USS Sarda (SS488)

Source: USS Sarda entering Havana, Cuba  Call Number: 818.os1.1

Staff Person: Ken Harbit


USS Sarda (SS-488), was a Tench-class submarine.  Financed by bonds purchased by the residents of Lynn, Massachusetts, her keel was laid down on 12 April 1945 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. She was launched on 24 August 1945 sponsored by Mrs. Heffernan, the wife of James J. Heffernan, Congressman from New York.

Because World War II had ended a few weeks before the submarine’s launch, a new decision whether to commission or scrap her had to be made. Sarda’s prospective commanding officer grew frustrated with the debate over the fate of his boat. During the months of waiting, he received a small plaque from his father inscribed Illegitimi non Carborundum — “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Up.” After a a hard won fight by her prospective commanding officer, Sarda was commissioned on 19 April 1946 with Commander Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., son of the famous Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, in command.

During the period between launching and commissioning, Sarda, was no longer needed for wartime service. Because of this, her conning tower was made bigger to permit installation of experimental equipment. After commissioning, she conducted her shakedown cruise in the Caribbean Sea, then returned north to commence experimental work out of New London, Connecticut. There, she joined Submarine Division (SubDiv) 22 of Submarine Squadron 2; and, for the next four years, she tested new equipment for the Underwater Sound Laboratory, Fort Trumbull, and evaluated new ship control procedures. In the fall of 1949, she was transferred to SubDiv 21, and her primary mission was shifted from test and evaluation work to training ship duties. She continued that work through the 1950s, interrupting it only for type training; mine planting exercises; ASW exercises; fleet exercises; occasional participation in NATO or joint United States-Canadian exercises off the coasts of the Atlantic Provinces and northern New England; and, from January to June 1957, operations in the Caribbean Sea and the Guiana and Brazilian basins for the Hydrographic Office. On her return, she resumed her primary function, training submarine school students.

In the early 1960s, she continued her training mission, but devoted more time to providing services to ASW units conducting exercises. During the winter of 1960, she provided services to 92 surface ships and 14 air squadrons participating in annual training exercises in the Caribbean. During the winter of 1962, she again returned to the Caribbean for an extended stay and, when not employed in servicing Atlantic Fleet air and surface ASW units, she tested and evaluated acoustical torpedoes. The following winter, 1963, she deployed to the Mediterranean Sea where she operated with the Sixth Fleet; and, on her return to New London in late May, she resumed school ship duties.

Eleven months later, Sarda was declared to be surplus to Navy needs. May 1964 was spent in port at New London preparing for inactivation; and, on 1 June, Sarda was decommissioned. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on the same day, and her hulk was sold for scrapping in March 1965.

Though she never saw combat action she is just as much an asset to the Navy and America as any combat unit. She tested new equipment, brought about new and better combat techniques, new ways of fleet-wide communication and collaboration, and most importantly of all, she trained those who did go into harms way.

"Memories of Two Years (almost) before the Mast"

Source: Ronald Vaughn Papers (Manuscript Collection #658)

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin

Description: Ronald Vaughn of Brownwood, TX, enlisted in the Navy with his twin brother Donald (January 1944). He served on the escort aircraft carrier USS KITKUN BAY (CVE-71). The Memoir describes Vaughn’s involvements during his service in World War II in the Pacific (1944-1945).

This page was taken from his memoir, (pp. 12)

Honoring Our Past

Source: Postcard of the U.S.S. North Carolina. Title from historical note on verso. “U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Commission.” Numbered P57112. Date approximated. Identifier: 318.2.c.317

Staff Person: Ken Harbit


A North Carolina treasure is Moored in Willmington. In quiet dignity and majesty is the fourth ship of the line to be called NORTH CAROLINA. She quietly beckons visitors to walk her decks and envision the daily life and fierce combat her crew faced in the Pacific during World War II. She was the most decorated US Battleship of WWII with 15 Battle Stars; Seeing action from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay, earning Battle Stars at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in between. She was dedicated on 29 April 1962 as the State’s memorial to its World War II veterans and the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during the war.

The USS North Carolina was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on June 13, 1940. During WWII the Japanese claimed to have sunk her 6 times, but she in fact lived on. She saw action at every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater, including the Battles of Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, Luzon (considered by historians as the greatest naval battle in history), Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  In the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in August of 1942, the Battleship’s anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier ENTERPRISE, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. By war’s end, she had become the most highly decorated American battleship of World War II, accumulating 15 battle stars. and she only lost 10 men!

From all across our Nation they came, young men who had grown up in the crucible of the Great Depression and now determined to serve their Country in its time of need. Most combat veterans remember their first firefight, their first shot. The first combat action of the USS North Carolina was about 8 minutes long. On 7 August 1942, she was the only battleship in the South Pacific, escorting the aircraft carriers Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp. The Americans struck first, sinking the Japanese carrier Ryujo. The Japanese counterattack came in the form of dive bombers and torpedo bombers, covered by fighters, striking at the Enterprise and the North Carolina. In an action eight-minutes long, the North Carolina shot down 14 enemy aircraft, with her antiaircraft gunners remaining at their posts despite the jarring detonations of seven near misses. One sailor was killed by strafing, but the North Carolina was undamaged. Her sheer volume of antiaircraft fire was so heavy it caused the officers of the Enterprise to ask, “Are you afire?”

USS North Carolina’s second engagement and first major battle occurred on August 24, 1942 when she spotted the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers. That battle was called the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, an unquestionable victory for America.

Affectionately known as “The Showboat”, without her brave, valiant and honorable souls, the “Showboat” would just be another ship; A footnote in the vast pages of history. It is because of their deeds and service to our nation, that “The Showboat”, USS North Carolina is more than just a ship. She is a living monument to their accomplishments and the ideals they represent. She is truly a shrine for a grateful nation to honor.

Concrete River Steamers of World War I, ca. 1921

Source: John B. Green Collection #380.2.b
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: Seen in the photograph above are four, unnamed, concrete-hulled river steamers at the Newport Shipping Corporation shipyard, in New Bern, North Carolina. They are obviously incomplete and unnamed. Built to solve the desperate shortage of steel for shipping during World War I, they were just one of the many innovations, from flame-throwers to tanks to aerial warfare, inspired by the “War to End All Wars”. During the first World War, steel had become so scarce that the U. S. Shipping Corporation which controlled all American shipping during the war, recommended that President Woodrow Wilson approve the construction of 24 such concrete ships. Of the 24, only 12 were built, at a total cost of $50 million. The Newport Shipbuilding Corporation of New Bern, NC was one of the companies selected to build the ships. Not one of the ships was finished in time to contribute to the war effort and were launched only in 1921, just when a huge surplus of now-unneeded shipping was beginning to flood the market. By the time the ships were completed, the war was already long over and the nation was still mired in a deep postwar recession. Just what happened to the ships built in New Bern is a matter of some conjecture. Most of the others sank or were converted to other purposes such as breakwaters, hotels, and fishing piers. It is unclear what happened to some of them. Please contact the author if you know the present location of any of the New Bern built concrete ships.

John L. Porter Naval Architectural Notebook

Source: John Luke Porter Papers (#850)

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin


John L. Porter (1813-1893) constructed naval ships in Portsmouth, Virginia, prior to the Civil War. After the secession of the Confederate States, he served at the Gosport (Portmouth, Virginia) Naval Yard for the Confederate Navy.  Mr. Porter recorded in this notebook (starting on page 164) the details of the conversion of the USS Merrimac to the CSS Virginia (1861-1862). Further on in the notebook (pg 233) he relates the sad story of his house being confiscated after the Civil War and sold for $700.00. To find out more information, ask for John Luke Porter Papers (#850).

Aerial View of Barbour Boat Works, Inc.

Source:  Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records

Staff Person:  Dale Sauter

Description:  This image offers a nice view of the Barbour Boat Works factory in New Bern, North Carolina.  The business ended in the mid-1980s.  Included in the Barbour Boat Works, Inc. Records are important ship drawings, correspondence and photos.  We plan to add descriptions of all photos in this collection very soon.  Check the finding aid at the following link for future updates.

U. S. Army Provost Marshal’s Office Pass No. 11382 (1863)

Source: Shirley Kilpatrick Collection #10.1.d.

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo

Description: U. S. Army Provost Marshal’s Office Pass No. 11382 was issued in Union-occupied New Orleans on 4 February 1863.  It allowed John A. Miltz of New Orleans to travel from New Orleans to New York on the Steamer EMPIRE CITY.  It is accompanied by Miltz’s oath of allegiance as a U. S. citizen dated 8 October 1862 and his certificate of citizenship filed in a New York court on 12 October 1868.   A search of both Confederate and Union Civil War records has revealed a tale of complex and divided loyalties.   John A. Miltz, it seems, served in both Confederate and Union units in Louisiana during the Civil War.  The records even reveal the possibility that Miltz may have been serving on both sides at the same time.   John Miltz enlisted first on the Confederate side in Company B, of the 4th Louisiana Infantry on 25 May 1861.   However, he was also listed as serving as a private in Company I of the Chalmette Regiment, Louisiana Militia, between March and May of 1862 when he might have been on leave from the 4th Louisiana Infantry.   He was again serving with the 4th Louisiana Infantry when he was captured at Baton Rouge, Louisisan on 5 August 1862 and appears on a list of Confederate prisoners held on the U. S.  prison ship ALGERINE on 5 October 1862.  After signing his oath of citizenship, on 8 October 1862, he was apparently released.  However, it appears that he then reenlisted as John Metz, again on the Confederate side  but this time in  Company F of the 20th Louisiana Infantry Regiment.  This unit had been formed in February 1862 but in December of 1862 it was consolidated with the 13th Regiment due to severe losses it suffered at the Battle of Shiloh.  It then suffered very heavy casualties at the Battle of Chickamauga and by December 1863 had lost 43% of its strength.  Whether because of the hard fighting or some other reasons, Miltz then left the 13/20th soon after.  It was at this point that he obtained his pass to leave New Orleans and travel to New York.   By October 1864, however, he had returned to Louisiana and had enlisted on the Union side in the 1st Louisiana Cavalry Regiment.  He served in Companies E., C. & H. under a variety of names, including John Maltz, John Matz, John Meltz, or John Metz (but not John Miltz).  He then appears on the roster of the 2nd Louisiana Cavalry Regiment (Union), which was organized in New Orleans in November 1863.  He again registered variously as John Maltz, John Matz, John Meltz, or John Metz.  Starting as a private he eventually gained promotion to corporal.  Apparently, he enjoyed his service with the Union forces better than he had the Confederate side for after the war he returned to New York where he obtained his U. S. Citizenship.  How these documents found their way into the Kilpatrick Collection remains a mystery.

USS LACKAWANNA Cabinet Card (1882)

Source: Preliminary Inventory of the Albert Parker Niblack Collection, 1876-1942; East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1080

Postcard, depicting officers of the U.S.S. LACKAWANNA

Postcard, depicting officers of the U.S.S. LACKAWANNA

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo


 This 1882 cabinet card shows portraits of 17 officers inset around a photograph of their ship, the USS LACKAWANNA. Captain Henry Wilson is featured in the center of the top row between his higher ranking subordinates. The lower ranking officers are in the lower rows. The lowest ranking, most junior officer in the view is Ensign Alfred Parker Niblack, Naval Academy Class of 1880, who appears at the extreme right of the bottom row in civilian dress. It was his first assignment after graduating.

Niblack (1858-1929) was born in Vincennes, Indiana and was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1876. He graduated in 1880 and was immediately posted to the LACKAWANNA and served there for two years. Niblack quickly made a name for himself in the Navy for his initiative, resourcefulness, diplomatic skills, and tactical and navigating skills. In 1887, while still an ensign, Niblack commanded the small 23-ton launch USS COSMO, which was being towed by the USS PATTERSON to Alaska. In weather so severe that at least one other large ship sank, COSMO‘s two lines parted and Niblack was forced to sail his newly built and badly leaking boat several hundred miles to Astoria, Oregon. Despite the fact that the storm caused much damage to the boat and 5 of the 7 crewmen were seasick much of the time, Niblack brought his command and crew home safely to port.

In later years, Niblack served on many ships and held several shore posts including the Smithsonian Institution, the Bureau of Navigation, and a tour in the Office of Naval Intelligence. He published numerous works on naval engineering, navigation, and tactics. He won his first significant command, USS IROQUOIS, in 1904, and subsequently commanded numerous other ships including USS HARTFORD and USS OLYMPIA. He was naval attache to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany and The Netherlands, and served as a member of the General Board of the Navy. He saw significant action in the Battle of Manila in the Spanish American war in 1899 and the Occupation of Vera Cruz Mexico in 1914.

In World War I, Niblack commanded Division 1 of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with USS ALABAMA (BB-8) as his flagship. While in European waters, he was promoted to Rear Admiral in August 1917. In October he took command of Squadron 2, Patrol Force, and served in this post through the Armistice. In March 1919 he became Director of Naval Intelligence and U.S. Naval Attache in London in August 1920. As Vice Admiral he commanded all U.S. Naval Forces in European waters from January 1921 to June 1922. After commanding the 6th Naval District at Charleston, S.C. for a year, Niblack retired in July 1923 and retired to the South of France. He died at Monte Carlo, Monaco on 20 August 1929. In 1940, the destroyer USS NIBLACK (DD-424) was named in honor of Vice Admiral Niblack, sponsored by his widow.

Made by Reiman & Co., of San Francisco, California this cabinet card is fairly typical of the genre. By 1882 cabinet cards like these had supplanted the smaller cartes de visites that had been popular in the 1860s and 1870s. They were acquired as souvenirs, and collected or traded like baseball cards. Cabinet cards remained popular into the early twentieth century, when home photograpy became economical. This cabinet card is one of several in the Albert Parker Niblack Papers (#1080).

The LACKAWANNA was veteran of the Civil War. Named for a river in Pennsylvania LACKAWANNA was launched by the New York Navy Yard in August 1862. A screw sloop-of-war she joined the Union blockade of the southern coast of the Confederacy, principally off Mobile Bay until the war ended. LACKAWANNA captured several Confederate blockade runners during the war. She also participated in Admiral Farragut’s conquest of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. In 1866, LACKAWANNA was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet and operated in the Pacific, in Hawaii, along the coast of California and Mexico, and in the Far East until she was finally decommissioned at Mare Island 7 April 1885.

You may access the finding aid to the Alfred Parker Niblack Papers at:

Click on the image to view an enlarged version.

Japanese Surrender Photograph, 2 September 1945


Japanese Surrender, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay 2 September 1945

Japanese Surrender, U.S.S. Missouri, Tokyo Bay 2 September 1945

Source: Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #35

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo


The photograph below is one of the most famous in any of our collections. It shows Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) signing the Instrument of Surrender on board the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during the formal ceremony ending World War II. Standing behind him are representatives of the victorious Allied Powers including General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who had already signed the Instrument of Surrender as Supreme Allied Commander. Standing to MacArthur’s immediate left are Admirals William F. Halsey, Commander, Third Fleet, and Forrest Sherman, Deputy Chief of Staff to Admiral Nimitz. What makes this print special is that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz autographed it for his Air Force friend and comrade, Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. He then added in the bottom margin the following sentiment:

    “To Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., USAF – with best wishes and great appreciation for your contribution to the war effort that made possible this above scene. C. W. Nimitz – Fleet Admiral.”

Admiral Nimitz is perhaps the most illustrious naval commander in American history. He had taken command of all American naval forces in the Pacific in December 1941 just after Pearl Harbor when the United States was at its lowest point. As Commander-in-Chief U. S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) he led the Navy in many desperate battles with the Japanese Navy, achieving success after success until final victory was won. In recognition of his accomplishment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted Nimitz to Fleet Admiral in December 1944 the day after Congress created the rank.

Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. (1902-1969) had commanded the 315th Bomb Wing, based in Guam, from April to August 1945. Previously, he had helped organize and lead the first successful American bombing campaign against Germany from 1941 to 1943. His experiences there became the basis of Sy Bartlett Beirne Lay Jr.’s novel, film, and TV series Twelve O’clock High. He is credited with having commanded and flown on both the first and the last American bombing missions of World War II. The photograph is from his papers housed in Joyner Library’s Special Collections Department.

Following the war Nimitz served a term as Chief of Naval Operations until retiring from active service in 1947. At the time of his death, he was the nation’s last surviving fleet admiral.Armstrong remained in the Air Force and rose to become a Lieutenant General and commander of the Alaskan Air Command. He retired in 1962. His son, Frank A. Armstrong, III, also became an Air Force officer and was killed in action during the Vietnam War.Source: Japanese Surrender Photograph (2 September 1945) Tokyo, Japan. Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers #35.17.gYou may access the finding aid to the Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. Papers at

Click on the image itself to see an enlarged version.

HMS Bucton Castle

Source: A.M. Handley Journal, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Pen and ink sketch of the H.M.S. Bucton Castle.

Staff Person: Jon Dembo

Attached is a pen and ink sketch of the HMS BUCTON CASTLE, a three-masted sailing ship. It was drawn on the inside front cover of his journal by one of her passengers, Capt. A. M. Handley. An officer in the British 19th Infantry Regiment, Handley was traveling to India to join his unit and help reestablish order after the recently suppressed Indian Mutiny (1857). He kept his journal to occupy his time sailing from Gravesend, England to Calcutta. He certainly had plenty of time to occupy for the voyage took a total of 160 days from January to June 1859. That may explain the extreme pains Handley took to number and name all the sails, masts and decks on this small pen and ink sketch. The original closely written 136-page journal measures only 9 mm by 15 mm.

In his journal Handley recorded his day to day observations of life aboard the BUCTON CASTLE, including descriptions of the personalities on board, shipboard routine, the ship’s time-keeping system, and a meeting with the whaling ship Isabella. There was much to surprise him. The following excerpt is from his first day aboard ship:

    “3 o’clock. Ship just towed into harbour; went on board immediately & to our immense surprise were told by the captain that if he had not had to wait for us, he would not have anchored at all at Gravesend. All passengers on board except ourselves. Finally embarked at ½ past 10 o’clock, same night. Too late to put up berths & so slept on the ground. Had not been in bed long before a baby in the next cabin began to cry & simultaneously a loud “mew” in the cabin made us aware that we had a cat shut up in it, with us. When the baby stopped the cat began, & between the two sleep was impossible. Thus [I] passed the first night on board.”

After a while he became more used to the routine and was able to remark:

    “Tea at 6. Grog at 8 and bed at 10.”

Anyone who has been irritated by modern travel — the discomfort, expense, delay, unpleasant fellow travelers and surly employees — may sympathize with Handley who endured this and more for more than six months. And without email or web access.

On April 1st 1859 Handley commented:

    “All Fools Day, especially dedicated I should think to those who are fools enough to go to Calcutta round the Cape when they had the chance of going overland.”

If anyone has any questions, or would like to see the actual journal, it is available to the public in the Special Collections Department search room.

Source: A. M. Handley Journal, pp. 1-2, 4, 44-45. (East Carolina Manuscript Collection #1064.1.a).

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

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