Archive for March, 2013

Mar 25

The Conservation of Enfield Rifle Barrels from USS Tulip

Monday, March 25, 2013 9:32 AM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) manages the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory which is primarily tasked with the documentation, treatment, preservation, and curation of artifacts from US Navy sunken military craft. Artifact conservation is an integral part of any archaeological investigation and allows for the long-term study, interpretation, and preservation of irreplaceable submerged cultural resources.

Recently, the Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been treating a group of Enfield rifle barrels from the wreck site of USS Tulip. Purchased by the Union Navy during the Civil War, Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, joined the Potomac River Flotilla in 1863. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. The vessel later sank off of Ragged Point, Virginia on 11 November 1864 after her defective starboard boiler exploded. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip and her associated contents, like all US Navy sunken military craft, remain property of the US government regardless of the passage of time or location, and are further protected from unauthorized disturbance or artifact removal by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). Many of the artifacts from Tulip are a painful reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving these archaeological sites. The Tulip artifacts were removed without permission in an unmethodical manner and did not receive conservation treatment after recovery. Because of this, many artifacts which were likely very well preserved at the time of recovery became seriously deteriorated due to unmitigated corrosion and dry storage in a non-climate controlled environment. Archaeologists have also lost the valuable information that is conveyed by documented artifact provenance on an underwater site.

After a two year effort by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program, over 1,500 artifacts, previously removed from the wreck site of USS Tulip in the late 1960s, were returned to the US Navy and sent to NHHC for conservation. The artifact collection includes military uniform components, navigation equipment, ceramics, personal items, medical items, ship’s hardware, tools, ordnance and artillery including the Enfield rifles. These particular rifles were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (London), which was owned by the British government and produced weaponry such as rifles, muskets, and swords. The rifles were a popular weapon with both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War for their accuracy and reliability. Both the Union and the Confederate armies purchased Enfield rifles from the British to outfit their troops.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

The Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been able to conserve and preserve several of the USS Tulip Enfield rifle barrels. To prevent further corrosion on the barrels, conservators used a process called Electrolytic Reduction (ER) to remove the corrosion-causing compounds from the artifacts, effectively stabilizing them. The barrels were then carefully cleaned and coated with a solution which bonds to the iron and creates a protective film on the surface of the barrels. After all the barrels have received conservation treatment, they will be temporarily stored in the curation spaces in the Archaeology & Conservation Lab with the hope to eventually place them on exhibit.

 
Mar 18

March 18, 1945: The Okinawa Campaign Begins

Monday, March 18, 2013 1:00 AM

 

A Japanese Judy burning after being shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the USS Wasp (CV-18) off the Ryukyus on 18 March 1945.

A Japanese Judy burning after being shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the USS Wasp (CV-18) off the Ryukyus on 18 March 1945.

This article was published in the May 1954 issue of Proceedings magazine as “Kamikazes and the Okinawa Campaign” by Rear Admiral Toshiyuki Yokoi, former Imperial Japanese Navy, with the assistance of Roger Pineau.

Japan’s special air attack units (Kamikaze) were initially organized under very particular circumstances and with limited operational objectives in the Philippines late in 1944. In the first stage Admiral Ohnishi certainly did not conceive of either allocating more than 24 planes for such suicide attacks or continuing this type of operation indefinitely, because there are serious basic defects in this type of attack. First, the expenditure of life and materiel is great. It takes several years to train one good pilot, yet in Kamikaze operations, he, as well as his plane, will be expended in a single sortie. This runs counter to the most important problem of an operation staff, which is to attain objectives with the least possible expenditure of life and materiel. Second, the striking velocity of a plane is not great enough to penetrate the decks of fleet carriers or battleships and cause critical damage below. A suicide attack on a carrier deck will not strike a vital blow unless the deck is full of planes. Third, operational command of Kamikaze planes is difficult because results cannot be evaluated with any accuracy. When his subordinates’ lives are sacrificed, a commander will naturally tend to overestimate the results achieved. When such overestimates are compounded, a totally erroneous picture will be presented to the high com­mand, whose judgment and decisions in turn will be falsely influenced.

These factors provide substantial reason why wise commanders were opposed to suicide air attacks, and yet the early reports of the Kamikazes’ amazing success caught the fancy of military leaders as well as the public—and the craze was on. The fact that sunken U. S. escort carriers were reported as standard fleet carriers was completely unknown and unrecognized in the surge of enthusiasm which overrode all defects of the Kamikaze attacks.

Another factor contributing to the situation was the vanity of heroism.

Thus came the age of suicide air attacks. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 2

March 2, 1973: Women Begin Pilot Training for the US Navy

Saturday, March 2, 2013 1:00 AM
Pensacola, Florida: The first four women chosen to undergo flight training. From left, LTJG. Barbara Allen of Chula Vista, California; ENS. Jane M. Skiles of Des Moines, Iowa; LTJG. Judith A. Neuffer of Wooster, Ohio; and ENS. Kathleen L. McNary of Plainfield, Illinois.

Pensacola, Florida: The first four women chosen to undergo flight training. From left, LTJG. Barbara Allen of Chula Vista, California; ENS. Jane M. Skiles of Des Moines, Iowa; LTJG. Judith A. Neuffer of Wooster, Ohio; and ENS. Kathleen L. McNary of Plainfield, Illinois.

 

The first four women chosen to undergo aviation training report for their flight physical exams at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Research Laboratory at the Naval Air Station.

The first four women chosen to undergo aviation training report for their flight physical exams at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Research Laboratory at the Naval Air Station.

 

Lt. Pat McNulty, right, an instructor at Naval Air Station Saufley Field, gives women officer candidates their first explanation of the parachute they will be using when they commence their flight training. Lieutenants Junior Grade Judith Neuffer, left, and Barbara Allen stand on the wing of a T-34 mentor trainer aircraft.

Lt. Pat McNulty, right, an instructor at Naval Air Station Saufley Field, gives women officer candidates their first explanation of the parachute they will be using when they commence their flight training. Lieutenants Junior Grade Judith Neuffer, left, and Barbara Allen stand on the wing of a T-34 mentor trainer aircraft.