Archive for the 'Wars' Category

Oct 1

The Destruction of the S.M.S. Cormoran and the First U.S. Shot Fired in the First World War

Thursday, October 1, 2015 4:00 AM



As strange as it may seem, the very first shot fired by the United States in the First World War did not occur anywhere near the battlefields of Europe. Instead, as Commander Owen Bartlett, USN related in the following excerpts from his August, 1931 Proceedings article, the shot was made nearly half a world away in the harbor of Guam.   “The first violent hostile act of the war between the United States and Germany probably was the destruction of the S.M.S. Cormoran by her own commander in Apra Harbor, Guam. To those actively participating, the episode loomed large in interest,… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 23

“The Fastest Ship in the Navy”: The Strange Saga of the USS Reina Mercedes

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 6:00 AM


Reina Spanish

On April 29, 1898, Almirante (Admiral) Pascual Cervera y Topete of the Spanish Navy steamed out of Cape Verde islands with a fleet of four armored cruisers and three destroyers. His destination: the West Indies, to defend Spain’s empire against the American fleet. Hampered by a number of deficiencies, the fleet struggled into the harbor at Santiago de Cuba. Meeting and later joining the squadron there was the Reina Mercedes, an unarmored cruiser capabale of propulsion under both sail and steam. Built in Cartagena, Spain, in 1887, she had become the station ship at Santiago in 1892. By 1898, she… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 11

The VT Fuze: The Other Secret Weapon of World War II

Friday, September 11, 2015 9:16 AM


USNI VT fuze.

As a young officer, then-Lieutenant Commander (later Admiral) W.H. P. Blandy, USN, had a keen interest in gunnery. Writing for Proceedings in 1920 (“Director Fire a Century Ago”) and 1925 (“Possible Improvements in our Gunnery Training”), LCDR Blandy understood well the history of fire control and what could be done to improve its effectiveness. Ever forward-thinking, Blandy noted elsewhere in 1925 of what a remarkable device a fuze that would detonate based on its proximity to the target would be. The key would be to find a way to trigger the shell to that its fragmentation pattern would be effective,… Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 20

The Posterity of the Ganges

Thursday, August 20, 2015 6:00 AM


Portrait of Thomas Macdonough, who served aboard the Ganges. Courtesy Library of Congress.

It is frequently the case that a ship is given the name of an individual as a honorarium. Names such as Campbell, Fletcher, Porter, and many, many others are accepted in kind. So when individuals are given the name of a ship, suddenly we take notice that something very remarkable is afoot. Such is the case of the surname Ganges. The story of how a family came to be named after a 26-gun sloop-of-war is one that upholds the finest traditions of the U.S. Navy.

Aug 14

Landing the Planes

Friday, August 14, 2015 11:12 AM


Lieutenant Robin M. Lindsey, USS Enterprise landing-signal officer, epitomized leadership on the flight deck. (USS Enterprise CV-6 Association)

An excerpt from “‘The Big E’ Leadership Factory,” by Barrett Tillman, in the October 2015 issue of Naval History. Leadership also was evident on the Enterprise’s flight deck, never better demonstrated than during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands at the height of the Guadalcanal campaign. The ship’s landing-signal officer was Lieutenant Robin M. Lindsey, assisted by the air group LSO, Lieutenant (junior grade) James G. Daniels. Lindsey had been on board since July 1941 and learned the “paddles” trade under the tutelage of prewar LSOs. Daniels had survived Fighting Squadron Six’s debacle in the night sky over Pearl… Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 13

Restoring the US/C-3 Infrared Signalling Telescope

Thursday, August 13, 2015 2:15 PM


Bottom view

In Greek Mythology, the prophet Tiresias was blinded by the gods as punishment for revealing their secrets. He begged the goddess Athena to restore his sight, but she could not. Instead, she gave him the gift of foresight, and Tiresias spent the remainder of his days spouting prophesy. Tiresias had seen too much and had paid the price for it. Such too may be the case of a battered US/C-3 infrared signalling telescope that came into this writer’s care for restoration.

Aug 10

The Dropping of the TURDSID in Vietnam

Monday, August 10, 2015 7:00 AM



Electronic warfare and surveillance are increasingly becoming topics of discussion. The nature of that type of warfare (and indeed combat itself) calls for a certain amount of creativity. To see, but not be recognized or seen oneself, begs for innovation and novel solutions to life-threatening problems. But even the most brilliant plans can be rendered moot if one builds an idea on a false assumption. Such is the nature of the ingenious yet flawed TURDSID.

Aug 4

Semper Paratus

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 9:00 AM


Signalman First Class Douglas Munro

Semper Paratus As the daughter of a Coast Guard officer and in honor of Coast Guard Day, I present the story of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, USCG. SM1 Munro is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient. He was awarded the nation’s highest honor posthumously for his service in World War II during the battle of Guadalcanal.

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