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Naval History in Photos: Thanksgiving Dinner


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Naval History in Photos: Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov. 25 2020

The month of November has long been a time of celebration across the northern hemisphere. It’s around this time of year that the main harvest would traditionally take place. The sudden and bountiful influx of food after a hard year's work naturally warranted a proper feast, and this was especially true for the first English settlers to arrive on the shores of North America.

The national holiday of Thanksgiving that we know and love today—a true symbol of American identity—has its origins, however, during the Civil War, when in 1864, after 3 years of bloody conflict, President Lincoln proclaimed "[...]the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving."

This new holiday, intended to raise the morale of the Union's fighting men on land and at sea, survived the war, and would go on to become a beacon of respite on the calendars of U.S. servicepeople through both World Wars and up to this day.

We hope that you enjoy the photos we’ve prepared below. They capture this time of feasting on board U.S. Navy ships throughout the 20th century.

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Thanks to the foresight of the U.S. Navy, many kitchens in the South Pacific were turkey-rich on Thanksgiving 1943. Giant turkeys made record 'flights' from the States, and wound up in the field kitchens of isolated island outposts.

In this photo, SC3 W.H. Chase (left, of Dallas, TX) and CK1 Joseph Fields (of Riley, NC) slice the turkeys carefully, knowing what a yowl will arise if any man gets more than the others.

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Admiral William F. Halsey (left center), Commander Third Fleet, eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of his flagship, USS New Jersey (BB-62), 30 November 1944.

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Crewmen of the USS Yorktown (CV-10) enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner in the mess hall.

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A mess management specialist helps prepare Thanksgiving dinner aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70) in 1984.

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