Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

May 27

Year of the Military Diver: MDSU to Continue Raising CSS Georgia

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:19 PM
The Rebel Iron-clad 'Georgia' Line engraving published in Harper's Weekly, 1863, depicting the CSS Georgia, an ironclad floating battery that served in the defenses of Savannah, Georgia. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

The Rebel Iron-clad ‘Georgia’ Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1863, depicting the CSS Georgia, an ironclad floating battery that served in the defenses of Savannah, Georgia. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

May 28 Lecture Highlights Tough Working Conditions on Ironclad Wreck

From the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The South will rise again – just one piece at a time – as U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU-2) work to free parts of the Confederate ironclad Georgia from the murky, muddy waters of the Savannah River channel.

Navy Diver 1st Class Pete Kozminsky (right) assists Navy Diver 1st Class Calum Sanders, assigned to Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, don a Kirby Morgan 37 dive helmet during diver training at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Va., May 14. During this training, MDSU 2 divers prepare for an upcoming assignment to salvage of the Civil War ironclad Confederate State Ship (CSS) Georgia in the Savannah River, located in Savannah, Ga., June 1-July 20. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Heather Brown /Released)

Navy Diver 1st Class Pete Kozminsky (right) assists Navy Diver 1st Class Calum Sanders, assigned to Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, don a Kirby Morgan 37 dive helmet during diver training at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Va., May 14 to prepare for an upcoming assignment to salvage CSS Georgia in the Savannah River, Ga., June 1-July 20. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Heather Brown /Released)

The Navy divers will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) June 1-July 20 as part of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which will deepen the channel from 42 to 47 feet. Part of that project requires the recovery of the ironclad which lies in the path of future dredging.

MDSU-2 will bring up the ship’s armor systems, steam engine components and all her weapons, including four cannons and as many as 50 projectiles, such as rifle shells or cannon balls.

It is a mission that will highlight the skills of Navy divers – quite befitting since 2015 is the Year of the Military Diver.

“This is what we live for; it’s what we do day in and day out. When it comes to mobile diving, salvage, underwater ship husbandry and force protection, these guys are more proficient than any dive team in the Navy right now,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Potts, who leads Mobile Diving Salvage Company 23.

They won’t, however, be the only military personnel involved. Once the weapons are brought onshore, Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians from EOD Mobile Unit 6 Shore Detachment King’s Bay, Ga., will assist in the recovery, and Marine Corps EOD techs will get the ordnance to an offsite location.

Overseeing the operation will be civilian archaeologists from the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command, which has been tracking CSS Georgia’s progress since its first excavation dive in the fall of 2013.

“The CSS Georgia recovery project is one of the more interesting projects NHHC underwater archaeologists are undertaking,” said UA branch head Robert Neyland, Ph.D. “The Georgia will be the only Confederate ironclad to be recovered and preserved.”

Neyland was among those who attended the “test” excavation in Nov. 2013 and was the project director and chief archaeologist on the recovery team for Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.

During the 2013 excavation, it was “revealed the wooden hull has been lost over time due to current, erosion and previous salvage activities,” Neyland said, leaving behind “a substantial amount of armor made from railroad iron, cannon, ordnance.”

Other artifacts recovered have revealed a glimpse into the design and operation of the ship as well as life onboard, he added.

Apparently it wasn’t very pleasant.

It “was an extremely hostile environment for the crew who had to work in engine rooms under hellish heat and humidity,” Neyland explained. “The discovery of numerous sets of leg irons highlights these harsh conditions that led sailors to desert. The ship never saw action, which also leads one to believe boredom added to the crew’s discomfort.”

Some of those artifacts will be featured during a free lecture the week before the divers begin their work. The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. May 28 at the auditorium of the Savannah History Museum, 303 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Savannah, Ga. The guest speakers are two of the lead archaeologists involved in preserving the ship’s artifacts: Steven James, M.A., with Panamerican Consultants, a principal investigator on the project, and Gordon Watts, PhD., of Tidewater Atlantic Research, co-principal investigator.

Topics for the lecture will include the ship’s construction, since there are no blueprints on how the ship was built. The lecture will also discuss life aboard the ironclad, as well as how the recovered artifacts will be preserved. The museum will be open at no charge from 6-7 p.m. and light refreshments will be served in the lobby.

The lecture, which is being sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, is being hosted by the Coastal Heritage Society. It is the first of eight public outreach efforts focused on CSS Georgia’s recovery, which is expected to cost the Corps of Engineers up to $14 million. The Corps of Engineers works with the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University.

CSS Georgia was built and commissioned in 1863 to protect the river channels below Savannah and Fort Jackson during the Civil War. The ironclad, however, lacked effective locomotion, so she was used mostly as a floating battery. On Dec. 21, 1864, Georgia was scuttled to prevent the ship from falling into the hands of the rapidly advancing Union army led by Gen. William T. Sherman.

After 104 years nestled in the muddy bottom of the Savannah River, the wreck was discovered in 1968 during dredging operations of the channel. Some items were removed during the 1980s. Located on U.S. Navy property, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, according to the U.S. Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Division (SUPSALV), part of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

Archaeologists working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, and divers and salvage operations teams from the U.S. Navy, retrieve a 64-square foot section of a Civil War ironclad warship from the bottom of the Savannah River the evening of Nov. 12, 2013. U.S. Navy photo. (Photo by US Navy)

Archaeologists working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, and divers and salvage operations teams from the U.S. Navy, retrieve a 64-square foot section of a Civil War ironclad warship from the bottom of the Savannah River the evening of Nov. 12, 2013. U.S. Navy photo. (Photo by US Navy)

When the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project threatened CSS Georgia’s remains, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stepped in to oversee its excavation under the National Historic Preservation Act. The multi-phase operation began in November 2013 with an initial excavation of a 65-square-foot portion of the upper deck structure with iron to determine the condition of the hull material. From there, a plan to recover and relocate historic artifacts was mapped out, with MDSU-2 providing underwater survey, rigging and topside support.

NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch will validate the redeposit and reburial of sections of the ship below water in a back channel area so it can be preserved and protected should funding later come available to preserve and display CSS Georgia.

“NHHC is the federal owner of the wreck and its artifacts and is working with the USACE-Savannah District and State of Georgia to preserve the ship remains and artifacts and make these available for exhibit and interpretation,” Neyland said. “The NHHC mission fosters United States naval heritage and the lessons learned from that history to the current Navy and the American public.”

To follow the project, visit http://1.usa.gov/1G6S2Hn

 

 
May 26

Navy Doctor Becomes First Physician in Space

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 3:08 PM

It’s a lot of fun to do something first. But I must say that space flight is so impressive an experience, that it’s worth doing whether you are the first or not.

~Capt. Joseph Kerwin, MC, USN

Capt. Joseph P Kerwin-First U.S Physician in Space

Capt. Joseph P Kerwin-First U.S Physician in Space

By André B. Sobocinski, BUMED Historian

Since the first American manned-space flight in 1961, 85 US Navy officers[1] have charted the frontiers of space and scientific research as astronauts. Of this impressive corps of interstellar pioneers only one has the distinction of the being the first American physician in space,[2] Capt. Joseph Peter Kerwin, Medical Corps, USN.

This past Memorial Day, marked the 42nd anniversary of Capt. Kerwin’s astronomical feat as part of the Skylab-2 mission. A pilot-physician, Kerwin was a six-year veteran of the Navy when he was selected to be one of NASA’s first scientist-astronauts in June 1965. Early in his NASA career, Kerwin would undergo rigorous course of “basic” training from a ten-day physical exam, learning space systems, and undergoing mission control simulation to underwater “spacewalks” in a neutral-buoyancy tank at Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

As the NASA’s lunar program was coming to a close in 1972, Kerwin was selected to serve as scientist-pilot for NASA’s fourth space mission, Skylab. Skylab was conceived as the first American space station and a platform for studying habitability in a gravity-free environment.

Kerwin performs physical examination in Space on Paul Weitz in June 1973--NASA Photo

Kerwin performs physical examination in Space on Paul Weitz in June 1973–NASA Photo

Kerwin and fellow crewmembers Charles Conrad and Paul Weitz would spend a total of 672 hours and 49 minutes aboard the Skylab station. They would also spend 3 hours and 58 minutes conducting extra-vehicular activities (EVA) to repair the damage the station suffered in orbit.

Kerwin, as the crew’s only physician, was also responsible for operating what could be called the first orbiting medical clinic. Equipped with an advanced medical kit called the In-Flight Medical Support System (IFMSS), Kerwin was prepared to manage minor injuries and illnesses and stabilize major problems should they arise. He would later recall, “I had intravenous fluids, drugs, a minor surgery kit for suturing, hemostasis, and I had a fundamental lab capability. I could even do cardiopulmonary resuscitation if it were necessary.” Fortunately, other than a few headaches, a dislocated finger and one case of fluid in the middle ear due to pressure change the Skylab crew proved very healthy.

The Skylab-2 mission came to a close on June 23, 1973. Kerwin would later go onto serve as NASA’s senior science representative in Australia and medical investigator of the Challenger disaster before retiring from both the Navy and NASA in 1987.

Six other Navy physicians would follow Kerwin into space as both mission-specialists and pilots.

SecNav John Warner awards the DSM to the crew of Skylab-2-Feb 1974

————————-

[1] This number includes former naval officers and astronaut candidates.

[2] Soviet cosmonaut Boris Yegarov made history as the first physician in space on October 19, 1964

 
May 4

150th Commemoration of Lincoln’s Funeral Brings to Life His Legacy for Bluejacket Sailor

Monday, May 4, 2015 5:26 PM

By Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Lucero English, USS Abraham Lincoln

This weekend, I was provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent the Navy and my ship in Springfield, Ill., the “Land of Lincoln” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Attending was an honor to me professionally and personally — I couldn’t be more grateful.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 2, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Lucero English, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), pays her respects while participating in the re-enactment ceremony of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in commemoration of its 150th anniversary, May 2. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo, visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 2, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Lucero English, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), pays her respects while participating in the re-enactment ceremony of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral in commemoration of its 150th anniversary, May 2. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo, visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

The events throughout the weekend allowed me to broaden my perspective and appreciation for the importance of American history and how it applies to our lives daily. I was given a front-row seat to history to experience the world-wide event attended by thousands.

As soon as our crew landed in the airport on May 1, we were greeted by local high school students who welcomed us to the “Land of Lincoln.” During my time at the three-day weekend event, I was escorted around some amazing museums, historic districts and experienced the most prestigious symphony I have ever heard.

Through these events, I was able to reflect upon Lincoln’s legacy and all that he offered to the community through his humble leadership. For example, I witnessed this firsthand on May 3, during our crew’s four-mile walk from the Old State Capitol to Lincoln’s tomb. People from around the world traveled to Springfield. Those paying their respects included World War II, Korean, Vietnam and present-day warriors who raised their flags in honor. I got to personally shake their hands and thank the citizens for hosting me and my fellow Sailors.

During my many visits to the museums I was consistently reminded of who President Abraham Lincoln was and the unwavering stand he took to prevent a divided nation. Through his presidency, Lincoln gave a voice to those who had no voices.

I also had the honor of visiting the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois. I was inspired by the faces who lit up as we all walked into the Club to share a little bit about our carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, and the U.S. Navy. They were truly inspired, which inspired me right back.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 3, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Lucero English, assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) shows a picture of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to a child admitted to Saint John’s Children’s Hospital, May 2. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo, visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 3, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Lucero English, assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) shows a picture of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier to a child admitted to Saint John’s Children’s Hospital, May 2. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo, visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

Many of the children asked questions about our daily lives and why we serve. One child asked a poignant question about how we deal with failure on our ship. My commanding officer, Capt. Ron Ravelo, responded failure is never an option and maintaining a positive mindset will aid in the success of her future endeavors. His advice was so encouraging to me personally and I could see it affected each and every child in the room similarly. For that young child who asked the question, I believe my captain’s advice and her interaction with the Navy will serve as a motivation for her to reach for the stars and never look back.

The citizens of Springfield had one mission during this remarkable event, which was to commemorate the life, legacy and burial of our greatest president. Similarly on board USS Abraham Lincoln, we, too have one mission; to defend our nation’s freedoms. President Lincoln knew the power of freedom and democracy then as we know it today.

It truly makes me proud to be a part of a warship and a Navy that does the same. We are a huge melting pot of Sailors who come to our ship from many diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions, but in the end, we all come together to perform our duty.

As I return to USS Abraham Lincoln and don my ship’s ball cap, I will do so knowing more about our 16th president and his unswerving devotion to keep our nation united: One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Abraham Lincoln forever changed the world with his open policy for all that allows each and every American citizen to have a seat at our nation’s table. Sailors assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln carry forth that devotion in order to provide those citizens the right to sleep peacefully at night under our nation’s blanket of freedom.

Editor’s Note: Lucero English is an enlisted aviation warfare specialist-qualified Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice aboard USS Abraham Lincoln. She had the distinct honor of being selected as the ship’s Bluejacket of the Year. The nomination and competition process for the Bluejacket of the Year is rigorous. Sailors are evaluated on their educational accomplishments, physical fitness standards, participation in civic and community activities along with military bearing and Navy core values. This is a tremendous accomplishment and NHHC applauds Airman Apprentice English.

If someone in your family or someone you know has received this award, be sure to congratulate them on their hard work!

Visit USS Abraham Lincoln’s Facebook page for more photos from this weekend’s activities.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 3, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Lucero English, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), carries a sentimental wreath that was presented at President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb during the re-enactment ceremony of Lincoln’s funeral in commemoration of its 150th anniversary, May 3. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 3, 2015) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Lucero English, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), carries a sentimental wreath that was presented at President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb during the re-enactment ceremony of Lincoln’s funeral in commemoration of its 150th anniversary, May 3. Seven USS Abraham Lincoln crew members, to include Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo visited the “Land of Lincoln” May 1-4 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s funeral. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brenton Poyser/Released)

 
May 3

Navy Ships Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

Sunday, May 3, 2015 9:09 AM
Bow view of the US Navy (USN) Aircraft Carrier USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) underway off the coast of Southern California. The NIMITZ and Carrier Strike Group 11 (CSG-11) are currently conducting a Joint Task Force Training Exercise (JTFEX).

Bow view of the US Navy (USN) Aircraft Carrier USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) underway off the coast of Southern California. The NIMITZ and Carrier Strike Group 11 (CSG-11) are currently conducting a Joint Task Force Training Exercise (JTFEX).

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

It’s May, the month of flowers, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and graduations – both high school and college. It’s also among the more popular months for commissioning ceremonies. This is the first in a series of blogs featuring currently-serving Navy ships celebrating significant milestones in their careers: 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years. They range from a supercarrier to oilers, and all are making history today by performing their missions at home and abroad.

 

 40 YEARS

When USS Nimitz (CVN 68) was commissioned May 3, 1975, at Naval Station Norfolk, there was much fuss and fanfare befitting a nuclear-powered supercarrier bearing the name of a legendary naval officer, Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.

“Only America can make a machine like this,” said President Gerald R. Ford at the ceremony where more than 20,000 attended. “There is nothing like her in the world.”

Other dignitaries included Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of the Navy J. William Middendorf, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway III, and the father of the Nuclear Navy, Adm. Hyman Rickover.

 WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together,” was playing on the radio as the top pop song of the year. (Fun trivia question: What was the Captain’s name? The fabulously named Daryl Dragon).

* The top-grossing movie of 1975 – “Jaws” – kept people out of the water. Richard Dreyfuss maybe had Nimitz in mind when he quipped: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” after mechanical shark Bruce chewed up the back of Robert Shaw’s boat

* Getting an office fax machine was the “next big thing.”

* Gas for cruising Main Street was cheap at .53 cents a gallon for those 70s muscle cars: Chargers, Camaros, Corvettes and Cutlesses.

* The recession saw unemployment rise 8.1 percent, while the salary of a petty officer third class (E4) at $5,220 a year was well below the median income of $11,800 and a median-priced home of $42,600.

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

Nimitz would make her first deployment in July 1976, receiving her first Battle “E” award. A second deployment was as uneventful as the first. Soon after, the carrier began filming as the time-traveling star of the 1980 film “The Final Countdown.” The mind-bending plot has the supercarrier going through a freak storm in 1980 only to find itself – and her crew — in the Pacific on Dec. 6, 1941.

Tensions were increasing as Nimitz sailed on her third deployment in 1979 during the Iran American Embassy hostage crisis. It was from her decks Operation Evening Light was launched to rescue the hostages, but the mission was aborted after a helicopter crashed while refueling.

While deployed again in June 1985, Nimitz was sent to the coast of Lebanon in response to the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 by two Lebanese gunmen. Nimitz’ Airwing 8 bombed several sites in Beirut during the 67 days they flew sorties over the country.

On Sept. 1, 1997, Nimitz began a circumnavigation of the world that concluded March 2, 1998 at Newport News, Va., where the carrier would begin a 3-year nuclear Refueling and Complex Overhaul that ended June 25, 2001.

By March 2003, the carrier was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Nimitz and CVW-11 were awarded the 2003 “Battle E” and “Flatley Award” in 2004.

As Nimitz marked her third decade of service, the ship would be the star of the small screen, the 10-part PBS documentary series “Carrier” while the supercarrier was deployed to the Persian Gulf on May 7, 2005. The carrier received another “Battle E” in 2005, while the PBS series, released in 2008, would earn an Emmy award.

After only four months in San Diego, Nimitz was deployed again in January 2008. In the Western Pacific for less than a month, the ship and her embarked Hornets tangled with Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers as they flew to within a few miles of Nimitz at an altitude of only 2,000 feet. The Hornets intercepted and chased the bombers back to within Russian airspace. The carrier received yet another “Battle E” for 2007 and in 2009 received the Meritorious Unit Award for her back-to-back deployments of 2007-2008.

In 2012, Nimitz changed homeport yet again, this time to Naval Station Everett, Wash.

SO WHERE IS NIMITZ NOW?

After participating in a series of exercises for two years, the now 40-year-old carrier has relocated to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., for a scheduled 16-month maintenance cycle.

An aerial port bow view of the Ohio Class nuclear-propelled strategic missile submarine USS ALABAMA (SSBN-731) taken during sea trials conducted by General Dynamics, the ship's builder.

An aerial port bow view of the Ohio Class nuclear-propelled strategic missile submarine USS ALABAMA (SSBN-731) taken during sea trials conducted by General Dynamics, the ship’s builder.

30 YEARS

When USS Alabama (SSBN-731) was commissioned May 25, 1985, at Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., it was Memorial Day weekend. “Careless Whisper” by Wham! was the top song on the Billboard chart, an appropriately-named tune for the silent fleet.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* The economy was stabilizing from three different recessions during a 10-year period of time. Unemployment had dropped from a high of 10.8 percent in Nov. 1982 to 7.3 percent in 1985. As the cost of oil skyrocketed, so did gasoline, now $1.13 per gallon.

* The wages of an E-4 nearly doubled to $757.40 a month from $435 in 1975. 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 more than doubled over the previous 10 years to $100,800.

* The top-grossing film of the year was the Michael J. Fox time-traveling flick “Back to the Future.”

* As Alabama completed her trials, the year of 1985 would be dominated by terrorist activity, from the taking of TWA Flight 847 by Lebanese gunmen on June 14 to the PLO attack on the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro that killed American Leon Klinghoffer in October. It would also see the start of the clash over disarmament between President Ronald Reagan, entering his second 4-year term, and Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev.

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

The boat also had her time on the silver screen, the 1995 film “Crimson Tide” and the 1997 release “Time Under Fire.”

In 1999, the submarine underwent a refit, and in February 2000 the submarine conducted exercises with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) battle group while recognizing its 15 anniversary. In 2005, Alabama underwent a nuclear reactor refueling overhaul and launch conversion to the Trident II D5 ballistic missiles.

During the past 30 years, Alabama has conducted more than 50 strategic deterrent patrols, launched numerous test ballistic missiles.

 SO WHERE IS ALABAMA NOW?

Alabama remains part of Submarine Group 9 based at Naval Submarine Base Kitsap, Bangor, Wash. The Blue crew recently returned from a strategic deterrent patrol April 23, 2015. The Gold crew returned in July 9, 2014.

The boat has also received numerous recognitions, including the US Strategic Command Omaha Trophy as the top performing ballistic missile asset in the U.S. Strategic Command, two Battle E awards and the Ney Memorial Award for superior food service for small afloat unit, as well as numerous departmental awards in communication, seamanship, engineering and damage control.

An aerial starboard bow view of the guided missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59) underway during builderÕs sea trials.

An aerial starboard bow view of the guided missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59) underway during builderÕs sea trials.

20 YEARS

Two guided-missile destroyers share May 1995 as commissioning dates: May 20 for USS Russell (DDG 59) and May 27 for USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60). Earlier in the month on May 6, USNS Laramie (T-AO 203)  was christened, the Military Sealift Command’s version of a commissioning.

Russell, named for Rear Adm. John Henry Russell and his son, Commandant of the Marine Corps John Henry Russell Jr., is the ninth Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and homeported at Naval Base San Diego.

A high oblique port bow view of the guided missile destroyer USS PAUL HAMILTON (DDG-60) underway off the coast of New England on sea trials.

A high oblique port bow view of the guided missile destroyer USS PAUL HAMILTON (DDG-60) underway off the coast of New England on sea trials.

Paul Hamilton, named for the third Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, is the tenth in a class of ship that continues to serve the fleet. The commissioning ceremony was held at Charleston, S.C. before sailing to her homeport of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

150310-N-KD168-071 GULF OF ADEN (March 10, 2015) - Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO-203) pulls alongside amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) for a replenishment-at-sea. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provides a versatile sea-based, expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Magen F. Weatherwax/Released)

150310-N-KD168-071
GULF OF ADEN (March 10, 2015) – Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO-203) pulls alongside amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) for a replenishment-at-sea. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provides a versatile sea-based, expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Magen F. Weatherwax/Released)

Laramie, the 17th of the 18 Kaiser-class underway replenishment oilers, features a double-bottom to meet new requirements from the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that reduced her liquid cargo capacity by 21,000 barrels.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

* Speaking of barrels of oil, the price of a gallon of gasoline was up by only two cents from 1985, going from $1.13 to $1.15. Unemployment dipped to 5.6 percent.

* The E-4 monthly salary jumped 28 percent to $1,056, slightly ahead of the 22 percent increase in civilian median income of $34,076 over the previous 10 years. Neither would come close to the increase in housing, unfortunately, as median home prices leapt 37 percent to $158,700.

* For entertainment, rap dominated the music scene as Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was the top song of the year, while “Toy Story,” a toy-boy bromance voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, won at the box office.

* While Russell and Hamilton were testing their crew and equipment during sea trials, the Navy was responding with humanitarian relief to Japan following the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 5,000 in Kobe; Rwanda, where more than 2,000 were massacred and thousands more displaced, and fighting escalated in Bosnia and Croatia.

* On the homefront, a truck bomb exploded at Oklahoma City federal building, killing more than 170 people and injuring 500.

SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

Russell deployed in 1996 with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Battle Group to the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch and Desert Strike. In 2000, the destroyer sailed with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Battle Group. During another deployment in 2001, Russell rescued four B-1B crewmembers who crashed in the Indian Ocean near Diego Garcia.

While operating in the South China Sea in 2006, Russell provided aid to a distressed fishing vessel. Two years later, while in the Gulf of Aden, Russell rescued about 70 people after their boat was disabled. In 2013, Russell and sister ship USS Halsey (DDG 97) completed a hull swap with Russell permanently being stationed in San Diego while Halsey was moved to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with the former Russell crew. The destroyer has participated in numerous other exercises and deployments over the past 20 years and received a 2006 Battle E award.

Paul Hamilton supported operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as Maritime Interdiction Operations, during a deployment in 2002. In 2003, the destroyer launched its first Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles in the North Arabian Gulf in support of OIF. Later that same year, Paul Hamilton and two ships from the Russian navy conducted joint maritime operations – for the first time in nearly a decade — in the Hawaiian operational area. In 2008, Paul Hamilton successfully intercepted a ballistic missile target over an open ocean as part of Pacific Blitz. The destroyer also participated in myriad training exercises, operations and deployments.

Oil replenishment ships are critical to the Navy’s mission in operating forward. But Laramie’s ability to handle a variety of missions was exemplified during NATO’s 80-ship 2006 Brilliant Mariner exercise. The oiler conducted 20 at-sea refuelings for 13 ships in 11 days in the North Sea and participated in a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operation during the exercise. In 2008, Laramie was the large ship East Coast winner of the 2008 Capt. David M. Cook Food Service Excellence Award.

SO WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

USS Russell recently hosted Amanda Sloat, deputy assistant secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs as a means to better understand the ship’s ballistic missile defense system. It was the first-ever visit to a destroyer by Sloat, who is responsible for issues relating to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. Russell is currently assigned as part of Destroyer Squadron 1 based out of San Diego and in basic training to prepare for a deployment later this year.

USS Paul Hamilton, homeported at Pearl Harbor and assigned to Destroyer Squadron 21, is currently on an independent deployment to the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific Ocean where they will conduct theater security cooperation and maritime presence operations with partner nations.

Laramie continues to provide underway replenishment of fuel, fleet cargo and stores to ships at sea operating in the Gulf of Aden supporting the 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility.

090129-N-3392P-009 PERSIAN GULF (Jan. 29, 2009) The Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) conducts a vertical replenishment with the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Iwo Jima and Carter Hall are deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker/Released)

090129-N-3392P-009
PERSIAN GULF (Jan. 29, 2009) The Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) conducts a vertical replenishment with the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Iwo Jima and Carter Hall are deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker/Released)

10 YEARS

Military Sealift Command’s first-in-its-class USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1)  was christened May 21, 2005 a dry cargo/ammunition ship geared to deliver supplies to ships at sea — ammunition, food, repair parts, stores and small quantities of fuel. Lewis and Clark, named after the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, is one of two dedicated ships that provide the supplies necessary to enable the arrival and assembly of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON?

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

* That was good news for the E4, who saw his monthly salary jump to $1,612.80, or $19,353.60 annually, falling well short of the $46,236 median income, which had ticked up $12,000 from the previous 10 years. The median price of a home soared by 87 percent to $297,000 compared to $158,700 in 1995.

* Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” was the top tune for 2005, which could be the theme song for MSC’s cargo/ammunition ships and its Marine Corps mission. A nerdy and bespectacled English kid with a penchant for wizardry captivated the box office with “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

* At home, the Navy responded in a big way with humanitarian aid after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, killing more than 1,600 people. The price of oil, affected also by the hurricane and unrest in the Middle East, begin to skyrocket.

* Abroad, Pakistan, Kashmir and Sumatra were all hit by earthquakes ranging from 6.4 to 8.7 on the Richter scale. Hurricane Stan hits Mexico and Central America, with more than 1,620 people killed. Millions mourn the death of beloved Pope John Paul II.

 SHIP HIGHLIGHTS

After joining the Navy’s service in June 2006, Lewis and Clark supported Operating Enduring Freedom as it was deployed off the coast of Somalia in 2009. The ship took on a new mission as it was used as a prison ship for captured pirates until extradited to Kenya for trials. On May 5, the cargo/ammunition ship successfully evaded approaching pirates that fired on them during an attack. Lewis and Clark fired on pirates, chasing them away, when the oiler responded to a distress signal sent out by a Chinese-flagged merchant ship in 2010.

In 2012, Lewis and Clark joined the Marine Corps’ Maritime Prepositioning Force that is comprised of 14 ships, which enables the rapid deployment of a fully-capable Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The oiler then participated in a bilateral military operation called Exercise Coconut Grove off the coast of the Maldives with the Maldivian Marine Corps.

The cargo/ammunition ship was also featured in a “Modern Marvels” episode on the History Channel.

 SO WHERE IS LEWIS AND CLARK NOW?

After providing support for the Maritime Prepositioning Program at Naval Weapons Station Wharf Alpha, Charleston, S.C., in March 2015, the MSC vessel will undergo a scheduled dry dock/overhaul this summer.

 

 
May 1

Navy’s First Blind Flight

Friday, May 1, 2015 3:25 PM

By Hill Goodspeed, Historian, National Naval Aviation Museum

On May 1, 1934, Lt. Frank Akers climbed into the rear seat of an OJ-2 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Anacostia in Washington D.C. and taxied out onto the runway. For naval aviators of the era, flights in open-cockpit aircraft like the OJ-2 made them one with the elements, from views of the sky and clouds to the slipstream whipping by their heads. However, on this day, Akers sealed himself off from the outside, pulling a hood over the cockpit for a short flight to College Park, Md.

Lieutenant Frank Akers (wearing flight helmet) shows Rear Admiral Ernest J. King (wearing civilian hat), the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the cockpit of the OJ-2 in which he performed the Navy's first demonstration of a blind landing system intended for use on board aircraft carriers. He made the landing "under the hood" at College Park, Maryland.

Lieutenant Frank Akers (wearing flight helmet) shows Rear Admiral Ernest J. King (wearing civilian hat), the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the cockpit of the OJ-2 in which he performed the Navy’s first demonstration of a blind landing system intended for use on board aircraft carriers. He made the landing “under the hood” at College Park, Maryland.

In the darkened confines of the cockpit, Akers peered at instruments and other equipment that included an automatic direction finder, which would allow him to hone in on a radio beacon at College Park. Akers could trigger a switch that would convey this information to an instrument called a “cross-pointer.” As Aker later wrote, “The instrument was so connected that the intersection of the [instrument’s] two needles represented the aircraft and the small circle in the center of the instrument face represented the path. In following the instrument indications, the pilot endeavored to fly this intersection toward the circle.”

With standardized instrument flight training non-existent, Akers had prepared for the Navy’s first blind flight through time-honored trial and error, on one occasion settling a little too fast on a landing approach and passing through the top of a tree growing directly on the approach line to the runway.

With the equipment tested and safety procedures in place, Akers made the first successful demonstration on May 1. “I took off the blind, found the field at College Park by means of the visual direction finder, lined up on the localizer and glide path, and landed on the field.”

 OJ-2, (AN-31783), 14 October 1932. NHHC Photograph Collection, Visual-Aid Cards, Aviation.


OJ-2, (AN-31783), 14 October 1932. NHHC Photograph Collection, Visual-Aid Cards, Aviation.

Only when the airplane came to a complete stop did he open the hood. Additional flights carrying senior officers, among them Rear Adm. Ernest J. King, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, followed.

So did a new challenge, landing blindly on a moving airfield, which Akers successfully accomplished on the flight deck of the carrier Langley (CV 1) steaming in the Pacific off San Diego on July 30 , 1935.

These flights were the foundation of the ability of today’s naval aviators to fly their aircraft day and night in the most extreme weather conditions, carrying out their missions around the world.

Editor’s Note: Established in June 1962, to select, collect, preserve, and display historic artifacts relating to the history and heritage of U.S. naval aviation, the National Naval Aviation Museum on board NAS Pensacola, Florida, is one of the largest aviation museums in the world, displaying some 150 vintage aircraft including the first airplane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, the only surviving aircraft flown during the Battle of Midway, and a VH-3A Sea King that flew as Marine One. Exhibits of personal artifacts and archival resources complement the display of these aircraft, educating active duty personnel, veterans, and the public about the contributions of naval aviation to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard operations from 1911 to the present day.

Learn more about Naval Aviation History by clicking here.

 
Apr 26

The Evolution of the Good Conduct Medal

Sunday, April 26, 2015 8:15 AM
WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) The Good Conduct Badge was established by the Secretary of the Navy on April 26, 1869. The badge was a Maltese cross with a rope-ringed circular medallion at the center. Along the rim of the medallion were the words ‘Fidelity Zeal Obedience’ and at the center, ‘U.S.N.’ Made of nickel and measuring about 31mm wide, the cross hung on a half-inch wide red, white and blue ribbon. On the back, the Sailor’s name was script-engraved. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) The Good Conduct Badge was established by the Secretary of the Navy on April 26, 1869. The badge was a Maltese cross with a rope-ringed circular medallion at the center. Along the rim of the medallion were the words ‘Fidelity Zeal Obedience’ and at the center, ‘U.S.N.’ Made of nickel and measuring about 31mm wide, the cross hung on a half-inch wide red, white and blue ribbon. On the back, the Sailor’s name was script-engraved. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood, Communication and Outreach Division, Naval History and Heritage Command

Second only to the Navy Medal of Honor, the Good Conduct Medal is the oldest award the Navy has continuously presented to deserving Sailors. But it has undergone significant changes since it was first established on this day (April 26) in 1869. Before it became a medal, it was called a badge, and before that, it was an administrative statement that served as proof of capability to work and serve at sea, and discharged a Sailor from service.

Prior to the Civil War, when a Sailor completed his enlistment, his commanding officer would certify his time, his trustworthiness at sea, and his proficiency with gunnery. If he wanted to go to sea again, his discharge acted as his references. Back then, “good conduct” was as much about skill than just behavior. A Sailor would enter a recruiting station with his “Good Conduct” report and reenlist. Enlistments worked differently back then compared to today when recruits may have little to no experience sailing.

The conversation might have gone like this: Recruiter, “Oh, I see you served under Capt. Joshua Barn—you served under Capt. Barney!? And he recommends you! Well, everything seems to be in order. Can you start tomor—I mean, toda—I mean, right now? I see a ship about to put to sea at this very moment in need of an able hand!”

Or something to that effect. The reference was transformed into a badge a few years after the Civil War.

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) Twenty-Seven years to the day after the certificate became a badge, the badge became the Good Conduct Medal April 26, 1896. In addition to this, by order of General Order 327, the time criterion was set at three years for a Sailor to earn it. A straight bar clasp was used to attach the circular medal to its maroon ribbon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) Twenty-Seven years to the day after the certificate became a badge, the badge became the Good Conduct Medal April 26, 1896. In addition to this, by order of General Order 327, the time criterion was set at three years for a Sailor to earn it. A straight bar clasp was used to attach the circular medal to its maroon ribbon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

“[The badge] was established by the Secretary of the Navy [on April 26, 1869] for award to any man holding a Continuous Service Certificate, who had distinguished himself for obedience, sobriety, and cleanliness,” according to John Strandberg and Roger James Bender in The Call of Duty: Military Awards and Decorations of the United States of America.

Given the reputation of Sailors back then, one could be forgiven for believing the bit about sobriety made the badge difficult to obtain, but there are no statistics available today about what percentage of 19th century Sailors were actually presented the badge at discharge.

The badge, which seemed a lot like a medal, was a Maltese cross with a rope-ringed circular medallion at the center. Along the rim of the medallion were the words ‘Fidelity Zeal Obedience’ and at the center, ‘U.S.N.’ Made of nickel and measuring about 31mm wide, the cross hung on a half-inch wide red, white and blue ribbon. On the back, the Sailor’s name was script-engraved.

If and when a Sailor received three such awards after consecutive enlistments, he merited promotion to a Petty Officer.

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) On the back of the 1896 version of the medal was inscribed, among other things, the discharge date and continuous service number. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

WASHINGTON (April 22, 2015) On the back of the 1896 version of the medal was inscribed, among other things, the discharge date and continuous service number. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood/Released)

The badge underwent some redesigns in 1880 and again in 1884. Then 27 years to the day after the certificate became a badge, the badge became the Good Conduct Medal in 1896. In addition to this, by order of General Order 327, the time criterion was set at three years for a Sailor to earn it.

A straight bar clasp was used to attach the circular medal to its maroon ribbon.

“Subsequent enlistments were recognized by the addition of a clasp attached to the suspension ribbon,” relate Strandberg and Bender. “These clasps […] were engraved on the front with the duty station or ship upon which the recipient served and the discharge date and continuous service number on the reverse.”

Over the next several decades, the Navy changed the medal’s appearance numerous times, but the criterion for receiving it seems to have remained the same.

For a brief period during World War II, the Navy stopped awarding the medal to conserve metal and free the clerks from the paperwork they mandated. Instead, notations were made in the person’s service jacket.

Not until the 1950s did the Navy settle on something permanent. The clasps were done away with in favor of 3/16 inch bronze stars denoting multiple enlistments, names on awards were dropped for all but posthumous recipients, and the ribbon was changed to a solid red color.

Nowadays, the rules for earning the medal are a little more complex, but generally if Sailors go three consecutive years with “a clear record (no convictions by court-martial, no non-judicial punishment (NJP), no lost time by reason of sickness-misconduct, no civil convictions for offenses involving moral turpitude)” they are eligible for the Good Conduct Medal.

Sources: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/heritage/service-medals-and-campaign-credits/navy-good-conduct-medal.html

The Call of Duty: Military Awards and Decorations of the United States of America

 
Apr 25

Farragut’s Fleet Takes New Orleans after Dash Upriver

Saturday, April 25, 2015 8:00 AM
USS Hartford during the push upriver on the Mississippi in April 1862.

USS Hartford during the push upriver on the Mississippi in April 1862.

From the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

When you read about Vice Adm. David G. Farragut, it is most likely in terms of his being lashed to the mast of USS Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1865. It was during this Civil War naval battle the legendary leader was credited with saying: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

This blog, however, isn’t about the sound bite that made Farragut famous. This is how Farragut’s leadership and tediously detailed planning and reconnaissance resulted in one of the great Union naval victories of the Civil War 153 years ago as Farragut’s fleet sailed upriver to capture New Orleans April 18-25, 1862.

The nation had been torn apart during the year since the war began April 12, 1861. The nautical highways of commerce and trade in antebellum America quickly converted into free-flowing theaters of warfare. It would be the shallow interior of the divided states where opposing forces tested each other with wood, iron, and water. The fiercest of all naval combat during the war occurred along narrow riverways traversing the eastern half of the continent. The riverine campaigns waged by Union and Confederate navies constantly evolved, often finding that environmental barriers were as troublesome an adversary as the enemy.

The main focus of Union river strategy was taking the mighty Mississippi, a system of rivers that had an unpredictable cycle of flooding and drought, making it difficult for an attacking squadron to launch timely assaults.

Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Library of Congress photo

Admiral David Glasgow Farragut Library of Congress photo

One of those environmental barriers – sandbars – kept Union Navy Capt. David Dixon Porter’s blockading squadron from sailing up the Mississippi to New Orleans, the largest city of the Confederacy and a major international port. Returning to the Washington Navy Yard at the end of 1861, Porter devised a plan to infiltrate the Mississippi River with a fleet of gun and mortar boats armed with 166 guns and 26 howitzers that could bombard the two forts – Jackson and St. Philip – that provided protection 70 miles from New Orleans. The Army, led by Gen. Benjamin Butler, would follow to take the Crescent City. Porter recommended the West Gulf Blockading Squadron to be led by his older foster brother, Capt. David Glasgow Farragut, a naval officer of southern birth who was already 60 and the veteran of two American wars. Porter would command the accompanying mortar boat flotilla.

USS Hartford was launched Nov. 22, 1858 by the Boston Navy Yard and commissioned May 27, 1859. The steam-sloop was the flagship for then-Capt. David G. Farragut during his campaign on the Mississippi River for the Union Navy. NHHC photo

USS Hartford was launched Nov. 22, 1858 by the Boston Navy Yard and commissioned May 27, 1859. The steam-sloop was the flagship for then-Capt. David G. Farragut during his campaign on the Mississippi River for the Union Navy. NHHC photo

Farragut arrived in the Gulf on his flagship, the steamship USS Hartford, in mid-February, 1862. As his skippers arrived over the next few weeks, Farragut issued detailed orders on how to ready their ships for river service, practice damage control and gunnery drill exercises. Concerned for his sailors, Farragut made sure the wounded would have the proper supplies by converting one of his vessels into a hospital ship and stocking it with iron bedsteads and tourniquets.

Map shows the Confederate fortifications at Fort Jackson under Gen. Duncan, Fort St. Philip and the Union fleet along the Mississippi River April 1862. This map, also shows the positions of Union ships under Farragut, who captured the strategic port of New Orleans, thereby providing the Federal army access to the Mississippi River. Library of Congress photo

Map shows the Confederate fortifications at Fort Jackson under Gen. Duncan, Fort St. Philip and the Union fleet along the Mississippi River April 1862. This map, also shows the positions of Union ships under Farragut, who captured the strategic port of New Orleans, thereby providing the Federal army access to the Mississippi River. Library of Congress photo

He also learned what he could of the enemy’s defenses, which besides the two forts included eight hulks moored in the river connected by a heavy chain reinforced by log rafts. Fire rafts were also ready to be deployed against an approaching enemy.

Farragut and Porter studied dispatches from Washington, read letters and papers from captured blockade runners and reports of prisoner interrogations. Farragut even joined upriver reconnaissance missions, deliberately steaming within range of the guns in the rebel forts to test the accuracy of their fire.

On April 16, Farragut and his fleet moved to within three miles of the forts. Two days later, the mortar boat flotilla began bombarding the forts, setting Fort Jackson on fire, thanks to the meticulous planning of Porter and Farragut. Fort Jackson’s guns that could return fire were hampered by the constant barrage of mortars striking their targets. Fort St. Philip suffered less damage as it was nearly out of range of the mortars.

“We have been bombarding the forts for three or four days, but the current is running so strong that we cannot stem it sufficiently to do anything with our ships, so that I am now waiting a change of wind, which brings a slacker tide, and we shall be enabled to run up,” Farragut wrote privately to a friend. “We had a deserter from the fort yesterday, who says the mortars and shells have done great damage.”

A covert action on April 20 was led by Capt. Henry H. Bell to cut the chain that lashed the hulks together blocking passage of the river. His letter reflected Farragut’s anxiety about putting his men into harm’s way.

“Captain Bell went last night to cut the chain across the river,” he wrote. “I never felt such anxiety in my life as I did until his return. One of his vessels got on shore, and I was fearful she would be captured. They kept up a tremendous fire on him; but (Capt. David Dixon) Porter diverted their fire with a heavy cannonade. They let the chain go, but the man sent to explode the petard did not succeed; his wires broke. Bell would have burned the hulks, but the illumination would have given the enemy a chance to destroy his gunboat, which got aground. However, the chain was divided, and it gives us space enough to go through. I was as glad to see Bell on his return as if he had been my boy. I was up all night, and could not sleep until he got back to the ship.”

Print shows a large squadron of battleships and ironclads entering the Mississippi River in April 1862. Library of Congress photo

Print shows a large squadron of battleships and ironclads entering the Mississippi River in April 1862. Library of Congress photo

With a clear channel on the left (eastern) side of the river, nearest to Fort St. Philip, Farragut was ready to send the fleet through to New Orleans. They were running out of ammunition after firing nearly 17,000 shells at the forts, with only one mortar boat casualty. On April 23, Farragut spoke to each skipper to make sure they understood his plan of attack, wisely anticipating the chaos that would follow amid darkness, smoke and gunfire. And perhaps most importantly, he gave each the power to proceed independently if necessary.

Farragut divided the squadron into three divisions, planning to lead the attack until he was convinced to lead the second division with the three heaviest ships.

At five minutes before 2 a.m. April 24, two red lanterns were hoisted on the deck of Farragut’s flagship Hartford, signaling the fleet to get under way. By 3:40 a.m., the sky was lit with bursting shells, blazing fire rafts; just as quickly visibility was obscured by black smoke. Farragut’s plan for an orderly line devolved into a push through the channel, with some ships getting hammered while others slipped through unscathed.

Farragut’s insistence on drilling his crews on damage control came to fruition. As Hartford pounded Fort St. Philip with shells to get the third division through the channel, a tug towing a raft filled with blazing pine cones set its sights on the flagship. Attempts to maneuver past the tug caused Hartford to run aground; the fire-raft found its target, and soon the wooden steamer was ablaze. The crew finally got the blaze under control and Hartford was headed upriver. By daylight, all but two of the third division ships got through, forcing their retreat back into the Gulf.

After minor resistance from the remnants of the Confederate navy, Farragut’s squadron reached New Orleans on the afternoon of April 25. With Confederate troops still in Tennessee after the defeat at Shiloh earlier that month, no one wanted to take the responsibility for surrendering the city to Farragut. A major deferred the decision to Confederate Gen. Mansfield Lovell, whose troops were already retreating north. Even the mayor refused to hand over the keys, claiming Farragut had to take it by force.

Loathe to put his men into unnecessary danger, Farragut sent Marines to raise the American flag over the custom house and remove the Louisiana state flag from city hall on April 29, more than 10 days from when his squadron began bombarding the forts. When Gen. Butler’s forces arrived May 1, they secured the city and freed Farragut’s fleet to continue upriver to Vicksburg. But that’s another blog for another day.

Some of the information for this blog came from “The Civil War at Sea,” a special edition of The Daybook published by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, Va.

 

 
Apr 24

John Paul Jones Comes Home to the U.S. Naval Academy

Friday, April 24, 2015 8:00 AM
Casket containing the body of John Paul Jones is lowered to the after deck of the Tug Standish, during its transfer from USS Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser # 3) in Annapolis Roads, off the U.S. Naval Academy, July 23, 1905.

Casket containing the body of John Paul Jones is lowered to the after deck of the Tug Standish, during its transfer from USS Brooklyn (Armored Cruiser # 3) in Annapolis Roads, off the U.S. Naval Academy, July 23, 1905.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Legendary Continental Navy Capt. John Paul Jones was famous for his retort, “I have not yet begun to fight,” upon being asked to surrender his sinking and burning Bonhomme Richard to HMS Serapis. At the end of the fight, it was Jones who was victorious.

Jones struggled to find relevancy following the end of the American Revolution, with a less-than-stellar stint as an admiral in the Russian Imperial Navy. He begged the United States to give him an appointment, but that young republic had disbanded its navy. When he died in 1792 of lung and liver diseases, he was jobless and nearly penniless, buried and forgotten. Yet more than one hundred years later, the thrice-buried Jones would rise – and rise again – putting sort of an after-life twist on his famous quote: “I have not yet begun to be buried.”

Painting of John Paul Jones by George Bagby Matthews

Painting of John Paul Jones by George Bagby Matthews

Following the naval hero’s death at age 45, it fell to the American minister to France, Gouverneur Morris, to figure out what to do with the Scottish native who had fought so bravely for American independence. Unfortunately, Morris barely tolerated Jones. He was afraid the cost of the funeral would fall on his shoulders so he left instructions with Jones’ landlord that Jones was to be buried as inexpensively as possible.

A local politician, M. Pierre François Simonneau, could not bear to have the former naval hero buried like a pauper; he ensured Jones received a funeral befitting his status. Simonneau believed that one day the body of Jones would be returned to the United States so he arranged to have the body preserved in alcohol and placed in a lead coffin. Jones was buried in a Protestant cemetery at a total cost of 462 francs.

Luckily for Jones, his legend and fame outlived him. John H. Sherburne published the earliest biography (1851) of the naval hero: “The Life and Character of John Paul Jones.” He tried to find Jones’ body for a year and finally gave up the search.

In 1897, Brig. Gen. Horace Porter, a former Civil War officer and the American ambassador to France, hired historians and researchers and spent his own money to find Jones’ cemetery and the grave.

Six years later, Porter’s team located the cemetery, which had been closed for many years and had mostly turned into an overgrown pet cemetery. Porter employed dozens of workmen who sank shafts and dug trenches looking for the relatively-rare lead coffins. The workmen found three lead coffins, the first two being unidentified civilians, and then the third being a well-preserved corpse.

In what would be fitting for a 19th century episode of CSI Paris, Porter hired anthropologists and France’s foremost pathologist to make the formal identification. They discovered the body had been preserved with alcohol and they noted the long hair was brown, with a touch of gray and was covered in a linen cap monogrammed with the letters “P” and “J”.

Additionally, the investigators compared the head to that of a bust of Jones, which had been made using calipers and rulers to obtain the exact measurements of Jones’s facial features. The ear lobes were also compared to those on the bust for even further accuracy. The pathologist concluded that the body in the casket was indeed the one Porter had been seeking.

Photograph showing automobiles arriving as a military band awaits them. Relates to the re-interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.

Photograph showing automobiles arriving as a military band awaits them. Relates to the re-interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.

John Paul Jones’ body was then placed back in the lead coffin, which in turn was put into a mahogany casket for transit back to the Unites States on board USS Brooklyn following a French-American funeral procession. After arriving at Annapolis in July 1905, the casket was transferred to the tug USS Standish and taken ashore to the U.S. Naval Academy where it was placed in a brick vault at the Academy’s Bancroft Hall.

U.S. Naval Academy personnel escorting the body of John Paul Jones to a temporary brick vault at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on April 24, 1906. Library of Congress photo

U.S. Naval Academy personnel escorting the body of John Paul Jones to a temporary brick vault at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on April 24, 1906. Library of Congress photo

President Theodore Roosevelt gave the eulogy for Jones during an April 24, 1906 commemorative ceremony. Roosevelt, ever the politician, used the pulpit as an opportunity to announce the expansion of the Navy. The grand ceremony was attended by thousands, a far cry from Jones’ first internment.

President Theodore Roosevelt took the opportunity to announce the expansion of the U.S. Navy while giving the eulogy for John Paul Jones’ commemorative reburial ceremony April 24, 1906.

President Theodore Roosevelt took the opportunity to announce the expansion of the U.S. Navy while giving the eulogy for John Paul Jones’ commemorative reburial ceremony April 24, 1906.

It wouldn’t, however, be his last.

Gen. Porter, who had been awarded $35,000 to reimburse him for his costs in finding the naval hero’s body, requested it be applied to the cost of a marble crypt for Jones’ final re-burial in January 1913.

The crypt of John Paul Jones as it appears today at the U.S. Naval Academy

The crypt of John Paul Jones as it appears today at the U.S. Naval Academy

 
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