Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Nov 27

1942 Thanksgiving menu honors those who fought in Operation Torch

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 1:22 PM
Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of USS New Jersey (BB 62), Nov. 30. 1944. Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., eats Thanksgiving dinner with the crew of USS New Jersey (BB 62), Nov. 30. 1944.
Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

By Naval History and Heritage Command staff

When it comes to the three “Cs” on Thanksgiving menus over the years, one might think corn, cranberries and collard greens. But in 1907, it was cigarettes, cigars and cider (no mention as to whether that was hard or regular) for the crew of USS Kentucky.

Navy commanding officers knew then what they know today, NOTHING sinks morale faster than bad food or raises it like good food. So during the holidays, when most Americans enjoy spending time with their families and when many Sailors of America’s globally deployed Navy are often serving on the opposite side of the planet from their loved ones, it’s especially important to serve great chow and to make meal time as enjoyable as possible.

The actual food items have remained fairly constant throughout the years, no matter whether on ship or shore. While the menus still featured turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and a smattering a vegetables, mess officers took creative liberty in how they fancied up the names.

For example, USS Augusta, which was the flagship of the Commander Amphibious Force on Nov. 26, 1942, appeared to have special names for almost every food item. They had just come through the Naval Battle of Casablanca during Operation Torch, and it was also the opening night of a little Humphrey Bogart movie called Casablanca.

The Casablanca (battle, not the movie) engagement pitted American allies against the French Vichy government, which had surrendered almost immediately to the Germans. The Vichy regime controlled Morocco (just as the movie depicts….like Austria in Sound of Music without the nuns and music). The three-day naval battle saw 174 Americans casualties, while the Vichy French lost 462 and a Nazi submarine.

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure the relief and blessings felt by the survivors of the battle when Thanksgiving rolled around a couple weeks later.

So let’s round up the usual suspects on the naming of this Thanksgiving menu: There’s little to wonder about Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca. But what better way to honor Rear Adm. Henry Hewitt, Commander Amphibious Force onboard his flagship than to name the main dish after him: Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt.

It was probably with a tweak at the Vichy French they named that mystery meat entrée the delightful Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, gussied-up with the rank of a French navy ship captain. The buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala makes reference to a city on the west coast of Morocco, home to a large oil refinery and the buttered June Peas de Safi was another city in French Morocco that was part of Operation Torch.

Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton gives a tip of the cover to the Army commander Gen. George Patton, while hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey is likely a reference to the Marechal Layautey, the resident-general of Morocco.

The Vichy French Navy commander also got a piece of the menu pie – literally. Apple pie a la Michelier was named for Vice Adm. Francois-Felix dit Frix Michelier.

With yet another tongue-in-cheek poke at the French, the menu offered Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, a reference to the unfinished French battleship that was harbored in Morocco during Operation Torch but still used her five operational guns. Although she fired off one shot that nearly hit Augusta, USS Ranger bombers sank her right after.

One wonders if they played “As Time Goes By” as they sipped their Café (coffee) Noir and smoked their cigars and cigarettes.

Of course USS Augusta’s menu isn’t the only one with interesting tidbits. To view a variety of Navy menus from throughout the years, visit the Naval History and Heritage Command’s web site a real holiday treat: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/special/menus/menus.htm.

Menu: Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca, Fruit Cocktail, Saltines, Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt, Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, Giblet Gravy, Cherry Dressing, Buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala, Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton, Buttered June Peas de Safi, Scalloped Tomatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey, Butter, Jam, Apple Pie a la Michelier, Strawberry Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, Sweet Pickles, Ripe Olives, Cigars, Cigarettes, Cafe Noir. Menu Message (not shown): It is fitting that this Thanksgiving Day should come at the conclusion of a series of hard fought naval engagements and a victorious return to port. To every officer and man on the Augusta this holiday means more than "good chow" and a day off. In its five engagements, one against a shore battery and four against enemy naval forces, the ship rendered a good account of itself and contributed in a large degree to the final defeat of the opposing forces and the establishing of a second front in North Africa. In the course of each engagement the ship was subjected to accurate and heavy fire by the opposing forces. And yet, although bracketed many times by the projectiles of the enemy, the ship miraculously ascaped without damage in herself or injury to the crew. It should be apparent to all that consistent escape from harm was due not alone to skill, or to good luck, but unquestionably to the intervention of divine providence. Therefore it is with especial gratitude this Thanksgiving Day that the officers and crew of the Augusta join in this traditional celebration.

Menu: Cream of Tomato Soup a la Casablanca, Fruit Cocktail, Saltines, Chicken and Turkey en Casserole a la Hewitt, Baked Spiced Spam a la Capitaine de Vaisseau, Giblet Gravy, Cherry Dressing, Buttered Asparagus Tips a la Fedala, Chantilly Potatoes a la Patton, Buttered June Peas de Safi, Scalloped Tomatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Hot Parkerhouse Rolls du Lyautey, Butter, Jam, Apple Pie a la Michelier, Strawberry Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts du Jean Bart, Sweet Pickles, Ripe Olives, Cigars, Cigarettes, Cafe Noir.
Menu Message (not shown): It is fitting that this Thanksgiving Day should come at the conclusion of a series of hard fought naval engagements and a victorious return to port. To every officer and man on the Augusta this holiday means more than “good chow” and a day off.
In its five engagements, one against a shore battery and four against enemy naval forces, the ship rendered a good account of itself and contributed in a large degree to the final defeat of the opposing forces and the establishing of a second front in North Africa.
In the course of each engagement the ship was subjected to accurate and heavy fire by the opposing forces. And yet, although bracketed many times by the projectiles of the enemy, the ship miraculously ascaped without damage in herself or injury to the crew. It should be apparent to all that consistent escape from harm was due not alone to skill, or to good luck, but unquestionably to the intervention of divine providence.
Therefore it is with especial gratitude this Thanksgiving Day that the officers and crew of the Augusta join in this traditional celebration.

 
Nov 26

Battle of Midway lecture offers fascinating detail into US Navy victory

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 3:36 PM

 

 

SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers from USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the early afternoon of 6 June 1942. Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6), leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged. Photo was enlarged from a 16mm color motion picture film. Note bombs hung beneath these planes. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

SBD “Dauntless” dive bombers from USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the early afternoon of 6 June 1942.
Mikuma had been hit earlier by strikes from Hornet and USS Enterprise (CV-6), leaving her dead in the water and fatally damaged.
Photo was enlarged from a 16mm color motion picture film.
Note bombs hung beneath these planes.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

 

By the Naval History and Heritage Command staff

It was all about timing. From the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April, the Battle of Coral Sea in May to the Battle of Midway in June.

Thomas C. Hone, editor of “The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy’s Greatest Victory,” gives an enthusiastic and energetic talk about the battle that crippled the Japanese navy just six months after their surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

Hone, who spoke Nov. 7 at the National Museum of the United States Navy’s lunchtime lecture, provides tidbits and details that help weave together how each action created a reaction that set the stage for the battle that takes out four Japanese carriers while the U.S. Navy lost but one.

The consistent thread throughout, however, was the superior intelligence that gave the United States the information necessary to catch the Imperial Navy off guard.

Grab a cup of Joe and settle in. Hone’s engaging way of speaking and his smattering of little-known trivia is worth the less-than-an-hour lecture.

Since the video was taped to feature Dr. Hone, please check out the video at http://ow.ly/r6j0l and the slides that are attached to this blog here. Thomas C. Hone Battle of Midway lecture

.

 
Nov 25

Battle of Cape St. George proved US’s strength on the sea

Monday, November 25, 2013 3:02 PM
Capt. Arleigh A. Burke, commander of Destroyer Squadron 23, reading on the starboard bridge wing of his flagship, USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570), during operations in the Solomons in 1943-44. Note the squadron’s “Little Beaver” insignia on the side of the bridge. Also note impressive scoreboard painted on the side of the directly over the bridge. US Navy photo

Capt. Arleigh A. Burke, commander of Destroyer Squadron 23, reading on the starboard bridge wing of his flagship, USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570), during operations in the Solomons in 1943-44. Note the squadron’s “Little Beaver” insignia on the side of the bridge. Also note impressive scoreboard painted on the side of the directly over the bridge. US Navy photo

By Naval History and Heritage Command staff

It was “an ideal night for a nice, quiet torpedo attack,” according to then-Capt. Arleigh A. Burke. “There may have been blacker nights than Thanksgiving Eve, 1943, in the South Pacific, but none could have been more completely blacked out with regard to information of the enemy.”

That’s how Burke described the famed Battle of Cape St. George. Today is the 70th anniversary of that final surface battle that ended the World War II Solomon Islands Campaign, in which 7th Fleet Destroyer Squadron 23 sank three out of a 5-ship “Tokyo Express” that was evacuating Japanese troops and aviation crew from Buka Island to Rabaul, and heavily damaged a fourth.

The significance of the Battle of Cape St. George on Nov. 25, 1943, was the complete reversal of fortune between the Japanese and American navies since the start of World War II. Despite the devastating loss of ships during the attack at Pearl Harbor, and other losses during the Battle of Midway, American shipbuilding efforts helped replenish the fleet, while Japan’s fleet dropped to critically low numbers, with no time to repair damaged ships or maintain those that needed infrastructure refits. The United States had also gained on Japan with advancement of technology. And with more successful rescues of Sailors and airmen downed from damaged ships and aircraft, the U.S. Navy also outpaced Japan in retention of service members who were veterans of combat.

The Battle of Cape St. George was called “an almost perfect surface action” by the Naval War College, and Burke’s good friend and commander of the South Pacific Forces Adm. William “Bull” Halsey called it the “Trafalgar of the Pacific.”

It was the Battle of Cape St. George where Capt. Burke would earn the nickname that would stick with him for the rest of his career. Burke, who was known for his hard-charging style, had his flagship reduced to 30 knots from the typical 34 knots or more after a boiler burst. When intelligence came in about a clandestine movement of Japanese troops, Adm. Halsey ordered Burke to rendezvous at “Point Uncle” near Bougainville by 10 p.m. Confirming the orders, Burke indicated his squadron would ramp up his reduced speed capacity to 31 knots.

He then received the crafted response approved by Halsey: “THIRTY-ONE KNOT BURKE GET ATHWART THE BUKA-RABUL EVACUATION LINE ABOUT 35 MILES WEST OF BUKA….”

And thus moniker “31-knot” Burke was born.

After sinking three of the destroyers, the squadron attempted to chase down the two remaining Japanese ships back to Rabaul. As the battle continued through the darkness, heavily damaging a fourth enemy destroyer, DESRON 23 discovered at 4:05 a.m. they were deep into Japanese territory, well within range of enemy aircraft.

With sunrise dawning, Burke made the decision to end his second “stern chase” of the night in the event the Japanese launched an air attack on the squadron. Yet the Japanese chose not to fight back, leaving scores of aircraft on the ground rather than pursuing the five destroyers.

As the American ships sailed back to Purvis Bay, without a single casualty, there was but one thought on everyone’s mind: Thanksgiving. Burke’s crew passed along the message back to Purvis Bay: “Please arrange Thanksgiving services for all hands on arrival.”

Later, Burke himself admitted much of that naval victory came from serendipity. Radar on the American warships allowed them to enact an attack based on electronics rather than optics; the Japanese transport consisted of similarly sized destroyers rather than cruisers, and Burke’s counter-attack maneuver after firing torpedoes at the first two destroyers that allowed radar to pick up the second Japanese column.

Fortune also smiled on the Americans that night: Salvos fired by the Japanese were “not consistent in their missing,” Burke wryly noted that night; a torpedo that struck Converse either wasn’t armed or a dud; and a wave of Japanese torpedoes exploded in the wakes left by Burke’s destroyers after his gut instinct to change position to the right.

Throughout World War II, no other U.S. Naval Unit eclipsed the record of the Little Beavers at the Battle of Cape St. George. Just as the crews serving under Burke responded in that decisive battle 70 years ago, Sailors continue to step up today, whether it is a fight against piracy or providing humanitarian support. They can, in fact take inspiration from Burke’s words for his squadron following the Battle of Cape St. George.

“The Navy stresses devotion to duty, aggressiveness, boldness, determination, courage,” Burke wrote to the crews of the ships under his command. “The full realization of exactly what these traits of character mean was brought out by the officers and crews during this engagement. The universal desire of all hands to do damage to the enemy regardless of consequences, is the greatest exhilaration that any Commander can possibly have. The complete loyalty, understanding and wholehearted desire to mutually support the operation, coupled with the courage and valiant determination to do it, were the outstanding characteristics of these ships.”

 

Rear Adm. Arleigh A. Burke and Major Gen. Henry I. Rhodes, members of the U.N. Armistice Delegation, eat Thanksgiving dinner at U.N. Base Camp in Musan, Korea, Nov. 26, 1951. Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Adm. Arleigh A. Burke and Major Gen. Henry I. Rhodes, members of the U.N. Armistice Delegation, eat Thanksgiving dinner at U.N. Base Camp in Musan, Korea, Nov. 26, 1951.
Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

 

 

The full text of then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Burke’s essay, published in Parade Magazine Nov. 18, 1956, is below:

 

 

An ideal night for a nice quiet torpedo attack.

 – Capt. Arleigh A. Burke

 

There may have been blacker nights than Thanksgiving Eve, 1943, in the South Pacific, but none could have been more completely blacked out with regard to information of the enemy.

The Solomon Islands campaign, one of the decisive battles of World War II in the Pacific, was at its height, and the issue had not yet been resolved. Our destroyers were steaming north in search of the Japanese, who were reported to be evacuating their forces from the islands of Buka and Rabaul.

Suddenly our ships made contact with an unidentified force—strength unknown—and closed to fight it out.

The battle continued throughout the night. One after another, the breaks fell to us. The pieces of the puzzle gradually slipped into their proper places as, one by one, the enemy warships were routed or sunk.

But, as dawn came, a new battle loomed ahead. Pursuit of the beaten Japs had put our formation deep in enemy waters, far beyond our own air cover. The weather was clear. Japanese airfields were close by, and we knew they had many fighters and bombers on the four bases in the vicinity of Rabaul.

As we began our retirement to the southward, aerial attack seemed imminent. We hadn’t suffered a single casualty during the night action, but now, perhaps, our luck had run out.

To our surprise, nothing happened—nothing at all. The Japanese did not strike back! As we continued to sail into friendlier waters, identical requests began coming to the flagship from every destroyer in the formation. Finally we passed them all along to Admiral Merrill, our commander back in Purvis Bay: “Please arrange Thanksgiving services for all hands on arrival.”

They were waiting for us when we returned to port—our Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplains. An explanation was also waiting—a reconnaissance dispatch stating that 58 enemy bombers and 145 fighters had been observed on Japanese airfields near Rabaul. They had not attacked up presumably because, through the grace of Divine Providence, they didn’t know our exact position and, hence, couldn’t find us in time.

I’ll always remember that Thanksgiving Day in that beautiful, tropical harbor: battle-scarred ships nested together in a quiet anchorage, battle-weary crews giving thanks to God for their victory—and for their deliverance.

—Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations


With permission from Parade Magazine, Nov. 18, 1956.

 

 
Nov 24

Periscope photography by submarines was vital for Battle of Tarawa

Sunday, November 24, 2013 12:01 AM
This photo shows USS Nautilus (SS-168) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., April 15,1942, following modernization. Note her very heavy deck armament of two 6"/53 guns; also embrasure in her upper hull side, just in front of the forward gun, for newly-installed topside torpedo tubes. At least two torpedoes are on deck above this location, probably being prepared for stowage below. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

This photo shows USS Nautilus (SS-168) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, Calif., April 15,1942, following modernization.
Note her very heavy deck armament of two 6″/53 guns; also embrasure in her upper hull side, just in front of the forward gun, for newly-installed topside torpedo tubes. At least two torpedoes are on deck above this location, probably being prepared for stowage below.
Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

By the Naval History and Heritage Command

For more than 113 years, submarines have been silently gliding under the water, stealthily scouting out coastlines, harbors and lagoons.

But it was 60 years ago that attack submarine Nautilus (SS-168) would perform the first combat periscope photography leading to the capture of the Apamama Atoll in the South Pacific Nov. 19-24, 1943. The strip of land would later serve as a landing field for allied forces, perhaps the only atoll in history to be captured by a submarine.

It was an early example of the effective use of submarines in recon and troop insertion, both of which are essential capabilities of today’s submarine force. In fact, just two weeks ago on Nov. 4, 2013, the newest boat in the Virginia-class submarine fleet was launched: USS North Dakota (SSN 784). And just like Nautilus, six decades earlier, these “crown jewels” of America’s defense continue to provide intelligence gathered by means of surveillance and reconnaissance” (Defense Science Board’s 1998 study “Submarine of the Future”).

While maintaining much of the same mission as Nautilus, the Virginia-class boats are better in shallow water along the coasts, plus they can be easily configured to carry a contingent of SEALs for clandestine operations. New surveillance technology being developed for Virginia-class submarines includes both aerial and undersea unmanned vehicles.

Cyber threats have only increased the submarine’s mission to own the undersea domain, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

“Today we are inextricably connected to the EM (electromagnetic) and cyber environment, and occasionally we conduct military operations in it. This situation parallels in many ways the period around the First World War, when submarines transited on the surface, preferred to submerge only to clandestinely move into firing position, and then surfaced to attack,” Greenert said in a July 2012 blog. “In subsequent years, submarines spent more time submerged, and with the advent of nuclear power, no longer need to surface or snorkel. As a matter of survival, we developed an understanding of underwater acoustics and the ocean environment, a culture of sound silencing, and a doctrine of operating under water – eventually turning the undersea environment into a primary warfighting domain.”

Global warming may soon open sea lanes in the Arctic where U.S. submarines will be deployed to deter regional tensions and conflicts, according to the Nov. 2012 Design for Undersea Warfare guidance by Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR).

Besides being able to inflict attacks without support and assert U.S. sea control, the submarine fleet will depend upon new capabilities that “trick, jam or blind adversary sensors, disrupt cyber systems, cripple targets without killing them, destroy seabed targets, attack shallow and fast surface ships and permit time-critical strikes against distance targets,” the Undersea Warfare Guidance states.

But back to our history lesson: The unprecedented use of periscope photography used by USS Nautilus (SS 168) helped provide some of the best intelligence gathered among an arpeggio of atolls that populated the Gilberts in the South Pacific. It was Nautilus’ successful sixth patrol mission that was the basis for similar submarine reconnaissance for the rest of the Pacific campaign.

Tarawa was the largest of the atolls that populated the Gilberts in the South Pacific. The Japanese fortified it shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Submarines, already used in landing teams of the Fifth Amphibious Corps to scout out enemy territory under darkness, were becoming vital in providing periscope photography. Up to that point, pictures shot through periscopes were used to document the sinking of ships. Rear Adm. Richard Turner and Marine Gen. Holland Smith determined periscope photography could provide panoramic sequence and topographic features. With the addition of aerial photographs, it would provide the best information possible for landing teams.

The perfect submarine to achieve that goal was Nautilus, a large, mine-laying sub that had already performed a number of missions in the South Pacific. Under the leadership of Cmdr. William D. Irwin, the Nautilus was given orders in September 1943 to conduct periscope reconnaissance and photograph the beachheads of Tarawa, Kuma, Butairiari, Apamama (also known as Abemama) and Makin.

After 18 days of periscope photography, Nautilus returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for an operation called Boxcloth, in which the sub would land the first recon unit to perform amphibious reconnaissance in the Gilbert Islands. Knowing Japanese troops were on the island, Gen. Smith determined it was best to scope out the size and location of the troops before committing more Marines in taking Apamama Atoll.

Nautilus returned to just outside Tarawa’s harbor, where reconnaissance discovered an 11-degree compass error in old British charts for the entrance into the Tarawa Atoll. The charts were adjusted, and that correction would later prove crucial for task forces headed toward the Nov. 20-23 battle.

After performing periscope photography along Tarawa, Irwin received orders to look for a missing naval aviator shot down in the area. As Nautilus skimmed along the coast, she was fired upon by a Japanese shore battery, forcing her to dive. At this point, the rescue mission was called off and Nautilus ordered to proceed to Apamama, loaded with 5th Amphibious Reconnaissance Company and an Australian scout who spoke the Gilbertian language.

While gliding on the surface, Nautilus made radar contact with an “unknown” vessel traveling at 25 knots. Irwin correctly assessed it wasn’t likely to be the enemy and since his oxygen and battery were low, he chose not to submerge. Unfortunately, word of the rescue mission being aborted didn’t reach the command of the cruiser Santa Fe (CL-60) and destroyer Ringgold (DD-500), from a nearby task force. Picking up Nautilus on radar and with low visibility, they fired on what they thought was a Japanese patrol vessel. A shell struck the submarine in the conning tower hatch, but luckily, the shell didn’t explode. Water poured into the tower, flooding the main induction and shutting down the gyroscope. After diving to 300 feet, repairs were made to the sub. After two hours, Nautilus continued on to Apamama Atoll.

The submarine’s landing party began to wet-dock into six 10-man rubber boats under the cover of night and high tide, beginning at 11:53 p.m. Nov. 20. Despite squalls, currents and motors shutting down the boats, all of the landing parties made shore by 3:30 a.m. Nov. 21 and joined an earlier scouting party.

The mission, while extremely successful, wasn’t without its tense moments. Unable to communicate with the submarine, the landing party would send messages to the sub by certain placements of four Navy mattress covers in the trees. The Gilbertian natives had no problem relaying information to the Americans about the Japanese, who had conscripted them into labor and treated them with contempt. Most importantly, the natives told the landing party that the Japanese knew they were there.

While not high in numbers, the Japanese coast defenders were well fortified and protected in bunkers. But submarine shell bombardment Nov. 24, 1943, from the 6-inch guns held the enemy at bay while exacting losses from the Japanese .

As the Americans steadily took command of the island, the last remaining Japanese garrison was located near a radio station. The Japanese captain gathered his troops to give a motivational talk to “Kill all Americans,” but his weapon accidentally discharged and killed him. The remaining troops, fearing what was to come, then dug their own graves, laid down and committed mass seppuku by shooting themselves.

The Americans suffered their own losses: Two killed, two wounded and one injured.

Nautilus would go on to conduct a total of 14 mission patrols before returning to Philadelphia May 25, 1945, where she was decommissioned. During her service, the sub earned the Presidential Unit Citation for aggressive war patrols in enemy-control waters and 14 battle stars, one for each mission.

The next-generation of attack submarines will continue USS Nautilus’ legacy. And should diplomacy fail, as the Undersea Warefare Guidance states, submarines will be on the forefront “to deliver credible, decisive firepower from beneath the sea.”


 

 
Nov 18

Remember the Maine, A First-of-its-Kind Warship

Monday, November 18, 2013 5:20 PM
Launch on Nov. 18, 1890 of USS Maine from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Launch on Nov. 18, 1890 of USS Maine from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Launch of the USS Maine - NHHC

Launch of the USS Maine on Nov. 18, 1890, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, N.Y.

USS Maine Crew - Library of Congress

Crew of the USS Maine.

 

 

From the Naval History and Heritage Command

The Navy has a long, proud history of leading in energy innovation and change, according to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
“From sail to coal to oil to nuclear and now to alternative fuels, the Navy has led the way,” he said during a speech Sept. 11, 2013, to the National Defense University.

Such was the case 123 years ago today, Nov. 18, 2013, when USS Maine was launched in New York. And with her, as with each new first-in-its-class ship since then, she featured some of the best technological advances of her time.

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Navy had only 600 ships, mostly wartime purchases made of timber. By 1879, the Navy had whittled down to 142 ships, where only 48 were available for service. The 48 ships that were available were outdated, wooden or ironclads.

With Congress concerned more about rebuilding the country after the end of the Civil War, little was done to maintain the Navy. That is until 1883, when a British-built warship called Riachuelo was delivered to Brazil that gave South America an edge in sea power.

Hilary A. Herbert, the chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee in 1883, warned Congress: “if all this old navy of ours were drawn up in battle array in mid-ocean and confronted by the Riachuelo it is doubtful whether a single vessel bearing the American flag would get into port.”

President Chester Arthur began the Navy’s modernization and with the Navy Act of 1883, four new steel cruisers were authorized and then later the Navy’s first armored battleships, USS Maine and USS Texas.

A contest was held to pick a designer for the ships. For Maine, it was Theodore D. Wilson, who created a cross between the lighter armored cruiser and a heavier battleship. Similar to another armored cruiser, Great Britain’s HRM Inflexible, Maine’s turrets were en echelon, placed so either could fire and not affect the other, and were offset from the ship. Designed originally as an armored cruiser, at 6,682 tons, she became the first of a class of armored battleships with 60 tons of nickel-based steel on her hull.

Maine’s power plant was given the highest priority for its fighting strength, also a first for a U.S. capital ship. The ship’s two inverted vertical triple-expansion steam engines were a departure from previous ships that had their engines mounted horizontally so they could be protected below the waterline. Maine’s engines were more efficient, had lower maintenance costs and could produce higher speed. The ship’s high and low pressure cylinders were separated to give the ship greater flexibility when the ship was running under lower power, so the high and intermediate power cylinders could be run together as a single compound engine for economical running.

Originally designed with a three-mast rig in case of engine failure and for long-range cruising, one mast was removed in 1892 after the ship was launched, but before she was completed.

Upon her commissioning on Sept. 17, 1895, USS Maine was sent to protect American interests in Cuba, which was struggling to fight for independence from Spanish rule. It was there, in Havana harbor in 1898, where an explosion would bring down the Maine, killing most of her crew. Her sinking would become the tipping point for the beginning of the Spanish-American war.

Nearly 125 years later, the newest platform to hit the seas is the first-in-its-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), which was commissioned Nov. 9, 2013. The Ford-class aircraft carriers, like Maine in her time, employ the next generation of naval technology. http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2013/11/08/navys-most-advanced-aircraft-carrier-ready-for-christening/

Just as the Navy recovered from the stagnant growth of post-Civil War years, today’s Navy continues to adapt and adjust to the challenging budgetary times now.

“We have the most advanced platforms in the world, but quantity also has a quality all its own,” Mabus said at the National Defense University. “Twelve years ago, on 9/11 2001, our fleet stood at 316 ships. By 2008, after one of the great military build-ups in American history, that number had dropped to 278 ships.”

In 2008, the Navy put four ships under contract. Since then, another 60 ships have gone under contract and by 2019 the current plan will return the fleet to 300 ships, Mabus said.

“Initiatives to spend smarter and more efficiently through things like competition, and multi-year buys, and, frankly, by driving harder bargains on behalf of taxpayer dollars, have created the way to provide our nation and our Navy with the platforms we need to execute our missions.”

The U.S. Navy must be prepared not only for times of war, but more importantly, during times of peace, as evidenced with the quick deployment of USS George Washington to assist with humanitarian relief in the Philippines after the category 5 Typhoon Haiyan struck in the Pacific Nov. 7, 2013.

“In peace we will still deploy, day after day, year after year, just as we have for 238 years,” Mabus said. “We respond to every crisis when the nation calls, whether it’s in combat or in response to a natural disaster… Before the bell rings and long after the guns go silent, presence means we are where it counts, not just at the right time, but all the time.”

He added a strong and agile U.S. Navy assures America’s allies and partners that “we are there, and assure those who may wish our country and allies harm that we’re never far away. That is American seapower.”

USS Maine - Jeff Adams

USS Maine – Jeff Adams

 

 
Nov 11

Search for Mexican interoceanic canal begins in 1870

Monday, November 11, 2013 12:28 PM

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

For our “lessons noted, lessons learned” historical journey today, we’ll start in the “seemed like a good idea at the time” file. For it was this date in 1870 that a captain with a crew of two ships set sail on an expedition to find the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

While the mission itself proved fruitless, the work completed proved so valuable that the Navy would spend the next several years surveying South America, the Caribbean Sea and beyond as ordered by the Hydrographic Office.

Beginning at the mouth of the Coatzacoalcos River in Mexico on Nov. 11, 1870, Capt. Robert W. Shufeldt set off to traverse the Tehuantepec route to see if an interoceanic canal could be built. If it could be done, then the United States would have the greatest ability to close off the Gulf of Mexico from invading ships by using Key West and the Tortugas as bases of operation. It was that advantage that made Mexico the top choice for a waterway route between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

And it didn’t hurt that compared to a canal through Panama, having one in Mexico would shave off 1,350 nautical miles on a trip from New Orleans to San Francisco.

That strip of land known as an isthmus, only 120 miles wide, had already been surveyed by army and navy officers for railway communication. The hydrographic party, under the command of Lt. Cmdr. N.H. Farquhar on the screw steamer Kansas, started on the Atlantic side, with Capt. Shufeldt and his crew on USS Mayflower on the Pacific.

The Mexican government did its part in helping the expedition along by providing 600 troops to protect the two crews.

By Dec. 11, when the Farquhar crew reached the plains of Chivela, it was discovered there was no reliable means of water to feed the summit-level of a ship-canal.

Other problems surfaced when a pass turned out to be 318 feet higher than expected and again, finding a natural supply of water to feed the canal.

The Pacific side wasn’t without its issues, either. At Salina Cruz, the lagoon’s ocean bottom was constantly changing, which would require constant and deep dredging to accommodate ships.

The expedition left Mexico April 27, 1871 and arrived back in Washington May 25. Shufeldt reported the Coatzacoalcos River canal was practical from an engineering work, but the length, number of locks and the construction of a water supply to supply the canal made it too costly to consider. At that point, the isthmus of Panama was considered a more likely possibility, although that location did not provide the protection of the Gulf of Mexico the Coztzacoalcos Canal had offered.

While no passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic was created at this juncture, no good deed goes unpunished, as the saying goes. The work the expeditionary team performed provided valuable information, so it was determined hydrographic work would become part of the duties requested of naval vessels in time of peace.

 
Nov 8

The Final Overseas Mission of USS Olympia

Friday, November 8, 2013 2:48 PM
Casket containing the body of America's "Unknown" dead as it rested on the Olympia with a guard of two sailors before being taken ashore for the journey to the capitol. - Courtesy of NHHC-Ann Dietrick Collection.

Casket containing the body of America’s “Unknown” dead as it rested on the Olympia with a guard of two sailors before being taken ashore for the journey to the capitol. – Courtesy of NHHC-Ann Dietrick Collection.

Unknown Soldier of World War I carried from USS Olympia to Capitol Hill Rotunda to Arlington National Cemetery. - Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery

Various photos of the burial of the Unknown Soldier of World War I on Nov. 11, 1921 at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. Photos courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery

Nov. 9, 1921 – USS Olympia arrives at the Washington Navy Yard from France carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. From the Ann Dietrick Collection

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

She served as the flagship during the Spanish American War, Caribbean Division in 1902, the U.S. Patrol Force in 1917 and American Naval Forces in the Mediterranean in 1919.

But USS Olympia’s most memorable overseas mission was her last: carrying the body of the Unknown Solider for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in 1921.

Just like the Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Soldiers of today, the last steel-hulled cruiser played her part in leaving no warrior behind and giving solemn passage home for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting their country.

The first – and last – of her class cruiser, she was selected to carry the Unknown Soldier. Her history was remarkable, most notably as Commodore George Dewey’s flagship during America’s rise to naval dominance in the Spanish-American War of 1898. It was from her bridge that Dewey delivered his famous order during the Battle of Manila Bay: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”

Following a solemn ceremony with both French and American troops, the casket was placed on Olympia’s flower-decked stern. With flags at half-mast, her wood polished and brass rails gleaming, the ship sailed out of the harbor of La Havre, France, Oct. 25, 1921, under the salute of 17 guns from a French destroyer. Olympia answered in kind, the last time her guns would blaze. For the next 15 days, the cruiser traveled the Atlantic before pulling into the Washington Navy Yard on this date 92 years ago.

The flag-draped casket was then delivered by the Navy to the Army and taken to the Capitol Rotunda. There the casket, watched over by a multi-service honor guard, lay in state, just as the remains of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley had before it. Thousands of people, including the highest officials of government and diplomats from across the nation, paid homage to the Unknown Soldier.

The casket was removed the following morning under military escort, and taken to Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. During the funeral ceremony, the Unknown Soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross, followed by representatives of foreign governments conferring the highest military decorations from their countries. After a brief committal service and a 21-gun salute, the ceremony closed with the sounding of Taps.

Olympia was decommissioned a year later in 1922. The cruiser still holds many historic artifacts and has been preserved since 1957 by the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. Despite already spending $5 million on repairs, the museum is no longer able to afford the expense of refurbishing a steel hull every 20 years.

While the train car that carried the Unknown Warrior for the United Kingdom is preserved by the Kent and East Sussex Railway, the oldest, steel-hull American war ship that carried the Unknown Soldier for the United States is leaking and in danger of either sinking on her own or being sunk to form a reef.

But those who appreciate the history ingrained within her wooden decks and forged into her steel hull, are hoping to stave off the sounding of Taps for USS Olympia.

 

USS Olympia, the last steel-hulled cruiser, is now part of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.

 
Nov 8

Naval History and Heritage Logo Contest Winning Designs Named

Friday, November 8, 2013 10:44 AM

NHHC Logo Winner

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication Outreach Division

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

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

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

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

Supporting Logo
Supporting Logo

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

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

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

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

 
« Older Entries Newer Entries »