Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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.

 
Jun 6

French Frigate L’Hermione Ferries Lafayette to America

Saturday, June 6, 2015 8:12 AM
L’Hermione during the Battle of Louisbourg, courtesy of The Hermione Project 2015

L’Hermione during the Battle of Louisbourg, courtesy of The Hermione Project 2015

 

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

It took 11 months to build the Concorde-class frigate L’Hermione at Rochefort, France. Shipwright Henri Chevillard designed the light frigate to be fast and maneuverable while carrying 12-pound guns. Under the command of Lt. Louis-René Levassor de Latouche Tréville, she completed sea trials in 1779 in the Gulf of Gascony. Neither would know at the time the ship would be best known for her service to America and the Frenchmen she sailed to America, rather than France.

On Friday, March 10, 1780, Latouche’s journal made note of the arrival of L’Hermione’s “precious” passenger who was returning to America with the news he had secured 5,500 French troops and a squadron of frigates to bolster American forces fighting for their independence against the British.

Marquis de Lafayette from the National Archives

Marquis de Lafayette from the National Archives

 “At 10 in the morning, the Marquis de La Fayette, colonel of the king’s Dragoons regiment and major general in the service of the United States of America, accompanied by two officers, his secretary and six servants, boarded the ship that I was ordered by the Court to sail to North America. At 11 in the evening, I set sail from the Barques harbor in the direction of the Ile d’Aix, and was accompanied by the king’s frigate, the Cerès, under the command of the Baron de Bombelles, the captain of the king’s warships.”

 The frigate sailed into Boston harbor around 4:30 a.m. on April 28, 1780. When Lafayette disembarked, Latouche honored the French nobleman with 13 canon blasts and three shouts of “Long Live the King.”

The captain commented on the people he saw and noted how the new government was forming in the colonies: “The people are, in general, healthy and robust. The women have a certain vitality, but it does not last long. A twenty-five-year-old woman is considered old. Boston is the seat of government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. At this moment, work is being done on the creation of a new constitution, according to which the state government will be in the hands of a governor, who will change every year. He will be assisted by a council of his choosing. Messieurs Beaudwin, Samuel Adams and Hancock are in the running. It is generally believed that the first candidate will be chosen. He will be the general and admiral of the State. The city of Boston sends four representatives from the Province of Massachusetts Bay to the Congress.”

A few days later, after Lafayette left for Morristown, the L’Herimone hosted several Boston officials on May 4: “I received the principal members of the Council of this State to dinner as well as General Heath, Messieurs Samuel Adams, Hancock, Doctor Cooper, Beaudwin, and other guests who represent the city’s most distinguished individuals.”

He honored the guests with salvos of artillery fire “in accordance with the orders I received from the (French) Court”: 21 blasts for the King of France, the 13 United States, Queen of France, Congress, and King of Spain; 17 for Gen. Washington; 13 each to the American Army, Council of Boston, permanent alliance between France and America, the success of the campaign, in memory of those who were killed in support of the American cause; to the success of the American Navy, and to the Marquis de Lafayette.

The frigate then sailed north to Penobscot Bay to do surveillance on the British garrison at Fort George, Maine. Following the week-long trip, the frigate installed additional artillery in Rhode Island, and then returned to cruising the New York shipping lanes.

On June 7, 1780, a 90-minute battle occurred between the 32-gun L’Hermione and the 32-gun British frigate HMS Iris about 15 miles off Long Island. During the fight, Latouche suffered a shot through his arm, although he continued to command his ship. When Iris reduced the topsail of her foremast to sail away, L’Hermione was unable to chase due to damaged rigging.

The skirmish continued, however, in the press, after Iris’ commanding officer, Capt. James Hawker, claimed L’Hermione left the battle, while Latouche published his response to Hawker claiming L’Hermione’s rigging kept her from the chase and Hawker could have re-engaged rather than retreating. According to Latouche, his ship tallied 10 dead and 37 wounded during the engagement, compared to seven killed and nine wounded on Iris.

The following year, to combat British Gen. Benedict Arnold’s troops in Virginia, the French squadron, including L’Hermione, sailed to Hampton Roads carrying 1,200 troops. A British commander got wind of squadron and sailed in pursuit, arriving before the French squadron about 40 miles east, northeast of Cape of Henry on March 16, 1781. Each side had eight ships of line. Despite the British having superior firepower, three of her ships suffered severe damage to the rigs and sails. Yet the French couldn’t claim victory since the British were able to sail into the Chesapeake Bay to provide supplies and reinforcements to Arnold’s troops. L’Hermione and the rest of the French squad returned to Newport.

On April 30, L’Hermione “navigated toward the city of Philadelphia,” where Latouche anchored “in front of the open-air market at Drawbridge.” Following the Philadelphia ceremonies, L’Hermione was back at duty protecting shipping lanes, paired with another French ship, Astrée. Patrolling off Nova Scotia, the French frigates attacked a British convoy of nine coal transports and four supply ships escorted by the frigate Charlestown, two sloops, an armed transport and another smaller armed ship, Jack. When the naval Battle of Louisbourg ended at nightfall on July 21, 1781, Charlestown was severely damaged, but rejoined the convoy that still managed to collect its load of coal and deliver it to Halifax. The French ships took Jack as a prize and later captured another British ship and three merchantmen.

L’Hermione crossed paths with Lafayette once again during the Siege of Yorktown. The French fleet, under the command of Adm. Comte de Grasse, held off the British fleet during the Battle of the Virginia Capes Sept. 5, 1781, and now controlled the Chesapeake Bay. Lafayette’s army division was soon joined with troops from Gen. George Washington and French Gen. Comte de Rochambeau in Williamsburg, while the British army under the command of Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis camped out at Yorktown.

L’Hermione and her squadron sailed from Rhode Island to the Chesapeake Bay, arriving Sept. 22, 1781. The frigate patrolled entrances to the James and York River.

On Sept. 28, 1781, while Gen. Washington was leading his division of more than 18,000 combined French and American troops out of Williamsburg to surround Yorktown, Latouche wrote of seeing French ships on the horizon: “I displayed my number. Soon thereafter, they posted theirs. I knew by this method that these frigates were the Concorde and the Surveillante. At 6 o’clock, I joined them. I put my dinghy into the sea and I came on board the Concorde. I learned … Lord Cornwallis had taken refuge in Yorktown that we were about to attack; and the Navy was in the bay of the York River. I entered the bay with these frigates. At 9 o’clock, they left the coast in order to perform surveillance. I anchored the ship and waited for daylight. I logged in at the point NW of Cape Henry to SSE at a distance of 2/3rds of a league.”

 With no hope of supplies getting through the French fleet blockade, and surrounded by the American and French armies, Cornwallis surrendered nearly 8,000 soldiers on Oct. 19, 1781.

L’Hermione returned to France in 1782. She sailed in India against the British in 1783, and returned back to France the following year. On Sept. 20, 1793, the frigate ran aground off the rocky coast of Croisic in western France and was wrecked by heavy seas. The pilot was court-martialed for her loss.

 
Jun 5

Lafayette’s Dedication to Pursuit of Liberty Pays Off for U.S.

Friday, June 5, 2015 7:27 AM

 

Marquis de Lafayette from the National Archives

Marquis de Lafayette from 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 for more than two centuries, 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

Intrigue and danger. Adventure and adversity. Disguises and deception. An escape with an assist from an innkeeper’s daughter. Fueled by passion and courage, bravery and commitment, love and honor, all wrapped up in a teenage French nobleman for whom cities, towns and streets would be named in America.

Such is the life of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, or as he was most simply known, the Marquis de Lafayette.

His lineage came from warriors fighting for French causes, including serving in Joan of Arc’s army. Born Sept. 16, 1757, Lafayette was not yet two when his father died during the Battle of Minden in 1759. The death of his mother and two other male relatives made him an orphan with great wealth by age 13. He was commissioned an officer in the Musketeers at 14; two years later, he married Marie Andrienne Francoise de Noailles, a 14-year-old relative of King Louis XVI.

But the tall, blond and handsome Lafayette barely tolerated the social aspects of nobility. His serious and reflective disposition created an “unfavorable impression” at the French Court. He was among several younger noblemen who regularly voiced their dissatisfaction with the old institutions of former regimes.

‘A Noble and Just Cause’

In August 1775, the Duke of Gloucester, the brother of British King George III, was traveling through France. The governor of Metz hosted a dinner to honor the Duke, and among the invitees was a young nobleman and officer, Lafayette.

During this dinner Lafayette first heard about the plight of the American colonists in their fight for independence. The Duke disagreed with how his elder brother was handling the uprising and the repressive measures imposed on the colonists following the Battle of Bunker Hill at Charlestown, Mass. June 17, 1775.

Lafayette, just 17, was transfixed by the “just and noble cause” and decided to offer his services to the American Revolution. Lafayette knew his wealthy family would have “nothing but opposition,” yet he remained undeterred, buying a vessel for the trip. He met with American Commissioner Silas Deane, admitting he had more zeal than experience to offer. Deane signed off on a contract with Lafayette in December 1776, offering him a position as a major general.

Lafayette wrote his father-in-law, Duc d’Ayen, he was sailing to America. “I am filled with joy at having found so good an opportunity to increase my experience and to do something in the world. “

Duc d’Ayen disagreed with Lafayette’s “folly” and dispatched a “lettre-de-cachet” forbidding Lafayette to leave France. To escape notice, Lafayette signed port documents at Bordeaux on March 22, 1777, as Gilbert du Motier, using his lesser-known family name.

On March 26, 1777, Lafayette, on La Victoire, sailed for the Spanish coast. He was met by a French courier at Los Pasajes with a directive to return to Bordeaux. Upon his arrival there, Lafayette sent a letter requesting the French Court remove the order. After several days with no reply, Lafayette wrote again, stating their silence was tantamount to consent.

As he left Bordeaux accompanied by an officer, Lafayette told the commandant he was returning to Marseilles. But once outside the gate, the officer, Lafayette’s friend Vicomte de Mauroy, sat in the chaise while the Marquis changed into the clothes of a post-boy and rode along on horseback, headed not for Marseilles, but Los Pasajes.

Their scam was discovered when the innkeeper’s daughter recognized the striking post-boy as the nobleman she saw traveling toward Bordeaux a few days before. When officials following Lafayette’s chaise stopped by, she furthered Lafayette’s ruse by sending the officials in the wrong direction. Lafayette and de Mauroy arrived in Los Pasajes, and they set sail April 20, 1777.

Lafayette, who suffered from sea sickness, spent the long days writing letters to his wife filled with love, longing and the regret he left without seeing her and would not be there for the birth of their second child.

He explained how the quest for freedom drove him to leave his family and country.

“As the defender of that liberty, which I adore, free myself beyond all others, coming as a friend to offer my service to this most interesting republic, I bring with me nothing but my own free heart and my own good will, no ambition to fulfill and no selfish interest to serve; if I am striving for my own glory, I am at the same time laboring for its welfare. …The happiness of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind; she is destined to become the safe and venerable asylum of virtue, of honesty, of tolerance, of equality, and of peaceful liberty.”

Lafayette Arrives In America

La Victoire sailed into South Inlet, near Georgetown, S.C. on June 13, 1777, after a 54-day cruise and avoiding patrolling British frigates. Needing a pilot to bring them into the bay, Lafayette and a small group of men were taken to the summer home of Maj. Benjamin Huger, who arranged for them to travel to Charleston by horseback while a pilot brought the ship into harbor, an event noted in local newspapers, according to Volume IX of the “Naval Documents of the American Revolution.”

During the 900-mile trek to Pennsylvania, they suffered heat and dysentery, yet through it all, Lafayette kept his optimism and a dry wit, as evidenced by a July 17, 1777 letter he sent his wife from Petersburg, Va.: “You have probably heard of the beginning of my journey and how brilliantly I started out in a carriage. I have to inform you that we are now on horseback, after having broken the wagons in my usual praiseworthy fashion, and I expect to write you before long that we have reached our destination on foot.”

He reached Philadelphia July 27, 1777. His reception was more a “dismissal than a welcome,” Lafayette noted later in life. The Continental Army had attracted a large number of foreigners who wished high rank in the Army. Many were without merit, forcing even Gen. George Washington to despair of hiring foreign officers.

Lafayette traveled too far to be dismissed so easily. He insisted on appearing before Congress, where he made his offer to serve without pay at his own expense.

His youthful enthusiasm and nobility persuaded Congress to a second meeting, and they accepted Lafayette’s commission as a major general. He asked to serve “near the person of General Washington till such time as he may think proper to entrust me with a division of the Army.”

Washington was quite taken by Lafayette’s passion. The two would develop a close bond that would last the rest of Washington’s life.

Lafayette’s first test in battle came during the Battle of Brandywine Sept. 11, 1777, in Delaware County, Penn. The Continental Army had been surprised after the 18,000-strong British Army split into two divisions. Lafayette was shot in the leg while organizing a retreat.

After wintering in Valley Forge with Washington and suffering the same hardships, Lafayette proved his military mettle escaping a British force of 5,000 attempting to capture his 2,100 troops at Barren’s Hill (now renamed Lafayette Hill), Penn., in May 1778, and then a month later was part of Washington’s rally at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse in New Jersey that kept the British from advancing.

L’Hermione during the Battle of Louisbourg, courtesy of The Hermione Project 2015

L’Hermione during the Battle of Louisbourg, courtesy of The Hermione Project 2015

Lafayette Gains French Support and Ships

Lafayette returned to France in February 1779 where he was placed on house arrest for disobeying orders two years earlier. A week later, he was back in the good graces of the French Court. Appearing before King Louis XVI, Lafayette wore his American major general uniform upon which was stitched his motto: “Cur Non?”, which meant “Why Not?” Adorning the uniform was a gold-encrusted ceremonial sword commissioned and gifted to Lafayette by the Continental Congress. Lafayette persuaded the king to provide 5,500 troops and a fleet of ships to the American cause.

Unlike Lafayette’s first voyage to America, under stealth and subterfuge, he left France on the frigate L’Hermione with the full backing of the French regime. Lafayette arrived in Boston April 28, 1780 to great fanfare.

Back on the battlefield, Lafayette commanded troops in the Siege of Yorktown against British Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis’ army in Virginia. On Sept. 5, 1781, the French and British fleets battled off the Virginia Capes. After the British ships sailed to New York for repairs, the French fleet tightened the blockade of Chesapeake Bay. When army divisions led by Gen. Washington and France’s Comte de Rochambeau surrounded Cornwallis’ troops in late September, and with no respite from the blockade, Cornwallis surrendered Oct. 19, 1781. It was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.

Following Cornwallis’ surrender, Lafayette left the United States to return to France in December 1781, rejoining the Royal Army. He organized trade agreements with Thomas Jefferson, the American ambassador to France.

The Hero of Two Worlds

As his country edged closer to its own revolution, Lafayette wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, influenced heavily by Thomas Jefferson. He also advocated for a governing body that represented the First Estate (clerics), Second Estate (nobility) and Third Estate (commoners).

When violence broke out in 1789, Lafayette was the commander of the Paris National Guard. His centrist position put him in danger on both sides: The revolutionists felt he was loyal to the royals he protected, while the royals believed he was too sympathetic to the opposition. As the revolution became increasingly radicalized, Lafayette fled the country in 1792, but was captured and imprisoned by Austrian forces.

In 1794, a young medical student named Francis Kinloch Huger, along with others, concocted a scheme to have Lafayette escape from an escorted carriage. Huger was the son of Maj. Benjamin Huger who had assisted Lafayette when he first sailed to America in 1777. Lafayette did escape, but got lost and was recaptured.

Lafayette’s wife, Andrienne, and her two daughters, Anastasie and Virginie, had been held under house arrest and then imprisoned in France. Her sister, mother and grandmother were not as lucky. They were guillotined in July 1794. But in October 1795, Lafayette’s wife and daughters were released from prison to join him for the remaining two years of his captivity.

Upon hearing of Lafayette’s fate, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson put in a request to Congress to pay the French nobleman for his services as major-general from 1777-1781, which was signed by President Washington. That money allowed for more privileges while Lafayette was held in captivity.

Lafayette’s son, Georges Washington Louis Gilbert du Motier, went into hiding with his tutor following the September Massacre in 1792, and then escaped to America in April 1795. He stayed at Mount Vernon with George Washington’s family while studying at Harvard.

Following Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power as emperor of France, Lafayette returned to his homeland in 1799, where he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. Napoleon, however, kept Lafayette from attending the funeral of his close friend, Washington, when he died in December 1799.

Following Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in July 1815, Lafayette argued for Napoleon’s abdication. Throughout the reigns of Charles X and then Louis-Philippe, Lafayette often broke support with the ruling party to press for human rights, liberal nationalism and the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment.

In 1824, Lafayette and his son, Georges Washington, returned to the United States for a grand tour as the young nation ramped up for its 50th anniversary. Along the way, he collected soil from a memorial erected at the location of the first American Revolutionary War battle at Charlestown, Mass. This had been one of the battle stories Lafayette heard during that serendipitous supper in August 1775 with the Duke of Gloucester that sparked his passion to join forces with the colonists.

For their return to France, Lafayette and his son sailed on USS Brandywine, a 3-masted, 44-gun frigate named in honor of the battle where Lafayette shed his own blood for American independence.

The “Hero of Two Worlds” died May 20, 1834. Covering his grave was the soil from the Bunker Hill Memorial.

 
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

 

 
« Older Entries Newer Entries »