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Robert C. Giffen Papers, 1905-1990 (bulk 1905-1945): Finding Aid

Published in November 2015

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 427
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Robert C. Giffen Papers
  • Dates: 1905-1990
  • Bulk Dates: 1905-1945
  • Size: 7.59 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 6 manuscript boxes, 3 flat boxes, 1 oversize folder
  • Creator: Giffen, Robert C. (Robert Carlisle), 1886-1962
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Robert Carlisle Giffen was an admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1907. The Giffen Papers focus primarily on Vice Admiral Giffen's service in the United States Navy during World War II, with lesser amounts of documentation pertaining to his service in World War I, with the Asiatic Fleet in China, and with the Great White Fleet.

Biography of Robert Carlisle Giffen

Robert Carlisle Giffen was born on June 29, 1886 to Robert E. and Mary (Musser) Giffen in West Chester, Pennsylvania. After attending Chicago's De La Salle Institute, Giffen initially enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, before being appointed from Nebraska in 1903 to the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1907. Following his completion of the four-year academic course at the Naval Academy, Giffen was attached to U.S.S. Virginia (Battleship: BB-13), thus taking part in the cruise of the Great White Fleet.

Following his detachment from U.S.S. Virginia in May 1909, Giffen served aboard U.S.S. Severn (Bark), U.S.S. St. Louis (Protected Cruiser: C-20), U.S.S. Princeton (Gunboat: PG-13), U.S.S. Hartford (Sloop-of-war), U.S.S. Nebraska (Battleship: BB-14), U.S.S. Wisconsin (Battleship: BB-9), U.S.S. Idaho (Battleship: BB-24), and U.S.S. Rhode Island (Battleship: BB-17), after all of which he was assigned to the Washington Navy Yard in September 1913. In September 1915, he was assigned to the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden, New Jersey, where the destroyer U.S.S. Wainwright (Destroyer: DD-62) was fitting out.

In January 1917, Giffen received command of U.S.S. Trippe (Destroyer: DD-33), operating out of Queenstown, Ireland. There, Trippe was tasked with patrol duties and convoy escort duties for the remainder of World War I. After the War, Giffen returned to the United States to oversee the fitting out of U.S.S. Schley (Destroyer: DD-103), taking command of her upon her commissioning on September 20, 1918.

Giffen alternated between sea and shore duties throughout most of the 1920's and 1930's, during which time he served two tours at the Naval Academy, from August 1924 to June 1927 in the Executive Department, and from June 1934 to August 1937 as the Director of Athletics. During this time period, Giffen also served in the Asiatic Squadron as Commanding Officer of U.S.S. Sacramento (Gunboat: PG-19) from June 1927 until August 1928, and as Commander Destroyer Squadron 45 from August 1928 until September 1929.

On March 29, 1941, Giffen received command of Cruiser Destroyer Division 7 with the rank of Rear Admiral. Initially operating out of Iceland while overseeing the North Atlantic Neutrality Patrol, he received command of the U.S. Navy forces working with the British Home Fleet to cover convoys to Europe and Russia following America's entry into World War II. In November 1942, Admiral Giffen participated in the naval support of Operation Torch for the occupation of French Morocco, after which he was transferred to the Pacific Theater where he commanded task forces in operations against Guadalcanal, Makin Atoll, Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, as well as for the retaking of Kiska in the Aleutians. On March 30, 1944, Giffen was promoted to Vice Admiral, and was subsequently appointed Commander Tenth Naval District out of San Juan, Puerto Rico and Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier on May 14. On August 26, 1945, he received his last wartime command as Commander Service Force for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

In April 1946, Vice Admiral Giffen was relieved of active duty and was subsequently placed on the Retired List as of September 1, 1946. Following his retirement, Admiral Giffen returned to Annapolis, where he owned and operated MasQue Farm. Robert Carlisle Giffen died on December 10, 1962 in Annapolis, Maryland, and was survived by his widow, Elsie Hodgman Giffen and his children, Mary Giffen Miller and Captain Robert C. Giffen, Jr., USN (Ret.).

Throughout his Navy career, Vice Admiral Giffen was awarded the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star, Legion of Merit with Combat "V," Expert Rifleman Medal, Expert Pistol Medal, World War I Victory Medal with Destroyer Clasp, Yangtze Service Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, European-African-Middle Eastern Area Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. Giffen was also awarded the Order of Suvorov, Second Degree by the Soviet Union and the Order of the British Empire by Great Britain.

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Description of Contents

The Robert C. Giffen Papers, comprising 7.59 linear feet of documentation, span from 1905 to 1980, with a majority of the documentation ceasing in 1945. The papers focus primarily on Vice Admiral Giffen's service in the United States Navy during World War II, with lesser amounts of documentation pertaining to his service in World War I, with the Asiatic Fleet in China, and with the Great White Fleet.

The collection consists of action reports, war diaries, photographs, postcards, albums, memoranda, clippings, charts, cruise books, publications, phonograph records, a journal, and a scrapbook.

The Robert C. Giffen Papers are organized into two records series by document type. Series 1: General Files is composed of textual documents, as well as two audio recordings. The series spans Giffen's entire U.S. Navy career, from his time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy through his service as a cruiser division commander in World War II, but focuses heavily on Giffen's World War II experiences. The series also touches briefly upon Giffen Family history and Giffen's life in retirement. Series 2: Photographs focuses primarily on two periods of Giffen's naval career. The postcards are primarily the product of Giffen's two years with the Great White Fleet, depicting both notable scenes from ports of call and the American squadrons at anchor in those ports. The photographic prints and albums in the series are primarily the product of Giffen's service in World War II, especially his convoy duties and the inspection of the British and American fleets by King George VI of England. One album, however, is the product of Giffen's service aboard U.S.S. Sacramento during the 1920's, and another is the product of the U.S. Navy service of his son, Robert C. Giffen, Jr., United States Naval Academy Class of 1938.

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The Robert C. Giffen Papers are organized into the following two series:

  • Series 1: General Files, 1917-1990
  • Series 2: Photographs, 1905-1960
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Access and Use


Access to any potentially classified material is restricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Robert C. Giffen Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Phonographic records in Series 1 require the use of a record player for playback.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Robert C. Giffen, Jr. in October 1994 and Robert C. Giffen, III in August 2013. Accession Nos. 94-63 and 15-02.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Vice Admiral Robert C. Giffen may be found in his Alumni Jacket and Midshipman Personnel Jacket at Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Robert C. Giffen Papers, MS 427

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in November 2015. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in November 2015.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Bexar (Attack transport : APA-237)
  • Bismarck (Battleship)
  • Fairbanks, Douglas, Jr., 1909-2000
  • George VI, King of Great Britain, 1895-1952
  • Giffen, Robert C. (Robert Carlisle), 1886-1962
  • Giffen, Robert C. (Robert Carlisle), 1915-2003
  • Guadalcanal, Battle of, Solomon Islands, 1942-1943
  • Guangzhou (China) -- History
  • Kwajalein Atoll, Battle of, Marshall Islands, 1944
  • Naval Convoys -- Atlantic Ocean -- History -- World War, 1939-1945
  • Naval convoys -- Arctic Ocean -- History -- World War, 1939-1945
  • Operation Torch, 1942
  • Sacramento (Gunboat : PG-19)
  • Trippe (Destroyer : DD-33)
  • United States Naval Academy -- History -- 20th century
  • United States Naval Academy -- Students
  • United States. Navy -- Cruise, 1907-1909
  • Wichita (Heavy cruiser : CA-45)
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Naval operations, American
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Africa, North
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Alaska -- Aleutian Islands
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Caroline Islands
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American

Genre Terms

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Journals (accounts)
  • Manuscripts
  • Nautical charts
  • Orders (military records)
  • Phonograph records
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Reports
  • Scrapbooks
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Contents List

Series 1: General Files, 1917-1990 Boxes 1-5, 7[OS], MSOS

Series Description

Documentation of Giffen's career in the United States Navy, as well as material on Giffen's family history. The overwhelming majority of the documents pertain to Giffen's role as a cruiser division/task force commander in World War II, including operations at Casablanca, Kiska, Kwajalein, Truk, Guadalcanal, and on convoy duty in the Arctic and North Atlantic. To a lesser extent, the materials cover Giffen's time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, his service in British waters during World War I, and his service in Chinese waters during the Guangzhou Uprising. Included in the series are action reports, war diaries, memoranda, cruise books, handwritten notes, audio recordings, clippings, orders, charts, a journal, a scrapbook, and sheet music and lyrics.

Much of the World War II period material was produced aboard Admiral Giffen's frequent flagship, U.S.S. Wichita (Heavy cruiser: CA-45), including one document produced by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Series Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by document type.

Box 1 Folder 1

Action Reports - No. 1: Participation in Operation "Torch"; Action off Casablanca, French Morocco, November 8, 1942, 1942 November 19

Operations of Task Force Thirty Four (TF-34).

Box 1 Folder 2

Action Reports - No. 1A: Casablanca Action Reports, 1942 November

Operation Torch reports from U.S.S. Wichita, Massachusetts, Tuscaloosa, Mayrant, and Jennings.

Box 1 Folder 3

Action Reports - No. 2: Action Reports TF-18 29-30 January 1943, 1943 February

Battle of Rennell Island, including loss of U.S.S. Chicago.

Box 1 Folder 4

Action Reports - No. 2A: Report of Action 12-13 November 1942, 1942 December-1943 January

Task Force Sixty Seven (TF-67) operations in the Third Battle of Savo Island and Reinforcement of Guadalcanal.

Box 1 Folder 5

Action Reports - No. 3: Bombardment of Kiska 22 July 1943, 1943 July-August

Bombardment of Japanese installations by Task Group 16.21.

Box 1 Folder 6

Action Reports - No. 4: Night Action 25-26 July 1943, 1943 July-August

Task Group 16.7 operations in vicinity of Kiska.

Box 1 Folder 7

Action Reports - No. 4A: The Mysterious Withdrawal from Kiska, undated

Narrative of the Japanese withdrawal by Masataka Chihaya.

Box 1 Folder 8

Action Reports - No. 5: Reports of Action During Operations for the Assault and Occupation of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands 22 January-16 February 1944, 1944 January-February

Bombardment of Kwajalein during Operation Flintlock.

Box 2 Folder 1-2

Action Reports - No. 5: Reports of Action During Operations for the Assault and Occupation of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands 22 January-16 February 1944, 1944 January-February

Bombardment of Kwajalein during Operation Flintlock.

Box 7[OS] Folder 1

Action Reports - No. 5: Reports of Action During Operations for the Assault and Occupation of Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands 22 January-16 February 1944, 1944 January-February

Box 2 Folder 3

Action Reports - No. 6: Truk Air Strikes 16-17 February 1944, 1944 February

Box 2 Folder 4

Action Reports - No. 7: Action Report - Night of 21-22 February 1944, 1944 February

Air strikes on Tinian and Saipan.

Box 2 Folder 5

Awards - Navy Expeditionary Medal, 1927-1935

Petition for award for service aboard U.S.S. Sacramento during the Guangzhou Uprising (Canton).

Box 2 Folder 6

Awards - Order of the British Empire, 1949

Box 2 Folder 7

Biographical and Genealogical Materials, undated

Notes, newspaper clipping transcripts, and a Naval Academy research paper entitled "A Cowboy at Sea."

Box 7[OS] Folder 2

Biographical and Genealogical Materials, undated

Newspaper articles entitled "Salt of the Earth," about Giffen's farm in Annapolis.

Box 2 Folder 8

Brief Summary of Tour as CCD-7 and 6, undated

Summary of transfers and commands from March 1941 through April 1944.

Box 2 Folder 9

Clippings and Publications, 1927-1980, undated

Publications on the World War I Queenstown Patrol, the Battle of Britain, the United States Naval Academy Class of 1907, and military songs and poems. Includes a copy of "Anchors Aweigh."

Box 7[OS] Folder 3

Clippings and Publications, 1942 July 27

Life issue focusing on the Atlantic Convoys of World War II, and Giffen's role therein.

Box 2 Folder 10

Cruise Book - U.S.S. Massachusetts, 1945

Box 2 Folder 11

Cruise Book - U.S.S. Wichita, 1945 (approximate)

Box 3 Folder 1

Ephemera, 1923-1924

Dinner menu, a sketch of Elsie Giffen, and a poem entitled "The Pantless Gunner of the Panay."

Box 3 Folder 2

Intelligence Report - Sinking of the Bismarck, 1941 July

Box 3 Folder 3

Journal - U.S.S. Trippe, 1917-1918

Kept during convoy and patrol duty between Queenstown, Ireland and France.

Box 3 Folder 4

Memorandum for Admiral Johnson, 1934 May

Recollections of Giffen's command of U.S.S. Trippe on the Queenstown patrol during World War I.

Box 3 Folder 5

Narrative Account of the Operations of Cruiser Covering Force, 1942 June-July, 1990

Full title reads: A Narrative Account of the Operations of CRUISER COVERING FORCE, HOME FLEET, Designated to Cover the Passage of the Russian Convoys, "PQ 17" And "QP 13", Through The Greenland And Barents Seas. Written by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr aboard U.S.S. Wichita. Includes a 1990 newspaper clipping on Fairbanks.

Box 3 Folder 6

Orders, 1940 September-1944 April

Box 6 Folder 40

Phonograph Record - Action of the U.S.S. Massachusetts Casablanca 1942, 1958

Broadcast by Cedric Foster for the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Box 6 Folder 41

Phonograph Record - Address by Admiral Giffen on Anniversary Broadcast from Coast Guard Base San Juan, Puerto Rico, undated

Box 7[OS] Folder 4

Scrapbook, 1903-1905

Reconstruction of the Naval Academy, Naval Academy athletics, summer practice cruises, hops and dances, gunnery instruction, the boxing death of Midshipman James R. Branch at the hands of Midshipman Minor Meriwether.

Box 3 Folder 7

Task Force 99/Home Fleet Documents - Miscellaneous, 1942

Includes dispatches, a copy of the U.S.S. Wichita's ship's paper, a document on German Army leadership, and a narrative of the sinking of the freighter Empire Wave.

Box 3 Folder 8

Tracking Charts, 1943

Charts for Aleutian Islands patrols.

Drawer MSOS Folder 1

Tracking Charts, 1943-1944

Charts for strikes against Palau-Yap-Woleai, Truk, Kwajalein, the Marshall Islands, and the Gilbert Islands.

Box 3 Folder 9

Visit of His Majesty King George VI on June 7, 1942 June

Itinerary, clippings, and press release from the King's visit aboard Admiral Giffen's flagship.

Box 3 Folder 10

War Diary, 1941 March-1942 August

Kept aboard U.S.S. Washington. Covers neutrality patrols between Bermuda and Iceland; and Task Force 99 operations with the British Home Fleet out of Scapa Flow.

Box 4 Folder 1

War Diary, 1942 March-December

Cruiser Division Seven, kept aboard U.S.S. Washington, U.S.S. Wichita, and U.S.S. Massachusetts. Covers Task Force 99 operations with the British Home Fleet out of Scapa Flow and Iceland; refitting, tests, and drills off New England; troop convoy and fire support operations for Operation Torch with Task Group 34.1; and Task Force 32 operations in the Pacific.

Box 4 Folder 2

War Diary, 1943 January-December

Kept aboard U.S.S. Wichita and U.S.S. Minneapolis. Covers Task Force 18 operations in the Guadalcanal Campaign, including the Battle of Rennell Island; Task Force 19 operations in the New Hebrides; Task Group 16.14 and 16.7 operations in the Western Aleutians, including the assault on Attu, patrols on the "seal-blubber line," and bombardment of Kiska; and Task Group 52.2 operations during the Battle of Tarawa (Operation Galvanic).

Box 4 Folder 3-7

War Diary (Photocopy), 1943 January-December

Box 5 Folder 1

War Diary, 1944 January-April

Cruiser Division Six, kept aboard U.S.S. Wichita and U.S.S. Minneapolis. Covers Task Group 52.8 operations against Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands Campaign (Operation Flintlock); Task Unit 58.3.2 operations against Truk (Operation Hailstone) and against Saipan, Tinian, and Guam; Task Unit 58.2.2 operations in support of the assault on Palau; and Giffen's transfer to the Tenth Naval District as Commandant.

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Series 2: Photographs, 1905-1960 Boxes 5-9[OS]

Series Description

Photographic prints, photograph albums, and postcards depicting events, activities, and locations from throughout Giffen's naval career. The photographs and albums are primarily the product of Giffen's service during World War II, depicting convoy operations, storms in Iceland, King George VI's visit to the fleet at Scapa Flow, and the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. One earlier album focuses on Giffen's tour with the Asiatic Squadron, including the Guangzhou Uprising. The picture postcards are largely the product of Giffen's two years with the Great White Fleet, largely depicting various ports of call in Europe, Australia, North Africa, and the South Pacific.

Included among the photographs and albums are official and informal portraits of Giffen.

One photograph album is the product of Giffen's son, Captain Robert Carlisle Giffen, Jr., depicting the operations of U.S.S. Bexar during that ship's mission to deliver Indonesian troops to the Congo in 1960.

Series Arrangement

Arranged by type, thereunder alphabetically by topic.

Box 7[OS] Folder 5

Album - CRUDIV 6 "The Alley-Cat Division" U.S. Fleet: Old Tom Goes Home March 1941 to April 1944, 1941-1944

Includes portraits of Giffen and his staff, as well as several cartoons.

Box 5 Folder 2

Album - Hurricane Winds in Hvalfjordur, Iceland, 1942 January

Damage incurred by U.S.S. Wichita and the rest of Admiral Giffen's Task Force.

Box 9[OS]

Album - Iceland and Convoy Operations, 1941-1942

U.S. Navy operations and facilities in Iceland before and shortly after America's entry into World War II, as well as convoy and aerial operations with the British Home Fleet.

Box 8[OS] Folder 1

Album - R. C. Giffen, Vice Admiral, U.S.N., 1932-1953

Includes portraits of Giffen, portraits of the Naval Academy Class of 1907, images from World War II, and events in Puerto Rico.

Box 5 Folder 3-5

Album - U.S.S. Bexar, 1960

World tour and delivery of United Nations Indonesian troops to the Congo, under the command of Robert C. Giffen, Jr.

Box 8[OS] Folder 2

Album - U.S.S. Sacramento, 1927 (approximate)

Operations with the Asiatic Squadron in China, including the Guangzhou Uprising.

Box 5 Folder 6

Prints - Aerial View, 1943 (approximate)

Image likely of Giffen's farm in Annapolis.

Box 5 Folder 7

Prints - Birthday Celebration, undated

Box 5 Folder 8

Prints - Convoy Operations in North Atlantic, 1942 March

Box 5 Folder 9

Prints - Convoy Operations in North Atlantic, 1942 (approximate)

Box 7[OS] Folder 6

Prints - Convoy Operations in North Atlantic, 1942 (approximate)

Box 5 Folder 10

Prints - Distinguished Service Medal Ceremony, 1944 May 9

Box 6 Folder 1

Prints - Icelandic Facilities, 1941-1942

Navy recreational facilities.

Box 6 Folder 2

Prints - Portraits, 1917-1943, undated

Box 7[OS] Folder 7

Prints - Portraits, undated

Box 6 Folder 3

Prints - Ships, undated

Box 6 Folder 4

Prints - Sinking of the Bismarck, 1941 May 27

Box 6 Folder 5

Prints - Unidentified Event, 1942 September

Images feature Winston Churchill and Admirals Harold Stark and Ernest King.

Box 6 Folder 6

Prints - Unidentified Events, undated

Box 6 Folder 7-10

Prints - Visit of His Majesty King George to the Home Fleet, 1942 June

Box 6 Folder 11

Postcards - Algeria, 1918

Box 6 Folder 12

Postcards - Australia, 1908

Includes scenes of U.S. Navy vessels in Sydney.

Box 6 Folder 13

Postcards - Brazil, 1908

Box 6 Folder 14

Postcards - Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1908

Box 6 Folder 15

Postcards - China, 1908, undated

Box 6 Folder 16

Postcards - Comics, 1917, undated

Box 6 Folder 17

Postcards - Egypt, 1909

Box 6 Folder 18

Postcards - England, 1907

Box 6 Folder 19

Postcards - Hawaii, 1908

Box 6 Folder 20

Postcards - Honduras, 1908

Box 6 Folder 21

Postcards - Indonesia, 1923

Box 6 Folder 22

Postcards - Japan, 1908

Box 6 Folder 23

Postcards - Mexico, undated

Box 6 Folder 24

Postcards - Miscellaneous, 1908, 1955

Box 6 Folder 25

Postcards - Naval Scenes, 1905-1917, 1940

U.S. Navy vessels and naval ordnance.

Box 6 Folder 26

Postcards - New York, undated

Box 6 Folder 27

Postcards - New Zealand, 1908

Box 6 Folder 28

Postcards - Panama, undated

Box 6 Folder 29

Postcards - Perry Expedition, 1908, undated

Box 6 Folder 30

Postcards - Peru, 1908

Box 6 Folder 31

Postcards - Portugal, 1908

Box 6 Folder 32

Postcards - Puerto Rico, 1908, 1952

Box 6 Folder 33

Postcards - Saint Thomas, 1953, undated

Box 6 Folder 34

Postcards - Spain, 1909, 1923

Box 6 Folder 35

Postcards - Trinidad, 1907

Box 6 Folder 36

Postcards - Turkey, 1909

Box 6 Folder 37-38

Postcards - United States Naval Academy, 1905-1906, undated

Images feature Academy buildings and grounds, artillery and rifle drills, and Navy vessels visiting Annapolis.

Box 6 Folder 39

Postcards - Washington, 1908

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