Archive for the 'International' Category

Nov 7

USN and USMC in Bolshevik Revolution

Sunday, November 7, 2010 12:01 AM

The Bolshevik seizure of power following the 1917 October Revolution plunged Russia into a protracted and bloody civil war. The Civil War’s destabilizing affects led to an international intervention. Among this international group were Great Britain, France, Japan, China, and the United States. Between 1918 and 1920, the allied powers deployed military expeditions to major Russian ports to protect allied citizens and support anti-communist forces.

One place where the United States Navy and Marine Corps participated in this effort was the Siberian port of Vladivostok, where U.S.S. Brooklyn under Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight was stationed in order to protect U.S. interests. During the spring and summer of 1918 the Czech Legion, a Czechoslovakian military force that had fought with the Russian Tsar’s army, found itself in open conflict with the Bolsheviks. The Czech forces subsequently seized a number of cities across Siberia. On June 29th, the Legion took control of Vladivostok and arrested the Bolsheviks in the city. That day, Admiral Knight deployed a detachment of 31 Marines under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Conrad S. Grove to guard the American consulate and maintain security. On July 6th, Admiral Knight, together with representatives from British and Chinese forces, issued a statement that the city would be taken under the protection of the Allied Powers, which would use all means necessary, “for its defense against dangers both external and internal.” The Consulate Guard remained until August 10th and a Marine Corps patrol was maintained at the Russian Navy Yard between August 4th and August 24th.

Between 1918 and 1922, Vladivostok became an important center for Russians fleeing the Bolshevik regime. Many came to the city on their way to safety in countries such as China, Australia, and the United States. During this period, U.S. Marines would make two more landings. On July 30, 1919, 31 Marines under 1st Lieutenant Leland S. Swindler disembarked from the New Orleans for two days to protect American interests in the nearby town of Tyutuke Bay. The next year, Marines were deployed to guard a U.S. backed radio station on Rusky Island, in Vladivostok Bay. The guard remained on the island until November 1922.

Throughout this period in Vladivostok, Marines and sailors worked together to protect American and international interests, maintain order, and protect individuals fleeing the Bolshevik regime during a period of great instability and uncertainty.

Oct 12

Ten Years Later: Remembering USS Cole

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:55 AM

Ten years ago, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig reflected on the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. Today we remember and honor the crew with his words, written in his Proceedings magazine article, “America Loves Its Citizens”:

“Mr. Secretary, we will save this ship. We will repair this ship. We will take this ship home, and we will sail this ship again to sea.”

One of the reasons that I love America is because it loves its citizens. In other times, and on this very day in other places, people are regarded as means and not ends, as fodder, stepping-stones, dispensable assets. Because we are not like that, we grieve today. We see in the 17 people who died on October 12th 17 wonders, 17 sons and daughters. We mourn brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, and those who will never be mothers and fathers. Seventeen unique people. We cherish them. We grieve because we could not protect them. Instead, they died protecting us.

That we live in America is, in itself, an act of grace. We came to it naturally; we were born into it. Or we were welcomed as immigrants; we were naturalized. By either route, America has been for everyone of us a gift, and what a stupendous gift, a country that was built collectively but cherishes us individually; a country built of the effort of servicemen and statesmen, farmers and factory workers, those who toiled on the railroad and those who bankrolled it. Our philosophers, our politicians, our priests, all together, created something bigger than any of us; and then, they gave it to us.

Any true gift is infused with opportunity, and responsibility that arises from that opportunity. An inherent talent, a good education, money in the bank—they all cry to the recipient, What will you make of this? What will you do individually? What will we do collectively in light of how many have done so much for us?

These 17 answered that question. They didn’t opt just for themselves; they didn’t stay home; they didn’t turn away from their country. They put themselves out there. They joined a family, the United States Navy, and the USS Cole (DDG-67)—a ship, the very essence of a group enterprise. And think not just of these 17. Think of the 39 who were injured, and then think of the 240 beyond them; the 240 who absorbed the shock of the explosion, who saw the death of 17, the injury of two score, but who turned to and fought on; fought together for their ship and for their shipmates.

For two days and two nights, they fought under the most extreme conditions—blood, bent and broken steel, flooding, uncertainty, and danger. They saved their ship, their injured—every one of them—and each other. And then their generators failed. The waters rose, and they, had to do it all over again. Waistdeep in water, manning bucket brigades by hand, they did it again. Amidst all of that, their captain said to me,

“Mr. Secretary, we will save this ship. We will repair this ship. We will take this ship home, and we will sail this ship again to sea.”

In every gift there is a responsibility. The Cole has given us a gift. The 17 join more than 1.3 million service men and women who have given us their lives. Thirty-nine from the Cole were injured; 240 fought on. All together, they added a building block to America. Will we, as recipients of this gift, live up to them? I think we will; we’re Americans.

Thank you, Cole.

Also: USS Cole (DDG 67): A guest post from CDR Kirk S. Lippold, USN (Ret.)

Jun 25

Review of Howard J. Fuller’s Clad in Iron

Friday, June 25, 2010 2:29 PM


Fuller, Howard J. Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008.

Civil War naval histories are itself a niche market in the spectrum of scholarship written about the five year conflict. As we draw near the beginning of the sesquicentennial celebration of the American Civil War, a cursory examination of previous scholarship reveals an obsession with fleet operations and technology. It is no surprise then that monographs written about famous naval battles and leaders of the Union and Confederacy will continue to increase in their appeal. Yet what is perceived as new scholarship about the dawn of modern naval warfare more often a metaphorical “slight of hand” to previous arguments. University of Wolverhampton Senior War Studies lecturer Howard J. Fuller’s recent work, Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power, breaks this chain, offering readers an interesting and insightful interpretation to the Civil War’s most overlooked aspect.

Amidst the greatest test in our nation’s history, massive technological, political, and social change occurred on all fronts in the United States. Between these lines of conventional wisdom, a far more pressing issue occurred between policymakers in Washington and London over the threat of war. Fuller discusses these issues thoroughly from a naval perspective, examining the diplomatic and strategic goals of Britain’s budding ironclad navy in direct response to American sea power.

Clad in Iron is not a narrative of conflict so often found in Civil War historiography. The focus instead resides in how conflict was ultimately avoided with Britain. Even in the wake of an international crisis like the TrentAffair, an unnecessary war between Britain would be an equally unprepared one between fleets on either side of the Atlantic. That possibility of war from the British perspective, Fuller suggests, became a necessary challenge to the growth of a large maritime force in the pre-Dreadnaught era. Victory in 1865 became a dual one over the Confederacy militarily and the British diplomatically.

Clad in Iron begins with an informative discussion on why Anglo-French naval policy before the Civil War inexorably altered the course of change in America. Although the British ironclad program “began purely as a response to the establishment of the French ironclad fleet of Napoleon III,” focus shifted after the introduction of the American program in the first two years of the war. It is interesting to note how Fuller details the naval rivalry between France’s La Gloire and Britain’s Warrior occurred well before the Monitor and Virginiaever engaged in combat. Naval architects like Captain Cowper Coles and Dupuy de Lôme are given due credit to the evolution and revolution of ironclad navies normally reserved only for John Ericsson.

Several chapters are devoted to the “war within,” as the debate and hesitancy of Union political and military officials mirrored that of Great Britain. The need to satisfy Washington of a sufficient coastal force with the possibility of foreign intervention became the ammunition to the argument for the ambitious program initiated by Ericsson. Fuller posits the necessity of such ambition in correlation to the “vested interest” of Britain in the failure of the southern blockade. He notes how Union War Secretary William H. Seward feared British reception during the beginning years of the war under the backdrop of events like the 1861 Trent Affair and Battle of Hampton Roads. The best chapter in the book, “Two Ironclad Adversaries,” sums up a large portion of this central theme. Fuller feels that necessity of an effective ironclad navy was built in direct response to both the Confederacy and Great Britain, one being “actual” and the other “potential.”

With regards to Hampton Roads, it is one of Fuller’s main points to mention how Monitors were used not for their capacity to become the scourge of Confederate fleets and coastal force, but as a technological “check” to competing programs in Britain as well. The Trent Affair is used “in direct contrast to the battle of Hampton Roads,” because “the Anglo-American naval balance of power was completely upset” in a mere three month window. Fuller also suggests the greatest loser in mid-19th century naval innovations was the French. Through clash of armor, Union and Confederate ironclad warships confirmed British suspicions while damning the French’s narrow disregard for such vessels. It would be multi-turreted ships that survived and evolved after the war, not broadside and sail ironclads as the French suspected. The Monitor’s innovation brought forth the emergence of the first turreted capital ship in the Royal Navy, HMS Devastation. Fuller makes good use of the ironclad-era to detail how events occurring in one conflict continually shaped others.

One of Clad in Iron’s hallmarks is the method Fuller uses to formulate his arguments. Interpretations of events are taken from letters and reports written by sailors, foreign ministers, and politicians. The analysis is evenhanded and methodical, often offering comparisons in minute details like tonnage and budgetary restrictions. Indeed, Fuller intends to leave no stone unturned. More interesting is the analysis of print media in the United States and Great Britain. Fuller makes the reader believe that the threat of foreign intervention was at a state of near paranoia in both countries, with its only solution through the use of iron-wielded steam power, not amassed troops and musket fire.

Flaws to Clad in Iron are merely superficial. More attention might be paid in future scholarship on the relationship Britain and Confederate blockade running, which is mentioned only in passing. Fuller also gives very little credit to the Union’s broadside ironclad USS New Ironsides, which many consider to be a comparable vessel to the Monitor.

Civil War historians will champion the level of care taken by Fuller to accurately document and chronicle the challenge British naval experts and politicians had on the American ironclad program. His work is highly recommended for scholars and layman alike who might find interest in the unspoken foe across the Atlantic chessboard. Clad in Iron is not the definitive Civil War naval history written on the heels of the sesquicentennial, but it is a fantastic and fresh start.

Jun 2

New Additions to the Navy Department Library

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 10:04 AM

Last week 230 volumes of nautical accident investigation reports from the National Transportation Safety Board were donated to the Navy Department Library. These reports detail the incidents and investigations into marine accidents for the period 1979-2006. Several of the reports focus on accidents involving US Navy vessels and other vessels. These reports detail such incidents as the sinking of small passenger vessels to groundings of large transport ships, to include the May 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez. The in-depth reports cover crew information, meteorological information, rescue efforts, and the testing and research done to investigate the incidents. These reports are a wealth of information from analysis to the findings of the investigations. These books are currently being processed and will join our collection some time in the next few weeks. We hope this exciting new addition will become a valuable resource for researchers in the very near future.

Apr 14

Army of the Indus

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 10:21 AM

Representing a major accomplishment for the Navy Department Library we present to you, A Narrative of the March and Operations of the Army of the Indus. This digitized version of the book is now in our Online Reading Room. This very detailed work describes the march into Afghanistan in 1839 by the British Army combined with the Bengal and Bombay Forces. It is a fascinating look at military operations in Afghanistan in the past, and gives a context for much of today’s fighting. Compiled and largely written by the Judge Advocate General of the “Bengal Column and the Army of the Indus,” it describes in detail the conditions of the march into Afghanistan and the military operations in Ghuznee. Everything from the political climate, including a look at the history of the region, to the number of camels lost on the expedition is covered in this very thorough book. While this book does cover a British Army invasion and is not a work of naval history it does give us a sense of the history of the people of Afghanistan and what today’s sailors and other military members are facing in the region.

Apr 9

International Navy History Photo of the Week: HMAS Canberra (D-33)

Friday, April 9, 2010 9:59 PM

HMAS Canberra dressed overall on Foundation Day 1939 at Farm Cove, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. She was sunk in the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942.

Apr 7

The First Truly Amphibious Assault in History

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 10:20 PM

The past month the HBO series The Pacific has drawn long overdue attention to the War in the Pacific as it followed the United States Marine Corps in a series of amphibious assaults that were designed to cut off the tentacles of the Japanese war machine and provide for unsinkable aircraft carriers from which to launch bombers against the Japanese mainland. This caused me to reflect on how far back the strategy and tactics of amphibious warfare went in history. I settled on one crucial battle that reflected what at the time was a combined sea and land attack that when studied was a forerunner of the successful amphibious assaults of the Navy and Marines in World War II.

We have to travel back in time to the Eastern Mediterranean in 332 BCE as Macedonian king Alexander the Great stood before the one roadblock that prevented him from controlling the approaches to the Middle East and Persia. The city state of Tyre was situated on an island 1/2 mile off the coast of today’s Lebanon. The city was surrounded by walls 150 feet high on the landward side and boasted two harbors and a fleet of 80 Triremes to keep the seas open.


The Tyrians decided on a strategy of resisting Alexander since their strong defensive position had withstood sieges by Assyrians in the seventh century and a Babylonian siege that lasted 13 years before giving up. Alexander was different. He first tried to approach the city walls by constructing a causeway from the mainland with the dismantled stones of the old city of Tyre. The Tryians modified a transport ship and turned it into a fire ship by packing it with pitch and flammable material and by lowering the stern were able to run the ship high aground on the mole where the fire destroyed the Macedonian siege towers.

Alexander recognized he needed a navy to defeat the Tryians so he collected ships from the previously surrendered Phoenician cities and soon bolstered with the arrival of a fleet from Cyprus had a fleet of over 225 vessels at his disposal. In a quick naval battle the Tryian fleet fled back to port where they remained blockaded in the two Tryian harbors. the Tryians attempted to break out of the north harbor where they sank several Cypriot ships before Alexander lead his Phoenician squadron around from the south harbor to crush the breakout and send the Tryian ships fleeing back to the harbor. 

At the same time Alexander’s land forces began to construct a new wider mole that would withstand the currents. Taking his ships he tied ships together to create strong battering rams and a stable platform to support his catapults. When Tryian drivers cut the anchor cables, Alexander ordered a switch to mooring chains which also were useful in removing large boulders that the Tryians had placed in the sea at the base of the walls. The siege went on for months and by mid-summer the mole was across the channel and an assault was mounted only to be defeated by the Tryians. In the meantime, the ship mounted battering rams had been probing the walls on the south side of the city. In early August, a weak spot was discovered and Alexander prepared to launch an assault on all sides of the city with a special concentration by a seaborne attack in the breach. He loaded two transports with his strongest troops and leading the attack broke through the breach into the city streets. More troops were carried across by ship and began pouring into the city. The Phoenician and Cypriot fleets at the same time sailed into the harbors and attacked the moored Tyrian fleet. Within a few hours the city was taken and after a orgy of bloodletting and the selling into slavery of 30,000 women and children, Alexander turned his sights to the east and Persia.

The capture of Tyre gave Alexander the ability to insure both his overland and sea lanes were secure from Macedon. The result of his successful use of amphibious and naval power ensured that the eastern Mediterranean, Phoenicia and Palestine would remain in Greek hands for two centuries. Alexander has been remembered as a great military strategist and most known for his land conquests, but at Tyre he proved himself to be a master at naval warfare and what today would be called the use of a combined arms strategy to achieve his objectives. In the final analysis the Siege of Trye was the first truly amphibious assault in history.

Apr 2

International Navy History Photo of the Week: HMCS Bonaventure (CVL-22)

Friday, April 2, 2010 12:01 AM

HMCS Bonaventure, a 19,000 ton light fleet Aircraft carrier of the British Majestic Class, was affectionately known as " Bonnie", or "Club 22". "Bonnie" was Canada's last Aircraft carrier. Commissioned in 1956, "Bonnie" incorporated an angled flight deck and a steam catapult. Capable of Arctic operations, the ship carried Banshees, Trackers and Sea King helicopters while in service.

Any Bonaventure sailors care to tell any sea stories?

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