Jan 26

John Paul Jones’ Crypt

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:01 AM

A most impressive site at the United States Naval Academy is the crypt holding the body of America’s great Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones. Visited by thousands of people each year, it is an icon of both the Naval Academy and the United States Navy. How that crypt came to be is an interesting story.

Jones died alone and almost forgotten in Paris in 1792, where he was buried in an obscure cemetery that was later paved over. When in the early 1900’s President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to celebrate the emergence of the United States as a world-class naval power, he decided that the country should pay due honor to its first great naval hero.

The first step was to find the body. It took the American ambassador to France, Gen. Horace Porter, several months and much money to find Jones’ remains, which were finally located beneath a laundry on the outskirts of the city.

Once a careful comparison of the remarkably well-preserved corpse with a bust done of Jones by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1780 confirmed that the body was that of Jones, Roosevelt decided to return it to the United States with appropriate pomp and to demonstrate that the U.S. was fast becoming the world’s premiere naval power, as Jones had once predicted it would. Four cruisers brought the body to American waters where they were joined by eleven of the Navy’s finest battleships. This combined force steamed into Chesapeake Bay, where the body was unloaded and sent to Annapolis. Commemorative exercises were held there on 24 April 1906, with speeches by numerous dignitaries, including Roosevelt.

Then the process stalled. Congress was slow to appropriate money for a permanent resting place so the body remained on trestles in Bancroft Hall for seven years and irreverent midshipman were soon singing a parody of the popular song “Everybody Works but Father”:

Everybody works but John Paul Jones!

He lies around all day,

Body pickled in alcohol

On a permanent jag, they say.

Middies stand around him

Doing honor to his bones;

Everybody works in “Crabtown”

But John Paul Jones!

Not until 26 January 1913 was Jones’ body moved into its permanent resting place, the marble sarcophagus designed by Sylvain Salières and modeled after the tomb of Napoleon in the Invalides. It took a long time, but everyone must agree, they got it right in the end.

 
Jan 19

John Paul Jones and Russia

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 8:52 AM

America is often called a nation of immigrants, and Scottish-born John Paul Jones is as much a citizen of his adopted country as is any other immigrant. Jones was not unique as a foreign-born officer in the Continental Navy. John Barry, born in Ireland, Denis-Nicolas Cottineau de Kerloguen, born in France, and John Manley, born in England, are a few other examples. Although, in the spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, Jones called himself a “citizen of the world,” Americans today can justly embrace him as their own.

While it is true that in accepting appointment to command in the navy of Catherine the Great Jones sought personal glory, the story is not so simple as that. First, in the eighteenth century the desire for glory was considered a virtue. Second, there is reason to believe that, in joining the Russian Navy, Jones sought to expand his experience in fleet operations, as opposed to command of a single warship, in preparation for the day when the United States would create its own fleet. He had sailed with the French fleet to gain similar experience for that purpose.

Although the United States dissolved the Continental Navy at the end of the American War of Independence, Jones expected that the implementation of the United States Constitution would lead to the reestablishment of a United States Navy. As an officer of the Continental Navy of the American Revolution, John Paul Jones helped establish the traditions of courage and professionalism that the sailors of the United States Navy today proudly maintain. Jones is remembered for his indomitable will, his unwillingness to consider surrender when the slightest hope of victory still burned.

Throughout his naval career Jones promoted professional standards and training. Dr. Dennis M. Conrad sums it up well: “His strategic vision that placed the nations’ interest over his own personal gain, his rise to the top levels of the new American navy through dint of hard work and application, his skill as a naval architect, his continued study to better himself as an officer and commander, and his attempts to reform the navy and to substitute merit and ability in place of nepotism and influence, all marked him as one who sought to professionalize the early Navy.”

Sailors of the United States Navy can do no better than to emulate the spirit behind John Paul Jones’s stirring Declaration: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast for I intend to go in harm’s way.” John Paul Jones is unusual in having served as an officer in the navies of both the United States of America and Russia. He brought his experience in the Continental Navy to his service in the Russian navy, and may have hoped to bring his experience in the Russian navy back to a reestablished United States Navy.

Thus, he represents a link between the two countries’ navies.

 
Jul 4

America, Independence and Freedom: Three Great Names That Go Great With Navy Ships

Saturday, July 4, 2015 10:47 AM

By Joshua L. Wick
Naval History and Heritage Command, 
Communication and Outreach Division

When many Americans think of the 4th of July, a few words come to mind: Freedom, Independence, America. These words carry a certain weight; they represent power, strength and fortitude. So it’s no wonder why some of the greatest U.S. Navy ships have born these names.

Since the establishment of America’s Navy there have been very few years in which Sailors were not actively serving aboard ships with these names. To truly know these Sailors, we need to know their ships – as it is their ships bear witness to their selfless service to the country. The 4th of July, the anniversary of the birth of American freedom and independence, is a great time to reflect on the ships that have carried those names to the far corners of the earth in defense of America, freedom and independence.

The History of Navy’s ‘America’

The first ship to carry the name America, a 74-gun man-of-war, was laid down in May 1777. She never served the nation of her namesake; upon completion of construction she was gifted to France in appreciation of the partnerships with the new nation. The next ship was a racing yacht turned Confederate Civil War blockade runner turned Union blockader. Then passenger liner America saw service as a troop transport in World War I. The next in the line and the most famous to date is the Kitty Hawk-class carrier USS America (CVA 66). Her 30 years of service is just as interesting as her sinking. Her active service included deployments to in support of action in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Libya, as well as Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and U.N. peacekeeping efforts over Bosnia. After retirement, America served her Navy by being sunk during a live-fire test and controlled scuttling ultimately helping naval shipbuilders and engineers better understand ship survivability. Lessons learned have been incorporated into following ship designs.

Arriving in New York Harbor, with her decks crowded with troops returning home from France, 1919. Photographed by E. Muller, Jr., New York. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Arriving in New York Harbor, with her decks crowded with troops returning home from France, 1919. Photographed by E. Muller, Jr., New York. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS America (CV-66) Underway in the Indian Ocean on 24 April 1983. Photographer: PH2 Robert D. Bunge. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS America (CV-66) Underway in the Indian Ocean on 24 April 1983. Photographer: PH2 Robert D. Bunge. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The ‘America’ We Know Today 

Commissioned in October 2014, USS America (LHA 6), is first in her class and unlike any other amphibious assault ship in the fleet. She is specifically designed and built for flexibility of operation, energy efficiency and is able to handle the future of joint multinational maritime expeditionary operations. The ship and her Marine Corps elements can support small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group while remaining adaptable to new platforms like the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and MV-22B Osprey.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 19, 2015) The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is underway off the coast of San Diego preparing for final contract trials.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 19, 2015) The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) is underway off the coast of San Diego preparing for final contract trials.

The History of Navy’s ‘Freedom’

The Navy’s first ship to be called Freedom actually started as the German ship, SS Wittekind, built in Hamburg, Germany in 1894. She was seized by the United States Shipping Board in 1917 and renamed Iroquois. First chartered by the Army as a transport vessel she was renamed Freedom (ID 3024) in 1918. Shortly after she was acquired by the U.S. Navy on January 24, 1919 she only operated briefly as a member of the Navy’s Cruiser and Transport Force before she was decommissioned in September 1919. The second Freedom (IX 43) was an auxiliary schooner, acquired by the Navy in 1940. She was assigned to the Naval Academy where she has served in a noncommissioned status through 1962.

(ID # 3024) In port in 1919, while engaged in transporting U.S. troops home from France. Note inscription at the bottom of the image: U.S.S. Freedom, the ship that brought me home. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1970. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

(ID # 3024) In port in 1919, while engaged in transporting U.S. troops home from France. Note inscription at the bottom of the image: U.S.S. Freedom, the ship that brought me home. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1970. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The ‘Freedom’ We Know Today

USS Freedom (LCS 1) is a response to the Navy’s need for smaller, multipurpose warships that operate in littoral or coastal water. In addition to operating in the shallows, Littoral Combat Ships are designed to evolve with an ever changing battle space and can be reconfigured for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions. Limited crew requirements, speed exceeding 40+ knots, and maneuverability make Freedom a flexible combatant. On Feb. 16, 2010 Freedom made her maiden deployment to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific via the Panama. Most recently, in May 2014 Freedom successfully conducted the first combined at sea operation between an unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout and manned SH-60 Seahawks.

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 28, 2015) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise. U.S. Navy ships are underway conducting an independent deployer certification exercise off the coast of Southern California.

PACIFIC OCEAN (April 28, 2015) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise. U.S. Navy ships are underway conducting an independent deployer certification exercise off the coast of Southern California.

The History of Navy’s ‘Independence’

 

Of the three names in this post, the name Independence has graced more ships than the other two. The firstIndependence, a Continental sloop built in Baltimore, Md., was sailing with Ranger and John Paul Jones in 1776 when Ranger received the first national salute of our flag. The next Independence, a ship-of-the-line, was commissioned in June 1814 and immediately joined frigate Constitution protecting Boston Harbor during the War of 1812. Over the course of the next 99 years, she was brought in and out of service (mostly in) until finally decommissioning just two years shy of the 100th anniversary of her launching. From one of the Navy’s longest-lived ships, to one of its shortest-lived, the next Independence was a steamer commissioned Nov. 16, 1918 that made one cargo run to Europe, returning to the state and decommissioned just four months and four days later on March 20, 1919. Two aircraft carriers have born the name. The first, (CVL 22), was commissioned Jan. 14, 1943 and served with distinction during World War II. The fifth Independence, (CVA-62), was commissioned Jan. 10, 1959 and served for more than 39 years seeing action in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and Desert Storm before being decommissioned Sept. 30, 1998.

The ‘Independence’ We Know Today

At anchor, while wearing dazzle camouflage, circa 1918. This photograph may have been taken in the San Francisco Bay area, California, before she was taken over by the Navy. She was built in 1918 at San Francisco as SS Independence. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

At anchor, while wearing dazzle camouflage, circa 1918. This photograph may have been taken in the San Francisco Bay area, California, before she was taken over by the Navy. She was built in 1918 at San Francisco as SS Independence. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The sixth ship to bear the name is USS Independence (LCS 2). Commissioned in January 2010, her unique design and use of interchangeable technology, like USS Freedom (LCS 1), allows for operational flexibility supporting various mission requirements. In April 2012 she passed through the Panama Canal for the first time, trained with the Mexican Navy, and accomplished her first visit to a foreign port when she put in to Manzanillo, Mexico where her Sailors participated in a community outreach project. In 2014 she took part and successfully completed RIMPAC 2014.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 23, 2014) The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) transits during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 23, 2014) The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) transits during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

For most of the 239 years since America seized freedom and declared its independence, our Navy has included ships that go by those names; lasting symbols of their namesakes and reminding us all of the historic document boldly signed by our nation’s founding fathers on that fourth day of July day in 1776.

Official U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood, Naval History and Heritage Command /RELEASED.

Official U.S. Navy photo illustration by Annalisa Underwood, Naval History and Heritage Command /RELEASED.

 

 
Jun 8

French, American Alliance Hastened End of Revolutionary War

Monday, June 8, 2015 8:12 AM
First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government, 14 February 1778 Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government, 14 February 1778 Painting in oils by Edward Moran, 1898. It depicts the Continental Navy Ship Ranger, commanded by Capt. John Paul Jones, receiving the salute of the French fleet at Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778. Earlier in the month, after receipt of news of the victory at Saratoga, France recognized the independence of the American colonies and signed a treaty of alliance with them. The original painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Editor’s Note: As the French tall ship replica L’Hermione makes her way up the East Coast to celebrate the relationship between France and the United States, a series of blogs will discuss four topics: the Marquis de Lafayette; the ship that brought him to America the second time in 1780, L’Hermione; the critical Battle of the Virginia Capes on Sept. 5, 1781, and the Franco-American relationship as it has grown over the past years.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Proving that partnerships mattered in our countries infancy, during the American Revolution, the American colonies faced the significant challenge of conducting international diplomacy and seeking the international support it needed to fight against the British.

The single most important diplomatic success of the colonists during the War for Independence was the critical link they forged with France. Representatives of the French and American governments signed the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce on Feb. 6, 1778 and the two countries have shared ongoing relationship since.

The need for developing a relationship with France was not lost upon the newly-formed Continental Congress. Their greatest secret weapon – Ben Franklin – was sent to France as its ambassador from 1776 to 1783. As a member of the Secret Committee of Correspondence, Franklin made sure news of the patriotic revolt was published in Europe. The French loved Franklin, who represented Americans for their simplicity and lack of class structure. French assistance was offered secretly through American trader Silas Deane. One notable contract was signed in December 1775 with the Marquis de Lafayette, an 18-year-old French nobleman and officer who sought to serve as a major general under George Washington.

French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes

French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes

After the Continental Congress declared its independence in July 1776, Franklin and his commissioners began negotiating for a treaty with France. At first French Foreign Minister Comte de Vergennes was amenable to a treaty, but when word of colonist losses to British forces began circulating, negotiations ended. The British ambassador was already looking for any excuse to prove France was violating its peace treaties.

Aware of the French support for Franklin and the American fight for freedom, though, Vergennes provided a secret loan to the new United States.

Following the British surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in December 1777, Vergennes again moved forward to create an alliance with the United States. According to Volume XI of the “Naval Documents of the American Revolution,” a memo attributed to Vergennes was written in late January 1778 outlying France’s strategic moves with its naval forces to preserve France’s and Spain’s “possessions in America and sufficiently aiding the Americans in breaking free from their dependence on England, such that their civil independence established on a firm foundation will be assured. Seemingly, nothing would lead more directly to this goal than the installation of a French squadron on the coasts of North America.”

Vergennes pointed out protecting the “secrecy of our strategy and in assuring all means of throwing the enemy off the scene that one can hope for success.”

The signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and of Alliance between France and the United States American Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, negotiated the Treaty of Alliance with France, which was signed Feb. 6, 1778 and ratified May 4, 1778. The treaty allowed France to recognized the United States as an independent country and offer its support in the war for its freedom. Library of Congress photo

The signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and of Alliance between France and the United States
American Commissioners Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, negotiated the Treaty of Alliance with France, which was signed Feb. 6, 1778 and ratified May 4, 1778. The treaty allowed France to recognized the United States as an independent country and offer its support in the war for its freedom. Library of Congress photo

On Feb. 6, 1778, Franklin and two of his commissioners, Arthur Lee and Deane, signed the Treaty of Alliance and a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France. France recognized the United States as a new nation, but more importantly, it changed the course of the war from one of rebellion to an international cause. France began providing supplies, arms and ammunition and then troops as well as the above mentioned squadron on the East Coast of North America, of which the French frigate L’Hermione was a member.

Vergennes’ strategy for secrecy worked three years later, when the French West Indies fleet stopped in Haiti in August 1781 to collect 3,300 French troops and additional ships of line before sailing toward the Chesapeake Bay for that that rendezvous with Great Britain off the Virginia Capes. It was a move the British admirals never anticipated.

It was the French fleet that defeated the British during the Battle of the Virginia Capes on Sept. 5, 1781 and their ships that cemented the Chesapeake Bay from supplying the immobilized army led by British Lt. Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis. After being surrounded by combined French and American forces at Yorktown, the French Navy gave Cornwallis no means of escape. Cornwallis admitted defeat on Oct. 19, 1781and surrendered nearly 8,000 soldiers, a move that would lead to Great Britain agreeing to stop further hostilities against the new nation.

France also took part in the negotiations with Great Britain and the United States, which ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

French support of the American Revolution benefited more than the Americans. There was no love lost between Great Britain and France, which was still smarting over the loss of North American territory following the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years War. French government officials believed if Great Britain quelled the colonists’ revolt, it would control American commerce to other countries, namely France. Should Great Britain lose control of her colony, however, it would weaken her power.

 

 
Apr 11

Naval Battles of the American Revolutionary War

Saturday, April 11, 2015 3:21 PM
On April 24, 1778, during the American Revolution, Continental Navy sloop-of-war Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones, captured British HMS Drake, off Carrickfergus, Ireland. This painting is by Arthur N. Disney, Sr. NHHC image NH 48548-KN.

On April 24, 1778, during the American Revolution, Continental Navy sloop-of-war Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones, captured British HMS Drake, off Carrickfergus, Ireland. This painting is by Arthur N. Disney, Sr. NHHC image NH 48548-KN.

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Despite the success of the fledgling Continental Navy during the American Revolution the ending of the war actually brought an end to our nation’s first navy. A few months after the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown Oct. 19, 1781, the British Parliament made its first overtures to the United States to begin peace talks the following spring.

Nearly a year later, the Confederation Congress issued a proclamation on this date (April 11) in 1783, “declaring the cessation of arms” against Great Britain, which had passed a similar proclamation Feb. 4, 1783. It was an incredible victory for an upstart nation with no navy against the power of Great Britain and the fleet of the Royal Navy.

From the littorals, lakes, and the sea, to coastal towns from north to the south, the young republic’s hastily pieced-together and inexperienced Continental Navy was mostly made up of private vessels carrying their “Letter of Marque,” which granted privateers the authority to attack foreign ships. Though most of their actions aren’t well known, they played a pivotal role in naval operations and showed the importance and need for vessels to challenge the British and their ships of the line.

On May 14, 1775 in the waters of Buzzard Bay, off the coast of Fairhaven, Mass., one of the first naval battles was fought just 25 days after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It began what is often considered today a lost chapter of the navy’s history. Aboard sloop Success, commanded by Capt. Nathaniel Pope and Capt. Daniels Egery, a small force of men from the town of Fairhaven captured two British sloops and their crews.

In mid-June moving north we come to the port of Machias, Maine, then part of northern Massachusetts. Local towns were experiencing first hand harassment by the British, so, like in Fairhaven, they took matters into their own hands. Local Capt. Jeremiah O’Brian and an armed crew aboard sloop Unity joined by other ships attacked and captured schooner HMS Margaretta. O’Brian went on to actively engage enemy ships that posed threats to the Massachusetts coast during the war.

That was followed in August when the townspeople of Gloucester, Mass., called upon their militia to capture British seamen attempting to seize a grounded American merchant and then recaptured another merchant schooner.

These first battles sparked a level of confidence among the townspeople and seafaring communities that they could challenge and overcome the British as they seized American merchant ships of commerce and harassed local communities up and down the Eastern seaboard. And it finally convinced the leaders of our developing nation they needed to combat the vulnerability of the coastal seafaring communities to British waterborne assault.

Commodore Esek Hopkins

Commodore Esek Hopkins

It was Oct. 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized the building our Nation’s first Navy. They selected a commander for the Continental Navy, Esek Hopkins, and commissioned 18 naval officers, established two Marine battalions; even established pay and subsistence standards; authorized prize moneys for the capture and sale of enemy warships; adopted a naval code of discipline drafted by John Adams; and formed an administrative body, the Marine Committee, to give guidance and direction to our new navy.

It was a bold signal by America’s early leaders they were willing to challenge Great Britain on the high seas.

Commodore Hopkins was responsible for one of the early American naval victories when his squadron traveled south to the Bahamas in February 1776. Along with a battalion of Marines, the Hopkins-led squadron launched an amphibious landing on March 3 and raided the British colony of Nassau for military supplies that would benefit the Continental Army.

The brig Nancy flying the flag of the United States, first hoisted at the island of St. Thomas upon the news the United States was declaring its independence from Great Britain. Before that declaration could be signed, however, the brig was destroyed after her supplies were off loaded by Lexington and Wasp crew commanded by Capt. John Barry. Drawn and engraved by John Sartain.

The brig Nancy flying the flag of the United States, first hoisted at the island of St. Thomas upon the news the United States was declaring its independence from Great Britain. Before that declaration could be signed, however, the brig was destroyed after her supplies were off loaded by Lexington and Wasp crew commanded by Capt. John Barry. Drawn and engraved by John Sartain.

 

Another American naval legend, Capt. John Barry, was doing his part protecting merchant ships as they brought supplies into the port cities of Philadelphia and Delaware Bay. In June 1776, as the American brig Nancy, loaded with her cargo of weapons and supplies intended for the Continental Army, moved closer to Cape May, N.J., two British ships were seen in pursuit of the brig.

Barry, aboard his frigate Lexington and his companion schooner Wasp, were called to engage the two ships. Heavy fog caused Nancy to sail into the delightfully-named Turtle Gut Inlet. Barry and his men boarded and successfully unloaded her cargo while manning and engaging the British who had heavily damaged the ship.

In a daunting gamble, Barry abandoned the Nancy, lowered her flag but not before leaving 50 pounds of gunpowder wrapped in the mainsail leading to the powder hold below deck. As British closed in, the fuse reached the hold … the explosion could be heard for miles. Barry, his ships and crew safely eluded the British and claimed both the victory and much-needed supplies.

While those battles were mostly in American waters, another legendary Continental Navy captain was making a name for himself a bit closer to the motherland. Capt. John Paul Jones, as the commanding officer of the sloop of war Ranger, battled the HMS Drake for an hour before claiming victory on April 24, 1778 in the North Channel off Ireland.

Battle between Continental ship Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, Sept. 23, 1779. Oil on canvas, by Thomas Mitchell (1735-1790), signed and dated by the artist, 1780. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Battle between Continental ship Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, Sept. 23, 1779. Oil on canvas, by Thomas Mitchell (1735-1790), signed and dated by the artist, 1780. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

 

Then more than a year later on Sept. 23, 1779, as commanding officer of the 42-gun former merchant ship Bonhomme Richard, Jones uttered his famous cry: “I have not yet begun to fight” as his crippled ship fought the larger 50-gun HMS Serapis in the waters off Flamborough Head.

Despite his sinking and burning ship, Jones refused to strike his colors. A well-timed grenade landed near ammunition on Serapis, and its ensuing explosion allowed Jones to get the upper hand and board the British ship upon their surrender. The captain who struck his colors that day was British. The Bonhomme Richard, however, sank the following day.

So what Revolutionary naval battle was the most important? The records and many historians might say it was the Battle of Nassau, the first victory of the newly-formed Continental Navy. That mission brought much-needed ammunition and gunpowder to the American army.

Treaty of Paris, signed Sept. 3, 1783.

Treaty of Paris, signed Sept. 3, 1783.

However your examination of history answers that question, it was on this date 232 years ago that, after eight years of skirmishes, smaller battles and outright war – on land and sea, Congress declared hostilities against its former motherland over. A few months later, on Sept. 3, 1783, the signing of the Treaty of Paris by members of the negotiating team brought an end to the American War of Independence. That treaty was ratified by Congress on Jan. 14, 1784.

What the British could not accomplish in war, peace did — the U.S. Navy which was disbanded after the war, leaving the new nation without a Navy until March 27, 1794, when President George Washington signed the Naval Act of 1794 authorizing the construction of six frigates. But that’s a whole ‘nother story… or two… or three.

 
Feb 4

Navy Archaeologists Dive into the History of Bonhomme Richard

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:00 AM

 

A painting by William Gilkerson of the battle between the Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, Beverley R. Robinson Collection, US Naval Academy Museum.

A painting by William Gilkerson of the battle between the Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis, Beverley R. Robinson Collection, US Naval Academy Museum.

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

When Capt. John Paul Jones accepted command of the frigate that would become Bonhomme Richard on Feb. 4, 1779, he had no idea a future battle aboard would both illustrate his career and be a rallying call to arms centuries later. And just like the man who commanded her, the wooden frigate continues to pique the interest of scientists and Sailors alike 236 years after her sinking.

Pirate, privateer, patriot, courageous, glory-hound are just a few of the words used to describe Jones. Contentious though his life might have been, he was a bantamweight courageously entering the ring to take on the heavyweight that was the British Royal Navy during the Revolutionary War.

Jones’ ship, originally named Duc de Duras, was a gift from France. In keeping with the ship’s French heritage, Jones renamed the ship Bonhomme Richard, which translated to “Goodman Richard,” a nod to the nom de plume “Poor Richard” used by Benjamin Franklin, America’s commissioner at Paris. His famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.

On Sept. 23, 1779, a little less than eight months after Jones assumed command, Bonhomme Richard engaged the Royal Navy frigate HMS Seripis during the Battle of Flamborough Head, off the English coast. After an initial volley of fire, two of the American frigate’s guns were destroyed and many Sailors injured. Jones realized he was outgunned by a more powerful and faster opponent. When the captain of the British ship asked if Jones’ ship would strike her colors to surrender, Jones famously answered, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

As the chance of victory appeared to begin slipping through his fingers, Jones came up with a dangerous plan. He moved his ship closer to Serapis where he thought he could board her or have his sharpshooters pick off her men and officers. When Bonhomme Richard moved into position, Serapis’ anchor fouled in Bonhomme Richard‘s hull, holding the two ships together. Jones strengthened the bonds with grappling hooks. After a bloody and brutal four hour fight, Serapis surrendered at last.

Sadly, Bonhomme Richard was critically damaged, on fire and taking on water fast. Despite all efforts to save the ship, she sank into the North Sea two days later.

Capt. John Paul Jones bids goodbye to his victorious ship, Bonhomme Richard, from aboard his new prize, HMS Serapis. Painting by Percy Moran.

Capt. John Paul Jones bids goodbye to his victorious ship, Bonhomme Richard, from aboard his new prize, HMS Serapis. Painting by Percy Moran.

Before she went down, Jones transferred his crew to their newest prize, Serapis, and sailed to Texel Roads, Holland. Jones stayed busy for the remainder of the war and the 12 years of life he had left, so he may never have looked back to Bonhomme Richard.

More than 200 years later, the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archeology Branch actively seeks to piece together a more thorough picture of Bonhomme Richard to see what clues it might reveal about her historic master.

“It’s one of the Navy’s most important ships because of its role in Navy history,” said Robert Neyland, Ph.D., UA director. “The victory helped to raise American morale when the war was not going too well and helped confirm to the French that the Americans were a cause worth supporting.”

A deep water dive launch from USNS Grasp to asses possible targets as part of the search for Bonhomme Richard in July 2011. U.S. Navy Photo by Alexis Catsambis.

A deep water dive launch from USNS Grasp to asses possible targets as part of the search for Bonhomme Richard in July 2011. U.S. Navy Photo by Alexis Catsambis.

In an effort to find Jones’ lost vessel, Neyland and the rest of his tea at NHHC have been investigating sites and putting together pieces of information for the last eight years.

“Since 2006 there have been various expeditions,” Neyland said, explaining there have been many partners in the search, from governments, to companies and private entities. “It’s been on a basis of ships of opportunity. When some French minesweepers have been in the area they have donated a few days of survey time.”

Oceanographer Kevin Dial of the Naval Oceanographic Office rinses an autonomous underwater vehicle after recovering it from the North Sea onto USNS Henson during a Sept. 2010 expedition attempting to locate Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo by Rebecca Burke.

Oceanographer Kevin Dial of the Naval Oceanographic Office rinses an autonomous underwater vehicle after recovering it from the North Sea onto USNS Henson during a Sept. 2010 expedition attempting to locate Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo by Rebecca Burke.

It’s not an easy task. The passage of centuries can cause a significant amount of damage to wood, even below the surface of the ocean, and the ship was badly damaged by the combat already.

“It’s a large area to survey, the water depth ranges from 160-200 feet, 15-20 miles off shore and 500 square nautical miles,” he said. “The weather and seas are volatile out there and the ship may be partially or completely buried by sediment. Shipwrecks tend to break apart and bury themselves in sediment. They may be exposed at times and at other time buried.”

And the Bonhomme Richard would hardly be alone under the waves.

“Recently the French Navy and the Ocean Technology Foundation found a wooden-hulled ship wreck that probably dates between the late 18th century and early 19th century,” Neyland said. “It hasn’t been ruled out totally that it is not Bonhomme Richard. But, it definitely shows that older wooden ships can still be preserved under the North Sea sediments.”

The top scientist at UA isn’t daunted by the monumental task of finding an artifact under miles of ocean and sand. He and his team continue to utilize scientific research to find Bonhomme Richard and others of interest.

“There’s not a shipwreck out there that can’t be found,” he said.

For more information on the Naval History and Heritage Command and the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch visit our website at http://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology.html

 
Dec 22

Dec. 22, 1775: The Beginning of Naval Leadership and Trust

Monday, December 22, 2014 9:00 AM
Cmdr. Thomas Dickinson

Cmdr. Thomas Dickinson

 

By Cmdr. Thomas Dickinson, professor at the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center, Naval War College, Newport, R.I.

When we reflect on the history of our Navy, a common reference point is the birth of the Continental Navy on October 13, 1775. However, few reflect on the importance of another day in naval history: Dec. 22, 1775.

Commodore Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1777 Painting by Orlando S. Lagman, after a 19th Century engraving by J.C. Buttre. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

Commodore Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1777
Painting by Orlando S. Lagman, after a 19th Century engraving by J.C. Buttre.
Naval History and Heritage Command Photo

On that day Congress commissioned the first naval officers, marking the inception of leadership in our Navy. Commissioned officers included Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, Esek Hopkins, and our first Commanding Officers: Abraham Whipple, Nicholas Biddle, John Hopkins, and Dudley Saltonstall. Thirteen junior officers also received commissions, to include the legendary John Paul Jones. Each of these leaders would be immediately tested, sailing their ships into battle within 60 days of receiving their commissions.

In the context of that time, selection of our first leaders was of great consequence. America was preparing to wage war against a Royal Navy far superior to its own. The achievements, failures, practical experience, and standards of our first leaders would directly impact the revolution and set the tone for the future of our profession. The level of trust placed in these leaders by Congress and the people of America cannot be overstated.

Imagine trust from another perspective; that of the Continental Navy sailor. Imagine preparing to enter into battle with the great Royal Navy, with so much at stake, and being fully aware that the odds were stacked against you. What did these sailors expect of their leaders? If their ships were out-numbered and out-gunned, the Continental sailors expected bold, honorable and competent leaders who would set the example and judiciously discern when and how to employ their ships effectively. Leadership had to be the advantage, because naval assets in 1775 certainly were not a strength for the Continental Navy.

John Adams recognized in 1775 that leadership must be held to a higher moral and ethical standard in order to earn the trust of those they serve, whether that be the Congress, the citizens they represented, or the sailors on a warship. He codified this higher standard in the “Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North America.” One excerpt follows:

“The Commanders of all ships and vessels belonging to the thirteen United Colonies are strictly required to show themselves a good example of honor and virtue to their officers and men…”

This may look familiar, as the “exemplary conduct statue” is now mandated by law in Title 10 U.S. Code and also found in Chapter 11 of our Navy Regulations. This standard is alive in our Navy today, and is a direct connection between present-day leadership and the very beginnings of our Navy.

So how did our first leaders fare? The leadership of the Continental Navy experienced many successes and failures. Those who failed to execute responsibilities, such as Dudley Saltonstall, lost the trust of leadership and their commands, and were held accountable. Leaders who earned trust up and down the chain of command, such as John Barry and John Paul Jones, emerged to become heroes of the war and key leaders during future conflicts.

Vice Adm. Lawson P. "Red" Ramage, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions July 31, 1944 as commanding officer of USS Pache (SS-384). NHHC photo

Vice Adm. Lawson P. “Red” Ramage, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions July 31, 1944 as commanding officer of USS Parche (SS-384).
NHHC photo

This special trust relationship, highlighted in the examples above, has not changed over time in our Navy. Trust remains the foundation of effective leadership today just as it was in 1775. We can reflect on countless examples in the modern history of our Navy that reinforce this truth. A few heroic examples include Cmdr. Ernest Evans in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Adm. Red Ramage in command of USS Parche (SS 384) and Adm. James Stockdale leading POWs in Vietnam. Each of these leaders carried out their daily lives with honor and operated in high-trust organizations that led to victory under formidable conditions.

More importantly, the trust relationship is applicable to leaders at all levels of our Navy today as we make efforts to earn and maintain trust. The Chief Petty Officer training and mentoring sailors, the Division Officer standing the mid-watch as Officer of the Deck, or the Department Head standing watch as a Tactical Action Officer. Each day leaders have the opportunity to put the mission and others before themselves, setting the standard and earning trust. This trust is the backbone of our Navy, and determines whether we will succeed or fail. As we reflect on the inception of naval leadership in 1775, we should pause to realize that trust is our most prized possession as leaders, and to never take the privilege of leading for granted.

Cmdr. Dickinson is a 2014 recipient of the Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award from his tour as commanding officer of the Norfolk-based destroyer Barry (DDG 52).

The award is presented annually to two commissioned active-duty officers from commander and below who are serving in command of a single unit and who serve as examples of excellence in leadership and conspicuous contribution to the improvement of leadership in the Navy.

 
Dec 14

Fleet Admirals are Elite Band of Naval Brothers

Sunday, December 14, 2014 8:00 AM
Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy. Portrait photograph taken circa 1945, while he was Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. Naval History and Heritage Photograph from the Collection of Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy.

Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy. Portrait photograph taken circa 1945, while he was Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. Naval History and Heritage Photograph from the Collection of Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy.

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Leahy. King. Nimitz. Halsey.

One of the most exclusive collections of men ever in the history of the Navy. This band of four Naval officers are the only ones to have worn five stars during their service in defense of freedom during World War II.

The 20th century rank of Fleet Admiral was created in the on Dec. 14, 1944 — along with General of the Army — during the second session of the 79th Congress.

(For those looking for a great trivia question here’s a little tidbit: When the Fleet Admiral rank was created, it was named very deliberately with the intent of making the rank subordinate to the rank of Admiral of the Navy – no word on corresponding number of stars – once held by Admiral George Dewey.)

Fleet Adm. Ernest King Portrait photograph, taken in 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Fleet Adm. Ernest King Portrait photograph, taken in 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

But back to Dec. 1944 when four-star admirals William Leahy, Ernest King and Chester Nimitz were promoted. A year later, Adm. William F. Halsey Jr. joined their ranks.

Fleet Adm. Chester A. Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Photographed circa early 1945. Naval History and Heritage Photograph from the Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

Fleet Adm. Chester A. Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Photographed circa early 1945. Naval History and Heritage Photograph from the Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

It was quite the departure from when America’s forefathers chose to eschew the title of admiral.

Back in 1775, still under the rule of imperialistic Great Britain, those in charge of deciding ranks felt the titles of admiralty in general were hallmarks of aristocracy. Since the fledgling republic was rebelling against royal rule, they didn’t want the Navy to become a mirror image of their old masters. Captains who commanded squadrons or more than one ship gained the temporary title of commodore.

Not everyone agreed. Lt. John Paul Jones was among those who thought a naval rank equivalent to an Army general should exist. When the Navy expanded to more than six ships, he also thought a senior officer should be promoted to settle disputes among captains.

Another issue was foreign relations among navies. American senior officers were “often subjected to serious difficulties and embarrassments” when dealing with British or Ottoman or French admirals. Congress, however, didn’t understand the problem. Since admirals were the highest ranking officers in those navies, and captains were the highest ranking officers in their Navy, clearly they were on equal ground, Congress thought. That thinking was in direct conflict with the opinions of various Secretaries of the Navy, not to mention Navy captains.

The American admiralty was eventually created, though. During the Civil War, the Navy rapidly expanded, and Congress authorized nine rear admirals on July 16, 1862. Two years after that, David Glasgow Farragut was promoted from their ranks to become the first vice admiral. Farragut eventually was promoted again to the newly created rank of admiral on July 25, 1866. When Farragut died in 1870, David Dixon Porter fleeted up to Farragut’s position and rank.

Until 1915, only four officers had been promoted above rear admiral — Farragut, Porter, and Stephen C. Rowan, plus the one officer who rose above them and remains to this day the most senior naval officer in American history.

George Dewey’s accomplishments during the Spanish-American War were recognized by Congress, authorizing the president to appoint him as “Admiral of the Navy,” a rank he wore until his death in 1917. Nobody since has held that title.

The ranks of vice- and full admiral were revived shortly after the outbreak of World War I, with one of each rank assigned to the Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic fleets.

As the storm clouds of a second world war formed once again, the U.S. Navy began to expand after its post-WWI drawdown. In between June 1938 and December 1944, ships in the fleet grew from 380 to 6,084—a 1,501 percent increase. And with the expansion of the fleet and the enormity of responsibility, even the rank of full admiral was not enough. So, in December 1944, the admiralty increased too.

But another reason may be that the admirals were echoing claims from the previous centuries, according to E. Kelly Taylor, author of the book America’s Army and the Language of Grunts, “several American commanders found themselves in the awkward position of commanding Allied officers of higher rank.”

Congress came together and passed an act “to establish the grade of Fleet Admiral for the United States Navy; to establish the grade of General of the Army, and for other purposes.” Leahy, King and Nimitz were appointed to this new grade of Fleet Admiral.

The act set some rules: “Appointments to said grade shall be made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among line officers on the active list and retired line officers on active duty serving in the rank of admiral in the Navy at the time of such appointment. The number of officers of such grade on the active list at any one time shall not exceed four.”

And the seniority of each was also established: “The officers appointed under the provisions of this Act shall take rank among themselves while on active duty according to dates of appointment.”

Fleet Adm. William F. Halsey Jr. portrait photograph, dated Feb. 6, 1946. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Fleet Adm. William F. Halsey Jr. portrait photograph, dated Feb. 6, 1946. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Their dates of appointment were separated by two days: Dec. 15, 17, and 19, 1944 for Leahy, King and Nimitz respectively. Generals of the Armies George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower were promoted in between on the 16th, 18th, and 20th respectively. A fourth Army general Henry H. Arnold was promoted Dec. 21, 1944. Halsey was promoted on Dec. 11, 1945. This made Leahy the ranking five-star.

In a brief introduction to the four Fleet Admirals, the Naval Historical Foundation said, “It is interesting to note that each of the naval officers promoted to the five-star rank followed different career tracks. […] They served as younger officers when the Navy was making its expansion in aviation and submarine development.

“[Halsey] began his career as a destroyer officer, and transitioned to the aviation branch with only one short tour of duty ashore in Washington. [Nimitz] was a submariner whose assignments included duty in Europe studying diesel propulsion, duty on board capital ships and an assignment ashore as Chief of Naval Personnel. [Leahy] had almost all his sea duty in large commands, with the exception of one tour, with all assigned shore duty in Washington, including tours as the chiefs of two bureaus. [King] had a seagoing career that encompassed all three communities, surface, submarine and aviation branches; as part of his shore duty he was the head of the Postgraduate School and the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.”

Their broad backgrounds were clearly an asset during a war fought in both hemispheres and all warfare areas.

Afterwards, on March 23, 1946, Congress passed another Act authorizing the Fleet Admirals to retire as such with full pay. Since then, no other admirals have been further promoted.

The original promotions of the four were done by law. That same law also provided for their termination. “This Act shall be effective only until six months after the termination of the wars in which the United States is now engaged as proclaimed by the President, or such earlier date as the Congress, by concurrent resolution, may fix.”

In a sense, the magnitude of World War II created the grade. Since then, no other war has mandated its return.