John W. Newsom Papers

Manuscript Collection #634
Newsom, John W., 1919-
Physical description
0.215 Cubic Feet, 250 items , including originals and copies of correspondence, journals, maps, newsletters, dispatches, orders, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
John W. Newsom Papers (#634), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1937-1962) including correspondence, journals, maps, dispatches, orders, educational material, flight log, pilot names, etc.

Biographical/historical information

John W. "Buck" Newsom was born in Durham, NC, (July 24, 1919) and attended Duke University for one year. In 1937 Newsom entered the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) and went on the 1938 Midshipmen's Cruise to Europe on board the battleship USS NEW YORK (BB-34). At the beginning of World War II, Newsom was assigned to the destroyer minesweeper USS HOPKINS (DMS-13) and participated in the Solomon Islands campaign. (The author Herman Wouk was in the same destroyer squadron as Newsom and his book the Caine Mutiny is based upon the squadron's experience in the Solomon Islands campaign.) Newsom went to flight school (1943), flew airships (blimps) briefly in the Caribbean, and then joined the battleship USS CALIFORNIA (BB-44). After the war (1946-1947), Newsom served as executive officer on the heavy cruiser USS ST. PAUL (CA-73), worked as a recruiting officer in Seattle (1947-1948), and served with airship squadrons (ZP-1 and ZP-2) throughout most of the 1950s. Newsom also commanded the NROTC Unit at the University of Kansas (1959) and retired in 1964.

Scope and arrangement

The collection is comprised of correspondence, journals, printed materials, and clippings. The correspondence consists of letters and official communications. Early correspondence (1937-1944) is comprised of copies and originals pertaining to activities in the Navy before and during World War II. Mentioned are difficulties of battle, ship locations, enemy casualties, censorship of mail, boredom, duties, and entertainment. Specific topics discussed include news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and orders to commence war on Japan (December 7, 1941); Japanese propaganda over short-wave radio (December 17, 1941); a "crossing the line" ceremony (February 17, 1942); American aerial attacks and the destruction of numerous Japanese ships and planes (March 18, 1942); the painting of Japanese flags on the USS HOPKINS to indicate "kills" (June 18, 1942); actions at Savo Island and Guadalcanal (August 7-9, 1942); and a vivid account of a Japanese aerial attack (August 17, 1942).

Later correspondence (1946-1962) pertains primarily to Newsom's service on the USS ST. PAUL (October 1946-May 1947), at the U.S. Navy Recruiting Station in Seattle, WA (December 1947-July 1948), and with Airship Squadron Two of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet (January 1952-November 1954). Interesting correspondence mentions recruit illiteracy (March 31, 1948), placement of alert status on U.S. forces at the onset of the Korean War (June 25, 1950), and the last Navy airship flight (July 19, 1962).

The collection's journals were compiled from letters home, notes and reminiscences, and begin with Newsom's Midshipment's Cruise to Europe (Journal 1, June-August 1938). Described are daily duties and training drills, lectures, cramped quarters, and entertainment (pp. 1-4); sites in Paris (pp. 5-6); healthy living in Copenhagen and sites in the surrounding countryside (p. 8); Portsmouth, England, and a London tea hosted by the Joseph Kennedy family with particular reference to Bobby Kennedy (pp. 10-11).

Journal 2 (December 9, 1941-January 31, 1942) describes the opening days of World War II, the condition of Pearl Harbor (pp. 1-10), aftermath of the Japanese attack, and actions of USS HOPKINS in early engagements. Mentioned are the condition of battleships USS ARIZONA (BB-39), USS CALIFORNIA (BB-44), USS NEVADA (BB-36), USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37), and USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48, pp. 2-3, 5); Japanese submarines sunk or damaged in the harbor (pp. 7, 11); Japanese propaganda (p. 15); and two American planes colliding in mid-air (p. 16). [A later typed version of this journal is also found here.]

Journal 3 (July-September 1942) details the involvement of the HOPKINS in shore bombardment, convoy duty, and air raids, and describes the build-up of ships (pp. 4-5) prior to attacks on the Solomon Islands. Battle descriptions are detailed and include the invasion of Guadalcanal and the surrounding islands such as Gavutu and Tulag (pp. 10-36); night actions off Savo Island (pp. 42-53); and further actions in the area that also describe the aftermath of the initial bombardments (pp. 59-71). Also mentioned are a "crossing the line" ceremony (p. 1); statistics of American and Japanese losses at the Battle of Midway (p. 6); and a list of the positions of the HOPKINS at sea (pp. 72-75). Accompanying maps include the placement of the HOPKINS and other destroyer minesweepers while bombarding a shore battery on Gavutu off Florida Island (p. 21); positions of ships and planes during a Japanese air raid (pp. 22-23); movements during the Battle of Savo Island (p. 76); and a detailed map of Guadalcanal (p. 77). [A later typed version of this journal is also present.]

The fourth journal (June 16-18, 1943) recounts more activities on the HOPKINS, including the earning of five "flags" for the downing of Japanese planes, sinking asubmarine, and knocking out a shore battery (pp. 1-2, 10), and another air battle over Guadalcanal (pp. 2-10).

Other materials in the collection include a manual and memorabilia concerning the 1938 Midshipmen's Cruise; educational materials from the USNA, including newspaper clippings pertaining to Academy functions and sports, and issues of the publications: The Log, Trident, and Our Navy. Another file contains miscellaneous materials and clippings concerning World War II. Included are two items Newsom captured on Guadalcanal (August 1942): a Japanese navigational aid and a photograph of a group of Japanese soldiers or sailors. Lastly, Newsom's airship flight logs that detail duration of flights, monthly accumulated flight hours, and pilot's names are included (Book 1, August 1943-December 1944; Book 2, September 1948-August 1950; Book 3, (September 1950-November 1954).

For more information see Oral History #124.

Administrative information
Custodial History

February 27, 1992,ca. 250 items; Papers (1936-1954) of U.S. Naval officer, USNA Class of 1941, including correspondence, newsletters, dispatches, copies of diaries, plans of the day, regimental orders, ship newsletters for USS NEW YORK, and miscellaneous materials.

March 7, 1901 (unprocessed addition 1), 26 pages; Typescript copies of hand written diaries of Naval officer, including midshipmen's cruise (1938), aboard U.S.S. HOPKINS after Pearl Harbor (Dec. 9, 1941-Mar. 9, 1942), and Guadacanal and the war in the Pacific (July 15, 1942-June 13, 1943). Donor: Capt. John W. Newsom, USN (Ret).

Source of acquisition

Gift of Capt. John W. Newsom, USN (Ret)

Processing information

Processed by J. Smith, January 1995

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

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

Key terms
Personal Names
Newson, John W., 1919-
Corporate Names
Hopkins (Ship)
United States Naval Academy--Alumni and alumnae
United States. Navy--Officers
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Guadalcanal
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American