Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Master Painter Frank M. Watson to Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet

1038 Ann St.,

Portsmouth, Va.,

May 29, 1917.

Admiral Mayo,

Commander-in-Chief, of Atlantic Fleet,

U.S.S.Pennsylvania

Sir:-

          Your attention is invited to the conduct of, one man serving on one of the ships under your command.

          Last Saturday night May 26, 1917. Mrs. F.M.Watson, (my wife) was returning from Philadelphia, Pa., where she had attended the funeral of her Grandmother, she boarded the 11:30 P.M. New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk train at Philadelphia at the same time a large party of sailors returning from extended furloughs boarded the train, some for Old Point and some for Norfolk.

          Most of them showed evidence of drinking, and the trainhad not gone far before it was also evident that most of them were well supplied with whiskey for the trip.

          Shortly after the train left Delmar, Del., one man forcibly pushed himself into the same seat that my wife occupied and attempted to make her acquaintance. At first she paid no attention to him, but when he put his rum bottle to her face and insisted on her taking a sociable drink it was more than she could stand and she pushed him headlong into the aisle, he gathered himself together and began using the most vile, obscene and abusive language it was possible to use and announced to his shipmates near him that “ he knew this woman, she lived in a --------house 49th and Hazel Ave.,” My wife appealed to the conductor of the train who threw the sailor into the smoker, but an hour later he returned and became abusive, and was again thrown into the smoker, he returned again the third time, this time two young seamen who had done no drinking at all grabbed him roughly , threw him into the smoker and ordered him to stay there and he did.

          Mrs. Watson arrived home a nervous wreck, and was confined to her room all day, and although she has always been a friend to our sailors I regret to say, her opinion of them has decidedly changed, and as for myself, I would like to meet that man.1

Very truly yours,  

Frank M. Watson    

Master Painter, Navy Yard

Norfolk, Va.

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, Henry T. Mayo Papers, Box 10.

Footnote 1: Stories like this one reinforced strongly-held views on the importance of temperance. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels waged a determined campaign at the moral improvement of the Navy, and intoxication was one of his primary targets. In 1914, he issued an order banning alcohol on board naval ships and within navy yards, to the anger of a great many officers and enlisted men. Craig, Josephus Daniels, 244-245.

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