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Robert R. Longwell Papers, 1911-1920 (bulk 1917-1920): Finding Aid

Published in October 2019

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 533
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Robert R. Longwell Papers
  • Dates: 1911-1920
  • Bulk Dates: 1917-1920
  • Size: 1.88 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box, 1 flat box
  • Creator: Longwell, Robert R., 1899-1990
  • Language(s) of material: English, German
  • Abstract: Robert R. Longwell was an electrician in the United States Navy. The Robert R. Longwell Papers span from 1911 until 1920, with a bulk of the material spanning from 1917 until 1920. The papers are primarily the product of Longwell's U.S. Navy service as an electrician aboard U.S.S. Minnesota (Battleship: BB-22) in the Chesapeake Bay during World War I and aboard the minesweeper U.S.S. Bobolink (Minesweeper: AM-20) in the North Sea immediately following World War I.

Biography of Robert R. Longwell

Robert Raymond Longwell, of Marion, Ohio, was born on January 21, 1899. After passing a physical examination on May 8, 1917 in Columbus, Ohio, Longwell enlisted in the United States Navy as an electrician the following day at Cincinnati. Following several months of duty in New York City, including duty aboard the former Norddeutscher Lloyd liner S.S. Friederich der Grosse, Longwell was assigned to U.S.S. Minnesota (Battleship: BB-22) in December 1917. Longwell remained aboard Minnesota for 15 months while she conducted training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay, and was aboard that vessel when she struck a mine in late September 1918. On April 2, 1919, he was attached to U.S.S. Bobolink (Minesweeper: AM-20), which was detailed to the North Sea Minesweeping Detachment. On May 14, 1919, while on minesweeping duty, Bobolink was severely damaged and her captain killed when a nearby mine detonated. While the Bobolink was under repairs at Devonport, Longwell was promoted to Chief Electrician on September 1, 1919. Longwell returned to the United States in January 1920 and was attached to U.S.S. Rail (Minesweeper: AM-26) soon thereafter. He was later discharged from the United State Navy on September 3, 1920. Following his discharge, Longwell graduated from Pratt Institute, which he had initially studied at while enlisted in the Navy at New York. Robert Raymond Longwell died on October 9, 1990.

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Description of Contents

The Robert R. Longwell Papers, comprising 1.88 linear feet of documentation, span from 1911 until 1920, with a bulk of the material spanning from 1917 until 1920. The papers are primarily the product of Longwell's U.S. Navy service as an electrician aboard U.S.S. Minnesota (Battleship: BB-22) in the Chesapeake Bay during World War I and aboard the minesweeper U.S.S. Bobolink (Minesweeper: AM-20) in the North Sea immediately following World War I.

Included in the collection are diaries, photographs, letters, newspapers, ephemera, a magazine, and a poem.

The centerpiece of Longwell Papers is Longwell's private diary, which he kept from the time of his enlistment in 1917 until he returned to Norfolk in 1920. After opening with Longwell's physical examination for enlistment in the U.S. Navy on May 8, 1917, the diary initially cover's Longwell's assignments in New York City until November 18, 1917. During this period, the diary discusses Longwell's watch and mess duties aboard S.S. Friederich der Grosse; a fire aboard S.S. Prinzess Irene (May 16); liberty in Manhattan, Newark, and East Orange; and instruction at Pratt Institute and the Navy Yard in physics, applied electricity, and armature winding. Following his initial duty in New York, the diary covers Longwell's assignment to Camp Farragut, Virginia from November 30 to December 4, 1917, while awaiting attachment to U.S.S. Minnesota (Battleship: BB-22).

From December 10, 1917 until March 22, 1919 the diary is the product of Longwell's duty aboard U.S.S. Minnesota while she was performing training cruises in the Chesapeake Bay and York River. During this period, the diary's entries note Longwell's assignment to the after dynamo room aboard the U.S.S. Minnesota; work as a search light, and later turret, electrician; drills and target practice; reports of German submarines off the U.S. East Coast (June 3-5, 1918); leaves home to Marion, Ohio; collision with a mine off the Delaware breakwater and subsequent repairs at Philadelphia (September 29, 1918); celebration of the Armistice; numerous shore leaves and attendance of night school at Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia; and rewiring the ship while in dry dock.

From April 2, 1919 until January 13, 1920, the diary covers Longwell's attachment to U.S.S. Bobolink of the North Sea Minesweeping Detachment. Entries cover Longwell's watch keeping while crossing the Atlantic from Boston to Scotland; arrival in and shore leave in Inverness (April 1919); commencement of mine sweeping off the Orkney Islands (May 5, 1919); the death of the Bobolink's Captain, LT Frank Bruce, from an exploding mine (May 14, 1919); repairs at Scapa Flow; further repairs at Devonport and liberty in Plymouth (June-November 1919); assignment to additional duty as log-room yeoman; collision with a sailing vessel at Lisbon (December 3, 1919); and departure for the United States via Bermuda in company with U.S.S. Ophir (December 11, 1919), and return to and liberty in Norfolk (January 1920).

The final section of the diary also includes a brief section entitled "Sailing Log of U.S.S. Rail on European trip after ex-German warship," noting sailing movements between March and August 1920. Additional material from Longwell's time aboard U.S.S. Rail (Minesweeper: AM-26) includes two letters written by Longwell referencing the German ships Ostfriesland and Frankfurt, as well as a salvaged document from the latter vessel.

The remainder of the collection consists of various other materials from Longwell's service, including photographs from U.S.S. Bobolink and U.S.S. Minnesota, photographs of North Sea minesweeping operations, the European editions of several American newspapers, various receipts, and a poem about U.S.S. Bobolink.

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The Robert R. Longwell Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Robert R. Longwell 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.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Howard Murphy in June 1999. Accession No. 99-52.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material in this repository pertaining to World War I era minesweeping can be found in the William E. Conant Diary, 1917-1919, MS 280.

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 R. Longwell Papers, MS 533

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in October 2019. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in October 2019.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Bobolink (Minesweeper : AM-20)
  • Longwell, Robert R., 1899-1990
  • Minesweepers -- United States
  • Minnesota (Battleship : BB-22)
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Naval operations, American
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, American

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
  • Newspapers
  • Photographs
  • Printed ephemera
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Correspondence, 1920 May-June

Aboard U.S.S. Rail at Rosyth and Brest. References to the German ships Ostfriesland and Frankfurt, shore leave, and being paid in French currency.

Box 1 Folder 2

Diary, 1917 May-October

Box 1 Folder 3

Diary, 1917 October-1919 May

Box 1 Folder 4

Diary, 1919 May-1920 January

Box 1 Folder 5

Diary, 1920 January-June, undated

Also includes Longwell's address book.

Box 1 Folder 6

Ephemera, 1920, undated

Two receipts from Patrick Thomson Limited and an insurance advertisement from General Assurance Accident Fire and Life.

Box 2[OS] Folder 1

German Bulletin, undated

Bulletin removed from salvaged ex-German cruiser Frankfurt at Scapa Flow.

Box 2[OS] Folder 2

Magazines - Our Navy, 1919 January

Issue No. 9 of Our Navy with articles on the surrender of the German Fleet, American Naval aviators in World War I, and the wreck of the U.S.S. Saginaw.

Box 2[OS] Folder 3

Newspapers - The Chicago Tribune, 1920

Two copies of the European Edition.

Box 1 Folder 7

Photograph Album - The United States Atlantic Fleet, 1911 (approximate)

Subtitled "Uncle Sam's Scrapbook." Includes photographs of the sinking of U.S.S. San Marcos during target practice.

Box 1 Folder 8

Photographs, 1918-1919, undated

Crew of U.S.S. Bobolink, mine damage to U.S.S. Minnesota, and a mine explosion near U.S.S. Patuxent.

Box 2[OS] Folder 4

Photographs, undated

U.S.S. Minnesota.

Box 1 Folder 9

Poem - "The Bobolinks Disaster", undated

Poem regarding the Bobolink's May 1919 mine encounter.

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