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The Navy "E"
Milestones Vol 16 No 3 Fall 1991

Department of the Navy
Office of the Secretary

October 21, 1941

Mr. F. B. Hufnagel, Chairman
Crucible Steel Company of America
Chrysler Building
New York, New York

Dear Sir:

It gives me pleasure to advise you, confidentially for the present, that your company has been chosen to receive the flag of the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department. and the Navy "E" pennant, as a recognition of outstanding effort in the production of ordnance materials vital to national defense.

Your company will have the privilege of flying Us flag and pennant as a public evidence of deserved honor and distinction. In addition, your employees will be entitled to wear a special lapel button bearing the name of the company, the insignia of the Bureau of Ordnance and the Navy "E" which, as you doubtless know, is a traditional Navy award.

In the knowledge that such recognition will be an incentive to other employers and their employees, we have arranged to present the award to your company with an appropriate ceremony here in Washington, at which time similar honors also will be accorded to several other concerns.

We should be glad, therefore, if you can arrange to be present at my office at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 24, to receive the awards. If you cannot be there personally, will you designate another official of your company as your representative. Can you also bring your public relations or industrial relations director to plan at that time the arrangement for a subsequent presentation at your plant, by a high ranking Navy official.

To guard against any possible dilution of the public effect of this event, will you please hold this letter and the information it contains in confidence until the award is made.

Sincerely yours,
Frank Knox

The Navy "E" and its Significance

In the traditions of the United States Navy, the highest of all honors is the Navy "E."

It is the coveted emblem of Excellence which the officers and crew of every ship and plan in the fleet hope to attain. Each year it is awarded to the units which have earned special recognition for excellence and efficiency in such work as engineering or gunnery.

When awarded for the highest rating in engineering, the "E" is displayed on one of the funnels of the ship. When awarded for gunnery, it appears on a mast or the bridge. When awarded to the men of an individual gun turret, it is shown on the turret. Enlisted men in these honored crews wear the "E" as an arm band on the left sleeve. The white "E" signifies top ranking; the red "E" signifies a secondgrade award.

Never before in the history of this old Navy custom has the "E" been awarded to anyone other than the personnel of the U.S. Navy. By special permission of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, the Bureau of Ordnance now awards the Navy "E" to Midland Works of the Crucible Steel Company of America and to a select group of other organizations as a recognition of outstanding effort in the production of naval materials.

With this honor, Midland Works of the Crucible Steel Company of America is now privileged to fly the flag of the Bureau of Ordnance, which carries the crossed Dahlgren guns and anchor in a blue field, and a blue pennant displaying the white Navy "E." To each member of its personnel is awarded the official medal bearing the insignia of the Bureau of Ordnance and the super-imposed Navy "E."

The words of Secretary of the Navy Knox in citing the "E" award are quoted here below:

"Anybody familiar with the Navy knows what the letter 'E' means on the bridge, conning tower, funnel or turret of a naval vessel. It's the highest service award the Navy can make and it means excellence or special merit in gunnery or engineering or some other activity. Its the Navy's Way of saving 'well done'!

"In the present defense program, we've asked for miracles of industrial production and what's more, we're getting them. To show our appreciation of the way American industry has gone to bat in this emergency, the Navy has decided to award the Bureau of Ordnance flag and its coveted 'E' to the management and men of those plants who are doing an outstanding job in the production of naval ordnance material. Again, it's our way of saying --Well Done"

A Program was planned for December 19, 1941. At 2:30 p.m., at the plant entrance, the Midland High School Band would open the event by playing America. Invocation was to be given by Very Rev. George A. Baumer, Pastor of Presentation Catholic Church. Introductory remarks were to be made by Mr. William I. McInerney, Burgess of the town. The Honor Guard of Midland American Legion Post No. 481 would raise the national ensign.

The main address would be given by Mr. Hufnagel. Captain Frederick L. Oliver, U.S.N. (Ret.) was to present the award, and Mr. A.L. Sonnhalter, Vice President and Works Manager of Crucible Steel, would accept it for the company.

While the band played Anchors Aweigh the Honor Guard would raise the Bureau of Ordnance flag and "E" Pennant.

A group of employees representing all the employees were to accept a box of Lapel "E" buttons that would be given to all workers. Rev. Paul J. Gilbert, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Midland, was to give the benediction. And the program was to close with the band playing God Bless America.

One hundred of the town's leading citizens were invited to act as an honorary reception committee.

One more letter was included in the program. It was on Crucible Steel Company of America letterhead, was undated, and read as follows:

Fellow Workers:

The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Frank Knox, was definitely addressing you when he offered the Navy's most coveted award, the Navy "E" to this plant. You won it by your wholehearted cooperation and hard work in producing steel for the Navy's needs.

We are not merely fellow workers! We are fellow Americans pledged to do our utmost to give the men of our armed forces the means to keep our country free from the menace which now threatens.

The events of Sunday, December 7, 194 1, when a treacherous attack was made upon us by Japan without warnirig, and the ensuing declarations of war by Germany and Italy on Thursday, December 11, 1941, clearly indicate the necessity for even greater effort on our part.

I know you will join me in pledging ourselves to our armed forces to finish the job and make certain America's complete victory.

A. L. Sonnhalter Vice President

The momentous turn of events in these few weeks generated years of Herculean effort from Beaver Countians, and, likewise, workers from the whole nation. They created the arsenal of material and equipment needed to win World War II. Undoubtedly, recognition like this and other similar awards, kindled a spirit of duty that inspired all those who were recipients.