Archive for August, 2012

Aug 21

First U.S. Marine Corps Band Concert

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:25 AM

The U.S. Marine Corps Band gave its first concert in Washington D.C. on August 21, 1800. The following article, published in the April 1923 issue of Proceedings, gives a brief history of the Marine Corps Band.



So many and varying accounts have been given of the first organization of the Marine Band of Washington, that it is time that the real, and interesting, true story should be told.

The Marine Band did not just happen into being, nor were its beginnings in an Act of Congress. There always have been “Musics” in the Marine Corps-from its birthday on November 10, 1775, to date-but it was not until 18oo that the Marine Band had its inception; and like every one of the Marine bands playing today, it was first composed of volunteer musicians from the line.

At the end of the Revolution in 1783, the American people looked upon the soldier, sailor, or Marine, as a man out of a job. He was; and until July 11, 1798–when Congress authorized the Marine Corps-the only Marines were those serving in the State Navies, and a few serving on board the frigates of the “New Navy” in 1797·

William Ward Burrows, a native of South Carolina, but a Philadelphian by adoption, was the first Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was a lawyer, an organizer, and according to Washington Irving, “a gentleman of accomplished mind and polished manner.” Of him the editor of Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, wrote in 1805, “his services in nursing the infant corps over which he presided, so useful to our naval enterprizes, ought to be particularly commended by a grateful country.” At first “Major Commandant,” and later “Lieutenant­Colonel Commandant,” it was he who fathered the Marine Band. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 17

USS High Point: The Navy’s First Hydrofoil Patrol Craft

Friday, August 17, 2012 8:30 AM

The Navy’s first hydrofoil patrol craft was launched on this day 50 years ago, in 1962. Published in the September, 1963 issue of Proceedings, the following article describes the mechanics of the USS High Point, and the reactions from the people who witnessed the launch of the revolutionary craft.

USS High Point (PCH-1)

By Charles H. Nelson, Jr. Chief Journalist, U.S. Navy

She took off quickly, flew quietly, and landed smoothly. Thus the first public “flight” of the Navy’s revolutionary hydrofoil patrol craft High Point was described just a few short weeks ago. The High Point is a unique blend of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, carrying within her 115-foot length-overall hull the newest hopes of the Navy’s antisubmarine warfare program.

Rear Admiral Ralph K. James, U. S. Navy, (ex-Chief, Bureau of Ships) in testimony before a special investigative subcommittee of the science and astronautics committee of the House of Representatives, explained in these words the mission of the High Point: “This ship shows tremendous promise for antisubmarine warfare where we need speed as never before. The modern submarine is capable of operating at tremendous pace when submerged. To close within kill range before it outruns sonar range is an increasingly tough task. Ideally, two hydrofoil patrol craft will operate together in a “grasshopper” or “leapfrog” technique. One will move slowly through the water in the displacement position listening for submarines … the other will fly ahead, then settle into the water and listen while its partner flies in turn. When the listener gets a submarine on its sonar, it will signal its partner to guide it to the target to track it down and drop a homing torpedo for the kill.”

This is the “grasshopper” technique as it is presently envisioned to be used by the High Point when she joins the Fleet. Frequent tests on the waters of Puget Sound have proven the ship’s capability to rise quickly to her foils, to fly silently, and to lower smoothly to her hull or cruising position.

The actual flight of the High Point creates an almost eerie feeling in observers. Although the vessel has a displacement of 110 tons, she rises almost effortlessly out of the water into the “flying” position. Her flight at speeds over 40 knots is so silent that the true speed is deceptive. She seems to glide through the water, the only sounds being the dripping of the water from her hull and the faint whine of her turbines. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 15

Anniversary of the Establishment of the Naval Academy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 8:30 AM

Fort Severn, 1845, as Naval School: (1) Officers' Quarters, (2) "The Abbey," (3) Mess hall, kitchen, and recitation hall, (4) "Apollo Row," (5) "Rowdy Row," (6) "Brandywine Cottage," (7) "Gas House," (8) Superintendent's house, (9) Gate house, (10) Row of poplar trees, (11) Superintendent's and Professors' offices, (12) Old mulberry tree, (13) Fort Severn, (14) Site of practice battery

The Naval Academy was established at Annapolis, Maryland on August 15, 1845, on the former site of Fort Severn. The following article was published in the October, 1935 issue of Proceedings, which was dedicated to celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Naval Academy. It describes the obstacles that had to be overcome to establish the first organized naval school, and the standards that the first midshipmen were held to. After 167 years, the campus has grown, but the basic values instilled in the men and women of the Naval Academy are still the same.



THERE HAD BEEN much opposition in the Navy to any attempt to educate midshipmen ashore. It was felt that only by practical experience aboard ship could the youngster, fresh from home, be properly trained for his work as an officer afloat. Though several suggestions for an organized naval school had been made since the permanent establishment of the Navy in 1794, nothing had been accomplished and the only educational facilities available for the midshipmen up to the War of 1812 had been the instruction of the chaplains who had no special qualifications for such work, except a supposedly liberal education. During the War of 1812 provision had been made for a schoolmaster on each of the 74’s, which were not completed till after the war, but the small pay, cramped quarters, sometimes shared with their pupils, and a very inferior position aboard ship did not draw men of ability. With the increase of pay to $1,200, in 1835, for duty at sea or at a navy yard, some eminent men began to be drawn into the Service as professors of mathematics. They still, up to September, 1842, had to mess with their pupils, however, and continued to suffer constant interruption of their school work aboard ship.

Beginning with the twenties three unorganized governmental schools had come into existence at the navy yards at Norfolk, New York, and Boston, for those midshipmen on waiting orders between cruises. The instruction was very irregular, the midshipmen attending or not as they pleased, and discipline, apparently, did not exist. Such lack of education and restraint helped to give rise among the young officers to both intemperance and financial irresponsibility. The early age at which some of the midshipmen entered the Navy, Farragut entering it when only nine, made them peculiarly susceptible to such adverse conditions. Some private nautical schools had come into existence at an earlier date and some of the younger officers had even attended college, one midshipman, indeed, going to West Point. A fourth school established by the government in 1839, at the Naval Asylum in Philadelphia, was really the forerunner of the Naval Academy, for it was on account of their proficiency of attainments at the Naval Asylum School that Professors Chauvenet and Lockwood, Lieutenant Ward, and Passed Midshipman Marcy were selected to be members of the faculty at the permanent naval school to be organized at Fort Severn, Annapolis, by Secretary Bancroft. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 12

USS Nautilus

Sunday, August 12, 2012 12:28 PM

The crew of the USS Nautilus stand quarters for muster as she enters New York harbor on her return from England after making the trans-polar voyage under the arctic ice.

On August 12, 1958, the USS Nautilus arrived in Portland, England, after completing the first submerged under ice cruise from Pacific to Atlantic oceans. This cruise earned the Nautilus the Presidential Unit Citation, becoming the first ship to receive the award in peace time. The following article, published in the November 1955 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of the training the crew of the Nautilus went through before launching the first nuclear powered submarine, and making the historic under-ice cruise.

Map showing the route of the Nautilus under the Arctic sea ice.



THE Nautilus had been long a-building. During the greater part of her design, development and construction, she had been much in the public eye; the subject of many articles, both technical and visionary. During the past year the “labor pains” had begun in earnest and the “birth” of the first nuclear powered ship was fast approaching.

This article will be neither technical nor visionary, but will attempt to re-create the pre-commissioning story of the Nautilus as her crew saw it.

The author first became involved with the Nautilus and nuclear propulsion in October of 1953, about four months before the ship was launched. The story since that date is told first hand. The story prior to that date­and many years of hard work by many, many people went into it-is of necessity not first hand. However, mine was the job of Executive Officer on the Nautilus. This job has been a broadening one, with liberal and technical educations included, and it has permitted me to meet and learn to know most of the principals in the story of the Nautilus which follows. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 9

The Battle of Savo Island

Thursday, August 9, 2012 8:24 AM

A Japanese view of the Battle of Savo Island (from USNI Proceedings vol 83/No 12/Whole No658)

In continuation of its policy to present Both Sides of the War, the Naval Institute is pleased to offer its members a compete account of the Battle of Savo Island from the Japanese point of view. Students of World War II naval history will find certain points clarified by Captain Ohmae’s narrative that have hitherto been ambiguous. This disastrous blow by the Japanese cost an Australian and three American cruiser and reduced Allied naval strength to such an extent as to endanger our first counter-offensive of the war in the Pacific, the invasion of Guadalcanal.


By CAPTAIN TOSHIKAZU OHMAE, former Imperial Japanese Navy


BY APRIL, 1942, the Japanese Navy had accomplished all of its missions originally scheduled for the opening phase of the Pacific War. Since December 7, 1941, it had severely crippled the United States fleet in Hawaii, supported landings, invasions, and seizures of southern areas rich in resources sorely needed by Japan, and had gained control of the sea lanes of the central and western Pacific. And all of these objectives were achieved at far less cost than had been anticipated.

Japanese staff studies for the planning of second-phase operations were initiated as early as January, 1942. By February plans had been worked out and developed between Navy Section of Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo and Combined Fleet. Members of both staffs were so enthusiastic over the early successes that they were now firmly in favor of going ahead with plans for further conquest, before the United States had a chance to recover. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 4

The U. S. Life Saving Service

Saturday, August 4, 2012 1:00 AM

Rockaway Point Lifeboat

August 4, 1790



Creation of the United States Coast Guard


One of the many responsibilities of today’s Coast Guard is that of saving the lives of those in danger on the sea. In the Sring 1992 issue of Naval History, Lieutenant Commander Robert V. Hulse of the Coast Guard vividly describes the typical duties of a surfman at a life saving station in the 1930s, shortly after the U. S. Life Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service merged together to form the Coast Guard. Hulse’s article reflects nostalgically on his own experience in his service:

In this present age of rampant greed and glorified self-aggrandizement, I often find it comforting to think back to an earlier era on the coastal beaches of this country—when certain groups of men spent their entire working lives in only one pursuit: saving the lives of shipwrecked mariners. I am referring to the U. S. Life Saving Service, established by a caring federal government to save the lives of imperiled sailors and the passengers in their charge. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 1

The Birth of the Aircraft Carrier

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 9:20 AM

Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, the army's "Chief Aeronaut" as he styled himself, with a map in one hand and his "spy glass" at his side, just before heading for another 19th Century spy-on-the-sky mission.

THE BIRTH OF THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER (from USNI Proceedings Vol 93/No 4/Whole No 770)

by W. T. Adams

“Look! What’s that?” The gray-clad soldier pointed down the Potomac River toward a group of ships just rounding a bend. “Look just beyond the last one.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” his companion answered. “We’d better tell the captain right away!”

On that August day in 1862, as the Confederate lookouts ran back to report, they knew they had sighted something unusual, but they little realized that the ships rounding the bend were the Civil War’s most incredible armada-the first aircraft carrier task force!

Escorted by the powerful screw sloop Wachusett, the double-ended gunboats Tioga and Port Royal, and the armed steamer Delaware, the heart of the force was an unusual craft being towed by a small steamer. It was this vessel that had startled the lookouts, for moored to its unusually large and flat deck was a huge balloon with the name Intrepid standing out clearly on its sides. The vessel was, in fact, America’s first aircraft carrier, the George Washington Parke Custis.

The Custis, however, was not the first waterborne platform used for balloon operations during the Civil War. As early as August 1861, the little armed steamer Fanny had served as a temporary balloon base in Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads. As reported in the Scientific American:

The veteran and daring balloonist J. LaMountain has been at Fortress Monroe making ascensions and examinations of the secessionists’ positions in that vicinity. On the 3rd instant he tried a new scheme in aerial scouting, by taking his balloon on board of the steamboat Fanny, and went out in the middle of the river ascended 2,000 feet, with the balloon secured by a rope to a windlass. The Fanny then proceeded slowly down toward Sewell’s Point, drawing the balloon while in the air, halting, when opposite, for a time, and then proceeding on toward Craney Island and Pig Point. After a long reconnaissance of the points thus brought under his supervision, Mr. LaMountain came down to the boat, attached his balloon to its stern, and came back to the Fortress. He reports that behind the trees on Sewell’s Point he saw the labors on the fortifications actively progressing, and that a large number of guns, on cutting away the trees, will be made to bear on the Rip Raps, on the Fortress and on the shipping. The Rebels ran when they saw him in the air, leaving their works and peeping at him from their shelter and behind trees.

The operation had considerable value from a military standpoint, for the area LaMountain had viewed was screened by a natural growth of trees along the water. Without his aerial observation, the fortifications would never have been detected until after they had been completed and the trees cut away to clear the field of fire.

After that it would appear that LaMountain himself, if no one else, would have been a strong supporter of further waterborne aerial operations. His next one, however, did not occur until 10 August. Records conflict in reporting the use of two different vessels for this ascension-the Fanny and the tug Adriatic. In any event, LaMountain reported using the number of fires and tent lights to aid him in estimating the number of Rebel troops in their encampment. His report was apparently considered valuable, for General Benjamin F. Butler (who accompanied LaMountain aboard ship) promptly forwarded it on to General Winfield Scott. Strangely, however, despite the apparent success of these ascensions, the record shows nothing of waterborne aerial operations by LaMountain.

In the meantime, the Potomac River area had become the scene of extensive military activity. Both Union and Confederate troops were concentrated in the vicinity, and Union ships on the river often ran a gauntlet of rebel fire. The extent of the battlefront made reconnaissance a serious problem, and balloons were soon in use throughout the area. A number of balloon observation stations were established, but the rapidly changing battlefront made rapid movement of balloons essential throughout the entire area.

Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, the army’s “Chief Aeronaut,” as he styled himself, had made extensive improvements in operation of the balloon corps. When first used during the Civil War, balloons were inflated from city gas mains and then towed slowly and tortuously (while inflated) to the scene of action. Movement was slow and difficult at best, and even a minor storm often made the operation disastrous. Lowe had increased balloon mobility by developing portable gas generating equipment that could be carried in the field. Even so, however, the movement of a wagon train with balloon, gas generating equipment, and supplies was often too slow to meet battlefield requirements.

Union Army soldiers inflate a Yankee balloon using Professor Lowe's balloon gas generator.

To improve balloon mobility, Lowe then proposed the use of a boat especially equipped to launch balloons and carry supplies for their operation, and the George Washington Parke Custis was selected. She had been purchased by the Navy Department in August of 1861 as a coal barge for the Washington Navy Yard and was 122 feet long with a 14 foot beam and a 5 1/2-foot depth of hold. Described by one correspondent as a “nondescript sort of craft,” the Custis was modified for balloon work by covering the hull with a wide, flat, overhanging deck all around and adding a small house on the stern. Gas generators, repair parts, and other necessary facilities for balloon operation were provided and she was manned by a crew of army balloon handlers under Lowe’s direction. The operation of the balloon boat, as it was called, was entirely an army affair, except that the lack of motive power and armament required cooperation of the Navy for towing and escort services.

By early November 1861, the strange craft was ready for service, and the first balloon expedition by carrier left the Washington Navy Yard on 10 November. The following day, the first operational ascensions from the balloon boat were made off Mattawoman Creek where Lowe, accompanied by General Daniel E. Sickles, observed Confederates at work constructing batteries at Freestone Point. The results apparently convinced Lowe of the value of his new aircraft carrier, for a few days later he wrote the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard that “It is my intention to use permanently the boat lately fitted up for balloon purposes.”

By January 1862, Lowe’s balloon corps had expanded its operations westward, with the dispatching of John Steiner and one balloon to Cairo, Illinois. Preparations were underway there for an attack on the Confederate stronghold at Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River, and both Lowe and Steiner believed that balloon reconnaissance would be of value to that theater.

On arriving at Cairo, however, Steiner was brushed off by the army. “Arrived here on Wednesday and reported to General Allen’s,” he reported to Lowe, “but he gave me little satisfaction…. I cannot get any assistance here, they say they know nothing about my balloon business…. They even laugh.” As a result, Steiner offered his services to the naval commander, Andrew H. Foote, who gladly accepted them.

Steiner had observed the advantages of waterborne balloon operations in the Potomac area, and the similarity of the situation at Island No. 10 was immediately apparent. Obtaining the use of a large flatboat, from which a balloon could be operated in a fashion similar to that employed with the Custis on the Potomac, he loaded his equipment aboard and anchored at a point upriver from the Union fleet.

Then on 25 March, John Steiner made the first waterborne balloon ascension in the western theater of operations. Although the weather was hazy, the log of the mortar division, for whom he was spotting, indicated that “the experiment proved satisfactory.”

The following day he again ascended from the flatboat, and the observations were reported to have been of considerable assistance in correcting the fire of the mortar boats. With the surrender of Island No. 10 shortly afterwards, however, the waterborne balloon experiment on western waters came to an end.

Meanwhile, back in the Virginia peninsular campaign, the use of the balloon boat, the former George Washington Parke Custis continued. Lowe was determined to prove the worth of his balloons, and he often advanced to the very forefront of the army. In one instance, for example, he reported that “We moved by water to White House Landing, the balloon boat being the first to land, and was even some distance ahead of the gunboats, while the first night the balloon guard was the advance picket on the river bottom.”

During this same period, waterborne balloon operations were further extended when Commodore Charles Wilkes had one of his ships tow a balloon along a section of the Potomac River, holding it at an elevation of 1,000 feet while examining the surrounding countryside.

The Navy’s increasing role in waterborne balloon operations at that time is further shown by the order of Commodore Wilkes which established the first aircraft carrier task force. “It is desirable,” Wilkes wrote the commander of the USS Wachusett, “to make a balloon reconnaissance in the neighborhood of Fort Powhatan. I desire you to superintend and take charge of the party. The Stepping Stones will be ordered to tow the balloon lighter down tomorrow morning, and leave at 4 o’clock. Near the Fort at Powhatan Station you will find the Delaware, Tioga, and Port Royal-the former off Windmill Point-which vessels you will use as guards and, shou1d the balloonists report any works in progress, you will shell them effectually and destroy the works if, in your opinion, you have sufficient force to overcome any opposition that may be expected. Gather all the information from the balloonists you can, and return by the convoy in the afternoon.”

Several ascensions were made as the task force worked its way up the Potomac, but there is no clear indication of results. The entire record of waterborne balloon operations becomes almost nonexistent in this period.

In this connection, it must be recognized that Lowe’s ballOon corps, from its beginning, had been a sort of semi-independent, quasi-military, quasi-civil organization. Nominally attached to the topographical engineers of the army, it was held together largely by Lowe himself.

Lowe’s control of his balloon corps was weakened in late 1862 and early 1863 by a combination of illness, which forced him to take sick leave, and the transfer of some of his strongest supporters (in particular Generals George B. McClellan, Fitz-John Porter, and Humphreys) to duties where they were no longer in a position to support his work. To make matters even worse, the new chief of the topographical engineers (under whom Lowe worked directly) refused to recognize the independent way in which the balloon corps operated.

The ensuing snarl of red tape made further work impossible for a man of Lowe’s temperament, and led to his resignation immediately after the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1862. Without Lowe’s aggressive leadership, the corps literally fell apart at the seams and there was no further significant use of balloons during the war. The George Washington Parke Custis was sent to the Washington Navy Yard for repairs in the spring of 1863 and soon fell into obscurity with the remainder of the balloon corps.

The potential of waterborne aerial operations was, of course, never fully recognized during the Civil War; and it was not until the airplane was proved successful that the Navy recognized the value of eyes in the sky. Even so, the great aircraft carrier task forces of today must trace their heritage back to the George Washington Parke Custis and the balloon pioneers of the Civil War, who first demonstrated the value of aerial observations from a floating platform.

Aug 1

Operation Sea Orbit

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 9:18 AM

The Nuclear Fleet comprised of USS Enterprise, USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge in various formations while in the Mediterranean.

On July 31, 1964, three nuclear-powered Navy ships left Norfolk, Virginia, to begin their journey around the globe without refueling. The following account of Operation Sea Orbit’s success was published in the March 1965 issue of Proceedings.


By Rear Admiral Bernard M. Strean, U.S. Navy, Commander, Task Force One

The U. S. Navy is an old hand at “showing the flag,” at conducting good will visits, and at entertaining foreign dignitaries on board ship. The Navy is also an old hand at conducting test and evaluation cruises, and at establishing records. But rarely does the Navy have the opportunity to do all of things in one operation.

Operation Sea Orbit, the unprecedented around-the-world cruise by the Navy’s three nuclear-powered surface ships, did all of these things and more. Not since President Theodore Roosevelt sent out the Great White Fleet of 16 first-line battleships in December 1907, had the Navy attempted such a cruise.

The three ships which comprised Task Force One, formed specifically to carry out Sea Orbit, were no longer news in the Navy. The attack carrier Enterprise (CVAN-65), and guided missile cruiser Long Beach (CGN-9), and the guided missile frigate Bainbridge (DLGN-25) had a total of eight years service, but the three ships had never operated together as a unit, as a self-contained task force, until Sea Orbit. Read the rest of this entry »