Feb 8

A Lack of Seatbelt Saves a Life

Monday, February 8, 2016 12:01 AM

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De Havilland DH-4

Colgate W. Darden, a U.S. Navy aviator during World War I, received his wings in 1918 and went to France as a Marine Corps flier. Shortly before the end of the war, he was involved in a terrible plane accident. He was sitting in the rear of a De Havilland DH-4 with pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot (USMCR) on 25 October 1918. Darden, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was flung from the airplane, which burst into flames, killing Talbot. Below is an excerpt from Darden’s Oral History conducted by Dr. John T. Mason in… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 4

Thomas Mandigo: From Slave to Seaman

Thursday, February 4, 2016 12:01 AM

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The gravestone of Thomas Mandigo, Sandy Hill A. M. E. Cemetery, Chester County, PA. Author's photo.

Tucked in the woods in the rolling foothills of Pennsylvania’s Welsh Mountains sits the tiny and largely forgotten Sandy Hill African Methodist Episcopal cemetery. A visitor to the rural graveyard is likely to be greeted first by the sound of clopping horses pulling Amish buggies along the rural highway. Taking a closer look, one will see several American flags marking the graves of veterans buried there. From there, one may see the stone of a sailor propped against a tree. It reads, THOMAS MANDIGO AGED 70 YEARS OF U. S. WAR SHIP LADOWNA The story of how Mandigo came to… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 28

The Marine Corps Goes Geodesic

Thursday, January 28, 2016 12:01 AM

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A Marine HRS-1 Helicopter flies away with its own hangar. Quantico, VA, August 3, 1954. Naval Institute Photo Archives.

By the time R. Buckminster Fuller received his patent in June 1954 for a “geodesic, hemispherical structure for enclosing space,” he had already formed a mutually beneficial relationship with a very important client for his new designs: the U.S. Marine Corps. His patent [.pdf]—the geodesic dome—was an ingenious use of engineering to produce a complex yet strong structure out of easy-to-assemble parts. The dome, with a framework of simple materials such as aluminum alloy or paperboard, could be easily erected with little advance training. And most important, it could be done quickly. The Korean War and the importance of mobility… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 27

Salty Talk

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 8:17 AM

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ST_SeptOct1994

  Someone speaking of “beating a dead horse” may have in mind an image of a jockey trying to get his deceased mount to move, but the phrase also has a nautical origin. While the history cannot be traced with certainty, it appears that the futility implicit in beating a dead horse was appropriate to the frustration felt by sailors during the early stages of a voyage, when all their earning were being kept by the master to compensate for the advance monies they had received upon signing aboard-monies usually spent in satisfying shorebound creditors. When, at long last, the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 25

An Unforgettable Movie–and Book

Monday, January 25, 2016 12:01 AM

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(courtesy of Doctormacro)

The special affection I hold for this classic story goes back 60 years—to the summer of 1954, when I first saw the movie that made its debut in June of that year. My recollection is that I saw it while sitting on an aisle step in the balcony because the theater was so crowded. (That may not be the way it happened, but that’s the way I remember it.) At that time, nine years before my first sea duty, I didn’t appreciate a lot of the naval practices, but I understood the drama and the basics of the plot. It… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 22

So You Want to Interview a Kamikaze

Friday, January 22, 2016 12:01 AM

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Kaoru Hasegawa. Naval Institute photo archives.

The call came to our headquarters at the Naval Academy’s Preble Hall in mid-1995. It was retired Navy Captain Bill Horn, asking whether I’d be interested in an interview with a Japanese kamikaze from World War II. Without logically pondering the idea, I blurted out “Of course!” Then it slowly began to sink in. Bill Horn is an intelligent and knowledgeable guy, but I wondered whether somehow he simply had been tricked by a crank caller. If this person were indeed a kamikaze, I wondered, how could he be alive to tell the tale? Captain Horn had the answer. At… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 21

The Apia Cyclone of 1889

Thursday, January 21, 2016 12:01 AM

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The SMS Adler beached and laying on her side. Note the huge holes in her hull from being dashed against the rocks. Naval History and Heritage Command.

As various European empires and the American government expanded their colonial interests across the Pacific in the late 19th century, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, they would come to blows over what would otherwise have been a local matter. It began as a political crisis in the island chain of Samoa. The governments of the United States and Great Britain, and the German Empire had, in a sense, picked sides in a fight for the kingship of the islands, as Robert Louis Stevenson would defty lay out in his A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 20

‘Bobbi’

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 12:37 PM

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Bobbi Hovis served as a Navy nurse in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

In August 1963, Lieutenant Commander Vila Hovis received orders to Saigon, Vietnam. The orders were not a surprise because she was the first Navy nurse to volunteer for service in that far-off corner of the world. Her orders directed her current command to “ENSURE THAT SHE IS ORIENTED IN CODE OF CONDUCT . . . AND DANGERS OF COMMUNISM.” It was apparent that Commander Hovis was headed for a war zone, though not for the first time, since she had been a flight nurse in Korea more than a decade before. But these were the early days in a new… Read the rest of this entry »