Galveston, Texas

Your correspondent is attending the annual Congress of the Naval Order of the United States in this historic city. This year’s Congress theme is World War II in the Gulf of Mexico.

I didn’t know that Galveston is located on one of the coastal islands off the Texas mainland. It was and is a busy maritime port, founded by act of Mexican Congress in 1825. Our conference site is the 100 year old Hotel Galvez, named after the city’s namesake, the Spaniard Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, who served in several Spanish imperial roles in the area in the early and mid nineteenth century. Galveston was an important commercial port in the 19th century, and really came into its own as the Texas oil industry grew in the early 20th century.

Because of the large sea-based oil commerce along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, German naval authorities early in World War II targeted the region intensively with submarine activity. In the four months before the convoy system was reinstituted (from lessons learned in World War I) in the Gulf, innumerable ships carrying oil or refined oil products were sunk, with a loss of about 2000 lives. The number of ships sunk dropped precipitously thereafter, and German efforts in the Gulf were gradually abandoned.

The Naval Order of the United States was founded on 4 July 1890, with a mission of promoting research, study and promulgation of naval and maritime history. The organization has Commanderies throughout the United States. Your correspondent is proud to report that he was elected to serve the organization as Surgeon General for the next two years. In this role, he has the opportunity to write something about naval medical history for the Order’s quarterly publication. If any of our readers are interested in joining the Order (which is by invitation), please let me know by leaving a comment.

© 2011 Thomas L Snyder

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