Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Jul 27

Naval Aircraft Factory

Monday, July 27, 2015 2:23 PM
Flying Field and Beach Front at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, PA

Flying Field and Beach Front at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, PA

On July 27, 1917, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels approved the construction of the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia to help solve aircraft supply issues during World War I. The project proceeded at an amazing timeline:

6 August 1917 – Contract was let.

10 August 1917 – Ground broken.

16 October 1917 – First machine tool in operation.

28 November 1917 – The entire plant was completed!

27 March 1918 – Only 228 days after groundbreaking, the first H-16 built by the Naval Aircraft Factory flew successfully.

H-16 circa 1918

H-16 circa 1918

 

Production ended at the Naval Aircraft Factory in early 1945. The main building still exists but was converted to a research and development facility for the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

 

Read more about the Naval Aircraft Factory in the January 1926 issue of Naval Institute Proceedings, available to members of the U. S. Naval Institute at usni.org/magazines/proceedings/archive

 
Jul 9

Out of Control Smoke Pot Forges Medal of Honor, Extinguishes Ensign’s Life

Thursday, July 9, 2015 1:19 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

It was the night of July 9, 1943 and Operation Husky, the land and air operation to invade the island of Sicily had begun.

The weather was already causing havoc with airborne landings and tossing ships, laden with Army personnel.

What the allied forces lacked in weather cooperation they made up for in the one element they had working for them: the element of surprise. The Germans had fallen for the fake Operation Mincemeat, the details of they had obtained from a body dressed like a British naval officer the allies allowed to wash ashore in Spain with a briefcase filled with operational “plans” for an attack in Greece and Sardinia. The Germans diverted troops and equipment from Sicily giving the perfect opportunity for Operation Husky’s success.

But nothing ruins the element of surprise more than an explosion. As USS LST-375 inched closer to its amphibious landing at Licata, Sicily, 72 years ago today, something happened that put the mission into jeopardy.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for valor and courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Officer-in-Charge of USS LST-375 during the amphibious assault on the island of Sicily on 9-10 July 1943. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for valor and courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Officer-in-Charge of USS LST-375 during the amphibious assault on the island of Sicily on 9-10 July 1943. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

And that’s where John Joseph Parle’s bravery comes into this picture.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Parle was among the thousands of land-locked Midwesterners who joined the sea service following the attack at Pearl Harbor. He enlisted Jan. 11, 1942 at age 21 as an apprentice seaman, and was a 1942 ROTC graduate at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He began Midshipman training at Notre Dame University that fall and on Jan. 28, 1943, he was commissioned as an ensign.

After training with Amphibious Force at Norfolk, Va., the 22-year-old ensign was assigned as the officer in charge of small boats attached to LSTs, or Landing Ship, Tank, with the Northwest African Amphibious Force.

On July 9, 1943, his LSTs were prepared to bring members of the 7th Army’s 3rd Division, under the command of Lt. Gen. George Patton, to the port city of Licata off the southern coast of Sicily, while other 7th Army divisions landed at Gela and Agriento.

As the boats slipped toward their destinations, they towed smaller boats filled with explosives, ammunition, fuses and smoke pots. Smoke pots were devices used by the Chemical Warfare Service to create smoke screens, to provide visual aids for landing forces, or signify to friendly forces where not to shoot.

A smoke pot that accidentally was ignited may have been similar to the pictured HC MI as described in Ships Chemical Smoke Munitions ordnance pamphlet No. 1042 printed Sept. 25, 1943.

A smoke pot that accidentally was ignited may have been similar to the pictured HC MI as described in Ships Chemical Smoke Munitions ordnance pamphlet No. 1042 printed Sept. 25, 1943.

One of those smoke pots on Ensign Parle’s boat was accidentally ignited. Realizing the heat from the pot could set off one of the boats filled with explosives, causing a blast that would surely alert the Germans of their approach to Licata, Ensign Parle acted without hesitation. He entered the craft, already filled with smoke and fire, to snuff out burning fuses, and tried to extinguish the smoke pot. After several attempts failed, he seized the pot with his bare hands, ran topside and threw it over the side.

But his courageous action took its toll on the 23-year-old. After inhaling smoke and poisonous fumes that turned into pneumonia, he later died at a hospital in Tunisia.

For his heroic and courageous actions that not only saved other servicemen, but also ensured the security of the mission, Ensign Parle was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor for “valor and courage above and beyond the call of duty.” During the nearly the four years of WWII, the Navy only awarded 57 Medals of Honor, 15 of those for actions on a single date: Dec. 7, 1941.

Parle was buried at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Omaha.

(DE-708) Coming alonside USS Intrepid (CVA-11) for a refueling exercise off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 29 January 1960. Photographer: PH3 R.W. Osburn Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

(DE-708) Coming alonside USS Intrepid (CVA-11) for a refueling exercise off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 29 January 1960. Photographer: PH3 R.W. Osburn Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

A year later, his family ensured their son’s remembrance. On July 29, 1944, USS Parle (DE 708) was commissioned, sponsored by Parle’s mother, Mary Parle. The ceremony was a family affair. Serving as an altar boy for the ceremony was Parle’s younger brother, Richard, while his uncle, Father Tom Parle, gave the ship’s blessing.

USS Parle participated in operations in the Pacific Campaign through the end of World War II. In 1970, the last destroyer escort in the U.S. Navy was used as gunnery practice and sunk off northeastern Florida that October.

As for USS LST-375, the ship survived the invasion of Sicily, and went on to participate in both the September 1943 Salerno landings and the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After earning three battle stars for World War II service, the LST was decommissioned in 1946, sold and scrapped in 1948.

 

 
Jul 4

America, Independence and Freedom: Three Great Names That Go Great With Navy Ships

Saturday, July 4, 2015 10:47 AM

By Joshua L. Wick
Naval History and Heritage Command, 
Communication and Outreach Division

When many Americans think of the 4th of July, a few words come to mind: Freedom, Independence, America. These words carry a certain weight; they represent power, strength and fortitude. So it’s no wonder why some of the greatest U.S. Navy ships have born these names.

Since the establishment of America’s Navy there have been very few years in which Sailors were not actively serving aboard ships with these names. To truly know these Sailors, we need to know their ships – as it is their ships bear witness to their selfless service to the country. The 4th of July, the anniversary of the birth of American freedom and independence, is a great time to reflect on the ships that have carried those names to the far corners of the earth in defense of America, freedom and independence.

The History of Navy’s ‘America’

The first ship to carry the name America, a 74-gun man-of-war, was laid down in May 1777. She never served the nation of her namesake; upon completion of construction she was gifted to France in appreciation of the partnerships with the new nation. The next ship was a racing yacht turned Confederate Civil War blockade runner turned Union blockader. Then passenger liner America saw service as a troop transport in World War I. The next in the line and the most famous to date is the Kitty Hawk-class carrier USS America (CVA 66). Her 30 years of service is just as interesting as her sinking. Her active service included deployments to in support of action in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Libya, as well as Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and U.N. peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia. After retirement, America served her Navy by being sunk during a live-fire test and controlled scuttling ultimately helping naval shipbuilders and engineers better understand ship survivability. Lessons learned have been incorporated into following ship designs.

Arriving in New York Harbor, with her decks crowded with troops returning home from France, 1919. Photographed by E. Muller, Jr., New York. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Arriving in New York Harbor, with her decks crowded with troops returning home from France, 1919. Photographed by E. Muller, Jr., New York. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS America (CV-66) Underway in the Indian Ocean on 24 April 1983. Photographer: PH2 Robert D. Bunge. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS America (CV-66) Underway in the Indian Ocean on 24 April 1983. Photographer: PH2 Robert D. Bunge. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The ‘America’ We Know Today 

Commissioned in October 2014, USS America (LHA 6), is first in her class and unlike any other amphibious assault ship in the fleet. She is specifically designed and built for flexibility of operation, energy efficiency and is able to handle the future of joint multinational maritime expeditionary operations. The ship and her Marine Corps elements can support small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group while remaining adaptable to new platforms like the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22B Osprey.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 19, 2015) The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is underway off the coast of San Diego preparing for final contract trials.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 19, 2015) The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is underway off the coast of San Diego preparing for final contract trials.

The History of Navy’s ‘Freedom’

The Navy’s first ship to be called Freedom actually started as the German ship, SS Wittekind, built in Hamburg, Germany in 1894. She was seized by the United States Shipping Board in 1917 and renamed Iroquois. First chartered by the Army as a transport vessel she was renamed Freedom (ID 3024) in 1918. Shortly after she was acquired by the U.S. Navy on January 24, 1919 she only operated briefly as a member of the Navy’s Cruiser and Transport Force before she was decommissioned in September 1919. The second Freedom (IX 43) was an auxiliary schooner, acquired by the Navy in 1940. She was assigned to the Naval Academy where she has served in a noncommissioned status through 1962.

(ID # 3024) In port in 1919, while engaged in transporting U.S. troops home from France. Note inscription at the bottom of the image: U.S.S. Freedom, the ship that brought me home. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1970. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

(ID # 3024) In port in 1919, while engaged in transporting U.S. troops home from France. Note inscription at the bottom of the image: U.S.S. Freedom, the ship that brought me home. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1970. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The ‘Freedom’ We Know Today

USS Freedom (LCS 1) is a response to the Navy’s need for smaller, multipurpose warships that operate in littoral or coastal water. In addition to operating in the shallows, Littoral Combat Ships are designed to evolve with an ever changing battle space and can be reconfigured for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions. Limited crew requirements, speed exceeding 40+ knots, and maneuverability make Freedom a flexible combatant. On Feb. 16, 2010 Freedom made her maiden deployment to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific via the Panama. Most recently, in May 2014 Freedom successfully conducted the first combined at sea operation between an unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout and manned SH-60 Seahawks.

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 28, 2015) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise. U.S. Navy ships are underway conducting an independent deployer certification exercise off the coast of Southern California.

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 28, 2015) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise. U.S. Navy ships are underway conducting an independent deployer certification exercise off the coast of Southern California.

The History of Navy’s ‘Independence’

 

Of the three names in this post, the name Independence has graced more ships than the other two. The firstIndependence, a Continental sloop built in Baltimore, Md., was sailing with Ranger and John Paul Jones in 1776 when Ranger received the first national salute of our flag. The next Independence, a ship-of-the-line, was commissioned in June 1814 and immediately joined frigate Constitution protecting Boston Harbor during the War of 1812. Over the course of the next 99 years, she was brought in and out of service (mostly in) until finally decommissioning just two years shy of the 100th anniversary of her launching. From one of the Navy’s longest-lived ships, to one of its shortest-lived, the next Independence was a steamer commissioned Nov. 16, 1918 that made one cargo run to Europe, returning to the state and decommissioned just four months and four days later on March 20, 1919. Two aircraft carriers have born the name. The first, (CVL 22), was commissioned Jan. 14, 1943 and served with distinction during World War II. The fifth Independence, (CVA-62), was commissioned Jan. 10, 1959 and served for more than 39 years seeing action in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and Desert Storm before being decommissioned Sept. 30, 1998.

The ‘Independence’ We Know Today

At anchor, while wearing dazzle camouflage, circa 1918. This photograph may have been taken in the San Francisco Bay area, California, before she was taken over by the Navy. She was built in 1918 at San Francisco as SS Independence. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

At anchor, while wearing dazzle camouflage, circa 1918. This photograph may have been taken in the San Francisco Bay area, California, before she was taken over by the Navy. She was built in 1918 at San Francisco as SS Independence. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The sixth ship to bear the name is USS Independence (LCS 2). Commissioned in January 2010, her unique design and use of interchangeable technology, like USS Freedom (LCS 1), allows for operational flexibility supporting various mission requirements. In April 2012 she passed through the Panama Canal for the first time, trained with the Mexican Navy, and accomplished her first visit to a foreign port when she put in to Manzanillo, Mexico where her Sailors participated in a community outreach project. In 2014 she took part and successfully completed RIMPAC 2014.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 23, 2014) The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) transits during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 23, 2014) The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) transits during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

For most of the 239 years since America seized freedom and declared its independence, our Navy has included ships that go by those names; lasting symbols of their namesakes and reminding us all of the historic document boldly signed by our nation’s founding fathers on that fourth day of July day in 1776.

Official U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood, Naval History and Heritage Command /RELEASED.

Official U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood, Naval History and Heritage Command /RELEASED.

 

 
Jul 1

Five Navy Ships Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 10:44 AM
An overall view of the pier area during the commissioning ceremony for the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS PROVIDENCE (SSN 719).

An overall view of the pier area during the commissioning ceremony for the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS PROVIDENCE (SSN 719).

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

It’s July, the month of red, white and blue… and commissionings, too! Perhaps it was an opportunity to save labor on not having to put that bunting up around the ship, but July is among one of the more popular months to hoist a commissioning pennant.

Five ships this month will celebrate significant milestones in their careers: 10, 20, and 30 years. From patrol craft, to surface warship, to nuclear-powered submarines; all perform their mission – here and abroad – to protect and defend America as part of today’s Navy.

 30 YEARS

When USS Providence (SSN 719) was commissioned July 27, 1985, at Groton, Conn., she became the fifth ship in the Navy to be named after the Rhode Island city.

 WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* The wages of an E-4 were $757.40 a month in 1985. But at $9,204 annually, the wage for an E-4 was still well below the civilian median income of $26,618. Median home prices hit six digits at $100,800.

* What were Sailors, and America, watching? Among the top films released that week was “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” directed by Tim Burton.

* On the music front, “A View to Kill” by Duran Duran was apropos for those peering into submarine periscopes, while family members of Providence Sailors may have hummed “Everytime You Go Away” by Paul Young. The artist then-known as Prince had a hit with “Raspberry Beret” and Tears for Fears’s “Shout” was a popular song for an aerobics workout with unitards, legwarmers and sideways ponytails.

* As Providence was getting all bunted up, President Ronald Reagan was recuperating from surgery to remove cancerous polyps from his intestines and the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa was being discussed (SPOILER ALERT – he’s still missing).

* “Texas,” the book by James A. Michener was atop the summer reading list and Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Woebegon” amused readers with tales about a town “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

 Over the past 30 years, Providence has deployed on numerous tours of the Western Atlantic, Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. The boat, nicknamed the “Big Dog of the Red Sea Wolf Pack,” participated in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Besides transiting the Suez Canal in 1998, 2001 and 2003, Providence has earned the Order of Magellan certificate by completing an around-the-world deployment which included taking part in the 2006 Exercise MALABAR.

The boat received some reader fame and got to fire fictional missiles at the Soviet Union in the 1986 Tom Clancy book “Red Storm Rising,” but she also suffered a fictional demise by a Soviet submarine after her sail was damaged.

A few years later, however, Providence fired real Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan air defenses on March 19, 2011 as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn after Libya violated a no-fly zone.

Providence has earned three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, four Navy Expeditionary Medals, six Meritorious Unit Commendations, four Navy Unit Commendations and six Battle E awards and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Performance awards include the Tomahawk Strike Derby in 1988, with a 5-second time on target; winner of the 2008 Arleigh Burke Award for battle efficiency and the 2008 Submarine Squadron 2 Battle Efficiency Award.

 WHERE IS PROVIDENCE NOW?

Providence remains part of Submarine Development Squadron 12 based at Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Conn.

The US Navy (USN) Cyclone Class Coastal Defense Ship USS WHIRLWIND (PC 11) conduct maneuvers during a deployment in the Northern Persian Gulf. The WHIRLWIND is supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) to help protect Iraq's sea-based infrastructures in the Northern Persian Gulf.

The US Navy (USN) Cyclone Class Coastal Defense Ship USS WHIRLWIND (PC 11) conduct maneuvers during a deployment in the Northern Persian Gulf. The WHIRLWIND is supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) to help protect Iraq’s sea-based infrastructures in the Northern Persian Gulf.

20 YEARS

Three Navy vessels are celebrating two decades of service after being commissioned in July: coastal patrol ship USS Whirlwind (PC 11), guided missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61), and the nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741).

 WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* Sailors paid about $1.15 for a gallon of gas, while civilian unemployment hovered around 5.6 percent.

* The E-4 monthly salary was $1,056 and the median price of a home was $158,700.

* For entertainment, TLC’s “Waterfalls” was the top tune and Enrique Iglesias’ self-titled first album was spinning on Discman portable music players. Ticketgoers flooded the movie theaters at an average of $4.35 a ticket to see Tom Hank’s “Apollo 13.”

* In July, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was named for the first time to Forbes’ Richest People in the World list at $12.9 billion (he still retains that position in 2015 with $79.2 billion).

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

 Whirlwind opened the month’s spate of commissioning ceremonies on July 1 in Memphis, Tenn. The eleventh Cyclone-class patrol craft at the time was based out of Little Creek, Va. While out on deployments, Whirlwind performed coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance as part of the Navy’s strategy “Forward…From the Sea.”

Armed with two MK38 chain guns, two MK 19 automatic grenade launchers and two .50-caliber machine guns, Whirlwind cruises the Northern Arabian Gulf on its mission to protect oil terminals and sea-based infrastructure. Two different crews swap time on the patrol craft, each serving for 6-7 months.

U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS RAMAGE (DDG 61) underway after completing a vertical replenishment on Nov. 15, 2006, on the Persian Gulf. The RAMAGE is part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on a regular schedule deployment in support of maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Miguel Angel Contreras) (Released)

U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS RAMAGE (DDG 61) underway after completing a vertical replenishment on Nov. 15, 2006, on the Persian Gulf. The RAMAGE is part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group on a regular schedule deployment in support of maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Miguel Angel Contreras) (Released)

Ramage was commissioned July 22 in Boston, Mass. The eleventh in the Arleigh Burke-class of guided-missile destroyers, the ship honors Vice Adm. Lawson P. Ramage, who earned the Medal of Honor in World War II while commanding the submarine Parche (SS 384).

Ramage made her maiden deployment to the Mediterranean Sea in 1996, earning the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon, Sea Service Ribbon and the Armed Forces Service Medal.

The destroyer provided support for Marines during Operation Silver Wake in March 1997 in Albania, and escorted the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat USS Constitution when she set sail in Massachusetts Bay on July 21, 1997.

For her second deployment, Ramage was part of the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group in May 1999. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the destroyer patrolled off the East Coast providing radar coverage for the stricken New York City.

The destroyer deployed again to the Arabian Sea in 2004 with the George Washington Strike Group for Operation Enduring Freedom and then again in October 2006 in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Ramage was first on the scene during the Ethiopian and Somalian hostilities later that year, providing support for P-3 Orion coverage.

Another deployment came in 2008 with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, and the opportunity to participate in Joint Warrior 09 exercises. During a 2010 deployment, Ramage assisted with the search-and-rescue following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 into the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2013, the destroyer provided ballistic missile defense with the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet as a response to the Syrian Civil War and use of chemical weapons. The destroyer responded to a distress signal of a vessel carrying immigrants off the coast of Kalamata, Greece.

During the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ramage was one of two US Navy ships operating the Black Sea.

The U.S. Navy's nuclear ballistic submarine USS MAINE (SSBN-741) one of the nations newest Ohio class submarines, conducts surface navigational operations approximately 50 miles due south of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Navy’s nuclear ballistic submarine USS MAINE (SSBN-741) one of the nations newest Ohio class submarines, conducts surface navigational operations approximately 50 miles due south of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine Maine was commissioned July 29 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine. The boat is the third Navy vessel to honor the state and was built to carry 24 Trident ballistic missiles.

Maine served initially with Submarine Group 2 at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. Manned by her Gold Crew, Maine changed her home port and command from Kings Bay to Submarine Squadron 19, Submarine Group 9, at Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., during Patrol 31 between September-December 2005.

Maine, with its Blue and Gold teams, earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation for 2011-12 and the Battle E Award in 2012. That same year, an officer on USS Maine became one of the first three female unrestricted line officers qualified in submarines.

The submarine earned the Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale Leadership award in 2013. Last year, Maine’s Blue Crew added the Battle E award for SUBRON 17 to its list of commendations.

Odd Trivia: Sharp-eyed movie-goers in 1989 might have seen Maine’s hull number, SSBN 741, on the fictional submarine USS Montana in the 1989 hit The Abyss, which came out a year before construction even started on Maine. But the submarine would play another fictional role in the novel “The Sum of All Fears,” continuing Tom Clancy’s love-affair with the silent fleet.

 SO WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Whirlwind, the 11th Cyclone-class patrol craft is currently homeported in Manama, Bahrain.

USS Ramage, assigned to Command Destroyer Squadron 28, remains in Norfolk, where the destroyer began testing and evaluation in 2014 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

The submarine Maine, attached to Submarine Squadron 17, is currently based in Bangor, Wash.

The US Navy's (USN) newest Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer USS HALSEY (DDG 97) commissioned at Naval Station North Island (NSNI) during a ceremony marking the formal entrance of the guided missile destroyer into the fleet. The ship named after US Naval Academy graduate Fleet Admiral (ADM) William "Bull" Halsey Jr., who commanded South Pacific Force and South Pacific Area during World War II (WWII).

The US Navy’s (USN) newest Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer USS HALSEY (DDG 97) commissioned at Naval Station North Island (NSNI) during a ceremony marking the formal entrance of the guided missile destroyer into the fleet. The ship named after US Naval Academy graduate Fleet Admiral (ADM) William “Bull” Halsey Jr., who commanded South Pacific Force and South Pacific Area during World War II (WWII).

10 YEARS

USS Halsey (DDG 97) was commissioned July 30, 2005 at Naval Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named after U.S. Naval Academy graduate Fleet Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., who commanded the U. S. 3rd Fleet during much of the Pacific War against Japan.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* The unemployment rate hovered around 5.1 percent despite an increase in the price of gasoline to $2.30 from just $1.15 in 1995.

* That was good news for the E4, whose monthly salary hovered at $1,612.80, or $19,353.60 annually, falling well short of the $46,236 median income. The median price of a home soared by 87 percent to $297,000 compared to $158,700 in 1995.

* At the box office, Sailors were amused by the antics of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in “Wedding Crashers.” On the music scene, Live 8 Benefit Concerts pressured the G8 world leaders to pledge $50 billion in aid to Africa by the year 2010.

* Sports wise, it was a big month: Venus Williams and Roger Federer won Wimbledon, and Tiger Woods won the British Open.

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

Halsey had a rough start after a two fires and an explosion caused $8.5 million in damage during the destroyer’s first deployment in 2006.

A second deployment in 2008 had the destroyer in the Persian Gulf, returning home in Nov. 2008. Halsey, assigned as part of the USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group, deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet for maritime security operations.

The ship experienced two more tragedies, one in 2009 when a Sailor died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and in Jan. 2011, when a crewmember was lost overboard in the Gulf of Oman. Her body was recovered the next day.

In 2012, Halsey and its helicopter detachment provided assistance to a distress call from a Yemeni dhow en route to Somalia.

 SO WHERE IS USS HALSEY NOW?

The destroyer performed a hull swap in 2013 with USS Russell (DDG 59) and is now homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman.

 –NHHC–

 
Jun 25

Naval History: Around the Globe and in Communities Everywhere

Thursday, June 25, 2015 3:02 PM

By Sam Cox, Rear Adm., U.S. Navy (Retired), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

While visiting the USS Houston’ s survivors association earlier this spring for a speaking engagement, I took time to visit USS Texas (BB 35) as an opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing Historic Ships, and what could be done to improve their efforts to help inform public understanding of naval contributions to our nation’s security. While there, I took the time to replicate a treasured father-son moment on board Texas in 1965…which was an influential factor in a life-long love of naval history and my decision to make a career in Navy.

Assigned six months ago as the Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, it’s my honor and pleasure to lead the organization charged by the Navy to capture and share our proud history and rich heritage. Between the work of the people on my staff and our network of nine museums, I believe we’re doing a lot to illustrate for our Sailors, their leaders and the American public that the history of the Navy is the history of our nation, and with good reason. As today’s Navy navigates new and sometimes perilous waters, our history often provides essential context to make the journey less hazardous.

But we can’t do it alone, and thankfully we don’t. In addition to our staff and Navy museums, there are is, across the nation, a number of other museums who have taken it upon themselves to share our Navy’s proud history. Many are located in places where there is no fleet representation and often are the only organizations in their areas bearing the Navy’s standard. I look forward to getting to know them as I continue to move forward in my term as Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Similarly there is also a national network of historic Navy ships that bear witness to the Navy of yesterday and stand as proud reminders that freedom is not free and often exacts a high cost. Many are also shining reminders of some our nation’s greatest moments.

Arguably one of the most masterful joint military operations in the history of the planet was the D-Day landings in France that spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi oppression on the European continent. Among the ships off those beaches that day was a mighty American battleship, USS Texas.

21 years later, in 1965, just outside of Houston, at the San Jacinto battlefield, I first heard the story and walked the decks of USS Texas. That visit with my dad made a lasting impression on me and is likely the event that set me on course for a life in the Navy.

The first time I visited a U.S. Navy Battleship! A photo of me (and my sister and dad) on the USS Texas in July 1965. This proved an extremely memorable and influential event for the future Commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence and Director of Naval History.

The first time I visited a U.S. Navy Battleship! A photo of me (and my sister and dad) on the USS Texas in July 1965. This proved an extremely memorable and influential event for the future Commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence and Director of Naval History.

Texas is only one ship, with its own stories – and they all have stories. And their tales of courage and sacrifice and daring are humbling.

It was on this date in 1944, after the troops of D-Day had moved far inland out from under the range of her massive 14″ guns, that the ship took up position with Arkansas and Nevada off the coast of Cherbourg. Texas and Arkansas were charged with taking out Battery Hamburg, which consisted of four 240 mm guns.

For three hours, Texas and Arkansas pounded the battery, which gave as good as it got. One German shell exploded upon hitting the main support column of the navigation bridge after skimming across the conning tower and shearing off the fire control periscope. The explosion killed one and wounded 10 others. The artillerymen continued sending two-gun salvos, taking out one gun 24 minutes later.

The second shell to hit the ship would have been devastating had it exploded. Instead, it ended up in the officer sleeping quarters, but failed to detonate. That shell, disarmed by a Navy bomb disposal officer, can be seen on the ship today and serves as a reminder of the countless acts of unbelievable courage that are the hallmark of America’s Sailors, yesterday and today.

I believe a case can be made that as invaluable as Texas was in commissioned service to her nation, she, like all of America’s Navy museums and historic naval ships, continues to serve in as important a capacity: as lasting reminders of the importance of the U.S. Navy to our national security and the remarkable men and women who have, for nearly 240 years, served our nation in Navy blue with honor, courage, and commitment.

There’s probably one near you, see the complete list here. Maybe I’ll see you there!

My latest visit to the historic USS Texas in the spring of 2015.

My latest visit to the historic USS Texas in the spring of 2015.

 
Jun 11

Last Higgins Boat Lands On Utah Beach

Thursday, June 11, 2015 10:21 AM
UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) The Higgins Boat Monument commemorates the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel, also known as “Higgins Boats,” their crews and boat designer Andrew Jackson Higgins. The monument was dedicated June 6, 2015 after nearly a year of fund-raising by the city of Columbus, Nebraska. Columbus is the hometown of Higgins, who designed the landing craft and whose company built 20,000 watercraft for the U.S. military during World War II. 1,089 were used on D-Day and were vital for getting troops ashore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) The Higgins Boat Monument commemorates the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel, also known as “Higgins Boats,” their crews and boat designer Andrew Jackson Higgins. The monument was dedicated June 6, 2015 after nearly a year of fund-raising by the city of Columbus, Nebraska. Columbus is the hometown of Higgins, who designed the landing craft and whose company built 20,000 watercraft for the U.S. military during World War II. 1,089 were used on D-Day and were vital for getting troops ashore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum

Utah Beach, a site of intense fighting in June 1944, is now a peaceful place, with a cool breeze, the sound of waves hitting the surf, and the site of numerous memorials to those who fought 71 years ago. High on a hill overlooking the beach the Navy is remembered, along with several memories to various Army units that landed on the beach. But on June 6, 2015, room was made for another, the Higgins Boat Monument, a memorial to the little boats and their crews who made the landing and ultimately victory, possible.

1944. Germany has lost the fight for North Africa, her ally Italy has turned allegiances and the Russians have gained momentum in the East. Germany isn’t beat yet; her army is still millions strong and her weapons among the most potent, but the nation is at her breaking point. A point the Allies could exploit with a push back onto European continent.

Anticipating such an attempt as early as 1942 Hitler ordered the construction of his “Atlantikwall,” a series of armed strongpoints, bunkers and defensive measures stretching across the whole northern coast of Nazi-occupied Europe. The Allies tested it once in the disastrous Dieppe Raid on Aug. 19, 1942, which cost the lives of more than a thousand British and Canadian troops.

Two years later the Allies finally had the numbers necessary to breach the German defenses and begin the long fight to Berlin, but to do that they had to first make it to mainland Europe. Their strike would have to overwhelm the defenses at one point with greater numbers than the Germans could repulse.

The key to delivering those overwhelming numbers to the beaches was a simple, mostly wooden boat, the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) also known as the “Higgins Boat.”

Its origin lay in Louisiana’s swamps with Nebraskan Andrew Jackson Higgins. Higgins designed and built flat-bottomed shallow water craft that could operate in two feet of water and a propeller that wouldn’t get tangled in swamp vegetation or debris.

Andrew Jackson Higgins was born at Columbus, Neb., in 1886. Raised in Omaha, he served briefly in the Nebraska National Guard where he had his first involvement with moving troops over waterways. He moved to Alabama in 1906 and worked in the lumber and later shipping industries, ultimately starting his own boatyard. During World War II Higgins would design and build 20,000 watercraft for the military.

Higgins’ boat design impressed the U.S. Marine Corps, which ordered a version that was designated the Landing Craft Personnel (Large) or LCPL. The LCPL served in both major theaters but it had a drawback; personnel and cargo had to be off-loaded over the sides. Troops would be more vulnerable to enemy fire while attempting to get off the boat and into the water.

The solution for quicker unloading of men and equipment came from observing a future enemy’s belligerent actions in the Far East. The Empire of Japan spent the majority of the 1930s waging a ground war against its neighbor, China. Fighting in coastal cities such as Shanghai they employed Daihatsu landing craft with bow ramps that could be brought up to a hostile beach, drop their ramps and allow men to rush directly into combat. The Marines asked Higgins to incorporate this feature into a new boat for them, which he assured them he could.

The new Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) was extremely similar to its predecessor. It remained the same size and only required about two feet of water to operate, but with its new bow ramp Soldiers and Marines could get directly onto a beach.

ww2-97

American troops leap forward to storm a North African beach during final amphibious maneuvers.” James D. Rose, Jr., ca. 1944. 26-G-2326. National Archives

The new LCVP began hitting the beaches in 1942 on Guadalcanal and in Operation Torch, the American landings in North Africa. The boat’s employment was a success and the LCVP went on to land troops on Sicily, Italy and in the Pacific as the Allies pushed onward. With this proven and effective means of delivery at their disposal it would be possible for the Allies to attempt to breach the Atlantic Wall in earnest.

The time had come for the allied invasion of Europe. It was June 5, 1944, a rough storm had caused Eisenhower to delay the invasion by 24 hours in the hopes of better weather and for good reason. The Higgins is a slow craft at the mercy of both wind and waves. The better the weather, the better the chances for success.

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Staff Sgt. Lea Cuatt, 173rd Airborne, interviews World War II U.S. Navy veteran Joe Scida at the Utah Beach Museum, June 6, 2015. Scida piloted a landing craft that delivered troops to the beaches on D-Day, 71 years ago. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Staff Sgt. Lea Cuatt, 173rd Airborne, interviews World War II U.S. Navy veteran Joe Scida at the Utah Beach Museum, June 6, 2015. Scida piloted a landing craft that delivered troops to the beaches on D-Day, 71 years ago. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

“They’re hard to control, a big wave will come and you’re over there 20 feet,” Former U.S. Navy Sailor Joe Scida said. Scida was one of the many coxswains piloting Higgins Boats June 6, 1944. Hand gesturing, he motioned the boat being swept diagonally. Scida was on hand to see the dedication of the Higgins Boat monument on Utah Beach.

“Sometimes you hit the beach, it’s easy to get off, sometimes you hit the beach and try to get off, it takes three or four tries to get off and pray to God that you never hit a sandbar. Because you have all those poor Soldiers on there, they jump in the water and the water is up to here [chest-deep] or here [neck-deep].”

“The storm was so great that day, you didn’t land where you were told.”

Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat, June 6, 1944. CPhoM. Robert F. Sargent. (Coast Guard) NARA FILE #: 026-G-2343 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1041

Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat, June 6, 1944. CPhoM. Robert F. Sargent. (Coast Guard) NARA FILE #: 026-G-2343

Thousands of Higgins’ boats landed American, British, and Canadian armies on five beaches in the French province of Normandy that day: 1,089 were LCVPs, and many other kinds of landing craft that Higgins designed and/or built.

“Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us,” Dwight D. Eisenhower would say about the LCVP and its creator. “If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.”

Among the first troops to land on D-Day was Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. As had happened with Scida’s craft, he landed well off target. Personally reconnoitering the area, Roosevelt ordered his men to press the attack at his location anyway and they were among the first to break through the German beach defenses. It was decided the Higgins Boat monument should be located at the beach exit where Roosevelt’s men first broke through. The site is adjacent to both the Utah Beach Museum and the memorial to the U.S. Navy in Europe.

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Sainte-Marie-du-Mont school children place flowers on Utah Beach for the 71st anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Sainte-Marie-du-Mont school children place flowers on Utah Beach for the 71st anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

The kilometer 0 marker of the Liberty Road, which traces the 1,146 kilometer route of Patton’s Third Army from Utah Beach to Bastogne was originally on the site, but was moved across the street to make way for the new monument.

“We are very proud to be able to have this memorial here, there were thousands of people who landed at this place and its an honor to honor this man [Higgins] and also to have this lasting relationship with the United States,” said museum manager Ingrid Anquetil.

The project to honor an American boat and its builder began with an unlikely source, a retired British Army officer. Last year Tim Kilvert-Jones, who is also the author of two books on Normandy, briefed the U.S. congressional delegation to the D-Day 70th anniversary and during it brought up the Higgins boats and their Nebraska-born creator. One member of the delegation was U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska.

Afterwards Fortenberry told Kilvert-Jones, “You’re a very unusual Brit. First of all, you know that Nebraska exists and secondly you know Andrew Jackson Higgins was born in my state.”

This led to an invitation for Kilvert-Jones to visit Nebraska and speak to veterans associations. Seeing Columbus, Nebraska’s Andrew Jackson Higgins Monument during his tour Kilvert-Jones said, “This needs to be replicated in Normandy.”

With less than a year to execute, the city of Columbus jumped on the idea and began raising funds with the goal to have an identical monument ready and in place for the 71st D-Day anniversary. The funds were raised in under nine months and within 10 months the monument was in Le Havre, France, waiting to be shipped to Utah Beach.

“What we’ve achieved in the construction is a full exact replica of the LCVP Higgins Boat, except this is made of steel and is painted in the most expensive ship’s paint in the world, it costs a thousand dollars a pot. As a result this monument will last more than a thousand years,” said Kilvert-Jones.

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Congressman Jeff Fortenberry speaks at the dedication of the Higgins Boat Monument on Utah Beach, France, June 6, 2015. The monument was dedicated after nearly a year of fund-raising by the city of Columbus, Nebraska. Columbus is the hometown of Higgins, who designed the landing craft and whose company built 20,000 watercraft for the U.S. military during World War II. 1,089 were used on D-Day and were vital for getting troops ashore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

UTAH BEACH, France (6 June 2015) Congressman Jeff Fortenberry speaks at the dedication of the Higgins Boat Monument on Utah Beach, France, June 6, 2015.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David R. Krigbaum/Released)

It was unveiled on the 71st anniversary of D-Day with Kilvert-Jones, Anquetil, Columbus Mayor Michael Moser and Congressman Fortenberry on hand. A statue of Andrew Jackson Higgins was also unveiled inside the Utah Beach Museum beside the museum’s original World War II Higgins Boat.

Now secure in its historic setting where thousands of these small craft once made a difference, the last Higgins Boat has hit Utah Beach.

 

 

 

 
Jun 8

French, American Alliance Hastened End of Revolutionary War

Monday, June 8, 2015 8:12 AM
First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government, 14 February 1778 Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government, 14 February 1778 Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Capt. John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Editor’s Note: As the French tall ship replica L’Hermione makes her way up the East Coast to celebrate the relationship between France and the United States, a series of blogs will discuss four topics: the Marquis de Lafayette; the ship that brought him to America the second time in 1780, L’Hermione; the critical Battle of the Virginia Capes on Sept. 5, 1781, and the Franco-American relationship as it has grown over the past years.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Proving that partnerships mattered in our countries infancy, during the American Revolution, the American colonies faced the significant challenge of conducting international diplomacy and seeking the international support it needed to fight against the British.

The single most important diplomatic success of the colonists during the War for Independence was the critical link they forged with France. Representatives of the French and American governments signed the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce on Feb. 6, 1778 and the two countries have shared ongoing relationship since.

The need for developing a relationship with France was not lost upon the newly-formed Continental Congress. Their greatest secret weapon – Ben Franklin – was sent to France as its ambassador from 1776 to 1783. As a member of the Secret Committee of Correspondence, Franklin made sure news of the patriotic revolt was published in Europe. The French loved Franklin, who represented Americans for their simplicity and lack of class structure. French assistance was offered secretly through American trader Silas Deane. One notable contract was signed in December 1775 with the Marquis de Lafayette, an 18-year-old French nobleman and officer who sought to serve as a major general under George Washington.

French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes

French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes

After the Continental Congress declared its independence in July 1776, Franklin and his commissioners began negotiating for a treaty with France. At first French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes was amenable to a treaty, but when word of colonist losses to British forces began circulating, negotiations ended. The British ambassador was already looking for any excuse to prove France was violating its peace treaties.

Aware of the French support for Franklin and the American fight for freedom, though, Vergennes provided a secret loan to the new United States.

Following the British surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in December 1777, Vergennes again moved forward to create an alliance with the United States. According to Volume XI of the “Naval Documents of the American Revolution,” a memo attributed to Vergennes was written in late January 1778 outlying France’s strategic moves with its naval forces to preserve France’s and Spain’s “possessions in America and sufficiently aiding the Americans in breaking free from their dependence on England, such that their civil independence established on a firm foundation will be assured. Seemingly, nothing would lead more directly to this goal than the installation of a French squadron on the coasts of North America.”

Vergennes pointed out protecting the “secrecy of our strategy and in assuring all means of throwing the enemy off the scene that one can hope for success.”

The signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and of Alliance between France and the United States American Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, negotiated the Treaty of Alliance with France, which was signed Feb. 6, 1778 and ratified May 4, 1778. The treaty allowed France to recognized the United States as an independent country and offer its support in the war for its freedom. Library of Congress photo

The signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and of Alliance between France and the United States
American Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, negotiated the Treaty of Alliance with France, which was signed Feb. 6, 1778 and ratified May 4, 1778. The treaty allowed France to recognized the United States as an independent country and offer its support in the war for its freedom. Library of Congress photo

On Feb. 6, 1778, Franklin and two of his commissioners, Arthur Lee and Deane, signed the Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France. France recognized the United States as a new nation, but more importantly, it changed the course of the war from one of rebellion to an international cause. France began providing supplies, arms and ammunition and then troops as well as the above mentioned squadron on the East Coast of North America, of which the French frigate L’Hermione was a member.

Vergennes’ strategy for secrecy worked three years later, when the French West Indies fleet stopped in Haiti in August 1781 to collect 3,300 French troops and additional ships of line before sailing toward the Chesapeake Bay for that that rendezvous with Great Britain off the Virginia Capes. It was a move the British admirals never anticipated.

It was the French fleet that defeated the British during the Battle of the Virginia Capes on Sept. 5, 1781 and their ships that cemented the Chesapeake Bay from supplying the immobilized army led by British Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis. After being surrounded by combined French and American forces at Yorktown, the French Navy gave Cornwallis no means of escape. Cornwallis admitted defeat on Oct. 19, 1781and surrendered nearly 8,000 soldiers, a move that would lead to Great Britain agreeing to stop further hostilities against the new nation.

France also took part in the negotiations with Great Britain and the United States, which ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

French support of the American Revolution benefited more than the Americans. There was no love lost between Great Britain and France, which was still smarting over the loss of North American territory following the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War. French government officials believed if Great Britain quelled the colonists’ revolt, it would control American commerce to other countries, namely France. Should Great Britain lose control of her colony, however, it would weaken her power.

 

 
Jun 7

Series of Miscues Allows French Victory at VA Capes

Sunday, June 7, 2015 8:55 AM
Washington Visits the French Fleet," from the painting by Percy Moran.

Washington Visits the French Fleet,” from the painting by Percy Moran.

Editor’s Note: As the French tall ship replica L’Hermione makes her way up the East Coast to celebrate the relationship between France and the United States, a series of blogs will discuss four topics: the Marquis de Lafayette; the ship that brought him to America the second time in 1780, L’Hermione; the critical Battle of the Virginia Capes on Sept. 5, 1781, and the Franco-American relationship as it has grown over the past years. 

By Michael Crawford, Ph.D., Senior Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command

 On Sept. 5, 1781, a French fleet of 24 ships of the line engaged a British fleet of 19 ships of the line in the Battle off the Virginia Capes. The French fleet prevented the British fleet from relieving the besieged army of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, 2d Earl Cornwallis, at Yorktown, Va., leading to the eventual surrender of some 7,000 British troops to the combined American and French arms.

The French fleet of 28 ships of the line, under command of Adm. François Joseph Paul comte de Grasse-Tilly, entered the Chesapeake Bay on Aug. 30, 1781, bringing with them 3,300 French soldiers from the West Indies.

Rare original French map showing French naval superiority that ensured victory at Yorktown in 1781.

Rare original French map showing French naval superiority that ensured victory at Yorktown in 1781.

Mid-morning Sept. 5, a French frigate on scouting duty sited strange sails on the horizon. De Grasse first thought it was a French squadron from Newport, R.I. bringing the army’s siege artillery. But by 11 a.m. the the French admiral knew it could only be the British. Realizing the need to meet the British fleet before it intercepted the squadron, de Grasse did not wait to re-embark the 1,800 sailors who were ashore to replenish the fleet’s supply of water and fresh produce or to recall several of his ships blockading the York and James Rivers.

At 11:30, 24 French ships of the line cut their anchor cables and stood out to sea to fight the engagement on whose outcome rested the independence of the United States of America.

Setting the scene

 On May 6, 1781, a French frigate arrived in Boston delivering Adm. Louis Jacques comte de Barras de Saint-Laurant, who brought the following information: Barras was to take command of the French squadron at Newport; De Grasse was to send part of his West Indies squadron north in July or August, and Gen. Jean-Baptiste Donatien Vimeur comte de Rochambeau was to incorporate his corps of French troops with George Washington’s Continental troops.

Lord Cornwallis entered Virginia from North Carolina in the spring of 1781, and uniting his force with a British detachment, commanded something more than 7,000 troops. At the end of July, under orders from Gen. Sir Henry Clinton to establish himself somewhere in the Chesapeake he could hold as a base for naval operations and where he could be supplied by sea, Cornwallis occupied Yorktown, Va.

The French agreed to cooperate with the Spanish in a campaign in the Caribbean. Francisco Saavedra, sent by the Spanish king to coordinate Spain’s military and naval operations in America, released for a time a French corps of 3,300 men at Saint Dominque that had been placed in Spanish service.

When de Grasse announced his intention to sail with 24 of his ships of the line for an expedition to the Chesapeake, Savaadra urged him to sail instead with his entire force and offered four Spanish ships of the line to protect the French merchant fleet at Cape Français.

Promising to return to the Caribbean when the hurricane season ended in mid-October, de Grasse sailed on Aug. 5. To avoid being seen by scouting ships, they took a more circuitous route to the Chesapeake. De Grasse’s fleet arrived at the Chesapeake on Aug. 30, and the next day landed the troops.

On Aug. 14, Washington ordered Rochambeau’s corps of about 2,000 men and 2,500 American troops to Virginia, where it was to join Continental troops under Marquis de Lafayette.

Left to right: British admirals Thomas Graves, Samuel Hood, and George Rodney.

Left to right: British admirals Thomas Graves, Samuel Hood, and George Rodney.

 

British Adm. Sir George Rodney, who was unwell, ordered his subordinate Adm. Samuel Hood to North America, assuming Hood’s fleet of 14 ships of the line would be sufficient to maintain naval superiority.

On his way north Hood looked into the Chesapeake on Aug. 25 and, finding no fleet there, continued on to New York, where he placed himself under the orders of Adm. Thomas Graves, commander of the North American station, on Aug. 28.

On the evening of Aug. 28, the same day Hood’s squadron arrived at New York, the British learned Barras’s squadron of six ships of the line had sailed to the southward. It was not until the 31st, however, that Graves was able to cross the bar with five ships to join Hood, where he waited with his squadron, and set sail in hopes of intercepting Barras.

Graves commanded only 19 ships of the line when he approached the Chesapeake on Sept. 5 and to his surprise discovered the entrance to the capes occupied by the superior French West Indian fleet rather than by Barras’s smaller squadron.

The French Fleet coming out of the Chesapeake around Cape Henry.

The French Fleet coming out of the Chesapeake around Cape Henry.

The Battle Begins

 The morning of Sept. 5th found 24 of de Grasse’s 28 ships of the line drawn up in three files in Lynnhaven Bay, with about 1,800 sailors ashore landing troops and watering the fleet.

Unable to recall the absent sailors in time, and leaving behind four ships of the line that were occupied in the rivers in support of the army, de Grasse sailed out with 24 to meet Graves. De Grasse had to fight Graves in order to allow Barras to slip into the Chesapeake; he did not have to defeat Graves, who was unaware Cornwallis’ army was immobilized.

The French fleet straggled out of the capes in some disorder, the van, under Louis-Antoine comte de Bougainville, getting significantly ahead of the center. Graves did not take advantage of the stretching out of de Grasse’s line of battle to attack a portion of it. His actions indicate that he was intent on preventing ships of the more numerous French fleet from doubling his, catching British ships between two fires. Graves sought to fight a conventional battle of line against line.

The Battle off the Virginia Capes. Note van ships of both sides closely engaged.

The Battle off the Virginia Capes. Note van ships of both sides closely engaged.

As the British van bore down on the French, the angle of the British line became more oblique, moving the rear farther from the action. It didn’t help the flag signals given by Graves confused commanders within his fleet. About 5 p.m. the wind shifted more easterly, putting the British rear even more to the windward. The rear never engaged. Around 6:30, as darkness fell, Graves disengaged.

Tactically the Battle off the Virginia Capes was indecisive. Both fleets had ships badly shot up. The British had five ships of the line particularly injured. The ships in the vans of both fleets received the bulk of the damage.

The 74-gun HMS Terrible, which had been leaking badly when it sailed from the West Indies, was so injured the British abandoned and burned it. Over the next several days, while the two fleets sailed within sight of each other, it became clear the British fleet was in no condition for another engagement.

On Sept. 9, de Grasse sailed back to the Chesapeake, arriving on Sept. 11, finding Barras’s squadron there. It occurred to Graves too late he might to try to beat de Grasse back to the Chesapeake and bar his way. On Sept. 13 the British admiral decided to return to New York, repair his ships, and prepare for possible offensive operations with reinforcements expected from England.

Meeting of the Generals of the American and French Armies at Yorktown after the Surrender, 1781, from an oil painting by James Peale.

Meeting of the Generals of the American and French Armies at Yorktown after the Surrender, 1781, from an oil painting by James Peale.

Washington and Rochambeau reached the Yorktown peninsula on Sept. 14; their entire force arrived by Sept. 26. On Sept. 28, the Battle of Yorktown began as French and American forces began to surround Cornwallis’ troops at Yorktown.

By Oct. 17, Graves’s ships were repaired and ready; after 7,000 rank and file embarked, the ships of line set sail two days later. On Oct. 24 they learned Cornwallis had surrendered on the 19th.

Decisive local superiority at sea, attained through the cooperation of three allies — the United States, France, and Spain — sealed the fate of the British Army at Yorktown. British strategy had assumed the Royal Navy would maintain a continuity of naval superiority in North America. When the British lost that, they lost America.

 
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