Whitman DE-24 - History


(DE-24: dp. 1,140; 1. 289'5"; b. 35'1", dr. 8'3" (mean); s. 21 k.; a. 3 3", 4 1.1", 9 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.); cl. Evarte)

Whitman (BDE-24) was laid down on 7 September 1942 at the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif. and was initially earmarked for transfer to the Royal Navy under lend-lease. However, the Navy decided to retain the ship for its own use; and she was reclassified to DE-24 on 7 January 1943. She was launched on 19 January 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Josephine P. Whitman, the widow of the late Lt. (jg.) Whitman, and commissioned at Mare Island on 3 July 1943, Lt. Carl E. Bull in command.

After shakedown out of San Diego, and post-shakedown availability, Whitman departed San Francisco on 11 September, escorting Convoy 2298, bound for the Hawaiian Islands. Nine days later, she arrived at Pearl Harbor and safely delivered her charges. She then convoyed the seaplane tender Pocomoke (AV-9) to Canton and Phoenix Islands in early October before she was detached to return to Pearl Harbor.

In November, she moved to the Central Pacific for her first major operation, the thrust against the Japanese

held Gilbert Islands. With the Commander, Escort Division 10 embarked as concurrent Commander, Task Group (TG) 57.7, Whitman patrolled off the entrance to Tarawa lagoon and performed local escort missions into December of 1943.

Returning, via Funafuti in the Ellice Islands, to Hawaii, Whitman underwent engine repairs at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard in January 1944, before she participated in the invasion and occupation of the Marshalls, escorting a group of tankers (designated as Task Unit (TU) 53.8.3) to Majuro on D plus four day. The destroyer escort subsequently performed several convoy escort missions between Hawaii and the Marshalls and then steamed to the west coast in March for a major overhaul at the Mare Island Navy Yard. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 10 May.

Whitman departed the Hawaiian Islands on 27 May to escort TU 16.6.4, a Service Force unit, to the forward areas. The tanker group to which Whitman was attached fueled some of the ships of the Fleet participating in the Marianas operation that June. The destroyer escort subsequently performed local escort missions in the Marshalls before heading back to Pearl Harbor in the autumn.

After returning to Hawaiian waters, Whitman operated with Pacific Fleet submarines out of Pearl Harbor from October 1944 to May 1945, providing target services to the submariners' training program. In addition whenever a shortage of escort vessels came up, ships such as Whitman were summoned to provide a variety of services, including antisubmarine patrols and planeguarding. While engaged in the latter on 23 February 1945, Whitman rescued Lt. (jg.) Ward J. Taylor after he had made a forced landing while the destroyer escort was planeguarding for Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70). Whitman performed her service speedily and brought Taylor safely on board only five minutes after the accident occurred.

After that stint in Hawaiian waters, the destroyer escort was assigned to TG 96.3 in June 1945 and performed patrol and escort missions to Eniwetok, Johnston Island, Kwajalein, and Ulithi through the summer of 1945.

On 10 August, the day upon which the Japanese indicated a desire to surrender unconditionally to the Allies Whitman departed Eniwetok with Convoy EU-172, bound for Ulithi. She was en route from Ulithi to Eniwetok with Convoy UE-123 when the Japanese capitulated five days later. She was at Eniwetok when the formal surrender was signed on board Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay.

Departing Kwajalein for the last time on 14 September, Whitman sailed for Pearl Harbor and arrived there on the 20th. Her stay was brief, however, for she got underway for the west coast the next day. Making port at San Pedro on 27 September, Whitman was decommissioned on 1 November and struck from the Navy list on the 16th. Sold to the National Metal and Steel Co. of Terminal Island, Calif., and delivered on 31 January 1947, the ship was scrapped on 20 March 1948.

Whitman (DE-24) earned four battle stars for her World War II service.

Whitman DE-24 - History

History of USS CAMP DE 251

Submitted by Wayne F. Gibbs, crewmember

*(webmaster note: In the following letter Mr. Gibbs is referring to an article that appeared in DESANews, March/April, 2004 edition)

I have attached a document about the Camp's history from a source other than the one the originator of the article used. But this too is incomplete. There is a big "hole" in it and I was aboard the Camp for part of that period. I went aboard Camp in March of 1961 and served aboard her until late in 1962. I was amused that the DESA article* mentioned "Not since the ending of hostilities in WWII has the USS CAMP or any other DEs visited Portsmouth, England, or any other ports in England or Ireland. ". Camp was HOMEPORTED in Greenoch, Scotland from November of 1961 through February of 1962. We were making pickets on the so-called United Kingdom Barrier which put us on station midway between Norway and Iceland. We were a part the Berlin Crisis and the crew received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for that service. During that time, we were the first American ship to visit Copenhagen, Denmark since the end of WWII.

During 1962 Camp spent a lot of time off Cuba. When we weren't patrolling Windward Passage (entrance to Guatanamo Bay), we were stationed on the Cay Sal Bank off the North Coast of Cuba where we could track air traffic in and out of Havana. We also rescued several boat loads of refugees which we took to Miami Harbor and turned over to the Coast Guard. The crew received the Navy Expeditionary Medal for that service.

I made two cruises to Vietnam--one was aboard the USS Roark (DE-1053) in 1971. I saw the "Tran Hung Dao" in Pearl Harbor on the way to Vietnam. It was like seeing an old friend--the Camp was still alive! I feared the worst when Vietnam collapsed but was happy to find out that she wasn't captured by the North Vietnamese.

The taxpayers of the United States certainly got their money's worth from the Camp. I hope you will give the Camp her due by continuing the article that appeared in the DESA news.
Wayne F. Gibbs
[email protected]

From the "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," (1969) Vol. 2, pp.21-22.
Information courtesy of HyperWar and Transcribed by Michael Hansen

Born 27 August 1916 in Jennings, La., Jack Hill Camp enlisted in the Naval Reserve 20 January 1941 and was appointed a naval aviator 29 December 1941. Attached to
Patrol Squadron 44, Ensign Camp was killed in action 7 June 1942 during the Battle of Midway.

Displacement: 1,200 t.
Length: 306'
Beam: 36'7"
Draft: 8'7"
Speed: 21 k.
Complement: 186
Armament: 3 3" 3 21" torpedo tubes
2 depth charge tracks
8 depth charge projectors
1 hedge hog

CAMP (DE-251) was launched 16 April 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex. sponsored by Mrs. O. H. Camp commissioned 16 September 1943, Lieutenant Commander P. B. Mavor, USCG, in command and reported to the Atlantic Fleet.

After duty as school ship for precommissioning crews for other escort vessels, CAMP cleared Norfolk, Va., 14 December 1943, escorting a convoy bound for Casablanca with
men and supplies for the operations in Italy. CAMP returned to Norfolk 24 January 1944 to begin a year and a half of convoy escort operations from New York to ports of the United Kingdom, guarding convoys whose ships brought troops and mountains of equipment and supplies for the buildup and support of the assault on the European continent. Fighting
the foul weather common in the North Atlantic, CAMP's alertness against submarine attack and diligence were rewarded by no losses in any of the convoys she accompanied.
A collision with a merchantman, in which one of CAMP's crew members was killed, required a repair period during which CAMP received a new bow and acquired 5" guns otherwise her escort duty was uninterrupted until 19 June 1945.

CAMP cleared Charleston, S.C., 9 July 1945 for the Pacific, and after serving as a training ship at Pearl Harbor, proceeded to Eniwetok for occupation duty. She supervised the evacuation of the Japanese garrison from Mili, then took on air-sea rescue duties off Kwajalein until 4 November, when she sailed for home, arriving at New York 10 December. She was decommissioned 1 May 1946.

Reclassified DER-251 on 7 December 1965, CAMP was recommissioned 31 July l956 for duty as radar picket ship in the early warning system. She reported to Newport, R.I., 19
February 1957 and operated from that port to Argentia, Newfoundland, and into the North Atlantic through 1960.

Update: [In 1965, her large radar antennae was removed and CAMP was sent to Indo-China for coastal patrol and interdiction by the US Navy (Operation Market Time). She was transferred to South Vietnam on 6 February 1971. Renamed frigate TRAN HUNG DAO (HQ-01), the ship was stricken from the US Navy Register on 30 December 1975. Following the surrender of the South Vietnamese government on 29 April 1975, TRAN HUNG DAO escaped to the Philippines which acquired the ship later that year. Formally transferred on 5 April 1976, former TRAN HUNG DAO was commissioned into the Philippine Navy as frigate RAJAH LAKANDULA (PS-4). Deleted in 1988, she was
retained and acted as a stationary headquarters ship as recently as 1995.]

"Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1947-1995," p.307, 638.
K. Jack Bauer and Stephen S. Roberts, "Register of Ships of the U. S. Navy, 1775-1990," p.225.
"Jane's Fighting Ships, 1975-76," p.619 "1976-77," p.367 "1977-78," p.373 "1989-90," p.434.]

CAMP (DE-251)

Named for Ensign Jack Hill Camp, b. 27 August 1916, Jennings, LA served with Patrol Squadron 44, YORKTOWN (CV-5) KIA 7 June 1942, Battle of Midway (see WHITMAN, DE-24)

Type: FMR
Builder: BST
Keel laid 01/27/43
Launched 04/16/43
Commissioned 09/16/43
First CO: Lt Cdr P. B. Mavor, USCG
Decommissioned 05/01/46
Redesignated DER 12/07/55
Recommissioned 07/31/56-1971
To South Vietnam as TRAN HUNG DAO 06/02/71
Stricken (US) 12/30/75
To The Philippines 04/05/75
(The most powerful warship in The Philippines)
Stricken (PN) 1988, still in use as stationary barracks ship in Subic Bay as of 1999 scraped on unknown date.
Unit of CortDiv 20
Collided with merchant ship during a North Atlantic storm in April 1945 one of crew killed received new bow and five-inch guns
Rescued several boat loads of refugees who were taken to Miami Harbor and turned over to the Coast Guard in 1962

F rom the research of Anne McCarthy,
with contributions by Pat Perrella and Pat Stephens, webmaster. March 2008

Photo 1 | Photo 2 | Photo 3 | Ship History

U.S. Navy WWII Dazzle Camouflage from a Different Angle

Many ship modelers and others interested in ship camouflage are familiar with the drawings that the U.S. Navy produced and distributed during World War II to show how to paint the camouflage for a particular ship or class of ships. The most numerous were those that illustrated the designs for the Measure 31, 32 and 33 Camouflages. Typically these drawings illustrate the pattern and colors for the port or starboard side of the ship, but may also include various views of sections or ends of the superstructure. Very often, a drawing also provided a stern view to show the pattern seen from that angle. These stern views proved to be surprisingly confusing to the people who had to use the drawings to paint the pattern on the full-sized ship.

Because of the confusion about how to interpret the stern views of many drawings, in many cases, there were two different results when the drawing was applied to the full-sized ship. The confusion seems to be over how to use the stern view, that is, what projection should be used to interpret the drawing. The projection used for engineering drawings is called orthogonal (“right-angled”) or orthographic because the lines of sight from points on the object to the picture plane of the image are perpendicular to that plane. Thus, the lines of sight, called projectors, are parallel rather than convergent (as they are in the central projection of the eye, the camera, or in geometric perspective). *

* Definition of orthographic projection from

The illustration above shows the two concepts: on the left is the orthographic projection from a top view that would produce a stern view and on the right is a perspective projection to produce a stern view from a close camera or eye position. This caused two different versions of how the stern might be painted based on each of those two different interpretations. Despite what may seem obvious to those who are familiar with three-dimensional plans, this dual interpretation was fairly prevalent.

Two Interpretations

The best representative example comes from Design 1D. The stern view of the 1D design drawing for the Evarts class Destroyer Escorts (NARA 80-G-172859 and 80-G-172871) shows what should be almost “edge-on” views of the aft-most camouflage panels as viewed from the stern. The enlarged section of the drawing is shown on left and we can see the two black panels on each side of the stern, that match the port and starboard black panels foreshortened as if viewed at a very oblique angle.

Thus, we should see the camouflage for Design 1D applied to produce a stern view like this view of USS John M. Bermingham (DE-530) left. In this photo taken in Boston Harbor on August 15, 1944 we see the aft-most black panels on each side “edge-on” with no black panels between.

The next photo is USS Whitman (DE-24) at Mare Island on April 21, 1944, also in Design 1D. Whitman clearly has painted “extra” panels on the stern as if the drawing was interpreted as a close-up perspective view. One can just imagine the possible discussions or arguments that took place in wardrooms or shipyards about which was the correct interpretation of these drawings.

These different interpretations of stern views were not limited to one particular ship class or type. All classes of Destroyer Escorts (DEs), many classes of Destroyers (DDs) and some classes of Cruisers had similar differences. For a modeler of any of these ships, what this means is that to accurately portray the camouflage, one cannot just assume that the applied camouflage looked exactly like the drawing. Views must be found that show some portion of the stern in addition to port and starboard in order to confirm the interpretation.

Other Variations

This photo shows the enlarged stern view from the drawing for Measure 31/9D for the Fletcher class destroyers (NARA 80-G-170932 and 80-G-170933 dated March 8, 1944) showing the stern blank and without a color label possibly an oversight or maybe even the intention was for the side pattern to be continued and wrapped around the stern. There is a disconnect in the drawing since the last panel toward the stern on the port side is the light color while the last panel on the starboard side is the medium so, if continued, the two colors must meet somewhere on the stern. This obviously could lead to confusion about what to do.

The next photo shows the stern of USS Uhlmann (DD-687) taken off Hunters Point on August 10, 1944 showing the entire stern painted light gray (5-L) with no pattern continued from either side. Note: Uhlmann used Measure 32 colors hence the lightest color is 5-L.

This photo shows the stern of USS Hopewell (DD-681) on an unidentified date at an unidentified Pacific base showing the stern with the ocean gray (5-O) panels from each side continued around the stern quarter and meeting near the middle. Whichever of these two interpretations is the “correct” one is anyone’s guess. Again there must have been many discussions about what to do since the drawing gave no hint of how to treat the stern.

Help for the Confusion?

The Camouflage Section, which was responsible for the drawings, appears to have tried to address the problem of confusing stern views. Some design drawings, especially for Destroyer Escorts, included the stern knuckles or “corners” possibly in an effort to make it clear how the pattern wrapped around the stern.

The photo left is an enlargement of the stern of the Design 14D drawing for the Buckley class destroyer escorts dated December 30, 1943 (NARA 80-G-163670 and 80-G-163671). This view shows the knuckles and the aft-most starboard black panel wrapped around onto the stern.

The next photo shows the stern of USS Hollis (DE-794) on January 28, 1944, near Houstan, Texas. The starboard black panel continues around the stern quarter and is a very good match for the drawing. Also, the aft port black panels can be seen almost edge-on.

However, some camouflage painters seemed to be still confused. The next photo above gives a view of the stern of USS William C. Cole (DE-641) at San Francisco on May 18, 1944. There are “extra” panels on the stern in an effort to match the drawing as if the entire width of the stern view were just the stern from one quarter to the other.

Triple Confusion?

This photo shows two portions of that drawing enlarged and side-by-side. We see on the left side the depiction of the stern that is only from knuckle to knuckle or the width of the two depth charge racks. This shows only a black panel on the starboard side of this part of the stern. Together on the right alongside, I have included the aft portion of the starboard view in order to see the panel on starboard quarter. These two views seem incompatible since the curved stern should allow the side view to see some portion of the stern panel.

One interpretation is left: a photo of USS Oberrender (DE-344) in Boston on July 15, 1944, from starboard stern quarter. Notice how the black panel on the stern quarter does not wrap around the stern and there is an “extra” panel on the stern creating a gap.

Next we see a cropped aerial view of the stern of USS Oliver Mitchell (DE-417) showing a single dull black panel that wraps around the stern quarter apparently the two panels have been joined into one.

There was a third option for interpreting the seeming conflicting views. This photo shows the stern quarter of USS Dennis (DE-405) showing no panels on the stern and a single panel on the starboard side. The camouflage painters in this case ignored the stern view altogether.


Left is the stern of USS Houstan (CL-81) in camouflage 32/1D on January 11, 1944 the stern of USS Miami (CL-89) was painted similarly.

This is the stern view from the drawing for 32/1D for the CL-55 class. Notice the “extra” black panel on the port stern quarter, which is really the edge of the aft most panel. Both Houstan and Miami had this “extra” panel on the stern port quarter.

In fact many camouflage drawings had more than one interpretation for how to apply the pattern especially around the stern. This multiple interpretation probably was the result of having crews applying paint that were unfamiliar with reading plans or blueprints. My guess is that in some cases crews were handed paint and drawings and instructed, “Make it look like this.” The result was often a bit unpredictable. Thus, any modeler who wishes to accurately portray a ship in its camouflage should make sure to view photos of all sides and as many angles as possible.

Please contact [email protected]
with any comments, suggestions, or criticisms.

Site last updated: March 1, 2019
Copyright © C. Lee Johnson 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940 the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

Post-War operations [ edit | edit source ]

On 10 August, the day upon which the Japanese indicated a desire to surrender unconditionally to the Allies, Whitman departed Eniwetok with Convoy EU-172, bound for Ulithi. She was en route from Ulithi to Eniwetok with Convoy UE-123 when the Japanese capitulated five days later. She was at Eniwetok when the formal surrender was signed on board Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay.

Departing Kwajalein for the last time on 14 September, Whitman sailed for Pearl Harbor and arrived there on the 20th. Her stay was brief, however, for she got underway for the west coast the next day.

On November 4, 1958, a majority of Whitman County voters approve the establishment of a port district. The desire to establish the Port of Whitman County is driven by the development of the Columbia Snake River system, a navigable waterway that will connect inland counties with the Pacific Ocean. The last two dams that will complete this waterway, Little Goose and Lower Granite on the lower Snake River, will be dedicated in Whitman County in 1975. In addition to providing access to the slackwater lakes created by the dams on the lower Snake, in the 1980s the Port will expand its activities to include off-water industrial and economic development.

Prelude to a Port

When European Americans arrived in the Northwest, the region’s rivers were already central to Native American patterns of trade and transportation. As migration and settlement increased during the nineteenth century, these patterns began to change. Agricultural centers emerged in Eastern Washington and soon steamboats were shipping agricultural and other products along the rivers. The first shipment of Whitman County wheat, bound for Portland, was loaded onto a steamer in Almota in 1876.

But certain points along the rivers presented challenges: On the Columbia River, goods had to be offloaded and portaged at Celilo Falls and at Cascade Rapids before they could reach the Pacific Ocean. Railroads improved transportation throughout the state in the 1860s, but they did not replace the demand for more efficient and economical navigation on the Columbia and its largest tributary, the Snake River. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers began working in the region and created a waterway between Portland, Oregon, and Lewiston, Idaho, by building locks at the Cascades and Celilo, but railroads remained the more economical mode of transport.

Parallel to the commercial development of navigable waters was the movement to secure public control and access to them. The Constitution of Washington State secured these rights, and in 1911 the state legislature passed the Port District Act, which permitted the establishment and governance of public port districts. The Port of Seattle was established in 1911 and other ports were quickly formed. Among these was the Port of Kennewick, established in 1915 to accommodate an expected increase in Columbia steamboat traffic after the opening of The Dalles-Celilo Canal. The legislature initially authorized port districts to provide maritime shipping and rail-water transfer facilities, but by the 1940s these powers had been expanded to include industrial development districts and airports.

The Columbia Snake River System

Between the 1930s and 1970s, a convergence of public and private interests in navigation, irrigation, and power led to the construction of a series of eight multipurpose dams, which transformed the Columbia and Snake rivers into a major waterway. The first of these was the Bonneville Lock and Dam. In 1938, the first year in which Bonneville’s locks were operative, more freight moved through the middle Columbia than had in the previous 22 years.Three additional dams with locks were constructed on the Columbia -- McNary, The Dalles, and John Day -- and four more on the Snake -- Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite. The series of slackwater lakes created by these dams made it possible to ship cargo from the inland port of Lewiston to the Pacific.

The new economic opportunities created by the Columbia Snake River system led a number of cities and counties to establish public port districts, which could use public funds to build docks, warehouses, cage handling facilities, grain elevators, and other infrastructural support for shippers and receivers. In the 1940s, the Port of Kennewick was revitalized and the ports of the Pasco and Klickitat were established on the Columbia. The Port of Walla Walla followed in 1952 and in 1958 a number of other ports on the Columbia and Snake rivers were established, including the ports of Benton, Clarkston, and Whitman County.

The Promise of a Port

In October 1958, in Colfax, the seat of Whitman County since its formation in 1871, some 80 farm and civic leaders met to discuss the formation of a port district for the county. After hearing about the success of the Port of Walla Walla and discussing the economic and public benefits that a port authority could bring to the county, there was broad support for establishing a port district when the issue went before voters the next month, 6,653 of 9,156 votes approved its organization.

D. I. Hopkins, Walter N. Nelson, and Lawrence Hickman were elected as port commissioners. They held their first meeting in January 1959. The Port’s original comprehensive plan anticipated acquiring land at seven sites along the river, but only three of these were developed.

In 1969, when the Lower Monumental dam opened and the Little Goose and Lower Granite dams were nearing completion, the Port began developing grain-handling and liquid-fertilizer facilities at its Almota site. Four miles downriver of Lower Granite, on the site of the submerged town of the same name, Almota became a major shipping terminal for local white wheat, the primary product of the county. A little bit farther upriver, the Port later constructed Boyer Park and Marina, a recreational site.

The second site developed by the Port, 20 miles downriver from Almota, was Central Ferry, another major trans-shipment point for local wheat. The Port’s third and largest river site, Wilma, was developed near the terminus of the Columbia-Snake waterway, north of Clarkston and Lewiston. By 1975, when the dams on the lower Snake were dedicated, the Port’s investments in land and improvements totaled about $12 million. Through its three river sites, the Port facilitates the movement of agricultural inputs and petroleum products upriver as well as local agricultural products and manufactured goods downriver to global markets.

Off-Water Development

In the 1980s, the Port began to focus on off-water industrial development. It opened the Pullman Industrial Park and in 1988 the first business, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, located there. Other businesses followed, including Decagon Devices and Metriguard. The park, which borders the Washington State University Research and Technology Park, now comprises more than a hundred acres of fully developed sites. In 2007, the Port was awarded a state grant to establish an Innovation Partnership Zone at its Pullman site, to support an industry cluster focusing on energy-efficient information technologies.

The Port established a second, smaller industrial development site at the Whitman County Memorial Airport in 1998. When the county decided to close the Colfax airport in 2002, the Port took over the facility and combined it with its Colfax Industrial Park to form the Port of Whitman Business Air Center. Today, the Port sees itself primarily as an industrial real estate developer, focusing on job creation and expanding the county’s tax base.

Washington Public Ports Association

Steamer Occident passing through Cascade Locks, Columbia River, ca. 1900

Courtesy Whitman College and Northwest Archives

Columbia-Snake Waterway, 1975

Courtesy Pacific Northwest Waterways Association Records, Whitman College and Northwest Archives

Port of Wilma, Port of Whitman County, Snake River across from Lewiston, Idaho, 1975

Courtesy Port of Whitman County

Barge loading for ocean-going traffic, Port Almota grain terminal, Whitman County, 1970

Courtesy Port of Whitman County

Port of Central Ferry, Port of Whitman County grain facility, State Route 127, August 17, 2010 Photo by Priscilla Long

Grain facility, Port of Central Ferry, Port of Whitman County, State Route 127, August 17, 2010 Photo by Priscilla Long

Port of Central Ferry, Port of Whitman County, 2000s

Courtesy Port of Whitman County

Pullman Industrial Park, Port of Whitman County, Pullman

Courtesy Port of Whitman County

Port of Whitman County Business Air Center, Route 26 near Colfax, ca. 2000s

On November 29, 1847, a small group of Cayuse Indians attack the Whitman Mission near Walla Walla in what will become known as the Whitman Massacre. Dr. Marcus Whitman (1802-1847), his wife Narcissa Prentiss Whitman (1808-1847), nine other men, and two teenage boys are killed during several days of bloodshed, most of them on the first day. Another man escapes to Fort Walla Walla but is believed to have drowned shortly thereafter he is counted as a 14th victim. About 50 survivors are held hostage for a month and then ransomed by the Hudson's Bay Company. The attack, a pivotal event in Northwest history, will lead to a war of retaliation against the Cayuse and the extension of federal control over the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.

Initial Cordiality

The Whitmans established a Protestant mission on Cayuse land next to the Walla Walla River at Waiilatpu (pronounced Why-ee-lat-poo, meaning "Place of the Rye Grass") in 1836, under the sponsorship of the Boston-based American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Relations between the couple and their hosts were initially cordial. The Cayuses helped cultivate land, plant and harvest crops, and build structures for the mission. The missionaries supplemented their diet with horsemeat provided by the Indians until they could raise enough food of their own. Tribal members celebrated the birth of the couple's first and only child, Alice Clarissa, in 1837. "The little stranger is visited daily by the chiefs and principal men in camp, and the women throng the house continually waiting an opportunity to see her," Narcissa wrote to her parents. Among those who came to pay homage was a headman named Tiloukaikt, "a kind, friendly Indian," who welcomed the baby as a "Cayuse te-mi" (Cayuse girl), because she was born on Cayuse land. "The whole tribe are highly pleased because we allow her to be called a Cayuse girl" (Letters, March 30, 1837).

However, disappointment and disillusionment built up over time, on both sides. The Whitmans expected the Cayuses to be eager to take up farming, convert to Christianity, and live like white people. The Indians were interested in some aspects of the newcomers' culture and religion, but only to supplement, not replace, their traditional way of life. Cultural misunderstandings contributed to the tension. The Whitmans' ideas about privacy conflicted with Indian standards of community and shared space. Gift-giving was an essential part of social and political interaction in Cayuse life the Whitmans regarded the practice as extortion. When the Cayuses adopted Euro-American notions about private property and demanded payment for their land and resources, the missionaries were offended and refused.

An important link between the Whitmans and the Cayuses was broken in June 1839, when 2-year-old Alice Clarissa toddled into the river behind the mission and drowned. Narcissa sank into a depression that never fully lifted. Whitman turned his focus away from "the benighted Indians" and concentrated instead on attracting and supporting white settlers. He became an ardent advocate of American expansion into "Oregon Country," which was not yet a part of the United States (a boundary dispute between the U.S. and Great Britain would not be settled until 1846). "He wanted to see the country settled," wrote Reverend Henry K. Perkins (1812-1884), a Methodist missionary who knew him well. "The beautiful valley of the Walla Walla he wanted to see teeming with a busy, bustling white population" (Perkins to Jane Prentiss, October 19, 1849, reprinted in Drury, Marcus Whitman, M.D., 459).

Whitman enthusiastically greeted a group of former mountain men and their families who arrived at Waiilatpu in the fall of 1840 with three wagons -- the first to be driven over what would become the Oregon Trail. Whitman himself had tried to bring a wagon to Oregon four years earlier but had been forced to leave it behind at a fort in present-day Idaho. "[Y]ou have broken the ice," he reportedly told Robert Newell (1807-1869) and Joseph L. "Joe" Meek (1810-1875), the leaders of the party. "[W]hen others see that wagons have passed, they too, will pass and in a few years the valley will be full of our people" (Snowden, 25). A group of 24 emigrants from Missouri reached Waiilatpu the next year. "Doubtless every year will bring more and more into this country," Narcissa wrote. "Our little place is a resting spot for many a weary, way-worn traveler and will be as long as we live here" (Letters, October 2, 1841).

By that point, the American Board was sponsoring four missions in Oregon Country, located hundreds of miles apart, staffed by missionaries who incessantly quarreled among themselves. The board became increasingly exasperated by the stream of complaining letters from Oregon and by the missionaries' lack of progress in converting Indians. In February 1842, it ordered the closure of Waiilatpu and two other stations, recalled two of the most troublesome missionaries, and assigned Whitman to the remaining station, near Spokane.

Whitman received the news seven months later. With the consent of his fellow missionaries, he made a dangerous mid-winter ride back to Boston to protest the board's decision. He argued that Waiilatpu was a strategic rest stop and supply station for travelers to Oregon and that "Papists" (Catholics) would take it over if the Protestants abandoned it. The board reluctantly rescinded its order. Whitman returned in the fall of 1843 at the head of a wagon train of more than 800 emigrants. "I have no doubt our greatest work is to be to aid the white settlement of this country," he wrote to Narcissa's parents. "The Indians have in no case obeyed the command to multiply and replenish the earth, and they cannot stand in the way of others doing so" (Letters, May 16, 1844).

"The Indians Are Roused"

The Cayuse watched with alarm as more and more emigrants traveled through their country, using up scarce firewood, depleting grasses on land used to graze Indian horses and cattle, and killing game without permission. About 1,500 arrived in 1844 twice that number came the next year. Many exhausted families wintered at the mission before continuing on to the Willamette Valley in the spring. More outbuildings were added to the mission complex more fields fenced in. "The Indians are roused a good deal at seeing so many emigrants," Narcissa wrote (Letters, May 20, 1844).

Tribal leaders made several efforts to get the Whitmans to leave, to the point of physical confrontation. Whitman was shoved and hit on the chest on one occasion. He was cuffed and had his ears pulled another time. "When Marcus Whitman returned east to protest the proposal to close Waiiletpu Mission and, on the return trip, when he brought more people to settle the Oregon Country, the Cayuse leaders warned him that what he was doing was not the understanding they had with him," Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla, wrote in a tribal history. "His expressed purpose for being with the Cayuse was to teach them about the Christian religion. But he brought more people, developed more land, and brought sickness that killed many Cayuse" ("Wars, Treaties, . " 64).

More than 4,000 settlers reached Oregon Country in 1847. Their arrival coincided with a virulent epidemic of measles among the Cayuses, who had no natural immunity to the infectious diseases introduced by Euro-Americans. The source of the outbreak is not clear: possibly one of the emigrant wagon trains, possibly a Cayuse-Walla Walla cattle-trading party that had recently returned from California. In any case, the effects were devastating. According to some estimates, nearly half the Indians living near the Whitman Mission died. More than a dozen white people at the mission also were sickened by measles but only one -- a six-year-old from an emigrant family -- died. Noting that Whitman's white patients usually recovered while his Indian patients did not, some Indians began to suspect him of deliberately killing Cayuses in order to take their land.

In Cayuse tradition, a healer or shaman ("te-wat") whose patients died could be considered guilty of misusing his spirit power and put to death himself. Whitman, a medical doctor who had been introduced to the Cayuses as "a sorcerer of great power," was well aware of his vulnerability. Just months after settling in at Waiilatpu, he had been called to treat the wife of a Cayuse head chief. The chief told Whitman he would kill him if his wife died. That patient survived, but others did not. In a letter to the American Board in 1845, Whitman noted that he had recently been accused of causing two deaths -- one a young man who "died of apoplexy" the other, a chief. The chief's son "came to me as he was dying and in a passion told me I had killed his Father and that it would not be a difficult matter for me to be killed" (ABCFM Collection, April 8, 1845).

Attack on the Mission

More than 60 people were at the Whitman Mission on the morning of November 29, 1847, including eight newly arrived emigrant families, a school teacher, a tailor who had been hired to make a new Sunday suit for Whitman, half a dozen laborers, and 10 children who had been taken in by the Whitmans over the years (among them seven orphans whose parents -- Henry and Naomi Sager -- had died on the Oregon Trail in 1844). Two other families were living in a cabin at the mission's sawmill in the Blue Mountains, some 20 miles away. It was a cold and foggy day. After the noontime meal, several of the men began butchering a steer. Some of the children went to the schoolroom, on the second floor of the main Mission House, with their teacher. Narcissa gave two of the Sager girls a bath downstairs. Whitman sat down in the living room to read.

Sometime after 1 p.m., a small group of Cayuses -- 14 to 18, by most estimates -- armed themselves with clubs, tomahawks, and guns covered the weapons with blankets, and went to the mission complex. Two Indians pushed their way into the kitchen at the Mission House and demanded medicine. Roused by the noise, Whitman went to the kitchen. Mary Ann Bridger, 12-year-old mixed-race daughter of mountain man James F. "Jim" Bridger (1804-1881), who had spent half her life with the Whitmans, was the only eyewitness to what happened next. She said later that when Whitman turned toward a cupboard, presumably to get some medicine, one of the Indians plunged a tomahawk into the back of his head. Tribal historians speculate that the assailant may have been trying to release the evil spirits he thought lay within.

By sunset, some four hours later, nine people were dead, including both Whitmans. Narcissa, the only woman to be attacked, was shot. Two men managed to escape. One of them, a carpenter named Peter D. Hall, reached the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Walla Walla, 25 miles west of the mission, on the morning of November 30, bringing the first news of the attack to the outside world. He is believed to have drowned while trying to travel on by boat to Fort Vancouver. An emigrant family of five hid under floorboards in the Mission House and eventually also escaped to Fort Walla Walla. Two other men were killed the day after the initial attack. One of them, a 24-year-old who had been working at the sawmill, was shot as he approached the mission with a load of lumber. He was buried where he lay by a French Canadian named Joseph Stanfield, one of the Whitmans' hired hands. Stanfield then began digging a mass grave for the other victims. He was preparing bodies for burial on the morning of December 1, 1847, when Father J. B. A. Brouillet (1813-1884) arrived. Brouillet, a Catholic priest who had established a mission on the Umatilla River about 25 miles south of Waiilatpu just a few days earlier, described what he saw in a letter to officials at Fort Walla Walla:

"Ten dead bodies lying here and there, covered with blood and bearing the marks of the most atrocious cruelty -- some pierced with balls, others more or less gashed by the hatchet. Dr. Whitman had received three gashes on the face. Three others had their skulls crushed so that their brains were oozing out" (March 2, 1848, reprinted in Brouillet, 50).

The survivors watched and wept as Brouillet and Stanfield put the dead in a wagon -- "all piled up like dead animals," one of the Sager girls recalled -- and then buried them in a long, shallow trench (Delaney, 22). Two of the Whitmans' wards -- Louise Sager, age 6, and Helen Mar Meek, 10 (mixed-race daughter of mountain man Joe Meek) -- died of measles a few days later. Shortly after that, two young emigrant men, both in their 20s and ill with measles, were dragged from their beds and bludgeoned to death, in a final flurry of violence at the Whitman Mission.

The survivors -- mostly women and children -- were held as hostages for a month and then ransomed by Peter Skene Ogden (1780-1854), a Hudson's Bay Company official from Fort Vancouver. Shortly after Odgen and his men left, to escort the former captives to Fort Vancouver, the Indians learned that settlers in the Willamette Valley had destroyed Cayuse villages and property on the upper Deschutes River. Angered, they returned to the mission piled wagons and other property into the buildings, and burned them.

The settlers' reactions to the "horrid massacre" at Waiilatpu were reflected in the pages of the Oregon Spectator, published in Oregon City. One editorial demanded that "the barbarian murderers . be pursued with unrelenting hostility, until their lifeblood has atoned for their infamous deeds let them be hunted as beasts of prey" (January 20, 1848). George Abernethy (1807-1877), recently elected as the provisional governor, called for "immediate and prompt action" to punish the perpetrators. A volunteer militia of about 500, led by Colonel Cornelius Gilliam (1798-1848), set out to do that in January 1848.

Meanwhile, Joe Meek, who had settled near Oregon City and become a member of the provisional legislature, was commissioned to take news of the attack to Washington, D.C. He arrived in May 1848 with petitions demanding federal protection for the settlers. Congress responded by passing a long-delayed bill to establish Oregon Territory as a federal entity. The bill had been stalled for two years by a debate over whether slavery would be permitted in the new territory (in the end, it was not). President James K. Polk (1795-1849) signed the measure in August 1848. He then appointed the first slate of territorial officers, including Joseph Lane (1801-1881), a Mexican War veteran from Indiana, as territorial governor, and Meek as U.S. Marshal.

Lane arrived in Oregon City in March 1849. By then, the Cayuses and their neighbors, the Walla Wallas and the Nez Perce, had been subject to more than a year of harassment by volunteer militiamen. Lane arranged a meeting with tribal leaders at The Dalles in April, offering peace if those who were guilty of killing the whites at Waiilatpu were given up. If not, he promised the Cayuses a war "which would lead to their total destruction," because "we could not discriminate between the innocent and guilty" (Lane). The tribe still held out for another year. Finally, an elder known as Young Chief (Tauitau, sometimes spelled Tawatoe or Tawatoy) arranged for the tribe to surrender five men for trial on charges of murder in connection with the attack. Among them was Tiloukaikt, the "kind, friendly Indian" who had christened the Whitmans' infant daughter as a "Cayuse te-mi" when she was born.

The five prisoners were brought to Oregon City, tried, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out on June 3, 1850, by Marshal Joe Meek.

Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu by William Henry Jackson

Courtesy National Park Service (SCBL 151)

Marcus Whitman (1802-1847), idealized portrait based on 1847 sketch

Courtesy National Park Service

Narcissa (Prentiss) Whitman (1808-1847), idealized portrait based on 1847 sketch

Courtesy National Park Service

Cayuse Chief Tiloukaikt, painted by Paul Kane, ca. 1847

Courtesy National Park Service

Mound of earth marking mass burial site of 1847 Whitman Massacre victims, ca. 1880, Waiilatpu, Walla Walla

Courtesy Shallow Grave At Waiilatpu: The Sagers' West

Whitman Massacre survivors and others at dedication of marble slab over mass grave of those killed during 1847 attack at the Whitman Mission, Waiilatpu, Walla Walla, 1897

Whitman Mission national historic site, Walla Walla, September 19, 2017

Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Whitman Mission massacre victims grave, Walla Walla, April 26, 2006

History, as reconsidertion of Whitman shows, is complicated

As usually happens in history, the victors get to write it. Reading the article today about Marcus Whitman caused lots of thought (&ldquoScrutiny mounts of pioneering Northwest missionary&rsquos legacy,&rdquo The Herald, June 1). My ancestors, James Howard and his family, came west in a wagon train from Missouri in 1844. They spent the winter at Whitman&rsquos camp in 1844. Some children in the family learned to speak the language of the Cayuse tribe while there.

Family lore says that when they left in the spring they were led by Chief Kaiulotte across the Cascades into the Willamette Valley. While crossing the raging Deschutes River, Kaiulotte (spelling very questionable) strapped the Howards&rsquo daughter Martha to his back and carried her across. She was about 5 or 6 at this time. I have no proof that this happened, but in her obituary published in The Oregonian in 1903 it is mentioned. The chief was hanged for his involvement in the Whitman massacre.

All I am saying is these people were kind and helpful in the beginning and history ignores that. All of our history is a web of truths, semi-truths and fiction. We all would benefit from a little more deep diving into what was really happening, from all viewpoints.

What Whitman family records will you find?

There are 131,000 census records available for the last name Whitman. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Whitman census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 12,000 immigration records available for the last name Whitman. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 25,000 military records available for the last name Whitman. For the veterans among your Whitman ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

There are 131,000 census records available for the last name Whitman. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Whitman census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

There are 12,000 immigration records available for the last name Whitman. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

There are 25,000 military records available for the last name Whitman. For the veterans among your Whitman ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Whitman Mission National Historic Site is a United States National Historic Site located just west of Walla Walla, Washington, at the site of the former Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu. On November 29, 1847, Dr. Marcus Whitman, his wife Narcissa Whitman, and 11 others were slain by Native Americans of the Cayuse. The site commemorates the Whitmans, their role in establishing the Oregon Trail, and the challenges encountered when two cultures meet.

In 1836, a small group of Methodist missionaries traveled with the annual fur trapper's caravan into Oregon Country. Among the group, Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Hart Spalding became the first white women to travel across the continent.

Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa Whitman established the Whitman Mission at Waiilatpu, near the Walla Walla River. [3] The mission was in the Cayuse territory. The Cayuse were a warring tribe and were suspicious of the Whitmans. Relations between the Whitmans and the Cayuse improved greatly when Marcus Whitman attempted to learn the Cayuse language. [3] While Dr. Whitman had learned the Cayuse language he was insistent that the Cayuse should learn the white man's way of living by becoming farmers. Differences in culture led to growing tensions between the native Cayuse people and the Whitmans.

The Mission became an important stop along the Oregon Trail from 1843-1847, and passing immigrants added to the tension. With the influx of white settlers the Cayuse became suspicious of the Whitmans again, fearing that the white man was coming to take the land.

A measles outbreak in November 1847 killed half the local Cayuse. The measles also broke out in the Mission but more white settlers survived. Some of the Cayuse blamed the devastation of their tribe on Dr. Whitman and Mrs. Whitman. They were killed along with eleven others forty-seven other mission residents were taken hostage. The deaths of the Whitmans shocked the country, prompting Congress to make Oregon a U.S. territory, and precipitated the Cayuse War.

In more recent times, the site has been excavated for important artifacts, and then reburied. A memorial obelisk, erected fifty years after the event, stands on a nearby hill.

The historic site was established in 1936 as Whitman National Monument and was redesignated a National Historic Site on January 1, 1963.

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