Archive for the 'Wars' Category

Apr 1

Operation Iceberg — Okinawa Invasion in 1945

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 1:33 PM

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Editor’s Note: The following photos tell just a brief story of the U.S. Navy’s involvement during the Okinawa Invasion and Battle of Okinawa. One of the unique items NHHC has in its archives is an oral history of Cmdr. Frederick J. Becton, commanding officer of destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which saw action during the Okinawa operations. To read Cmdr. Becton’s interview click here. All the photos below are courtesy of NHHC’s Photo Archives, the Navy Art Collection and the National Archives.

 D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).


D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).

On April 1, 1945, under heavy naval gunfire and aircraft support, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops began the invasion of Okinawa, the last major amphibious assault of World War II. For Japan, the island was the barrier to a direct invasion of its homeland, while to the Allies, once the island was in their control, it would clear the path for the final invasion of Japan. When the island was finally declared secure on June 21, after 82 days of battle, the campaign ended up being the largest and one of the most costly battles in the Pacific.

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

 Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, 1 April 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055


Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, April 1, 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

The invasion and ultimate seizure of Okinawa was not an easy operation, in fact it was a significantly costly operation. From April – June 1945, U.S. Navy merchant ships went to this island in great numbers with the intent of bringing much needed supplies — bombs, gasoline, and more, to consolidate the operational needs of this outpost on the direct road to Tokyo.

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14"/50 main battery guns, 1 April 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-K-3829 (Color).

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14″/50 main battery guns, April 1, 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (80-G-K-3829 (Color).

 USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, 1 April 1945. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-325209.


USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, April 1, 1945. 80-G-325209.

 Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, 1 April 1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of the NHHC Photo Archives), NH 89369.


Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, April 1,1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. NH 89369.

The operation, under the strategic command of Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on March 18, 1945, and initial landings on Okinawa itself on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. An enormous assemblage of ships participated in the operation, during which 36 of them of destroyer size or smaller were lost, most to the heaviest concentration of kamikaze attacks of the war.

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, April 1, 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

 Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).

 Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground.

 Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.


Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

As April 7 rolled around, the last remnants of the Japanese Navy were met by overwhelming Navy airpower. Japanese battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk in the one-day battle. Once U.S. Joint Forces secured Okinawa, the supply lanes of the East China Sea were blocked, isolating all southern possessions which were still in Japanese hands … the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands was finally cleared.

To learn more about the Navy’s participation at Okinawa, click here. You can also read more about the U.S. Army’s involvement by clicking here.

 
Mar 26

March 27, 1953: Korean War Sailor Earns Medal of Honor

Thursday, March 26, 2015 3:57 PM
NH 59604 Hammond

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond

 

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

Residents of Alexandria, Va. can honor an American hero with a tip of their hats to Francis C. Hammond Middle School on Seminary Road this Friday. It was 62 years ago on Friday when that school’s namesake, a young Alexandria man, performed “great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds” while taking care of wounded members of the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

Hammond was born Nov. 9, 1931 to Harry and Elvira Hammond, in Alexandria, Va. Harry worked at a pharmacy, and after high school Francis joined him, planning to become a pharmacist.

Then, on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations Security Council called the invasion a “breach of peace” and President Harry S. Truman quickly committed American troops to a combined United Nations force to defend the 38th parallel.

Francis decided to enlist, joining the Navy. First, he headed off to the Navy’s Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill. Once a medic, he proceeded to California for more training. Anticipating he would be sent to Korea, Francis married his girlfriend in June 1952. The following year, Feb. 1, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Hammond was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

On the night of March 26, Hammond and the 1st Marines were trying to retake Combat Outpost Reno, which the North Koreans had overrun earlier that day. The Marines encountered heavy mortar and artillery fire as they neared the outpost.

“We kept going forward and finally gained posts in a small shallow trench,” said Marine Sgt. William R. Janzen from a series of articles collected by B.J. Sullivan a librarian at the school which bears Hammond’s name.

Undeterred and undaunted by the mortar and artillery fire, Hammond got to work.

“He was all over the place patching up the wounded, no matter how slight their wounds,” Janzen remembered. “Even after he himself was wounded he continued moving about the area, ignoring his own wounds, and giving as much aid and comfort to the other wounded as he possibly could under the circumstances.

“The bravest man I saw out there that night was Corpsman Hammond.”

As a relief unit showed up, Hammond’s division was ordered to pull back. Hammond refused. According to the Virginia War Memorial’s website, “[he] did not want to leave his men, so he stayed behind to help evacuate the wounded, refusing care for himself. While assisting the units relieving them, [Hammond] was mortally wounded by enemy mortar fire.”

Four months later, an armistice would end the conflict.

For his actions, Hammond posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation concludes, “By his exceptional fortitude, inspiring initiative and self-sacrificing efforts, HC Hammond undoubtedly saved the lives of many Marines. His great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds enhances and sustains the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

In his honor, the Navy commissioned a frigate named for him on July 25, 1970, the USS Francis Hammond (FF 1067). She served her country until decommissioned in July 2, 1992.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School, which opened in 1956, was named in his honor. Now a middle school, “the school crest (donated by the Class of ‘62) still graces the floor of Hammond’s central hall with the motto ‘Vivat Academia’ (Long live Academics) and is protected by four sparkling brass 3-inch .50 caliber ammunition shells (simulated) donated by the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia,” according to a city of Alexandria website. There is also the Francis Hammond Parkway, a street in Alexandria lined with tidy brick homes.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond never saw the middle school named in his honor. But no doubt another legacy Hammond would leave behind — Francis C. Hammond Jr., born a few months after his father’s death – would see the school named for his father’s selfless action.

 

 
Mar 7

NHHC Director Speaks at USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association Reunion

Saturday, March 7, 2015 1:55 PM
USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

 

This weekend members of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations are gathered for their 2015 reunion in Houston, Texas. In addition to conducting the business of the organization the reunion featured a dinner last night in which Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provided the keynote remarks updating reunion attendees on the NHHC study of the condition of Houston’s wreck as well as ongoing Navy and diplomatic efforts to prevent further unauthorized disturbance of the ship which is the final resting place of more than 700 Houston Sailors and Marines who went down with the ship.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

One of the highlights of this weekend’s event is the 72nd Anniversary Memorial Service held Saturday at Sam Houston Park’s USS Houston Memorial, honoring those lost onboard the ship and the survivors who have since passed away.

In 2014, a Naval History and Heritage Command underwater archaeologist assisted in a survey of the wreck of USS Houston as part of the 2014 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. U.S. Navy divers, assisted by personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the World War II wreck in June. Houston was sunk during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942 with the loss of more than seven hundred souls. The ship remains sovereign property of the U.S. under customary international law, and is a popular dive site.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The purpose of the CARAT 2014 mission was to determine the vessel’s current condition and provide real-world training to rescue and salvage divers in maneuvering around a sunken ship. The team’s interim report confirmed the site’s identity and documented conclusive evidence of a pattern of unauthorized disturbance of the wreck site. While the findings from the interim report remain intact, the final report released last summer benefits from additional archival research and more exhaustively details the condition of the wreck.

Houston, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” was sunk in combat during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. Capt. Albert H. Rooks, the ship’s commanding officer who was killed in action, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism, while USS Houston was awarded two battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Cmdr. Andy Schroder, who represented the Royal Australian Navy at the reunion dinner, pauses for a photo with Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox and Carter Conlin, USN retired and former Commander of the US Naval Order, Texas Commandery. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and the 2015 USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association & Next Generations scholarship winner along with John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The Department of the Navy’s sunken ship and aircraft wrecks represent a collection of more than 17,000 fragile, non-renewable cultural resources distributed worldwide. They often serve as war graves, safeguard state secrets, carry environmental and safety hazards such as oil and ordnance, and hold great historical value. While it is not feasible to conduct similar surveys of all sunken military craft, Navy leadership desires to ensure the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when Houston went down remains in a respected and solemn condition.

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

 
Feb 26

‘Enemy Forces Engaged,’ USS Houston Fought Insurmountable Odds

Thursday, February 26, 2015 4:44 PM
19-N-13455: USS Houston (CA 30), starboard view. Undated and unknown location. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)

19-N-13455: USS Houston (CA 30), starboard view. Undated and unknown location. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)

By Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole, U.S. Navy, American Legation, U.S. Naval Attaché, Jakarta, Indonesia

I ask you to spend a minute this weekend in remembrance of the 1,082 brave men of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30). It was in the early hours of March 1st, 73 years ago, that she sailed for the final time into the teeth of enemy fire. While heading for the Sunda Strait, and in concert with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth, she ran into the main Japanese invasion force then landing on the island of Java. This force consisted, in its entirety, of one light carrier, one seaplane carrier, five cruisers, 12 destroyers, a mine-layer and 58 troopships.

Low on fuel and with her after turret out of action, this as a result of earlier damage sustained at the Battle of Makassar Strait, Houston, along with Perth, entered the fray. The last message anyone would ever hear from these ships was a radio transmission sent by Houston; the message read “Enemy forces engaged.”

Perth went down first, fighting to the end, but even the heroism of her crew could not overcome four torpedo strikes and untold hits by enemy cannon. When Perth succumbed, 353 men went down with her including her commanding officer, Capt. Hector Waller.

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting USS Houston (CA 30) in her final action with Japanese forces. Courtesy of the US Navy Memorial Foundation. Painting from the John Hamilton collection. (Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting USS Houston (CA 30) in her final action with Japanese forces. Courtesy of the US Navy Memorial Foundation. Painting from the John Hamilton collection. (Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Houston was now left alone, surrounded by enemy ships and aircraft. In quick succession she was hit by shell and torpedo but continued to fight on. Some time after 01:30, having been hit scores of times, faced with extensive flooding below decks, out of ammunition for her main guns, and with fires raging out of control, Capt. Albert Rooks, the commanding officer, gave the order to abandon ship. Only minutes later he was killed by an exploding Japanese shell.

Houston was bathed in the glare of Japanese searchlights, still under heavy fire and settling by the bow when her surviving crew gave her to the sea. 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 spitting out of a machine gun platform as one lone Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Walter Standish, true to the traditions of the Corps continued firing until the sea took him.

Some 675 Sailors and Marines died with Houston. Most of these men were killed during her final battle, were taken down with the ship or died when the pitiless tide washed them into the vast Indian Ocean but others were machine gunned as they swam helpless in the water.

The 366 survivors were taken into captivity, but their ordeal was far from over. Many would end up in POW camps in Burma, where they were forced, under inhuman conditions, to construct the infamous Burma Railway. Of this handful of survivors a further 76 died of sickness, abuse, torture, hunger and neglect. At war’s end in 1945 only 290 men remained, many broken in body but not in spirit, to return to the United States. Think of them, for they paid the full price in defense of our freedoms.

As one of the survivors later wrote —“Well Done , Well Done!”

JAVA SEA (Oct. 14, 2014 ) Naval officers from Australia, Indonesia and the United States participate in a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in honor of the crews of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) and the Royal Australian Navy light cruiser HMAS Perth (D29). Both ships were sunk during World War II by Imperial Japanese forces within Indonesian waters during the battle of Sunda Strait in February 1942. Frank Cable, forward deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and is on a scheduled underway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson/Released)

Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole (center) along with other Naval officers from Australia, Indonesia and the United States participate in a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in honor of the crews of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) and the Royal Australian Navy light cruiser HMAS Perth (D29). Both ships were sunk during World War II by Imperial Japanese forces within Indonesian waters during the battle of Sunda Strait in February 1942. Frank Cable, forward deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and is on a scheduled underway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson/Released)

 

 
Feb 18

The Burning of the USS Philadelphia

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 1:55 PM
Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia in the Harbor at Tripoli by Edward Moran

Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia in the Harbor at Tripoli by Edward Moran (U.S. Naval Academy Museum)

On the evening of 16th February, 1804, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia was burned in Tripoli Harbor. The frigate had been captured on October 31, 1803 when the ship ran aground on a reef a few miles outside Tripoli. The war with Tripoli had raged since 1801, the entire action of the war mostly amounting to a few naval skirmishes and a lackadaisical blockade of Tripoli. When Commodore Edward Preble arrived to take command of the war, he had hoped to up the tempo of operations against Tripoli and quickly bring the war to a successful conclusion. The capture of the Philadelphia dramatically complicated this objective. The capture meant the Philadelphia’s captain and her crew, 307 Americans, became Tripoli’s prisoners. The capture also diminished American prestige among the Barbary States. Preble decided it was necessary to destroy the captured ship. The mission would be extremely dangerous; Preble expected the destruction of the ship would only come with great loss of life. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. volunteered to command the mission. His success restored American prestige and secured him a reputation of valor that followed him the rest of his life. The burning of the Philadelphia was a heroic episode during the Barbary Wars that made Decatur a hero and greatly increased the reputation of the Navy and the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 23

Thomas Tingey’s Lasting Legacy: The Washington Navy Yard

Friday, January 23, 2015 11:10 AM

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command

From Commander-in-Chief of the British Squadron off Newfoundland to architect and superintendent of the Navy Yard in Washington D.C., Commodore Thomas Tingey might not have had a gallant naval career but his experiences and knowledge of the sea surely set him up to become a distinguished and notable leader in our Navy’s history. This is especially true today at the Washington Navy Yard on the 215th anniversary of its establishment.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

With the establishment of the United States Navy in 1794, Tingey started his naval career with his commissioning as a captain on Sept. 3, 1798. This, however, isn’t where his seafaring career began.

Born Sept. 11, 1750, the London native joined the British navy as a midshipman in 1771. He rose through the ranks and held several commands before leaving the Royal Navy for a career as a merchant trader commanding ships in the West Indies. Just prior to the Revolutionary War, Tingey immigrated to the British colony calling itself the United States. He was married in 1777.

His 1798 commission was signed by President John Adams and shortly thereafter, Tingey fought in the Quasi-War with France and Spain.

Tingey’s legacy in the U.S. Navy wasn’t made on the sea, but instead on land – the shores of the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, to be exact.

On Jan. 22, 1800, Tingey was appointed superintendent of the newly-purchased Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. Among his jobs was to lay out and command the first naval base for the new republic.

This project became almost a labor of love for Tingey. At the age of 51, Tingey was discharged from the Navy in 1801, but not from the Navy Yard. He remained as superintendent.

Four years later he was recommissioned, again a captain, and gained the title of commandant of the Navy Yard. After 14 years building his beloved yard, Tingey was ordered to burn it in 1814 to keep the British from using it when they invaded Washington during the War of 1812.

Reluctantly he followed the order.

“I was the last officer who quitted the city after the enemy had possession of it, having fully performed all orders received, in which was included that myself retiring, and not to fall into their possession. I was also the first who returned and the only one who ventured in on the day on which they were peaceably masters of it”. – Letter to his daughter Sept. 17, 1814.  

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

WASHINGTON An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

His home had been spared from the flames, and he once again took up residence in Quarters A (now known as Tingey House and home to the Chief of Naval Operations). Within a few years, the Navy Yard was rebuilt and Tingey commanded it until his death Feb. 23, 1829.

Commodore Tingey was buried in what was described as with “unusual military honors” in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Although the Washington Navy Yard never regained its prominence as a shipbuilding facility after its burning in 1812, the facility was revived as the Naval Gun Factory in the 1900s through World War II. Today it is the headquarters for numerous commands, including the Naval Sea Systems Command, Commander, Navy Installations Command, Military Sealift Command, U.S. Navy Band, and the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Tingey’s service to the Navy did not go unnoticed by his progeny. A grandson and a great-grandson, both named Thomas Tingey Craven, each rose to the rank of admiral, one in the Civil War and the other during World I and World War II. Tingey himself had three ships carry his name: USS Tingey (TB 34) (DD 272) and (DD 539).

 
Jan 8

Battle of New Orleans: In 1814 We Took A Little Trip…

Thursday, January 8, 2015 8:27 AM

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Painting depicting the Naval Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between U.K. and U.S. forces in the War of 1812, by Thomas L. Hornbrook (active 1836-1844). (Image Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.)

Painting depicting the Naval Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between U.K. and U.S. forces in the War of 1812, by Thomas L. Hornbrook (active 1836-1844). (Image Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.)

Today marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was settled at Chalmette Plantation, where Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops scored a final victory for the United States.

Less known, however, is the naval skirmish three weeks prior that set up Jackson’s victory. During the Battle of Lake Borgne, American Sailors and Marines, with just a few gun boats, slowed the approach of 8,000 British troops advancing toward New Orleans. Armed with the knowledge the British were coming, Jackson was able to prepare and amass his troops for the greatest land battle victory during the War of 1812. All thanks to the intuition of Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson.

Capt. Daniel Todd Patterson by John Wesley Jarvis

Capt. Daniel Todd Patterson by John Wesley Jarvis

Patterson was born on Long Island in 1786 and like so many Americans at the time, descended from loyal British subjects. His uncle had been a royal governor of what is now St. John’s Island in Canada. Patterson started his career in the Navy in 1799, fought the French, was taken captive during the Quasi Wars, and led raids against pirates blocking New Orleans. He was later a prisoner of the Barbary pirates in Tripoli until the American victory in 1805.

Stationed in New Orleans, by 1812 Patterson was highly experienced in combat and leadership. He was ready for the British, who had won battles in the Great Lakes, burned Washington, and were now ready to invade the South.

But where? The British had already sent ships to the Gulf of Mexico. Jackson believed it would be Mobile, Ala., and he insisted Commodore Patterson, now the Commander of New Orleans, to send whatever he had to protect Mobile from attack. Patterson repeatedly refused Jackson, convinced the British would attack New Orleans.

In the meantime, the British Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station, Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane, had anchored in the Gulf of Mexico with a large armada of ships holding 8,000 soldiers and sailors ready to invade.

Patterson had little with which to respond. As the Master Commandant, he had written to the Secretary of the Navy many times asking for ships that could stand a chance in combat against the British fleet. Patterson wrote the year before in December 1813 that none of his ships could even depart from the Gulf of Mexico without “falling into enemy hands.”

The British had HMS Seahorse, which carried 22 nine-pounder guns. Cochrane also had ships like Armide and Sophie, which contained two six-pounder bow guns and 16 32-pounder carronades, which were giant short-range cast iron cannons.

Patterson had five gunboats, a schooner and two sloops of war, USS Alligator and USS Tickler. The squadron had fewer than 250 Sailors, armed with 16 long guns, 14 carronades, two howitzers and 12 swivel guns. The gun boats were often referred to as “Jefferson-class” tug boats, because they were built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson who believed all America needed was a coastal patrol force, not a blue-water navy. The “Jefferson-class” gun boats didn’t even have names. They had numbers — Numbers 156, 163, 5, 23, and 162.

But now the British were anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. Vice Adm. Cochrane decided the easiest way to New Orleans would be through Lake Borgne, where Patterson’s squadron was patrolling and reporting back to Jackson about the British logistics and movements.

Finally, on Dec. 12, 1814, 1,200 British sailors and marines began their approach to Lake Borgne. After 36 hours of rowing, the invaders faced a hail of grape shot. Patterson had calculated correctly that even without ships to match the Royal Navy, his gunboats could harass any landing party as they rowed ashore, blocking the entrance of Lake Borgne, the gateway to New Orleans.

But outmanned and outgunned, the British captured all the American gunboats on Dec. 14. The British then made a tactical error. Rather than pressing forward, they were allowed time to rest.

Jackson heard about a British encampment just seven miles from New Orleans and exclaimed: “By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil.”

So during the night of Dec. 23, the Americans attacked the British with troops by land and with USS Carolina and Louisiana, stationed in the Mississippi River, bombarding their encampment. Heavily outnumbered, the Americans were forced to retreat.

The British realized their advance would not be as easy as they thought, and again, hesitated, allowing even more time for Jackson to shore up his forces and prepare their defense. Under bombardment and constant attack, the British tried to advance into New Orleans for the next two weeks until the culmination of the battle on Jan. 8, 1815.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium on Dec., 24, 1814, just one day after Jackson’s assault on the British. But neither side knew the treaty had been signed until after the battle was over two weeks later. After Jan. 8, the British, in one last effort after losing New Orleans, tried to take Mobile again, but then withdrew upon hearing of the treaty. It would formally end all hostilities between the two nations.

Patterson himself commanded naval batteries on the Mississippi during the Battle of New Orleans. He, as well as his Sailors and Marines fought alongside Jackson’s Soldiers during the last week in December and the first week in January. Jackson would go on to give high praise to Patterson, who would be promoted to captain. Patterson would later take command of USS Constitution, and serve in the Navy for another 24 years.

And old Hickory himself, a national hero, would ride his 1815 victory to become the nation’s seventh president in 1829.

The penultimate battle of the War of 1812

Today in 1815 marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. It was Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s Army that carried that ball over the goal line for the win. But they crossed that end zone because the U.S. Navy got the ball to within the 10-yard line.

How so, you might ask? The British planned to attack New Orleans weeks prior to Jan. 8, 1815, but a small contingent of American gunboats kept the Red Coats from coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Borgne, allowing Jackson the time to amass more men to prepare for their attack.

A history teacher named Jimmy Driftwood back in the 1936 wrote a little ditty called the Battle of New Orleans to get his history students interested in the War of 1812, using a popular American folk tune called “The 8th of January.” Singer Johnny Horton turned into a 1959 hit.

But since that song was about the land battle that kept the British out of New Orleans, with our apologies to Driftwood, here’s the Navy version, based on the same tune, on how a handful of Navy boats held off the Royal Navy, and helped set the stage for the bigger victory three weeks later on Jan. 8, 1815.

NewOrleans.pdf

 
Oct 2

Washington Navy Yard: A Celebrated Legacy of Service to the Fleet

Thursday, October 2, 2014 2:15 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

The Washington Navy Yard was established 215 years ago today, Oct. 2, 1799, the Navy’s first and oldest shore base. At first it was built as a shipyard, under the careful guidance of its first commandant, Capt. Thomas Tingey. And then during the War of 1812 we famously burned it down (not the British) and then our neighbors looted it (again, not the British).

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The base was back running again by 1816, although it never quite came back as a shipbuilding yard due to the shallowness of the Anacostia River. Its mission changed with the establishment of the Bureau of Ordnance at the Washington Navy Yard in the late 1880s and the building of a large gun factory. The yard then evolved into a place to test the most scientific, technologically advanced naval weaponry in the nation. By the end of World War II, when the yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in Dec. 1945, it had become the largest naval ordnance plant in the world, peaking at 188 buildings on 126 acres of landing and employing nearly 25,000 people.

But during the 1950s, as fewer weapons were needed, the Navy Yard began to phase out its ordnance factories. On July 1, 1964, the property was re-designated the Washington Navy Yard and unused factory buildings were converted to office use. The yard is now home to the Chief of Naval Operations (living in the same house as the yard’s original commandant) and is also headquarters for the Naval History and Heritage Command, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy and numerous other commands.

Just as captivating as the Yard’s transition from shipbuilding to ordnance technology to host of various command headquarters, are the hints of the macabre that lurk among the centuries-old brick and mortar of the Washington Navy Yard.

Which takes us back to Commodore Thomas Tingey. The plump commodore lovingly nurtured his navy yard through its first construction, then had suffer the horrible orders to burn it in August 1814 during the War of 1812. And he did, waiting until he could almost see the British before finally ordering it set ablaze. He returned the next day overjoyed to find the two housing quarters – A and B – unburned, along with the massive gate designed by Benjamin Latrobe.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

But after all that, Commandant Tingey got the Navy Yard back running again building ships by 1816. In 1829, Commandant Tingey, still running the place and living in his beloved Quarters A at the top of the hill, reported he was tired and wanted to work half days. He died five days later. He was so attached to the home he lived in for nearly 30 years that people have claimed to see a rotund apparition roaming the halls in his nightshirt while wearing his sword. In 1886, the shipyard changed direction to become the Naval Gun Factory, thanks to the technological advances by Capt. John A. Dahlgren. Rumor has it Tingey’s ghost gave out a loud cry at the indignity of it.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

And speaking of the Civil War, Capt. Dahlgren served as the commandant of the base in 1861-62 and again in 1869-70. But it was Army Col. Ulrich Dahgren who would leave a lasting legacy: His leg. After the battle of Gettysburg, Col. Dahlgren had his leg amputated at the navy yard in 1863. It was buried amid new construction at the shipyard. He would lose the rest of him (minus an eye) when his men were ambushed in 1864 while attempting to take Richmond. Papers found on his body, thereafter called the “Dahlgren Papers,” outlined a planned assassination attempt on Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Outrage from Southerners over that plan has been speculated to have fueled the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of Capt. Dahlgren.

Just a few days after his second inauguration, President Lincoln would indeed be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The actor’s body – along with suspected cohorts – was brought to the Washington Navy Yard where an autopsy was performed onboard the monitor USS Montauk.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

Which brings us back to the Navy Yard, which was known to have a special place in the heart of Lincoln. The yard bade its final farewell to the slain president by firing guns every half hour from noon until sundown on May 4, 1865, the day the president was buried at Springfield, Ill.

A more complete history of the Washington Navy Yard may be found here.

 

 
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