were loaned out to personnel for emergency purposes. And, with each new monthly issue, the department's official organ, The Fleet Pony, grew in popularity. Started by John Corrigan with a small mimeograph sheet, the paper grew to a 12-page printed newspaper with Bernie Postreich as editor.
The Welfare and Recreation department found in dances the key to morale uplift for the personnel. As a result, many large dances for all the personnel were sponsored by the department in the leading hotels of the city. In many instances, every item of expense, including tips, was paid by the department. The highlights of the social activities program came with the Harvest Ball on 7 November 1945 at the St. George Hotel and the Christmas dance and Farewell Ball at the Hotel Roosevelt on the 13th of December and 23rd of January respectively.
Numerous other activities have been carried out by this department, such as the giving away of gifts, and going-away presents to personnel being shipped to other bases, parties sponsored for orphan children in December 1944 and February 1945, not to overlook the modern ship's library that was installed for Ship's Company personnel.
Thousands of dollars were spent to uplift and maintain the morale of the finest group of gobs and Waves in the United States Navy, but not cent was extracted from Uncle's pocket to procure these means. All funds to carry on this extensive program were derived from Ship's Store profits by our personnel trading there.
THE ADMIRAL'S REVIEW-31 OCTOBER 1944
A FINAL WORD FROM OUR
FLEET PONY EDITOR
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't just quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And when many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you can never tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.