Navy Shellback Cert, USS Houston 1938, signed by Pres F D Roosevelt and 5 staff
This magnificent document is arguably one of the finest and most historically significant shellback certificates in existence. It will appeal not only to naval collectors and historians, but also to students and collectors of Roosevelt material. Seaman Joe Balicki earned this certificate as a crew member of the cruiser USS Houston on July 25, 1938, en route to the Galapagos Islands with President Roosevelt on board. As is the tradition, the certificate is signed by Captain G. Barker, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Houston. The certificate is also signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in a bold “10” signature beneath the Navy Seal. It is also signed by five other members of the presidential party, to include. Basil O’Connor: FDR’s law partner and longtime legal advisor. Adams, businessman and philanthropist, son-in-law of FDR’s uncle, Warren Delano III. McIntire, Medical Corps, USN, Presidential Aide and physician to the President. Early, White House Press Secretary. Russell Wood, head of FDR’s Secret Service detail. All these men, with the exception of Wood, are shown in the photo of FDR with his staff attached. The signatures are firm and bold and easily legible, with the exception of Early, who signed in a dark area beneath the President’s autograph. There are few other FDR document bearing such a wealth of signatures from his personal staff and “brain trust”. However, it was signed only by FDR, and not the rest of the staff as is the case here. The document is in fine, clean condition. The gold foil seal is crisp and intact and complete. It also still features its red, white, and blue ribbon, which seldom survives the rigors of aging. Letter of Authenticity from John Reznikoff/University Archives. Photos are included for illustrative purposes. ANCIENT ORDERS OF THE DEEP RITUAL. It has been a long naval tradition to initiate “Pollywogs” into the Kingdom of Neptune, the legendary god of the seas, upon their first crossing of the Equator. The ceremony observes a mariner’s transformation to trusty Shellback, also called a Son or Daughter of Neptune. It was a way for sailors to be tested for their seaworthiness. To mark the occasion, elaborate certificates were issued in the name of Neptune, god of the sea. It was customary for the certificate inducting a sailor into. Sometimes these certificates were also signed by prominent and high ranking guests who happened to be aboard–and in rare cases, that guest was the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States. Seaman Balicki was one of the fortunate men to have FDR and his staff sign this time-honored naval proclamation. An ordinary seaman like Balicki would not normally rate his certificate being signed by the high brass, but Balicki was a member of the Deck Department, First Division, and was involved with most of the shore parties and small boat excursions. He developed relationships with the scientists FDR brought along, and they probably arranged for him to get this special certificate. OTHER AUTOGRAPHS ON THIS DOCUMENT. Adams (1910 – 2001), businessman and philanthropist, was the son of FDR’s first cousin. A powerful railroad industry executive, he was also a renowned art and book collector and was one of the incorporators of the FDR Library at Hyde Park. Captain (later Vice Admiral) Ross T. McIntire, (Medical Corps), U. Navy , (1889 – 1959) was FDR’s top aide as well as physician to the President. In 1938, he became the Surgeon General of the United States Navy. He was responsible for the development of the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, MD. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945 and was the acting Press Secretary under President Harry S. Truman in 1950 after the sudden death of Charles Griffith Ross. Early served as press secretary longer than any other person. Became Deputy Secretary of Defense. Russell Wood, Secret Service, headed the Presidential Detail on this voyage. While serving President Hoover, Wood discovered the West Wing fire of 1929. Barker, USN, (1886 – 1957) Commanding Officer USS Houston; Barker graduated from the Naval Academy in 1907, and earned the Navy Cross as XO and CO of a destroyer on anti-submarine duty during World War I. Recalled to active duty after Pearl Harbor, he served out the war as head of Naval Training Schools in the Boston area, to include Harvard ROTC. In July of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt came aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) for a fishing trip to the Galapagos Islands FDR was the first U. President to visit them. This was FDR’s third of four Presidential Cruises on the USS Houston. His party, which included scientists from the Smithsonian Institute, boarded the cruiser on 17 July in San Diego. The scientists were invited to collect specimens from Central and South America while the President fished. Houston crew members produced an informal “cruise book” marking the voyage (July 14 to August 9, 1938). There are numerous photos of Roosevelt with the crew and the Presidential party, shots of the Galapagos and its strange fauna, and a good deal of wit and raillery in the text and photos directed toward the’pollywogs’ on the part of the’shellbacks’ in anticipation of the approaching traditional ceremony of’crossing the line’. FDR himself was a shellback, having been elevated from pollywog status on an earlier voyage. Here are captions for the attached photos, which depict the actual ceremony for which this certificate was awarded. “Pollywog” officers on watch. Pollywogs are sailors who have not crossed the equator before and are presumably looking for the equator as part of their initiation. The donor of this photo was a pollywog on this cruise. The President and King Neptune and Party during the line-crossing celebrations. Another photo shows President Roosevelt, in the well deck of USS Houston, with a shark he caught in Sullivan Bay, Galapagos Islands, in July 1938. USS Houston (CL/CA-30), was a Northampton-class cruiser. In 1931 she transited the Panama Canal and spent the rest of her career assigned to the Pacific. In Manila on November 19, 1940, she became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. On the night of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Houston left from Panay Island bound for Darwin, Australia, where she arrived on December 28, 1941. Following the Japanese victory at the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942, Houston and the Australian light. Cruiser Perth attempted to pass through Sunda Strait. As they approached the entrance near midnight, they unexpectedly encountered a Japanese covering force of nearly one dozen destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous torpedo boats and minesweepers that were protecting the invasion fleet. Perth was sunk, followed, shortly after midnight, by the Houston, after she had scored hits on three destroyers and sunk a minesweeper. Of the original crew of 1,061 men, only 368 survived, becoming slave labor to the Japanese. It was not until nine months later that the American public finally learned of her fate, including the fact that only one-third of the crew had survived. This item is in the category “Collectibles\Militaria\1919-38\Original Period Items”. The seller is “ri-aviation” and is located in this country: US. This item can be shipped to United States, Canada.
- Modified Item: No
- Country/Region of Manufacture: United States