Archive for the 'Wars' Category

Jun 4

Reading Yamamoto’s Mail

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 1:09 PM

Reading Yamamoto’s Mail

RADM D. M. “Mac” Showers, USN-Retired

by Ronald Russell

 (This post if from the Battle of Midway Roundtable and originally appeared in Veterans Biographies, distributed during the annual Battle of Midway commemoration in San Francisco, June 2006)

In August 1940 Mac Showers joined the Naval Reserve while in his senior year at the University of Iowa, where he majored in journalism and political science. He was commissioned as a USNR ensign in September 1941 and commenced active duty with the 13th Naval District headquarters (Com 13) in Seattle. At Com 13 he was introduced to the world of naval intelligence while a member of the district intelligence officer’s staff. 

z-vet-showers1

Showers as a Lieutenant in 1945

In February 1942 he was transferred to Pearl Harbor and to the staff of Commander Joseph Rochefort, who was to become one of primary architects for the stunning victory at Midway. Rochefort was in charge of the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl, known generally in the history books as “Station HYPO.” HYPO was tasked with breaking the Japanese navy’s radio code, analyzing the intelligence derived, and providing CINCPAC (Admiral Nimitz and his staff) with the best possible view of the enemy’s battle plans. Rochefort was a master of the art, and under his supervision the cryptanalysts at HYPO ultimately divined virtually the entire Japanese operations order for Midway before the battle commenced. Ensign Showers was an intelligence analyst working closely with the unit’s cryptanalysts and Japanese linguists. He was specifically responsible for extracting key data from each intercept, plotting the movements of the Japanese ships en route to Midway, and preparing graphic presentations of such movements for delivery to CINCPAC. 

The remarkable success of the HYPO team, with support from a similar operation in Australia, was the fundamental key to the “Miracle at Midway.” As it turned out, the quality of the intelligence delivered to CINCPAC by Ensign Showers and his comrades was nearly perfect—Admiral Nimitz stated after the battle that with regard to the initial Japanese air strike on the atoll, his staff’s prediction for its arrival had been off by only five minutes on the clock and five degrees on the compass! 

z-vet-showers2

Showers in 2004

Mac Showers remained a fleet intelligence specialist throughout the war, after which he transferred to the regular Navy. He retired in 1972 and commenced a second career with the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served until 1983. In 1986 he was instrumental in securing a posthumous Distinguished Service Medal for Joseph Rochefort, who had received no awards for his vital achievements at HYPO in 1942.

 
Jun 4

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 11:34 AM

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets

Lt. Commander Philip H. Jacobsen, USN-Ret

by Ronald Russell 

(This post is from the Battle of Midway Roundtable and originally appeared in Veterans Biographies, distributed during the annual Battle of Midway commemoration in San Francisco, June 2006)

Upon graduation from high school in 1941, Phil Jacobsen knew that he wanted a career in radio electronics, but there was no money in his family for college. He turned to the Navy as a training resource, and succeeded in getting into radio school after boot camp. Freshly trained in radio operation, equipment maintenance, and message handling procedures, his class was sent to Pearl Harbor where the Navy decided the new radiomen could best serve as laborers at the ammunition depot! Jacobsen and several others were rescued from that drudgery when CDR Joseph Rochefort, in charge of the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor, directed the expansion of Japanese intercept operator training to support his growing cryptologic operation.

The new intercept operators were trained at Wahiawa, in the center of Oahu. They were immediately immersed in learning the 48-character Japanese equivalent of Morse code, as well as both the katakana and romaji variants of written Japanese. In time they became proficient on a special typewriter that printed romaji characters, and were also taught Japanese communications procedures, message formats, and operating signals. They also learned radio direction finding techniques.

By May of 1942, RM3/c Jacobsen had completed training and was standing watches at radio intercept “Station H” at Wahiawa. The operators were informed of the possibility of a forthcoming large-scale Japanese operation, and to be extremely alert for any unusual activity or ship’s movements. Enemy message traffic gradually increased in level as the month progressed giving a further clue to the radiomen that something big was in the wind. Jacobsen recalls seeing the officer in charge at Station H and his chief radioman examining a chart with two tracks of ships converging on Midway.

The skills practiced by RM3/c Jacobsen and his comrades at Wahiawa during that time provided a vast quantity of remarkably clear raw material for CDR Rochefort’s cryptanalysts at the Combat Intelligence Unit. There the Japanese signals were decrypted and analyzed, leading to an extraordinary understanding of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s intentions at Midway weeks in advance of the attack. That enabled Admiral Nimitz to plan what was to become the greatest American naval victory of all time. There are many reasons for the triumph at Midway, principally centered on the incredible bravery of the men manning the guns and flying the planes as the battle raged. But the success achieved there started with a few enlisted radiomen capturing the intelligence from the airwaves that made the victory possible.

z-vet-jacob

Jacobsen in 2005

Late in 1942, Jacobsen transferred to Guadalcanal with a team that established a new radio intercept and cryptologic unit there as the battle for the Solomon Islands raged, and he served at other Pacific sites as the march toward Japan continued. He retired from the Navy in 1969 after 28 years of service, nearly all in communications intelligence.

 
Jun 4

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 7:00 AM

 

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

A special feature of the BATTLE OF MIDWAY ROUNDTABLE

by LCDR Philip H. Jacobsen, USN-Ret 

(Editor’s note: the following is the text of an address given by LCDR Jacobsen to a gathering of Naval Security Group personnel at San Diego in 2000. It has been edited slightly for clarity and to better suit this format.)

The Advent of U.S. Naval Cryptology

 Although my part in the Battle of Midway was very small, I appreciate this opportunity to relate to you some of the more important achievements of my contemporary naval cryptologists that made the success of the Battle of Midway possible. As a current member of the Naval Security Group, you can take pride in the great accomplishments of your predecessors, not only related to the Battle of Midway but long before World War II as well as throughout World War II.

There are not many naval cryptologic veterans alive today that were involved in providing the communications intelligence information that gave our inferior forces on land, sea and especially in the air the equalizer of knowing the composition of enemy forces, and when and where those huge Japanese forces would attack U.S. territory under Admiral Yamamoto’s grandiose invasion plan. This crucial communications intelligence information, when combined with the heroic actions of fighting forces under the brilliant command of Admiral Nimitz, led to the great U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway.

We should keep in mind that intelligence itself does not win battles. However, I believe the lesson of the Battle of Midway is that good, solid intelligence can make the difference between winning and losing a crucial battle for our country. I hope you will keep this in mind in the future.

What was the genesis of the naval cryptologic success at the Battle of Midway? So much was involved in building up dedicated experts in all the various fields of cryptology that it is impossible to point to one single source. Credit must be given to many individuals who operated under difficult conditions, extremely limited budgets, and poor promotional opportunities. This relatively tiny group of dedicated individuals accomplished much in their efforts over the years to keep abreast of the growing force of the Japanese navy and their ever increasing communications security precautions. With the Japanese instigation of war with the U.S., this cadre of technical experts made it relatively easy to expand into a large organization and to immediately provide increasingly vital intelligence to not only U.S. Navy operational forces but also to U.S. Army and Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.

 

Attacking JN-25 

 

220px-Joseph_rochefort

Captain Joseph John Rochefort
U.S. Naval Historical Society

 Despite successes with prior Japanese naval and diplomatic codes, the high priority placed on the small group of naval cryptologists to provide decrypts of Japanese diplomatic communications precluded any significant decrypts of the current Japanese fleet code, JN-25B. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Station HYPO in Hawaii under Commander Joseph J. Rochefort was given the authority to attack JN-25B. By early 1942, HYPO was producing some usable JN-25B decrypts. Station CAST at Corregidor, which was moved to Melbourne after the Philippines fell, and Station NEGAT in Washington soon followed with a number of important JN-25B decrypts. 

HYPO first reported an offensive action in the “AK” or Hawaiian area which culminated in the ineffectual bombing of Oahu on the night of 4/5 March 1942. Rochefort determined that the long range Japanese seaplane was refueled by a submarine at the isolated island of French Frigate Shoals. This information would later play a vital part of the preparation for the Battle of Midway. 

 

The Japanese Plan for Midway 

 

The Japanese geographical designator “AF” began to appear in partially decrypted messages as early as 4 March 1942. On 13 March, Corregidor firmly identified “AF” as Midway. Melbourne and Washington confirmed that “AF” was Midway from subsequent decrypts, but for some unexplained reason Washington evaluated it as a communications designator, not a geographical designator even though Midway was obviously not a Japanese communications station.

Decrypts in late April by Melbourne and Hawaii showed intentions of hostile Japanese action at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak in the Alaskan area.

Beginning on 1 May, activity in Japan proper reflected preparations for both the Midway and Alaskan areas and provided detail of Japanese planning and the size of the forces committed to each objective. As the Japanese ships departed their anchorages, communications intelligence provided information on their future disposition. Both Melbourne and Hawaii reported the pairing of Japanese Carrier Divisions 1 and 2 for exercise activity in home waters on 3 and 12 May. In addition, HYPO provided a decrypted message of 7 May 1942 containing the complete agenda for an “aviation conference” on 16 May called by Vice Admiral Nagumo in Kagoshima, Kyushu. Also to be discussed was an “amphibious assault” and battle for “air superiority” together with a study of organizations for use in dive bombing, torpedo attacks, bombing, and strafing to wipe out local resistance.

For some time the status of Admiral Kondo’s powerful Second Fleet was clouded. Finally on 8 May 1942, HYPO correctly associated the carriers of the 1st Fleet with several important 2nd Fleet elements and warned of a possible creation of a strike force organization under Vice Admiral Nagumo, Commander 1st Air Fleet, consisting of CarDivs 1 and 2, CruDiv 8, two battleships from BatDiv 3, and other 2nd Fleet elements. These early correct conclusions gave a major advantage to the planners in the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They were reinforced by Melbourne on 9 May by a decrypt ordering destroyer screens for many of the capital ships in the Striking Force and revealing a sailing date from Sasebo of 21 May.

 

Troubles in Washington 

 

On 14 May Admiral King directed Admiral Nimitz to declare a state of “Fleet Opposed Invasion” and gave Nimitz complete control of all military forces, including B-17s in the Hawaiian Islands. By 16 May Admirals King and Nimitz were in almost total agreement concerning Japanese intentions toward Midway and the Aleutians. However, this view was in sharp contrast to the confusion that reigned between OP-20-G (Station NEGAT) and War Plans staff under Admiral Richmond K. Turner. Turner placed some ridiculous restrictions on what Station NEGAT could report. 

On 16 May, Nimitz ordered Admiral Halsey [Task Force 16 with USS Enterprise and Hornet] to return to Hawaii, indicating the Japanese would probably make simultaneous offensives against Port Moresby, Dutch Harbor, and Midway where the main striking force would be employed.

Two days later, all three navy cryptologic centers reported that the Strike Force’s attack would be from the northwest from N minus 2 days until N day, while Hawaii and Melbourne added that the attack would be launched from fifty miles northwest of AF. While this did not solve the attack timing problem completely, Nimitz immediately sent messages to Halsey and Fletcher [Task Force 17 with USS Yorktown] to expedite their return to Pearl Harbor as well as ordering submarine search activity off Midway to an area fifty miles northwest of the island.

An acrimonious relationship between Admiral Turner and his War Plans Division and OP-20-G continued, with Turner directing Commander Redman not to comment on certain intelligence evaluations and assume that Turner’s views were correct. The record suggests that the analysts in War Plans and OP-20-G were so engrossed in their own activities that they sometimes overlooked information concerning the Imperial Fleet readily available from translations in OP-20-GZ and the daily reports of the Pacific centers.

While the Pacific centers were convinced that the identity of AF was Midway because of its position in the “A” or American digraphs in the Japanese designator system, various persons at OP-20-G and in Washington thought it might be Johnston Island, Samoa, the U.S. West Coast or even Hawaii itself. HYPO was aware of this lack of agreement on AF in Washington. In order to rid themselves of this annoying backbiting, Rochefort approved a ruse that was probably thought up by Jasper Holmes, the author of Double Edged Secrets. Nimitz approved the message to be sent in the clear from Midway complaining of a water shortage. Rochefort let Melbourne make the first report of the decrypt from Tokyo Naval Intelligence advising of a “water shortage at AF.” Even the naysayers in Washington could not argue with this confirming evidence. 

 

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets 

 

Additional information about a Japanese northern force prompted Nimitz to activate Task Force 8 under Admiral Robert A. Theobald. In spite of accompanying and subsequent accurate information about Japanese intentions in the Aleutians from decrypts, Theobald chose to treat such information as enemy deception and moved his forces out of the area to the Kodiak vicinity. That allowed the enemy to pound Dutch Harbor and occupy Kiska and Attu.

From information of Japanese successes in determining carrier movements simply by monitoring air to ground communications, Nimitz ordered Halsey and Fletcher to maintain radio silence, particularly among the aircraft when coming in to land. He also warned MacArthur that the Japanese were intercepting air-to-ground contacts between Port Moresby and allied planes. Nimitz also implemented a MacArthur suggestion that two or three U.S. vessels in the South Pacific conduct radio deception to create the impression that our carriers were remained in that area.

On 22 May, a Melbourne decrypt revealed the word “Midway” in a request for photographs of the island that had been “handed over to you.” Washington published a message from Nagumo to the 11th Air Fleet showing that his carriers had 33 aircraft on board that were destined to be the nucleus of land based aircraft in the new Japanese perimeter. Their loss was completely unnoted in accounts of Japanese carrier losses.

The 25th of May began with HYPO’s critical discovery of the Japanese date cipher. Now the U.S. possessed the means to determine the final ingredient of the Japanese plans—when the attack would take place. Application of this information allowed Rochefort to predict that the Japanese attack on the Aleutians would occur on 3 June and on Midway on 4 June. Despite objections from his staff, Nimitz decided to base his final timetable on these dates. Melbourne applied this date cipher information to older traffic and alerted the Pacific Fleet that on the 22nd of May CruDiv 8 and the battleships Kongo and Kirishima were scheduled to depart the Inland Sea of Japan.

Task Force 16 (Hornet and Enterprise) under Admiral Halsey returned to Pearl on the 26th and began a whirlwind of preparation for battle. The CINCPAC Bulletin of the 26th reported that the Northern Force had begun to depart Ominato and that all the Japanese carriers were probably at sea. Admiral Nimitz advised King how much he was dependent on communications intelligence and noted that they were only copying 60 percent of Japanese naval messages and only decrypting 40 percent of those copied. King attributed all of the Navy’s progress in the Pacific to the success it was having from timely information from Japanese naval codes. Without this information King said, “disaster is probable.”

 
Preparations for Battle 

 

On the 27th of May, the Yorktown finally limped into port, showing the damage inflicted during the Coral Sea battle. This good news was offset by some bad news from Commander Rochefort’s center: a new underlying code (JN-25C) and additive cipher had been introduced that rendered unreadable almost all the texts of JN-25 messages from the 27th on. However, some previously originated messages were still readable including one from the 5th Fleet that contained tactical call signs for the Northern Force, its Strike Force, and the Occupation force for “AQ” and “AO” identified as Kiska and probably Attu. Again, Theobald refused to believe this intelligence and kept his force near Kodiak. Another prior message concerned the “Ichiki Detachment” to command the 2nd Combined Landing Force, which was to occupy Midway’s Eastern Island. A third message revealed the intended use of civilian engineers captured on Wake Island to be used in the rebuilding of Midway. Additional warnings that the carriers were at sea were also published.

On 30 May, U.S. task force commanders were alerted by HYPO that direction finding had located three submarines in northern waters and one west of Midway. That day, the Yorktown (Task Force 17) slipped out of Pearl but was detected by the ComInt unit aboard the Yamato, Admiral Yamamoto’s flagship. However, due to radio silence restrictions, this information was not passed on to the Japanese carriers. NEGAT in Washington reported that the carrier Ryujo was at sea with the Northern Forces and that the Commander of the 6th Army Air Force was probably aboard the Akagi.

An old message produced the important information that fighter pilots from the carrier Zuikaku had been transferred to the Northern Force, ruling out the possibility that the Zuikaku could be called on to support either the Aleutian or Midway campaigns. Another message determined that major participants were called to a conference aboard the Akagi on the 26th, which meant they were still in port on that date.

Melbourne’s analysis of air activity in the Marshalls on 2 June led them to conclude that the Occupation Force was approaching the Marshalls. However, Admiral King’s headquarters report of that day contained serious errors. It estimated that BatDivs 2 and 1, CarDiv 4, and DesRon 3, parts of the Main Body, were still in the Bonins home waters area when in fact this force was approaching the western edge of the occluded front northwest of Midway. Perhaps, more importantly, the Office of Naval Intelligence chose this moment to report the presence of a fifth carrier, and identified the carrier as the Zuikaku. Fortunately, Admiral Nimitz and his intelligence staff had confidence in the information being generated by the centers in the Pacific, and this ONI estimate was not acted on or repeated to the task forces off Midway.

 
Predictions Confirmed 

 

As predicted by HYPO, the Japanese offensive against the Aleutians began on 3 June with the carriers attacking Dutch Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Midway notified Nimitz that the Japanese “Main Body” was sighted at 2100Z by a patrol plane bearing 261 degrees and a distance of 700 miles from Midway. After a second sighting of a smaller group of warships and cargo vessels, Nimitz advised that the forces sighted were the attack and occupation forces, not the main body. HYPO’s report of 3 June identified Admiral Yamamoto, CINC of the Combined Fleet as in overall command and correctly identified major commanders and functions of 2nd Fleet, 1st Air Fleet, and 5th Fleet.

discovering the fleet

Diorama of PBY discovering Japanese minesweepers. NHHC Photograph Collection 80-G-701843

Just after midnight on the morning of 4 June, Nimitz realized he had not yet advised the task forces how far the “Main Body” was from Midway. In addition to repeating earlier reports on its course and speed, he concluded it was now 574 miles from Midway. At 0604 Midway time, a reconnaissance plane from Midway spotted two Japanese carriers and their escorts and reported “many planes heading Midway” from 320 degrees, distance 150 miles. Less than a half hour later, Midway was attacked by Japanese carrier aircraft.

Nimitz was only able to muster 47 warships and 26 submarines against the Japanese fleet of 113 warships and 16 submarines. However, the U.S. was able to concentrate its forces at Midway with a slight advantage at the scene of the battle with three carriers, 22 escorts, 234 aircraft afloat and 110 at Midway versus four carriers, 17 escorts, 229 aircraft and 17 seaplanes for the Japanese. In addition, Admiral Nimitz and his task force commanders had advance knowledge of the identity of the Japanese objectives; virtually the entire Japanese Midway and Aleutian order of battle; the organization of the Midway forces into a Striking Force, Occupation Force, Invasion Force; the preliminary and final timetables of the Midway and Aleutian Striking Forces; the general direction from which each force would approach Midway, and the Midway Strike Force’s plan of attack. All of that information was supplied by communications intelligence in time to influence decisively the provisions of Admiral Nimitz’s Operation Plan 29-42.

In addition, luck was on the side of American forces in several key instances. Partly due to poor Midway bomber group sighting reports, two of the U.S. carrier aircraft groups [from Enterprise and Yorktown] were fortunate to locate the enemy carriers after changing their original course, while Hornet’s planes failed to make any contact. The late takeoff of the #4 search plane from the cruiser Tone prevented the Japanese from discovering the presence of U.S. carriers in time to make significant operational changes.

 
A Victory of Intelligence 

 

The Americans lost only one carrier, one destroyer and 147 planes, while the enemy suffered the loss of four large carriers, all their aircraft, as well as one heavy cruiser and the damage to one heavy cruiser. These losses plus the rejection of the enemy invasion and occupation forces resulted in a huge victory for the U.S. Navy early in WWII. This great success after so much bad news from Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia was a great morale booster to the American people.

After the battles of Coral Sea, Midway and the Aleutians, the invaluable contributions made by communications intelligence were recognized by senior naval officials in Washington and Honolulu. In their words, communications intelligence had given the United States a “priceless advantage” over the Japanese. In few battles before or since would any navy possess an enemy’s order of battle, their plan of attack, and their timetable, all of which had been provided to the U.S. Navy’s high command by the communications intelligence units in Hawaii and Australia under the direction of Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and Lieutenant Rudolph Fabian, respectively.

 
Jun 3

Synopsis of the Battle of Midway (3-7 June 1942)

Monday, June 3, 2013 8:35 AM

Those who have only a casual knowledge of the Second World War might know little more about the Battle of Midway than the fact that it was an important American victory in the Pacific Theater. After all, the war had countless major battles, and a great many of them involved far more men and arms than fought at Midway. A tally of the forces engaged and lost there, pales to insignificance in the face of the much larger battles later in the war, particularly in Europe.

But in fact, the Battle of Midway was one of the most important battles of the war, in any theater. Indeed, some would argue that it was the most important of them all. For had the American side lost at Midway (which any reasonable analysis prior to the battle would readily support), not only would all of the subsequent allied successes in the Pacific theater been severely delayed or obviated altogether, but virtually all of world history from that point forward would certainly have been altered almost beyond comprehension.

In brief, here’s what happened at Midway, as related on the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command web site:

“The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan’s Pacific Ocean war.g451086_MidwayIslandPrior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.

“Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto moved on Midway in an effort to draw out and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carrier striking forces, which had embarrassed the Japanese Navy in the mid-April Doolittle Raid on Japan’s home islands and at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May. He planned to quickly knock down Midway’s defenses, follow up with an invasion of the atoll’s two small islands, and establish a Japanese air base there. He expected the U.S. carriers to come out and fight, but to arrive too late to save Midway and in insufficient strength to avoid defeat by his own well-tested carrier air power.

“Yamamoto’s intended surprise was thwarted by superior American communications intelligence, which deduced his scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. On 4 June 1942, in the second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles, the trap was sprung. The perseverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, plus a great deal of good luck on the American side, cost Japan four irreplaceable fleet carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers present was lost. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive.”

Winston Churchill said of the Battle of Midway, “this memorable American victory was of cardinal importance, not only to the United States but to the whole Allied cause…At one stroke, the dominant position of Japan in the Pacific was reversed.” And that is why Midway was among the most important battles of the war, for if the Japanese had prevailed—and the order of battle certainly suggests that they should have—consider what would have ensued. All of the following are highly likely:

1. There would have been no invasion of Guadalcanal in 1942.

2. Because of that, a Japanese threat to Australia, blunted at Coral Sea, would have been renewed, with isolation likely and perhaps even partial occupation.

 3. A threat of that magnitude to the Australian homeland may have resulted in the recall of their army from North Africa, where Rommel’s Afrika Corps was still a threat to the Suez Canal.

 4. With Australia neutralized, MacArthur would have had no convenient springboard for his return the Philippines, and he may have even risked the capture that he avoided at Corregidor.

 5. Without Australia, American submarines would have been denied the advance bases that allowed them to prey so successfully upon Japanese shipping in the western Pacific.

 6. With the Japanese in control of Midway, the threat to Hawaii would have been enormous. Their long range plans included a full scale invasion in 1943, the success of which would likely have led to carrier raids against the U.S. Pacific coast.

 7. With a powerful enemy virtually on its western shores, American resolve to prosecute the war in Europe would have been severely tested. And a reduced American commitment in Europe would have led to one of two probable scenarios, both of which are painful to contemplate:

 (a) An allied invasion of France in June 1944 would not have been possible, at least not then, giving the Nazis additional time to fortify their western defenses and thus make a successful invasion less likely. A delayed or even failed invasion in the west could have improved the Germans’ ability to defend themselves in the east, allowing Hitler and the Nazis to remain in power far longer than they did, with unimaginable consequences for Europe.

 (b) Or, alternately, the lack of American-British pressure in the west would have allowed the steamrolling Red Army to overrun all of Germany, not just the eastern third. Communist dominance of the entire European continent could easily have resulted, bringing a far more dismal set of conditions at the start of the Cold War than what actually occurred.

But none of those things came to be, because of the Incredible Victory, the Miracle at Midway. It shouldn’t have happened but it did nonetheless, through amazing courage, divine intervention, or unbelievable luck—or a combination of all three.

 
May 31

Commemorating the Battle of Midway

Friday, May 31, 2013 12:35 PM

The Battle of Midway, fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway, is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific and one of the most significant events in US Navy history. Through innovative naval intelligence, bold tactics, raw courage, and determination, the US Navy emerged victorious and changed the tide of the war. The victory also had tremendous influence on the ethos of the US Navy and helped set the standard for expectations of today’s Sailors.

Join us online for the Battle of Midway panel “U.S. Navy: The Battle of Midway and the Pacific Today” using a Google+ Hangout scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Monday, June 3rd. Those interested can participate on the US Navy’s Google+ page at http://www.google.com/+usnavy. Panel will be recorded and available for viewing afterwards at http://www.youtube.com/usnavy.

Please check out our Battle of Midway blog series at www.navalhistory.org from 3-7 June, as we investigate and discuss the innovative intelligence gathering and analysis techniques employed by the US Navy; share stories and experiences of the Sailors and pilots that fought the battle; and share the important lessons learned and the impact the battle had on shaping future Navy doctrine.

88-188-ah

We have a few other surprises planned throughout the week, so be sure to stay tuned to all of our digital properties for additional content.

Web: www.history.navy.mil

Naval History News: www.navy.mil/local/navhist

Facebook: www.facebook.com/navalhistory

Twitter: www.twitter.com/NavyHistoryNews

Naval History Blog: www.navalhistory.org

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/groups/Naval-History-Heritage-Command-1944509?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

 

 
May 29

Sharing the Naval History Narrative: Battle of Midway

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 11:10 AM

 BOM 29 blog pic

Attention naval historians, authors, bloggers, web masters and enthusiasts: Next week marks the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the nation’s most historically significant naval victory. As this historic event approaches, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) has taken the liberty of listing out numerous Battle of Midway resources, such as videos, images, documents and more, so that you or your command can repurpose and share the Midway and Navy narrative. We hope that the below resources allow you to celebrate this important Naval victory and share this pivotal period in American and naval history.

Still Images:
Images from NHHC Photo Section
NHHC Art Collection

Videos:
The Course to MIDWAY Navy.mil
Battle of Midway: The Japanese Attack
Battle of Midway: The American Counterattack
CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert on the Battle of MIDWAY

Bio’s:
Rear Admiral John Ford
Lieutenant Commander George Henry Gay
Commodore Dixie Kiefer
Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky, Jr.
Admiral Marc Andrew Mitscher
Admiral Frederick C. Sherman

Publications:
MIDWAY Remembered
Interrogations of Japanese Officials
Combat Narratives – Battle of Midway
US Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Account of the Battle of Midway
Aerology and Naval Warfare – The Battle of Midway
Japanese Story of the Battle of Midway

Additional Resources:
Commemoration Planning
NHHC Battle of Midway
Navy.mil Midway Page

 

 
May 21

30th Naval Construction Regiment Command History

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 7:45 AM

 

For over 70 years, the men and women of the Naval Construction Force have been giving their all to protect our Nation and serve our armed forces with pride and living up to the slogan…We Build, We Fight. On May 19, 1965 the 30th Naval Construction Regiment was activated at Danang, Vietnam. Let’s take a dive into the history of the 30th Regiment…

Thirtieth Naval Construction Regiment Seabees are an integral part of the Naval Construction Force and provide valuable construction support to Navy and Marine Corps units. The Naval Construction Force is an integrated force of both active and reserve units. 30thNCRpatch

Naval Mobile Construction Battalions are the bulk of the active Pacific Naval Construction Force, under the direct command of the Thirtieth Regiment. Each has about 600 officers and enlisted personnel. Their complement includes Civil Engineer Corps officers, other staff officers, enlisted craftsmen from every construction trade and various fleet support ratings.

There are four active units of the Naval Construction Force serving the Pacific, and an Underwater Construction Team which provides the Pacific Fleet Seabees with unique underwater construction and demolition capabilities. The Thirtieth Naval Construction Regiment provides deployable command and control of operational units.

Pacific-based Naval Construction Force units deploy to Pacific Fleet and Atlantic Fleet forward logistics support bases in order to provide construction support to Navy, Marine Corps and other organizations. Seabees provide needed construction and repair to military operational and community support facilities, as well as disaster relief and construction training to U.S. communities and independent Pacific Island nations.

The main Pacific deployment sites are Okinawa, Japan and Guam. Smaller details operate in Chinhae, Seoul and Pohang, Korea; Sasebo, Iwakuni, Atsugi, and Yokosuka, Japan; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; San Diego, and Lemoore, California; Fallon, Nevada; and Bangor, Washington.

The Thirtieth Naval Construction Regiment was first established in 1944, on Saipan after the invasion of Tinian. The regiment moved to Marianas and was known as the “Airfield Construction” Regiment of the Sixth Naval Construction Brigade.

Elements of different Battalions assigned under the regiment landed with the assault units of the 4th Marines for the invasion of Tinian. The initial invasion tasking was rebuilding a captured Japanese airfield for use by Naval aircraft, construction for roads, water facilities, camp hospitals, tank farms, ship moorings, pipelines, and drainage and sanitation lines.

The construction of North Field from which B-29 bomber strikes were launched against the islands of Japan kept the Regiment battalions busy from November 1944 to May of 1945, and it was inactivated on Tinian, Marianas in October 1945.

Two years later, they were activated in Guam, taking over the duties that had been assigned to the Fifth Naval Construction Brigade.

The regiment was under the administration and operational control of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, and assigned control of Naval Construction Battalion 103 and Construction Battalion Detachments on Peleliu; on Saipan; on Kwajalein; on Midway; and on Johnston Island.

Seabee Dets served at various times on Okinawa; and worked at Sangley Point Naval Air Station and Subic Bay Naval Operating Base in the Philippines.

The Thirtieth Regiment was transferred from Guam, Marianas to Cubi Point, Luzon, Philippine Islands in March of 1952. The regiment absorbed the Philippine Naval Construction regiment whose commanding officer became the commanding officer of the Thirtieth Regiment.

The regiment’s mission was to act as the single director of both naval construction forces and civilian contractor forces in the construction of the U.S. Naval Air Station Cubi Point, a task that lasted five years. During the five-year project, the regiment employed Mobile Construction Battalions TWO, THREE, FIVE, NINE and ELEVEN; Construction Detachments 1802 and 1803; and Detachment A of the Tenth Brigade.

Naval Construction Forces were utilized only during the September – June dry construction season. A large part of the airfield and air station facilities were constructed by contractors; but SEABEES did all the earth moving – over twenty million cubic yards of dirt -Seabee2 constructed many of the stations auxiliary facilities, and assisted in dredging operations for waterfront facilities.

The regiment operated under the military and operational control of Commander, Naval Forces, Philippines and administrative control of the Director, Pacific Division, Bureau of Yards and Docks, until 1955. In 1955, the Tenth Naval Construction Brigade was activated at Pearl Harbor and assumed administrative control of the regiment.

Jumping ahead ten years, On 10 May 1965, the Thirtieth Naval Construction Regiment was activated at Da Nang, republic of Vietnam (RVN), under the Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U. S. Pacific Fleet.

Its principle mission was to exercise operation control over mobile construction battalions deployed to Vietnam. It maintained liaisons with other military commands, assigned construction projects to SEABEE units, and monitored performance. On 1 June 1966, the Thirtieth Regiment was assigned to report to the newly established Third Naval Construction Brigade in Saigon. December of 1969, having completed most SEABEE construction projects in Vietnam, the Thirtieth Regiment was re-deployed to Okinawa.

The Thirtieth Naval Construction Regiment, headquartered on Okinawa, exercised command over all SEABEE battalions in the western Pacific Ocean area outside of Vietnam. It also directed the activities of SEABEE teams deployed to the western Pacific. In September of 1973, the headquarters of the Thirtieth NCR was moved to its birthplace of Guam, Marianas. From Guam, the Thirtieth directed the activities of the mobile construction battalions that built the major air and naval base at Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, between 1971 and 1982. On 15 August 1984, the Thirtieth NCR was disestablished on Guam.

The Thirtieth NCR was reactivated in July 1982 with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Overseas tasking in the Pacific arena included work in our two mainbody sites of Guam and Okinawa as well as detachment sites in Diego Garcia, Adak, Korea, Hawaii, Sasebo, Iwakuni, Yokosuka, Fuji, Atsugi, and the stateside tasking in Southern California. In addition to the normal active duty battalion contribution, reserve battalions contributed 45,000 mandays of support construction effort into CINPACFLT bases, USMC activities and Naval Reserve Centers.

The Thirtieth NCR, NMCB ONE, NMCB FORTY, and ACB ONE completed tasking in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope in 1993. Primary tasking was to provide vertical construction support to U.S. and Coalition Forces, who would establish base camps at each of the humanitarian relief sites.

Repair and improvement of the main supply routes was another big part of our effort. The largest project was at the Baidoa Airstrip, which deteriorated as C-130 relief flights increased in the early part of the operation. ACB ONE provided construction support and fuel and water offload service at the port of Mogadishu.

Today, more than 2,700 active duty and 5,700 reserve officers, men and women are assigned to the Pacific Fleet Seabees. Construction tasks in the Pacific range from renovating living quarters, ports and airfields, to constructing major operational training and support facilities.

Disaster relief and helping others help themselves have always been part of the Seabee tradition. Seabees provide relief after natural disasters, which includes providing temporary berthing and utilities, cleaning debris, restoring communication systems, repairs to damaged homes, buildings and base structures.

Pacific Fleet Seabees were involved in disaster recovery following a major earthquake and typhoons on Guam, participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The “Can Do” spirit of the Seabees has a long and gallant history. The Seabees of today uphold that legacy and continue to be the military construction force of choice.  

For more historyon Navy Seabee units visit the Naval History and Heritage Command website: http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/seabee/unithistoricalinformation.htm

Seabee1

 
Apr 29

CSS Alabama Britten Shell and Box

Monday, April 29, 2013 3:09 PM

CSS Alabama, a screw sloop-of-war, was commissioned by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It was built in Liverpool, England and launched on 24 August 1862. Alabama served the Confederate Navy as a commerce raider and captured more than 60 vessels during her two year storied career.

On 19 June 1864, Alabama left port in Cherbourg, France to engage the USS Kearsarge. Approximately an hour after the first shot of the battle had been fired Alabama began to sink. The commander of Alabama, Raphael Semmes, then surrendered and the ship’s survivors were rescued by Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound.

Semmes on Alabama

The wreck site of Alabama was discovered in 1984 by the French Navy mine hunter Circe, and an agreement was created between the French and United States governments to form a committee that would oversee any archaeological work on the site.

Several artifacts were recovered from the wreck site of Alabama, including a wooden box housing a shell which has been of particular interest. This is in part due to the unique nature of this set of artifacts. While it is not unusual to find shells, discovering a box built to house a single shell is not common. The box and shell are both currently being housed and studied at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

The box and shell were found in excellent condition and received prompt conservation treatment at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. A lack of oxygen and cold temperatures both contributed to the exceptional state of preservation of the artifacts.

Alabama 021

The 7-inch Britten pattern shell and wooden box recovered from the CSS Alabama.

Research revealed that the shell is a 7-inch Britten pattern shell. Britten projectiles were patented in Great Britain in 1855 by Sir Bashley Britten. Britten’s patent for a new shell also introduced an innovative method for attaching sabots to shells in an attempt to increase the accuracy of the weapon. Both the Union and Confederate forces used Britten shells, however only the Confederate States purchased the shells in large calibers.

Information regarding the box, however, has proven more difficult to uncover. General references to boxes for shell and other ordnance storage have been found in multiple sources. These resources include the ordnance manuals for the Confederate and United States Navies as well as the writings of the chief foreign agent for the Confederate States, James D. Bulloch. However, research about the exact origins and purpose of the Alabama box is ongoing.

Alabama 023

Another view of the shell and box displaying the damaged portion of the box.

Specific information about the cargo and equipment aboard Confederate ships is frequently difficult or nearly impossible to find with the current sources available. Precise data was often not recorded for wartime security or has been destroyed over the years. For example, Confederate leaders were careful to not provide specific information regarding the sources of their supplies. In a letter discussing the purchasing of supplies and ships for the Confederate Navy, Bulloch wrote to a colleague, “The fear that this letter may fall into wrong hands induces me to withhold the names of the contractors.”

While the box and shell remain a bit of a mystery, conservation will be the key to uncovering more of their secrets. Only through proper conservation can we continue to research, study, and analyze vital artifacts.

 
« Older Entries Newer Entries »