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
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),
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),
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
Higbee, and shots of Navy life.
For additional information, see OH #108.