Admiral FDR and his Good Neighbor Cruise in 1936
Admiral FDR and his Good Neighbor Cruise in 1936
I found several pages of very neat original Pre-WWII orders from the USS Indianapolis recently.
Yes, that USS Indianapolis.
As a young man named Francis wrote in this 1936 letter home to his mother on Election Night, “We have received word that the President will probably take a cruise on us to South America but the itinerary has not been published. Nothing is definite but in order not to be caught short we are making preparations.” Here is his very interesting letter. I especially love the part about how he took his (sister?) to the Penn State-Navy game and said, “Navy was beaten which is not unusual for them.”
He was correct about the President. On November 19, just two weeks after the letter, the young man’s ship, USS Indianapolis (CA-35) sailed from Charleston South Carolina. Aboard was her 629-man crew of officers, enlisted and marines, as well as one Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You see, if he had been born into any other family, FDR would have been a naval officer. As a young man, he kept a copy of Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power on History by his bedside and wrote several naval essays. During World War 1, he had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He was taking the Indy on a three week “Good Neighbor Cruise” to South America.
Here is the memorandum to the hands detailing the stops in Trinidad, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. It is signed at the bottom by the ship’s executive officer. This was Oscar Charles Badger II.
Badger came from a naval legacy; he was the grandson of Civil War Commodore Oscar C. Badger, and the son of WWI era Admiral Charles J. Badger. He lived up to this legacy and right out of Annapolis, he received the Medal of Honor while serving as an Ensign at Vera Cruz, Mexico, on April 21-22, 1914. After he left the Indy, he went on to command the new battleship USS North Carolina during the first years of World War 2. This led to his leadership of BATDIV7 (Battleship Division 7) by the end of the war. He retired a full Admiral.
FDR was no stranger to the Indy. In 1934, she served as the viewing platform for the Naval Review off New York City in which the President enjoyed the new fleet with his old boss, WWI Secretary of the Navy Joe Daniels. NH 968 above shows, “President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center) Enjoys a joke with Ambassador to Mexico (and former Secretary of the Navy) Josephus Daniels, at right, and Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson, during the fleet review off New York City, 31 May 1934. They are standing immediately in front of the second eight-inch gun turret of USS Indianapolis (CA-35). U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
On the way to South America in 1936, they crossed the equator and held, in time honored tradition, the Court of Davy Jones etc. to inspect and judge all of the pollywogs crossing the line, passing judgment upon each.
It is quite interesting reading and I have the scans here:
The young ensign who signed on the last page was none other than John Duncan Bulkeley. This young man would go on to become a Vice Admiral in United States Navy and was one of the most decorated naval officers of World War 2. As skipper of a PT boat in the “They Were Expendable” plywood navy, he evacuated General Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor in the Philippines in 1942. He later led torpedo boats and minesweepers in clearing the lanes to Utah Beach in Normandy and fought a pitched battle with a pair of German corvettes during the Dragoon landings. This forgotten action was the Battle of La Ciotat and Bulkeley sent to German ships to Davey Jones locker while only suffering a single casualty. He, like OC Badger, was a MOH precipitant.
The President took part in the ceremonies as shown in these pictures from the Navy Historical Society.
Ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Henry Kent Hewitt, USN, (left), hears “Davy Jones” read the message from “King Neptune,” as the ship crosses the Equator in late November 1936. She was then conveying President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his party on a “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. Commander Oscar C. Badger is looking on, at right.”… (Captain Hewitt was a veteran of the old Great White Fleet and cut his teeth commanding the USS Eagle before winning the Navy Cross fighting the Kaisers U-boats in the Great War. After leaving Indy, he made flag rank and was the United States Navy commander of amphibious operations in north Africa and southern Europe through World War II including the Torch, Anvil, and Dragoon landings. He later chaired the Pearl Harbor investigation.)
James Roosevelt (center), son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Receives some of the punishment due a “Pollywog” at the hands of “Shellbacks,” during Neptune Ceremonies on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35), as she crosses the Equator in late November 1936. Indianapolis was then carrying the President and his party on a “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, collection of Rear Admiral Paul H. Bastedo, USN. (James at the time was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps and served his father as a military aide. In World War 2, he resigned his colonel’s commission, took one as a captain, and fought with the Marine Raiders (as XO under Carlson) at Makin Island, winning a Navy Cross.)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center) Pleads his case before the Royal Court of “Shellbacks” as his “defense attorney” listens intently at left, during Neptune Ceremonies on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35), as she crosses the Equator in late November 1936. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, collection of Rear Admiral Paul H. Bastedo, USN.
Scene in the ship’s pilothouse, late November 1936, as she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. Indianapolis’ Commanding Officer, Captain Henry Kent Hewitt, is seated in left center.
Sadly, the Indy had a very hard life during the coming world war, but in November 1936, she was the brightest ship in the fleet