American Forces Occupy Veracruz, Mexico, 21 April 1914

USS PRAIRIE (AD-5) at the Battle of Veracruz, Mexico, 21 April 1914.

Source: John B. Green Collection #380.1.a
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: This early combat photograph taken by an American sailor shows the first of approximately 2,300 sailors and marines from the South Atlantic Fleet and the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment landing at Veracruz, Mexico in the predawn hours of 21 April 1914. Two other marine regiments eventually arrived to support the attack. The American goal was to take possession of the port and to prevent a shipment of weapons from reaching Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta. The weapons were due to arrive that morning from Germany. The crisis had begun several weeks previously when the Mexican government had arrested 9 American sailors for entering an off-limit area in Tampico, Tamaulipas. American President Woodrow Wilson, who had earlier helped Huerta seize power, broke with him over the incident and had shifted his support to Huerta’s rival Venustiano Carranza. The caption on the photograph indicates that this particular group of Americans was from the troopship USS PRAIRIE (AD-5). The PRAIRIE, originally the Morgan Steamship Line passenger ship SS EL SOL, had been built in 1890 by William Cramp and Sons, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The United States Navy purchased her on 6 April 1898 from the Southern Pacific Company, and commissioned her as the auxiliary cruiser USS PRAIRIE. The Navy later converted her to a training ship and by 1914 she was serving as a troop transport. The initial landings went smoothly but by afternoon of the 21st sharp fighting had broken out and losses mounted on both sides. Supported by heavy fire from the ships of the Atlantic Fleet, however, the Americans quickly silenced the outnumbered and outgunned Mexicans. American losses were 22 killed and 70 wounded out of a total force of 2,300 sailors and marines; the Mexicans were almost totally annihilated. The Mexicans lost between 150 and 170 killed and between 195 and 250 wounded from a force that amounted to only about 200 soldiers. An unknown number of Mexicans civilians spontaneously volunteered to defend the town and also became casualties. The American occupation of Veracruz continued until 23 November 1914, when a coalition of South American countries – Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (the ABC Powers) — negotiated an end to the dispute. After the occupation ended, the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, the well-known publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer and a future Ambassador to Mexico, ordered that 56 Congressional Medals of Honor be awarded to Americans who served in the action, the most Congressional Medals of Honor ever to be awarded in a single battle. Ironically, the weapons the Americans had been sent to prevent the Germans from landing, were originally from the Remington Arms Company, an American firm.

A ship’s monkey?

This week’s staff pick is from the Clarence Leroy Shuping Papers collection (Manuscript Collection #553).

One of the donors of this collection, Hampton Shuping, is also featured prominently in the collection.  He was the second oldest of Clarence’s three sons, and he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  This photograph was taken by Hampton Shuping while on Leyte island in the Philippines.

Photograph of a kitten with a monkey, aboard ship

Front of photograph

Back of kitten and monkey photograph

Back of photograph

The ship in the background is most likely the USS LCI(L)-343 or the US 498.

As can be seen on the back, the photograph is dated October 17, 1945, nearly a year after the Leyte D-Day on October 20, 1944.

Of course, the interesting element of this photograph is the fact that there is nary a sailor in sight.  Instead, there is a kitten with a monkey!  Now, I have heard of the tradition of having a ship’s cat before, but this is the first time that I have ever seen a cat and monkey together aboard a naval ship.

If you’re interested in seeing other historical photos of cats (and a few dogs, too) in Naval Service (including one image of the Marine Nationale), check out this excellent post on the U.S. Naval Institute website entitled “Cats in the Sea Services“.

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.