Archive for April, 2014

Apr 24

Rare Imagery Brings an Important Moment from Naval History into Focus

Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:01 PM

By Lisa Crunk, Lead Photo Archivist, Naval History and Heritage Command

140211-N-ZZ999-002 WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2014) An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship's guns during the Spanish-American War. Naval History and Heritage Command photo archives staff members are scanning a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

140211-N-ZZ999-002 WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2014) An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War. Naval History and Heritage Command photo archives staff members are scanning a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

For a photographic archivist like me, a huge pile of donated scrapbooks, photo albums and donated photographs can be hard work. Sometimes images are without description, sometimes the donor is not on record and sometimes the photos are fragile. Magnetic pages, glue and metal fasteners – like paperclips or staples – often found in scrapbooks and photo albums can cause the images to deteriorate. But many of the photos are real gems, worth every effort my coworkers and I take to archive them to make them available for future generations.

In the process of preparing materials for transfer to new storage systems at Naval History and Heritage Command’s Photo Archive, my coworkers, Dave Colamaria, Jonathan Roscoe and I, are tackling the massive backlog of riches from the past, our donated imagery. Earlier this year, Feb. 5, Dave and John uncovered a veritable diamond amongst the gems when the uncovered a donation that has never been made available to the public.

140206-N-ZZ999-001 WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2014) An undated photo shows the burning of San Roque, Philippines, during the Spanish-American War. The photo is from a glass slide recently discovered in the photo archives at Naval History and Heritage Command. The photo archives staff found a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. The glass plate photographs were likely prepared by photographer Douglas White, a war correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner during the Philippine War. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

140206-N-ZZ999-001
WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2014) An undated photo shows the burning of San Roque, Philippines, during the Spanish-American War. The photo is from a glass slide recently discovered in the photo archives at Naval History and Heritage Command. The photo archives staff found a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. The glass plate photographs were likely prepared by photographer Douglas White, a war correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner during the Philippine War. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

They showed me two, well-aged, wooden boxes. Worn scratches on the surface of the boxes revealed an amazing inscription:

Photographic Slides
US Naval Military Activities
In and Around Manila
Spanish – American War – 1898
and Philippine Insurrection
Douglas White
War Correspondent

To say we were excited might be an understatement. Inside, were 325 tissue-paper wrapped slides made entirely of glass. Based on the delicate paper wrapping that still encased the majority of slides, it appears most had not been viewed in decades.

 Delving into this wonderful collection, we found glass slides covering the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. One of the best things about this find is nearly all of the slides have an included description. To us, this suggests they were used as a presentation or lantern show. Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color. Also, of great interest to the Navy during the bi-centennial of the War of 1812, the collection includes a few slides depicting paintings from the centennial commemoration of the war. My coworkers and I agree, given the presence of the War of 1812 slides, as well as images of the battleship Maine being excavated (1911-1912), that the slides were created around 1912.

Lt. C.J. Dutreaux One of 325 NHHC recently discovered slides made entirely of glass.Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color.

Lt. C.J. Dutreaux
One of 325
NHHC recently discovered slides made entirely of glass.Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color.

From the inscription, these glass slides appear to have originally belonged to and in some cases may have been photographed by Douglas White, a war correspondent at one time employed by the San Francisco Examiner. Since February, more information has been revealed through research. We found that the slides were originally donated to the San Francisco Museum of Science and Industry by Mrs. Charles Dutreaux, wife of Lt. C.J. Dutreaux, whose image appears in one of the slides. Correspondence from the museum to Commodore Dudley W. Knox, suggests that the collection was sent to the Naval Historical Foundation, Jan. 3, 1948. The Naval Historical Foundation maintained the collection until 2008, when we received it

An undated photo showing American troops desembarking from a ship onto small boats in the Phillipines 1898 or 1899.

An undated photo showing American troops desembarking from a ship onto small boats in the Phillipines 1898 or 1899.

These slides are a window into a time more than a century ago. They show many scenes from the times, including the raising of USS Olympia’s flag over Manila, USS Charleston convoying the first U.S. troops and ships officers and crew, the execution wall at Cavite, Philippines, capture of Manila, Spanish prisoners, troops landing at Camp Dewy, naval camps and Signal Corps, as just a sampling.

What makes this so significant a find for us at NHHC? The Navy played a central role in nearly every aspect of the Spanish-American war, from logistics to diplomacy. Historical research on the subject notes that American planners and leaders anticipated that the fight with Spain would be primarily a naval war. The U.S. Navy’s victories at Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba were pivotal events that turned the course of the war and joint Army-Navy operations at Santiago, Puerto Rico, and Manila sealed the success won by the U.S. Navy’s command of the seas.

Having found them, our next step is to preserve them for the future. That starts with digitization, scanning each slide for eventual exhibition on the Naval History and Heritage Command’s website. After that we need to make sure the slides are in sleeves that will prevent deterioration and then archive them so they will never be lost again.

140422-N-CS953-004 WASHINGTON (Apr. 22, 2014) -- Lisa Crunk, Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) Photographic Archive Lead Archivist, looks at a glass plate photo that the archivists rediscovered in donations earlier this year, Apr. 22. Her job as as one of three archivists includes organizing, scanning, archiving, posting online and making sense of the hundreds of thousands of Navy historic photos in the archive photos for researchers, Navy leadership and the public. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

140422-N-CS953-004
WASHINGTON (Apr. 22, 2014) — Lisa Crunk, Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Photographic Archive Lead Archivist, looks at a glass plate photo that the archivists rediscovered in donations earlier this year, Apr. 22. Her job as as one of three archivists includes organizing, scanning, archiving, posting online and making sense of the hundreds of thousands of Navy historic photos in the archive photos for researchers, Navy leadership and the public.
(U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

We may never know which of these slides is truly unique. We have located copies of several of the images within various archival collections throughout the country. Despite this, were still excited and proud to be the repository of such a historically significant collection.

 

 
Apr 23

#PeopleMatter: Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 8:30 AM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Today marks 116 years since Spain’s declaration of war against the United States. Congress in turn declared war on Spain two days later, but as the Navy had already blockaded Cuba, backdated the declaration to the 21st.

By the time war was declared on the 25th, the U.S. Navy had pretty much secured the western hemisphere, and prepared to confront the Spanish Navy in the Pacific. Just over 9,000 miles on the other side of the globe in Hong Kong, a man who had distinguished himself during the Civil War, was doing just that.

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In fact, Commodore George Dewey had been prepping his fleet since February, so when war was declared, he made a beeline for the Spanish Navy at Manila Bay in the Philippines. Who was this man who would lead the U.S. Navy to its first major, strategic victories overseas? Known for his quick temper, Dewey had no problem making quick decisions. Nothing went unobserved from his wicker chair on the quarterdeck of his flagship, USS Olympia. From his “throne” many noted his legendary walrus mustache, the crisp white uniform standard for officers then, and his dog named “Bob.” He had no patience for lengthy meetings and even stormed out of one with Army Maj. Gen. Elwell Otis, who would become the 2nd Military Governor of the Philippines.

 

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On May 1, 1898, he delivered to America the first Navy victory against a foreign enemy since the War of 1812 – the Battle of Manila in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. In recognition of his exemplary leadership, on March 2, 1899, Congress handed President McKinley the act that made Dewey the first and last Admiral of the Navy, a rank never before held by any officer. When Dewey died on Jan. 16, 1917, the Secretary of the Navy noted in General Order No. 258, “Vermont was his mother State and there was always in his character something of the granite of his native hills.”

The Making of An Officer
Dewey graduated in 1858 from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than three years later he found himself at the center of the action in the Civil War while serving under Admiral Farragut during the Battle of New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Dewey, executive lieutenant of the steam paddle ship USS Mississippi, skillfully navigated shallow waters to wage a successful attack against Confederate fortifications at New Orleans. Because Dewey had survived and battled sharpshooters, Farragut later asked him by name to command his personal dispatch gun boat, USS Agawam, which was frequently attacked by Confederate snipers. Later, in 1864, Lt. Dewey was made executive officer of the wooden man-of-war USS Colorado stationed on the North Atlantic blockading squadron under Commodore Henry Knox Thatcher. Dewey again rose to the occasion during the Battles of Fort Fisher. Even The New York Times spoke admiringly of the Union victory as “the most beautiful duel of the war.” Commodore Thatcher wouldn’t take the credit and remarked to his superiors, “You must thank Lieutenant Dewey, sir. It was his move.”

 

422px-GeorgeDeweyPortrait

 

After the war, he returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor and was then later granted rest ashore status in Washington, D.C. He found the assignment listless and believed the environment in D.C. was “harmful to his health.” He could not resist the call of the sea.

Over the course of the next thirty years, he commanded USS Narragansett, USS Supply, USS Juniata, USS Dolphin, and USS Pensacola. He also served as a Lighthouse Inspector, a member of the Lighthouse Board, and Secretary of the Lighthouse Board. Additionally he served as the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment as President of the Board of Inspection and Survey. On Nov. 30, 1897, he was ordered to Asiatic Station and, proceeding by steamer, he assumed command on Jan. 3, 1898, his flag in the protected cruiser, USS Olympia, Captain Charles V. Gridley, commanding.

 

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Victory for the United States
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had urged him to prepare for the possibility of war with Spain and telegraphed him on Feb. 25, 1898, just ten days after USS Maine mysteriously blew up in Cuba, to immediately prepare the Asiatic Station at Hong Kong. Less than a week after the declaration of war, on May 1, 1898, Dewey sunk or captured the entire Spanish Pacific fleet in a battle lasting just over six hours (including a three-hour lunch break). In that short amount of time, he also defeated the shore batteries. The Battle of Manila Bay was one of the Navy’s greatest success stories against an imperial European empire.

 

Mess on board USS Olympia Courtesy NHHC

 

On May 10, 1898, Dewey was given a vote of thanks by the U.S. Congress and was commissioned Rear Adm. That promotion was an advancement of one grade for “highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy as displayed by him in the destruction of the Spanish Fleet and batteries in the harbor of Manila, Philippine Islands, May 1, 1898.”

After defeating the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Dewey met with the Army to work out the preliminaries for the occupation of the Philippines. Most of the meetings went well, except on one occasion, Dewey practically leapt to stand and bolted back to his barge, Cristina, to board USS Olympia. He found meetings detestable, and his frustration grew with the Army’s decisions on how to govern the Philippines. Dewey later let the Army know his personal opinion of its style of management, especially with the Army’s barges that policed the Passig River. In no subtle form or fashion, Dewey delivered tirades complaining to the Army on the condition of the barges being far from “ship shape and Bristol fashion,” and went as far as to issue a direct order to General Otis warning if any of them were seen outside of the river and in open water in Manila Bay, the Navy would sink them. The barges never appeared outside of the confines of the river.

 

Photo NH 50574

 

On Jan. 17, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson delivering Dewey’s eulogy, offered an apt description of Adm. Dewey’s personality and legacy: “It is pleasant to recall what qualities gave him his well-deserved fame: His practical directness, his courage without self-consciousness, his efficient capacity in matters of administration, the readiness to fight without asking questions or hesitating about any detail. It was by such qualities that he continued and added luster to the best traditions of the Navy. He had the stuff in him which all true men admire and upon which all statesmen must depend in hours of peril. The people and the Government of the United States will always rejoice to perpetuate his name in all honor and affection.”

 

 

 

 
Apr 22

#Presence, #Platforms, #Power: Spanish-American War Shaped U.S.’s Strategy into 20th Century

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 3:26 PM
The Battle of Manila Bay is shown in this colored print of a painting by J.G. Tyler, copyright 1898 by P.F. Collier. Ships depicted in left side of print are (l-r): Spanish Warships Don Juan de Ulloa, Castilla, and Reina Cristina. Those in right side are (l-r): USS Boston, USS Baltimore and USS Olympia. Collections of the Navy Department, purchased from Lawrence Lane, 1970. U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

The Battle of Manila Bay is shown in this colored print of a painting by J.G. Tyler, copyright 1898 by P.F. Collier. Ships depicted in left side of print are (l-r): Spanish Warships Don Juan de Ulloa, Castilla, and Reina Cristina. Those in right side are (l-r): USS Boston, USS Baltimore and USS Olympia.
Collections of the Navy Department, purchased from Lawrence Lane, 1970.
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Yesterday, the first of our week-long spotlights on the Spanish-American War ended after the two big naval victories at the Battle of Manila Bay and Battle of Cuba de Santiago. Ground troops batting clean-up finished the less-than-four-month conflict.

But the impact of this “splendid little war” reached well beyond the duration of the war. It was the strategic shift that started the tsunami of fleet modernization and base acquisition that would carry the United States Navy well into the 20th Century through World War II.

 Becoming a world power

As mentioned, having no U.S. ship capable of stopping a Spanish ironclad sitting in a New York port during the 1873 Virginius Affair led to President Chester Arthur calling for a rehabilitation of the fleet. While President Benjamin Harrison urged a continuation of constructing modern ships during his 1889 inaugural address, he also asked for the acquisition of bases to maintain the U.S. fleet in foreign seas, according to Naval History and Heritage Command historian Mark L. Evans.

Harrison worked with Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy and Navy Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, who believed the countries with the greatest sea power would have the most impact worldwide. He had written a book touting that concept, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 that would be released a year later. His ideas would be embraced by many of the major world powers and set into motion the United States Navy as we know it today.

Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose views on sea power shaped the U.S. Navy of the 20th Century.

Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose views on sea power shaped the U.S. Navy of the 20th Century.

“Their work bore fruit with the Navy Bill of June 30, 1890, authorizing construction of three battleships later named Indiana, Oregon and Massachusetts. Along with the battleship Iowa, authorized in 1892, this force formed the core of the new fleet willing to challenge European navies for control of the waters in the Western Hemisphere,” Evans wrote in a paper on the Spanish-American War.

It was the birth of navalism in a young country on the precipice of emerging into a world power.

“The United States decided if it was going to be a ‘big boy,’ it needed a strong navy. So the country went from a fifth-rate sea service to the third largest in the world during this period of time,” said Dennis Conrad, another NHHC historian.

But along with building up its naval forces, the United States was also beginning to flex its muscles beyond its borders. By the time the previously Euro-centric world began the 20th century, the power had tilted toward the United States during the start of the American Century, Conrad said.

The Navy’s transference from wood and sail to steam and steel had already proven itself in the defeat of the Spanish Navy.

But the over-arching changes that affected the country after winning the war was ending up with the Philippines.

“The Spanish-American War got us involved with Asia,” Conrad said. “We did not go into the war with the idea of taking over the Philippines. But it was an example of the importance of mission forward, presence and protecting the sea lanes.”

After crushing the Spanish navy, the United States could have become a major colonial power. But Americans did not follow the European model of imperialism.

“We didn’t pick up colonies like other countries after World War I, we just wanted access and trade, not to run colonies,” Conrad said. “So the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and our opting for independence for the Philippines on the heels of having subdued it, really defined the United States approach in the 20th century.”

Despite the victory, post-war wasn’t an easy time for the United States. The 1823 Monroe Doctrine decreed that the Western Hemisphere would forever be free from European expansion. Anti-imperialists called the U.S. hypocritical for condemning European empires while pursuing one of their own.

And just as the Cuban resistance fought against their landlords, so did the Philippines against the United States. Few Sailors, Soldiers or Marines were killed during the four-month Spanish-American War, while 4,000 American lives were lost fighting in the Philippine Insurrection.

But by the time Theodore Roosevelt, old Rough Rider himself, was elected president in 1901, America was just beginning to flex its might. The 1901 Platt Amendment forbade Cuba from incurring debt to keep foreign gunboats away from its shores. And if any conditions were violated, the United States would send the necessary force to restore order, thanks to the lease of a naval base at Guantanamo Bay — still in existence today.

Then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba- 1898, as one of the famed Rough Riders

Then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba- 1898, as one of the famed Rough Riders. National Park Service photo

America then entered its “protectorate” status with Cuba and even other nations over the next few years. The Roosevelt Corollary specified if any Latin American country engaged in “chronic wrongdoing,” the United States would step in and restore order, as evidenced by its intervention with the Dominican Republic when it came under U.S. protection in 1905. And the year before, President Theodore Roosevelt earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japan conflict.

By 1907, Roosevelt sent off his Great White Fleet for an around-the-world show of strength, otherwise known as the “big stick” in his “speak softly, but carry a big stick,” mantra.

In order to get his naval fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific faster if necessary, Roosevelt began his biggest achievement: the Panama Canal. The United States’ emerging power caused Great Britain to nullify the 1850 Clayton-Bulwer Treaty that had both countries agreeing neither side would build such a canal.

After negotiating a six-mile wide strip of land for the United States to lease to build the canal, Colombia held out for more. Roosevelt wielded his “big stick” by sending in a Navy gunboat and supporting revolutionaries fighting to free the Panama territory from Colombia. The United States was the first nation to recognize the new country of Panama and the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty gave the U.S. a 10-mile strip for the canal. Begun in 1907, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 at the cost of $345 million. And American doctors, such as Walter Reed — the namesake of the military’s largest hospital — did their part in combatting malaria and yellow fever.

The United States had shed its isolationist past, but in doing so, began to hear rumblings of discontent from her South American neighbors, Japan and Russia.

Be prepared

While the United States was ramping up its steel navy, the Navy was investing in its leadership. Founded in 1884, the Naval War College was instrumental in getting its officers to adapt to constantly changing technology and also plan for operations in the event of war. The Naval War Board was formed in March 1898. But four years earlier, an 1894 paper by Lt. Cmdr. Charles J. Train addressed the “strategy in the Event of War with Spain,” Evans said. Train’s suggestion was for the U.S. Navy to destroy the Spanish fleet as early as possible and blockade Cuba’s principal ports. If Spain sent a fleet to stop it, the United States would be ready.

In 1895, a “special plan” was sent to Naval College War students to secure Cuba’s independence.

By the time USS Maine was destroyed in Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898, the Navy Department already had a number of plans honed by four years of debate by its leading officers, Evans pointed out. Although the realities of war forced modifications to the plans, it allowed for quick decisions prior to the declaration of war.

America’s victory in the Battle of Manila could be attributed to Commodore George Dewey’s decision to plan strategies among his leadership and then train, train and train some more the crew until the day of the battle. After seven hours, with a 3-hour meal break, Dewey’s fleet blew apart the Spanish flotilla in Manila, without a single loss of life.

The Navy Department then ordered Commodore Winfield Scott Schley’s Flying Squadron to protect the east coast of the United States from the Spanish fleet led by Adm. Pascual Cervera, and sent Adm. William Sampson’s North Atlantic squadron to blockade Havana Harbor. After being hemmed in for six weeks, Cervera’s ships attempted to run the blockade during Sunday morning services on July 3. Chased down by the American armored ships, the rest of the Spanish ships were destroyed within 90 minutes.

“The overall success of U.S. naval operations during the Spanish-American War demonstrated the value of extensive peace-time preparations,” Evans wrote. “In the technological warfare of the last one hundred years, the most important preparations have not always been the construction of major warships, but also planning for adequate logistical support and vigorous intellectual debate.”

Tomorrow will feature a profile on Commodore George Dewey, the Civil War-era admiral who led the Battle of Manila Bay.

On Thursday, NHHC historian Dennis Conrad will discuss plans for NHHC’s newest documentary on the Spanish-American War “that will capture the drama and heroism that catapulted the United States Navy to world prominence.”

 
Apr 21

#PresenceMatters: The Path to Conflict and Victory in the Spanish-American War

Monday, April 21, 2014 5:08 PM

By Naval History and Heritage Command

It lasted less than four months. Yet the Spanish-American War is among the top three key naval conflicts that defined the modern U.S. Navy, along with the War of 1812 and World War II.

“The Navy’s performance in those wars resonated with the public, and established the reputation the U.S. Navy enjoys today,” said Dennis Conrad, an historian for the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Called a “splendid little war,” by Secretary of State John Hays, it began “with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.”

The war, which was actually declared April 25, 1898, was backdated to 116 years ago today to coincide with the blockade of Cuba’s Havana Harbor on April 21.

American Interests in Cuba

Twenty-five years earlier, Cuba was a colony to Spain with the rumblings of independence beginning to rupture peace. The U.S. had business interests in Cuba, so American ships were often poking around in the harbor to protect those interests.

It was a repurposed Civil War ship that would fan the flames of anger toward the Spanish government. An American with ties to the Cuban rebellion bought the old Civil War ship for the rebel leader, Jose Marti. For three years, the Virginius ran men, ammunition and supplies from the United States to Cuba. But since the ship was flying the American flag (illegally), it fell under the protection of the U.S. Navy.

The Spanish were suspicious of the blockade runner and by October 1873, were in full pursuit of the ship. By the time Virginius fell to the Spanish, her crew was made up of mostly young and inexperienced British and American citizens, some as young as 9 to 13.

The Spanish government in Cuba was swift in its retribution, accusing all 144 crew members of being pirates. Attempts by the United States to give aid to American citizens were ignored. Four members of the Virginius crew were immediately executed. The rest were tried and found guilty. The British vice-consul at Santiago requested assistance from the British navy to stop further executions. But upon hearing the British were sending the sloop HMS Niobe to do so, Cuban commander Juan Burriel ordered the shooting of 37 more crew members, who were then decapitated and their bodies trampled with horses. Among the dead were boys as young as nine and the Virginius captain, Commodore Joseph Frye, a former U.S. naval officer before joining the Confederates. Another 12 were later killed for a total of 53 before Niobe arrived, threatening to bombard Santiago if the executions didn’t stop.

The American public was outraged by the executions and support rose in favor of the U.S. recognizing the Cuban rebellion. Negotiations by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish reigned in the rhetoric to go to war, and within a few weeks, the Virginius and the remaining 91 crew members were handed back over to the U.S. Spain would later pay the United States $80,000 in reparations for the deaths of Americans. The ship itself, with the American flag now removed, sank while it was being towed. Burriel died before he was tried and sentenced for his crime in executing the 53 crew members.

Modernizing a Tired Fleet

During the flurry of furor over the Virginius executions, it was noted a Spanish ironclad was anchored in New York Harbor. With the government still recovering from the Civil War, the Navy had no ship capable of stopping it. U.S. Secretary of War George M. Robeson determined it was time the United States upgraded its fleet and Congress agreed to contracts for the overhaul of five partially-completed Civil War-era ironclads USS Puritan (BM 1), USS Amphitrite (BM 2), USS Monadnock (BM 3), USS Terror (BM 4) and USS Miantonomoh (BM 5).

Modernization began during the administration of President Chester Arthur in the early 1880s, according to Mark L. Hayes, another NHHC historian. It was during Arthur’s first annual message to Congress when he concluded: “I cannot too strongly urge upon you my conviction, that every consideration of national safety, economy, and honor imperatively demands a thorough rehabilitation of the Navy.”

Two years later would be the Navy Act of 1883, authorizing the construction of the steel cruisers Atlanta, Boston and Chicago and the dispatch vessel Dolphin, followed by armored battleships USS Texas and USS Maine.

Simmering hostilities

The eventual settlement of the 1873 Virginius Affair might have stemmed the public outcry for Cuban independence, but that distrust just simmered under the surface for years. It was now 1898, the Spanish government had changed several times, and the U.S. continued to send American warships to protect their interests in Cuba.

Just two months into the year, supporters of an independent Cuba got their hands on a letter written by the Spanish minister in Washington that was critical of American President William McKinley. Once published, it began to resurrect resentment toward the Spanish government.

Photograph by A. Loeffler, with inset portrait of Commanding Officer, Captain Charles D. Sigsbee.

Photograph by A. Loeffler, with inset portrait of Commanding Officer, Captain Charles D. Sigsbee.

Then the unthinkable happened. The battleship USS Maine, which was sent to Havana as part of a naval contingent, blew up while it was in harbor, killing 266 Sailors. A Spanish inquiry determined it had been an internal explosion, but on March 25 an American inquiry blamed the loss of USS Maine and most of her crew on a mine.

“Remember the Maine” was a unifying cry that brought together a nation that just a few years earlier had been split by war and seethed during reconstruction afterward.

McKinley demanded Spain provide reparations for the loss of life and the ship, as well as giving Cuba its independence. Praxedes Mateo Sagasta, the leader of the Liberal Party in Spain, instead offered autonomy to Cuba and Puerto Rico, rather than independence. The Cuban leadership turned down the offer, determined their armed resistance would gain their freedom.

Sagasta sought support from European nations that also wielded power over their colonies. But despite sympathetic leanings, none came to Spain’s aid, thanks to the Spanish country’s long-standing isolationism and the emerging power of the United States.

Preparing for the possibility of war, Adm. William Sampson ordered a blockade from Havana to the south side of Cuba on April 21. By the time Spain realized they were at war with the United States, Havana Harbor was already buttoned up.

Admiral George Dewey N.M. Miller (20th C.), painted 1911. Courtesy NHHC

Admiral George Dewey
N.M. Miller (20th C.), painted 1911.
Courtesy NHHC

Out in the Pacific, Commodore George Dewey, on his flagship USS Olympia, and the rest of his fleet were poised to strike from Hong Kong. Given a heads-up about the possibility of war by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt on Feb. 25, Dewey and his officers spent the next month developing plans, working scenarios, and then training their crews.

On April 22, the Secretary of the Navy sent Dewey a telegram that the U.S. had begun the blockade of Havana Harbor. Britain, already hearing about the possibility of war between Spain and the United States, ordered the Americans to leave Hong Kong.

By the time Dewey’s fleet sailed into the Bay of Manila on May 1, following a well-prepared and trained operation, it was too late for the Spanish fleet caught there. At 5:40 a.m., Dewey called out “You may fire when ready, Gridley!” The United States steel navy blew away the Spanish wooden ships, killing 381 Spaniards with no Americans killed in action and only eight wounded. The Battle of Manila Bay was over by 12:30 p.m., which included a three-hour meal break by the Americans.

USS Olympia Courtesy NHHC

USS Olympia
Courtesy NHHC

Back in Europe, Spanish Adm. Pascual Cervera was ordered to sail for the West Indies to support Spanish forces in Cuba. Leaving April 29, his squadron sailed into Santiago de Cuba at the end of May. His squadron was immediately blockaded by the United States on May 29. Six weeks later, Cervera decided to make a break for it on July 3 during Sunday morning services. Giving chase, the American ships wiped out the rest of the Spanish Atlantic fleet within 90 minutes. American troops on the ground, led by Rough Riders, bottled up Spanish forces in Santiago harbor. A month later, the war was over.

The Treaty of Paris gave Cuba its independence, but also the Philippines to the United States, along with Guam and Puerto Rico. Spain got $20 million for the loss of its former colonies.

 

 
Apr 18

Doolittle Raid – Lesson in joint innovation, resilience

Friday, April 18, 2014 7:18 AM

Editors Note: The first portion of this blog comes from Rear Adm. Rick Williams, with the second portion from NHHC for a more in-depth historical perspective. Friday is the 72nd anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, an early example of joint operations led by Army Air Force and Navy. Rear Adm. Williams is commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, where he has oversight of all surface ships home-ported in Hawaii as well as two key installations. As CNRH, he oversees Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where the Air Force and Navy serve side-by-side today.

Lesson in joint innovation, resilience

 

Rear Adm. Rick WilliamsRear Adm. Rick Williams
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

Less than 19 weeks after the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American military struck back. On April 18, 1942 – 72 years ago today – sixteen Army Air Force bombers launched from a Navy aircraft carrier to attack the enemy’s homeland.

Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid was launched from USS Hornet, commanded by Capt. Marc Mitscher and escorted by ships under the command of Vice Adm. “Bull” Halsey aboard his flagship, USS Enterprise.

The extraordinary joint Doolittle Raid showed Imperial Japan’s military leaders their vulnerability and America’s resolve.

The raid also demonstrated innovation, courage and resilience.

The five-man B-25 crews trained relentlessly prior to their mission, with specialized training led by Navy flight instructor Lt. Henry F. Miller. The Army Air Force made ingenious modifications so the bombers could have extra fuel but less weight.

Pilots, all volunteers, needed to be extremely fearless, taking off in their huge planes from a short flight deck. On rough seas they launched in bitter cold, 75-knot winds and foam-flecked spray, as Sailors aboard recalled.

Doolittle, as his team’s leader, took off first. His success inspired the other pilots just as their entire mission would inspire the nation – putting action to the nationwide words of resolve heard throughout the world: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

The innovation, courage and resilience demonstrated by Halsey and Doolittle and countless others carried over into the weeks and months that followed – first in the Battle of the Coral Sea and then, in the big turning point of the War in the Pacific – the Battle of Midway.

Historians tell us that the Doolittle Raid contributed strategically to our victory at Midway, as the enemy felt humiliated and overextended to try to prevent another attack on their homeland.

The Doolittle Raid is also an early example of the evolution of “air sea battle,” integrating air and naval capabilities across domains, where collaboration and cooperation helped win the day – and eventually win the war. We remember the heroes of the Doolittle Raid.

This strategically important event is particularly meaningful to our joint team today. This uniquely shared accomplishment is a reminder of what we have the potential to accomplish when we mutually support each other.

 

USS Hornet (CV 8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, April 18, 1942. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives - Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives.)

USS Hornet (CV 8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, April 18, 1942. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives.)

The Doolittle Raiders – The Mission

By Naval History and Heritage Command

 

On April 18, 1942, it was a “nice sun-shiny day overcast with anti-aircraft fire,” according to Army Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eldred V. Scott.

Over Tokyo, anyway.

Scott’s weather quip signaled the near completion of the Doolittle Raiders’ mission on that day 72 years ago today. But it was just the beginning of the unknown for the 80 men and their 16 planes.

Seven of those airmen would never return home. None of the planes did. While the bombing mission itself was relatively minor in terms of damage inflicted, the raid set into motion what would become a pivotal naval victory for the U. S. at the Battle of Midway.

The Doolittle Raid featured Army Air Force pilots and planes, but it was a joint effort with the Navy. The raid itself was concocted by Navy Capt. Francis Lowe. Another Navy officer, Lt. Henry L. Miller, is one of two men named as “Honorary Tokyo Raiders.” Miller supervised the take-off training the pilots received at Eglin Field, Fla., and was there for the raid launch. The other was Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese engineer who helped several Tokyo Raiders escape to safety.

And it was the Navy that provided the transportation – via USS Hornet  (CV 8) and her escorts – to the launch point.

The Navy wasn’t without its losses for the Tokyo Raid. One patrol plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, landing in the water, but the crew was recovered uninjured. Another patrol plane was lost during patrol operations, with both the plane and crew lost. And during the hour-long launch, a Sailor lost his arm after being hit by the final B-25 when it rolled backward out of position, striking him with its propeller.

From Conception to Launch

After Pearl Harbor, there was pressure from the commander-in-chief to strike back at Japan. Using carrier-capable aircraft to strike the enemy’s homeland would put a carrier task force into harm’s way for a counterattack, since the lighter Navy planes didn’t have the range of land-based bomb-delivering aircraft. And with only three aircraft carriers left in the Pacific fleet after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. needed to protect every asset.

Navy Capt. Francis Lowe, assigned to U.S. Fleet Commander Adm. Ernest J. King, had seen B-25s taking off from Norfolk, Va., using airstrips shaped a little like a carrier deck, minus the rolling waves. The Mitchell medium bombers, which had never been used in combat before, had the range and the wing-span that would allow for carrier takeoff. Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, an air racer who had helped develop instrument flying, was brought in to investigate the feasibility of such a mission, along with Adm. King’s Air Ops officer, Capt. Donald B. “Wu” Duncan.

The newly-commissioned aircraft carrier Hornet left Norfolk under the command of Capt. Marc Mitscher to join a convoy to the Panama Canal. Meanwhile Doolittle had chosen his raiders, 5-man crews for the 16 planes, and was training for 500-foot takeoffs at Eglin Field, Fla., under the guidance of Lt. Miller. At the end of March, Hornet docked at Alameda, Calif. Using cranes, 16 B-25s were loaded onto the ship’s deck. With all of the planes loaded and lashed to the deck, the Hornet moored in the bay for the night. It was April 1.

The following morning, Hornet’s crew was made aware of their mission.

Army B-52's onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

On April 7, naval operation plan No. 20-42 was issued, creating Task Force 16, with Task Group 16.1 under Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey with flagship carrier Enterprise (CV 6) and her escorts. Task Group 16.2 was headed by Capt. Mitscher with his carrier Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts.

The instructions were simple. Proceed after joining up to carry out the attack; upon completion return to Pearl Harbor; destroy enemy forces as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the attack. The two task groups met up April 13 and proceeded to steam toward a point 500 miles east of Tokyo, where they would launch the attack.

To prepare each B-25, loaded with a one-ton bomb, for its mission and flight to a safe zone in China, engineers removed the tail gunner section, painting broomsticks to look like machine guns. A rubber fuel tank was installed in the tail section, along with 10 5-gallon gas cans for manual fuel addition during the flight to a tank installed where the lower gun turret was, and a larger tank located in the bomb bay. The total fuel payload was 1,141 gallons for a 2,000-mile range.

Air patrols scouted the sea looking for enemy ships that could relay their location back to Japan, and submarines Trout and Thresher kept a steady surveillance.

After plowing through gale-force winds of 36 knots during the afternoon of April 17, enemy vessels were picked up on radar at 3:12 a.m. April 18. A light on the horizon confirmed their presence. The task group changed direction by 350 degrees and 30 minutes later, the vessels left the radar screen.

At 7:15 a.m., an Enterprise search plane reported an enemy patrol vessel and the task force sighted it at 7:44 a.m. Nashville dispatched the vessel with gunfire. Over concern the vessel had alerted the Japanese of their presence, Doolittle decided to launch the planes immediately, still 400 miles from their original launch destination.

The first B-25, flown by Lt. Col. Doolittle, launched at 8:20 a.m. The take-offs were timed for when the ship’s bow pitched highest to give the Mitchell more loft. The average time between takeoffs was less than four minutes. The last B-25 left at 9:19 a.m.

Around 2 p.m., aircraft from Enterprise picked up two more enemy vessels, sinking one and damaging the other.

It wasn’t until after the war the Navy was able to confirm crew on the patrol boat had alerted the Japanese of their location. But when they requested confirmation, there was no answer since the vessel had already been sunk. Getting no response, the Japanese government chose to ignore the message.

The Doolittle Raiders faced some resistance from antiaircraft fire, but most were able to hit their 10 civilian and military targets in Japan. The repercussions of the U.S. hitting the Japanese homeland set in motion a tsunami-like strategic response that would ultimately change the tides of war to an American victory.

Army Air Force Raid That Set Up Naval Victory

After Doolittle’s Raiders dropped bombs on Tokyo, the Japanese military reaction was swift and vengeful. Japanese Combined Fleet commander Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike the United States’ mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll and turn it into a Japanese air field. Yamamoto knew the U.S. had insufficient strength to defeat his Royal Imperial Navy, which could generally choose where and when to attack.

The Americans, however, had deduced Yamamoto’s attack through communications intelligence. Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, established an ambush and was waiting for the Imperial Navy. The second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles began June 4, 1942, and by the end, Yamamoto’s forces lost four fleet carriers compared to just one for the United States.

The Battle of Midway had leveled the naval playing field for the American naval force. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive, which soon had the Japanese Imperial Navy on the ropes.

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives - Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Best Laid Plans…

After completing their bombing mission, finding safe haven would be the Raiders’ toughest task. Taking off 400 miles sooner than planned had the planes nearly empty on fuel as they headed toward China. Of the 16 planes, 15 either crash-landed or crew bailed out. Only one plane landed – in Russia – where the crew was held as prisoners with liberal privileges. They escaped 13 months after the raid to a British consulate in Iran.

Seven Doolittle Raiders were killed in the mission: Two drowned and a third was killed by the fall after bailing out; eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of the eight POWs were executed Oct. 15, 1942, and another died of malnutrition Dec. 1, 1943. The surviving four POWs were released in August 1945.

The Raiders who landed in China were assisted by American missionary Rev. John M. Birch, whose contacts within Japanese-occupied China helped the Raiders to escape. Afterward, Birch was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force, continuing his work as a missionary while gathering intelligence on the Japanese. He was killed Aug. 25, 1945, at the age of 27, during a confrontation with Chinese Communists. The John Birch Society honors Birch, a recipient of both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Even though the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo, it was the Chinese who suffered the most from the raid. Furious the Chinese nationalists were protecting the Americans, the Japanese retaliated against several coastal cities suspected of harboring the Americans, killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese citizens.

Doolittle was so convinced his mission had been a failure, he was convinced he would face a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, he was promoted to general, skipping the rank of colonel. He and all of his Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitscher served in a variety of command leadership positions for the rest of World War II, earning the rank of admiral and title as Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Capt. Lowe, a submariner, was promoted to rear admiral and as Chief of Staff of the 10th Fleet, guided the Atlantic anti-submarine effort. He was also commander of the Cruiser Division 16, which supported the Okinawa invasion and participated in several strikes against the Japanese. After the war, he supervised the surrender and neutralization of Japanese installations in the Pacific. By his retirement in 1956, Lowe had achieved the rank of admiral due to his leadership and combat actions.

Flight instructor Miller earned a Legion of Merit for his duties in training the Doolittle Raider pilots. He served with distinction throughout his career in the Navy, serving in Vietnam and launching the first aircraft carrier strikes on North Vietnam from the decks of Ranger (CV 61), Coral Sea (CV 43) and Hancock (CV 19). On Dec. 2, 1965, he engaged the first nuclear powered Task Force Enterprise (CVN 65) and Bainbridge (DLGN 25) against Vietnam. Miller retired as a Rear Admiral in 1971.

Just weeks after Doolittle’s Raiders flew off her deck, Hornet fought gallantly in the Battle of Midway, where her aircraft shared in the sinking of a Japanese cruiser. During the fight for Guadalcanal, Hornet was the only remaining operational carrier to oppose the enemy.

It was during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, while Hornet’s aircraft attacked and damaged a Japanese carrier, the carrier suffered irreparable damage from torpedoes and kamikazes. After her crew was forced to abandon ship and American attempts to scuttle her failed, Hornet remained afloat until she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese ships Oct. 27, 1942.

Of the more than 260 American deaths during the battle, 118 came from Hornet, the last U.S. fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Hornet was awarded four service stars for her World War II action and Torpedo Squadron 8 earned a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Midway.

As for Tech. Sgt. Scott, he successfully bailed out over Chun King, China. Upon his return to the U.S. in Aug. 1942, Scott entered officer candidate school, and then served overseas as an aircraft maintenance officer for the rest of World War II, and through both the Korean and Cold wars, retiring from active duty in 1959 as a lieutenant colonel. He died in 1978 at the age of 71.

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

 
Apr 15

On This Date in History, Operation El Dorado Canyon, Navy Aircraft from USS America (CV 66) and USS Coral Sea (CV 43) attack Libya

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 3:00 AM

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Twenty-eight years ago on April 5, 1986, two women, Verena Chanaa, and her sister, Andrea Haeusler, departed a nightclub called La Belle, frequented by American servicemen. They left behind a travel bag containing a two-kilogram bomb packed with plastic explosives and shrapnel. It exploded at 1:45 a.m. inflicting horrific casualties.

The bag was left beneath the disc jockey’s table, near the dance floor which was ripped to shreds by the explosion. Army Sgt. Kenneth T. Ford, who was 21, was instantly killed. Two months later, Army Sgt. James E. Goins, 25, died from his wounds in the hospital. The attack also claimed the life of a Turkish woman. Out of the 230 injured that night, 79 were American servicemen. Some suffered ruptured ear drums and were permanently disabled, with the loss of limbs from the explosion.

united-states-libya-west-berlin-discotheque-bombing-3

An intense investigation followed and ten days later, President Reagan authorized Operation El Dorado Canyon to bomb Libya’s capitol, Tripoli, as well as Benghazi in retaliation for the attack. The mission began April 15, 1986 at two in the morning, almost at the same time the bomb exploded at the West Berlin night club.

It was the latest escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Libya. In the month prior to the bombing, U.S. Navy planes operating in international waters were attacked by six surface-to-air missiles from Libya. The Navy destroyed the Libyan missile site, sank a patrol boat, and disabled another. No U.S. Sailors were hurt. The White House called the attack “entirely unprovoked and beyond the bounds of normal international conduct.”

President Ronald Reagan meeting with bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress to discuss the air strike on Libya Apr. 14, 1986

President Ronald Reagan meeting with bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress to discuss the air strike on Libya
Apr. 14, 1986

On April 15, the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga (CV 60), USS America (CV 66) and USS Coral Sea (CV 43) operating in the U.S. Sixth Fleet were already on station in the Gulf of Sidra north of Libya. The three aircraft carriers together launched 24 A-6 Intruders and F/A-18 Hornets and dropped 60 tons of munitions. They bombed radar and antiaircraft sites in Benghazi before bombing the Benina and Jamahiriya barracks. The joint operation involved the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force. They were so quick, the attack only lasted 12 minutes with only two American casualties when an F-111 was shot down by a Libyan surface-to-air missile (SAM) over the Gulf of Sidra. In fact, some Libyan soldiers abandoned their positions, and Libyan officers failed to give orders. Libya lost 45 soldiers and government officials, as well as multiple transport aircraft 14 MiG-23s, two helicopters and five major ground radars.

 

A ground crew prepares a 48th Tactical Fighter Wing F-111F aircraft for a retaliatory air strike on Libya.

A ground crew prepares a 48th Tactical Fighter Wing F-111F aircraft for a retaliatory air strike on Libya.

Never one to publicly embrace reality, Gaddafi claimed he had “won a spectacular military victory over the United States.” In fact, Libya responded by firing two Scud missiles missing the U.S. Coast Guard station on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Scuds passed over the island and landed in the sea.

Although the evidence linking Libya to the bombing of the nightclub was quickly established, finding the perpetrators of the attack proved more difficult. However, as East and West Germany were reunited, newly opened files of STASI, the East German intelligence agency, led to several arrests and convictions. Verena Chanaa was the German wife of a Palestinian, Ali Chanaa, who had placed the bomb in her bag and was working for STASI. The material that made the bomb had been brought into East Berlin in a Libyan diplomat’s bag. No one would have suspected the two women were terrorists; they were both German and blended seamlessly with the crowd and appeared to be there to dance and have fun with American soldiers.

460px-La_Belle-Gedenktafel

The German government later placed a plaque on the building now called Roxy-Palast where the club existed. In German the plaque reads, “In diesem haus wurden, AM 5 April 1986, junge menschen durch einen, verbrecherischen, bomenanschlag emordet.” The translation couldn’t be more appropriate as well as more heartbreaking: “On April 5, 1986, young people were killed inside this building by a criminal bombing.”

 
Apr 13

WARFIGHTING FIRST – The Civil War fighting innovations of John Dahlgren

Sunday, April 13, 2014 3:00 AM

By Naval History and Heritage Command

When most people think about the Civil War, they think about a few common things: The people involved such as Army General Robert E. Lee and President Abraham Lincoln, where the battles took place and how many died there, as well as the end of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Few may consider the types of weapons used during the Civil War and the inventors who created them.

dahl

Rear Adm. John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren, the “father of American naval ordnance,” was the savior the United States Navy needed during the Civil War and thereafter. His intelligence, persistence, and dedication to his duties were so well known that President Abraham Lincoln, a close friend, frequently sought his counsel and friendship.

Dahlgren began his Navy journey in 1826 when he was trained in advanced mathematics and scientific theory while serving on the U.S. Coast Survey for three years beginning in 1834.

In 1847, Dahlgren was assigned to ordnance duty at the Washington Navy Yard and within a year, was responsible for all ordnance matters at the yard which included developing rockets, inspecting locks, shells, and powder tanks among other things.

Before these weapons could be put into production, they needed to be tested first. Dahlgren accomplished this by using a firing range on the yard’s waterfront. By measuring the splashes in the water from the ammunition, Dahlgren could figure out the power and range of each type of gun and make adjustments accordingly.

As with all weapons testing and manufacturing, sometimes people got hurt from either personal negligence or unsafe weapons, and when testing large cannons, the results could be horrific. Dahlgren recognized this and decided that in order to make safer, larger-caliber guns for the Navy, he needed to have stronger and thicker metal around the breeches; giving them a pop bottle shape. These types of guns and cannons became known as “Dahlgren Guns.”

dahlgren_ozark

Not everyone was impressed with Dahlgren’s ideas and innovations, so he enlisted the support of politicians and high ranking naval officers so he could continue with his designs and manufacturing. His most well-known supporter and friend, President Lincoln, enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the Navy Yard and seeing firsthand the testing of new weapons and gadgets to help take his mind off of the stressors of his office.

Dahlgren’s ordnance capabilities, innovations, and advancements attracted the attention of ordnance experts from all over the world. Countries such as Great Britain, France, and Russia sent officials to the Washington Navy Yard so they could see and learn from Dahlgren’s designs and concepts.

As the Navy implemented Dahlgren’s ordnance designs and processes, the Navy Yard was rapidly expanding with new buildings to handle designs, testing, and the manufacturing process. Dahlgren also made sure that an adequate work force with skilled and talented labor was at the yard.

It wasn’t long before Dahlgren’s 9-inch and 11-inch guns were mainstays of the fleet and were on almost every Union ship in service during the Civil War, like the USS Monitor and the Kearsarge. Of note is that not one of his 9- or 11-inch guns failed in operations at sea.

Dahlgren became Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard at the beginning of the Civil War and it seemed, just in time. The Norfolk Navy Yard, at the time the Navy’s largest facility, had been destroyed along with its large reserves of naval ordnance thereby making the Washington Navy Yard the most important asset for munitions and ordnance for the Union Navy. Dahlgren worked around the clock producing 200 shells, 25,000 percussion caps, and 35,000 musket balls, and making sure ships’ guns were ready for distribution.

President Lincoln, so impressed with the victorious USS Monitor at Hampton Roads, was convinced that the Navy should develop a fleet of ironclad vessels that were able to withstand the punishment of heavy shot and shell. Dahlgren was dismayed when Congress did not agree with the President and therefore disapproved the proposal.

Many would be surprised to learn that Dahlgren, a brilliant engineer and presidential advisor, was not entirely happy with testing and producing guns for warships. He wanted to be a leader on the battlefield and have a combat command to do his part for the war effort. Unfortunately, his skills and talents were needed elsewhere and he was appointed as head of the Bureau of Ordnance which allowed him to continue his tests and experiments at the Navy Yard. Command at sea would have to wait just a little longer.

After Dahlgren was promoted to Rear Adm., he was finally given a combat assignment which failed to give him the glory he so desperately sought. Unfortunately, being in command of the naval forces at Charleston, SC., failed to have a gratifying impact on him and coupled with the loss of his son, Ulric, who was killed leading a cavalry raid near Richmond, his despair became deeper.

Dahlgren returned to the Washington Navy Yard in 1869 and was commandant there until 1870 when he died of a heart attack.

Rear Adm. Dahlgren left behind a legacy of engineering marvels that turned the tide in the Civil War and thereafter. His research and design facilities at the Navy Yard were still used as blueprints for later projects after the war ended.

mon

 
Apr 11

#PeopleMatter: Volunteering 101 Centenarian Continues Naval Service at Puget Sound Museum

Friday, April 11, 2014 1:51 PM
Fred Lewis of Bremerton, Wash., has served as a volunteer for the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Puget Sound Naval Museum (PSNM), where he has logged more than 1,150 hours since 2006.

Fred Lewis of Bremerton, Wash., has served as a volunteer for the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Puget Sound Naval Museum (PSNM), where he has logged more than 1,150 hours since 2006.

 

By Lt. Cmdr. Heidi Lenzini, Naval History and Heritage Command, 

Communication and Outreach Division

WASHINGTON – In the past century America has witnessed tremendous turmoil, technological and medical advances, and the indomitable spirit and dedication of the American Sailor. 

Regardless of their length of time in the Navy, Sailors frequently display a spirit of service long after they have hung up their uniforms. One former Sailor turns 101 years old, Sunday, April 13 and there’s very little that Bremerton resident Fred Lewis hasn’t seen. Still, he feels most at home serving as a volunteer for the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Puget Sound Naval Museum (PSNM), where he has logged more than 1,150 hours since 2006. 

Fred Lewis, longtime volunteer at the Puget Sound Naval Museum, was attending a monthly volunteer training breakfast held at the Family Pancake House in Bremerton, Wash., on March 25, 2013, when the restaurant staff surprised him with a birthday pancake prior to his 100th birthday. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Museum

Fred Lewis, longtime volunteer at the Puget Sound Naval Museum, was attending a monthly volunteer training breakfast held at the Family Pancake House in Bremerton, Wash., on March 25, 2013, when the restaurant staff surprised him with a birthday pancake prior to his 100th birthday. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Naval Museum

 

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who now holds an office that did not even exist when Lewis was born, thanked Lewis for his service in a letter delivered last year on his 100th birthday. In the letter, Greenert said he was most impressed with Lewis’ “selfless devotion to others.” Lewis was also presented with a key to the city by Bremerton’s mayor.

As a young man, originally hailing from Kansas, Lewis was looking for adventure in 1942 and he found it in ample amounts on the destroyer USS Niblack (DD 424). Drafted in his late twenties, Lewis spent the rest of World War II hard at work in the engine room on the destroyer as it raced around Europe and North African waters, protecting convoys, escorting troop ships, and hunting down German submarines.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Niblack supported the bombardment of Italy during the Salerno campaign, clearing a path for Allied troops from Sept.-Oct. 1943. In early December, the ship rescued 90 survivors – approximately half the crew – of British destroyer escort HMS Holcombe (L 56) that sank in less than five minutes after being torpedoed by a German submarine.

A month later, the ship was sent to support the Anzio landings, where the ship “fought off simultaneous attacks by dive and torpedo bombers, E-boats, and human torpedoes” and “repulsed repeated attacks by enemy aircraft. “ Outlasting many of her sister ships, Niblack completed many missions during 1944 as part of Task Force 86, and earned five battle stars for her WWII service.

After the war, Lewis traded in his uniform for the life of a carpenter for nearly 40 years. He has spent almost half his life in Bremerton, Wash.

Fred Lewis Head Start 027

Fred Lewis Head Start 027

Although it had been decades since he had served in the U.S. Navy, Lewis found the call to serve impossible to ignore. He first volunteered at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. and is now the most senior of 50 volunteers at PSNM. No threat seemed insurmountable after his WWII experiences – even as he recovered from lung cancer, a broken hip, or a recent hospital visit.

 Carolyn Lane, the volunteer coordinator for PSNM, says Lewis inspires both the museum’s visitors and staff.

 “He always has a smile, kind word, and fun anecdote for our visitors,” Lane said. “He doesn’t let his age or health challenges slow him down…there’s no stopping him!”

 

–NHHC–

 

Note to Media: Interested in learning more about the Naval History and Heritage Command? Call the NHHC Public Affairs Office at 202-433-7880 or via e-mail at nhhcpublicaffairs@navy.mil

 

 
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