David M. Armstrong Papers, 1929-1961, 1982

Manuscript Collection #555

  • Descriptive Summary
    Title: David M. Armstrong Papers
    Creator: Armstrong, David M., b. 1919
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Papers (1929-1961, 1982) including correspondence, photographs, citations, reports, war diaries for USS Zane and Trever, accounts of battles at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal, publications, orders, and personal materials.
    Extent: 0.87 Cubic feet, 510 items , including correspondence, photographs, citations, reports, war diaries for USS Zane and Trever, accounts of battles at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal, publications, orders, and personal materials.
  • Description

    The collection's early correspondence pertains to Armstrong's activities with the Boy Scouts of America, particularly his achievement of Eagle Scout status. Correspondence from Armstrong's years at the USNA include details about his training cruises to Europe (1938), to Panama and Venezuela (1940), and his daily Academy life. Armstrong's first assignment was as a communications officer on the destroyer minesweeper Zane stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In some interesting letters (10 and 13 December 1941) home, Ensign Armstrong reports of his survival and safety after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In other letters, Armstrong mentions his promotions to lieutenant (jg) and lieutenant, new commanding officers and crewmates, and he often requests news from home (1941-1942). Throughout the war-time correspondence it is always noted how little Armstrong can actually tell his family for reasons of security, and he continuously reports on censorship of what he can write in his letters.

    Correspondence written while Armstrong was assigned to the destroyer Terry begins when the ship was still fitting out in Bath, Me. (January 1943). Included are details such as the ship's condition, his opinion of the senior officers, different social functions including the ship's christening, the training of messboys, his pay, and the hope that his brother Dick would be assigned to the Terry.

    Once the ship is commissioned, Armstrong's letters concern his Fleet Gunnery School training (August-September 1943); his relationships with the vessel's other officers; the Terry's fighting abilities; and the ship's mascot "Midnite" the dog. Other correspondence mentions the Terry's new captain (January 1944); his brother Dick's naval assignment and a visit with him; post-war plans; his promotion from gunnery officer to executive officer and his enjoyment of increased responsibility (March 1944); shore leave (May 1944); crew and officer reassignments; and the obstacles to getting his own command.

    While on the destroyer Higbee, Armstrong's correspondence (January-September 1945) primarily concerns his new marriage; the approaching end of the war; his views on the handling of Japan's surrender; and Japan's capitulation to American forces in Tokyo Bay (6 September 1945). Also included is a letter from his brother Dick (September 1945) aboard the destroyer USS Ross (DD 563) that describes the general condition and appearance of Japan. The remainder of Armstrong's Pacific Theatre-based letters (October 1945-March 1946) concern his command of the destroyer minesweeper USS Doyle. Discussed are the details of minesweeping operations along the coast of Japan; converting surrendered Japanese ships to minesweepers; the unavailability of many destroyer minesweepers due to their alteration to fighting ships for an invasion of Japan; a description of Shanghai after the war (December 1945); the status of some USNA classmates; and his anxiousness to return home. Interspersed throughout the collection's correspondence are letters from Armstrong's father and his wife.

    The remaining correspondence pertains to Armstrong's return to the United States (April 1946); his new baby; detachment from the Doyle (May 1947); his assignments on various ships, particularly the heavy cruiser Rochester and destroyer Willis A. Lee. Also included are a naval school transcript, education certificate, and a university admissions application.

    The remaining files in the collection contain information concerning Armstrong's naval career and fill in the gaps left by censorship of his letters during World War II. First, a file of Armstrong's naval orders and promotion notifications is included and spans his active naval career (1941-1961). Several files relating to the Pearl Harbor attack include maps; logbook pages from the destroyer USS Breese (DD 122), USS Perry (DD 340), Zane, and the destroyer minesweeper USS Wasmuth (DMS 15); reports from the destroyers Trever (DD 339), Wasmuth, Zane, and USS Gamble (10-17 December 1941); a bibliography; and a tourist brochure. Also included are newspaper articles written by or about Armstrong's Pearl Harbor experiences (1966-1980), a typescript of an article published in American History Illustrated, and the issue itself (August 1974). Another group of records concerns his first-person accounts of the invasion of Guadalcanal (August 1942) and the Battle of Sealark Channel (October 1942). These files contain documents from the ocean tug USS Seminole (AT 65), Trever, and Zane; typescripts; and an issue of American History Illustrated containing one of Armstrong's articles (October 1973).

    Information on the Terry contains a letter from a Marine on Iwo Jima (February 1945) noting the Terry's actions during battle. Histories of the ship are given for World War II, as well as a directory of officers for that period.

    A file of Armstrong's citations and awards include certificates from high school, his USNA years, and World War II until his retirement. Other citations are located in an oversized folder and include a "crossing the line" certificate (July 1942).

    Printed materials include USNA assignments, grades and relative standing, soccer and boxing programs, and memorabilia. A file of newspaper clippings chronicles Armstrong's USNA years, early war-time service, and his wedding. Cruise books for the Rochester document that ship's activities during the Korean War (1951-1953), and a tour of the Orient (1954). A Boy Scouts file includes numerous newspapers, clippings, and printed materials concerning the 1935 Jamboree in Washington, D.C., and Armstrong's meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (April 1935).

    Miscellaneous items include a commissioning program for the Higbee, biographical information on Richard Doyle after whom the Doyle was named, and a U.S. Navy Post-Graduate School 35th Reunion program (1982). Finally, a photographic file contains images of Armstrong alone and with other officers and crew, the Terry, the Higbee, and shots of Navy life.

    For additional information, see OH #108.

  • Biographical / Historical Note

    David M. Armstrong (b. 1919) grew up in Cabin John, Md. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in 1941 and spent most of World War II in the Pacific Theatre. He served on the minesweeper USS Zane (DMS 14) from his graduation until 1943 when he was assigned to the USS Terry (DD 513). Armstrong was commanding officer of the USS Higbee (DD 806) from January through September of 1945 when he was transferred to the USS Doyle (DMS 34) where he participated in the Japanese surrender. In 1947, he attended post-graduate school in Naval Intelligence and stayed on as an instructor. From 1951 through 1954 he served as operations officer aboard the USS Rochester (CA 124) and took command of the USS Willis A. Lee (DL 4) in 1957. He was on the staff of Naval Striking and Support Forces in Southern Europe before retiring in 1962. He worked on a daily newspaper in Naples, Fla., as a feature writer for twenty years before moving to North Carolina.

  • Administrative Information
    Accessions Information

    18 May 1988, 510 items; Papers (1929-1961) of U.S. Navy officer, member of U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1941, including personal correspondence, photographs, citations, reports, action report and war diaries for USS Zane and Trever, accounts of battles at Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal, and personal materials. Gift of Cdr. David M. Armstrong, USN (Ret), Swansboro, N.C.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Cdr. David M. Armstrong, USN (Ret)

    Access Restrictions

    No restrictions

    Copyright Notice

    Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

    Preferred Citation

    David M. Armstrong Papers (#555), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

    Processing Information

    Processed by M. Boccaccio, January 1995

    Encoded by Apex Data Services

Container List

USS Terry; Citations and Awards; Clippings; USNA Printed Material; Boy Scouts of America; USS Rochester Cruise Books 1951-1954; Biographical Information; Miscellaneous Material; Photographs
Oversized Certificates

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Sensitive Materials Statement

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection, without the consent of those individuals, may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which East Carolina University assumes no responsibility.

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Container List

USS Terry; Citations and Awards; Clippings; USNA Printed Material; Boy Scouts of America; USS Rochester Cruise Books 1951-1954; Biographical Information; Miscellaneous Material; Photographs
Oversized Certificates

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