Alexander B. Coxe, Jr., Papers

1928-1945, 1958
Manuscript Collection #194
Coxe, Alexander Bacon, b. 1910
Physical description
0.65 Cubic Feet, 431 items , including correspondence, combat action reports, photographs, newspaper clippings, a magazine article, and assorted cards, announcements, dinner menus, and other printed matter.
Preferred Citation
Alexander B. Coxe, Jr., Papers (#194), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1928-1945, 1958) including correspondence, combat action reports, photographs, newspaper clipping, magazine article, etc.

Biographical/historical information

Alexander Bacon Coxe, Jr., was a captain in the U.S. Navy. Born in Arizona in 1910, he represents the third generation of military officers in his family. Both his father and grandfather were officers in the U.S. Army. Coxe was graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., in 1932. He served aboard battleships, minecraft, and destroyers, in a variety of capacities. During World War II he commanded minelayers and destroyers. In 1958 he commanded Destroyer Squadron 8 out of Newport, Rhode Island. He was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Scope and arrangement

The first part of the collection consists mainly of personal correspondence from Coxe to his family. Beginning with his arrival at Annapolis in July, 1928, this material concerns his four years there, his subsequent duty on the West Coast, and his service on the Asiatic Station until 1937.

Most of the 1928-1932 correspondence deals with academy life: academics, sports, and leisure activities, Coxe's grade reports, a few academic warnings, and some special orders concerning leave and cruise itineraries. Letters written during summer cruises in 1929 (USS UTAH) and 1931 (USS WYOMING) are of interest in that they give Coxe's first impressions of sea life and foreign cities. Barcelona, Weymouth, Glasgow, and Cadiz are mentioned and described to some degree.

Letters written after Coxe's graduation give a good account of what a junior officer's life was like in the 1930s. Coxe makes good observations concerning everything he sees and experiences, both in and out of the military sphere. Topics include being caught in an earthquake in Long Beach, California (Mar., 1933); drydocking the battleship TENNESSEE (Nov., 1933); coastal surveying duty in the Aleutians aboard the USS OGLALA (May-Aug., 1934), with descriptions of the land, the people, and some of their customs; and Coxe's firstimpressions of the Orient (Shanghai, Nov., 1934). Of considerable importance are his descriptions of different ports on the Asiatic Station: Shanghai (Nov., 1934; Apr., 1935); Kobe, Japan (May, 1935); Chefoo, China (June, 1935); Amoy, China (Oct., 1935); and Saigon (Nov., 1935). He also gives an amusing account of a bus trip from Olongapo to Manila (Feb., 1935), relates a Chinese funeral he observed in Amoy (Oct., 1935), and describes the arrival of the first Pan American Airways China Clipper at Manila (Nov., 1935).

Woven into this later correspondence are descriptions of life in Manila, the homeport of Coxe's ship, USS PARROTT (218); his occasional comments concerning the idea of Philippine independence (Feb., June, Nov., 1935); and accounts of aspects of Navy life both at sea and ashore, ranging from large-scale battle maneuvers and gunnery exercises to communication and navigation.

The second part of the collection consists of combat action reports from USS BREESE (DM18) and USS VAN VALKENBURGH (DD656). The first item is Coxe's eyewitness account of the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Coxe was executive officer of the BREESE and duty officer for five ships of Mine Division 2, nested in Middle Loch, when the attack occurred. He gives a detailed and remarkably observant account of the day's events.

The second item is a history of USS VAN VALKENBURGH (DD656), ending with her departure from Sasebo, Japan, on Nov. 17, 1945. Captain Coxe was her commanding officer from June, 1944, through Sept., 1945. This document is especially valuable because it gives an account of the ship's activities from the viewpoint of the crew. It expresses their attitudes toward the Navy, the Japanese, and the war, and gives some interesting insights into the character of their captain. Highlights are the descriptions of life at the Naval Training Center, Norfolk, Virginia (1944); several cartoons satirizing conditions in the Pacific; descriptions of the VAN VALKENBURGH's operations around Iwo Jima and Okinawa (1945); and an account of the conditions at Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb blast of Aug. 9, 1945. Especially vivid are the accounts of numerous kamikaze attacks north and west of Okinawa (1945) and the reports concerning the VAN VALKENBURGH's efforts in aiding battle-damaged ships.

The third and fourth items are Coxe's official combat reports for the Iwo Jima and Okinawa operations. They are valuable for their detail and especially for Captain Coxe's commentary on ordnance personnel, communications, medical problems, and rescue operations.

Most of the thirty-two photographs in the collection depict Coxe at the Naval Academy and on his first cruise (June-Aug., 1929). There is a class of 1932 graduation picture, one of Coxe's mother, and one of his sister, Anne.

The collection contains an assortment of printed material from the Academy, mainly announcements, dinner menus, Christmas cards, and June Week programs.

A Dec., 1958, issue of All Hands magazine containing an article about Coxe as commodore of Destroyer Squadron 8 and some newspaper clippings about the class of 1932's graduation complete the collection.

For related material, see Collection #193.

Administrative information
Custodial History

January 20, 1972, 4 items; Papers (1941-45), consisting of combat action reports and cruise history of the USS VAN VALKENBURGH. Loaned for copying by Capt. Alexander B. Coxe, Jr., Chapel Hill, N.C.

June 4, 1973, ca. 300 items; Papers (1928-1933), consisting of correspondence, photographs, and clippings. Gift of Mrs. David D. Hawkins, Corte Madera, California, and Capt. A. B. Coxe, Jr., Chapel Hill, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Loaned by Capt. Alexander B. Coxe, Jr.

Gift of Mrs. David D. Hawkins

Gift of Capt. A. B. Coxe, Jr.

Processing information

Processed by R. Weaver; R. Reedy, October 1981

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
Coxe, Alexander Bacon, 1910-
Corporate Names
Breese (Destroyer)
Oglala (Ship)
Parrott (Destroyer)
United States Naval Academy
United States. Navy--Military life
United States. Navy--Officers--Correspondence
United States. Navy--Sea life
United States. Navy. Asiatic Fleet
Van Valkenburgh (Destroyer)
Iwo Jima, Battle of, Japan, 1945
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Japan--Okinawa Island
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Area
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American
Aleutian Islands (Alaska)

Container list
Box 1 Correspondence, 1928-1929
Box 2 Correspondence, 1930-1934
Box 3 Folder a Correspondence, 1935-1937
Box 3 Folder c Photographs
Box 3 Folder d Printed Material
Box 3 Folder e Magazine Article and Newspaper Clippings