Archive for May, 2011

May 13

Happy Birthday Navy Nurse Corps!

Friday, May 13, 2011 12:01 AM

Military nursing had its origins with the Crimean and American Civil War. Serving from the “Sacred Twenty” to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom the Navy Nurse Corps turned 100 on 13 May 2008. Established by Congress in 1908, with funds appropriated by President Theodore Roosevelt, it is a unique corps of the Department of the Navy that has evolved overtime with the Nation’s needs in war and peace. Like the U.S. Navy Medical, Dental, and Hospital Corps, the mission of the Nurse Corps is to provide care for sailors and Marines. From its original 20 female members, the Navy Nurse Corps expanded with the demands of World War I in the United Kingdom and Europe when the U.S. Navy deployed five base hospitals and a number of special operating teams including those loaned to the U.S. Army during the 1918 offensives. By November of 1918 there were some 1,550 Navy Nurses in naval hospitals and transports at home and abroad.

When World War II began, nurses were aboard the USS Solace (AH-5) that treated the casualties from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Others were among the Americans taken prisoner on Guam and in the Philippines. Some of these were repatriated in 1942, while the remainder remained in captivity until 1945. Reaching peak strength in 1945, some 11,086 nurses were serving in 40 naval hospitals, 176 dispensaries, and at 6 hospital corps schools. Overseas this included hospital ships, air evacuations facilities, and at forward operating bases. The U.S. Navy assigned nurses relative rank in 1942, with actual rank being established in 1944, and permanent commissioned rank as a staff corps in 1947. The first male nurses were commissioned in 1964 (comprising some 25 percent of the Nurse Corps strength currently).

During the Cold War in Korea and Vietnam, Navy Nurses once more served aboard hospital ships and at Navy support activities where along with the other medical counterparts, life saving medical care was provided to sailors and Marines. After the Cold War, there was renewed emphasis was on humanitarian and disaster support. In the 1990-1991 Gulf War two hospital ships supported the fleet and fleet hospital facilities operated ashore. By decades end, there were 5,000 Navy Nurses along with the other naval medical staff down to around 4,000 in this century.

With the current Global War on Terrorism, Navy Medicine continues to save lives “on land and sea.” According to Rear Admiral Christine M. Bruzek-Kohler, USN (NC): “the Marines and sailors we serve needed us then and they need us now a we provide expert nursing care to them whenever and wherever it is needed.” Happy Birthday Nurse Corps!

May 12

The Mexican War, 12 May 1846

Thursday, May 12, 2011 12:01 AM

On 12 May 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico in a dispute over the boundary between Mexico and the state of Texas, a former Mexican province whose independence and subsequent annexation to the United States Mexico did not recognize. In the Mexican War, which ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo on 2 February 1848, combined American arms won for the United States the nation’s most decisive victory before the Civil War. The Navy played a major role in securing that victory. By blockading Mexico’s port cities, the Navy strangled Mexico’s maritime trade and prevented its forces from threatening U.S. operations from the sea. The Navy also performed an essential service in transporting men and materiel for the Army. The Navy directed the landing of General Winfield Scott’s troops at Veracruz and participated in the bombardment of that city. By establishing and maintaining sea control, the Navy enabled the Army to seize and garrison enemy territory.

In addition to projecting power against Mexico itself, U.S. naval forces, assisted by a relatively small number of soldiers, seized California for the United States in what was principally a land campaign. In July 1846 Commodore Robert Stockton took over command of the Pacific Squadron and continued the conquest of California begun by Commodore John D. Sloat. In August, Stockton captured Los Angeles, but the following month Mexican Californians expelled the small party of Americans left to garrison the town. In January 1847 Stockton led a force of some six hundred men, with six field pieces, overland to retake Los Angeles. On 8 January he encountered resistance from an organized force of about two hundred armed men. After his men had struggled to push the heavy artillery through the soft bottom and quicksand of a ford of the San Gabriel River, Stockton relied on the field pieces, whose fire he directed personally, to drive off the enemy. The next day, the enemy blocked the way to Los Angeles once more, and once more Stockton used his artillery to disperse the opposition. After these engagements, known as the Battles of San Gabriel and the Mesa, the way to Los Angeles lay open. The Americans reoccupied the town the next day.

The Mexican War experience of Thomas Southwick, carpenter of U.S. frigate Congress, illustrates the crucial roles that the technical skills of essential but unsung warrant officers played in securing victory. Southwick went ashore in California with Commodore Stockton’s force of sailors and marines, attached to an artillery company commanded by navy Lieutenant Richard L. Tilghman. In the Battles of San Gabriel and the Mesa, Southwick had two of the field guns under his charge. Furthermore, the zealous carpenter was instrumental in the general equipping of the artillery. Subsequently, he had charge of a piece of artillery at the capture of Guaymas, a Mexican port in the Gulf of California; and in the attack on Mazatlán, a Mexican coastal city near the mouth of the Gulf of California, he landed with the attacking party, again in charge of a piece of artillery. During the seven-month occupation of Mazatlán, Southwick served ashore where he aided in the engineering and construction of fortifications and the fabrication of gun carriages and in addition had charge of one of the forts.

Securing for the United States not only Texas but also New Mexico Territory and California, the Mexican War left the nation with two sea coasts to defend, propelled the United States into Pacific affairs, and provided impetus for the Navy’s expansion. The war also left a body of tactical experience on which officers in the Union and Confederate navies would draw during the Civil War.

May 11

Cutting Out Sandwich on May 11, 1800

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:01 AM

Constitution’s “Trojan Horse”

Of all the “forgotten wars” in the history of the United States, the undeclared Quasi-War with France (1797-1801) likely ranks at the top of the list. A sea war, the young United States put its untested, brand-new war ships into the Caribbean to protect American merchant shipping from the depredations of French privateers. USS Constitution, commanded by Captain Silas Talbot and first Lieutenant Isaac Hull, sailed for the West Indies in September, 1799. April 1800, found Talbot sailing Constitution near Puerto Plata harbor, observing the British Sandwich, now a French letter of marquee, loading. Talbot aimed to capture the vessel and prevent her cargo from going to France. Constitution was too big to enter the harbor but the lucky capture of the Sally, an illegal American trader, gave Talbot the “Trojan horse” he needed to cut-out the Sandwich.

On May 10th, LT Hull took command of the Sally and sailed with Marine Captain Carmick and Lieutenant Amory and about 90 men. At noon the next day, Hull and crew – a few were on deck, disguised as common sailors (as was Hull), the rest, crammed below awaiting their orders to attack – approached the Sandwich. Laying the Sally’s starboard bow alongside, Hull let go the anchor and gave the order to board. According to Capt. Carmick, the crew “went on board like devils, and it was as much as the first lieutenant and myself could do to prevent blood being spilt.” Capt. Talbot of Constitution commended all involved: “They ran alongside the ship, and boarded her, sword in hand, without the loss of a man…At the moment the ship was boarded, Agreeably to my plan, captain Carmick and lieutenant Amory landed with the marines, up to their necks in water, and spiked all the cannon in the fort, before the commanding officer had time to recollect and prepare himself for defence.” The land and sea action was carried off in 30 minutes. By that evening, the Sandwich, which had been down-rigged, was re-rigged and ready to sail from the harbor.

Unfortunately, the Sandwich was later deemed an unlawful prize for Constitution as she had been taken in the neutral Spanish harbor of Puerto Plata. But it was not a total loss – two important events had occurred with the expedition. The cutting out of the Sandwich was the earliest land/sea joint operation between the new United States Navy and the newly re-established United States Marine Corps. This campaign, although of short duration, would set the stage for the next 200+ years for highly efficient and successful joint operations of the Navy and Marines all over the world. Capturing the Sandwich was also considered by Isaac Hull, in his long and successful Navy career, to be his first glorious adventure. He had succeeded in replicating his father’s exploit in the American Revolution – to board and capture an armed vessel. He was so proud of this achievement that he had Capt. Talbot’s commendatory letter printed into broadside format and when, later in life, someone asked for a souvenir or biographical information, Hull provided a copy of the broadside. He also had the moment captured on canvas by the esteemed Boston painter, Robert Salmon in the oil “Cutting out of the privateer Sandwich at Puerto Plata, 11 May 1800”, which today hangs in the Boston Athenaeum.

May 10

USS Triton Circumnavigates the Globe

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 1:51 AM

May, 10th 1960

Read the rest of this entry »

May 7

The Battle of the Coral Sea – 7 May 1942

Saturday, May 7, 2011 12:01 AM

It was just after 1119 (local time) that Lieutenant (jg) Lawrence F. Steffenhagen, USNR, swung his TDB Devastator around for a shot at the Japanese light carrier Shōhō’s port side.

Loosing his torpedo, he watched as it struck the enemy ship just aft of amidships—the second of five torpedoes launched by USS Lexington’s Torpedo Two that morning that on striking home sent Shōhō to the bottom.

Steffenhagen, a Minnesota resident who had graduated from the University of Colorado in 1936, was awarded a Navy Cross for his heroic efforts. Almost three years later, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross for leading USS Wasp’s Torpedo Squadron Eighty-Six during a highly successful attack against Japanese forces at the Kure Naval Base on Honshu.

Released to inactive service after the war, he was recalled to active duty in 1947. Steffenhagen eventually retired as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

May 5

NavyTV – Lights, Camera – ACTION

Thursday, May 5, 2011 6:44 PM

Now Hear This – the GI Film Festival is coming to the Navy Memorial next week!

The GI Film Festival, the nation’s first and only military film festival, is coming to the Navy Memorial May 9-15, 2011. We have a week full of celebrity red carpet events, dazzling parties and inspirational films by and about our servicemembers and veterans.

Watch a preview here on NAVY TV – there’s also a highlight film of the 2010 Festival.

Buy your tickets for the GI Film Festival here and enter code “MIL11″ for a discount. See you THERE!

May 4

The Sheriff of Ramadi by Dick Couch

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 11:32 AM

This post originally appeared on USNI Blog on January 30, 2009 and is reprinted today given the role the SEALS played in killing OBL.

Welcome to the premiere post of Meet the Author! I am very pleased to have e-interviewed Dick Couch about his latest work, The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy SEALs and the Winning of al-Anbar.

What inspired you to write The Sheriff of Ramadi?

I became interested in The Sheriff when I learned of the intensity of the fighting in Ramadi/al-Anbar, and that the SEALs were taking to the streets to fight with the Army and the Marines. This is the first time SEALs have ever done this. Early on, I felt it would be the story of courage in the face of certain defeat as things were very bleak in the summer of 2006. The courage was there, more than I would have imagined, and it turned out to be a pivotal victory in Iraq.

How did you convince the Navy SEALs to talk with you?

That’s not hard for me as I have a good reputation for respecting privacy issues and telling an accurate story. And they forgive me for my oversights. It also helps that I’ve, been there, done that, and have a drawer full of T-shirts–most of them very old T-shirts.

Who should read The Sheriff of Ramadi?

I think its a good read for anyone who wants to understand the role of a direct-action force in a major counterinsurgency battle. It’s also revealing look at the role of snipers in urban battle. And of course, it’s a good text for the multi-dimensional role of Navy SEALs in an insurgency. And finally, on a macro scale, the lessons of Ramadi will be most useful as we turn our attention to Afghanistan.

You have written 6 fiction books and 6 non-fiction books. Which type is easier to write?

Without question, fiction. When I write novels, I get to go hang out with my imaginary friends for a few hours every day. Good fun. Non-fiction requires research, travel, and the responsibility of getting someone else’s story right. It’s a 110,000 word term paper.

Any future books in the works?

I have a short, non-fiction work on tactical ethics which I’m finishing up; then perhaps another book on SOF training–maybe the Rangers this time.

Dick Couch is a rare find. He is a scholar and practitioner having served on active duty with the Navy Underwater Demolition and SEAL teams for five years.

May 1

Aerial Torpedoes in Korea 1 May 1951

Sunday, May 1, 2011 12:01 AM

The Navy has long been known for its ability to adapt its striking forces quickly to handle the constantly varying circumstances of combat. One such instance occurred on 1 May 1951, during the Korean War.

In late April, the Communist Spring Offensive began with a thrust down the center of the Korean peninsula as part of an attempt to carry out a double envelopment of the South Korean capital of Seoul. After initially losing some territory, U.N. forces had stabilized the front at the Pukhan River on 29 April.

At this point, the U.S. Eighth Army’s biggest concern was the Hwachon Reservoir Dam, since the Communists’ control of its waters could greatly impede the offensive activities of U.N. forces in the area. Earlier in the year, an attack on the dam conducted by U.S. Air Force B-29 bombers equipped with six-ton guided bombs had failed.

Accordingly, on 30 April 1951, the Navy was given the assignment to destroy the dam’s sluice gates any way it could. That afternoon VA-195, an AD Skyraider squadron on board USS Princeton (CV-37), was given the mission.

It was evident to LCDR Harold G. “Swede” Carlson and his pilots that an effective attack on Hwachon would require using aerial torpedoes, but it would take a number of hours to get them ready for use.

The planned strike took off from Princeton on the morning of 1 May. Eight ADs armed with torpedoes, led by Air Group commander R. C. Merrick and Swede Carlson, attacked the 20-foot high, 40-foot wide Hwachon Dam in two-plane section run-ins. The torpedo drop points had to be highly accurate, and they were. Six of the eight torpedoes ran true, completely destroying one flood gate in the center of the dam and punching a ten-foot hole in a second. The pent-up water in the reservoir was released to cascade harmlessly down the canyon.

In the one and only time that aerial torpedoes were used in Korea, the Navy’s carrier aviators had demonstrated their ability to adapt to circumstances.

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