Jun 5

D-Day invasion of Normandy Q & A

Thursday, June 5, 2014 9:34 PM

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Jun 3

Battle of Midway Q & A’s

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 9:43 PM

Capt. Henry Hendrix (Ph.D), Naval History and Heritage Command director and Robert Cressman, NHHC historian answer questions about the Battle of Midway in this five part series.

Question 1: What were the four most critical minutes of the Battle of Midway?

Question 2: Intelligence played a large part in the U.S. victory at Midway. How does that compare to the Intel/Cyber warfare today?

Question 3: How was the Battle of Midway the last WWII battle of the “Regular Navy?”

Question 4: Why should the Battle of Midway be important to Sailors today?

Question 5: How was the Navy different after the Battle of Midway?

Question 6: Why is it important that Sailors celebrate the Battle of Midway?

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

Stay tuned for more great content remembering the Battle of Midway.

 
May 23

Remembering the USS Squalus 75 years later.

Friday, May 23, 2014 1:00 AM
20235 USS Squalus (PNSY)

After decommissioning, the conning tower was cut away and placed in a park at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where memorial services are conducted in May every year.

On May 23, 1939, the USS Squalus was tragically lost at sea off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Twenty-six lives were lost, thirty-three were saved. The story as told by Carl la Vo in The Short Life of the Squalus follows. (originally published in the Spring 1988 issue of Naval History magazine)

Forty-seven years after his miraculous rescue, Oliver F. Naquin walked into Baltimore’s Master Host Inn two summers ago. Inside, veterans of the World War II submarines Sailfish (SS-192) and Sculpin (SS-191) mingled. Most were people unfamiliar to the then 83-year-old retired rear admiral. But among them were six shipmates he hadn’t seen in nearly a half-century, not since he was their commanding officer on board the USS Squalus (the original SS-192) when she sank off New England on 23 May 1939.

Twenty-six men died that day. But 33 others survived in the greatest undersea rescue of all time.

At the reunion, Naquin embraced Bill Isaacs, Leonard deMedeiros, Jud Bland, Allen Bryson, Nate Pierce, and Danny Persico. Take away the years, the white hair, and the slower gait, and Naquin was again the submarine captain of the 1930s with his blue eyes, erect bearing, and soft though authoritative voice. Read the rest of this entry »

 
May 13

Navy Nurses #OperatingForward 106 Years Later

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 6:00 AM
"The Sacred Twenty" Front row (left to right): Mary Dubose, Adah M. Pendleton, Elizabeth M. Hewitt, Della V. Knight, J. Beatrice Bowman, Lenah S. Higbee, Esther V. Hasson, Martha E. Pringle, Elizabeth Wells, Sara B. Myer, and Clare L. DeCeu. Back row: Elisabeth Leonhardt, Estelle Hine, Ethel R. Parsons, Florence Milburn, Boniface Small, Victoria White, Isabelle Roy, Margaret Murray and Sara Cox. (Photos Courtesy of: BUMED Office of Medical History)

“The Sacred Twenty” Front row (left to right): Mary Dubose, Adah M. Pendleton, Elizabeth M. Hewitt, Della V. Knight, J. Beatrice Bowman, Lenah S. Higbee, Esther V. Hasson, Martha E. Pringle, Elizabeth Wells, Sara B. Myer, and Clare L. DeCeu. Back row: Elisabeth Leonhardt, Estelle Hine, Ethel R. Parsons, Florence Milburn, Boniface Small, Victoria White, Isabelle Roy, Margaret Murray and Sara Cox. (Photos Courtesy of: BUMED Office of Medical History)

 

By André B. Sobocinski, Navy Medicine Office of the Historian, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

May 13th marks the 106th anniversary of the Navy Nurse Corps.

On May 13, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Naval Appropriations Bill authorizing the establishment of the Nurse Corps as a unique staff corps in the Navy. Initially, all Nurse Corps candidates were required to travel to Washington, D.C., at their own expense and take an oral and written examination. Since many applicants expressed reluctance to travel at their own expense, U.S. Navy Surgeon General Presley Rixey ordered that applicants be allowed to submit an original essay on the topic of “nursing practices” by mail, in lieu of an onsite written examination.

The nucleus of this new Navy Nurse Corps was a superintendent Esther Hasson, a chief nurse Lenah Higbee, and 18 other women—all would forever be remembered as the “Sacred Twenty.”

Navy Nurse With Hospital Ship by John Falter - Oil on canvas 45-127-T (Artwork Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Navy Nurse With Hospital Ship by John Falter – Oil on canvas 45-127-T (Artwork Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Beatrice Bowman, one of these pioneering nurses, and later superintendent of the Nurse Corps, recalled that these “nurses were assigned to duty at the Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C. There were no quarters for them but they were given an allowance for quarters and subsistence. They rented a house and ran their own mess. These pioneers were no more welcome to most of the personnel of the Navy than women are when invading what a man calls his domain.”

The First Portrait

In October 1908, the first portrait of these plank owner nurses was taken in front of Naval Hospital Washington, D.C. (main hospital building). This building would later become the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s “Building Three.” The picture featured one current and two future superintendents of the Nurse Corps. Collectively, Esther Hasson, Lenah Higbee and Beatrice Bowman would account for 27 years of Nurse Corps leadership.

Rank

In 1908, the Navy Medical Department was comprised of Medical Corps Officers and Hospital Corpsmen (then referred to as Hospital Stewards and Hospital Apprentices). Unlike their physician counterparts, the first nurses did not hold rank. Navy nurses were not granted “relative rank” until July 3, 1942. Nurse Corps officers were finally granted “full military rank” on February 26, 1944.

Roles in Navy Medicine

Until 1909, all Navy nurses had the choice of one duty station, Naval Hospital Washington, D.C. (sometimes referred to as the Navy Medical School Hospital). In 1909, BUMED began detailing its Navy Nurse Corps to medical facilities outside of Washington, D.C. Naval Hospitals Annapolis, Md., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mare Island, Calif., were among the first hospitals to receive nurses. In spring 1909, Surgeon James Leys, commanding officer, Naval Hospital Norfolk, Va., requested BUMED to send “nurses” to his hospital. When three female nurses (Lenah Higbee, Ethel Swann, and Mary Nelson) reported for duty Surgeon Leys was aghast. He had fully expected to receive male hospital corpsmen and did not know how they could work in a hospital without a single female patient.

Their original quarters were located in a rented house on 21st Street, N.W., only a few blocks away from the Naval Hospital.

Camp Taqaddum, Iraq (Nov. 17, 2004) U.S. Navy Lt. Charles L. Cather, an operating room nurse assigned to the Surgical/Shock Trauma Platoon (SSTP) at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, pulls on a patients leg during surgery to prevent the leg muscle from retracting during the surgery. The SSTP, part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, is one of three major immediate surgical and trauma care teams assigned to Marine forces operating in Iraq. In the first six days of combat operations in Fallujah, the 63 surgeons, nurses, corpsmen, and other personnel of the SSTP treated 157 patients and operated on 73 of them. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin (RELEASED) 041117-M-0000G-001

Camp Taqaddum, Iraq (Nov. 17, 2004) U.S. Navy Lt. Charles L. Cather, an operating room nurse assigned to the Surgical/Shock Trauma Platoon (SSTP) at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq, pulls on a patients leg during surgery to prevent the leg muscle from retracting during the surgery. The SSTP, part of the 1st Force Service Support Group, is one of three major immediate surgical and trauma care teams assigned to Marine forces operating in Iraq. In the first six days of combat operations in Fallujah, the 63 surgeons, nurses, corpsmen, and other personnel of the SSTP treated 157 patients and operated on 73 of them. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin (RELEASED) 041117-M-0000G-001

 

To read Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon general, and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery message to the Navy Nurse Corps click here.

 
May 7

On Course to Midway: The Battle of Coral Sea

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 9:30 AM

By the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The Battle of Coral Sea, fought in the waters southwest of the Solomon Islands and eastward from New Guinea, was the first of the Pacific War’s six fights between opposing aircraft carrier forces. Though the Japanese could rightly claim a tactical victory on “points,” it was an operational and strategic defeat for them, the first major check on the great offensive they had begun five months earlier at Pearl Harbor. The diversion of Japanese resources represented by the Coral Sea battle would also have significant consequences a month later, at the Battle of Midway.

The Coral Sea action resulted from a Japanese amphibious operation intended to capture Port Moresby, located on New Guinea’s southeastern coast. A Japanese air base there would threaten northeastern Australia and support plans for further expansion into the South Pacific, possibly helping to drive Australia out of the war and certainly enhancing the strategic defenses of Japan’s newly-enlarged oceanic empire.

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The Japanese operation included two seaborne invasion forces, a minor one targeting Tulagi, in the Southern Solomons, and the main one aimed at Port Moresby. These would be supported by land-based airpower from bases to the north and by two naval forces containing a small aircraft carrier, several cruisers, seaplane tenders and gunboats. More distant cover would be provided by the big aircraft carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku with their escorting cruisers and destroyers. The U.S. Navy, tipped off to the enemy plans by superior communications intelligence, countered with two of its own carriers, plus cruisers (including two from the Australian Navy), destroyers, submarines, land-based bombers and patrol seaplanes.

Japanese Aircraft Carrier Shokaku 1941 Courtesy Government of Japan

Japanese Aircraft Carrier Shokaku 1941
Courtesy Government of Japan

Preliminary operations on May 3-6 and two days of active carrier combat May 7-8 cost the United States one aircraft carrier, a destroyer and one of its very valuable fleet oilers, plus damage to the second carrier.

The Japanese, however, were forced to cancel their Port Moresby seaborne invasion. In the fighting, they lost a light carrier, a destroyer and some smaller ships. Shokaku received serious bomb damage and Zuikaku‘s air group was badly depleted. Most importantly, those two carriers were eliminated from the upcoming Midway operation, contributing by their absence to the defeat of the Japanese fleet viewed by many as the turning point of the war.

 Photo # NH 82117 USS Lexington launching torpedo planes, circa 1929

Build Up to the Battle

Good communications intelligence allowed the U.S. Pacific Fleet to prepare to meet the planned Japanese offensive against Port Moresby, though available resources provided little margin for error. The freshly overhauled carrier Lexington (CV 2), rushed out from Pearl Harbor, joined Yorktown (CV 5) in the probable action area on May 1, doubling Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher‘s carrier forces and bringing along another experienced flag officer, Rear Adm. Aubrey W. Fitch. These carriers and their escorts engaged in several days of refueling from the oilers Neosho (AO 23) and Tippecanoe (AO 21), while awaiting the arrival of two Australian cruisers to reinforce the six already on hand.

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On May 3, a small Japanese naval force carried out a landing at Tulagi, on the northern side of the Coral Sea, where they quickly established a seaplane base to provide reconnaissance deeper into Allied waters. Leaving Lexington behind and detaching Neosho to join her, Rear Adm. Fletcher took Yorktown off to interfere with the landings. On the morning of the 4th, his planes hit the invasion force. Though results were modest, to some extent due to humid air fogging the dive bombers’ sights, the destroyer Kikuzuki was fatally damaged and a few other ships and seaplanes were sunk.

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Fletcher then turned back south, rejoining Fitch on the 5th to top off his fuel tanks. The Japanese were now advancing into the Coral Sea with the Port Moresby invasion force and the separate covering force and aircraft carrier striking force. Both the American and Japanese carrier commanders spent the 6th moving westward, unaware just how close they had come — at one point they were but 70 miles apart!

The Battle Begins

The first day of the carrier battle of Coral Sea, May 7, 1942, saw the Americans searching for carriers they knew were present and the Japanese looking for ones they feared might be in the area. The opposing commanders, Rear Adm. Fletcher and Japanese Vice Adm. Takeo Takagi and Rear Adm. Tadaichi Hara, endeavored to “get in the first blow”, a presumed prerequisite to victory (and to survival) in a battle between heavily-armed and lightly-protected aircraft carriers.

Both sides, however, suffered from inadequate work by their scouts and launched massive air strikes against greatly inferior secondary targets, which were duly sunk, leaving the most important enemy forces un-hit.

Japanese scouting planes spotted the U.S. oiler Neoshoand her escort, the destroyer USS Sims (DD 409), before 8 a.m. in a southerly position well away from Rear Adm. Fletcher’s carriers. Reported as a “carrier and a cruiser,” these two ships received two high-level bombing attacks during the morning that — as would become typical of such tactics — missed. Around noon, however, a large force of dive bombers appeared. These did not miss. Sims sank with very heavy casualties and Neosho was reduced to a drifting wreck whose survivors were not rescued for days.

Meanwhile, a scout plane from Yorktown found the Japanese covering force, the light carrier Shoho and four heavy cruisers, which faulty message coding transformed into “two carriers and four heavy cruisers.” Yorktown and Lexington sent out a huge strike: 53 scout-bombers, 22 torpedo planes and 18 fighters. In well-delivered attacks before noon, these simply overwhelmed the Shoho, which received so many bomb and torpedo hits that she sank in minutes. Her sinking was marked by some of the battle’s most dramatic photography.

Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō Courtesy Government of Japan

Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō
Courtesy Government of Japan

Adding to the confusion, if not to the score, Japanese land-based torpedo planes and bombers struck an advanced force of Australian and U.S. Navy cruisers, far to the west of Adm. Fletcher’s carriers. Skillful ship-handling prevented any damage. Australia-based U.S. Army B-17s also arrived and dropped their bombs, fortunately without hitting anything.

All this had one beneficial effect: the Japanese ordered their Port Moresby invasion force to turn back to await developments. Late in the day, they also sent out nearly 30 carrier planes to search for Fletcher’s ships. Most of these were shot down or lost in night landing attempts, significantly reducing Japanese striking power. The opposing carrier forces, quite close together by the standards of air warfare, prepared to resume battle in the morning.

Fight that Would Impact Battle at Midway

Before dawn on May 8, both the Japanese and the American carriers sent out scouts to locate their opponents. These made contact a few hours later, by which time the Japanese already had their strike planes in the air. The U.S. carriers launched theirs soon after 9 a.m., and task force commander Rear Adm. Fletcher turned over tactical command to Rear Adm. Fitch, who had more carrier experience. Each side’s planes attacked the other’s ships around 11 a.m. At that time the Japanese were partially concealed by thick weather, while the Americans were operating under clear skies.

Planes from Yorktown hit Shokaku, followed somewhat later by part of Lexington‘s air group. These attacks left Shokaku unable to launch planes, and she left the area soon after to return to Japan for repairs. Her sister ship, Zuikaku was steaming nearby under low clouds and was not attacked.

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The Japanese struck the American carriers shortly after 11 a.m., and in a fast and violent action, scored with torpedoes on Lexington and with bombs on both carriers. For about an hour, Lexington seemed to have shrugged off her damage, but the situation deteriorated as fires spread throughout the ship. She was abandoned later in the day and scuttled. Yorktown was also badly damaged by a bomb and several glancing blows, but remained in operational condition.

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By the end of the day, both sides had retired from the immediate battle area. The Japanese sent Zuikaku back for a few days, even though her aircraft complement was badly depleted, but they had already called off their Port Moresby amphibious operation and withdrew the carrier on May 11. At about the same time Yorktown was recalled to Pearl Harbor. After receiving quick repairs, she would play a vital role in the Battle of Midway in early June.

 
Apr 24

Rare Imagery Brings an Important Moment from Naval History into Focus

Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:01 PM

By Lisa Crunk, Lead Photo Archivist, Naval History and Heritage Command

140211-N-ZZ999-002 WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2014) An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship's guns during the Spanish-American War. Naval History and Heritage Command photo archives staff members are scanning a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

140211-N-ZZ999-002 WASHINGTON (Feb. 11, 2014) An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War. Naval History and Heritage Command photo archives staff members are scanning a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

For a photographic archivist like me, a huge pile of donated scrapbooks, photo albums and donated photographs can be hard work. Sometimes images are without description, sometimes the donor is not on record and sometimes the photos are fragile. Magnetic pages, glue and metal fasteners – like paperclips or staples – often found in scrapbooks and photo albums can cause the images to deteriorate. But many of the photos are real gems, worth every effort my coworkers and I take to archive them to make them available for future generations.

In the process of preparing materials for transfer to new storage systems at Naval History and Heritage Command’s Photo Archive, my coworkers, Dave Colamaria, Jonathan Roscoe and I, are tackling the massive backlog of riches from the past, our donated imagery. Earlier this year, Feb. 5, Dave and John uncovered a veritable diamond amongst the gems when the uncovered a donation that has never been made available to the public.

140206-N-ZZ999-001 WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2014) An undated photo shows the burning of San Roque, Philippines, during the Spanish-American War. The photo is from a glass slide recently discovered in the photo archives at Naval History and Heritage Command. The photo archives staff found a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. The glass plate photographs were likely prepared by photographer Douglas White, a war correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner during the Philippine War. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

140206-N-ZZ999-001
WASHINGTON (Feb. 6, 2014) An undated photo shows the burning of San Roque, Philippines, during the Spanish-American War. The photo is from a glass slide recently discovered in the photo archives at Naval History and Heritage Command. The photo archives staff found a wooden box containing approximately 150 glass plate photographs depicting scenes from the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. The glass plate photographs were likely prepared by photographer Douglas White, a war correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner during the Philippine War. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

They showed me two, well-aged, wooden boxes. Worn scratches on the surface of the boxes revealed an amazing inscription:

Photographic Slides
US Naval Military Activities
In and Around Manila
Spanish – American War – 1898
and Philippine Insurrection
Douglas White
War Correspondent

To say we were excited might be an understatement. Inside, were 325 tissue-paper wrapped slides made entirely of glass. Based on the delicate paper wrapping that still encased the majority of slides, it appears most had not been viewed in decades.

 Delving into this wonderful collection, we found glass slides covering the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. One of the best things about this find is nearly all of the slides have an included description. To us, this suggests they were used as a presentation or lantern show. Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color. Also, of great interest to the Navy during the bi-centennial of the War of 1812, the collection includes a few slides depicting paintings from the centennial commemoration of the war. My coworkers and I agree, given the presence of the War of 1812 slides, as well as images of the battleship Maine being excavated (1911-1912), that the slides were created around 1912.

Lt. C.J. Dutreaux One of 325 NHHC recently discovered slides made entirely of glass.Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color.

Lt. C.J. Dutreaux
One of 325
NHHC recently discovered slides made entirely of glass.Though most are black and white, some have been hand tinted in color.

From the inscription, these glass slides appear to have originally belonged to and in some cases may have been photographed by Douglas White, a war correspondent at one time employed by the San Francisco Examiner. Since February, more information has been revealed through research. We found that the slides were originally donated to the San Francisco Museum of Science and Industry by Mrs. Charles Dutreaux, wife of Lt. C.J. Dutreaux, whose image appears in one of the slides. Correspondence from the museum to Commodore Dudley W. Knox, suggests that the collection was sent to the Naval Historical Foundation, Jan. 3, 1948. The Naval Historical Foundation maintained the collection until 2008, when we received it

An undated photo showing American troops desembarking from a ship onto small boats in the Phillipines 1898 or 1899.

An undated photo showing American troops desembarking from a ship onto small boats in the Phillipines 1898 or 1899.

These slides are a window into a time more than a century ago. They show many scenes from the times, including the raising of USS Olympia’s flag over Manila, USS Charleston convoying the first U.S. troops and ships officers and crew, the execution wall at Cavite, Philippines, capture of Manila, Spanish prisoners, troops landing at Camp Dewy, naval camps and Signal Corps, as just a sampling.

What makes this so significant a find for us at NHHC? The Navy played a central role in nearly every aspect of the Spanish-American war, from logistics to diplomacy. Historical research on the subject notes that American planners and leaders anticipated that the fight with Spain would be primarily a naval war. The U.S. Navy’s victories at Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba were pivotal events that turned the course of the war and joint Army-Navy operations at Santiago, Puerto Rico, and Manila sealed the success won by the U.S. Navy’s command of the seas.

Having found them, our next step is to preserve them for the future. That starts with digitization, scanning each slide for eventual exhibition on the Naval History and Heritage Command’s website. After that we need to make sure the slides are in sleeves that will prevent deterioration and then archive them so they will never be lost again.

140422-N-CS953-004 WASHINGTON (Apr. 22, 2014) -- Lisa Crunk, Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) Photographic Archive Lead Archivist, looks at a glass plate photo that the archivists rediscovered in donations earlier this year, Apr. 22. Her job as as one of three archivists includes organizing, scanning, archiving, posting online and making sense of the hundreds of thousands of Navy historic photos in the archive photos for researchers, Navy leadership and the public. (U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

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WASHINGTON (Apr. 22, 2014) — Lisa Crunk, Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Photographic Archive Lead Archivist, looks at a glass plate photo that the archivists rediscovered in donations earlier this year, Apr. 22. Her job as as one of three archivists includes organizing, scanning, archiving, posting online and making sense of the hundreds of thousands of Navy historic photos in the archive photos for researchers, Navy leadership and the public.
(U.S. Navy Photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

We may never know which of these slides is truly unique. We have located copies of several of the images within various archival collections throughout the country. Despite this, were still excited and proud to be the repository of such a historically significant collection.

 

 
Apr 23

#PeopleMatter: Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 8:30 AM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Today marks 116 years since Spain’s declaration of war against the United States. Congress in turn declared war on Spain two days later, but as the Navy had already blockaded Cuba, backdated the declaration to the 21st.

By the time war was declared on the 25th, the U.S. Navy had pretty much secured the western hemisphere, and prepared to confront the Spanish Navy in the Pacific. Just over 9,000 miles on the other side of the globe in Hong Kong, a man who had distinguished himself during the Civil War, was doing just that.

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In fact, Commodore George Dewey had been prepping his fleet since February, so when war was declared, he made a beeline for the Spanish Navy at Manila Bay in the Philippines. Who was this man who would lead the U.S. Navy to its first major, strategic victories overseas? Known for his quick temper, Dewey had no problem making quick decisions. Nothing went unobserved from his wicker chair on the quarterdeck of his flagship, USS Olympia. From his “throne” many noted his legendary walrus mustache, the crisp white uniform standard for officers then, and his dog named “Bob.” He had no patience for lengthy meetings and even stormed out of one with Army Maj. Gen. Elwell Otis, who would become the 2nd Military Governor of the Philippines.

 

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On May 1, 1898, he delivered to America the first Navy victory against a foreign enemy since the War of 1812 – the Battle of Manila in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. In recognition of his exemplary leadership, on March 2, 1899, Congress handed President McKinley the act that made Dewey the first and last Admiral of the Navy, a rank never before held by any officer. When Dewey died on Jan. 16, 1917, the Secretary of the Navy noted in General Order No. 258, “Vermont was his mother State and there was always in his character something of the granite of his native hills.”

The Making of An Officer
Dewey graduated in 1858 from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than three years later he found himself at the center of the action in the Civil War while serving under Admiral Farragut during the Battle of New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Dewey, executive lieutenant of the steam paddle ship USS Mississippi, skillfully navigated shallow waters to wage a successful attack against Confederate fortifications at New Orleans. Because Dewey had survived and battled sharpshooters, Farragut later asked him by name to command his personal dispatch gun boat, USS Agawam, which was frequently attacked by Confederate snipers. Later, in 1864, Lt. Dewey was made executive officer of the wooden man-of-war USS Colorado stationed on the North Atlantic blockading squadron under Commodore Henry Knox Thatcher. Dewey again rose to the occasion during the Battles of Fort Fisher. Even The New York Times spoke admiringly of the Union victory as “the most beautiful duel of the war.” Commodore Thatcher wouldn’t take the credit and remarked to his superiors, “You must thank Lieutenant Dewey, sir. It was his move.”

 

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After the war, he returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor and was then later granted rest ashore status in Washington, D.C. He found the assignment listless and believed the environment in D.C. was “harmful to his health.” He could not resist the call of the sea.

Over the course of the next thirty years, he commanded USS Narragansett, USS Supply, USS Juniata, USS Dolphin, and USS Pensacola. He also served as a Lighthouse Inspector, a member of the Lighthouse Board, and Secretary of the Lighthouse Board. Additionally he served as the Chief of the Bureau of Equipment as President of the Board of Inspection and Survey. On Nov. 30, 1897, he was ordered to Asiatic Station and, proceeding by steamer, he assumed command on Jan. 3, 1898, his flag in the protected cruiser, USS Olympia, Captain Charles V. Gridley, commanding.

 

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Victory for the United States
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had urged him to prepare for the possibility of war with Spain and telegraphed him on Feb. 25, 1898, just ten days after USS Maine mysteriously blew up in Cuba, to immediately prepare the Asiatic Station at Hong Kong. Less than a week after the declaration of war, on May 1, 1898, Dewey sunk or captured the entire Spanish Pacific fleet in a battle lasting just over six hours (including a three-hour lunch break). In that short amount of time, he also defeated the shore batteries. The Battle of Manila Bay was one of the Navy’s greatest success stories against an imperial European empire.

 

Mess on board USS Olympia Courtesy NHHC

 

On May 10, 1898, Dewey was given a vote of thanks by the U.S. Congress and was commissioned Rear Adm. That promotion was an advancement of one grade for “highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy as displayed by him in the destruction of the Spanish Fleet and batteries in the harbor of Manila, Philippine Islands, May 1, 1898.”

After defeating the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Dewey met with the Army to work out the preliminaries for the occupation of the Philippines. Most of the meetings went well, except on one occasion, Dewey practically leapt to stand and bolted back to his barge, Cristina, to board USS Olympia. He found meetings detestable, and his frustration grew with the Army’s decisions on how to govern the Philippines. Dewey later let the Army know his personal opinion of its style of management, especially with the Army’s barges that policed the Passig River. In no subtle form or fashion, Dewey delivered tirades complaining to the Army on the condition of the barges being far from “ship shape and Bristol fashion,” and went as far as to issue a direct order to General Otis warning if any of them were seen outside of the river and in open water in Manila Bay, the Navy would sink them. The barges never appeared outside of the confines of the river.

 

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On Jan. 17, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson delivering Dewey’s eulogy, offered an apt description of Adm. Dewey’s personality and legacy: “It is pleasant to recall what qualities gave him his well-deserved fame: His practical directness, his courage without self-consciousness, his efficient capacity in matters of administration, the readiness to fight without asking questions or hesitating about any detail. It was by such qualities that he continued and added luster to the best traditions of the Navy. He had the stuff in him which all true men admire and upon which all statesmen must depend in hours of peril. The people and the Government of the United States will always rejoice to perpetuate his name in all honor and affection.”

 

 

 

 
Apr 22

#Presence, #Platforms, #Power: Spanish-American War Shaped U.S.’s Strategy into 20th Century

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 3:26 PM
The Battle of Manila Bay is shown in this colored print of a painting by J.G. Tyler, copyright 1898 by P.F. Collier. Ships depicted in left side of print are (l-r): Spanish Warships Don Juan de Ulloa, Castilla, and Reina Cristina. Those in right side are (l-r): USS Boston, USS Baltimore and USS Olympia. Collections of the Navy Department, purchased from Lawrence Lane, 1970. U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

The Battle of Manila Bay is shown in this colored print of a painting by J.G. Tyler, copyright 1898 by P.F. Collier. Ships depicted in left side of print are (l-r): Spanish Warships Don Juan de Ulloa, Castilla, and Reina Cristina. Those in right side are (l-r): USS Boston, USS Baltimore and USS Olympia.
Collections of the Navy Department, purchased from Lawrence Lane, 1970.
U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command Photograph

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Yesterday, the first of our week-long spotlights on the Spanish-American War ended after the two big naval victories at the Battle of Manila Bay and Battle of Cuba de Santiago. Ground troops batting clean-up finished the less-than-four-month conflict.

But the impact of this “splendid little war” reached well beyond the duration of the war. It was the strategic shift that started the tsunami of fleet modernization and base acquisition that would carry the United States Navy well into the 20th Century through World War II.

 Becoming a world power

As mentioned, having no U.S. ship capable of stopping a Spanish ironclad sitting in a New York port during the 1873 Virginius Affair led to President Chester Arthur calling for a rehabilitation of the fleet. While President Benjamin Harrison urged a continuation of constructing modern ships during his 1889 inaugural address, he also asked for the acquisition of bases to maintain the U.S. fleet in foreign seas, according to Naval History and Heritage Command historian Mark L. Evans.

Harrison worked with Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy and Navy Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, who believed the countries with the greatest sea power would have the most impact worldwide. He had written a book touting that concept, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 that would be released a year later. His ideas would be embraced by many of the major world powers and set into motion the United States Navy as we know it today.

Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose views on sea power shaped the U.S. Navy of the 20th Century.

Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose views on sea power shaped the U.S. Navy of the 20th Century.

“Their work bore fruit with the Navy Bill of June 30, 1890, authorizing construction of three battleships later named Indiana, Oregon and Massachusetts. Along with the battleship Iowa, authorized in 1892, this force formed the core of the new fleet willing to challenge European navies for control of the waters in the Western Hemisphere,” Evans wrote in a paper on the Spanish-American War.

It was the birth of navalism in a young country on the precipice of emerging into a world power.

“The United States decided if it was going to be a ‘big boy,’ it needed a strong navy. So the country went from a fifth-rate sea service to the third largest in the world during this period of time,” said Dennis Conrad, another NHHC historian.

But along with building up its naval forces, the United States was also beginning to flex its muscles beyond its borders. By the time the previously Euro-centric world began the 20th century, the power had tilted toward the United States during the start of the American Century, Conrad said.

The Navy’s transference from wood and sail to steam and steel had already proven itself in the defeat of the Spanish Navy.

But the over-arching changes that affected the country after winning the war was ending up with the Philippines.

“The Spanish-American War got us involved with Asia,” Conrad said. “We did not go into the war with the idea of taking over the Philippines. But it was an example of the importance of mission forward, presence and protecting the sea lanes.”

After crushing the Spanish navy, the United States could have become a major colonial power. But Americans did not follow the European model of imperialism.

“We didn’t pick up colonies like other countries after World War I, we just wanted access and trade, not to run colonies,” Conrad said. “So the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and our opting for independence for the Philippines on the heels of having subdued it, really defined the United States approach in the 20th century.”

Despite the victory, post-war wasn’t an easy time for the United States. The 1823 Monroe Doctrine decreed that the Western Hemisphere would forever be free from European expansion. Anti-imperialists called the U.S. hypocritical for condemning European empires while pursuing one of their own.

And just as the Cuban resistance fought against their landlords, so did the Philippines against the United States. Few Sailors, Soldiers or Marines were killed during the four-month Spanish-American War, while 4,000 American lives were lost fighting in the Philippine Insurrection.

But by the time Theodore Roosevelt, old Rough Rider himself, was elected president in 1901, America was just beginning to flex its might. The 1901 Platt Amendment forbade Cuba from incurring debt to keep foreign gunboats away from its shores. And if any conditions were violated, the United States would send the necessary force to restore order, thanks to the lease of a naval base at Guantanamo Bay — still in existence today.

Then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba- 1898, as one of the famed Rough Riders

Then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba- 1898, as one of the famed Rough Riders. National Park Service photo

America then entered its “protectorate” status with Cuba and even other nations over the next few years. The Roosevelt Corollary specified if any Latin American country engaged in “chronic wrongdoing,” the United States would step in and restore order, as evidenced by its intervention with the Dominican Republic when it came under U.S. protection in 1905. And the year before, President Theodore Roosevelt earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japan conflict.

By 1907, Roosevelt sent off his Great White Fleet for an around-the-world show of strength, otherwise known as the “big stick” in his “speak softly, but carry a big stick,” mantra.

In order to get his naval fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific faster if necessary, Roosevelt began his biggest achievement: the Panama Canal. The United States’ emerging power caused Great Britain to nullify the 1850 Clayton-Bulwer Treaty that had both countries agreeing neither side would build such a canal.

After negotiating a six-mile wide strip of land for the United States to lease to build the canal, Colombia held out for more. Roosevelt wielded his “big stick” by sending in a Navy gunboat and supporting revolutionaries fighting to free the Panama territory from Colombia. The United States was the first nation to recognize the new country of Panama and the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty gave the U.S. a 10-mile strip for the canal. Begun in 1907, the Panama Canal was completed in 1914 at the cost of $345 million. And American doctors, such as Walter Reed — the namesake of the military’s largest hospital – did their part in combatting malaria and yellow fever.

The United States had shed its isolationist past, but in doing so, began to hear rumblings of discontent from her South American neighbors, Japan and Russia.

Be prepared

While the United States was ramping up its steel navy, the Navy was investing in its leadership. Founded in 1884, the Naval War College was instrumental in getting its officers to adapt to constantly changing technology and also plan for operations in the event of war. The Naval War Board was formed in March 1898. But four years earlier, an 1894 paper by Lt. Cmdr. Charles J. Train addressed the “strategy in the Event of War with Spain,” Evans said. Train’s suggestion was for the U.S. Navy to destroy the Spanish fleet as early as possible and blockade Cuba’s principal ports. If Spain sent a fleet to stop it, the United States would be ready.

In 1895, a “special plan” was sent to Naval College War students to secure Cuba’s independence.

By the time USS Maine was destroyed in Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898, the Navy Department already had a number of plans honed by four years of debate by its leading officers, Evans pointed out. Although the realities of war forced modifications to the plans, it allowed for quick decisions prior to the declaration of war.

America’s victory in the Battle of Manila could be attributed to Commodore George Dewey’s decision to plan strategies among his leadership and then train, train and train some more the crew until the day of the battle. After seven hours, with a 3-hour meal break, Dewey’s fleet blew apart the Spanish flotilla in Manila, without a single loss of life.

The Navy Department then ordered Commodore Winfield Scott Schley’s Flying Squadron to protect the east coast of the United States from the Spanish fleet led by Adm. Pascual Cervera, and sent Adm. William Sampson’s North Atlantic squadron to blockade Havana Harbor. After being hemmed in for six weeks, Cervera’s ships attempted to run the blockade during Sunday morning services on July 3. Chased down by the American armored ships, the rest of the Spanish ships were destroyed within 90 minutes.

“The overall success of U.S. naval operations during the Spanish-American War demonstrated the value of extensive peace-time preparations,” Evans wrote. “In the technological warfare of the last one hundred years, the most important preparations have not always been the construction of major warships, but also planning for adequate logistical support and vigorous intellectual debate.”

Tomorrow will feature a profile on Commodore George Dewey, the Civil War-era admiral who led the Battle of Manila Bay.

On Thursday, NHHC historian Dennis Conrad will discuss plans for NHHC’s newest documentary on the Spanish-American War “that will capture the drama and heroism that catapulted the United States Navy to world prominence.”