Midshipmen summer cruises have long been integral to training at the U.S. Naval Academy. In the summer of 1940, Midshipman Third Class Amedeo H. Galvani made his youngster (sophomore) cruise on board the battleship USS Texas (BB-35). He graduated with the Class of 1943 and served on the USS Burns (DD-588) in the Pacific in World War II, receiving a Bronze Star. During a 30-year career he commanded three ships. He retired in 1972. Captain A. H. Galvani observed his 100th birthday in August 2020 and is one of the oldest living graduates of the Naval Academy. He described his summer cruise experiences on board the Texas in a long letter to his grandson, written in 2002. This is his letter.
1. The group of ships was called the Atlantic Practice Squadron. (’43 Lucky Bag, 131)
2. The Texas was commissioned in 1914. She had a crew of about 1,000 officers and sailors. A 15-month overhaul (31 July–November 1926) in the Norfolk Navy Yard extensively modernized the ship.
3. The cruise began and ended in Annapolis. The Texas’s port visit schedule included Colon, Panama Canal Zone; La Guairá, Venezuela; Puerto Rico; New York City; Newport, R.I.; Boston; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
4. The Lucky Bag notes that on “Our last morning ashore we formed and marched to the dock, the band played ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ and the launches shoved off—officially embarking us on THE CRUISE.”
5. “White works” consisted of a white cotton jumper and white cotton trousers. The circular cloth cap, often called a “dixie cup,” worn by midshipmen third class had a broad blue stripe around it to differentiate midshipmen from enlisted personnel.
6. A holystone is a brick of soft sandstone used for cleaning and brightening the wooden weather decks of a ship. Sometimes sailors got on their hands and knees to scrape the bricks over the deck. Some holystones had a hole that allowed fitting a broom handle to it so the sailor could clean the deck while standing.
7. The Texas’s routine for Monday, 1 July, provides a look into a midshipman’s day at sea. Reveille was sounded at 0530 and “turn to, wash down decks” came at 0600. Hammocks were to be stowed by 0650. Breakfast was at 0700. School call for midshipmen started at 0800 and continued until 1600 with interruptions for gun drills, battle station exercises, and lunch. Supper was at 1730. “USS Texas Routine for Monday 1 July 1940” can be found in the Robert Hailey papers as noted in the references below. Midshipman First Class Robert Hailey, Class of 1941, also was on board the Texas for the cruise and kept a diary from 7 June through 4 July. Hailey had a distinguished career in the Navy and retired as a captain; he passed away in 2011.
8. The Texas’s secondary battery included 5-inch/51-caliber single-pedestal gun mounts.
9. Movies shown included Babes in Arms (Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, 1939) and Only Angels Have Wings (Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, 1939).
10. The Texas visited Guantanamo Bay 29 July–9 August.
11. The Lucky Bag notes that at Guantanamo, “We finally got to put our endless hours of gun drill to use and were scared silly when the big guns were fired.”
12. The Texas’s main battery consisted of five turrets of 14-inch/45-caliber guns. Each turret had two barrels. Two turrets were forward, two aft, and one amidships.
13. Midshipman Galvani did not mention the Texas’s first port call at Coco Solo in the Panama Canal Zone 15–20 June.
14. The Texas stopped here 24–28 June.
15. In his diary entry for 24 June, Midshipman Hailey wrote that on the mountainous drive to Caracas he could see “the ships nestled on the fringe of a vast blue mantle which gleamed and sparkled as far as the eye could see.”
16. On Thursday, 27 June, the President of Venezuela, Eleazar Lopez Contreras, visited the Texas, the squadron’s flagship. Midshipman Hailey was assigned to act as an interpreter and was sent as part of a welcoming group to the pier to assist with the visit. He described his experiences in his diary: “. . . at 1130 . . . went to docks. There we took our stations and waited with 12 motor boats, gigs, and the admiral’s barge standing by to take visitors out [to the ship]. The President of Venezuela came first with his retinue of officers and ministers . . . Then the cabinet members, officers, diplomats, and about everyone of any importance. I talked quite a bit with one of the cops on the dock, but all I could get to do with the big shots was to salute.” The following day a note in the ship’s Plan of the Day stated, “The Captain and the [Executive Officer] thank all hands for their splendid work in connection with the State Luncheon and Reception to the President of Venezuela. The success of this function reflects the greatest credit on the entire personnel of the TEXAS.”
17. The Texas was at Ponce 2 and 3 July.
18. The beach party, arranged by the governor of the Virgin Islands, was at Magens Bay on 4 July.
19. From St Thomas the Atlantic Practice Squadron steamed north. The Lucky Bag notes that “The nights got colder and colder and one foggy morning we lay off New York.” The squadron was there 12–16 June. The World’s Fair opened on 30 April 1939 and closed on 27 October 1940.
20. From New York, the Texas went to Newport, Rhode Island, 18–19 July. She visited Boston 20–23 July.
21. From Boston the squadron steamed south to Guantanamo Bay for gunnery drills 29 July–9 August. The squadron returned to Annapolis, arriving on 14 August and debarking the midshipmen the next day.
22. While the Atlantic Practice Squadron was at sea, the Navy, due to the urgent need for more officers in the rapidly expanding fleet, shortened the course of study at the Naval Academy. The Class of 1941, on the cruise as first classmen (seniors), would graduate in February 1941 vice June 1941. The Class of 1942 became a three-and-a-half-year class, graduating in December 1941. Midshipman Third Class Galvani’s class would graduate a year early in June 1942 instead of June 1943 but was still called the Class of ’43.
23. The battleship Texas, located today in La Porte near Houston, has been a museum ship since 1948. The ship is now closed for public visitation. Severe deterioration of her hull has placed her survival in question.