Archive for the 'People' Category

Jan 23

Thomas Tingey’s Lasting Legacy: The Washington Navy Yard

Friday, January 23, 2015 11:10 AM

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command

From Commander-in-Chief of the British Squadron off Newfoundland to architect and superintendent of the Navy Yard in Washington D.C., Commodore Thomas Tingey might not have had a gallant naval career but his experiences and knowledge of the sea surely set him up to become a distinguished and notable leader in our Navy’s history. This is especially true today at the Washington Navy Yard on the 215th anniversary of its establishment.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

With the establishment of the United States Navy in 1794, Tingey started his naval career with his commissioning as a captain on Sept. 3, 1798. This, however, isn’t where his seafaring career began.

Born Sept. 11, 1750, the London native joined the British navy as a midshipman in 1771. He rose through the ranks and held several commands before leaving the Royal Navy for a career as a merchant trader commanding ships in the West Indies. Just prior to the Revolutionary War, Tingey immigrated to the British colony calling itself the United States. He was married in 1777.

His 1798 commission was signed by President John Adams and shortly thereafter, Tingey fought in the Quasi-War with France and Spain.

Tingey’s legacy in the U.S. Navy wasn’t made on the sea, but instead on land – the shores of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, to be exact.

On Jan. 22, 1800, Tingey was appointed superintendent of the newly-purchased Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. Among his jobs was to lay out and command the first naval base for the new republic.

This project became almost a labor of love for Tingey. At the age of 51, Tingey was discharged from the Navy in 1801, but not from the Navy Yard. He remained as superintendent.

Four years later he was recommissioned, again a captain, and gained the title of commandant of the Navy Yard. After 14 years building his beloved yard, Tingey was ordered to burn it in 1814 to keep the British from using it when they invaded Washington during the War of 1812.

Reluctantly he followed the order.

“I was the last officer who quitted the city after the enemy had possession of it, having fully performed all orders received, in which was included that myself retiring, and not to fall into their possession. I was also the first who returned and the only one who ventured in on the day on which they were peaceably masters of it”. – Letter to his daughter Sept. 17, 1814.  

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

His home had been spared from the flames, and he once again took up residence in Quarters A (now known as Tingey House and home to the Chief of Naval Operations). Within a few years, the Navy Yard was rebuilt and Tingey commanded it until his death Feb. 23, 1829.

Commodore Tingey was buried in what was described as with “unusual military honors” in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Although the Washington Navy Yard never regained its prominence as a shipbuilding facility after its burning in 1812, the facility was revived as the Naval Gun Factory in the 1900s through World War II. Today it is the headquarters for numerous commands, including the Naval Sea Systems Command, Commander, Navy Installations Command, Military Sealift Command, U.S. Navy Band, and the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Tingey’s service to the Navy did not go unnoticed by his progeny. A grandson and a great-grandson, both named Thomas Tingey Craven, each rose to the rank of admiral, one in the Civil War and the other during World I and World War II. Tingey himself had three ships carry his name: USS Tingey (TB 34) (DD 272) and (DD 539).

 
Jan 2

Adm. Zumwalt’s Legacy, Spirit Carries Through Today’s Navy

Friday, January 2, 2015 4:34 PM

By Capt. James “T” Kirk, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit ZUMWALT (DDG 1000)

Capt. James Kirk

On January 2, 2000, Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., the 19th Chief of Naval Operations, died at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. On this date 15 years ago, we lost a great man whose legacy and spirit still serve as the backbone of today’s Navy.

Adm. Zumwalt was born in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 29, 1920 and raised in nearby Tulare by his parents, Drs. Elmo and Frances Zumwalt. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942 in the wartime-accelerated class of 1943, he headed to the Pacific. There, he served aboard destroyers USS Phelps and USS Robinson and was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He served as navigator during the Korean conflict aboard USS Wisconsin and as the commander of all naval forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970.

First and foremost, Adm. Zumwalt was a warrior who deeply believed in his calling to serve and defend his country. In 1970, he was selected ahead of many more senior officers to become the youngest officer promoted to admiral and began a tumultuous and sometimes controversial four-year tenure as CNO.

Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations from July 1, 1970 to July 1, 1974.

Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations from July 1, 1970 to July 1, 1974.

Adm. Zumwalt’s influence on our Navy can be found just about everywhere. We are a more diverse force today – one that better reflects the demographics of our society overall. That was unthinkable in 1970 when Adm. Zumwalt began an assault upon bigotry and racism within the Navy with Z-gram 66 (Equal Opportunity). By 1972, Adm. Zumwalt was doing the same for women in our Navy with Z-gram 116 (Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women). On his watch, the first African-American and woman were promoted to flag rank – Rear Adm. Samuel Gravely and Adm. Arlene Duerk.

Adm. Zumwalt instituted the Navy’s command master chief program, the ombudsman program, and made the elimination of “Mickey Mouse” regulations, like those that once prohibited enlisted Sailors from having civilian clothes aboard ships, a priority. At the core of all these initiatives was Adm. Zumwalt’s compassion and belief that every human being deserved to be treated with dignity. He recognized before most that making the Navy a moral, just, and fair institution was both the right thing to do and a necessity as the services transitioned from a conscription force to a volunteer one.

Had Adm. Zumwalt accomplished little else on his watch, he would rightfully be remembered as one of our most influential and successful leaders. While his people programs attracted much attention – and even a Time magazine cover – his force structure reforms were equally bold.

Immediately upon taking the baton as CNO, he directed a strategic planning effort, Project 60, to determine what changes needed to be made to the U.S. Navy to meet the challenge of an increasingly capable Soviet Navy. He reduced force structure by eliminating obsolete equipment and used those savings to invest in a more balanced and capable Navy.

He was largely successful in implementing a high-low mix approach to achieve his goals. The Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopters, minesweeping helicopters, Harpoon missiles, and the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) all made their debuts during or soon after his watch and have served our Navy well for decades.

 Members of the christening party for the guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) pose for a photo after the ship's christening April 12, 2014. Capt. James A. Kirk, front, prospective commanding officer of PCU Zumwalt; retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt; ship sponsor Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, Secretary of the navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, and ship sponsor Ann Zumwalt. The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by Dennis Griggs/Released)

Members of the christening party for the guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) pose for a photo after the ship’s christening April 12, 2014. Capt. James A. Kirk, front, prospective commanding officer of PCU Zumwalt; retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt; ship sponsor Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, Secretary of the navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, and ship sponsor Ann Zumwalt. The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by Dennis Griggs/Released)

Adm. Zumwalt’s reform-minded legacy lives on. It lives on in the programs he implemented during his tenure as CNO, and it will live on in the Sailor spirit and steel of the ship that will bear his name. In 2015, the future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) will go to sea for testing and trials. Not long after those trials are complete, she’ll join the fleet. In both appearance and capability USS Zuwmalt will be as unmistakable as her namesake, and that is just how it should be to honor one of our finest naval leaders, Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr.

 

USSZumwalt_edited

Precommissing Unit Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is under construction at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by M. Nutter/Released)

 

 
Dec 16

Washington Navy Yard Warehoused Artifacts Arrive at Richmond Collection Management Facility

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 12:01 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The curators of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) completed the transfer of artifacts previously warehoused at its facility on the Washington Navy Yard NHHC officials announced Dec. 16. The artifacts are now at their new home in Richmond, Va.

It’s part of an ongoing project transferring more than 300,000 artifacts, part of its headquarters collection, some dating back to the founding of the Republic, from warehouses at three different locations to their new collection management facility (CMF) in Richmond, Va.

An information graphic illustrating the move of Navy artifacts to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood/RELEASED)

An information graphic illustrating the move of Navy artifacts to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood/RELEASED) DOWNLOAD the graphic here 

The consolidation, projected to last a total of 18 months and now in its third month, allows the Navy to centrally locate the overwhelming majority of its artifacts. The consolidation will translate to improved care, management, accountability and oversight of the collection. The refurbished building in Richmond provides improved environmental controls for high risk artifacts, proper shelving and storage, and an area for conserving and preserving the artifacts.

The consolidation, projected to last a total of 18 months and now in its third month, allows the Navy to centrally locate the overwhelming majority of its artifacts. The consolidation will translate to improved care, management, accountability and oversight of the collection. The refurbished building in Richmond provides improved environmental controls for high risk artifacts, proper shelving and storage, and an area for conserving and preserving the artifacts.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Lea Davis, Naval History and Heritage Command curator, keeps track of the information on a pallet of cannon balls for the bill of lading, as a contractor from McCollister's Transportation Group secures them for transport. The company is moving artifacts from the command's warehouse and Cold War Gallery to a new facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) — Lea Davis, Naval History and Heritage Command curator, keeps track of the information on a pallet of cannon balls for the bill of lading, as a contractor from McCollister’s Transportation Group secures them for transport. The company is moving artifacts from the command’s warehouse and Cold War Gallery to a new facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

NHHC officials say the artifact relocation is a massive undertaking that demands the entire team of curators focus its time and energy on the move.

“We have literally tons of material, some of which is priceless, and nearly all of it irreplaceable. But the work is well worth it if it means in the long run our Sailors and our citizens can better appreciate what the Navy has meant to our country since its inception,” said head curator, Karen France.

NHHC’s Curator Branch will continue to service existing artifact loans, currently numbering in excess of 1,500, but their ability to accept new donations and respond to inquiries will be slowed. The curators have suspended processing requests for new artifact loans as they tackle the project, which requires significant travel in support of preparing and managing the shipment of the vast holdings.

For information about the move, please see a Navy.mil story entitled “Navy Artifacts Getting New Home” and follow NHHC on social media.

To view photos of some of the historic naval artifacts in the NHHC collection, check out the command’s Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/navalhistory/sets/.

As massive as the move may be, it doesn’t affect the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, which remains at its current location at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The museum recently opened its Cold War exhibit and another featuring the War of 1812: From Defeat to Victory.

The museum did, however, recently cut its weekend hours, but is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for most holidays. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Tours can be arranged for schools or other groups by calling 202-433-6826.

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 2, 2014) -- Karen France Naval History and Heritage Command’s head curator, give NHHC Acting Director Jim Kuhn a tour of the new Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot, warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 2, 2014) — Karen France Naval History and Heritage Command’s head curator, give NHHC Acting Director Jim Kuhn a tour of the new Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot, warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

To enter the Washington Navy Yard and visit the National Museum of the United States Navy, visitors must have a Department of Defense Common Access Card, an Active Military, Retired Military or Military Dependent ID, or an escort with one of these credentials. All visitors 18 and older must have a photo ID. Contact the museum for help accessing the facility at (202) 433-4882.

The Display Ship Barry, which is a separate entity from the museum, is closed for the season and its 2015 schedule has not yet been released. Information about the ship may be found on the museum’s website. To contact the ship, call (202) 433-3377 or (202) 433-6115.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command's warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond where the command moving a large portion of their quarter of a million artifacts. The facility will provide a place for the artifacts to be more accurately cataloged, stored and, in some cases, made ready for display. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) — Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command’s warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond where the command moving a large portion of their quarter of a million artifacts. The facility will provide a place for the artifacts to be more accurately cataloged, stored and, in some cases, made ready for display. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the Fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services.

NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more information on Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.history.navy.mil or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/navalhistory.

 
Oct 2

Washington Navy Yard: A Celebrated Legacy of Service to the Fleet

Thursday, October 2, 2014 2:15 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

The Washington Navy Yard was established 215 years ago today, Oct. 2, 1799, the Navy’s first and oldest shore base. At first it was built as a shipyard, under the careful guidance of its first commandant, Capt. Thomas Tingey. And then during the War of 1812 we famously burned it down (not the British) and then our neighbors looted it (again, not the British).

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The base was back running again by 1816, although it never quite came back as a shipbuilding yard due to the shallowness of the Anacostia River. Its mission changed with the establishment of the Bureau of Ordnance at the Washington Navy Yard in the late 1880s and the building of a large gun factory. The yard then evolved into a place to test the most scientific, technologically advanced naval weaponry in the nation. By the end of World War II, when the yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in Dec. 1945, it had become the largest naval ordnance plant in the world, peaking at 188 buildings on 126 acres of landing and employing nearly 25,000 people.

But during the 1950s, as fewer weapons were needed, the Navy Yard began to phase out its ordnance factories. On July 1, 1964, the property was re-designated the Washington Navy Yard and unused factory buildings were converted to office use. The yard is now home to the Chief of Naval Operations (living in the same house as the yard’s original commandant) and is also headquarters for the Naval History and Heritage Command, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy and numerous other commands.

Just as captivating as the Yard’s transition from shipbuilding to ordnance technology to host of various command headquarters, are the hints of the macabre that lurk among the centuries-old brick and mortar of the Washington Navy Yard.

Which takes us back to Commodore Thomas Tingey. The plump commodore lovingly nurtured his navy yard through its first construction, then had suffer the horrible orders to burn it in August 1814 during the War of 1812. And he did, waiting until he could almost see the British before finally ordering it set ablaze. He returned the next day overjoyed to find the two housing quarters – A and B – unburned, along with the massive gate designed by Benjamin Latrobe.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

But after all that, Commandant Tingey got the Navy Yard back running again building ships by 1816. In 1829, Commandant Tingey, still running the place and living in his beloved Quarters A at the top of the hill, reported he was tired and wanted to work half days. He died five days later. He was so attached to the home he lived in for nearly 30 years that people have claimed to see a rotund apparition roaming the halls in his nightshirt while wearing his sword. In 1886, the shipyard changed direction to become the Naval Gun Factory, thanks to the technological advances by Capt. John A. Dahlgren. Rumor has it Tingey’s ghost gave out a loud cry at the indignity of it.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

And speaking of the Civil War, Capt. Dahlgren served as the commandant of the base in 1861-62 and again in 1869-70. But it was Army Col. Ulrich Dahgren who would leave a lasting legacy: His leg. After the battle of Gettysburg, Col. Dahlgren had his leg amputated at the navy yard in 1863. It was buried amid new construction at the shipyard. He would lose the rest of him (minus an eye) when his men were ambushed in 1864 while attempting to take Richmond. Papers found on his body, thereafter called the “Dahlgren Papers,” outlined a planned assassination attempt on Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Outrage from Southerners over that plan has been speculated to have fueled the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of Capt. Dahlgren.

Just a few days after his second inauguration, President Lincoln would indeed be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The actor’s body – along with suspected cohorts – was brought to the Washington Navy Yard where an autopsy was performed onboard the monitor USS Montauk.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

Which brings us back to the Navy Yard, which was known to have a special place in the heart of Lincoln. The yard bade its final farewell to the slain president by firing guns every half hour from noon until sundown on May 4, 1865, the day the president was buried at Springfield, Ill.

A more complete history of the Washington Navy Yard may be found here.

 

 
Jul 31

Timeline to Justice – the quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis

Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:00 PM

 

 

The following article was printed in the July/August 1998 issue of Naval History magazine. It was written by 12-year old Hunter Scott in his quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis:

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

 

With perhaps greater reverence than many of my 12-year-old peers, I appreciate this opportunity to write about what has grown from a school history project into a mission. My quest has allowed me to be associated with individuals who fought so that all Americans could live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Throughout this journey, I have learned the great price of freedom, the meaning of honor, valor, and supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, and the fact that democracy is a treasure so valued that men and women are willing to give their lives in its pursuit.

 

For that reason, I have urged the introduction of a bill before Congress (H.R. 3710) to correct an injustice done 53 years ago. I pray that the men and women who gave their lives are looking down on what I am doing, knowing their sacrifice was not in vain. I am proud and honored to bring to the attention of Naval History readers again the case of Captain Charles B. McVay III and the crew of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

 

President Abraham Lincoln once said: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” I began such a “struggle” when I was 11 years old, for the “just cause” of restoring honor to Captain McVay and gaining a Presidential Unit Citation for the Indianapolis and her crew.

 

My dad tells me that, “the true test of your character is what it takes to make you quit.” The men of the Indianapolis and their captain did not quit in their quest to bring a hasty end to World War II. After making a record-setting run to the island of Tinian for delivery of components for the first atomic bomb, the ship was torpedoed, sinking in just 12 minutes. Of her 1,196 men, 850 to 950 made it off the ship and into the water, where they spent five nights and four days surrounded by sharks and death, while those responsible for their safety did not notice that the ship was missing. An accidental spotting of the survivors saved the lives of 316 crew members, 150 of whom are still with us today. Now, more than a half-century after this tragedy, we must not forget these men, and we must not quit in our effort to set the historical record straight.

Based on my research, the following timeline tells the story of the final days of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 16 July 1945—Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves choose to load components for the first atomic bomb on board the Indianapolis. Captain McVay receives orders to proceed “with all possible haste” to Tinian.

 

  • 21 July—The USS Underhill (DD-682) is sunk by a Japanese submarine in the same area where the Indianapolis will go down. Captain McVay never is given this information nor any notification that the Japanese submarines I-58 and I-367 are operating in the area. A directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, prevents Captain McVay from receiving this intelligence.

 

  • 26 July—The Indianapolis arrives in Tinian; atomic bomb components with the USS Idaho (BB-42) on 2 August. The Idaho receives a garbled message about the arrival of the Indianapolis. No request is made for retransmission. The Idaho is unaware that the Indianapolis is en route. (This is the first in a series of blunders that led the Indianapolis to cruise into a bureaucratic void.)

 

  • 28 July—In Guam, Captain McVay is denied requests for an escort. His orders give him discretion concerning whether or not to zigzag while under way. The Indianapolis makes the trip from Guam to Leyte unescorted—the first heavy warship to do so during the war—without capabilities to detect enemy submarines.

 

  • 31 July—At sunset, Captain McVay comes on the bridge to discuss weather conditions. The night is overcast and cloudy. He believes he is cruising in waters free of enemy submarines, because of intelligence given to him prior to his departure from Guam. The Indianapolis is doing 17 knots, and Captain McVay gives orders to cease zigzagging because of poor visibility. He gives orders to be awakened if weather changes occur.

 

  • 1 August—At 0004, the ship is struck by two of six torpedoes fired by the 1-58. The first torpedo takes off 60 feet of her bow, andthe second hits amidships, igniting the powder magazine and shutting off most electrical power. Chief Radio Electrician L. T. Woods, observed by Radio Technician 2nd Class Herbert J. Minor, sends SOS and position of the Indianapolis on 500 kilocycles from Radio Room II, which maintains power. According to Minor, at least three signals are transmitted. Former Yeoman 2nd Class Clair B. Young stated in a letter received by Commander T. E. Quillman, Jr., “while stationed at U.S. Navy 3964 Naval Shore Facilities Tacloban, Philippine Islands, that he personally delivered the SOS message to Commodore Jacob H. Jacobson, U.S. Navy.”

 

Young awakens Commodore Jacobson and notices a strong odor of alcohol in the room. Commodore Jacobson reads the message, which identifies the ship, her location, and her condition. Mr. Young asks Commodore Jacobson: “Do you have a reply, sir?” The answer comes: “No reply at this time. If any further messages are received, notify me at once.” The SOS is received and ignored. Meanwhile, Commander Hashimoto of the 1-58 radios Japan and indicates that he has just sunk a battleship and gives the location. The message is decoded by the U.S. Navy. Still, no one checks on the whereabouts of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 2 August—The Indianapolis is due to arrive in Leyte that morning. Upon non-arrival, the ship is taken off the plotting board, and no effort is made to determine where she is. Admiral King had standing orders that combatant ships’ arrivals in port were not to be reported, which implied that non-arrivals also were not to be reported.
  • 3 August—Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn, flying a Ventura bomber, accidentally spots Indianapolis survivors and radios Palau for rescue operations to commence. Lieutenant Adrian Marks lands a PBY in heavy seas and picks up 56 survivors. Tom Brophy defies orders and tries to swim to the plane; he does not survive.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

 

  • 4 August—Rescue operations start in a 50-mile radius.

 

  • 6 August—First atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.

 

  • 15 August—Japan surrenders. Navy releases information about the sinking of the Indianapolis. The press begins to ask the Navy why the ship was never missed.

 

Note: The father of the aforementioned Tom Brophy goes to Washington after the war to arrange a meeting with Captain McVay. According to Mr. D. J. Blum, Brophy tries to call on Captain McVay the day he arrives in Washington and is told to arrange the meeting for the following week because of Captain McVay’s prior commitments.

Brophy follows Captain McVay, who attends a party. Furious, Brophy meets with his friend, President Harry S. Truman, and convinces him to court-martial Captain McVay. President Truman pressures Admiral King to convene a court-martial. Admiral King himself appoints the members of the court, who know Admiral King wants Captain McVay found guilty and who also are depending upon Admiral King for promotions.

 

  • 3 December—Court-martial begins. Captain McVay requests Lieutenant Commander Donald Van Koughnet, Chief Legal Officer of the U.S. Navy Military Government for the Marianas Islands, to represent him. Admiral King denies the request. The charges are “failure to follow a zigzag course” and “failure to sound an abandon ship.”

 

Note: Since 1991, several Navy documents have been declassified, showing that Captain McVay was not given intelligence that could have prevented this disaster (see “Ultra and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis,” a paper given to the Eleventh Naval History Symposium, 1993). This same information—which could have been useful in Captain McVay’s defense, showing that the “super technical” charges were unfounded—was considered Top Secret in 1945 and was not used in the court-martial. The question as to why the men of the Indianapolis spent five nights and four days in the water without anyone noticing that the ship was missing was not considered in the trial.

 

  • 13 December—Admiral King brings in Hashimoto, commander of the 1-58 to testify against Captain McVay. Hashimoto states that zigzagging would have made no difference, that he would have sunk the Indianapolis anyway. The 1-58 had several kaiten on board, had the six-torpedo spread missed its target. The Indianapolis was doomed.

 

  • 19 December—Captain McVay found guilty of failure to follow a zigzag course, therefore hazarding his ship. His sentence, loss of 100 promotion numbers, is later remitted. His conviction is not. The guilty verdict stands to this day. Out of more than 700 ships lost in World War II, the Indianapolis is the only one to have her captain court-martialed.

 

  • 6 November 1968—Captain McVay commits suicide.

 

NOTE: In a 10 August 1990 letter to Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Captain Russell E. Sullivan stated that he was on board the USS General R. L. Howze (AP-134), which traveled the same course as the Indianapolis and cruised through her wreckage. Bodies and debris were observed. Captain Sullivan stated: “We had not received orders to zigzag. We had 4,000 troops on board. We had not been notified that an enemy submarine was in the area. The foregoing can be confirmed by referring to the official log of the USS General R. L. Howze for August of 1945.”

 

In a letter dated 10 February 1998, Dr. Lewis Haynes, the chief medical officer on board the Indianapolis, stated that, as he was treating Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, Admiral Nimitz told him that Captain McVay “should not have been court-martialed.”

 

Conclusion:

After two years of research and interviews with almost all remaining Indianapolis survivors, I have amassed what one naval historian has called “the greatest collection of information on the USS Indianapolis in the world.” On 22 April 1998, accompanied by Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Congresswoman Julia Carson (D-IL), and 11 Indianapolis survivors, I personally dropped H.R. 3710 into the hopper on the floor of Congress. This bill will erase all mention of the court-martial and conviction from the record of Captain Charles B. McVay III and award a Presidential Unit Citation to the USS Indianapolis and her crew.

 

In 1806, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Political interest can never be separated in the long run from the moral right.” Now, 53 years after the politically motivated court-martial of an innocent ship captain, we are in the “long run,” and we have the opportunity to do what is “morally right.” I write this near the beginning of my life, making a request for many men who are toward the end of theirs. Please do not forget about the captain and crew of the Indianapolis for the second time in 53 years. Write to your congressmen and senators, asking them to support H.R. 3710.

 
May 13

Navy Nurses #OperatingForward 106 Years Later

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 6:00 AM
"The Sacred Twenty" Front row (left to right): Mary Dubose, Adah M. Pendleton, Elizabeth M. Hewitt, Della V. Knight, J. Beatrice Bowman, Lenah S. Higbee, Esther V. Hasson, Martha E. Pringle, Elizabeth Wells, Sara B. Myer, and Clare L. DeCeu. Back row: Elisabeth Leonhardt, Estelle Hine, Ethel R. Parsons, Florence Milburn, Boniface Small, Victoria White, Isabelle Roy, Margaret Murray and Sara Cox. (Photos Courtesy of: BUMED Office of Medical History)

“The Sacred Twenty” Front row (left to right): Mary Dubose, Adah M. Pendleton, Elizabeth M. Hewitt, Della V. Knight, J. Beatrice Bowman, Lenah S. Higbee, Esther V. Hasson, Martha E. Pringle, Elizabeth Wells, Sara B. Myer, and Clare L. DeCeu. Back row: Elisabeth Leonhardt, Estelle Hine, Ethel R. Parsons, Florence Milburn, Boniface Small, Victoria White, Isabelle Roy, Margaret Murray and Sara Cox. (Photos Courtesy of: BUMED Office of Medical History)

 

By André B. Sobocinski, Navy Medicine Office of the Historian, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

May 13th marks the 106th anniversary of the Navy Nurse Corps.

On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Naval Appropriations Bill authorizing the establishment of the Nurse Corps as a unique staff corps in the Navy. Initially, all Nurse Corps candidates were required to travel to Washington, D.C., at their own expense and take an oral and written examination. Since many applicants expressed reluctance to travel at their own expense, U.S. Navy Surgeon General Presley Rixey ordered that applicants be allowed to submit an original essay on the topic of “nursing practices” by mail, in lieu of an onsite written examination.

The nucleus of this new Navy Nurse Corps was a superintendent Esther Hasson, a chief nurse Lenah Higbee, and 18 other women—all would forever be remembered as the “Sacred Twenty.”

Navy Nurse With Hospital Ship by John Falter - Oil on canvas 45-127-T (Artwork Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Navy Nurse With Hospital Ship by John Falter – Oil on canvas 45-127-T (Artwork Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Beatrice Bowman, one of these pioneering nurses, and later superintendent of the Nurse Corps, recalled that these “nurses were assigned to duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C. There were no quarters for them but they were given an allowance for quarters and subsistence. They rented a house and ran their own mess. These pioneers were no more welcome to most of the personnel of the Navy than women are when invading what a man calls his domain.”

The First Portrait

In October 1908, the first portrait of these plank owner nurses was taken in front of Naval Hospital Washington, D.C. (main hospital building). This building would later become the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s “Building Three.” The picture featured one current and two future superintendents of the Nurse Corps. Collectively, Esther Hasson, Lenah Higbee and Beatrice Bowman would account for 27 years of Nurse Corps leadership.

Rank

In 1908, the Navy Medical Department was comprised of Medical Corps Officers and Hospital Corpsmen (then referred to as Hospital Stewards and Hospital Apprentices). Unlike their physician counterparts, the first nurses did not hold rank. Navy nurses were not granted “relative rank” until July 3, 1942. Nurse Corps officers were finally granted “full military rank” on February 26, 1944.

Roles in Navy Medicine

Until 1909, all Navy nurses had the choice of one duty station, Naval Hospital Washington, D.C. (sometimes referred to as the Navy Medical School Hospital). In 1909, BUMED began detailing its Navy Nurse Corps to medical facilities outside of Washington, D.C. Naval Hospitals Annapolis, Md., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mare Island, Calif., were among the first hospitals to receive nurses. In spring 1909, Surgeon James Leys, commanding officer, Naval Hospital Norfolk, Va., requested BUMED to send “nurses” to his hospital. When three female nurses (Lenah Higbee, Ethel Swann, and Mary Nelson) reported for duty Surgeon Leys was aghast. He had fully expected to receive male hospital corpsmen and did not know how they could work in a hospital without a single female patient.

Their original quarters were located in a rented house on 21st Street, N.W., only a few blocks away from the Naval Hospital.

Camp Taqaddum, Iraq (Nov. 17, 2004) U.S. Navy Lt. Charles L. Cather, an operating room nurse assigned to the Surgical/Shock Trauma Platoon (SSTP) at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, pulls on a patients leg during surgery to prevent the leg muscle from retracting during the surgery. The SSTP, part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, is one of three major immediate surgical and trauma care teams assigned to Marine forces operating in Iraq. In the first six days of combat operations in Fallujah, the 63 surgeons, nurses, corpsmen, and other personnel of the SSTP treated 157 patients and operated on 73 of them. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin (RELEASED) 041117-M-0000G-001

Camp Taqaddum, Iraq (Nov. 17, 2004) U.S. Navy Lt. Charles L. Cather, an operating room nurse assigned to the Surgical/Shock Trauma Platoon (SSTP) at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, pulls on a patients leg during surgery to prevent the leg muscle from retracting during the surgery. The SSTP, part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, is one of three major immediate surgical and trauma care teams assigned to Marine forces operating in Iraq. In the first six days of combat operations in Fallujah, the 63 surgeons, nurses, corpsmen, and other personnel of the SSTP treated 157 patients and operated on 73 of them. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin (RELEASED) 041117-M-0000G-001

 

To read Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon general, and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery message to the Navy Nurse Corps click here.

 
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

 
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