Archive for the 'World War II' 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 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)

 

 
Aug 29

Paying Respects to USS Houston (CA 30) Crew and the Navy Family

Friday, August 29, 2014 2:24 PM
WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff, poses for a photo during a meeting with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. Pictured are, from left to right: -Dr. Jay Thomas - Mr. Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor - Ms. Stacey Davidson, an Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter - Vice Adm. Swift - Ms. Sue Kruetzer, President, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations - Mr. John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations - Dr. Alexis Catsambis(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff, poses for a photo during a meeting with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. Pictured are, from left to right: Jay Thomas, PhD; Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor; Stacey Davidson, a Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter; Vice Adm. Swift; Ms. Sue Kreutzer, President, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations; John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors; Association and Next Generations; Alexis Catsambis, PhD, NHHC underwater archaeologist (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Officers of the USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, and descendants of the crew from the World War II cruiser USS HOUSTON (CA 30) spent the day with naval leadership at the Pentagon and the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). The Houston went down fighting during the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942, with approximately 700 Sailors and Marines on board.

The visitors were:

– John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations

– Sue Kreutzer, President, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generation

– Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor

– Stacey Davidson, a Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter

 

As part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2014 exercise in June, U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) One Company 1-5, along with personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the wreck during a joint training evolution.

 

Earlier this month the Navy released its findings from the interim assessment and is working with Indonesia to preserve and protect the site from further disturbance. While there the joint team paid their respects to the crew by laying a wreath at the site.

140829-N-GE301-002 WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff meets with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff meets with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

During their visit, they met in the Pentagon with the Director of Navy Staff Vice Adm. Scott Swift. At NHHC headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard they met with the Acting Director Jim Kuhn. They were hosted throughout the tour by Jay Thomas, PhD, NHHC assistant director for Collections Management, and Alexis Catsambis, PhD, the Navy’s underwater archaeologist who both supported the joint survey off Indonesia in June and authored the interim assessment report.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - Kate Morand (left-right), Archaeologist from Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology (UA) Division, shows Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, as well as association member, Joel Snyder, a trumpet that was taken from the wreck of the WWII-era cruiser USS Houston and is undergoing preservation at the UA conservation lab, as her coworker Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D., listens. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC by the command's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The U.S. Navy uses NHHC's UA Division professionals to help keep track of and protect all seaborne and airborne craft that lie below the waterline. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – Kate Morrand (left-right), an archaeologist from Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology (UA) Division, shows John Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, as well as association member, Joel Snyder, a trumpet that was taken from the wreck of the WWII-era cruiser USS Houston and is undergoing preservation at the UA conservation lab. Coworker and underwater archaeologist Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D., is in the foreground. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

In addition to received briefs on the assessment and the opportunity to speak face-to-face with leadership, the guests had a chance to view a trumpet from USS Houston currently being treated by NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

 

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - James Bruns, director of the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), talks to (right - left) Susan Kreutzer, president, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, Stacey Davidson and Joel Snyder , association members, and Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about the model of the Houston that the association donated to the museum. The association members were escorted on their tour of the museum and Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) by the command's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – James Bruns, director of the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), talks to (right – left) Susan Kreutzer, president, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, Stacey Davidson and Joel Snyder , association members, and Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about the model of the Houston that the association donated to the museum. The association members were escorted on their tour of the museum and Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) by the command’s Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII’s Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

The crumpled copper and steel instrument with its mother-of-pearl keys and felt stoppers had been removed without authorization from the wreck site but was returned to the United States last year. The trumpet is soaking in a special solution to mitigate the damage on being removed from its salt water grave site.

 

Afterward, the visitors were taken to the USS Houston (CA-30) model on display at the National Museum of the United States Navy located at the WNY. The 1929 vintage 1/48-scale model of the Northampton-class cruiser reflects the Houston in its original 1920s configuration. It is displayed in a wood and glass case donated by the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors and Next Generations Association.

 

The USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations group has worked tirelessly to ensure the Navy and the American public recognize the valor, contributions, and ultimately the sacrifice paid by the Houston crew, in hopes of ensuring the nation never forgets.

NHHC is grateful for their commitment to the crew’s storied legacy and our Navy heritage. It was both an honor and a privilege to host them today, and we’re looking forward to continuing the partnership on this most important matter.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - James Kuhn, acting director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) talks with members of the Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about NHHC's mission and historic holdings, during the association's tour of NHHC. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC and the National Museum of the United States Navy by NHHC's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – James Kuhn, acting director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) talks with members of the Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about NHHC’s mission and historic holdings, during the association’s tour of NHHC. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC and the National Museum of the United States Navy by NHHC’s Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archaeology and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII’s Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

 
Jul 31

Timeline to Justice – the quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis

Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:00 PM

 

 

The following article was printed in the July/August 1998 issue of Naval History magazine. It was written by 12-year old Hunter Scott in his quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis:

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

 

With perhaps greater reverence than many of my 12-year-old peers, I appreciate this opportunity to write about what has grown from a school history project into a mission. My quest has allowed me to be associated with individuals who fought so that all Americans could live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Throughout this journey, I have learned the great price of freedom, the meaning of honor, valor, and supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, and the fact that democracy is a treasure so valued that men and women are willing to give their lives in its pursuit.

 

For that reason, I have urged the introduction of a bill before Congress (H.R. 3710) to correct an injustice done 53 years ago. I pray that the men and women who gave their lives are looking down on what I am doing, knowing their sacrifice was not in vain. I am proud and honored to bring to the attention of Naval History readers again the case of Captain Charles B. McVay III and the crew of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

 

President Abraham Lincoln once said: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” I began such a “struggle” when I was 11 years old, for the “just cause” of restoring honor to Captain McVay and gaining a Presidential Unit Citation for the Indianapolis and her crew.

 

My dad tells me that, “the true test of your character is what it takes to make you quit.” The men of the Indianapolis and their captain did not quit in their quest to bring a hasty end to World War II. After making a record-setting run to the island of Tinian for delivery of components for the first atomic bomb, the ship was torpedoed, sinking in just 12 minutes. Of her 1,196 men, 850 to 950 made it off the ship and into the water, where they spent five nights and four days surrounded by sharks and death, while those responsible for their safety did not notice that the ship was missing. An accidental spotting of the survivors saved the lives of 316 crew members, 150 of whom are still with us today. Now, more than a half-century after this tragedy, we must not forget these men, and we must not quit in our effort to set the historical record straight.

Based on my research, the following timeline tells the story of the final days of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 16 July 1945—Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves choose to load components for the first atomic bomb on board the Indianapolis. Captain McVay receives orders to proceed “with all possible haste” to Tinian.

 

  • 21 July—The USS Underhill (DD-682) is sunk by a Japanese submarine in the same area where the Indianapolis will go down. Captain McVay never is given this information nor any notification that the Japanese submarines I-58 and I-367 are operating in the area. A directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, prevents Captain McVay from receiving this intelligence.

 

  • 26 July—The Indianapolis arrives in Tinian; atomic bomb components with the USS Idaho (BB-42) on 2 August. The Idaho receives a garbled message about the arrival of the Indianapolis. No request is made for retransmission. The Idaho is unaware that the Indianapolis is en route. (This is the first in a series of blunders that led the Indianapolis to cruise into a bureaucratic void.)

 

  • 28 July—In Guam, Captain McVay is denied requests for an escort. His orders give him discretion concerning whether or not to zigzag while under way. The Indianapolis makes the trip from Guam to Leyte unescorted—the first heavy warship to do so during the war—without capabilities to detect enemy submarines.

 

  • 31 July—At sunset, Captain McVay comes on the bridge to discuss weather conditions. The night is overcast and cloudy. He believes he is cruising in waters free of enemy submarines, because of intelligence given to him prior to his departure from Guam. The Indianapolis is doing 17 knots, and Captain McVay gives orders to cease zigzagging because of poor visibility. He gives orders to be awakened if weather changes occur.

 

  • 1 August—At 0004, the ship is struck by two of six torpedoes fired by the 1-58. The first torpedo takes off 60 feet of her bow, andthe second hits amidships, igniting the powder magazine and shutting off most electrical power. Chief Radio Electrician L. T. Woods, observed by Radio Technician 2nd Class Herbert J. Minor, sends SOS and position of the Indianapolis on 500 kilocycles from Radio Room II, which maintains power. According to Minor, at least three signals are transmitted. Former Yeoman 2nd Class Clair B. Young stated in a letter received by Commander T. E. Quillman, Jr., “while stationed at U.S. Navy 3964 Naval Shore Facilities Tacloban, Philippine Islands, that he personally delivered the SOS message to Commodore Jacob H. Jacobson, U.S. Navy.”

 

Young awakens Commodore Jacobson and notices a strong odor of alcohol in the room. Commodore Jacobson reads the message, which identifies the ship, her location, and her condition. Mr. Young asks Commodore Jacobson: “Do you have a reply, sir?” The answer comes: “No reply at this time. If any further messages are received, notify me at once.” The SOS is received and ignored. Meanwhile, Commander Hashimoto of the 1-58 radios Japan and indicates that he has just sunk a battleship and gives the location. The message is decoded by the U.S. Navy. Still, no one checks on the whereabouts of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 2 August—The Indianapolis is due to arrive in Leyte that morning. Upon non-arrival, the ship is taken off the plotting board, and no effort is made to determine where she is. Admiral King had standing orders that combatant ships’ arrivals in port were not to be reported, which implied that non-arrivals also were not to be reported.
  • 3 August—Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn, flying a Ventura bomber, accidentally spots Indianapolis survivors and radios Palau for rescue operations to commence. Lieutenant Adrian Marks lands a PBY in heavy seas and picks up 56 survivors. Tom Brophy defies orders and tries to swim to the plane; he does not survive.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

 

  • 4 August—Rescue operations start in a 50-mile radius.

 

  • 6 August—First atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.

 

  • 15 August—Japan surrenders. Navy releases information about the sinking of the Indianapolis. The press begins to ask the Navy why the ship was never missed.

 

Note: The father of the aforementioned Tom Brophy goes to Washington after the war to arrange a meeting with Captain McVay. According to Mr. D. J. Blum, Brophy tries to call on Captain McVay the day he arrives in Washington and is told to arrange the meeting for the following week because of Captain McVay’s prior commitments.

Brophy follows Captain McVay, who attends a party. Furious, Brophy meets with his friend, President Harry S. Truman, and convinces him to court-martial Captain McVay. President Truman pressures Admiral King to convene a court-martial. Admiral King himself appoints the members of the court, who know Admiral King wants Captain McVay found guilty and who also are depending upon Admiral King for promotions.

 

  • 3 December—Court-martial begins. Captain McVay requests Lieutenant Commander Donald Van Koughnet, Chief Legal Officer of the U.S. Navy Military Government for the Marianas Islands, to represent him. Admiral King denies the request. The charges are “failure to follow a zigzag course” and “failure to sound an abandon ship.”

 

Note: Since 1991, several Navy documents have been declassified, showing that Captain McVay was not given intelligence that could have prevented this disaster (see “Ultra and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis,” a paper given to the Eleventh Naval History Symposium, 1993). This same information—which could have been useful in Captain McVay’s defense, showing that the “super technical” charges were unfounded—was considered Top Secret in 1945 and was not used in the court-martial. The question as to why the men of the Indianapolis spent five nights and four days in the water without anyone noticing that the ship was missing was not considered in the trial.

 

  • 13 December—Admiral King brings in Hashimoto, commander of the 1-58 to testify against Captain McVay. Hashimoto states that zigzagging would have made no difference, that he would have sunk the Indianapolis anyway. The 1-58 had several kaiten on board, had the six-torpedo spread missed its target. The Indianapolis was doomed.

 

  • 19 December—Captain McVay found guilty of failure to follow a zigzag course, therefore hazarding his ship. His sentence, loss of 100 promotion numbers, is later remitted. His conviction is not. The guilty verdict stands to this day. Out of more than 700 ships lost in World War II, the Indianapolis is the only one to have her captain court-martialed.

 

  • 6 November 1968—Captain McVay commits suicide.

 

NOTE: In a 10 August 1990 letter to Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Captain Russell E. Sullivan stated that he was on board the USS General R. L. Howze (AP-134), which traveled the same course as the Indianapolis and cruised through her wreckage. Bodies and debris were observed. Captain Sullivan stated: “We had not received orders to zigzag. We had 4,000 troops on board. We had not been notified that an enemy submarine was in the area. The foregoing can be confirmed by referring to the official log of the USS General R. L. Howze for August of 1945.”

 

In a letter dated 10 February 1998, Dr. Lewis Haynes, the chief medical officer on board the Indianapolis, stated that, as he was treating Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, Admiral Nimitz told him that Captain McVay “should not have been court-martialed.”

 

Conclusion:

After two years of research and interviews with almost all remaining Indianapolis survivors, I have amassed what one naval historian has called “the greatest collection of information on the USS Indianapolis in the world.” On 22 April 1998, accompanied by Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Congresswoman Julia Carson (D-IL), and 11 Indianapolis survivors, I personally dropped H.R. 3710 into the hopper on the floor of Congress. This bill will erase all mention of the court-martial and conviction from the record of Captain Charles B. McVay III and award a Presidential Unit Citation to the USS Indianapolis and her crew.

 

In 1806, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Political interest can never be separated in the long run from the moral right.” Now, 53 years after the politically motivated court-martial of an innocent ship captain, we are in the “long run,” and we have the opportunity to do what is “morally right.” I write this near the beginning of my life, making a request for many men who are toward the end of theirs. Please do not forget about the captain and crew of the Indianapolis for the second time in 53 years. Write to your congressmen and senators, asking them to support H.R. 3710.

 
Jun 5

D-Day invasion of Normandy Q & A

Thursday, June 5, 2014 9:34 PM

Capt. Henry Hendrix, (Ph.D) Naval History and Heritage Command director and Robert Cressman, NHHC historian answer questions about the D-Day invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Neptune in this four part series.

 

Question 1: How important was the element of surprise during D-Day operations?

Question 2: How does D-Day compare to how we conduct joint partnership/ combined operations today?

Question 3: In terms of logistics what did it take to pull off the D-Day invasion?

Question 4: How important was naval gunfire support during D-Day – the invasion of Normandy?

Question 5: What could the Navy have done differently during D-Day?

Stay tuned for more great content celebrating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

 
Apr 18

Doolittle Raid – Lesson in joint innovation, resilience

Friday, April 18, 2014 7:18 AM

Editors Note: The first portion of this blog comes from Rear Adm. Rick Williams, with the second portion from NHHC for a more in-depth historical perspective. Friday is the 72nd anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, an early example of joint operations led by Army Air Force and Navy. Rear Adm. Williams is commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, where he has oversight of all surface ships home-ported in Hawaii as well as two key installations. As CNRH, he oversees Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, where the Air Force and Navy serve side-by-side today.

Lesson in joint innovation, resilience

 

Rear Adm. Rick WilliamsRear Adm. Rick Williams
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

Less than 19 weeks after the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American military struck back. On April 18, 1942 – 72 years ago today – sixteen Army Air Force bombers launched from a Navy aircraft carrier to attack the enemy’s homeland.

Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid was launched from USS Hornet, commanded by Capt. Marc Mitscher and escorted by ships under the command of Vice Adm. “Bull” Halsey aboard his flagship, USS Enterprise.

The extraordinary joint Doolittle Raid showed Imperial Japan’s military leaders their vulnerability and America’s resolve.

The raid also demonstrated innovation, courage and resilience.

The five-man B-25 crews trained relentlessly prior to their mission, with specialized training led by Navy flight instructor Lt. Henry F. Miller. The Army Air Force made ingenious modifications so the bombers could have extra fuel but less weight.

Pilots, all volunteers, needed to be extremely fearless, taking off in their huge planes from a short flight deck. On rough seas they launched in bitter cold, 75-knot winds and foam-flecked spray, as Sailors aboard recalled.

Doolittle, as his team’s leader, took off first. His success inspired the other pilots just as their entire mission would inspire the nation – putting action to the nationwide words of resolve heard throughout the world: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

The innovation, courage and resilience demonstrated by Halsey and Doolittle and countless others carried over into the weeks and months that followed – first in the Battle of the Coral Sea and then, in the big turning point of the War in the Pacific – the Battle of Midway.

Historians tell us that the Doolittle Raid contributed strategically to our victory at Midway, as the enemy felt humiliated and overextended to try to prevent another attack on their homeland.

The Doolittle Raid is also an early example of the evolution of “air sea battle,” integrating air and naval capabilities across domains, where collaboration and cooperation helped win the day – and eventually win the war. We remember the heroes of the Doolittle Raid.

This strategically important event is particularly meaningful to our joint team today. This uniquely shared accomplishment is a reminder of what we have the potential to accomplish when we mutually support each other.

 

USS Hornet (CV 8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, April 18, 1942. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives - Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives.)

USS Hornet (CV 8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, April 18, 1942. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives.)

The Doolittle Raiders – The Mission

By Naval History and Heritage Command

 

On April 18, 1942, it was a “nice sun-shiny day overcast with anti-aircraft fire,” according to Army Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eldred V. Scott.

Over Tokyo, anyway.

Scott’s weather quip signaled the near completion of the Doolittle Raiders’ mission on that day 72 years ago today. But it was just the beginning of the unknown for the 80 men and their 16 planes.

Seven of those airmen would never return home. None of the planes did. While the bombing mission itself was relatively minor in terms of damage inflicted, the raid set into motion what would become a pivotal naval victory for the U. S. at the Battle of Midway.

The Doolittle Raid featured Army Air Force pilots and planes, but it was a joint effort with the Navy. The raid itself was concocted by Navy Capt. Francis Lowe. Another Navy officer, Lt. Henry L. Miller, is one of two men named as “Honorary Tokyo Raiders.” Miller supervised the take-off training the pilots received at Eglin Field, Fla., and was there for the raid launch. The other was Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese engineer who helped several Tokyo Raiders escape to safety.

And it was the Navy that provided the transportation – via USS Hornet  (CV 8) and her escorts – to the launch point.

The Navy wasn’t without its losses for the Tokyo Raid. One patrol plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, landing in the water, but the crew was recovered uninjured. Another patrol plane was lost during patrol operations, with both the plane and crew lost. And during the hour-long launch, a Sailor lost his arm after being hit by the final B-25 when it rolled backward out of position, striking him with its propeller.

From Conception to Launch

After Pearl Harbor, there was pressure from the commander-in-chief to strike back at Japan. Using carrier-capable aircraft to strike the enemy’s homeland would put a carrier task force into harm’s way for a counterattack, since the lighter Navy planes didn’t have the range of land-based bomb-delivering aircraft. And with only three aircraft carriers left in the Pacific fleet after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. needed to protect every asset.

Navy Capt. Francis Lowe, assigned to U.S. Fleet Commander Adm. Ernest J. King, had seen B-25s taking off from Norfolk, Va., using airstrips shaped a little like a carrier deck, minus the rolling waves. The Mitchell medium bombers, which had never been used in combat before, had the range and the wing-span that would allow for carrier takeoff. Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, an air racer who had helped develop instrument flying, was brought in to investigate the feasibility of such a mission, along with Adm. King’s Air Ops officer, Capt. Donald B. “Wu” Duncan.

The newly-commissioned aircraft carrier Hornet left Norfolk under the command of Capt. Marc Mitscher to join a convoy to the Panama Canal. Meanwhile Doolittle had chosen his raiders, 5-man crews for the 16 planes, and was training for 500-foot takeoffs at Eglin Field, Fla., under the guidance of Lt. Miller. At the end of March, Hornet docked at Alameda, Calif. Using cranes, 16 B-25s were loaded onto the ship’s deck. With all of the planes loaded and lashed to the deck, the Hornet moored in the bay for the night. It was April 1.

The following morning, Hornet’s crew was made aware of their mission.

Army B-52's onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

On April 7, naval operation plan No. 20-42 was issued, creating Task Force 16, with Task Group 16.1 under Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey with flagship carrier Enterprise (CV 6) and her escorts. Task Group 16.2 was headed by Capt. Mitscher with his carrier Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts.

The instructions were simple. Proceed after joining up to carry out the attack; upon completion return to Pearl Harbor; destroy enemy forces as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the attack. The two task groups met up April 13 and proceeded to steam toward a point 500 miles east of Tokyo, where they would launch the attack.

To prepare each B-25, loaded with a one-ton bomb, for its mission and flight to a safe zone in China, engineers removed the tail gunner section, painting broomsticks to look like machine guns. A rubber fuel tank was installed in the tail section, along with 10 5-gallon gas cans for manual fuel addition during the flight to a tank installed where the lower gun turret was, and a larger tank located in the bomb bay. The total fuel payload was 1,141 gallons for a 2,000-mile range.

Air patrols scouted the sea looking for enemy ships that could relay their location back to Japan, and submarines Trout and Thresher kept a steady surveillance.

After plowing through gale-force winds of 36 knots during the afternoon of April 17, enemy vessels were picked up on radar at 3:12 a.m. April 18. A light on the horizon confirmed their presence. The task group changed direction by 350 degrees and 30 minutes later, the vessels left the radar screen.

At 7:15 a.m., an Enterprise search plane reported an enemy patrol vessel and the task force sighted it at 7:44 a.m. Nashville dispatched the vessel with gunfire. Over concern the vessel had alerted the Japanese of their presence, Doolittle decided to launch the planes immediately, still 400 miles from their original launch destination.

The first B-25, flown by Lt. Col. Doolittle, launched at 8:20 a.m. The take-offs were timed for when the ship’s bow pitched highest to give the Mitchell more loft. The average time between takeoffs was less than four minutes. The last B-25 left at 9:19 a.m.

Around 2 p.m., aircraft from Enterprise picked up two more enemy vessels, sinking one and damaging the other.

It wasn’t until after the war the Navy was able to confirm crew on the patrol boat had alerted the Japanese of their location. But when they requested confirmation, there was no answer since the vessel had already been sunk. Getting no response, the Japanese government chose to ignore the message.

The Doolittle Raiders faced some resistance from antiaircraft fire, but most were able to hit their 10 civilian and military targets in Japan. The repercussions of the U.S. hitting the Japanese homeland set in motion a tsunami-like strategic response that would ultimately change the tides of war to an American victory.

Army Air Force Raid That Set Up Naval Victory

After Doolittle’s Raiders dropped bombs on Tokyo, the Japanese military reaction was swift and vengeful. Japanese Combined Fleet commander Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike the United States’ mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll and turn it into a Japanese air field. Yamamoto knew the U.S. had insufficient strength to defeat his Royal Imperial Navy, which could generally choose where and when to attack.

The Americans, however, had deduced Yamamoto’s attack through communications intelligence. Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, established an ambush and was waiting for the Imperial Navy. The second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles began June 4, 1942, and by the end, Yamamoto’s forces lost four fleet carriers compared to just one for the United States.

The Battle of Midway had leveled the naval playing field for the American naval force. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive, which soon had the Japanese Imperial Navy on the ropes.

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives - Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

An Army Air Force B-25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Best Laid Plans…

After completing their bombing mission, finding safe haven would be the Raiders’ toughest task. Taking off 400 miles sooner than planned had the planes nearly empty on fuel as they headed toward China. Of the 16 planes, 15 either crash-landed or crew bailed out. Only one plane landed – in Russia – where the crew was held as prisoners with liberal privileges. They escaped 13 months after the raid to a British consulate in Iran.

Seven Doolittle Raiders were killed in the mission: Two drowned and a third was killed by the fall after bailing out; eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of the eight POWs were executed Oct. 15, 1942, and another died of malnutrition Dec. 1, 1943. The surviving four POWs were released in August 1945.

The Raiders who landed in China were assisted by American missionary Rev. John M. Birch, whose contacts within Japanese-occupied China helped the Raiders to escape. Afterward, Birch was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force, continuing his work as a missionary while gathering intelligence on the Japanese. He was killed Aug. 25, 1945, at the age of 27, during a confrontation with Chinese Communists. The John Birch Society honors Birch, a recipient of both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Even though the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo, it was the Chinese who suffered the most from the raid. Furious the Chinese nationalists were protecting the Americans, the Japanese retaliated against several coastal cities suspected of harboring the Americans, killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese citizens.

Doolittle was so convinced his mission had been a failure, he was convinced he would face a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, he was promoted to general, skipping the rank of colonel. He and all of his Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitscher served in a variety of command leadership positions for the rest of World War II, earning the rank of admiral and title as Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Capt. Lowe, a submariner, was promoted to rear admiral and as Chief of Staff of the 10th Fleet, guided the Atlantic anti-submarine effort. He was also commander of the Cruiser Division 16, which supported the Okinawa invasion and participated in several strikes against the Japanese. After the war, he supervised the surrender and neutralization of Japanese installations in the Pacific. By his retirement in 1956, Lowe had achieved the rank of admiral due to his leadership and combat actions.

Flight instructor Miller earned a Legion of Merit for his duties in training the Doolittle Raider pilots. He served with distinction throughout his career in the Navy, serving in Vietnam and launching the first aircraft carrier strikes on North Vietnam from the decks of Ranger (CV 61), Coral Sea (CV 43) and Hancock (CV 19). On Dec. 2, 1965, he engaged the first nuclear powered Task Force Enterprise (CVN 65) and Bainbridge (DLGN 25) against Vietnam. Miller retired as a Rear Admiral in 1971.

Just weeks after Doolittle’s Raiders flew off her deck, Hornet fought gallantly in the Battle of Midway, where her aircraft shared in the sinking of a Japanese cruiser. During the fight for Guadalcanal, Hornet was the only remaining operational carrier to oppose the enemy.

It was during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, while Hornet’s aircraft attacked and damaged a Japanese carrier, the carrier suffered irreparable damage from torpedoes and kamikazes. After her crew was forced to abandon ship and American attempts to scuttle her failed, Hornet remained afloat until she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese ships Oct. 27, 1942.

Of the more than 260 American deaths during the battle, 118 came from Hornet, the last U.S. fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Hornet was awarded four service stars for her World War II action and Torpedo Squadron 8 earned a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Midway.

As for Tech. Sgt. Scott, he successfully bailed out over Chun King, China. Upon his return to the U.S. in Aug. 1942, Scott entered officer candidate school, and then served overseas as an aircraft maintenance officer for the rest of World War II, and through both the Korean and Cold wars, retiring from active duty in 1959 as a lieutenant colonel. He died in 1978 at the age of 71.

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

Brig. Gen. James Doolittle poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alludes to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. (c) 1943

 
Jan 3

Return of USS HOUSTON Artifacts to NHHC

Friday, January 3, 2014 11:41 AM

Last week, the Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) received a trumpet and ceramic cup and saucer from World War II cruiser USS HOUSTON. The artifacts were returned to the US Naval Attaché in Canberra, Australia after their unsanctioned removal from the wreck site and made a journey of more than 10,000 miles to reach NHHC headquarters in Washington, DC. The artifacts will undergo documentation, research and conservation treatment at the UAB Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).

Trumpet and ceramics recovered from USS HOUSTON. (UAB Photo).

 

USS HOUSTON, nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast”, was a Northampton-class heavy cruiser that played an important role in the Pacific during WWII. The ship and her crew saw significant action and served in the Battle of Makassar Strait and the Battle of the Java Sea along with allied vessels from Australia, Britain and the Netherlands. On 1 March 1942, USS HOUSTON, fighting gallantly alongside HMAS PERTH during the Battle of Sunda Strait, was sunk by enemy gunfire and torpedoes, taking the lives of nearly 700 US Navy sailors and Marines. 

 

USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1

USS Houston anchored off San Pedro, California, 18 April 1935. Photo # 80-CF-21337-1.

After nearly 72 years under water off the coast of Indonesia, the wreck of USS HOUSTON remains the property of the US Government and serves as a military gravesite. Underwater sites often allow for excellent preservation of archaeological material, however without conservation treatment after recovery artifacts can suffer permanent damage and sometimes complete destruction from unmitigated physical and chemical stresses. The HOUSTON artifacts are poignant reminders of an incredible chapter in US Navy history and the importance of scientific recovery and preservation for future generations to experience, study and appreciate.

A detail of the trumpet's mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).

A detail of the trumpet’s mother of pearl buttons. (UAB Photo).

 

The safe return of these artifacts to the US Navy is the culmination of collaborative efforts by NHHC, Department of Navy and Department of State colleagues at the US Embassy in Canberra, Australia. NHHC is particularly grateful to CAPT Stewart Holbrook and ETC Jason Vaught for their assistance with the recovery, safe storage and packaging of the artifacts. NHHC also extends its thanks to the Naval Historical Foundation for assistance with the expedited transportation of the artifacts to NHHC for conservation treatment.

 Please stay tuned for further updates on the USS HOUSTON artifacts!

 
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