4 place setting belonging to Admiral William R. Furlong, which was salvaged from the USS Oglala, his flagship sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
Not many an opportunity avails itself regarding an acquisition from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from that very day Japanese Naval Air Forces attacked our Pacific Fleet on December 7th, 1941. This set was salvaged in July of 1941 from Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong’s flagship, USS Oglala, capsized after being strafed and torpedoed while the admiral was still aboard.
William Furlong was born in 1881, in Allenport, PA. He was a graduate of the USNA in 1905. In his career, he served aboard many ships, served during WWI on the USS New York, operating in European waters with the British Fleet. In the 1930’s, Furlong commanded the cruiser USS Marblehead, then inspector of ordnance in charge of the Naval Proving Grounds in Dahlgren, Va., and with his promotion to 2 star rank, was assigned as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance for the Navy Department, Washington, D.C., until taking command of Minecraft- Battle Force. After his retirement, he lived in Washington, D.C., and maintained a summer home in Roscoe, Pa. Admiral Furlong passed away on June 2, 1976, in Bethesda, Maryland.
The china was most likely purchased, perhaps issued, a few years after Furlong was promoted to Rear Admiral on June 23, 1938, and was assigned as Commander- Minecraft, Battle Force at Pearl Harbor in February of 1941. Obviously his command ended with the loss of his flagship, USS Oglala. He was then assigned as the commander of Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and oversaw all salvage and repairing work from December 12, 1941 to his retirement in on July 18, 1945. His only need for a shipboard china service would have been that short span from February to December of 1941.
USS Oglala had a very interesting history beginning her career as the Eastern Steamship Company’s “SS Massachusetts,” built by William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia, in 1907. During WWI, SS Massachusetts was sold to the Navy and converted to a minelayer, and commissioned USS Massachusetts on DECEMBER 7th, 1917. She was renamed USS Shawmut on January 7, 1918.
After WWI, she saw many varying duties, one as a seaplane tender for twenty years. In 1928, to avoid confusion with another US ship named Chaumont, she was renamed Oglala, and would soon receive new updating, receiving new boilers and changing her superstructure appearance.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Oglala was moored next to the light cruiser USS Helena, laying approximately 8 feet apart at Ten Ten Pier. After the attack had completely ended that day, all efforts to keep the ship afloat were unsuccessful, and she capsized, rolling toward the dock (she was moored outboard to Helena, but her captain had moved her away from Helena prior to capsizing), knocking off her bridge structure and main mast and settled there on her port side. Oglala was the last ship at Pearl Harbor to be raised and sent to dry dock, but not without a great deal of difficulty. (I am enclosing a good deal of material on her career, salvaging, and work afterwards).
The china was made by Shenango China, New Castle, PA, and bears that company’s logo on the bottom of the dinner plate, cup & saucer (the cup does not have the image). The salad or sandwich plate was purchased from another firm (or from Navy Quartermaster stores; a complete set perhaps not available with all made by Shenango China), by the name of TEPCO, yet still bears the two-star flag done in a lighter blue transfer. Approximate sizes are; dinner plate 9 3/4″, salad plate 7 1/4″. saucer 6″, and cup is 2 1/4″ high.
Condition on all pieces is excellent. No doubt the chest these would have been maintained in was badly water damaged and discarded, where the china was no exposed long enough to affect damage.
I have written a letter of provenance for this set. Apart from the family from which it was acquired, I am the third owner; its whereabouts 100 percent clear, and unquestioned.
A very desirable 4 piece group of history, from one of our Nation’s most notable events, and the singular moments that brought America into World War II.