Archive for the 'Ships' Category

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.

 

 
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!

 
Nov 8

Naval History and Heritage Logo Contest Winning Designs Named

Friday, November 8, 2013 10:44 AM

NHHC Logo Winner

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication Outreach Division

The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) announced the winners of its logo design contest, whose work will serve to inspire the new NHHC logo.

The winning design (pictured right) came from Nathan E. Quinn, a graphics specialist at the Defense Media Activity.

“The main point I was trying to convey with the design is that ‘our past guides our future.’ I have an image of the USS Constitution, which is a long-standing symbol of the Navy. It has persevered through many hardships but still stands today and I think that is a good analogy of the strength and determination of today’s Navy,” said Quinn. “I also added the wheel and compass rose as another way to portray that the past guides us. Overall, I feel that this was a good mixture of visuals and symbolism and I’m honored that they chose the design from so many other great designs.”

The NHHC director and judging panel also favored a series of designs (pictured below) submitted by Peter Thielen, Jr., which was awarded honorable mention. The new logo, which will be released at a later time, will be based on the winning design but will also incorporate elements of the honorable mention designs.

Supporting Logo
Supporting Logo

“I was really impressed and encouraged by the creativity and thought that went into the dozens of submissions we received,” said Capt. Henry Hendrix, NHHC’s director who made the final selections. “The sweeping breadth of both history and heritage can boggle the mind, but I believe the winning design and the honorable mention designs span that expanse in a simple but representative and recognizable graphic.”

Dozens of designs were submitted and can all be seen at http://www.navalhistory.org/2013/09/12/nhhc-logo-design-submissions-tell-us-your-choice. The winning design was #23, and the honorable mention designs were #27 and #28.

NHHC has a long history of preserving, analyzing, and disseminating the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy. The organization traces its roots back to 1800 when President John Adams instructed the first Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert, to prepare a catalog of professional books for use in the Secretary’s office. Over the next two centuries, the Navy’s history was collected through various offices and departments. Finally, in the early 1970s, the organization, ultimately entitled the Naval History and Heritage Command, became a single entity responsible for all aspects of Navy historical preservation and dissemination.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/.

 
Sep 23

The Search for Bonhomme Richard: By NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch

Monday, September 23, 2013 8:32 AM

The hunt for the remains of Bonhomme Richard continues in the North Sea. On September 23rd, 1779, Bonhomme Richard engaged in fierce combat with HMS Seripis during the Battle of Flamborough Head off the English coast. Captained by the formidable John Paul Jones, who is often credited as the “father” of the U.S. Navy, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious from the battle, but proved irreparably damaged. Despite all efforts to save the ship, Bonhomme Richard sank into the North Sea on September 25th, 1779.

Between 21 May and 9 June, 2012, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), partnered with Ocean Technology Foundation and the U.S. Naval Academy, to continue the multiyear, multinational effort to locate the remains of the historic ship. The 2012 survey mission was accomplished with generous support from the French Navy (Marine Nationale) and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO). The mission was conducted off of three vessels French vessels that provided remote sensing technology, utilizing Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) along with French Navy divers. During the three week mission, the teams covered 37 square nautical miles, identified over 80 targets, and conducted several remote-sensing and dive team operations on targets of particular interest. The 2012 survey provided an excellent opportunity for real-world operational cross-training with the French Navy. After data analysis, one target proved of significant interest for any future survey efforts.

In 2013, a documentary was released on the 2011 Bonhomme Richard expedition aboard USNS Grasp on the Discovery Channel show Mighty Ships. If you wish to read about past expeditions, including the 2011 survey mission, click on the “Bonhomme Richard” tag below. For more information on the Naval History and Heritage Command and the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch visit our website at http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/nhcorg12.htm.

View NHHC’s photo presentation:
“23 Sept 1779: Continental Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis”
on our Facebook fan page: http://goo.gl/o8VYDY

American and French teams on the 2012 search for Bonhomme Richard. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland).

American and French teams on the 2012 search for Bonhomme Richard. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland).

 
Sep 12

NHHC Logo Design Submissions – Tell Us Your Choice

Thursday, September 12, 2013 9:27 AM

After three quick months of open and fierce competition to help inspire Naval History and Heritage Command’s next logo, we’ve compiled all 40 submissions. We have to say, there isn’t one that didn’t get us thinking – great work contestants!

Now it’s your turn: Tell us what you think! Do any of them have the stuff to knock off the reigning NHHC logo?

Click here to view the NHHC logo submissions:

Of course, we are assembling a panel here to examine all the submissions, but determining what defines U.S. Navy history and heritage is everyone’s job. We think highly of your opinions — so share ‘em with us and the group here. We’re eager to hear from you – and we’ll be sure to pass on any thoughts or suggestions you have to the panel members and the Director of NHHC.

We’d ask that in the commentary section below, you choose one favorite design — or designs — that you believe best represent Naval History and Heritage Command and how its work and services are relevant in today’s Navy. Please include your comments, thoughts, suggestions and perhaps areas for improvement on the design.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how truly honored we at NHHC are by the depth and breadth of thoughtful work by the designers. The Logo Contest allowed us to see a wide range of talent, new interpretations on what our command represents, and a host of new branding opportunities to consider. We are deeply grateful to all of you who participated and to those who have viewed and supported this effort online.

OK – get crackin’ and tell us what you think!

Your vote may help us find a new look! Thanks.

Your vote may help us find a new look! Thanks.

 
Sep 9

National Museum of the US Navy to host Battle of Lake Erie Commemoration

Monday, September 9, 2013 1:58 PM

.

Join us at 9:00 am on Tuesday, 10 Sept. 2013 at the National Museum of the United States Navy for a day of activities including exhibit tours, demonstrations, first person interpretation, period music, and a lecture at noon.

Schedule of events:

9:05 Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

10:00-10:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit with Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

10:30-11:00 Welcoming Mix and Mingle with Mrs. Madison who will be meandering around the museum telling visitors about living in DC in 1813.

11:00-11:30 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

11:30-12:00 Ships Company will perform before the lecture

12:00- Lecture by historian Charles Brodine

1:00-1:30 Post lecture performance by Ships Company

1:30-1:45 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

1:50- Mrs. Madison will make formal remarks

4:00-4:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit by Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

4:05- Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

Visit the “1813 Don’t Give up the Ship exhibit” event details page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/517696241644780

—-

Can’t make it? Read up on the Battle with two recently published essays related to
the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie:

“Constitution Sailors in the Battle of Lake Erie” - By Marc Collins -
“On the morning of September 10, 1813, after a lookout had spotted the British fleet in the distance on Lake Erie, Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry made the decision to finally engage the British after months of preparations. The British had no choice but to launch an attack, having lost their supply route from Fort Malden to Port Dover; it was either fight or continue to go hungry…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/0Nv5o6
[PDF]
Mark Collins completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2012,
during his fourth year at Aberdeen University.
—-

And…

“Precisely Appropriate for the Purpose”: A Hero, a Motto, a Flag, and the American Character”
- By Zachary Kopin -

“When America went to war in 1812, it did so to protect its maritime trade. For the young country, this cause was not new. The international relationships and entanglements of the previous quarter century had, for the most part, been contested on the high seas. The United States fought both the Quasi-War with France (1797–1801) and the war with Tripoli (1801–1805) for the right to sail and trade freely without harassment. From those wars emerged naval heroes, such as Thomas Truxtun, Edward Preble, and Stephen Decatur, whose exploits a patriotic nation would avidly follow in the newspapers…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/M79aXP
[PDF]
Zachary Kopin completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2013, before entering his third year at American University.
—-

Other news from around the NHHC Museum Network:

MuseumLogo


War of 1812 news from Naval Station Great Lakes,

the Quarterdeck of the Navy.
From the Great lakes Naval Museum:
Great Lakes Naval Museum Hosts Exhibit on the War of 1812
In honor of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the Great Lakes Naval Museum will be featuring an exhibit on the War of 1812. Included in this display are historic artifacts from the conflict that are on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command, including pieces of the USS Niagara and USS Constitution and a sword belonging to the commander of the Constitution, Captain Isaac Hull. As an official department of the Navy Museum, the Great Lakes Naval Museum’s mission is to select, collect, preserve, and interpret the history of the United States Navy with particular emphasis on the Navy’s only “boot camp” at Naval Station Great Lakes. The Museum is located at the Naval Station by the Main Gate. Admission and parking are free.
Please call 847-688-3154 or e-mail glnm (at) navy.mil for more information about this event.
For additional information about the Great Lakes Naval Museum,
visit www.history.navy.mil/glnm …or
www.facebook.com/greatlakesnavalmuseum

—-
View the National Museum of the US Navy September events schedule.

RSD

 

 
Aug 7

Remembering ‘Generational Lessons Learned’ — Guadalcanal

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:47 AM

(Until recently, The U.S. Pacific Fleet participated in Talisman Saber in and around Australia. Meantime the surface Navy in Hawaii recently finished integrated at-sea certification near the Hawaiian Islands. From his office overlooking historic Pearl Harbor, Rear Adm. Rick Williams, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific puts the training in context near the anniversary of the beginning of the Guadalcanal Campaign of World War II. They’re already planning for more training and support at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (on Oahu) and Pacific Missile Range Facility (at Barking Sands, Kauai) for next summer’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. Hawaii is center point for rebalancing in the Pacific.)

 As we consider how we translate the CNO’s priority of “Warfighting First” into action, it is important that we reach back to the valuable lessons learned from our rich naval history. For example, consider the significance of WWII surface actions in the Solomon Islands and how they align to the operations we are conducting today.

 Aug. 7 marks the 71st anniversary of the beginning of the Guadalcanal Campaign of August 1942 to February 1943. The strategic and tactical importance of these decisive six months is significant. What the June 1942 Midway battle meant for carrier operations, the battle for the Solomons meant for our Surface Navy.

k00555_USS San Juan

USS San Juan at New Caledonia, August 3, 1942

The ultimate victory and lessons learned were written in blood with over 5,000 Sailors killed, 24 U.S. ships sunk and both task force leaders, Rear Adm. Callaghan and Rear Adm. Scott, lost in November during this campaign. The fighting was so intense that during the course of the battles, the channel to the straits was reconfigured with scores of sunk ships on both sides into what is now called the “Iron Bottom Sound.”  

The first encounters with the enemy in early August 1942 would be most telling for the U.S. and our Australian partners as HMAS Canberra and U.S. ships Astoria, Quincy, Vincennes were sunk and USS Chicago was badly damaged by a better prepared adversary. There were lessons learned for both the U.S. and our Australian partners realizing the importance of command and control, integrated tactics and mastery of advanced technologies, for unlike the allied surface forces, the enemy drilled in live-fire tactics, operated extensively in night steaming configurations, developed radar targeting skills and established effective multi-ship maneuvers.

The six month Guadalcanal Campaign saw high losses on both sides in personnel, aircraft and ships, but the United States soon recovered, while our adversary did not. At Guadalcanal the United States took the offensive and continued the advance that started after the Battle of Midway, forcing the enemy into a retreat that eventually led to capitulation and surrender less than three years later.

Admirals

As our MIDPAC team realizes the benefits gained from integrated at-sea certifications as well as participation by some of our ships with our Australian partners in Talisman Saber, these generational lessons learned make our training all the more meaningful and relevant.

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

130710-N-IU636-247

Rear Adm. Richard L. Williams Jr., right, shakes hands with Rear Adm. Frank L. Ponds after a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, July 10, 2013.

For additional information on the Guadalcanal Campaign, visit the NHHC WWII Pacific Battles Showcase: http://www.history.navy.mil/special%20Highlights/WWiiPacific/WWIIPac-index.htm

 
Jul 19

Set Sail With the USS Constitution

Friday, July 19, 2013 7:14 AM

As I stepped across the brow onto the deck of USS Constitution the sense of history was almost overwhelming.

It was on these decks that the Sailors from past ages had fought and died for the colors that were whipping in the warm breeze above my head.

 

Guests of the USS Constitution boarding, 4 July, 2013

Guests of the USS Constitution boarding, 4 July, 2013

 

It’s July 4th, and time for Old Ironsides to get underway once again as she always does on Independence Day. The maneuvering watch is set and they are preparing their charts and instruments to plot the course down the Charlestown River to Castle Island, a familiar course, but still the motions are required as a Sailor assigned to Constitution must be proficient in these skills in order to be called a Constitution Sailor.

I introduce myself to the Sailors on watch and they say “Welcome aboard the Constitution and just let us know if there is anything we can do to help sir!”

Finding a place on deck, aft, near the Quartermaster’s station, , a simple table with a chart of Boston Harbor and a few tools of the Quartermaster rating and I begin to take a few quick photos.

Among my first impressions was the size of Constitution, it is a real surprise to me, not having ever seen her up close I quickly realized that she was as large as a WW II Destroyer Escort and slightly wider.

As I look around I see the details one misses in simple photographs of the ship. The mooring lines dressed out on deck, the smooth bore Cannon surrounding the deck perimeter and the fighting tops almost 100 feet above my head speak to me, knowing that it was at these locations some of the real fighting took place with Marine sharpshooters taking aim at the enemy’s gun crews and the officers as they knew that by taking these targets out of action the chances for victory increased with each and every well placed round.

After a short time I hear the order to cast off all lines and within moments Constitution begins to move slowly out of her berth, then the order is announced “Underway, shift colors” as a Sailor slowly lowers a perfect replica of the first Navy Jack, “Don’t Tread On Me” in brilliant and bold letters that can be easily seen.

As we pull away from the pier I found myself thinking about Constitution’s great engagements with the British warships that she fought and defeated. Ships with names like Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cayne and Levant, it was in the engagement with Guerriere that Constitution earned her nickname “Old Ironsides”.

 I watch as the crew raises a large American Flag with 15 stars and 15 bars and everyone begins to cheer, USS Constitution is underway once again.

Constitution - Shift Colors !

The crew is busily moving around deck, seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of eyes watching their every move as they stow mooring lines and equipment, their pride is obvious to all however, as this is a special day for them as well.

I check the chart as the navigation team is busy marking it with the ships position in the channel and hear them discussing their trade, “no, says one Sailor, the measurement must be taken this way”

as he attempts to teach a younger subordinate the correct method of marking the ship’s position every couple of minutes and I find myself thinking that in today’s Navy these tasks are much simpler with advanced digital charts and the benefit of a GPS enhanced moving map display.

The Constitution Sailors of old did not have these tools and would probably view them as magic if they could see them in action today.

Looking out across the channel one can see the “chase boats” of all sizes and bigger harbor cruisers alongside keeping pace with the ship as she slowly makes her way toward Castle Island.

Occasionally a helicopter will fly over or a large commercial airliner as Logan Airport is just a few miles away, I find myself imagining that the sailors of old Constitution would think this technology was magic as well.

As Constitution approaches Castle Island a reminder is announced that the Gun crews will be firing a 21 Gun salute and that hearing protection is advised. Within a few moments the guns are readied and the order to fire is passed, within seconds the ship shakes from the concussion of the guns firing from the bow in sequence, port and starboard, one can hear the order to fire from below on the gun deck and feel the force of the blasts as the ship is slowly rotating in front of the hundreds of onlookers on Castle island.

The cheers from the crowd both on board and ashore can easily be heard between each shot and the feeling of patriotic pride is heavy in the air.

Constitution is showing her stuff once again and there is no denying that she is the focus of thousands of people who have made it a special point to be there to witness this display.

While cruising back to her berth we pass the US Coast Guard Station, Boston, the site of Constitution’s construction and the cannons sound with a 17 Gun salute as we pass by and again the cheers are raised and unmistakable, the “Coasties” ashore and on their vessels waving American Flags and cheering along with Constitution’s riders.

 

Constitution's 17 Gun salute while passing USCG Station Boston.

Constitution’s 17 Gun salute while passing USCG Station Boston.

 

 At approach to the pier and Constitution is turned so that she enters her berth stern first and is slowly backed into position with the precision of a skilled surgeon who has done this operation a hundred times before. After a few moments the announcement is made “Moored, shift colors” and history is recorded once again aboard the USS Constitution, America’s Ship of State!

Rod Doty
Volunteer,
NHHC Communication & Outreach Div.
————————-

View USS Constitution’s 4 July Underway
Photo Album on their Facebook Fan Page:
“Underway, 4 July 2013″
http://goo.gl/TMGxa

constitution-4-july-2013

 

 
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