Jan 21

The Apia Cyclone of 1889

Thursday, January 21, 2016 12:01 AM

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The SMS Adler beached and laying on her side. Note the huge holes in her hull from being dashed against the rocks. Naval History and Heritage Command.

As various European empires and the American government expanded their colonial interests across the Pacific in the late 19th century, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, they would come to blows over what would otherwise have been a local matter. It began as a political crisis in the island chain of Samoa. The governments of the United States and Great Britain, and the German Empire had, in a sense, picked sides in a fight for the kingship of the islands, as Robert Louis Stevenson would defty lay out in his A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 20

‘Bobbi’

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 12:37 PM

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Bobbi Hovis served as a Navy nurse in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

In August 1963, Lieutenant Commander Vila Hovis received orders to Saigon, Vietnam. The orders were not a surprise because she was the first Navy nurse to volunteer for service in that far-off corner of the world. Her orders directed her current command to “ENSURE THAT SHE IS ORIENTED IN CODE OF CONDUCT . . . AND DANGERS OF COMMUNISM.” It was apparent that Commander Hovis was headed for a war zone, though not for the first time, since she had been a flight nurse in Korea more than a decade before. But these were the early days in a new… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 18

‘A Very Disagreeable Affair’

Monday, January 18, 2016 12:01 AM

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In Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island colonists head for shore after setting HMS GASPEE ablaze. (Heroic Deeds of American Sailors)

When we reflect back at the early period of our naval history, Americans tends to look for battles out on the blue water to mark the beginning of our sea services. John Paul Jones and his battles against HMS Serapis and Drake capture the imagination because of the quotable exclamations of the captain, as well as because of a caricatured Mahanian view of the centrality of big decisive sea battles. Lost in that search for the Midway or Jutland of the distant past is the fact that many of the most important naval fights of the Revolutionary era occurred instead… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 15

Defusing a Crisis

Friday, January 15, 2016 12:01 AM

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After playing a key role during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Elmo Zumwalt Jr., at age 49, became the youngest four-star admiral in U. S. naval history. He passed away in 2000. (U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE PHOTO ARCHIVE)

Probably the closest this nation has come to engaging in nuclear war was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. After U.S. reconnaissance planes spotted Soviet nuclear missiles being set up in Cuba—not far from our shores—the stage was set for a tense international confrontation. The public face of the situation in the United States was President John F. Kennedy, who addressed the nation on television to lay out the plan for a naval quarantine—in effect, a blockade to prevent further missile shipments into Cuba. One of the actors behind the scenes during those dramatic days was Captain Elmo… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 14

A Story in a Spoon

Thursday, January 14, 2016 12:01 AM

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“Our country is at WAR,” read the memorandum to the employees of Buffalo, New York’s, Republic Metalware Company shortly after the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917. “Some of our boys are in the Army or the Navy; others will go when called for. The rest of us—women and older men—will fight the enemy in Buffalo. How shall we do this? “War is not only a series of battles between armies or fleets. It is a conflict in which the whole strength of a nation . . . fights the whole strength of another nation. Everyone helps… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 13

Salty Talk

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 12:01 AM

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As a child, I can remember being told to “mind my Ps and Qs” at times when I was not being on my best manners or when I attempted to intruded on others’ conversation. I had not the foggiest idea of what my Ps and Qs were, but I had come to understand what was wanted. “Mind your Ps and Qs” comes from the days when sailors, newly arrived in port after a long voyage, gathered their wages and headed for their favorite waterfront tavern. Tavern keepers, rather than require payment each time a tar ordered another tankard of ale,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 12

Naval Air Station Queenstown, Ireland 1918

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 12:01 AM

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H.H. Jalbert's photo album (Photographed by Melissa King)

Located in the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive is a record of a long-forgotten naval base, a naval aviation base to be precise. Perhaps the reason Naval Air Station Queenstown—situated at Aghada, four miles from Queenstown (present-day Cobh), Ireland, in County Cork—was forgotten is because it existed for less than a year. Established in 1918, after the United States had entered World War I, the antisubmarine base closed a few months after Armistice Day. Queenstown was one of four naval air stations the United States established in Ireland under the command of Navy Commander Francis McCrary. It consisted of six… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 11

The Soda-Bottle Shaped Shell Guns

Monday, January 11, 2016 12:01 AM

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While IX-inch Dahlgren shell guns mainly were used in broadside, XI-inchers, such as this one on board the Union sloop KEARSARGE, were generally pivot mounted. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

At 0400 on 17 June 1863, the powerful Confederate ironclad ATLANTA steamed from the Wilmington River into Georgia’s Wassaw Sound to attack ships of the Union South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Barring her way were two U.S. Navy PASSAIC-class monitors, the WEEHAWKEN and NAHANT, each armed with one XV-inch and one XI-inch Dahlgren shell gun and under the overall command of Captain John Rodgers Jr. The casemated ATLANTA, captained by Commander John Webb, mounted four Brooke rifled guns: two 6.4-inchers in broadsides and two 7-inchers in pivot mounts capable of firing to either side. She also had a bow-mounted percussion spar torpedo.