Sep 12

Blue Angels History Milestones

Friday, September 12, 2014 8:36 AM

 

Flying the delta formation, Blue Angel A-4 Skyhawks pictured in a steep climb. The "Scooter," as the A-4 was nicknamed, equipped the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron from 1974 until 1986.

Flying the delta formation, Blue Angel A-4 Skyhawks pictured in a steep climb. The “Scooter,” as the A-4 was nicknamed, equipped the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron from 1974 until 1986. Photo courtesy of National Naval Aviation Museum

By Hill Goodspeed, Historian and Collections Manager, National Naval Aviation Museum

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, while serving as Chief of Naval Operations, formed the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team as a means to expose the American public to naval aviation, which had come of age during World War II. This was deemed very important in an era in which the roles and missions of the armed forces were the subject of vigorous debate.

 The Blue Angels performed their first air show at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida, in June 1946, and their initial show season consisted of 31 demonstrations.

 The first flight leader was Lieutenant Commander Roy M. “Butch” Voris.

 First use of the name “Blue Angels” occurred at a show in Omaha, Nebraska, in July 1946. The name came from an advertisement in the New Yorker magazine for a nightclub called the “Blue Angel.” Previous to that, the name suggested for the team had been the Blue Lancers.

The F6F Hellcat, the same aircraft the first Blue Angels flew in combat during World War II, was the first aircraft flown by flight demonstration team formed on the orders of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1946.

The F6F Hellcat, the same aircraft the first Blue Angels flew in combat during World War II, was the first aircraft flown by flight demonstration team formed on the orders of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in 1946. Photo courtesy of National Naval Aviation Museum

 The first airplane flown by the Blue Angels was the F6F Hellcat, though for a time they also operated an SNJ Texan painted to look like a Japanese Zero. This was used in a dogfighting sequence which was appropriate given the recent memory of World War II.

 

The Blue Angels make a formation take off in their F8F Bearcats at the beginning of an air show, circa 1947.

The Blue Angels make a formation take off in their F8F Bearcats at the beginning of an air show, circa 1947. Photo courtesy of National Naval Aviation Museum

 The F8F Bearcat followed the F6F Hellcat and was the last propeller-driven aircraft operated by the Blue Angels.

 The first jet flown by the Blue Angels was the F9F Panther, to which they transitioned in 1949.

 Following the outbreak of the Korean War, the Blue Angels disbanded, their aircraft, pilots, and some support personnel becoming the nucleus of Fighter Squadron (VF) 191, nicknamed “Satan’s Kittens.” They flew combat missions from the carrier Princeton (CV 37) and during their combat deployment lost squadron skipper, Lieutenant Commander John Magda, who had been the Blue Angels’ flight leader. He was shot down and killed, later receiving the Navy Cross posthumously.

 The first Marine Corps aviator was assigned to the Blue Angels in 1954.

 The Blue Angels performed their first air show outside the United States in 1956 when they appeared in Canada. Subsequently, they have performed at sites around the world, including demonstrations in Europe and Asia. Notably, they flew in Russia and former Eastern Bloc nations in 1992.

A F-4 Phantom II makes a knife edge pass during a Blue Angel flight demonstration in the early 1970s.

A F-4 Phantom II makes a knife edge pass during a Blue Angel flight demonstration in the early 1970s. Photo courtesy of National Naval Aviation Museum

 The only time that the Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have flown the same type aircraft was when they operated the F-4 Phantom II.

 The Blue Angels have flown the F/A-18 Hornet since 1987, the longest serving demonstration aircraft in the flight demonstration team’s history. The longest-serving aircraft in general is the C-130 Hercules, popularly known as “Fat Albert,” which provided logistics support to the squadron.

A thrilling spectacle of any Blue Angel flight demonstration are the aerobatics of the two solo aircraft, which is on display in this image of two F11F Tigers. The Blues flew short-nose versions of the aircraft, like those pictured here, and long-nose versions of the Tiger from 1957 to 1968.

A thrilling spectacle of any Blue Angel flight demonstration are the aerobatics of the two solo aircraft, which is on display in this image of two F11F Tigers. The Blues flew short-nose versions of the aircraft, like those pictured here, and long-nose versions of the Tiger from 1957 to 1968. Photo courtesy of National Naval Aviation Museum

Then and Now

 The original Blues flew a three-plane air show compared to the six planes that fly today’s demonstrations, the original 17-minute show now lasting over 40 minutes. The original team had five pilots, one support officer, and eleven enlisted support personnel, while today, the squadron’s ranks consist of sixteen officers, including six demonstration pilots, and over 100 enlisted support personnel. The Hellcat weighed in at over 15,000 pounds fully loaded as compared to the 66,000-pound gross weight of the F/-A-18. The Hellcat, at top speed, reached 380 miles per hour at 23,400 feet, while the Hornet easily exceeds the speed of sound, over three times the F6F’s speed. Each Hellcat cost about $50,000 during World War II; the fleet Hornet comes in at over $25 million.

The National Naval Aviation Museum is located at 1750 Radford Blvd., Pensacola, Fla. For more information, please visit their website.

 

 
Sep 11

The First Act of Defiance against the Enemies of Freedom: A Sailor’s Experience at the Pentagon on 9/11

Thursday, September 11, 2014 1:43 PM
FBI agents, fire fighters, rescue workers and engineers work at the Pentagon crash site on Sept. 14, 2001, where a hijacked American Airlines flight slammed into the building on Sept. 11. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the west face of the building and followed similar attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill. (Released)

FBI agents, fire fighters, rescue workers and engineers work at the Pentagon crash site on Sept. 14, 2001, where a hijacked American Airlines flight slammed into the building on Sept. 11. The terrorist attack caused extensive damage to the west face of the building and followed similar attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill. (Released)

By Gordon Calhoun, Great Lakes Naval Museum

There are two important qualities that a Sailor learns when he or she makes the transition from civilian to a member of the U.S. Navy. The first is the willingness to put one’s life on the line in defense of the United States, its citizens, and his or her shipmates. The second is that willingness to defend may be called upon anytime and anywhere during a Sailor’s career, whether on a ship or shore duty. For Operations Specialist First Class Roberto Paz, both of these factors came together on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then-OS2 Paz was on duty at the Pentagon. During an oral interview about that day with Timothy Frank, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, Paz recalled, “Basically we came in to work that day and it was a half day for our department due to we were having a command picnic. Just sitting in the office… It was a regular normal day.”[1]

However, someone then rushed in and informed Paz and others in his office the World Trade Center in New York City had just been hit by a commercial aircraft.

It was at that moment that the events of the day struck even closer.

“All of a sudden we heard the whole building shake – the windows rattle and all the sudden we started hearing screaming and black smoke coming in and filling up the hallways.”[2]

American Airlines Flight 77, hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists, had slammed into the Pentagon.[3] Paz was only one hundred yards from the point of impact.

Without hesitation, Paz and other petty officers “armed up” and began doing search and rescue into the area of the building that would eventually collapse. They went in and “started searching — room by room — seeing if anyone was in there.”

The broken floor had already begun to collapse. “Instead of walking on a level floor, you took a step down,” Paz said. “We then came out of there and went around to the other side and found two individuals who were in a room. They thought they would be fine because they had a window open. We had them escorted out. We told them the safest way to get out. There was another individual there who had told me he got blown across the hallway. He was kind of out of it. He was talking about one individual being in the room. I went down to the room to see if he was in there [but] he was not in there. Then, I escorted him out of the building to the ambulance and went back into the building.” [4]

Paz said four of them continued to go down floor-by-floor conducting search and rescue. “We went all the way down to where the comm (communications) center was where the plane had hit. We couldn’t get in there. There was about six inches of water on the ground and electrical wires hanging down. The ceiling debris had blocked a door from us being able to open it up so we were never able to get in.”

Paz and his buddies left the building after nearly an hour of search and rescue.

“It felt a whole lot longer for the four of us,” he said. “When we got out we then set up security around the building.”

It was while walking the perimeter that Paz saw that a section of the building had fallen.

“Then we started rendering first aid to people who had been injured and assisting with other police departments and services there. We saved about 20 people that day. Ten people I know lost their lives that day.”[5]

Paz believed the firefighting and damage control training skills he learned aboard USS Mitscher (DDG-57) were the primary reasons he was able to perform as well as he did under the circumstances.

On December 17, 2001 in a ceremony held at the Pentagon, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England awarded OS1 Paz and his three shipmates the Navy Marine Corps Medal, the highest medal a Sailor can receive during peacetime. Secretary England at the ceremony remarked the actions by Paz and others were the “first acts of defiance against the enemies of freedom.”[6]

Petty Officer Paz continued to serve in the Navy after receiving his medal. He served as a navigator for a landing craft (air cushion) during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the disaster relief efforts to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and Odyssey Dawn.

Gordon Calhoun is a historian at the Great Lakes Naval Museum, an official U.S. Navy Museum located at Naval Station Great Lakes. Go to www.history.navy.mil/glnm for more information on programs and operating hours.

 

[1] Operations Specialist First Class Robert Paz, USN, interviewed by Tim Frank, February 10, 2014, transcript, Naval History and Heritage Command, History and Archives Division.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alfred Goldberg. Pentagon 9/11 (Washington, D.C.: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2007), 16.

[4] Interview with Operations Specialist Paz by Tim Frank, February 10, 2014.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Secretary Gordon S. England. Pentagon Personnel Awards Ceremony (Washington, D.C.: C-SPAN, 2001). Accessed on the Internet at http://www.c-span.org/video/?167886-1/pentagon-personnel-awards-ceremony on August 22, 2014.

 

 
Sep 4

A French Double: Two dates in the Storied Partnership of America and France

Thursday, September 4, 2014 10:07 AM
Artist Benjamin West (1730-1820) painted the depiction of the signing of the treaty between America and Great Britain on Sept. 3, 1783, but was never finished because the British delegation refused to pose. Pictured are John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin. National Archives photo

Artist Benjamin West (1730-1820) painted the depiction of the signing of the treaty between America and Great Britain on Sept. 3, 1783, but was never finished because the British delegation refused to pose. Pictured are John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin. National Archives photo

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Today we recognize two events that showed the United States’ appreciation for France’s support during the six years the young nation actively fought for independence from Great Britain. Benjamin Franklin, America’s first diplomat, was the driving force behind the warm relationship between the U.S. and France which readily agreed to recognize the 13 former British colonies as their own nation.

And so it was on Sept. 3, 1782, the United States gave as a gift to King Louis XVI a not-yet-completed 74-gun man-of-war to be named America, and a year later, it was in France where the Treaty of Paris would be negotiated and signed Sept. 3, 1873, officially giving the United States of America its freedom from Great Britain.

Neither effort by the Americans to honor their French partnership were sustained. The ship America lasted only three years sailing for the French. And less than 10 years after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the death of King Louis XVI would end more than 1,000 years of continuous rule by French monarchy during the French Revolution. And with the Louisiana Purchase 10 years after that, the French had no territory left near their former ally.

America, the only liner built of those authorized by the first American legislation. Presented to France prior to launching, she did not commission in the Continental Navy. Oil by Blunt, 1835. Courtesy of the Marine Historical Association, Inc., Mystic, Conn.

Oil painting by John S. Blunt, 1834, depicting the warship America, 74 guns, built in Portsmouth, NH, in 1781 and presented to France. Image courtesy of Mystic Seaport.

 Not the first USS America

She had at one point two legends of the U.S. Navy assigned as her commanders. She was the largest and most powerful man-of-war built in her day, constructed in a shipyard of a fledging nation still fighting for its independence.

Yet in a twist of fate, by the time the warship to be named America was ready to leave the dock, she would instead fly under the French flag. On Sept. 3, 1782, Congress decided to give the nearly finished America to King Louis XVI of France to replace the French ship of the line Magnifique, which had run aground and was destroyed Aug. 11, 1782 while attempting to enter Boston harbor. America was to symbolize the new nation’s appreciation for France’s service to and sacrifices on behalf of the cause of American patriots during the American Revolution. It had been less than a year earlier when France’s intervention during the Battle of Yorktown Oct. 9, 1781 resulted in British Gen. Cornwallis retreating, effectively ending the war.

The Continental Congress had authorized the construction of three 74-gun ships of the line on Nov. 9, 1776. America was laid down in May 1777 in the shipyard of John Langdon on Rising Castle Island in the Piscataqua River between Portsmouth, N.H. and Kittery, Maine.

Progress on her construction was delayed by a chronic scarcity of funds and a consequent shortage of skilled craftsmen and well-seasoned timber. After dragging on for two years, the Marine Committee named Capt. John Barry as her prospective commanding officer Nov. 6, 1779. He had already kept the Marine Committee from down-grading the 74-gun man-of-war to a 54-gun frigate. He was ordered to hurry the process and get the ship finished.

But Barry could do little about getting more skilled labor and seasoned wood. On Sept. 5, 1780, he was ordered to Boston to take command of what many considered the finest ship to serve in the Continental Navy, the 36-gun frigate Alliance, which had recently arrived from Europe.

But the loss of Capt. Barry would hardly be felt since the ship’s next commanding officer was Capt. John Paul Jones, legendary already for his exploits in fighting the British earlier in the war. He arrived at Portsmouth on Aug. 31, 1781, where he threw himself into the task of getting the man-of-war to sail within a year.

But then fate would change the ship’s journey, and effectively ended Capt. Jones’ career in a post-Revolutionary War navy. When the French ship Magnifique was destroyed entering Boston Harbor, Congress took the opportunity to play a bit of politics by giving the not-yet-completed ship to King Louis XVI on Sept. 3, 1782.

Greatly disappointed, Jones remained in Portsmouth striving to finish the new ship of the line. On Nov. 5, 1782, Jones watched as the America, partially held back by a series of ropes calculated to break in sequence to check the vessel’s acceleration, slipped gracefully into the waters of the Piscataqua.

After she was rigged and fitted out, the ship, the former commander of Magnifique, M. le Chevalier de Macarty Martinge, departed Portsmouth on June 24, 1783 and reached Brest, France, on July 16, six years after her keel was laid.

As her wake dissipated, so, too, was Jones’ career in the United States. With no ship to command, there simply was no position for Jones. He returned to Europe in 1783 to collect prize money due his crew. By 1787, he was a rear admiral in the Russian Navy. Five years later, while still pleading for a position within the U.S. Navy, he would die in France.

Alas, America’s service with the French was fleeting. Three years after receiving America as a gift, dry rot would do her in. A survey committee determined the dry rot, probably caused by her wartime construction from green timber, was beyond economical repair. She was scrapped and a new French warship bearing the same name was built in 1788. That Temeraire-class America was captured by the British during the Battle of Glorius First of June in 1794. Renamed HMS Impetuex, the ship served in the Royal Navy until she was broken up in 1813. But she became the prototype for the Royal Navy’s own America-class ships of line.

 Signing the preliminary Treaty of Peace at Paris. John Jay and Benjamin Franklin are standing at the left. The scene depicted took place on Nov. 30, 1782, one of many treaty signings between Great Britain, the United States and other European countries. This is a print of a painting by German artist Carl Wilhelm Anton Se8iler (1846-1921). Photo courtesy of U.S. Diplomacy Center

Signing the preliminary Treaty of Peace at Paris. John Jay and Benjamin Franklin are standing at the left. The scene depicted took place on Nov. 30, 1782, one of many treaty signings between Great Britain, the United States and other European countries. This is a print of a painting by German artist Carl Wilhelm Anton Se8iler (1846-1921). Photo courtesy of U.S. Diplomacy Center

 

 

 Diplomatic Dream Team

That the Treaty of Paris was developed where it was would come as no surprise to those who knew Benjamin Franklin. A distinguished scientific and literary scholar, French aristocrats and intellectuals alike embraced Franklin as a perfect example of New World Enlightenment. (We’ll forgive Franklin his preference of the turkey for our national bird). He had the popularity of a rock star in France, where ladies would fashion their hair in a style that imitated the balding diplomat’s fur cap he wore instead of a wig.

After Britain’s defeat at Yorktown in Oct. 1781, America’s dream team of diplomats – Franklin, John Adams and John Jay – began hammering out a treaty. Franklin started by asking for Canada, knowing the British government would never accept that offer. But asking for the moon allowed Franklin to gain fishing rights off the Newfoundland coast, plus expanded the young nation west to the Mississippi River, to the Florida border (then owned by Spain) to the south and to the Canadian border to the north. The formal treaty was signed by Great Britain on Sept. 3, 1783, although it wasn’t ratified by the United States Congress until the following year. The treaty also included a promise to give back to British Loyalists their land confiscated during the American Revolution. Some states did, others not so much.

Ironically, France’s appreciation for enlightened thinkers like Franklin and Jefferson, and the creation of a constitution that emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition, would play a large part in the bloody French Revolution. Less than 10 years later, King Louis XVI, who had ruled for nearly 20 years, would be overthrown and guillotined in January 1793.

An offer he couldn’t refuse

Just another decade later, former Treaty of Paris dream team negotiator and now president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, would pull off the April 11, 1803 Louisiana Purchase from the French at a time when Napoleon needed money more than land to fight the British. Prepared to purchase just the city of New Orleans for $10 million, Jefferson quickly accepted Napoleon’s offer to purchase all of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million, which doubled the size of the United States to the Rocky Mountains on the west and completely boot their former ally out of owning any territory near America’s borders.

 
Sep 2

Destroyers for Bases: Roosevelt finds loophole in Neutrality Act to help Great Britain

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 3:07 PM
"Red Lead Row," San Diego Destroyer Base, Calif., with at least 65 destroyers tied up there. Of those destroyers, 15 of them would go to Great Britain for the "Destroyers for Bases" agreement. Photographed at the end of 1922. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

“Red Lead Row,” San Diego Destroyer Base, Calif., with at least 65 destroyers tied up there. Of those destroyers, 15 of them would go to Great Britain for the “Destroyers for Bases” agreement. Photographed at the end of 1922. For a complete listing of ships’ names in this photo, please click here. Photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

In September 1940, Americans were still recovering from World War I two decades earlier with terrible loss of life. So deep were the wounds of the war, that Congress passed the first of four Neutrality Acts in 1935 banning the shipment or sale of arms from the U.S. to any combatant nation. Isolationism was popular among the citizenry, but as Germany continued to invade and take control of one country after another, President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew the time would come when the U.S. would be drawn into the war.

Still, he faced a conundrum: He was sympathetic to the needs of Great Britain and the need to stop the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy, but in July he had accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for a third term as president of the United States which counted among the planks of its platform a pledge that “We will not participate in foreign wars, and we will not send our army, naval or air forces to fight in foreign lands outside of the Americas, except in the case of attack.”

Lucky for Roosevelt that said nothing about sending ships.

And so it was, 74 years ago today, that Roosevelt proposed a solution that would help the embattled Britain and strengthen the United States’ defenses against any future threats: the Sept. 2, 1940 Destroyers for Bases Agreement.

When Germany began its invasion of France in May 1940, and marched into Paris a little more than a month later, it forced the British to evacuate thousands of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk. The evacuation came at a terrible cost: 68,000 men either dead, wounded, missing or captured, the loss of 222 ships including at least six destroyers plus another 19 heavily damaged, and the loss of more than 950 Royal Air Force aircraft.

“What General Weygard has called the Battle of France is over…the Battle of Britain is about to begin,” Winston Churchill delivered in a House of Commons speech in late June. He knew Britain, standing alone, was about to face her darkest hour and the only hope for help was an isolationist America.

Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt onboard USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland during the Atlantic Charter Conference in Aug. 1941. NHHC photo

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt onboard USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland during the Atlantic Charter Conference in Aug. 1941. NHHC photo

Churchill reached out to Roosevelt in July as German bombers began raids of Great Britain. The two world leaders had developed a close working relationship earlier in the year while Churchill was still the first lord of the admiralty. At the time, Churchill had urged the United States to take more of an anti-Axis position, pointing out that if Great Britain were to fall to the enemy, there would suddenly be a number of German colonies very close to America’s shores.

Bound by the Neutrality Acts, Roosevelt suggested a trade: air and naval bases within Great Britain’s colonies for 50 of the Navy’s over-aged destroyers. He could justify the swap because outlying bases would keep invaders from reaching America’s shores.

An agreement was quickly accepted on Sept. 2, 1940. The lease was guaranteed for 99 years “free from all rent and charges other than such compensation to be mutually agreed on to be paid by the United States.” Bases would be established in the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Antigua and British Guiana. Separately, bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda were “gifts generously given and gladly received,” Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt covered his bases, no pun intended, by reaching out first to Attorney General Robert H. Jackson to make sure the president had the power to enter into such an agreement without bringing it first to Congress. Jackson said he did. Jackson believed the Constitution gave the president the power under his title as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy whose power is not defined or limited.

Roosevelt explained his actions to Congress on Sept. 3.

“This is not inconsistent in any sense with our status of peace,” Roosevelt assured Congress. “Still less is it a threat against any nation. It is an epochal and far-reaching act of preparation for continental defense in the face of grave danger.

“Preparation for defense is an inalienable prerogative of a sovereign state. Under present circumstances this exercise of sovereign right is essential to the maintenance of our peace and safety… The value to the Western Hemisphere of these outposts of security is beyond calculation. Their need has long been recognized by our country, and especially by those primarily charged with the duty of charting and organizing our own naval and military defense… For these reasons I have taken advantage of the present opportunity to acquire them.”

The destroyers for bases agreement was just one of several the United States would employ in order to help give Great Britain what help it could. After winning an unprecedented third term in office, Roosevelt tried to bring Congress closer to understanding America’s continued neutrality could not stand much longer.

During a fireside chat on Dec. 29, 1940, Roosevelt explained the message wasn’t about going to war, but instead “a talk on national security.” It was when he urged America to become “the great arsenal of democracy.”

Shortly afterward, he proposed the “Lend-Lease” program that allowed cash-strapped countries to purchase armament and equipment and deferring their payments.

In the meantime, just weeks after winning an unprecedented third-term in office, Roosevelt reached out to Churchill by sending his personal emissary, his former Republican opponent Wendell Willkie, to London with a message that included a few lines by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, probably most famous for his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” about America’s quest for independence from Great Britain.

But the stanza from “The Building of A Ship” included a personal note from Roosevelt, stating it applied to the British people:

Sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O Union, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years,

Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

The lines resonated with the prime minister. As Congress wrangled with the decision to pass the “Lend-Lease” Act, Churchill responded to Roosevelt’s note during a Feb. 9, 1941 BBC radio speech to his citizenry:

“Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”

The Lend-Lease Act was passed just weeks later. This act, along with the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, would help turn the tide against Germany in Europe. Churchill would later call the initiatives as “the most unsordid act” one nation had ever done for another.

Although both agreements created goodwill between the nations, it was the United States that probably benefited the most. With its defense industry ramping up, the U.S. would be prepared to join the fight when the time came on Dec. 7, 1941.

 
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)

 
Aug 29

#PeopleMatter – Claud A. Jones lived our Navy’s core values and became a hero

Friday, August 29, 2014 10:12 AM
 Claud A. Jones, Medal of Honor recipient; retired Rear Admiral; photo is U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph #NH 48727

Claud A. Jones, Medal of Honor recipient; retired Rear Admiral; photo is U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph #NH 48727

For a West Virginia guy, Rear Adm. Claud A. Jones sure spent a lot of time on ships named Tennessee or for a city in the Volunteer state.

Jones served as the engineer officer for the battleship Tennessee, and before that, spent a year onboard the armored cruiser Tennessee before she was renamed Memphis.

It was that ship that would make a lasting impression on Jones, and earn him a Medal of Honor 98 years ago today.

Born in Fire Creek, W. Va., on Dec. 7, 1884, Jones was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1903 and graduated in 1906 at the age of 21.

After graduation from the Naval Academy, Jones served aboard the battleships Indiana and New Jersey for the next two years and received his commission in 1908.

As a newly minted ensign, Jones reported for duty aboard USS Severn and the armored cruiser USS North Carolina and from there, received post-graduate engineering education at the Naval Academy and Harvard University. After his education was complete, he served onboard the battleships Ohio, New York, and ended with the North Dakota in 1915 and the rank of lieutenant.

Lt. Jones reported for duty as the Engineer Officer aboard the armored cruiser Tennessee late in 1915, which was renamed Memphis in May of 1916.

Almost a year after Jones reported for duty aboard the Memphis, the fickle winds of fate would have devastating effects for Jones and some of his shipmates.

Memphis was anchored off Santo Domingo City, located on the island of Hispaniola’s south coast to the Caribbean Sea. On Aug. 29, 1916, a hurricane was approaching and Lt. Jones was tasked with getting the engines and boilers ready for the ship to head out of the hurricane’s path.

Time being of the essence, Jones did all he could to get Memphis out of the way but the storm was much faster than he could work. The storm forced the boilers and steam pipes to burst, and as a direct result, clouds of scalding steam burned Jones and some of his fellow crewmembers. When the boilers exploded, Lt. Jones, accompanied by two of his shipmates, rushed into the steam-filled engineering spaces and drove the remaining men out, dragging some and carrying others to areas where there was air to breathe instead of scalding steam.

After recovering from his severe injuries, Jones served ashore in industrial positions until after the end of World War I.

By 1920-1921, now Cmdr. Jones was the Engineer Officer of the new battleship Tennessee. For almost 11 years he served two Navy Department tours with the Bureau of Engineering and in Europe as an Assistant Naval Attache and the senior engineering officer with the Battle Fleet.

During this time, the heroism that Cmdr. Jones had displayed 16 years ago aboard the cruiser Tennessee had earned him a trip to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony at the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Herbert Hoover on Aug. 1, 1932. Why it took so long for Jones to receive this honor and how it reached the president’s attention is unknown.

Cmdr. Claud A. Jones receives the Medal of Honor from President Hoover, 1932

Cmdr. Claud A. Jones receives the Medal of Honor from President Hoover, 1932

He was promoted to captain a year later in 1933, and now was the assistant chief of the Engineering Bureau and served for almost a decade.

Promoted to rear admiral in 1941, Jones served in the Bureau of Ships throughout World War II, working in the shipbuilding program, and as an assistant chief of the bureau. For his exceptionally meritorious service he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

From September 1944 until the end of 1945, Rear Adm. Jones was the Director of the Naval Experiment Station at Annapolis, Md.

He retired in June of 1946, and died in his home state of West Virginia two years later in August of 1948 leaving behind his wife Margaret, and their only son.

The destroyer escort ship Claud Jones (DE 1033) was commissioned in 1959 and named in honor of Rear Adm. Jones. She was struck in 1974.

 
Aug 23

#PeopleMatter: As Others Ran, Sailors and Marines Make a Stand at Bladensburg

Saturday, August 23, 2014 10:00 AM

 

Battle of Bladensburg A watercolor painting shows a depiction of the flotillamen and Marines under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney during Battle of Bladensburg, a last ditch effort by U.S. military to forestall the burning of Washington D.C. Though ultimately, the U.S. was defeated at Bladensburg and an injured Barney was forced to surrender his sword to the British General, he was taken prisoner and paroled instead of being killed because of the heroism of his men and himself showed in the face of battle. (Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command Navy Art)

A watercolor painting shows a depiction of the flotillamen and Marines under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney during Battle of Bladensburg, a last ditch effort by U.S. military to forestall the burning of Washington D.C. Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command Navy Art)

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford,

Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

When British Army Maj. Gen. Robert Ross marched through American defenses toward Washington, D.C., he certainly didn’t expect the battle’s last stand to come from Sailors and Marines.

But as his Army finally overpowered that small contingent of 400 flotilla men 200 years ago during the Battle of Bladensburg, it was no surprise to Ross he would find the valiant defenders under the command of a Sailor, Commodore Joshua Barney.

The British went on to burn government buildings of the nation’s capital later that afternoon, an embarrassing moment in the young nation’s history. Ross had little time to enjoy his victories Aug. 24, 1814. By the time Ross’ exploits were being celebrated in his homeland of Ireland a few weeks later, the American militia had redeemed themselves during the Battle of Baltimore where the British general was killed.

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Timing is everything

The United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812 when its former mother country refused to quit unlawfully stopping, boarding and impressing American merchantmen into their service due to Great Britain’s ongoing battle with France. In the United States, most of the battles were north along the borders of Canada.

But that changed in April 1814. The defeat of France’s Napoleon Bonaparte allowed the British to concentrate on one battle front: America. The Americans made the choice to burn Washington D.C. easy for the British since most of the American militia had gone north. Before British troops set fire to the White House, the Capitol Building and occupied the Washington Navy Yard, they had met with little resistance from the American people.

“Early in the war, around February of 1813, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn and his squadron were assigned to the Chesapeake,” said Christine F. Hughes, historian for the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The thought was to wreak havoc through psychological warfare to hurt the public and get at the James Madison administration. They did this by going up and down the Chesapeake Bay where there were some very wealth plantations and raiding. They took away tobacco, cattle, flour – anything they could take away easily and then they would burn what was left. He found it was easy, there was very little resistance to the raids.”

They kept at it through spring and summer of 1813 and started again in spring of 1814.

“The administration, even after seeing this debacle take place, had very limited funds,” she said. “They had to weigh what to do. They were getting reports up and down the coast from governors in every state asking for help. But they didn’t have it. The Secretary of the Navy at the time, Wayne Jones, had to report back, ‘Sorry, we are stretched too thin.’ So the coastline was left undefended.”

Why was it so easy? Because of a government divided.

“The war was divided amongst geographic lines and a lot of people were against it starting and against it when the war was going on,” Hughes said. “There were still contingents of federalists that were opposed.”

Also faulty thinking where strategy was concerned.

“The American strategic view of the war was to attack the British through Canada,” she said. “So we put all of our military in the north.”

It was that thinking that ultimately led to the last ditch effort to save the nation’s capital, which was the Battle of Bladensburg.

Everyone thought the British would hit Baltimore, which at the time was the more affluent, strategically important and larger city. Washington’s population was just around 7,000 at the time, compared to nearly 50,000 for Baltimore.

But there was a very important dissenting opinion.

“Amongst Madison’s administration, the president was the one who stood out as thinking that the British would come to Washington,” the historian stated.

Apparently the British sided with Madison. The British felt the American people would lose morale if they realized their government could not even protect itself.

“We had militia but often they were poorly trained and only brought up for emergencies and there were not enough people to defend the long coastline,” Hughes said.

It didn’t help with Great Britain’s appointment of Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane as the new commander of the North American Station in March 1814.

“He has a decided dislike for the American people, being a veteran of the American Revolution where his brother was killed. His orders were rather vague; to wreak havoc but not to go too far inland. The British were not intent on conquering us, just to have a better say in negotiations at the peace table. When he arrived, his second in command, Cockburn was very much in favor of going all the way to Washington D.C. He had seen how easy it would be.”

Cochrane and British Army Maj. Gen. Robert Ross had to be convinced, so Cockburn took them out on one of his typical raiding expeditions on Aug. 4, showing how easy it was to take what they wanted from a plantation along the shores of Maryland.

During that time, Commodore Joshua Barney, an American Revolution veteran and privateer, had used his flotilla of ships, mostly small barges and gunboats nicknamed the “Mosquito Fleet,” to keep the British busy. While not a great threat to the British ships, they kept the British on their toes. After a few clashes and a narrow escape, the British eventually penned the commodore in.

“When it became evident that he could do no more with his fleet, the Secretary of the Navy recalled him to Washington and he was told to destroy the fleet,” Hughes said.

In the meantime, militias were scurrying to find out what the British were doing next. “When the Americans finally decide the British are going to attack Washington from the north, they decide to try and meet them at Bladensburg,” Hughes said.

With all of the militia stationed in the district off to Bladensburg, Barney and his Sailors and Marines were ordered to burn the last bridge into the city. But waiting was not Barney’s strong suit.

“Barney was a man of action,” she said. “If there was a fight, he wanted to be there. He said, ‘you don’t need myself and 400 flotillamen and Marines to burn a bridge.’ He convinced the cabinet and the president to let him go.”

And so Barney and his men, with what artillery they could find and despite their exhaustion, trotted about six miles to join the fight, arriving last.

It was a battle even the British didn’t expect to win, as penned by British Lt. George R. Gleig of the 8th Regiment. The British had taken severe losses trying to storm the defenses of the Americans, who had suffered far fewer casualties. But as the British continued to push through, they were surprised to see the American defense crumble.

“….had they (American militia) conducted themselves with coolness and resolution, it is not conceivable how the day could have been won,” Gleig wrote of the battle. “But the fact is, that with the exception of a party of sailors from the gunboats under the command of Commodore Barney, no troops could behave worse than they did. The skirmishers were driven in as soon as attacked, the first line gave way without offering the slightest resistance, and the left of the main body was broken within half an hour after it was seriously engaged. Of the sailors however, it would be injustice not to speak in the terms of which their conduct merits.”

And Barney himself didn’t expect to see wave after wave of American militia running from the fight to what was later snidely referred to as the Bladensburg Races. “The enemy who had been kept in check by our fire for nearly half an hour now began to out flank us on the right, our guns were turned that way, he pushed up the Hill, about 2 or 300 towards the Corps of Americans station’d as above described, who, to my great mortification made no resistance,” Barney wrote in a letter explaining his actions to the Secretary of the Navy.

Yet Barney and his men stood their ground. With the ammunition wagons gone amid the general panic of retreat, there was nothing left but close-combat with the enemy. Many of Barney’s men were killed or wounded, with Barney taking a shot to his thigh after his horse was shot out beneath him. He continued fighting until he was so weak from loss of blood he could no longer stand. Overpowered, Barney ordered his men to retreat and for his officers to leave him.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) - The swords of U.S. Navy Commodore Joshua Barney and British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross are exhibited as part of the National Museum of the United States Navy's new War of 1812 exhibit, "1814: From Defeat to Victory," on the Washington Navy Yard. Barney and 500 Sailors and Marines faced down more than 4,000 British troops at the Battle of Bladensburg. Though ultimately defeated at Bladensburg, an injured Barney was forced to surrender his sword to the British general. The exhibit's grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Washington Navy Yard, and showcases battles and armaments of the U.S. and British Army and Navy during the victories and defeats of 1814. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) – The swords of U.S. Navy Commodore Joshua Barney and British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross are exhibited as part of the National Museum of the United States Navy’s new War of 1812 exhibit, “1814: From Defeat to Victory” The museum is located on the Washington Navy Yard. The exhibit’s grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

A few minutes later, Barney faced his British foes, Gen. Ross and Adm. Cockburn. Barney’s surrender was polite, according to “Memoirs of Commodore Barney” by his daughter-in-law Mary Barney (Boston, 1832).

“I am very glad to see you, Commodore,” said Gen. Ross. To which Barney replied: “I am sorry, I cannot return to you the compliment, General.”

Ross then turned to the Admiral and remarked: “I told you it was the flotilla men.” To which Adm. Cockburn agreed: “Yes, you were right, though I could not believe you – they have given us the only real fighting we have had.”

The two British commanders, out of respect for Barney’s efforts, “paroled” him by refusing to take him prisoner. After being treated by a British surgeon, the commanders made arrangements to take Barney to Bladensburg as requested. Barney would remark later British Capt. John Wainwright’s care of him was like that of a brother.

Since the bullet could not be removed, Barney never quite recovered from the wound he received at Bladensburg. Four years later, while traveling with his family to retire on property he purchased in Kentucky, Barney contracted an infection and died in Pittsburgh. A tragic end to someone who was the best of what the U.S. Navy and America represents.

 
Aug 22

You Are There: Burning of the Washington Navy Yard

Friday, August 22, 2014 12:05 PM
WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) -- Justin Chambers, Exhibit Specialist for the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), positions a swivel gun as part of the museum's new War of 1812 exhibit, "1814: From Defeat to Victory," at the NMUSN on the Washington Navy Yard. The exhibit's grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Washington Navy Yard, and showcases battles and armaments of the U.S. and British Army and Navy during the victories and defeats of 1814. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) — Justin Chambers, Exhibit Specialist for the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), positions a swivel gun as part of the museum’s new War of 1812 exhibit, “1814: From Defeat to Victory,” at the NMUSN on the Washington Navy Yard. The exhibit’s grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Washington Navy Yard, and showcases battles and armaments of the U.S. and British Army and Navy during the victories and defeats of 1814. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communications and Outreach Division

It was bad enough the men of the Washington Navy Yard were ordered to set fire to the compound as the British broke through American army lines into Washington, D.C.

 But what likely burned the backside of the Yard’s commander, Commodore Thomas Tingey, even more was the discovery upon his return Aug. 26 that his house on the compound (known then as Quarters A, and known today as Tingey House, home of the Chief of Naval Operations) had been thoroughly looted and stripped of all hardware as well as doors and windows… not by the invading Brits, but rather by his D.C. neighbors outside the then short, wooden fence that marked and obviously inadequately protected the base’s perimeter.

 Shortly thereafter Tingey ordered the fence around the Navy Yard to be fortified and increased in height to 10 feet.

 Saturday is the 200th anniversary of the burning of the Washington Navy Yard. It was the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 24, 1814 when Tingey, the Yard’s superintendent, was told by the Secretary of the Navy to burn the yard and the three ships in various stages of completion, including two that were within a couple of weeks of launching, to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

 Your visit to the Navy Yard will include a look at where those ships would have been berthed, some remnants from the ships and other artifacts of the time. Dr. Ed Furgol, historian, will also tell you about:

Quarters A, or more commonly referred to as the Tingey House, survived the burning of the Washington Navy Yard 200 years ago in 1814 only to be plundered by the neighbors. It is now the home of the Chief of Naval Operations. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

Quarters A, or more commonly referred to as the Tingey House, survived the burning of the Washington Navy Yard 200 years ago in 1814 only to be plundered by the neighbors. It is now the home of the Chief of Naval Operations. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

  • Commandant Thomas Tingey — Imagine putting your heart and soul into building a shipyard from its inception, guiding it along each step of the way for 14 years as the yard produced or overhauled one ship after another, where the then-15-year-old frigate USS Constitution was refitted for battle in the War of 1812. Still he had his orders directly from the Secretary of the Navy, and Tingey was a man of duty. As the longest-serving Superintendent of the Yard, Tingey’s decisions are still visible today, from the placement of Quarters A, to deciding right after its burning to increase the height of the wall surrounding the yard to 10 feet.
Quarters B also survived the fire. The wall behind the building, which had been the eastern-most perimeter of the Washington Navy Yard, was increased to 10 feet after the fire. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

Quarters B also survived the fire. The wall behind the building, which had been the eastern-most perimeter of the Washington Navy Yard, was increased to 10 feet after the fire. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

  •  Quarters A & B — It’s called the Tingey House by those at the Navy Yard, in honor of the man who lived in it the longest, but since 1978 it’s been the home of the Chief of Naval Operations. Quarters B was the home of the second in charge, which incorporated Washington, D.C.’s oldest structure when it was built with the wall as the yard’s eastern perimeter. The buildings, both on the National Register for Historic Homes, survived the fires set by the Americans, but were never under threat by the invaders. While the British were eager to burn down state houses that represented the upstart government, they were polite blokes in their plundering — they didn’t feel the need to burn what clearly were private residences. Tingey returned to the Yard the following morning, apparently minutes after the British left the premises. He was relieved to see his home standing, along with Quarters B. After squirreling away his personal belongings to trusted neighbors, Tingey was urged to leave the area because the British were still roaming the district. When he returned Friday morning, Tingey discovered both his home and Quarters B had been looted by nearby neighbors. Ironically, these were the same neighbors who had begged Tingey to not set the yard ablaze earlier Wednesday afternoon because the southwesterly wind most certainly would have pushed the fire into their neighborhood. Tingey held off as long as he could, waiting until he had confirmation the British had broken through the defense. The winds had died down, so at 8:20 p.m., Tingey gave the order to burn the yard.
The Latrobe Gate in 1814 was a much more modest masonry structure but it survived the burning of the Navy Yard by both Americans and the British. The second story was added in the 1880s. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

The Latrobe Gate in 1814 was a much more modest masonry structure but it survived the burning of the Navy Yard by both Americans and the British. The second story was added in the 1880s. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood

  • Latrobe Gate — This historical gate warrants a close look for any visitor to the Washington Navy Yard. Built by Benjamin H. Latrobe, the architect of public buildings for Washington, D.C., it was a masonry structure at the time of the fire. “The design of the main gate of entrance to the navy-yard has been made with a view to the greatest economy compatible with permanence and appearance worthy of the situation. This gate will fall exactly into the range of the Georgia Avenue as well as of the Eighth Street east of the Capitol, one of the principal streets of this part of the city,” stated an 1804-05 report to the Secretary of the Navy. After the fire, increasing the height of the gate’s fencing to 10 feet was the first item on Tingey’s “to-do” list. Alterations in 1880 and 1881 added two stories across the gate and three stories on either side of it, to improve housing for the Marines who continue to man the gate today.

 

The Tripoli Monument, originally known as the Naval Monument, was at the entrance of the Washington Navy Yard during its burning in 1814. After the fire, gilded bronze items on the monument went missing. The monument now resides at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. (Photo Courtesy of the United States Naval Academy)

The Tripoli Monument, originally known as the Naval Monument, was at the entrance of the Washington Navy Yard during its burning in 1814. After the fire, gilded bronze items on the monument went missing. The monument now resides at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. (Photo Courtesy of the United States Naval Academy)

Tripoli Monument — Commissioned by Commodore David Porter and paid for personally by navy sailors and officers, the Naval Monument was originally erected at the Navy Yard in 1808. The nation’s oldest military monument is a tribute to the six naval officers who died in the Barbary War, including Lt. James Decatur, brother of famed naval officer Adm. Stephen Decatur. The infamously anti-British Adm. David Porter blamed the Brits for the monument’s mutilation during their brief occupation of the Washington Navy Yard. But others have suggested the “mutilations” could more accurately be described as pilfering. What went missing were the gilded bronze objects held by the marble figures: a pen held by the figurine History; a palm held by Fame; the standard emblem of Commerce described as a winged staff entwined by two serpents, and the forefinger and thumb of the scantily-clad Native American figurine representing America. Just the items someone might grab if they were, oh, taking hardware out of a nearby house or two. The monument was relocated to the Capitol grounds in 1831 and then permanently moved to the Naval Academy campus a few years later. The items that were stolen from the monument were never replaced. The monument was featured in the series “A History of the Navy in 100 Objects:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJK1YeZiMYo

 

A Google map of the Washington Navy Yard. The red overlay signifies the layout of the yard in 1814. Illustration by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

A Google map of the Washington Navy Yard. The red overlay signifies the layout of the yard in 1814. Illustration by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

  • Water, water everywhere…..Back in 1814, most of the Navy Yard as it is today was underwater. At the time, the west border ended along Adm. Leutze Park. Take an opportunity to follow the slope (old ramp) from the Naval History and Heritage Command headquarters (Building 57), down to where Building 36 now sits. All of that would have been the timber pond at the WNY in 1814. Furgol will discuss how the waterfront has changed and how the Anacostia River eventually forced the once-thriving shipyard to change directions to become the place to go for weapons and ordnance experimentation and now as the location for headquarters of dozens of commands.

 

The charred remains of the frigate Columbia, which was within days of completion, was a casualty of the burning of the Washington Navy Yard Aug. 24, 1814...by those who built her, not the invading British. It is part of a new exhibit "Defeat to Victory" at the National Museum of the United States Navy.

The frigate Columbia, which was within days of completion, was a casualty of the burning of the Washington Navy Yard Aug. 24, 1814…by those who built her, not the invading British. Her charred remains are part of a new exhibit “Defeat to Victory” at the National Museum of the United States Navy.

  • BONUS! Of the three ships left to burn in the Navy Yard, only one survived both the Americans and the British, the nearly completed schooner Lynx. Other ships not so lucky: the 74-gun frigate Columbia was within a few weeks of being launched, while gunboat Argus was in the final stages. One of the artifacts held by NHHC’s Collection Management Division is a piece of Columbia. This is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. The frigate was one of four 74-gun warships and six 44-gun frigates the shipyard had been tasked to build. Another artifact that survived the burning of the yard was a little French 4-pound gun taken during the Quasi War by Capt. Stephen Decatur. It was on display at the Navy Yard in some Tripoli gunboats Decatur had taken during the Barbary Wars. Speculation has the British weren’t interested in taking it because the French typically used 4-8 pound balls, while the British used 3-6 pound shot.
WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) – A map of showing the battles during 1814, a depiction of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Flag of the United States in 1814 greet visitors to the National Museum of the United States Navy as the museum's new War of 1812 exhibit, "1814: From Defeat to Victory," prepares to open at the NMUSN on the Washington Navy Yard. The exhibit's grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Washington Navy Yard, and showcases battles and armaments of the U.S. and British Army and Navy during the victories and defeats of 1814. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 2014) – A map of showing the battles during 1814, a depiction of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Flag of the United States in 1814 greet visitors to the National Museum of the United States Navy as the museum’s new War of 1812 exhibit, “1814: From Defeat to Victory,” prepares to open at the NMUSN on the Washington Navy Yard. The exhibit’s grand opening is set for Aug. 24, the anniversary of the burning of Washington D.C. and the Washington Navy Yard, and showcases battles and armaments of the U.S. and British Army and Navy during the victories and defeats of 1814. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

 

–NHHC–

 

NOTE TO MEDIA: For additional information about naval history or the history of the Washington Navy Yard, please contact the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division at 202-433-7880 or via email at NHHCPublicAffairs@navy.mil