Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the first in a new series that will profile some of the museum’s generous donors.
Each Veterans Day, the museum offers the opportunity to make a gift in honor of a veteran, and to have that gift acknowledged in our e-newsletter. Nancy Hall was one of this year’s donors, making a gift in honor of her father, Lieutenant Robert G. Hall, a veteran of World War II.
“Bob Hall was one of those ordinary, quiet Americans who served his country at a crucial time in American and world history because it was the right thing to do,” Nancy explains. He hardly ever talked about the war, but shortly before his death in 1999, he asked that she and her siblings make sure to collect the American flag due to him as a veteran. “We were surprised that he was thinking about this in his last few weeks of life, and fully realized only then how crucially important his wartime service had been to him, and how patriotic he had always felt.”
Items donated to the museum by Nancy in 2006. Nancy pictured as a child top left, and underneath, with a doll at her feet. Her sister Martha is pictured at right, pointing. Lt. Hall carried these pictures on his deployments overseas.
Thanks to her father’s meticulously recorded journals and other military records, Nancy was able to learn a great deal about his dedicated service. Bob Hall served on active duty between April 25, 1944 and February 27, 1946 as the chief gunnery officer on three different ships carrying ammunition and vehicles from the U.S. to Europe. At that time, German U-boats patrolled the North Atlantic. Naval convoys were frequently attacked and ships sunk. Ships carrying ammunition were relegated to the far edges of these convoys, so that if they were blown up, the explosions would not jeopardize other accompanying naval vessels with troops on board.
The one naval engagement Nancy recalls her father sharing was his ship’s aiding the S.S. Leopoldville, which was hit and sunk in the English Channel by a German U-boat on Christmas Eve 1944. Nearly 1,400 Allied infantrymen were saved by responding ships, but 783 men lost their lives. “Dad recalled personally pulling many survivors and many other bodies out of the rough, cold waters that night.”
Following the war, Nancy’s father had a long career with the National Park Service, overseeing the restoration of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall for the Bicentennial, the construction of the Jefferson Memorial Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and other monuments of national importance. The family moved a great deal, but she still fondly recalls her grade school years at Fort Washington in Maryland and frequent family visits to the Smithsonian. Nancy’s Veterans Day gift honors her father’s many contributions to this country and will help the museum to continue telling the stories of everyday individuals like Lt. Hall who have shaped the nation.
The museum accepts gifts in honor or memory of loved ones throughout the year and provides the option for you to send an e-card notifying others of your donation. Let us know the inspiration behind your own gift by leaving a public comment or contacting the Office of External Affairs.
Amy Karazsia is the Director of Individual Giving at the National Museum of American History.