By Debbie Dortch, Naval Supply Systems Command Office
of Corporate Communications
U.S. Navy presentation silver that once traveled aboard the USS Indiana (BB 58), a World War II battleship that supported training preparedness in Pearl Harbor, after the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, will reside indefinitely at the USS Indianapolis Museum inside the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis, Ind.
Under an official agreement with the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), the silver set is now on loan to the museum.
The 39-piece set, which includes 22 main items, among them a fish platter, water pitcher, vegetable dish, and tea urn, was originally donated by the state of Indiana in 1896 to the Navy. The set is appraised at $1.5 million, which includes two candelabras valued at $450,000.
"Rest assured that the silver will be in good hands at the USS Indianapolis Museum to help educate future generations about the ship, and to recognize all the crew who served on her and in our great armed forces," said Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., in a letter to NAVSUP. "Your generosity means a great deal to me personally, and I feel confident in expressing a heartfelt thanks on behalf of the survivors, veterans, and servicemen and women to whom this will mean so much."
Capt. David M. Fitzgerald, deputy commander, NAVSUP Navy Family Support said U.S. Navy Ships have had a
longstanding tradition of displaying fine silver in honored displays on board ship.
"Our office ensures that tradition is carried on by caring and storing silver sets of decommissioning/inactive ships and reissuing them to newly commissioned ships ... and ships needing replacement sets," said Fitzgerald. "When the state of Indiana requested Nimitz's USS Indiana silver
for their museum, we knew that it would mean so very much to Indiana and museum visitors. Nimitz and the Navy proudly worked out an agreement to transfer it on loan."
The silver was on display in the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) wardroom for about 12 years.
When Indiana's governor requested the silver from Nimitz, mission schedules precluded an immediate silver return.
"We were on deployment," said Supply Officer and Nimitz Wardroom Officer, Lt. John Epson. "They understood and they worked around our schedule. We were very fortunate to have the Indiana presentation silver and we are extremely grateful the state of Indiana allowed us to keep it on board on display. It's truly a beautiful set and we were really sorry to see it go."
Lorin Schehl, presentation silver project manager, was pleased to share this significant piece of USS Indiana's history with its home state.
"The presentation silver enhances the prestige of our nation by adding to the dignity of official functions held on board naval vessels in ports throughout the world," said Schehl.
"USS Nimitz will get a replacement set of silver from our inventory to replace the Indiana silver," Fitzgerald added.
The U.S. Navy's long and colorful history ceremoniously records heroic acts and significant events. Many of the sets of silver received since 1799 have exemplified this type of recognition. Ships named for states, counties, and cities received lavish silver expressions of patriotism embellished with festooned laurels, state flowers, mascots and ornate embossing.
Throughout the Navy there are more than 8,500 pieces of silver on current inventory, with an estimated value of $17.8 million. Of those pieces, nearly 2,000 are on loan at 54 locations and 3,777 on board Navy ships and submarines.
Presentation silver increases in value with the passing of time, touching many lives and developing greater historical significance as it passes from one location to another.
Many of the larger, older sets have been divided into two or three smaller ones and are proudly displayed aboard as many ships. Some of the larger ships are fortunate enough to have more than one set. Those donated between the late 1880s and 1950s contain sterling silver detailing and were created as master works of art.
Current sets being donated are more often made of silver plate, contain fewer pieces, and are much simpler in design.
While the silver sets themselves have become smaller and simpler, the monitoring system for tracking their care and location has become larger and more complex. What used to be maintained many years ago in ledger books and quill-penned letters is today linked together in a computer database. Nevertheless, much of the work within the office still involves painstaking research into vast archives of accumulated correspondence, yellowed documents, and various handwritten papers.
"The papers that attach to these silver sets are of tremendous historical value," Schehl said. "The records show the generosity and appreciation of many Americans, service members who became donors, families remembering fathers, citizens giving up family treasures. The Navy gratefully accepts these gifts as historical tributes to military and civilian service in the Navy. Each piece is truly a shining legacy in our history."
The Naval Historical Center maintains all other gifts.
NAVSUP's primary mission is to provide U.S. naval forces with quality supplies and services. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg and employing a worldwide workforce of more than 25,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for quality of life issues for our naval forces, including food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges
, and movement of household goods.