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Savannah Council History

The Navy League of the United States

Savannah Council History

The Navy League of the United States

By Gene Buttle

The Navy League of the United States was founded in 1902 with the encouragement of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Navy League is unique among military-oriented associations in that it is a civilian organization dedicated to the education of our citizens, including our elected officials, and the support of the men and women of our sea services and their families. You need not have served in the military to be a member of the Navy League.

A History of the Savannah Council

.....And then things began to happen in Savannah when the U.S. Navy League was almost fifty-five years old. Sometime around 1951 perhaps a group of retired sailors and friends decided that Savannah needed to have a Council to bring the Navy League here. Well it took awhile because starting a new Navy League Council is not a quick and easy task. There are specific rules and regulations in this regard put together to be sure any new Council would be trustworthy, fiscally responsible and , perhaps most important, not infringe on another Council.

The first step was to get verbal and written approval from the Area and Region Presidents after convincing them of the need and desire for a local Council. Then a list of a minimum of twenty-five new members (no transfers from other Councils would be accepted) would have to be submitted. New Council by-laws would have to be created and submitted for approval and eventually of course a suggested first year Budget and a proposed list of officers and directors. During this lengthy process ,Area and Region Presidents would be as helpful as possible with suggestions and clearing approval from the National organization but it was still a cumbersome and lengthy process by design

Our Council Presidents

Unfortunately lack of information about our early years makes a complete and accurate list of our Council Presidents impossible. It is hoped that further information will surface will add to this list of elected members.

1973 - 74 John Parker
1975 - 76 Patrick Lynch
1980 - 81 Bruce Macrae

1982 - 83 Adolph Blumenfeld
1984 - 85 Otis Young
1986 - 87 James Atkinson
1989 - 90 Bruce Macrae
1991 - 92 James Kehoe
1992 - Sandra Cone
1993 - 94 John Snedeker
1995 - Jack Pierce
1995 - 96 W. Frank Guy
1997 - 98 R. Mitchell Bush
1998 - 99 Raymond Cuthbertson
2000 - 01 Thomas Wright
2002 - 03 John Findeis
2004 - 05 Hugh Robinson
2006 - 07Gary Johnson
2008 - 09Jim Keller*
2010 Tom Latham *

James Kehoe became President in 1991 but in July 1992 he was elected Area President by the National Navy League and resigned as Council President. His position was filled by current V.P. Sandra Cone who served until the end of that year. Jack Pierce was elected President in 1995 but resigned for health reasons. Frank Guy served the rest of 1995 and through 1996.

Activities and Programs

The old and charming city of Savannah is built on a bluff some twelve miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean on the Savannah River. Over the years it has become one of the busiest commercial ports in the United States with ships from all over the world entering and leaving its port facilities.

A major function of our Council is to welcome U.S. Navy warships, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and warships from several other nations to our city. These visiting warships arrive by invitation, usually during holiday weekends, and their officers and crew are warmly welcomed by the city of Savannah and our Council
members ; including a cannon salute when passing Ft. Jackson. A welcoming reception aboard the visiting ship is held by the City and our Council with appropriate ceremony.

This year for instance our Council has budgeted funds to have receptions aboard six visiting ships; St. Patricks Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, October Fest, Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Commemoration Day. In this History it would not be possible to list all the special ships hosted by our Council but the following is a partial list:


US Navy USS Cone
Canada Bluenose II, Sailing Schooner
Canadian Navy HMCS Okanagan, submarine
Poland Zew Morza, Sailing Ship
Poland Dar Szecina, Sailing Ship
French Navy Le Gascon, Cruiser
Royal Navy HMS Tartar, Cruiser
US Navy USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG58)
US Navy USS Laboon (DDG 58)
US Navy USS Lamoure County (LST1194)
US Navy USS Monongahela (AO 178)
USCG USCGC Hammer (WLIC 75302)
USCG USCGC Madrona (WLB 302)
US Navy USS Halyburton (FFG 40)
US Navy USS Carter Hall (LSD 50)
US Navy USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44)
US Navy USS Gonzales (DDG 66)
USCG USCGC Eagle (WIX 327) Bark
USCG USCGC George Cobb (WLM 564)
Royal Navy HMS Norfolk (F 230)
Venezuela Navy Simon Bolivar (BE11)
Irish Navy LE Roisin (P-51)
US Navy USS Barry (DDG 52)
US Navy USS The Sullivans (DDG 68)
US Navy USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51)
US Navy USS Trenton (LPD 14)
US Navy USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51)
USCG USCGC Tarpon (WPB 8731)
US Navy USS McFaul (DDG 74)
US Navy USS Ramage (DDG 61)
US Navy USS Oak Hill (LSD 51)
US Navy USS Carr (FFG 52)
US Navy USS Mitscher (DDG 57)
USCG Barque Eagle (WIX 327)
US Navy USS Underwood (FFG 36)
US Navy USS Hawes (FFG 53)
US Navy USS Anzio (CG 68)

Canadian Navy HMCS Ville de Quebec (FFH 32)
Canadian Navy HMCS Halifax (FFH 33)
US Navy USS Philippine Sea (CG 58)
USCG USCGC Yellowfin (WPB 87319)
US Navy USS Carr (FFG 52)
USCG USCGC Dilligence (WEMC 616)
US Navy USS Cole (DDG 67)
USCG USCGC Tarpon (WPB 8731)
US Navy USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)
US Navy USS Buckley (DDG 84)
US Navy USS Doyle (FFG 39)

(This partial list of recent ship visits, contributed by Joost Gompels, will give our readers some idea of dedicated effort by many Council members to this program)

Finally (really just the beginning) the Savannah, Georgia Council was born and our official Charter was granted on the date of May 15, 1952. The Charter was signed by Carl G. Stockholm, President of the US Navy League and forty-two Charter Members of the new Council. We are fortunate to have the original Charter in our Archives and a copy is pictured here. We were not able to contact any of the signed Charter Members, however.

So now our Council will be 50 years old on May 15, 2007 and has grown to be one of the most active and successful Councils in the United States...but it wasnt always that way. Actually we know very little about our Councils activities in the first several years. Its hard to believe and frustrating to report but we have no records to record, only a few remembrances, of the first twenty years or so. We do know that the members of the Council met only once a year for the first few years and then perhaps twice a year - in the Winter and perhaps in the Spring. Al Wing served as Council President for four years from 1966 - 1969 and as best we can figure it was sometime during his term the decision was made to meet twice a year in the Winter (to make a budget?) and again in the Spring (to discuss progress?).

Al Wing was very popular and instumental in organizing the Council to more active status. He died in July 1989. Jim Atkinson was president in 1979 and 1980 and it was apparently during his term that our Council began to meet monthly. Their meetings were held at a room at the Ships of the Sea Museum or the original Maritime Museum on River Street.

U. S. Coast Guard Affiliation

The Savannah Council of the Navy League of the United States has had a strong relationship with those units of the Coast Guard stationed here in the Savannah area. Proof of this hangs on the walls of various stations. An engraved plaque on the wall of the Coast Guard Unit Station Tybee testifies that our Savannah Council adopted this unit back when Mitchell Bush was president of our Council. A similar plaque hangs on the wall of Air Station Savannah, and other Units have similar plaques in their archives.

While the predominate Units are the Marine Safety Office and Station Tybee, we also have twenty-five men serving on the Cutter Tarpon, twelve men stationed with the Aids to Navigation Unit and three men with the Recruiting Office in downtown Savannah on Abercorn Street. These Units, often overlooked, serve an important function in the services rendered by our local Coast Guard units.

In September 2005 a committee of NLUS members met with our Mayor Otis Johnson to discuss the importance of the Coast Guard to the city, economic impact of the Coast Guard units serving in the area and the advantages to the city if we could acquire the classification of Coast Guard City USA. He agreed this was a "no brainer" and the application was sent to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Upon passage by the headquarters staff, questionaires were sent to the appropriate units stationed in Savannah and these have been filled and returned. The final step is a big one; it goes before our US Congress for passage. Unfortunately, somewhere in this multi-step process the application got lost.

The Council sponsors an annual picnic with all the Units of the Coast Guard in the middle of October. Traditionally we then award certificates to those individuals that are chosen by their commanding officers as "Coast Guardsmen of the Year". This has always been a big affair and one of the big expenses by our Council. Finally in 2004 we were able to obtain financial help when the Georgia Port Authority was approached to share in the sponsorship of this affair. 2006 marks the third year that they have shared this expense.

Gary Johnson, President in 2006, was the first man to appoint a liaison from the Council to the Coast Guard Units. This man was Hugh Robinson who had just served as Council President. The first thing done was a meeting in February 2006 with all of the commanding officers and their executive officers to plan a Coast Guard Week tied in with the 226th birthday of the Coast Guard, starting the week of August 7th. USCG Cutter Diligence out of Cape May was invited to attend and the City of Savannah Mayor issued a proclamation and the River Street Association all were involved in a most successful week.

A special note: Throughout all of the affairs we include the local members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a wonderful group of volunteers who fill in wherever they can be of service. We have been able to recruit into our NL membership many of these fine ladies and gentlemen and they
have been a great boon serving on many of our committees. Lastly, it is always a great pleasure seeing many members of the active Coast Guard Units attending our regular monthly meetings, mingling with our members socially and become regulars when we have receptions on visiting ships of the services in our port. While our Council has an assigned individual to be a liaison, the individual Coast Guard Units also h ave an individual assigned as a liaison to the Savannah Council of the Navy League and attends the regular meetings as well as communicates regularly via the internet. (Written and submitted by Hugh Robinson)

Our Sea Cadet Program

In an undated letter, Savannah Council President A.T. Wing,III requested permission to formulate a Naval Sea Cadet unit in Savannah. The letter was endorsed by R.F.Jones, then Commander of the Savannah Naval Reserve Center, located at 1407 Wheaton St. The letter was received at the U.S.Naval Sea Cadet Corps Headquarters a on 3 August 1981 and the request was approved by K.T.Weaver, Executive Director of NSCC on that same day. The new Sea Cadet Unit was designated as the "Savannah Division".

It appears the groundwork for the unit was laid by Bruce Macrae, Southeast Region Director of NSCC, ADM Adolph Blumenfeld, former Council President and Navy League National Director and other Council members. In November 1981 Tommie Tyler was enrolled as the first officer of the unit and he was to become the first Commanding Officer , holding the rank of LCDR from January 1982 to November 1982. In January 1982 the unit listed 5 officers: Bruce Macrae, Tommie Tyler, Robert Niver, Edwin D. Linblad and Henry Helms, but no Cadets as yet. By June of 1982 there were 12 officers and 2 instructors and 46 Cadets (38 male and 8 female) and on 30 March 1983 the Savannah Division was officially commissioned by NSCC.

The Savannah Division had an enthusiastic beginning. However, two years later, in July 1984, there were just 4 officers and 21 cadets on the roster. In November 1982 LCDR E.Darrell Linblad became commanding officer and he held that position until May 1984 at which time LCDR Berman Mosely assumed command until he resigned in January 1985. There being no one else available, regional Director Bruce Macrae became Acting CO of the unit.

These were lean times for the unit with just 3 officers and 14 cadets on the roster. During 1985 William Hodges came on board as an Ensign and in 1986 was appointed as Acting Commanding Officer. He held this position until February 1988 when he was formally appointed as the Commanding Officer, a position he held until August 2002. LCDR Hodges dedication to the program and to the cadets under his command ensured the successful continuation of the unit.

Sometime at the beginning of 1988 the Savannah Division was officially redesignated as the "ADM Adolph H. Blumenfeld Division". Subsequent unit COs were:

LTJG William Lester 3 Sep 2002 - July 2003
LTJG David Brague July 2003 - Sep 2003
LTJG Kenneth Robinson Sep 2003 - Sep 2004
LCDR Norma Tillet, Acting CO Sep 2004 - March 2005
Ensign Kevin Hay March 2005 - present

The Blumenfeld Division literally had hundreds of cadets since the units inception, many of whom went on to join the U.S. Armed Forces. These young people received invaluable training, discipline and guidance which helped them become productive and wholesome citizens. The Blumenfeld Division is sponsored and supported by the Savannah Council Navy League which, in a partnership with the City of Savannah, provides funding for the cadets. (written and submitted by John Findeis)

Parades and Holidays

Starting each Spring with the St. Patricks Day celebration in Savannah our Council really comes alive and and participates in the parade with convertibles (containing the CO of a visiting US Navy warship and our Council President), marching units of the visiting vessel and our Sea Cadet contingent with appropriate banners and streamers. Our Council also is invited to parade on other town holidays such as: Memorial Day, Independence Day, October Fest, Veterans Day and other celebrations. Many of our members participate and we are welcomed with loud cheers from the public as we pass by. Its good publicity for the Navy League and a lot of fun.


Monthly Dinners

Our monthly dinners (the fourth Tuesday of the month) are held at the Hunter Club on th Hunter Army Air Base. Our attendence varies but is in a range of seventy-five to over one hundred and includes not only our Council members but also active members of the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Auxiliaries. We have had a wonderful assortment of high ranking speakers from the military and civilian positions. A unit of Our Sea Cadets honor an impressive ceremony of presenting and retiring our flags at the beginning and the end of our dinners. These dinners are an important part of our Council activities and are always informative and enjoyable.

Brief Summary

Well we have come a long way since the forty-two first members signed our Charter back in 1957. We now have over 300 members in our Council and this is still growing. We have been blessed with very high quality leadership through the years enabling our Council to become one of the most active, progressive and successful Navy League Councils in the United
States. As a Council we have appointed an officer to keep contact with our local and federal officials to be able to support our national Navy League positions knowledgeably and personally. Getting there included a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ along the way but these have been over-balanced by great camaraderie, pride of achievement, patriotism and, oh yes, fun.
We hope and pray future Navy Leaguers in Savannah will continue this legacy, expand on it and write new chapters to this first fifty year Council History.

Gene Buttle  

By Gene Buttle