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1979Re: [tr-m] Fw: [mahan] Origins of the phrase "Great White Fleet"

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  • C Turner
    Apr 5, 2008
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      For more info, check out the Naval Historical Center's
      website on the Great White Fleet, at
      According to this site, the Great White Fleet only
      became known as such after the beginning of the
      journey. Also, during the trip, Rear Admiral Charles
      Sperry recommended that the color of the warships be
      changed from white to gray.


      --- "jmgallen@..." <JMGallen@...> wrote:

      > Does anyone have an answer to this question which
      > appeared on the Mahan List?
      > Jim Gallen
      > ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      > Folks,
      > Has anyone ever definitively pinned down the
      > earliest use of the term "Great White Fleet" in
      > reference to the round the world cruise of
      > 1907-1909.? The phrase itself seemed to exist much
      > earlier but in describing liners or merchant fleets.
      > Jim Reckner reported in his GWF volume that it was
      > first used by the Japanese as the fleet approached
      > Yokohama in October 1908. But, I found through
      > Google Books this reference:
      > The Australasian Medical Gazette, v27, Jan-Dec 1908
      > 21 September 1908 pp493-495
      > The American Fleet Surgeons
      > "The toast of the 'Surgeons of the American Fleet'
      > was proposed by Dr. McDowell. He referred to the
      > pleasure he fleet as an Auckland-born citizen that
      > this historic meeting of the great white fleet..."
      > That statement is found on page 493. The Gazette
      > seems to date the phrase to the visit to New Zealand
      > in August 1908 Zealand and the story is itself
      > reproduced from the New Zealand Herald, date
      > unknown.
      > Margaret Werry of University of Minnesota asserted
      > in print (on page 363 of her 2005 Theatre Journal
      > article "The Greatest Show on Earth": Political
      > Spectacle, Spectacular Politics, and the American
      > Pacific":
      > "With the symbolic excess of Progressive Era
      > pageantry to the fore at every level of planning and
      > execution, sixteen of the most up-to-date
      > battleships set sail on a monumental tour. Painted
      > in white and gold for the occasion, and tellingly
      > dubbed the “Great White Fleet,” the boats departed
      > from the Jamestown Exhibition, which marked the
      > tricentennial of European settlement in the US."fn23
      > fn23:This discussion of the tour of the US Fleet is
      > drawn from a related project tracing the complex
      > performative negotiations that attended the visit in
      > New Zealand and Australia. The primary sources used
      > include the volumes published by New York Sun
      > correspondent Franklin Matthews, who traveled with
      > the Fleet: With the Battle Fleet: Cruise of the
      > sixteen battleships of the United States Atlantic
      > Fleet from Hampton Roads to the Golden Gate,
      > December 1907–May 1908 (New York: B. W. Huebsch,
      > 1908); and Back to Hampton Roads: Cruise of the US
      > Atlantic Fleet from San Francisco to Hampton Roads,
      > July 7, 1908–February 22, 1909 (New York: B. W.
      > Huebsch, 1909); sailors’ point-of-view accounts such
      > as Roman J. Miller, Around the World with the
      > Battleships (Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1909); or
      > the fictionalized account by Margaret J. Codd, With
      > Evans to the Pacific: A Story of the Battle Fleet
      > (Chicago: A. Flanagan Co., 1909)....
      > and via email that:
      > "As far as I know, the moniker "Great White Fleet"
      > was coined as soon as the Fleet set sail. The navy
      > had painted all the (previously grey) battleships
      > white with gold trimming for the event, so it seemed
      > fitting to US journalists (as well as having obvious
      > imperial overtones). I haven't looked into the
      > matter myself, but I have a footnote in that essay
      > where I cite the main literature on the incident and
      > you could follow up in those sources which I'm sure
      > will offer some insight. But yes, it was definitely
      > earlier than August 1908."
      > So, I find that the second Matthews book cites the
      > Australian PM using it in September 1908. I haven't
      > yet found the other volumes Werry cited, but
      > wondered if some other authoritative figure on this
      > list might be better informed.
      > Cheers and many thanks
      > Carlos
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