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Dec 13

Frigates, Brigs, Sloops, Schooners, and the Early Continental Navy’s Struggle for Success

Saturday, December 13, 2014 9:00 AM
Continental Frigate Boston (1777-1780) Painting by Rod Claudius, Rome, Italy, 1962. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Continental Frigate Boston (1777-1780)
Painting by Rod Claudius, Rome, Italy, 1962. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

In 1775, Americans were no strangers to the ways of the sea, either in peace or in war. In the years immediately before the outbreak of the rebellion, Americans demonstrated their growing disenchantment with British rule by taking action against ships collecting revenue or delivering tea in Boston Harbor. Once the revolution began, Americans recognized that events in the Atlantic Ocean theater would have a major, and potentially decisive, impact on the course of the war in North America.

In the fall of 1775, Americans initiated a privateering campaign against British commerce, and on Oct. 13, the Continental Congress, after some difficult political debate, also established a small naval force, hoping that even a diminutive navy would be able to offset to some extent what would otherwise be an uncontested exercise of British sea power. The seven ships included 24-gun frigates Alfred and Columbus, 14-gun brigs Andrew Doria (Andrea Doria) and Cabot, and three schooners, Hornet, Wasp and Fly.

The Continental Congress had a very limited role in mind for the navy. It was not expected to contest British control of the seas, but rather to wage a traditional guerre de course against British trade, in conjunction with the scores of privateers outfitting in American ports.

The Continental Navy’s ships were to raid commerce and attack the transports that supplied British forces in North America. To carry out this mission, the Continental Congress began to build up, through purchase, conversion, and new construction, a cruiser navy of small ships–frigates, brigs, sloops, and schooners.

On Dec. 16, 1775, Congress approved the purchase of 13 frigates: Five with 32-guns: Raleigh, Hancock, Warren, Washington and Randolph; five with 28-guns: Providence, Trumbull, Congress, Virginia and Effingham, and three with 24-guns: Boston, Montgomery and Delaware.

Things did not go smoothly. Congress wanted construction complete by March 1776, but builders struggled to find the armament to outfit them and even more so to get the Sailors to man them. The pay was greater for privateers who could also raid British merchant ships and split the spoils among themselves.

Several of the ships never made it to sea: Washington, Congress, Effingham and Montgomery were either scuttled or burned between October and November 1777 to keep them from the British.

Delaware, while attempting to slow down British forces coming after American troops was caught by an ebb tide and stranded on Sept. 27, 1777. She was captured and destroyed shortly afterward.

Virginia ran aground March 31, 1778 near Hampton Roads while attempting to outrun the British blockade of the Chesapeake Bay.

Frigates Raleigh

A model of the frigate Raleigh, which was commanded by Capt. John Barry, for the Continental Navy.

The remaining frigates had mixed success. Raleigh captured three prizes while under the command of Capt. John Barry, but was run aground Sept. 27, 1778, and scuttled.

Commodore John Barry, USN (1745-1803), who commanded Continental frigate Raleigh. Portrait by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), circa 1801. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Commodore John Barry, USN (1745-1803), who commanded Continental frigate Raleigh.
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), circa 1801.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Hancock, too, captured three ships, but July 8, 1777, while being pursued by a British squadron, the American frigate was captured by HMS Rainbow and turned into the man-of-war Iris.

Frigates Hancock and Boston capturing HMS Fox. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Frigates Hancock and Boston capturing HMS Fox. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

The 32-gun Randolph had captured five prizes under the command of Capt. Nicholas Biddle. While escorting a convoy of merchantmen on March 7, 1778, Randolph attempted to fend off the British 64-gun HMS Yarmouth. As the smaller American frigate fought the British ship, a magazine on Randolph exploded, destroying the ship and killing all but four of her crew. But the aftermath of the explosion also damaged Yarmouth and the convoy got away.

Model of the Continental frigate Randolph

Model of the Continental frigate Randolph

The frigates named for their New England heritage, Providence and Boston, had the most success in their service of the Continental Navy. Boston had 17 prizes, plus a special mission carrying John Adams to France in early 1778. Providence, under the command of Capt. Abraham Whipple, tallied 14 prizes. But both frigates were captured May 12, 1780, following the American surrender to the British after the Siege of Charleston, S.C.

The 28-gun Trumbull launched in 1776, only to find her deep draft would keep her from getting over a sandbar in the mouth of the Connecticut River as it flowed into Long Island Sound. After three years, Trumbull was finally freed in 1779 after casks of water were lashed alongside port and starboard. When the casks were pumped out they rose and lifted the ship enough to get over the sandbar. Although Capt. James Nicholson received command of the frigate on Sept. 20, he didn’t get cruising orders until the spring.

It was a short cruise.

On June 1, 1780, Trumbull spotted a ship that would prove to be the British 32-gun letter-of-marque Watt. After being challenged by Watt, Trumbull ran up British colors, but the captain grew suspicious of Trumbull’s movements and soon after gave “three cheers and a broadside” to begin what historian Gardner W. Allen considered “one of the hardest fought naval engagements of the war.”

For 2 ½ hours, the two ships traded shots in a range that was never wider than 80 yards, and at times, while locked together. Both ships caught fire, and with the British ship’s hull, rigging and sails shot to pieces, she was taking on water.

Trumbull hardly fared better. Captain of Marines Gilbert Saltonstall noted: “We were literally cut all to pieces; not a shroud, stay, brace, bowling or other rigging standing. Our main top mast shot away, our fore, main mizzen, and jigger masts gone by the board…”

Both ships broke off action to assess their damage. Trumbull suffered eight killed and 31 wounded, while Watt had 13 killed and 79 wounded. Nicholson was eager to pursue his foe, in better condition with one remaining mast. Already battered beyond belief, the frigate had to weather a gale on its return to Connecticut. Nicholson was congratulated on the “gallantry displayed in the defense” against Watt. But lack of money and men kept the ship inactive until the first part of 1781.

It was Aug. 8, 1781, when Trumbull sailed again with a 24-gun privateer and a 14-gun letter-of-marque to protect a 28-ship merchant convoy. Twenty days later, three British ships spied the convoy and two broke off to give chase. The shapes of the ship might have seemed familiar to Trumbull’s little squadron: They were former Continental ships, the frigate Hancock and privateer General Washington, now known as HMS Iris and General Monk.

Trumbull’s luck continued to worsen after an evening rains quall carried away the frigate’s fore-topmast and her main topgallantmast. Soon the frigate was trapped by Iris and General Monk. While Nicholson was ready to fight, his crew was not – only a quarter responded to the call to quarters. After battling Iris for 95 minutes, General Monk moved into finish the battle, and Nicholson, after “seeing no prospect of escaping in this unequal contest,” struck his colors. Five of his crew were killed and 11 wounded.

Although HMS Iris towed Trumbull to New York, the battered frigate, the last of the original 13 frigates approved on Dec. 13, 1775, was not placed into the Royal Navy and her final fate remains unknown.

Many of the failures of the early Continental navy were directly attributable to the uneven and uncertain quality of the highly politicized officer corps. Mediocre officers vied for rank and privilege. Many commanders lacked drive, and others, while perhaps excellent seamen, were simply incompetent warriors. Nevertheless, whatever the shortcomings of the Continental Navy, the course of the war demonstrated to Americans the importance of sea power.

The control of the Atlantic by the Royal Navy allowed Great Britain to transport a large army to North America and to sustain it there, which is what contributed to Washington’s crushing defeat during the Siege of Charleston.

But just two months after Trumbull was towed into oblivion, French sea power, allied with the American cause after 1778, enabled Gen. George Washington to isolate and destroy the British army of Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown Oct. 19, 1781.

 
Dec 12

30 Goats Later: A Unique Heritage of Football

Friday, December 12, 2014 11:45 AM

By MC1 Tim Comerford,

 Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication Outreach Division

Tomorrow, two giants meet on the gridiron. Both will strain inordinately to show itself master of the pigskin. But no matter who wins the day, the winner of game is really the service that the giants represent – the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army.

The first game came about from a challenge to the Army and was played 1890 at West Point to a blowout 24-0 victory for the midshipmen.

Army-Navy football game, 1916. (Source: Library of Congress)

 

Since then, the games’ outcomes have been pretty even overall. Navy’s record currently stands at 58 wins, 49 losses and seven ties, with 12 of those victories in a row since 2002. Regardless of the outcome, the build-up to the game tends to be a main focus between the institutions – midshipmen and cadets spending weeks to months developing the posters, banners and paraphernalia used during the games, in addition to spirited exchanges between the “squids” and the “woops” the week prior.

For more than a century, the Army-Navy football game has captured the attention of officers and enlisted alike from both services and Americans in general. The preparation for the rivalry of the game itself is an amazing occurrence, with military units deployed around the world offering recorded verbal encouragement to the team of their choice. Check out this year’s round of spirit videos.

But there has been one form of encouragement to the midshipmen that has been there since the first game – their mascot.

“On the train to the Army-Navy game, [the players] were discussing the Yale bulldog, somebody said, ‘oh well we need a mascot,’” said James Cheevers, senior curator at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. “They borrowed a goat from a farmer in Highland Park, N.Y., and they won the game, so they considered the goat lucky.”

Army-Navy football game, Nov. 28, 1908. (Source: Library of Congress)

 

Since that first game in 1890, the U.S. Naval Academy has been through more than 30 of the mascots, many named Bill. Though, there is one, which was stuffed after his passing and remains on display at the Naval Academy, with something of a strange name, Three-to-Nothing Jack Dalton. The goat was named after a famed field goal kicker in the 1910-1911 seasons who won two games against Army three to nothing.

“Jack Dalton kicked the field goals for the win. They renamed Bill IV, who was the goat at that time, Three-to-Nothing Jack Dalton,” Cheevers said.

With more than a hundred meets in the series, it’s hard to fathom that there might not be an Army-Navy game, but there have been 10 times when the game was not played. What could ever cause these two powerhouses not to meet?

Spectators, including President Woodrow Wilson, watch the Army-Navy football game played at the Polo Grounds in New York City, 1913. (Source: Library of Congress)

The first time was four years after the rivalry began and lasted five years.

“The game of football was getting a lot of bad press, because a lot of kids were getting injured and actually dying. The games came to an end for a little while. One of the presidents, Grover Cleveland, agreed that the game should be ended,” Cheevers said.

A more colorful version of the story says that a reputed incident between a Navy admiral and an Army general, which nearly led to a duel after the 1893 Navy victory, had President Cleveland calling a Cabinet meeting in late February 1894 to diffuse the situation. Later, Secretary of the Navy Hillary A. Herbert and Secretary of War Daniel S. Lamont issued orders to the respective academies stating that other teams would be allowed to visit Annapolis and West Point to conduct football games, plus the Army and Navy football teams were “prohibited in engaging in games elsewhere.” So the teams could not meet.

Eventually cooler heads prevailed and the game resumed in 1899 until 1909.

The game that year was not played out of respect for an Army football player who died earlier in the season in a game against Harvard.

The games were again suspended in 1917 and 1918.

“In World War I the games were suspended once again due the war,” Cheevers said.

The last time the game was not played was between 1928 and 1929.

“There was a dispute between the schools over the rules,” Cheevers said. “They couldn’t get together on the rules of the game.”

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen take the football field for the 113th Army-Navy Football game at Lincoln Financial Field, Dec. 8, 2012. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge/Released)

 

Through the years, Navy footballers have achieved varying degrees of fame. Everyone has heard of Roger Staubach, Class of ‘65. But even he never achieved a level of notoriety to merit being memorialized on the academy grounds in glass as did one member of the Class of 1927.

“Tom Hamilton became a major football hero and they made a board game named for him, and is a figure in the stained glass window of the Naval Academy Chapel,” Cheevers said.

This storied rivalry can also take credit for giving the U.S. Navy its own theme – Anchors Aweigh.

According to the Navy, Lt. Charles A. Zimmermann was selected as the bandmaster of the Naval Academy Band in 1887, where he started the practice of composing a march for each graduating class. In 1906, Zimmerman was approached by Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles with a request for a new march. As a member of the Class of 1907, Miles and his classmates “were eager to have a piece of music that would be inspiring, one with a swing to it so it could be used as a football marching song, and one that would live forever.”

Supposedly, with the two men seated at the Naval Academy Chapel organ, Zimmermann composed the tune and Miles set the title and wrote to two first stanzas for “Anchors Aweigh” in November 1906. This march was played by the band and sung by the brigade at the 1906 Army-Navy football game later that month, and for the first time in several seasons, Navy won. Anchors Aweigh was subsequently dedicated to the Naval Academy Class of 1907 and adopted as the official song of the U.S. Navy.

A complete listing of every game in the series is available here.

Kick off for tomorrow’s game is 3 p.m. EST. Check your local listings to find out where you can see the game and cheer: Go Navy! Beat Army!

Who do you think will win?

 
Dec 9

Grace Hopper: Navy to the Core, a Pirate at Heart

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 12:15 PM
Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper was born Dec. 9, 1906. After joining the WAVES at age 37, Hopper's achievements in the computer industry is legendary. NavyLive image

Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper was born Dec. 9, 1906. After joining the WAVES at age 37, Hopper’s achievements in the computer industry is legendary. NavyLive image

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The typical career arc of a naval officer may run from 25-30 years. Most, however, don’t start at age 35. Yet when it comes to Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, well, the word “typical” just doesn’t apply.

Feisty. Eccentric. Maverick. Brilliant. Precise. Grace Hopper embodied all of those descriptions and more, but perhaps what defined her as much as anything else was the pride she had in wearing the Navy uniform for 43 years. Ironically, Rear Adm. Grace Hopper — “Amazing Grace” as she was known — had to fight to get into the Navy.

Grace Brewster Murray was born into a well-off family in New York on Dec. 9, 1906. She could have followed what many of her peers did during those times: attending college for a year or two, getting married then devoting their lives to their families and volunteer work.

Instead, Grace’s path would be less traveled. Encouraged to explore her innate curiosity on how things worked, a 7-year-old Grace dismantled all of the family’s alarm clocks trying to put them back together again. Rather than banishment from the practice, she was allowed one to practice on.

A favorite story oft-told by the adult Hopper was published in the book Grace Hopper, Admiral of the Cyber Sea by Kathleen Broome Williams, Ph.D. The tale has young Grace in a sail canoe on Lake Wentworth at her family’s summer home. A gust of wind capsized the canoe, dunking her into the lake. Her mother, watching from the porch, picked up a megaphone at her side and called to her daughter: “Remember your great-grandfather, the admiral.” With this stout admonition not to give up the ship, Grace hung onto the canoe and kicked it to shore.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- An exhibit celebrating Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, a pioneer Computer Programmer, waits in Naval History and Heritage Command Curator Branch's uniform room for transportation to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. These early computer components, including central processing units, circuit boards, and microchips, relate to the electrical circuits within a computer. Each piece was used by the Naval Data Automation Command, where Rear Adm. Hopper worked from 1976 until her retirement from the Navy in 1986. Hopper, born on Dec. 9, 1906, joined the Naval reserve in 1943 and was commissioned to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. She worked for the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University where she became the first programmer on the Navy's Mark I computer, a mechanical miracle of its day. Hopper co-invented COBOL [Common Business Oriented Language) which made it possible for computers to respond to words rather than numbers and is still used today. Hopper died January 1, 1992 . U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) — An exhibit celebrating Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, a pioneer Computer Programmer, waits in Naval History and Heritage Command Curator Branch’s uniform room for transportation to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. These early computer components, including central processing units, circuit boards, and microchips, relate to the electrical circuits within a computer. Each piece was used by the Naval Data Automation Command, where Rear Adm. Hopper worked from 1976 until her retirement from the Navy in 1986. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

 When she arrived at Vassar for her undergraduate education, Hopper chose both mathematics and physics as her majors. As an undergraduate, Hopper often tutored other students, helping them understand how abstract concepts worked in the real world. For a left-handed classmate, Hopper reversed T-squares and triangles allowing him to complete his assigned work. Years later, while trying to help flag officers understand the speed of light, she carried pieces of wire cut to 11.80 inches to show the distance of a nanosecond, compared to a coil nearly 1,000 feet long as a microsecond. Eventually packets of pepper would turn into an aid for picoseconds.

Hopper began her post-graduate work at Yale University, earning both her master’s and doctorate degrees in mathematics by 1934. She then returned to Vassar to teach math. For her calculus classes, she substituted rockets for the ballistics problems, unaware her future would have her computing such calculations for a real war, according to Williams.

When Congress authorized the Navy Women’s Reserve and its accompanying WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program in June 1942, Hopper was intrigued. That great-grandfather, the admiral, had fought at Mobile Bay and Vicksburg in the Union Navy. So she chose to join the WAVES. But she had three strikes against her: At age 35, she was considered too old for enlistment, at 105 pounds she was 16 pounds underweight for her 5-foot, 6-inch frame, and as a mathematics instructor, her profession was considered crucial to the war effort.

Hopper argued being in the WAVES would allow her to more directly help the war effort than in a classroom and she was naturally lean. After more than a year, she finally persuaded Vassar to give her a leave of absence and then got the Navy to give her waivers for her age and weight.

“She loved being in the WAVES and her midshipmen’s training at Smith College,” Williams said Sunday evening from her Oakland, Calif., home. “She loved the discipline, although she wasn’t keen on the black (cotton) stockings. It just suited her to perfection. She had a precise mind, even though she could be eccentric.”

When she joined the WAVES in December 1943, Lt. j.g. Grace Hopper was 37 years old. Williams noted that after graduating at the top of her class of 800 officer candidates in June 1944, Hopper paid homage to Alexander Wilson Russell, her great-grandfather, the admiral who apparently took a “dim view of women and cats” in the Navy and laid flowers on his grave to “comfort and reassure him.”

Hopper was sent to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University under the guidance of Howard Aiken. The Harvard physics and applied mathematics professor helped create the first Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC), better known as Mark I. He ran a lab where design, testing, modification and analysis of weapons were calculated. Most were specially trained women called computers. “So the first ‘computers’ were women who did the calculating on desk calculators,” Williams said. And the time it took for the computers to calculate was called “girl hours.”

What happened next put Hopper on a new path that would define the rest of her life, according to a passage in the book Improbable Warriors: Women Scientists in the U.S. Navy during World War II also by Williams.

On July 2, 1944, Hopper reported to duty and met Aiken.

“That’s a computing engine,” Aiken snapped at Hopper, pointing to the Mark I. “I would be delighted to have the coefficients for the interpolation of the arc tangent by next Thursday.”

Hopper was a mathematician, but what she wasn’t was a computer programmer. Aiken gave her a codebook, and as Hopper put it, a week to learn “how to program the beast and get a program running.”

Hopper overcame her lack of programming skills the same way she always tackled other obstacles; by being persistent and stopping at nothing to solve problems. She eventually would become well-versed in how the machine operated, all 750,000 parts, 530 miles of wire and 3 million wire connections crammed in a machine that was 8-feet tall and 50-feet wide.

The First "Computer Bug" Moth found trapped between points at Relay #70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, Sept. 9, 1947. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: "First actual case of bug being found." They put out the word that they had "debugged" the machine. From the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

The First “Computer Bug” Moth found trapped between points at Relay #70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, Sept. 9, 1947. The operators affixed the moth to the computer log, with the entry: “First actual case of bug being found.” They put out the word that they had “debugged” the machine. From the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

During one of her shifts, she traced a glitch back to a moth that was caught in a relay wire. After “debugging” the relay, the system worked. “First actual case of a bug being found,” she noted and taped the moth to the report.

When mathematicians claim they are lazy, as Hopper said she was, that’s code for “life is too short to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again.” So rather than tediously repeat programming codes, innovators like Hopper and Aiken created shortcuts. For Aiken, it was the Mark I, so he wouldn’t have to keep figuring out mathematical calculations for his doctoral dissertation.

For Hopper, it was turning a math-based coding language into the more user-friendly English-based FLOW-MATIC programming language, which was part of the foundation of Common Business Operating Language (COBOL), soon to become one of the universally-accepted coding languages of that time.

Another Grace Hopper legacy is her oft-quoted statement: “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”

“Grace had a stock of stories that related to a number of her phrases, all put on note cards — she never had a written speech,” Williams said. “She would tell her stories in different orders, and that was one of the expressions she would use a lot. I don’t know of the first instance where she credits that phrase or even if she knew herself.”

That phrase might have come to her during a time when Hopper worked in the basement of the Pentagon, where her office was decorated with a clock that ran counter-clockwise and, perhaps even more aptly, the Jolly Roger pirate flag.

Because Hopper’s team would run their programs at night when no one was using the computers, “she had her crew go out and liberate equipment they needed that they had no budget for and bring them into their offices,” Williams recalled.

Hopper’s career in the Navy was hardly a straight path. She was released from active duty in 1946, but she remained in the Naval Reserve and worked as a contractor on the Mark II and Mark III computers. In 1949, she then joined Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation in Philadelphia (Sperry Rand) where she developed a faster computer called UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer).

Cmdr. Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966, but was recalled back to active duty months later in Aug. 1967 for a six-month assignment for the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy for Automatic Data Processing. That six month assignment turned into 19 years. Along the way, she earned the rank of captain in 1973 and was appointed special advisor to Commander, Naval Data Automation Command.

Capt. Grace M. Hopper takes the oath of office from Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, during White House ceremonies promoting her from the rank of Captain to Commodore, Dec. 15, 1983. President Ronald Reagan is looking on, at left. Photographed by Pete Souza. From the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Capt. Grace M. Hopper takes the oath of office from Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, during White House ceremonies promoting her from the rank of Captain to Commodore, Dec. 15, 1983. President Ronald Reagan is looking on, at left. Photographed by Pete Souza. From the Collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

In 1983, a bill was passed in Congress to promote Hopper to the rank of commodore, and in 1985, when that rank became rear admiral (lower half), Hopper was among a select few female flag officers.

In 1986, at age 79, Hopper retired “involuntarily,” Williams stressed, ending a 43-year career that put her among the longest-serving officers, behind Rear Adm. Charles Stewart’s 64 years (1798-1862), and Adm. Hyman G. Rickover’s 63-year active-duty service. Fleet Admirals William Leahy and Chester Nimitz remained on active-duty for life due to their 5-star fleet admiral rank.

It was fitting her retirement ceremony was held on the 188-year-old USS Constitution, the longest-serving commissioned ship in the United States Navy. Her speech reflected her interest in teaching young people.

“Our young people are the future. We must provide for them. We must give them the positive leadership they’re looking for…You manage things; you lead people.”

“Grace Hopper was way ahead of her time,” said historian Regina Akers, Ph.D., with the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard. “She excelled in a male-dominated profession and literally helped develop the Navy’s first computer at a time when women weren’t getting advanced degrees. She did these things during a critical time for the country and the Navy.”

Despite her success, Hopper never forgot her first avocation – teaching.

“She understood the importance of encouraging young people to consider the hard sciences; she was advocating STEM before there was STEM (the National Science Foundation’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program),” Akers said.

Williams added Hopper always “took great joy when young people were gathered around her during her speaking engagements. She mentored a lot of young people, and her reason for doing that was helping to get them interested in science and technology. She was really ahead of her time. She immediately took to the idea that computers would one day fit in a small box and not take up a whole room.”

Upon Hopper’s death Jan. 1, 1992 at age 85, a collection of papers from her voluminous stash went to the Smithsonian Institute. Williams said Hopper kept every record and paper she produced, including magnetic computer tapes, stacked floor to ceiling across three apartments in her apartment complex, as well as a collection of Hummel figurines, dolls and a childhood doll house with wallpapered walls and dormer windows.

In 1996, the destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) was named to honor her as a pioneer in the computer industry.

“Amazing Grace wasn’t ‘bigger than a minute,’” Akers said. “But she was a real giant in the field of computers.”

–NHHC–

 

 

 

 
Dec 6

German Skipper Showed Compassion, Humor to his Foes

Saturday, December 6, 2014 8:22 AM
USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) underway in 1916, soon after she was completed. German submarine U 53 sunk the destroyer with a torpedo Dec. 6, 1917. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) underway in 1916, soon after she was completed. German submarine U 53 sunk the destroyer with a torpedo Dec. 6, 1917. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The bad news for USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) on Dec. 6, 1917, was it sailed directly into the path of a torpedo launched from 3,000 yards away by the German submarine U-53. It was the longest-range, successful torpedo shot recorded during World War I.

The good news for Jacob Jones was the skipper at the helm of U-53, one of the most successful U-boats during the war, was Lt. Cmdr. Hans Rose.

Kapt. Lt. Hans Rose who commanded the German Submarine U-53 during World War I. U.S. Navy Photograph.

Kapt. Lt. Hans Rose commanded the German submarine U 53 for much of World War I. U.S. Navy Photograph.

The German officer was well known and respected, but most importantly, blessed with a sense of fairness and humanity that didn’t end when Germany declared war against most of Europe and the United States during World War I. After torpedoing a ship, he would often wait until all the lifeboats were filled, and if given the opportunity, would toss them a tow line, keeping the survivors together, providing food and water if necessary, until a rescue vessel came on the scene.

It’s not like Lt. Cmdr. Rose didn’t do his job as CO of U-53; he’s listed as the fifth most successful U-boat commander from 1916-1918. The top four all had an additional year over Rose, from 1915-1918. U-53 was credited for sinking 88 ships for a total of 225,365 tons and damaged 10 more for 46,339 tons. USS Jacob Jones was the only warship sunk by the U-boat. The destroyer was also the first American warship sunk after the United States officially entered World War I in April 1917.

The sinking of Jacob Jones was not Rose’s first encounter with the U.S. Navy. A little more than a year earlier, Oct. 7, 1916, a submarine was spotted in the harbor of Newport, R.I. That in itself wasn’t shocking since American submarines were assigned to nearby New London, Conn. But this submarine was flying the Royal German ensign. At the time, the United States was trying to remain neutral in the war raging in Europe.

Surprisingly, the German submarine anchored off Goat Island. Rose took a skiff to shore, asking to pay his respects to the commander of the Newport Naval District, Rear Adm. Austin M. Knight, and the commander of the destroyer flotilla, Rear Adm. Albert Gleaves. Eventually, members of the crew came ashore and shared beer with their American counterparts. The Germans requested no fuel, food, water or medical care for any injured.

During the visit, Rose hosted several American naval officers and even some of their wives on his boat. He also delivered a message to the German ambassador. No one believed that was the real reason for Rose’s audacious visit to Newport, according to Our Navy in the War by Lawrence Perry, published in 1918 in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons.

After leaving American waters, U-53 got down to business, sinking six ships near Nantucket Lightship on Oct. 8, four British and one each Dutch and Scandinavian, all enemies of Germany. Rose first determined if the ships were carrying contraband, i.e. supplies needed by his country, and then told the crew and passengers to disembark into lifeboats before sinking their ships. Two ships carrying soda and cereal were deemed not of value to Germany and allowed to continue.

Once naval officers got word of the attacks, Gleaves sent 17 destroyers to rescue those in the lifeboats. In one of those destroyers was Lt. David Worth Bagley, a brother-in-law to Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels. Bagley’s brother, Ensign Worth Bagley, had the distinction of being the first American and the only naval officer killed in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Since Rose conducted his business in international waters, the destroyers could not retaliate against U-53. At one point, Rose asked a destroyer to move its position a bit so the sub could sink another ship without the destroyer getting hit. And the destroyer complied.

Despite Rose’s polite manner, American officials were not pleased. President Woodrow Wilson told the German ambassador that sinking neutral ships off the American coast was unacceptable. The German diplomats, however, were ecstatic, Perry’s book stated. “It should be easy to destroy more of the overseas commerce of the Allies, which is principally with America, near where it originates,” a member of the German embassy claimed.

Perry pointed out the German assessment that America would tolerate such raiding near her coasts was “astray….but rather it steeled us to a future that began to appear inevitable. And deep under the surface affairs began to move in the Navy Department. No doubt, too, the conviction began to grow upon the government that the policy of dealing fairly by Germany was not appreciated, and that when the exigencies of the war situation seemed to require it, our ships would be sent to the bottom as cheerfully as those of other neutrals such as Holland, Norway and Sweden…”

By March, U-53 was back in European waters, sinking the Cunard Liner RMS Folia on March 11, 1917, off the coast of Ireland. According to Perry’s book, Rose’s sense of humor was illustrated by his sending radiograms telling his enemy his position with a challenge: “Come and get me, I am waiting. Hans Rose.” Twice when destroyers took the bait, U-53 wasn’t there.

USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) sinking off the Scilly Islands, England, on Dec. 6, 1917, after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-53. Photographed by Seaman William G. Ellis. Smithsonian Institution Photograph.

USS Jacob Jones (DD 61) sinking off the Scilly Islands, England, on Dec. 6, 1917, after she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-53. Photographed by Seaman William G. Ellis. Smithsonian Institution Photograph.

On Dec. 6, 1917, U-53 came across USS Jacob Jones and launched a torpedo from 3,000 yards away. The blast and the subsequent sinking of the ship took 64 crew members to their deaths. Of the 38 survivors, two were taken aboard U 53 due to their injuries. Rose, in his typical humanitarian gesture, reported the survivor’s drift location to the American base in Queenstown, Ireland. British sloop-of-war Camellia and British liner Catalina conducted rescue operations. By 8:30 a.m. the following morning, the last of the survivors were picked up by HMS Insolent. One of those survivors was the skipper of the destroyer, Lt. Cmdr. David W. Bagley who had a year earlier been one of the officers present when 17 destroyers were sent to rescue mariners whose ships had been destroyed by U-53.

 

Painting by F. Luis Mora, depicting Lt j.g. Stanton F. Kalk assisting survivors of USS Jacob Jones after she was sunk by the German submarine U-53 off the Scilly Isles on Dec. 6, 1917. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Painting by F. Luis Mora, depicting Lt j.g. Stanton F. Kalk assisting survivors of USS Jacob Jones after she
was sunk by the German submarine U-53 off the Scilly Isles on Dec. 6, 1917. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

But despite Rose’s gallant gesture, it was too late for at least one of the survivors, Lt. j.g. Stanton F. Kalk. The young naval officer, in his efforts to get survivors into lifeboats to equalize their weight on the rafts, died of exposure and exhaustion. For his selfless efforts, Kalk was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The destroyers Kalk (DD 170) and (DD 611) were named for the young naval officer.

Lt. Cmdr. Bagley also received the Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts during the sinking of his destroyer. He would survive World War I and eventually achieve the rank of admiral.

Rose also survived the war, leaving U-53 in Aug. 1918 to work on the admiral’s staff. He retired from the German Imperial Navy in Nov. 1918 at the rank of captain. He died, at the age of 84, on Dec. 6, 1969, exactly 52 years after his U-53 sank USS Jacob Jones.

 
Dec 5

On the Edge of Infamy: Misinformation Worked in U.S. Favor

Friday, December 5, 2014 8:00 AM
USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego, Calif., Oct. 14, 1941, on her way to Pearl Harbor. Planes parked on her flight deck include F2A-1 fighters (parked forward), SBD scout-bombers (amidships) and TBD-1 torpedo planes (aft). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego, Calif., Oct. 14, 1941, on her way to Pearl Harbor. Planes parked on her flight deck include F2A-1 fighters (parked forward), SBD scout-bombers (amidships) and TBD-1 torpedo planes (aft). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

 

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

 As the Japanese Imperial Navy Strike Group steamed toward Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy was preparing to fend off a suspected amphibious attack by their former ally – just about everywhere but Pearl Harbor.

To prepare for a possible Japanese attack on U.S. interests, such as the Philippines, the last remaining aircraft carrier, USS Lexington (CV 2), along with Task Force 12, steamed out of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 5, 1941, carrying Marine aircraft toward the atoll of Midway approximately 1,100 miles away.

The decisions to reinforce Midway and Wake Island were based on a series of dispatches which led to the decisions to send Lexington west on Dec. 5.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold Stark wrote a letter Nov. 25, 1941 to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet Adm. Husband Kimmel that stated: “Neither [President Franklin Roosevelt nor Secretary of State Cordell Hull] would be surprised over a Japanese surprise attack.”

Stark wrote while many thought the attack would be on the Philippines, he thought an attack on Indo-China, Thailand or Burma would be more likely.

On Nov. 26, Kimmel received an order from the Navy Department concerning reinforcement of Wake and Midway: “In order to keep the planes of the Second Marine Aircraft Wing available for expeditionary use, OPNAV has requested and Army has agreed to station twenty five Army pursuit planes at Midway and a similar number at Wake provided you consider this feasible and desirable. It will be necessary for you to transport these planes and ground crews from Oahu to these stations on an aircraft carrier.” 

Then on Nov. 27, Kimmel received a dispatch saying Japanese force levels and equipment “indicate an amphibious expedition against either the Philippines, the Thai or Kra Peninsula, or possibly Borneo.”

USS Enterprise (CV-6) steams toward the Panama Canal on 10 October 1945, while en route to New York to participate in Navy Day celebrations. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Enterprise (CV-6) steams toward the Panama Canal on 10 October 1945, while en route to New York to participate in Navy Day celebrations. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Based on that information, Kimmel started building up forces at Midway and Wake Island. On Nov. 28, USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Task Force 8 began a secret mission ferrying more Marine and Army aircraft to Wake Island. The aircraft carrier left on its regularly scheduled departure date on the pretense of a few days of maneuvers so not to arouse suspicion in case war could have been averted.

Having finished their mission Dec. 4, they prepared to return to Pearl Harbor for a previously scheduled 10 days of maintenance. But weather delayed Enterprise’s return. As dawn rose on Dec. 7, 1941, the task force was approximately 215 miles west of the island of Oahu.

USS Saratoga (CV-3) underway circa 1942. Planes on deck include five Grumman F4F fighters, six Douglas SBD scout bombers and one Grumman TBF torpedo plane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

USS Saratoga (CV-3) underway circa 1942. Planes on deck include five Grumman F4F fighters, six Douglas SBD scout bombers and one Grumman TBF torpedo plane. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The third aircraft carrier assigned to the Pacific Fleet, USS Saratoga (CV 3), had just finished its regularly scheduled overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Wash. On Dec. 7, the aircraft carrier arrived during the late hours of the forenoon watch at Naval Air Station San Diego. She was set to embark her air group, as well as Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 221 and a cargo of miscellaneous airplanes to ferry to Pearl Harbor.

Ironically, both Lexington and Saratoga had conducted simulated attacks on Pearl Harbor during exercises.

As bad as the damage was in human, aircraft and ship casualties, had the three carriers been in port with their personnel and aircraft, the attack could have been catastrophic.

“If the carriers had been present, they would have had no positive influence (on the outcome of Pearl Harbor),” explained Curtis Utz, historian for the Naval History and Heritage Command. “They most likely would have been sunk or severely damaged, most likely from fires, at their assigned berths. In addition, many of the planes of their air groups would have been destroyed or damaged at Ford Island.”

Along with that one stroke of American good luck, was a string of Japanese bad luck that hampered their execution of the strike.

With no carriers in port, the torpedo bombers dedicated much of their bombing efforts on the battleships, many of them already obsolete compared to faster aircraft carriers and newer ships.

It was a sentiment echoed by Adm. William “Bull’ Halsey in Elmer Potter’s 1985 book “Bull Halsey.” Halsey thought the battleships ineffective. When offered a battleship escort for Enterprise to reinforce Wake Island, Halsey, the task force commander, replied, “Hell, no! If I have to run I don’t want anything to interfere with my running!”

Another strategic Japanese mistake was that during the heat of battle, their aviators lost awareness of their mission progress, continuing to strike mortally wounded ships and runways instead of branching out to hit new targets. None struck at the critical components of infrastructure on the base that would have been a critical blow to the Americans.

Another major mistake came when Japanese aviators argued for a third wave of attack at the crippled and burning naval base, but senior officers nixed the notion because they didn’t know where the aircraft carriers were located.

Adm. Chester Nimitz, upon taking command of the Pacific Fleet, remarked the Japanese made a serious error when they failed to include the destruction of oil farms, the fuel depot, dry-docks, repair shops and the submarine base at Pearl Harbor as part of their battle plan.

Less than 2 percent of the ships in Pearl Harbor or around Oahu were permanently damaged by the attack and 84 percent saw little to no damage. Of the eight battleships damaged and/or sunk, all but three returned to fight the Japanese.

At the end, while the attack hurt American pride and the casualties shocked the country into full involvement in World War II, it did little to stop the U.S. Navy. Despite serious damage from torpedoes, bombs and kamikaze aircraft, USS Enterprise and USS Saratoga would survive their battles in the Pacific Campaign to the end of the war. USS Lexington, saved from the Dec. 7, 1941 bombs from the Japanese, would succumb to an onslaught of torpedoes during the Battle of Coral Sea on May 8, 1942.

 

 
Dec 4

Giving His All: Naval Pilot Crash Lands to Save Fellow Aviator

Thursday, December 4, 2014 10:00 AM
Lt. j.g. Thomas J. Hudner, of Fall River, Mass., awarded the Medal of Honor for heroically attempting to rescue Ensign Jesse L. Brown, who had been shot down by enemy fire near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, on Dec. 4, 1950. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Lt. j.g. Thomas J. Hudner, of Fall River, Mass., awarded the Medal of Honor for heroically attempting to rescue Ensign Jesse L. Brown, who had been shot down by enemy fire near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, on Dec. 4, 1950. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The city of Fall River, Mass. was just like every other major city in the United States during the beginning of World War II. Young men were eager to join the military and do their part for their country, including a young man named Thomas J. Hudner, Jr. whose family owned and operated a chain of grocery stores.

Hudner was an average student at the prestigious Phillips Academy, but excelled in sports like football and lacrosse. After a rousing speech by the academy headmaster, Hudner decided to apply for admission to the U.S. Naval Academy where he was accepted along with nine others from Phillips.

After graduating in 1946, Hudner served as a communications officer onboard surface ships like heavy cruiser Helena (CA 75) and at Naval Base Pearl Harbor for almost two years. By this time, he was ready for a new challenge and in 1948 was accepted into the flight training program. He earned his wings of gold in August of 1949.

Lt. j g. Hudner was stationed in Lebanon for a few months before being assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) aboard aircraft carrier USS Leyte (CV 32) as an F4U Corsair pilot. By the fall of 1950, Hudner was flying combat missions in Korea. Another VF-32 pilot onboard Leyte flying combat missions was Ensign Jesse Brown, the first African-American naval aviator.

Ensign Jesse L. Brown in the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950. He was the first African-American to be trained by the Navy as a naval aviator, and such, became the first African-American naval aviator to see combat. Brown flew with Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) from USS Leyte (CV-32). He died after his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed during a mission at Chosin Reservoir on Dec. 4, 1950. Fellow aviator Lt. j.g. Thomas J. Hudner crash-landed his plane to help Brown, but was unable to recover his body before being forced to leave with his rescue helicopter as darkness fell. Hudner would receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic attempt to rescue his fellow aviator. Official U.S. Navy Photograph

Ensign Jesse L. Brown in the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950. He was the first African-American to be trained by the Navy as a naval aviator, and such, became the first African-American naval aviator to see combat. Brown flew with Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) from USS Leyte (CV-32). He died after his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed during a mission at Chosin Reservoir on Dec. 4, 1950. Fellow aviator Lt. j.g. Thomas J. Hudner crash-landed his plane to help Brown, but was unable to recover his body before being forced to leave with his rescue helicopter as darkness fell. Hudner would receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic attempt to rescue his fellow aviator. Official U.S. Navy Photograph

On Dec. 4, 1950, Hudner and five other fighters, including Brown, had orders to fly an armed reconnaissance mission over the Chosin Reservoir to keep eyes in the sky and attack enemy troops that threatened Americans and their allies.

While attacking enemy positions at a low altitude, Brown’s aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire. Losing power and oil pressure, the aircraft was too low for Brown to bail out or clear the snow-covered mountains. Hudner knew Brown was in trouble, so he began calling off a checklist to help prepare him for the inevitable crash landing.

When Brown did land, it was with such force that the fuselage buckled at the cockpit and Hudner at first believed Brown died on impact. After circling the crash site a few times, however, he observed Brown was moving but unable to free himself from the cockpit.

Knowing his flight leader would deny his request to land and rescue Brown, Hudner didn’t bother asking permission. He knew in the time it would take rescue helicopters to get to Brown it would be too late because of the freezing temperatures and his injuries.

As soon as Hudner dropped his flaps and made his wheels up hard landing, he quickly made his way to Brown. Hudner’s attempts to pull Brown out of the wreckage revealed Brown’s right leg was crushed under the damaged instrument panel. While Brown drifted in and out of consciousness, Hudner kept trying to free his fellow aviator, all the while packing snow into the still-smoking engine.

By the time a U.S. helicopter arrived to help, Brown was unconscious. For almost 45 minutes, Hudner and the helicopter pilot used an ax to hack away at the damaged plane but they could not free Brown. Even a plan to amputate the leg with a knife wouldn’t work because they had no firm footing due to the snow. As nightfall approached with the corresponding drop in temperature, Hudner and the helicopter pilot reached a grim decision to leave Brown behind since the pilot would be unable to fly in the dark. Brown was already near death and died shortly afterward.

Hudner was reprimanded by his chain of command and others for crashing his own plane in enemy territory but he believed it was something he had to do because he felt it was right. Almost five months later, Hudner received the Medal of Honor for his heroism from President Harry S. Truman, the first awarded for action in Korea.

Sponsor and others on the christening platform, during launching ceremonies of USS Jesse L. Brown (DE 1089) at Avondale Shipyards, Westwego, La., March 18, 1972. Those present are (from left to right): Rear Adm. John W. Dolan, Jr., Deputy Commander for Shipyard Management and Program Director for Shipyard Modernization, Naval Ship Systems Command; Mrs. Gilbert W. Thorne, ship's sponsor; Henry Z. Carter, president, Avondale Shipyards, Inc., and Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Head, Aviation Technical Training, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Sponsor and others on the christening platform, during launching ceremonies of USS Jesse L. Brown (DE 1089) at Avondale Shipyards, Westwego, La., March 18, 1972. Those present are (from left to right): Rear Adm. John W. Dolan, Jr., Deputy Commander for Shipyard Management and Program Director for Shipyard Modernization, Naval Ship Systems Command; Mrs. Gilbert W. Thorne, ship’s sponsor; Henry Z. Carter, president, Avondale Shipyards, Inc., and Capt. Thomas J. Hudner, Head, Aviation Technical Training, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

After his tour was complete with VF 32, Hudner would hold a variety of training, operational and staff assignments. He commanded Training Squadron 24 (VT-24) in 1965-66 and then served as executive officer of USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63). During the early 1970s, Capt. Hudner was Head of Aviation Technical Training in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He retired from the Navy in March of 1973. Most recently, he has served as the Massachusetts Commissioner for Veterans Affairs. Hudner has lived in Concord, Mass. with his wife, Georgea since 1991. A contract was signed in 2012 for the 66th Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).

Hudner never forgot his buddy who was left behind. In July of 2013, he visited Pyongyang, North Korea during an unsuccessful attempt to locate and recover Brown’s remains from the crash site.

 
Dec 1

100 Years after His Death, A.T. Mahan Remains a Touchstone

Monday, December 1, 2014 8:00 AM
Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan

Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s death at his home in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 1914.

Yet despite the years, debate still swirls around the legendary Mahan and his collective writings, a total of 20 books and 160 articles, chief among them The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. That book alone, published in 1890, and has been translated into French, German, Russian and Japanese, just to name a few.

From the time the book was published, Mahan “has been much challenged, but he is never ignored, or if so, at their peril,” stated Barry M. Gough, a Canadian and maritime historian in his essay “Influence of History on Mahan” during a 1990 conference at the Naval War College. “Mahan is etched in time. He was the principal philosopher of sea power of the late nineteenth century, a naval Mohammed. He was a journeyman historian in research and writing skills, besides being a capable synthesis of secondary historical works, who conceived of a series of books explaining the role that naval affairs at sea had played in the shaping of the world to his time of writing.”

Naval officer. Historian. Strategist. Mahan was most likely a bit of all, and each area influenced the others.

“He wasn’t the first naval historian, but he was the first to conceptualize the role of sea power in the human affairs of his time, rescuing from the forgotten historical record the relevant details of how victory at sea was arrived and what benefits devolved to the victor at sea,” Gough said.

His books came out during a period of time called Social Darwinism, when many persons in numerous branches of intellectual inquiry were seeking scientific explanations of human behavior. It played a strong role in the shaping of American and British political thought at the time, Gough said.

Charles Darwin, who wrote the other major profoundly influential book of the mid-nineteenth century, Origin of Species, was seeking a more general theory of mutation and evolution. This was an era of extraordinary historical theorizing. Important theories were being expounded concerning historical development and philosophical understanding, by historians Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sir John Robert Seeley and J.B. Bury.”

Historian, theorist or simply a strategist, whatever can be said about Mahan, he certainly was not as black and white as some of his theories.

He was born at West Point, N.Y., home of the U.S. Military Academy where his father, Dennis Hart Mahan, was a distinguished professor of Civil and Military Engineering. Mahan’s own middle name, Thayer, was a nod to the “father of West Point,” Sylvanus Thayer. After attending St. James, a boarding school near Hagerstown, Md., Mahan entered Columbia College in New York City.

Bucking his parents’ wishes, Mahan went to then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, himself a West Point alumni, to obtain an appointment to the Naval Academy. By special arrangement (the only occasion on record of that concession being made), Mahan entered the Third Class on Oct. 7, 1856. He graduated from the Academy, second in his class of 20, in 1859. During the Civil War, Mahan served on a variety of ships, but apparently the ships under Mahan’s command had a woeful habit of running into either stationary or moving objects. He did, however, suggest a number of ideas, such as outfitting a “mystery” ship to decoy Confederate blockade runners.

While Mahan extolled the virtues of the sea-service, actual sea-service wasn’t his thing, just one more aspect of this complex man.

“We know that he was bright, extraordinarily vain, though he tried to hide it. He was unpopular and isolated at the Naval Academy because of his rigid belief in discipline. He admired the Royal Navy and sought to emulate its discipline in the U.S. Navy. He was socially awkward with women and apparently as isolated from them as he was from the men in the Navy,” Gough’s essay pointed out. “His love of the sea was not strong, and if his biographers are to be believed, he hated ship-board life. Somehow in Stephen B. Luce he found a patron, and had he not had that opportunity, it seems probably that he would not have taken to the task of becoming a first-rate historian.”

During Mahan’s sea-faring days, he was in the Orient where he was present at the opening of the treaty ports of Kobe and Osaka, Japan, in 1867; served on China Station in 1869. After a visit to Europe, Mahan was ordered to the SS Worcester, chartered by the Navy Department as a relief ship to carry foodstuffs to the French people who had been reported in dire need.

He was detached from that duty on Aug. 3, 1871 and in December 1872 assumed his first command, USS Wasp, of the South Atlantic Squadron. He continued in that command until January 1875, when he was ordered to return to the United States, and home to await further orders.

In August 1876, he was designated as a member of the Board of Examiners at the Naval Academy, and during his period of duty there he won third prize in 1878 in the Naval Institute’s contest for the best essay on “Naval Education for Officers and Men.” This was his first published article. In the summer of 1880 he was ordered to the Navigation Department, New York Navy Yard, and on Sept. 9, 1883, he assumed command of Wachusett at Callao, Peru. In the Wachusett he visited ports on the west coast of South America.

In October 1885 he was assigned duty as Lecturer on Naval Tactics and History at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. President Stephen B. Luce allowed Mahan to study and read history for a year. And it was while reading The History of Rome by Theodor Mommsen that Mahan realized there was virtually no recognition given to Roman sea power during the Rome Republics’ battles with Carthaginian Gen. Hannibal Barca during the Second Punic Wars.

“He grasped the single insight that so revolutionized the study of naval history,” Gough said. “His masterpiece set forth three considerations on which maritime dominance could rest: instruments of war (including bases), seaborne commerce, and colonies.”

At his own request, Mahan was retired Nov. 17, 1896, after 40 years of active service, in order to devote his full time to writing on naval subjects. He returned to active duty at the beginning of the Spanish-American War, and in May 1898 was appointed to the Naval Board of Strategy. In 1899 he served as one of the American delegates at the First Peace Conference at The Hague, The Netherlands.

During the years to follow, he was recalled to active service as Member of the Board of Visitors, Naval Academy, (May 1903); with the Senate Commission on Merchant Marine (November 1904); to report on studies and conclusions of the Naval War Board during the War with Spain (July 1906); as a Member of the Committee on Documentary Historical Publications under the Committee on Departmental Methods (October 1908); as a Member of the Commission to Report on Re-organization of the Navy Department (February 1909); and to lecture at the Naval War College.

While abroad as Commanding Officer of the USS Chicago in 1894, he was awarded honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Later Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and McGill similarly honored him. The Royal United Service Institute awarded him its Chesney Gold Medal in recognition of his literary work bearing on the welfare of the British Empire, in 1900; and in 1902 he was made President of the American Historical Society. He was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral on the Retired List, with date of rank June 29, 1906.

During the period 1884 until his death in 1914, Rear Adm. Mahan studied and wrote on Naval historical and biographical subjects. His works have had tremendous influence all over the world, especially those directly concerning sea power, and have been translated into many different languages.

Despite being written 124 years ago, Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power Upon History still has lasting value, Gough concluded.

“This is so not because he was right, because he was not always so, and it is useful because he was sometimes wrong,” he wrote in his essay. “He is the touchstone. He enlarges our world. He is a prism through which we view the changing colors of a much larger spectrum than he could ever perceive from his limited vantage point in the late 1880s and after. He was aware of the need for highly educated, disciplined and strategically-oriented naval officers. He was mindful, too, of the momentous changes that were occurring in naval technology, in weapons and propulsion especially. He was mindful, moreover, of the growing role that the United States was playing in world affairs.”

 –NHHC–

 
Nov 29

From Pole to Pole, Richard E. Byrd Sets Navy Exploration Records

Saturday, November 29, 2014 8:00 AM

 

Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, photographed at the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 10, 1925. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, photographed at the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 10, 1925. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

History may have given naval aviator/navigator extraordinaire Richard E. Byrd a mulligan for his flight over the North Pole, but there has never been any question about his historic flight over the South Pole shortly after midnight on Nov. 29, 1929, 85 years ago today.

And as it is with most great achievements, it came as a result of a life-changing event.

When it comes to lucky breaks, Richard E. Byrd had plenty of them. He was born into one of the founding families of Virginia, a family that dabbled in politics and publishing. That sort of privilege allowed a teenage Byrd to travel alone to visit relatives in the Philippine Islands. He wrote of his experiences, published in his family’s newspapers, and returned home a year later smitten by ships and the sea. Byrd attended Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia for a year before entering the U.S. Naval Academy at the age of 20.

Not all of his breaks, however, were fortuitous. More drawn to sports than academics, Byrd broke his right ankle while playing football at the Academy. As captain of his gymnastics team, he shattered that right ankle again after falling 13 feet while performing a daring routine off the high rings. Although recommended for “retirement” due to the injury, Byrd persevered and graduated from the Academy in 1912. It was during his stint on the battleship Wyoming (BB 32) when Ensign Byrd suffered yet another injury to his weakened leg. That set into motion his retirement from active duty on March 15, 1916, and what appeared to be the end of his sea-faring career.

Au contraire, mon cheri, the Navy said two months later when the sea service recalled Byrd to limited service active duty as Instructor-Inspector of Naval Militia, Providence, East Providence, Bristol and Newport, R.I. After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Byrd organized a commission on training camps.

So where might a naval officer with weakened leg best serve his country sitting down, other than behind a desk? As a naval aviator.

Byrd attended flight training at Pensacola, Fla., and that was where he met fellow aviator and comrade-in-air Floyd Bennett. Byrd was designated Naval Aviator No. 608 on April 17, 1918 and served during the remainder of World War I as Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Air Stations in Canada.

Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, (left) and Boatswain E. E. Rober, (right), take observations from an airplane to determine their position. The sextant Byrd is using in the picture is the one he used in his first Arctic Expedition. Undated photograph. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, (left) and Boatswain E. E. Rober, (right), take observations from an airplane to determine their position. The sextant Byrd is using in the picture is the one he used in his first Arctic Expedition. Undated photograph. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Lt. Cmdr. Byrd’s aviation skills were exceeded, however, by his navigational skills. In planning and executing antisubmarine patrols, Byrd pioneered techniques for navigating over the ocean at night, which included drift indicators and bubble sextants.

He proposed and devised a plan for a transatlantic flight, which resulted in the historic NC-4 flying boats flight, the first crossing of the Atlantic by air in 1919. After studying in England at the Royal Air Force School of Aerial Navigation, Byrd helped to establish naval reserve air stations throughout the United States.

Another break Byrd’s career came in 1925 when he was appointed navigator of the lighter-than-air craft Shenandoah (ZR-1) proposed flight over the North Pole. The expedition was canceled when the craft was damaged in a storm.

With an explorer’s passion and his connections to the wealthy, Byrd began to fundraise for his own Navy flight with heavier-than-air craft over the North Pole. He obtained funds from private sources to pay for the expedition and borrowed equipment such as planes, tractors, and ships from government agencies. Byrd pitched the idea to Secretary of Navy Curtis D. Wilbur, arguing the arctic regions should be explored, and, well, it wouldn’t hurt to take the wind out of the Army’s sails on their claims of having air superiority. Wilbur agreed and after getting the nod from President Calvin Coolidge, Byrd’s expedition was a go.

Except he had a lot of competition for resources, most notably from Naval Reservist Lt. Cmdr. Donald MacMillan who had been with Cmdr. Robert E. Peary April 6, 1909 when he first set foot on the North Pole. The veteran explorer already had sponsorship by the National Geographic Society and E.F. McDonald Jr., CEO of the Zenith radio manufacturing firm and a fellow lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.

Byrd joined forces with the MacMillan Expedition. It was an uneasy alliance, with MacMillan in charge of the overall expedition and Byrd serving as commanding officer of the military personnel. Although a flight to the North Pole was never achieved during the joint venture, Byrd and Bennett completed aviation surveys over Ellsmere Island and the interior of Greenland. After the expedition returned to the states in the fall of 1925, Byrd’s first story appeared in the National Geographic Magazine, beginning a valuable association with the National Geographic Society that continued over the next three decades.

The following year, navigator Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett took off from King’s Bay, Spitzbergen, 750 miles from the Pole, May 9, 1926. After 7 hours of flight they were over the North Pole. Byrd, the first man to fly over the Pole, was second only to Peary to reach that point. Byrd and Bennett returned home as heroes, were given the Medal of Honor and the first of his three New York ticker tape parades. Many now question Byrd’s claim for that North Pole flight, based on discrepancies between his hand-written notations and those published later, and the top flight speed of the plane.

In 1926 Byrd acquired an improved three engine Fokker and named it America, and prepared for a nonstop transatlantic flight to establish the feasibility of regular passenger service across the Atlantic. However, while bad luck delayed Byrd, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York on May 20, 1927 and landed in Paris 33 hours later. America departed New York June 29, 1927, found Paris fogged in, and so landed in the ocean just off the French coast. Cmdr. Byrd and his three crewmen were rescued, taken to Paris, and then returned to an enthusiastic welcome in New York, his second ticker-tape parade.

Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd arrives on the dock at San Pedro, Calif. accompanied by his dog "Igloo." He would soon board a ship that will take him to the scene of the beginning of his first Antarctic Expedition, Oct. 11, 1928. NHHC photo

Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd arrives on the dock at San Pedro, Calif. accompanied by his dog “Igloo.” He would soon board a ship that will take him to the scene of the beginning of his first Antarctic Expedition, Oct. 11, 1928. NHHC photo

Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition, consisting of City of New York and Eleanor Bolling, departed the United States Aug. 28, 1928; steamed via the Panama Canal and New Zealand; and, on Jan. 1, 1929, established a base named Little America on the face of the Ross Ice Shelf near the Bay of Whales, Antarctica. The base was made of prefabricated buildings that included housing quarters, a library, hospital, radio laboratory, photography lab and mess hall. Some were igloos with tarps. Many were connected by snow tunnels, for good reason.

During the expedition, subzero temperatures were the norm, with minus 72.2 degrees Fahrenheit recorded July 28, 1929. According to one of the expedition meteorologists, a 25-mph wind coupled with a minus 64 temperature, also in July, created a wind-chill equivalent of less than minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit a few weeks later on Aug. 19.

Although well-equipped and with lots of personnel, Byrd was without his long-time, trusted pilot, Floyd Bennett, who had died from pneumonia just months before. Byrd made sure Bennett would be part of his historic flight, naming his ski-equipped tri-motored monoplane Floyd Bennett.

It was in this plane that Byrd and three others – pilot Bernt Balchen, co-pilot and radioman Harold June and aerial photographer Capt. Ashley McKinley, with his Navy-issued Fairchild K-3 camera, took off from Little America at 3:29 p.m. Nov. 28, 1929 headed for the South Pole.

After dropping supplies for a geological party, the Floyd Bennett climbed to 9,000 feet but was still shy of the 11,000 altitude needed to get over the pass at the head of Liv Glacier and reach the Polar Plateau.

Empty gasoline tins were dropped, as well as more food and the plane made it through the pass. At a little past midnight, Byrd and his crew in the Floyd Bennett came upon the South Pole, where a weighted American flag was dropped. At 1:25 a.m., they headed back to Little America. After a short refueling with gasoline cached at the foot of Liv Glacier, the plane returned to its base camp at 10:10 a.m., 18 hours and 41 minutes after leaving the previous day.

 Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, dressed in furs with his dog "Igloo" outside a hut during his first Antarctic Expedition, April 12, 1930. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection


Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, dressed in furs with his dog “Igloo” outside a hut during his first Antarctic Expedition, April 12, 1930. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

The expedition was far from over. By the time Byrd and his expedition returned to New York on June 18, 1930, they had:

* Discovered Jan. 27, 1929 at 4,000 feet in altitude a new mountain range and named them the Rockefeller Mountains;

* Completed a triangulation survey March 13 of the Rockefeller Mountains.

* Supported a six-man geological survey party of the Queen Maud Mountains with dropping of supplies and equipment along the 1,500 mile course over 2 ½ months.

* A flight Dec. 5, 1929 that discovered a body of water named Sulzberger Bay, the Paul Block Bay and a glacier named for his pilot Balchen with its associated mountain range the Edsel Ford Range.

* On Dec. 21, 1929, the geological party claimed all land east of 150 degrees west as Marie Byrd Land (named after Byrd’s wife) and the territory for the United States.

After this expedition, Byrd was promoted to rear admiral and treated to his third ticker-tape parade, the most by any individual.

In 1933-35 he led a second expedition to Antarctica. Living at an advanced base to record weather data during the long winter night, Byrd nearly died from carbon monoxide. Although rescued in time, he suffered from the ill effects of the poisoning for the rest of his life.

Byrd’s third expedition consisted of the Navy commissioned and manned Bear (AG-29) and Department of the Interior’s North Star. Two wintering over bases were established and scientific investigation was intensified.

During World War II, Admiral Byrd studied and reported on their suitability for airfields.

After the war ended, Byrd resumed polar exploration. During Operation “Highjump” he led an expedition of 4,700 men and modern support equipment in 13 ships to the Antarctic. They explored much of the little known continent and added greatly to man’s knowledge of the region.

In 1954 the Secretary of Defense agreed to furnish logistical support for American scientists in the Antarctic for the International Geophysical Year which would begin on 1 July 1957. President Eisenhower appointed Byrd, Officer-in-Charge of U.S. Antarctic programs.

Admiral Byrd remained active in exploration of Antarctica until he died in his home at Boston on March 11, 1957.

 –NHHC–

 
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