Archive for the 'Naval Historical Foundation' Category

Jan 3

Return of USS HOUSTON Artifacts to NHHC

Friday, January 3, 2014 11:41 AM

Last week, the Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) received a trumpet and ceramic cup and saucer from World War II cruiser USS HOUSTON. The artifacts were returned to the US Naval Attaché in Canberra, Australia after their unsanctioned removal from the wreck site and made a journey of more than 10,000 miles to reach NHHC headquarters in Washington, DC. The artifacts will undergo documentation, research and conservation treatment at the UAB Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).


USS HOUSTON, nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”, was a Northampton-class heavy cruiser that played an important role in the Pacific during WWII. The ship and her crew saw significant action and served in the Battle of Makassar Strait and the Battle of the Java Sea along with allied vessels from Australia, Britain and the Netherlands. On 1 March 1942, USS HOUSTON, fighting gallantly alongside HMAS PERTH during the Battle of Sunda Strait, was sunk by enemy gunfire and torpedoes, taking the lives of nearly 700 US Navy sailors and Marines. 


USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1

USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1.

After nearly 72 years under water off the coast of Indonesia, the wreck of USS HOUSTON remains the property of the US Government and serves as a military gravesite. Underwater sites often allow for excellent preservation of archaeological material, however without conservation treatment after recovery artifacts can suffer permanent damage and sometimes complete destruction from unmitigated physical and chemical stresses. The HOUSTON artifacts are poignant reminders of an incredible chapter in US Navy history and the importance of scientific recovery and preservation for future generations to experience, study and appreciate.

A detail of the trumpet's mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).

A detail of the trumpet’s mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).


The safe return of these artifacts to the US Navy is the culmination of collaborative efforts by NHHC, Department of Navy and Department of State colleagues at the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia. NHHC is particularly grateful to CAPT Stewart Holbrook and ETC Jason Vaught for their assistance with the recovery, safe storage and packaging of the artifacts. NHHC also extends its thanks to the Naval Historical Foundation for assistance with the expedited transportation of the artifacts to NHHC for conservation treatment.

 Please stay tuned for further updates on the USS HOUSTON artifacts!

Dec 24

Guest Post by David F. Winkler: Two Centuries of Catamarans

Friday, December 24, 2010 12:01 AM

The Navy’s experience with catamarans goes back nearly two centuries.

It was Christmas Eve in 1813, the War of 1812 had entered its second year, and despite some notable victories on the high seas by Constitution, United States, and Essex, an increasingly effective British blockade choked off American commerce along the eastern seaboard. Robert Fulton hosted a group of distinguished civic and military leaders at his New York residence to address the challenge.

Having an established reputation as a designer and builder of vessels propelled with steam-driven paddlewheels, Fulton unveiled plans for a maneuverable floating battery that employed this new technology. In unveiling his plans, Fulton also addressed the vulnerability of exterior paddlewheels to enemy gunfire by proposing a catamaran that placed the paddlewheel between the two hulls.

The genius of the design was readily apparent to the onlookers. During periods of protracted calm off America’s port cities, such a vessel could wreak havoc upon the sail warships of His Majesty’s Navy.

The British naval threat, combined with effective lobbying, led Congress to pass a bill on 9 March 1814 authorizing construction of “one or more” of Fulton’s vessels. Responding to an inquiry from Secretary of the Navy William Jones, Fulton stated the vessel would be 138 feet in length and have an overall beam of 55 feet with two twenty foot hulls split by a fifteen foot “race.” To accomplish her mission, the vessel would carry two-dozen 32 pounder long guns.

After reviewing his budget priorities, Jones authorized the letting of contracts for the construction of Fulton’s ship on 23 May 1814. Quickly built at an East River yard owned by Adam and Noah Brown, the vessel was launched on 29 October 1814 and then taken to Fulton’s Hudson River facility for installation of the engine and guns.

Despite the war’s end in late 1814 and Fulton’s untimely death in early 1815, the Navy decided to finish the project. Through the summer and fall of 1815, the catamaran underwent builder’s trials. The Navy accepted delivery of the ship in June 1816 and immediately placed her “in ordinary” – the term used at the time for mothballs. She was placed into service just once – on 18 June 1817 – to embark President James Monroe for a short demonstration cruise. After that, she was once again laid up and eventually used as a receiving ship. Her days of service tragically ended on 4 June 1829 when a gunpowder explosion gutted the vessel and claimed 24 lives.

Having never received an official name, the vessel is listed in the American Dictionary of American Fighting Ships under the entries for “Demologos” and “Fulton.” Along such vessels as Bushnell’s Turtle, Ericsson’s Monitor, the nuclear submarine Nautilus, the Aegis cruiser Ticonderoga, and Joint Venture, Fulton’s vessel illustrates the Navy’s willingness to seek out and employ new technologies.

Nov 14

Eugene B. Ely’s First Flight From a Ship: November 14, 1910

Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:01 AM

Short version of “Wings for the Navy” highlighting Ely’s First Flight on 11-14-1910.


Oct 21

Recipient of the Rear Admiral Ernest M. Eller Prize in Naval History Announced

Thursday, October 21, 2010 10:07 AM

The Rear Admiral Ernest M. Eller Prize in Naval History for the best article on the history of the United States Navy published in a scholarly journal in 2009 has been awarded to Trent Hone for his article “U.S. Navy Surface Battle Doctrine and Victory in the Pacific,” published in the Winter 2009 issue of the Naval War College Review. The prize is sponsored jointly by the Naval History and Heritage Command and the Naval Historical Foundation and includes a monetary award.

Congrats again to Trent Hone!