Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Mar 20

#PeopleMatter: “Yeomanettes” Paved the Way for Women of All Ratings Today

Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:41 AM

 

Rear Adm. Victor Blue (left center), Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, inspects Yeomen (F) on the Washington Monument grounds, Washington, D.C., in 1918. NHHC Collection

Rear Adm. Victor Blue (left center), Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, inspects Yeomen (F) on the Washington Monument grounds, Washington, D.C., in 1918.
NHHC Collection

 By YN1 Silvia Raya and YN2 Waltesia Crudup, Chief of Naval Personnel

 In order to fill severe clerical shortages caused by World War I, the U.S. Navy approved the enlistment of women in 1917. The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 made no specific gender requirements for yeomen, enlisted personnel who fulfill administrative and clerical duties.

So either by deliberate omission or accident, the act opened the opportunity to enlist women 97 years ago this week. One of the first through the door on March 17, 1917 was Loretta Perfectus Walsh, who became the first active-duty female in the Navy who wasn’t a nurse. Four days later, March 21, 1917, she was the first female to be named a chief petty officer. On April 6, 1917, Congress approved President Woodrow Wilson’s request to declare war against Germany.

 The newly-enlisted Sailors were given the rating Yeoman (F), with the “F” designating female. More popularly referred to as “yeomanettes,” the majority worked in clerical positions, but they also served as translators, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, ship camouflage designers and recruiting agents. 

Military and civilian personnel in a Navy Department office in the Main Navy or Munitions Buildings, in 1918 or early 1919 in Washington, D.C. Many of the women present are Navy Yeomen (F). There are two male Chief Yeomen at the first two rows of desks and typewriters on most desks. NHHC Collection

Military and civilian personnel in a Navy Department office in the Main Navy or Munitions Buildings, in 1918 or early 1919 in Washington, D.C.
Many of the women present are Navy Yeomen (F). There are two male Chief Yeomen at the first two rows of desks and typewriters on most desks.
NHHC Collection

Nearly 600 Yeomen (F) were on duty by the end of April 1917, a number that had grown to more than 11,000 by December 1918, shortly after the Armistice.

 After the war, many “yeomanettes” continued in their positions during the post-war naval reductions. By the end of July 1919, there were just under 4,000 left in service, and all were released from active duty to return to their more traditional roles before the war.

Yeomen (F) continued on inactive reserve status, receiving modest retainer pay, until the end of their 4-year enlistments, at which point all women except Navy Nurses disappeared from the uniformed Navy until 1942.

 Many honorably discharged Yeomen (F) were appointed to Civil Service positions in the same navy yards and stations where they had served in wartime. Entitled to veterans’ preference for government employment, they provided a strong female presence in the Navy’s civilian staff through the decades after World War I.

 Chief Walsh served all four years of her enlistment, getting out in 1919. After contracting the flu in 1918, she developed tuberculosis. Walsh died six years after leaving the Navy, Aug. 6, 1925, at the age of 29.

 

In this photo taken May 8, 1919, "Yeomanettes" stationed in Washington, D.C. assisted in Navy recruiting and in putting the Victory Loan drive "over the top" in New York City. NHHC Collection

In this photo taken May 8, 1919, “Yeomanettes” stationed in Washington, D.C.
assisted in Navy recruiting and in putting the Victory Loan drive “over the top” in New York City.
NHHC Collection

Today, nearly a century later, there are 4,644 yeomen, of whom 1,602 are women. We have faced similar experiences when it comes to balancing family and work, as did our predecessors nearly 100 years ago, but we are proud to be among the Navy’s first rating opened to women. Female yeomen today are no longer trivialized with the term “yeomanettes” or designated specifically as females. Thanks to the groundwork of those in 1917, women today are accepted in nearly every rate within the service.

Raya: I joined the Navy only six months after arriving in the U.S. from Brazil at the age of 26. I faced a lot of obstacles due to language barriers, but with determination I overcame them. It has been a journey of ups and downs – and I’m growing personally and professionally from this journey. I have faced things that I’ve never faced before, such as racism and sexism, which many times made me want to give up, but I didn’t let it deter me. Instead, the challenges made me want to make things better for others like myself. I advise people to search for help and learn from people who have experienced similar obstacles. I know that the women who joined this rate before me faced more difficulties – but because they persevered and kept charging forward, I am here today, able to serve in equality.

YN1 Silvia Raya

YN1 Silvia Raya

Crudup: I also believe that being a woman in the Navy definitely has its ups and downs – just as any man in the Navy experiences challenges, I would think. I came into the Navy as an undesignated airman. In 2008, I decided to take the test for yeoman and made third class on my first try. In 2011, I advanced to YN2 and finally settled into being a yeoman. 

Both of us walked different paths in our careers, but we faced similar experiences. 

 

YN2 Waltesia Crudup

YN2 Waltesia Crudup

Crudup: In October 2012, I found out I was pregnant with my third child, while on sea duty at a squadron. My commanding officer was very supportive and decided to keep me attached to the squadron until I transferred to shore duty shortly after. This was very beneficial because it allowed me to continue my sea duty time while still being a major asset to the command, lending support while the squadron was away on detachments. I know the timing of my pregnancy was not optimal – and not what I was planning – but I continued contributing to the mission. Many people at the command looked down on me because I got pregnant on sea duty, but I kept my head up and didn’t allow my pregnancy to determine my value as a Sailor.

Raya: I also faced difficult times, the most difficult being when I left my family behind while on deployments. I always think about my children and how much I’ve already missed in their lives I know that as a woman in the workforce, I need to learn to manage family, professional life, and goals to ensure I can reach a healthy equilibrium between them I’m thankful to have the support of my husband, who is also in the military, to make it easier for me to achieve this balance. 

 We both believe that being a woman in the Navy requires sacrifices, just as it does for women in the civilian workforce. We know we are not the only ones facing these challenges. 

 We both understand that life gives us opportunities to succeed. As a part of the three-star staff for the Chief of Naval Personnel, we feel as though our careers have truly taken off. We see things from a different perspective now. Here we are an essential part of the beginning process of every personnel action (instructions, NAVADMINs, executive correspondence) that takes place in the Navy. These are things that you can only experience as a yeoman. We are all here to do a job, no matter what gender we are. We feel that we are treated as equals and that our job matters.

 We can finally say with certainty that we are two yeomen, learning how to lead, with the main goal in mind of making a difference for people in the service now and the ones who will join our Navy family in the future. We are here to stay and make a positive impact in the life of many Sailors that will come after us. We are “the relief” for the warriors before us. We are taking charge of this post and we accept the responsibility that comes with it! #People Matter

 Raya is the Assistant Leading Petty Officer for N1 Secretariat. She manages a team of Yeomen in the administrative process involving executive-level taskers and correspondence enhancing manpower, personnel, training and education programs and policies for Sailors Navy-wide. Raya has earned the COMNAVEUR DET MAST FY-12 Junior Sailor of the Quarter, 3rd Quarter and CHNAVPERS FY-13 Junior Sailor of the Quarter, 4th Quarter.

 Crudup is the Scrolls Manager for the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) N1 Secretariat. She manages the daily tracking, setting up, editing, closing out and forwarding of all scroll packages for signature by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations and acts as a liaison for scrolls with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, NPC PERS codes and medical offices in Bethesda, Md. Crudup also serves as an administrative assistant on the edits team ensuring that correct format and grammar are being used in all TV5 tasker packages for CNP’s review and signature.

 
Mar 11

Operation Market Time Challenges North Vietnamese Resupply Efforts

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 1:17 PM
The U.S. Navy fast patrol craft PCF-38 of Coastal Division 11 patrols the Cai Ngay Canal in South Vietnam. Fast Patrol Craft PCF-38 on Cai Ngay canal 1970 National Archives

The U.S. Navy fast patrol craft PCF-38 of Coastal Division 11 patrols the Cai Ngay Canal in South Vietnam.
Fast Patrol Craft PCF-38 on Cai Ngay canal 1970
National Archives

From Naval History and Heritage Command

Most of the blogs that appear on this space are tributes to the Blue Water Navy, those Sailors and Marines who fought their enemies in magnificent warships, impenetrable ironclads, stealthy submarines and a whole fleet of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and their flying machines.

Not this blog. This blog is a tribute to the Coastal Surveillance Force that produced some of the greatest naval successes during the Vietnam War, the black beret-wearing Sailors of the Brown Water Navy.

Communists, coastlines and Viet Cong

When the Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into South and North, it provided a loophole that gave Communist leader Ho Chi Minh’s supporters an edge: A period of free movement between the two countries. With thousands of his supporters left in the South, Ho Chi Minh recruited thousands more to bring to the north and train for later insertion.

As a result, the communist-led National Liberation Front had a ready army of Viet Cong in the heavily-infiltrated provinces along the Mekong Delta. Since the Vietnamese army and navy were outnumbered, they rarely patrolled the rivers and coastline to stop clandestine movement of supplies to the Viet Cong. At the time, the U.S. Navy patrolled mostly in the deeper waters, with helicopters and patrol planes providing surveillance for American and Vietnamese ground troops.

A PBR in action in Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

A PBR in action in Vietnam.
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

It was Feb. 16, 1965, when Army Huey pilot Lt. James Bowers flew over the South China Sea near the Vietnamese coastal village of Vung Ro and saw something that didn’t look right. An island seemed to be moving. As he moved in for a closer inspection, the “island” fired back. It was a trawler covered with plants around its frame and deck, filled with a boatload of weapons and ammunition headed toward the Viet Cong.

U.S. Navy River Patrol Boat (PBR) of River Patrol Force 116 moves at high speed down the Saigon River, Republic of Vietnam, November 1967. Photographed by JOC R.D. Moeser, USN. National Archives photograph, USN 1142259.

U.S. Navy River Patrol Boat (PBR) of River Patrol Force 116 moves at high speed down the Saigon River, Republic of Vietnam, November 1967.
Photographed by JOC R.D. Moeser, USN. National Archives photograph, USN 1142259.

After capturing the trawler, the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam decided to stop the supply route to the Viet Cong. It was PBR-time, and by PBR we don’t mean beer, but rather Navy nomenclature for “patrol boat, river.” Navy leadership quickly created task forces of river patrol boat squadrons, some in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.

 

Crewman of a River Patrol Boat (PBR) scans the river bank during patrol on the Alfa Canal, February 1969. Photographed by PHC D.S. Dodd, USN. National Archives photograph, K-68020.

Crewman of a River Patrol Boat (PBR) scans the river bank during patrol on the Alfa Canal, February 1969.
Photographed by PHC D.S. Dodd, USN. National Archives photograph, K-68020.

So it was on March 11, 1965, 49 years ago today, that Task Force 115 stood up, the Coastal Surveillance Force. Made up of three squadrons — two Navy and one Coast Guard – it conducted operations under the code name Market Time.  

It’s Market Time for river patrol boats

While the Navy had plenty of deep water ships in the area, what they needed were quick and agile boats. At first, they borrowed ships from the Coast Guard, cutters and river patrol boats pimped out for combat with .50-caliber machine gun and 81-mm mortars installed on the forecastle and four .50-caliber deck guns on the fantail.

But even more agile boats were necessary, and for that, the Navy turned to Sewart Seacraft of Burwick, La., purchasing more than 100 fast patrol boats (PBF). The “Swift” boats drafted but 3 ½ feet, powered by two diesel engines with twin screws and speedy at 28 knots. For armament, they sported twin .50-caliber machine guns forward and a .50-caliber machine gun/81 mm mortar combination aft.

Swift boats on patrol lead a group of monitors and armored landing craft. Naval War College

Swift boats on patrol lead a group of monitors and armored landing craft.
Naval War College

 

The operation was named Market Time as a reference to commercial and marketing ships that would ultimately fall under their jurisdiction. All were suspect. When they weren’t stopping, boarding and inspecting ships that ranged from trawlers to fishing boats, the crews provided naval gunfire support for troops on shore, transporting troops and evacuating civilians and providing medical outreach to the communities. They also put in aids to navigation for unchartered waters.

Market Time Forces NHHC

Market Time Forces
NHHC

The squadrons used a variety of boats and ships, from destroyers and minesweepers that patrolled in deeper water to shallow water vessels like fast patrol craft, Coast Guard cutters, gunboats and even air cushioned patrol vehicles. More backup came from observation aircraft like P-2 Neptunes and P-3 Orions in international waters. The area of responsibility stretched across approximately 1,200 miles of coastline from Da Nang in the north to Phu Quoc Island in the south, and 40 miles out to international waters

Within a year, Operation Market Time virtually halted the Viet Cong’s resupply line from the north. For example, the seven-day detailed reports showed a steady decline in the number of ships detained for contraband. From April to May, 1966, the numbers reflected 18 junks detained along with 110 people after searching 4,686 vessels and 18,446 people, to detaining only two junks and 99 people while searching 5,340 vessels and 21,543 people.

Map of North Vietnam Route - NHHC

Map of North Vietnam Route – NHHC

That forced the Communists to find other ways of supplying the Viet Cong, sending them inland by way of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and through Laos and Cambodia.

After the Tet Offensive in January 1968, when the Viet Cong executed a series of attacks throughout South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was desperate to replenish his troops in the south, and so he looked again toward his fastest route of delivering supplies. During the evening of Feb. 29, 1968, four separate attempts were made by Communist ships to slip through the blockades. That day would end up as the largest naval battle during Vietnam, based on numbers of ships and scope of territory.  

Coastal Surveillance Force 4, Viet Cong 0

It started south of Da Nang as a 100-foot-long trawler ignored warning shots by the Coast Guard cutter Androscoggin. The trawler returned fire and the battle began, with the cutter joined by two other cutters and helicopter gunships. Trapped, the trawler’s captain headed for shore, beaching his ship. At 2:35 a.m., the trawler exploded.

PCFs carry a group of Vietnamese marines up a narrow canal for insertion. Naval War College Museum

PCFs carry a group of Vietnamese marines up a narrow canal for insertion.
Naval War College Museum

 

The second battle was at nearly the same time, off the Ca Mau peninsula, when another Communist trawler tried to breach the inner barrier. Four cutters came to attack, supported by Navy Swift boats. Overwhelmed with U.S. gunfire, the trawler burst into flames and exploded.

Northeast of Nha Trang, another trawler was caught in the inner barrier by a force of Swift boats, Vietnamese junks, Vietnamese Navy, Fleet Command ships and an AC-47 aircraft. The trawler’s captain ran the ship onto the beach, destroying it, but the supplies were salvaged, a boatload of automatic rifles, rocket launchers, rocket rounds, 82mm mortar tubes with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and more than two dozen cases of 7.62mm ammunition.

The captain of the fourth trawler decided to cut his losses and returned back to North Vietnamese waters after the Coast Guard cutter Minnetonka intercepted him in the international waters near the border.

After that night of four engagements and failed missions, the North Vietnamese never made another such maneuver to resupply their troops by sea.

BZs for Brown Water Navy

The success of Market Time interdiction operations was considered one of the great successes of the Vietnam War, as noted in a “lessons learned” study commissioned by the Department of the Army.

“Operation Market Time has been judged to have produced significant results and is credited with forcing the enemy to change his logistic operations extensively. In early 1966, it was estimated that the enemy accomplished three-quarters of his resupply by infiltration from the sea. By the end of 1966, this was reduced to an estimated one-tenth of the total resupply.”

Army Gen. William Westmorland praised the work performed by the Brown Water Navy as well: “Market Time forces have successfully blocked intrusions by sea, forcing the enemy to use the long, torturous Ho Chi Minh Trail, thus affecting significantly his ability to properly sustain his forces in the South.”

Information for this blog came from previous articles from Naval History and Heritage Command and a 2008 report The Brown Water Navy in the Mekong Delta: COIN in the Littorals and Inland Waters by Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Sessoms.

 
Mar 8

Battle of Hampton Roads – The Little Known Story of USS Cumberland

Saturday, March 8, 2014 8:00 AM
Ramming of the U.S.S. Cumberland by the Merrimac (C.S.S. Virginia), Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862 Alexander Charles Stuart - 1880

Ramming of the U.S.S. Cumberland by the Merrimac (C.S.S. Virginia), Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862
Alexander Charles Stuart – 1880

By Naval History and Heritage Command

On Mar. 8, 1862, in the southern part of Virginia where the Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers meet the James River to empty into the Chesapeake Bay, in the region known as Hampton Roads, the first battle between ironclad warships occurred. Most of us remember the famous duel, which ended in a stalemate, between the two iron-clad, steam ships, USS Monitor, and CSS Virginia, which had been a decommissioned U.S. Navy ship called Merrimack.

Often forgotten are the other ships that were there, USS Cumberland, USS Congress and USS Minnesota. Before Virginia met her match in Monitor, she wreaked havoc on those ships destroying Congress and Cumberland, then pummeling Minnesota. But according to Historian Gordon Calhoun of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the crew of Cumberland has earned the admiration of many. Their bravery echoes through the ages because despite impossible odds they never surrendered. Cumberland never struck her colors.

USS Cumberland

USS Cumberland

A year earlier on April 19, 1861, President Lincoln ordered the blockade of all ports in the seceded states, a group Virginia joined when it left the union on April 27. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles gave the order to scuttle all federal ships and 3,000 guns that could be used by separatist states. Nine ships were burned. The USS Cumberland had just arrived at the Navy Yard from her overseas duty station off the coast of Mexico. Her company was given the impossible task of carrying out the scuttling order. After doing what they could, the steam sloop USS Pawnee and the tug USS Yankee towed the ship up the Elizabeth River to safety.

Model of CSS Virginia by Alexander Lynch, 1939

Model of CSS Virginia by Alexander Lynch, 1939

Union Sailors were only able to burn Merrimack to the waterline on April 20, 1861. Her hull and steam engine were still intact. Merrimack would end up becoming the only ship with an intact engine for the Confederacy in the Chesapeake Bay area. Even the dry dock was barely destroyed. Confederate forces easily restored it to retrofit Merrimack into the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. Her engine and hull were refurbished with a significant addition: her prow, the forward most position of the bow above the waterline, was augmented with an iron ram. As Calhoun put it, the Confederacy had gone “back to the Roman Empire” reverting to old naval warfare by ramming opponents. She was also fitted with six, nine-inch Dahlgren guns and four six- to seven-inch Brooke rifles, which could pierce up to eight inches of armor plating. Virginia’s armor plating was two layers of 2-inch thick plates and surrounded her 14 gun ports. Within six months of Lincoln’s blockade and Welles’ order to scuttle her as the USS Merrimack, CSS Virginia was ready and commissioned Feb. 17, 1862.

CSS Virginia by Clary Ray

CSS Virginia by Clary Ray

On March 8,1862, Virginia made her assault on the sloop of war, Cumberland, which had been in commission for twenty years. She had been the flagship of the African Squadron stalking slave ships off of the African coast. Back then, Cumberland boasted 50 guns when she was a frigate, but in 1857, she was converted into a sloop-of-war which required removing her top deck and all guns from her spar deck. When asked if this adversely affected Cumberland’s ability, Calhoun said, “Not really. It definitely extended her life.” Cumberland was able to accommodate more versatile guns — she had 22 with 12 on her broad side as opposed to Virginia’s three. He added that Cumberland’s only fault was that she was an oak-wood-hulled sailing ship that depended on the wind, and on March 8, a calm day, she went “zero knots.”

Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., Virginia rammed Cumberland’s starboard bow. This was nearly also Virginia’s undoing. By ramming Cumberland, she wedged and trapped herself in Cumberland’s thick oak hull. In fact, Virginia nearly sank with Cumberland, but broke free as Cumberland listed. By 3:30,Congress had surrendered. But not Cumberland. She would not surrender. Even though she had taken on water up to the main hatchway, her officers and crew continued fighting. According to her acting commanding officer, Lieutenant George Morris, “It is impossible for me to individualize; alike officers and men all behaved in the most gallant manner,”and “showed the most perfect coolness….” Even the Confederate flag officer aboard Virginia was impressed and noted once Cumberland “commenced sinking, gallantly fighting her guns as long as they were above water. She went down with her colors flying.”

CSS Virginia Rams USS Cumberland

CSS Virginia Rams USS Cumberland

According to the account made by Capt. Marston aboard the screw frigate USS Roanoke, on March 8,1862, sometime after 1 p.m., Virginia “…was soon discovered passing out by Sewell’s Point, standing up toward Newport News,” and “…went up and immediately attacked the Congress and Cumberland, but particularly the latter ship,once she returned Virginia’s fire.”Cumberland’s nine and ten-inch Dahlgren guns, which at the time were popular and versatile, didn’t even phase Virginia.Also, the tide was against her. She could only use a few of her guns at a bad angle to attack Virginia.

Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., Virginia rammed Cumberland’s starboard bow. This was nearly also Virginia’s undoing. By ramming Cumberland, she wedged and trapped herself in Cumberland’s thick oak hull. In fact, Virginia nearly sank with Cumberland, but broke free as Cumberland listed. By 3:30,Congress had surrendered. But not Cumberland. She would not surrender. Even though she had taken on water up to the main hatchway, her officers and crew continued fighting. According to her acting commanding officer, Lieutenant George Morris, “It is impossible for me to individualize; alike officers and men all behaved in the most gallant manner,”and “showed the most perfect coolness….” Even the Confederate flag officer aboard Virginia was impressed and noted once Cumberland “commenced sinking, gallantly fighting her guns as long as they were above water. She went down with her colors flying.”

The battle had an immense impact on the U.S. Navy. According to Calhoun, the day Cumberland and Congress were destroyed, March 8, 1862, was recognized as a “disaster for the Navy,” having lost two major ships and more than 200 sailors. It was a “pivotal” moment in naval history as it was the last time the Navy would depend on sail ships in combat. In fact, the Navy immediately recalled all sail ships and, with few exceptions, used only ships equipped steam-powered engines. Navy Yards immediately began to fit ships with steam-powered engines that “did not need the wind or the tides to depend on”.

Cumberland’s 120 officers and crew went down in the James River still fighting,refusing to surrender or strike their colors. Cumberland also damaged two of Virginia’s guns. Congress would later give accolades to Cumberland noting she did more damage to Virginia than Monitor did.

Monitor-Merrimac-combat1

The next day CSS Virginia would attempt the same tactic — to ram and run over Monitor which arrived in the area on March 9, 1862. According to Monitor’s chief engineer, “She tried to run us down and sink us, as she did the Cumberland yesterday, but she got the worst of it. Her bow passed over our deck and our sharp upper edged side cut through the light iron shoe upon her stem and well into her oak.”

He added, “She will not try that again.”

Crewmen on deck of USS Monitor, July 1862

Crewmen on deck of USS Monitor, July 1862

——

Cumberland’s wreck is currently a Federally-protected site and is monitored during occasional visits by joint expeditions sponsored by NOAA’s Monitor Marine Sanctuary office, the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archeology branch, and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. Artifacts from Cumberland can be seen at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Va., one of NHHC’s nine official museums. More information on the history of Cumberland, artifacts from the ship, and the men who served on the vessel can be found at:

http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/hrnm/resources-uss-cumberland-center.html

USS Monitor Versus CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) and the Battle for Hampton Roads, 8-9 March 1862:
Selected Original Documents can be found at:

http://www.history.navy.mil/docs/civilwar/hamptonroads.htm

For more information on the Battle at Hampton Roads, visit the following links:

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=72338

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=72520

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=72578

 

 

 
Mar 6

Civil Engineer Corps unique among other military services

Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:03 AM

 

Civil engineers discussing new facility in Japan in 2012. (Photo courtesy of PWD Sasebo)

Civil engineers discussing new facility in Japan in 2012. (Photo courtesy of PWD Sasebo)

 Rear Adm. Kate Gregory, Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and Chief of Civil Engineers

 This year, the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) observes its 147th anniversary, embracing a legacy of providing facilities engineering expertise to Navy and Marine Corps commanders that began on March 2, 1867. The CEC is a unique organization with no exact counterpart in any other service or any other Navy in the world. Its officers are the Navy’s professional engineers and architects, responsible for executing and managing the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the Navy’s shore facilities. CEC officers work primarily in three areas: construction contract management, public works, and with the Seabees.

Rear Adm. Katherine L. Gregory Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Chief of Civil Engineers

Rear Adm. Katherine L. Gregory
Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command
Chief of Civil Engineers

Today, the Civil Engineer Corps continues to support the Chief of Naval Operations’ tenets of “Warfighting First,” “Operate Forward,” and “Be Ready,” while adapting to changing national security threats, the drawdown from the war in Afghanistan, and fiscal uncertainties. The demand for CEC officers to support the capabilities of joint war fighters and supported commanders through efficient, innovative and responsive facilities and expeditionary expertise has never been more critical.

At every Navy base around the globe, these men and women are on the job, around the clock. From public works to building design, from environmental assessment to alternative energy development, and even to disaster recovery efforts, the Navy’s civil engineers are there.

This same cadre of officers also leads the Seabees, who provide the naval expeditionary forces with a wide array of support. Whether helping to build a combat outpost so Marines can extend their reach in Afghanistan, erecting a pier that extends a kilometer into the surf to support logistics coming over the shore, working to open a damaged port in Haiti, or drilling a fresh water well in Africa, CEC-led Seabees live by their motto “Can Do!” and can be counted on to get the job done.

Rear Adm. Christopher Mossey visits with elements of three Seabee battalions in Afghanistan in 2011. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Vuong Ta

Rear Adm. Christopher Mossey visits with elements of three Seabee battalions in Afghanistan in 2011.
Navy photo by Utilitiesman 2nd Class Vuong Ta

As we celebrate nearly a century-and-a-half of dedicated service, this is a time to reflect upon the Civil Engineer Corp’s storied past, the critical work it is doing now, and the accomplishments it will achieve in the future. As CEC officer Cmdr. La Tanya Simms summarized it, “We don’t just build facilities and roads. We build partnerships, lasting legacies, solutions, and linkages to improve people’s lives.”

Happy 147th birthday, Civil Engineer Corps!

 Rear Adm. Gregory assumed duties as commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and chief of civil engineers on Oct. 26, 2012.
Previously, Gregory served as commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific and the Pacific Fleet civil engineer. Her other facilities assignments include tours in Yokosuka, Japan; Naples, Italy; San Francisco; Adak, Alaska; and Pearl Harbor. She has also had staff tours in Washington, D.C., serving as the Seabee action officer and Chief of Naval Operations Overseas Bases planning and action officer.
Within the Naval Construction Force (Seabees), she has served with Amphibious Construction Battalion One; Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) One; commanding officer of NMCB 133; commander of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment; and chief of staff for the First Naval Construction Division. Throughout her Seabee tours, she deployed to the Western Pacific, Mediterranean, Iraq and Haiti.
Gregory is a native of St. Louis, and a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. She holds graduate degrees from the University of Southern California and George Washington University, and has completed the Senior Executive Program at the London School of Business.
She is a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a qualified military parachutist and Seabee combat warfare officer.

 
Mar 5

After much deliberation, Seabees settle on March 5 as birthday

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 1:15 PM
Description: Diego Garcia (July 9, 2004) U.S. Navy Seabees with Underwater Construction Team Two (UCT-2) at Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory, step into the water at the beginning of a scheduled dive July 9, 2004. Photo by U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael Hight

U.S. Navy Seabees with Underwater Construction Team Two (UCT-2) at Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory, step into the water at the beginning of a scheduled dive July 9, 2004. Photo by U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Hight

By Lara Godbille, Ph.D., Director, US Navy Seabee Museum, Naval History and Heritage Command

Since March 5, 1942, the U.S. Navy has employed an elite cadre of construction battalions better known as Seabees. Guided by the motto, “We Build, We Fight,” over the past 72 years the Seabees have served in all major American conflicts, supported humanitarian efforts, and helped to build communities and nations around the globe. Today, Seabees young and old are celebrating the birthday of this unique organization; however, March 5th has not always been its birthday. 

 

Rear Adm. Ben Moreell personally furnished Seabees with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus -- "We Build, We Fight."

Rear Adm. Ben Moreell personally furnished Seabees with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus — “We Build, We Fight.”

 

 

From its inception during World War until 1954, the anniversary of the Seabee was observed on December 28th. This was the date on which Adm. Ben Moreell requested authority from the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to recruit enlisted personnel to serve in a naval construction force. Rear Adm. John R. Perry, CEC, USN, the Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks (the predecessor to NAVFAC), made the decision to change the Seabee birthday. When serving as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme, Calif., in the early 1950s, Perry recognized the Seabee birthday occurred at a hectic time of the year. Many the Seabees were on holiday leave during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Family commitments coupled with the financial strain of the holidays made it difficult for all to participate in what Perry considered a suitable celebration for the Seabee birthday.

Several historically significant dates in Seabee history were considered for the new birthdate. For example, October 31st was a contender as it was the day in 1941 that the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation directed Adm. Moreell to form of a Headquarters Construction Company of ninety-nine men for duty in Iceland. These men, combined with four other companies formed the core of what would be the Bobcats and the First Naval Construction Battalion. March 19 was also contemplated as it was the day in 1942 that the Secretary of the Navy authorized Civil Engineer Corps Officers to serve as Commanding Officers of the newly formed Construction Battalions.

Built by the 111th Naval Construction Battalion, the Mulberry at Normandy had large concrete and/or steel pontoons installed at regular intervals for strengthening. Omaha shoreline is viewed in background in this June 1944 photo.

Built by the 111th Naval Construction Battalion,
the Mulberry at Normandy had large concrete and/or steel pontoons installed at regular intervals for strengthening. Omaha shoreline is viewed in background in this June 1944 photo.

After deliberations by leadership in the Bureau of Yards and Dock’s Seabee Division, March 5th was determined to be the most appropriate day to celebrate the Seabee birthday as it had dual significance. Not only was March 5th the date in 1942 that the Construction Battalions were given official permission to assume the name of Seabees, but it was also the anniversary date of the Civil Engineer Corps which had been established in 1867.

Seabee Construction electrician works on improvements to the power distribution system at Camp Hoover, Da Nang, Vietnam, Nov. 21, 1968. U.S. Navy photo

Seabee Construction electrician works on improvements to the power distribution system at Camp Hoover, Da Nang, Vietnam, Nov. 21, 1968. U.S. Navy photo

Even though some aspects of the Seabee organization have changed throughout the years – including its birthday – there is a distinctive ethos that defines and binds the Seabee community whether they served in Guadalcanal or in Afghanistan. This attitude is hard to define, but you know it if you’ve ever known a Seabee no matter their era; I like to describe it is “Can do!” coated in compassion. This sense of Seabee pride and connectedness to a larger Seabee community that spans both geography and time is what is make days like this one as special as it is.

Godbille is the director of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. Part of Naval History and Heritage Command’s nine museums, the mission of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is to select, collect, preserve and display historic material relating to the history of the Naval Construction Force, better known as the SEABEES, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. The second oldest of the official Navy museums, the  Seabee Museum  was established in 1947 in Port Hueneme, Calf., which today is part of Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC).

 MUSEUM HOURS

 Mon – Sat: 9am to 4pm, Sun: 12pm to 4pm, closed all Federal holidays

Admission and parking are free.

The Museum is open to the public and tours can be arranged for schools or other groups. Call (805) 982-5167 or email seabeemuseum@navy.mil

 Visit the Seabee Museum’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/seabeemuseum?ref=br_tf 

To read about the Seabees during World War II and their efforts with building for a nation and for equality click here.

 

 
Mar 4

Building for a Nation and for Equality: African American Seabees in World War II

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 8:41 PM

 Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, Naval History and Heritage Command

 

Members of the 34th Naval Construction Battalion erecting a 40 x 100 foot Quonset hut warehouse at Halavo Seaplane Base, Florida Island, Solomon Islands, September 19, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Members of the 34th Naval Construction Battalion erecting a 40 x 100 foot Quonset hut warehouse at Halavo Seaplane Base, Florida Island, Solomon Islands, September 19, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Visitors to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum may wish to walk to the display of battalion plaques from World War II. Among the blur of polished wood, painted plaster, and engraved metal one may gaze upon the plaques of the 34th, 20th (Special), and 80th Naval Construction Battalions (NCB). The plaque for the 20th bears the motto “Proving Our Worth,” an apt description for men fighting for victory over fascism abroad and discrimination at home. Over 12,500 African Americans served in Seabee units in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II, a group largely forgotten today. During the war these men not only built advanced bases and offloaded cargo, but helped break institutional conceptions of race, paving the road toward complete integration of the Navy.

 

MM1c J.P. Weaver of Martinsburg, WV at the controls of a Seabee dozer. Weaver rose from Seaman to Petty Officers in 20 months with the 34th Naval Construction Battalion, earning the most promotion of any member during its first deployment in the Pacific. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

MM1c J.P. Weaver of Martinsburg, WV at the controls of a Seabee dozer. Weaver rose from Seaman to Petty Officers in 20 months with the 34th Naval Construction Battalion, earning the most promotion of any member during its first deployment in the Pacific. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Navy debated its exclusionary and discriminatory race policies. In June 1940, only 2.3 percent of the Navy’s personnel were African American, almost all serving as stewards for white officers and chiefs in the messman branch. Passage of the Selective Service and Training Act in September 1940 necessitated the Navy to change its policies, as the legislation stated that “any person, regardless of race or color . . . shall be afforded an opportunity to volunteer for . . . the land and naval forces of the United States.” Subsequently, Navy Secretary Frank Knox established a committee to investigate the integration of African Americans into the service. The committee’s December 1941 report, however, argued against enlisting African Americans as other than mess attendants due to “the limitations of the characteristics of members of certain races.” But after December 7, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) pressed the White House and Knox to accept African Americans for service other than stewards.

 

Members of the 41st Special Naval Construction Battalion on Hollandia in 1944. The Specials integrated in the latter stages of the war in the Pacific, some of the first full-integrated units in the Navy. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Members of the 41st Special Naval Construction Battalion on Hollandia in 1944. The Specials integrated in the latter stages of the war in the Pacific, some of the first full-integrated units in the Navy. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, balancing the issues of race while pursuing a two-front war, pressed for a compromise solution. In January 1942, Knox asked the Navy’s General Board to submit plans for African Americans to serve in billets outside of the steward branch, but the new plans only reinforced prevalent racial views that African Americans exclusively remain in the messman branch. Roosevelt remained unconvinced, and requested Knox reinvestigate the matter. In late February, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Harold R. Stark recommended that African Americans could be rated in construction battalions or serve in the naval shore establishment. On April 7, 1942, Knox announced that the Navy would enlist African Americans for the general service, with open enlistment for messmen and the new Seabees.

Seabee divers from the 34th Naval Construction Battalion work on a marine railway using improvised diving equipment, Gavutu, Solomon Islands, November 8, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Seabee divers from the 34th Naval Construction Battalion work on a marine railway using improvised diving equipment, Gavutu, Solomon Islands, November 8, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

For the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDocks), recruitment and organization for African American construction battalions began in April 1942. In September, 880 African American men from 37 states reported to Camp Allen near Norfolk, VA to become Seabees. To command the new units, BuDocks decided to use southern white men, chosen for “their ability and knowledge in handling” African Americans, but who also received orders to treat all personnel without difference in regards to promotions and assignments. With almost eighty percent of the enlisted men hailing from the South, RADM Ben Moreell and other senior BuDocks leaders felt this arrangement would help produce a “crack battalion, one which will be proud of themselves and to the Seabees.” On October 24, 1942, the Navy commissioned the African American 34th NCB which shipped out of Port Hueneme, CA for the Pacific. The men served 20 months overseas, constructing naval facilities at Espiritu Santo and in the Solomon Islands before returning to Camp Rousseau, Port Hueneme in October 1944.

 

The 80th Naval Construction Battalion at work at Edinburgh Field, Trinidad construction a steel lighter-than-air hangar, November 30, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

The 80th Naval Construction Battalion at work at Edinburgh Field, Trinidad construction a steel lighter-than-air hangar, November 30, 1943. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Around the time the 34th shipped out in January 1943, the second African American construction battalion, the 80th NCB, formed at Camp Allen and commissioned on February 2. After advanced training, the unit moved to Gulfport, MS before embarking for assignment to Trinidad in July. As with the 34th, the 80th’s officers and chiefs were also white southerners, although the battalion’s African American personnel mostly came from northern states. Also in July 1943, the first of fifteen predominantly African American stevedore construction battalions, termed “specials,” commissioned. All but one of these specials served in the Pacific. These battalions varied considerably in composition from the 34th and 80th NCBs. While still commanded by white officers, the 15th, 17th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Specials had at least one African American chief petty officer, and the white leadership consisted predominately of non-southerners, less inclined to impose the edifice of segregation in the workplace or at the base camps.

While deployed, the men of the two construction battalions performed their assignments admirably and efficiently, but the corrosive effects of commander-imposed racism and discrimination would result in two imbroglios for the Navy. Initially, nothing appeared out of order with either battalion. In the Pacific, the 34th endured Japanese bombing raids and lost five men killed and 35 wounded in their first deployment. Their work in the Solomons garnered numerous commendations and citations for exceptional service. In Trinidad, the 80th constructed a massive airship hangar and other airfield facilities in defense of the Caribbean from German U-boat operations. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Moreell, and other dignitaries visited the unit to inspect their progress.

Upon returning to the United States in late 1944, racial tensions in the 34th boiled over at Camp Rousseau, Port Hueneme. While rebuilding for its next deployment, the commanding officer refused to rate any African American as a chief petty officer, and instituted segregated barracks, mess lines, and mess huts. African American petty officers were used for unskilled manual labor and never placed in charge of working parties. With morale low, the African American personnel of the battalion staged a hunger strike from March 2 – 3, 1945, refusing to eat but continuing to perform all scheduled duties. In response, following a Board of Investigation, BuDocks relieved the commanding officer, his executive officer, and twenty percent of the original officers and petty officers. Their replacements were all screened for racial prejudices and southern men predominately avoided. The new commanding officer, a New Yorker, organized a training program for enlisted personnel to be rerated and ensured that qualified men receive the promotions unfairly denied them under the previous commander.

Left to right, 34th National Construction Battalion members MM3c Joseph E. Vaughn of Cambridge, MA, CM3c Harry E. Lash of Gastonia, NC, and GM3c William A. Shields of Trenton, NJ displaying Purple Hearts for wounds received by Japanese bombing on February 22, 1943. Photo taken May 28, 1944 at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Left to right, 34th National Construction Battalion members MM3c Joseph E. Vaughn of Cambridge, MA, CM3c Harry E. Lash of Gastonia, NC, and GM3c William A. Shields of Trenton, NJ displaying Purple Hearts for wounds received by Japanese bombing on February 22, 1943. Photo taken May 28, 1944 at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

For the men of the 80th, discrimination in Gulfport prior to embarkation continued on their transport at sea and at Trinidad, where segregated facilities manifested themselves. After the Officer in Charge heard complaints from a group of Seabees about racial discrimination in the battalion in September 1943, the commander initiated the discharge of 19 members for what he deemed seditious behavior bordering on mutiny. The commanding officer of the Naval Operating Base, Trinidad and commandant of the Tenth Naval District approved the discharges. The discharged men thereafter contacted the NAACP and the African American media, who demanded answers from the Secretary of the Navy. Under the legal guidance of the NAACP and their special counsel, Thurgood Marshall, a review board upgraded the discharges of 14 of the men in April 1945. Meanwhile, after the battalion returned to Port Hueneme in July 1944, BuDocks ordered the removal of the Officer in Charge and all of the original white officers and chiefs, aside from the medical and supply officers, and replaced them with non-southerners.

BuDocks could have easily disbanded both battalions and declared African Americans incompatible with the Seabees, but instead chose to recognize the error of its way and change its policies. A Civil Engineer Corps officer noted during the war how when choosing officers for a Seabee unit, “A man may be from the north, south, east or west. If his attitude is to do the best possible job he knows how, regardless of what the color of his personnel is, that is the man we want as an officer for our colored Seabees.” The work of African American units proved equal to that of white units. Leadership – as with any military unit – made the difference in morale and efficiency. This is particularly noted in the African American special battalions, which often reported high morale and performance. After replacing the leadership of the two construction battalions, BuDocks redeployed both units to the Pacific in 1945, where they worked without incident and with high morale.

The accomplishments of African American Seabees in World War II demonstrated then and now that the spirit of “Can Do” does not differentiate between age, race, or gender. By late 1945 as American forces closed in on Japan, several African American Seabee specials integrated, and white and black Seabees found themselves unloading ships or constructing advance bases, united together for victory. These constituted, arguably, the Navy’s first fully-integrated units in the twentieth century. Perhaps more importantly for these Seabees, they recognized how their work in the Pacific factored into the fight against discrimination at home. Writing in April 1945, 80th NCB member CM1c Arthur H. Turner of Detroit, MI declared: “Wherever we go, whatever our assignment may be, we still employ all our talents and efforts to do a good job, one that will be a lasting monument to the navy and to the negro race.”

Members of the 34th Naval Construction Battalion construct a timber pile bridge over the Teneru River on Guadalcanal using native lumber, July 10, 1944. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Members of the 34th Naval Construction Battalion construct a timber pile bridge over the Teneru River on Guadalcanal using native lumber, July 10, 1944. Source: U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

Part of Naval History and Heritage Command’s nine museums the mission of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is to select, collect, preserve and display historic material relating to the history of the Naval Construction Force, better known as the SEABEES, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

The second oldest of the official Navy museums, the Seabee Museum was established in 1947 in Port Hueneme, Calf., which today is part of Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC).

 

MUSEUM HOURS

 Mon – Sat: 9am to 4pm

Sun: 12pm to 4pm

Closed all Federal holidays

Admission and parking are free.

 The Museum is open to the public and tours can be arranged for schools or other groups.

Call (805) 982-5167 or email seabeemuseum@navy.mil

Visit the Seabee Museum’s Facebook page.

 
Feb 28

Lest We Forget: The night of Feb. 28, 1942, USS Houston (CA 30)

Friday, February 28, 2014 3:08 PM

USS Houston off San Diego, Calif. Oct. 1935 - FDR on board

By Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole, United States Navy, American Legation, US Naval Attaché, Jakarta, Indonesia

Tonight, while you are at home or out, it might be appropriate to spend a minute in remembrance of the 1,082 men of USS Houston. It was 72 years ago tonight that she sailed for the final time into the teeth of enemy fire. In the Sunda Strait, and in concert with HMAS Perth, she ran into a main Japanese invasion force. Low on fuel and with her after turret out of action; this as a result of damage sustained at the Battle of Makassar Strait (where she lost 41 men), she entered the fray. HMAS Perth went down first, fighting to the end, and Houston was left alone surrounded by enemy ships and aircraft.

At some time after 1:30 a.m. after having been hit scores of times, and with fires raging out of control, the order was given to abandon ship. Houston was bathed in the light of Japanese searchlights, still under heavy fire and settling by the bow when her surviving crew gave her to the sea and scrambled over the sides.

As she began her final plunge one survivor wrote that “it seemed as a sudden breeze picked up the Stars and Stripes, still firmly blocked on the mainmast, and waved them in one last defiant gesture.”

Other survivors saw red tracer fire still flaring out of a machine gun platform as one lone Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Standish, continued firing till the sea took him. (Semper Fi, Marine!)

Some 675 Sailors and Marines died with Houston. Most of these men were either taken down with the ship as she sank or died when the pitiless tide washed them into the vast Indian Ocean. Still others were machine gunned as they swam helpless in the water.

Only 366 men were taken into captivity, but their ordeal was far from over. Most would end up in Thailand, where under inhuman conditions they were forced to construct the infamous Burma Rail Road. Of this handful of survivors a further 76 Sailors and Marines died of sickness, abuse, torture, hunger and neglect.

In 1945 only 290 men remained, many broken in body but not in spirit, to return to the United States. Think of them tonight for they paid the full price in defense of our freedoms.

Well Done Houston, Well Done!

 
Feb 28

Launching of USS Indiana (BB 1), the Navy’s first battleship

Friday, February 28, 2014 2:22 PM

USS Indiana (BB-1)

By Naval History and Heritage Command

NOTE: This blog posits that USS Indiana (BB 1) was the U.S. Navy’s first battleship. Why? The hull number, for one thing – BB 1. There’s also the fact that the ships after Indiana were called Indiana-class battleships. Also, based on the Naming of Ships Act of 1819, Indiana was a “first class” battleship based on her 42 guns. Texas was a second-class battleship with only 34 guns. Despite all that, we admit that Texas was commissioned three months before Indiana. No matter which side of that debate you fall on, no one can deny Indiana, which was launched on this date in 1893, was a great ship and those who sailed in her were great Sailors!

As the Navy’s first numbered-as-such battleship, Indiana (BB 1) was the heaviest such ship at nearly 10,300 tons, the longest and widest of any other ship, and outfitted with the most guns, 42. The downside to all of that was she was among the slowest, with a top speed of 15 knots compared to 17 for the lighter “second-class” battleships Maine and Texas.

Launched 121 years ago today, Indiana might have been slow, but her weapons and armor would serve her well during the critical Battle of Santiago de Cuba July 3, 1898.

Launch of the Indiana

Relaunching the Navy

Before you sail them, you have to build them. Years before President Theodore Roosevelt would introduce the world to the Great White Fleet, those ships had to be built. There were only two commissioned vessels in the Navy that could be considered warships at the time President Benjamin Harrison took office, March 4, 1889 – armored cruisers Atlanta and Boston. Two more ships were under construction, USS Maine and USS Texas, considered second-class battleships since they sported fewer than 40 guns, the requirement for ‘first class’ status.

Harrison’s commitment to growing the naval forces was evident in his inaugural address, stating “construction of a sufficient number of warships and their necessary armaments should progress as rapidly as is consistent with care and perfection.”

To put that goal into action, Harrison turned to another Benjamin — Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy — to work out the details. His first proposal a few months later was an ambitious 15-year program of 35 battleships and 167 other vessels, with 10 of those battleships designed for protecting American shipping interests around the world, while the rest would be built to protect America’s coasts and ports. It was a compromise for those who felt the United States should remain an isolationist nation rather than an imperialistic world power.

That bill failed. Tracy’s second attempt was far less reaching. On June 30, 1890, Congress approved a Navy Bill authorizing construction of three new battleships that were more of the coastal-protection design: heavily armored, plenty of weaponry, and while not speedy, a respectable 15 knots. Years later, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt would call them “sea-going coast-line battleships.” The first would be called Indiana, no doubt a nod to the president’s home state. By 1898, the Navy boasted 10 modern warships and turned the United States into a legitimate naval power. Seven of those would have begun during Harrison’s 4-year term, including the two other Indiana-class battleships Massachusetts (BB 2) and Oregon (BB 3).

Ironically, getting approval from Congress to fund the fleet took less time than building USS Indiana. Her keel was laid down May 7, 1891 by William Cramp & Sons out of Philadelphia. With just four days left in his presidency, Harrison attended Indiana’s launch Feb. 28, 1893, along with 10,000 others. It would be another two years before the “sea-going coast-line battleship” would be commissioned into the Navy.

NH 52644 Indiana bow view

During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Indiana’s heavily-armored structure proved vital during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. The battleship was part of Rear Adm. William Sampson’s North Atlantic Squadron fleet based out of Key West, Fla. The Spanish government had ordered Adm. Pascual Cervera’s 6-ship squadron to guard Cuba. Leaving from the Canary Islands, Cervera’s squad arrived at Cuba in late May, but two days later the Spanish ships were spotted by the Americans. USS Indiana was part of a squadron sent to blockade the Spanish fleet within the harbor at Santiago de Cuba.

After more than a month blockaded in the harbor, Cervera planned his escape. He hoped his faster ships could slip by the Americans while they were conducting church services on Sunday, July 3. Other factors worked in Cervera’s favor that Sunday morning: Sampson’s flagship was out of place to communicate with another ship and two vessels were being refueled at Guantanamo Bay.

As Cervera’s cruisers Infanta María Teresa and Almirante Oquendo fled, Sampson’s squadron took chase, sinking or running aground the two cruisers. Indiana and the armored yachts moved into position just in time to pound Cervera’s destroyers, Pluton and Furor, with gunfire, sinking them. By the end of the morning, Sampson’s ships sank or forced aground the rest of Cervera’s ships, Vizcaya and Cristóbal Colón. More than 323 Spanish crew were killed with 151 wounded. Adm. Cervera was one of the 1,500 sailors and officers taken prisoner. The U.S. lost one crew member with minimal damage to the ships.

After the battle, as the Navy continued to transform its fleet to fill a more global mission, Indiana would be used to train sailors. She was decommissioned Dec. 29, 1903.

 

NH 52653 USS Indiana forecastle view

That would last but three years. Indiana would be recommissioned Jan. 9, 1906, to serve with the Naval Academy Practice Squadron, sailing to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. On June 22, 1911, while in Queenstown, Ireland, the “sea-going coast-line battleship” fired a 21-gun salute in honor of the coronation of King George V.

Indiana would continue training midshipmen until she was decommissioned again May 23, 1914, but again, her value to the Navy would continue as she was recommissioned three years later, serving through World War I as a training ship for gun crews off Tomkinsville, N.Y. and in the York River.  

She was decommissioned as Indiana for the last time Jan. 31, 1919, and the name itself was cancelled March 29, 1919, leaving the opportunity for another battleship to be named Indiana, one that would serve infamously during the naval battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II.

But the battleship formerly-known-as-Indiana continued to serve the Navy. Reclassified as Coast Battleship Number 1, she was used as a target for important aerial bombing tests. Finally, the ship’s hulk was sold for scrap March 19, 1924, just over 31 years after 10,000 people watched her launching Feb. 28, 1893, in Philadelphia.

 
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