Jun 4

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 11:34 AM

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets

Lt. Commander Philip H. Jacobsen, USN-Ret

by Ronald Russell 

(This post is from the Battle of Midway Roundtable and originally appeared in Veterans Biographies, distributed during the annual Battle of Midway commemoration in San Francisco, June 2006)

Upon graduation from high school in 1941, Phil Jacobsen knew that he wanted a career in radio electronics, but there was no money in his family for college. He turned to the Navy as a training resource, and succeeded in getting into radio school after boot camp. Freshly trained in radio operation, equipment maintenance, and message handling procedures, his class was sent to Pearl Harbor where the Navy decided the new radiomen could best serve as laborers at the ammunition depot! Jacobsen and several others were rescued from that drudgery when CDR Joseph Rochefort, in charge of the Combat Intelligence Unit at Pearl Harbor, directed the expansion of Japanese intercept operator training to support his growing cryptologic operation.

The new intercept operators were trained at Wahiawa, in the center of Oahu. They were immediately immersed in learning the 48-character Japanese equivalent of Morse code, as well as both the katakana and romaji variants of written Japanese. In time they became proficient on a special typewriter that printed romaji characters, and were also taught Japanese communications procedures, message formats, and operating signals. They also learned radio direction finding techniques.

By May of 1942, RM3/c Jacobsen had completed training and was standing watches at radio intercept “Station H” at Wahiawa. The operators were informed of the possibility of a forthcoming large-scale Japanese operation, and to be extremely alert for any unusual activity or ship’s movements. Enemy message traffic gradually increased in level as the month progressed giving a further clue to the radiomen that something big was in the wind. Jacobsen recalls seeing the officer in charge at Station H and his chief radioman examining a chart with two tracks of ships converging on Midway.

The skills practiced by RM3/c Jacobsen and his comrades at Wahiawa during that time provided a vast quantity of remarkably clear raw material for CDR Rochefort’s cryptanalysts at the Combat Intelligence Unit. There the Japanese signals were decrypted and analyzed, leading to an extraordinary understanding of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s intentions at Midway weeks in advance of the attack. That enabled Admiral Nimitz to plan what was to become the greatest American naval victory of all time. There are many reasons for the triumph at Midway, principally centered on the incredible bravery of the men manning the guns and flying the planes as the battle raged. But the success achieved there started with a few enlisted radiomen capturing the intelligence from the airwaves that made the victory possible.

z-vet-jacob

Jacobsen in 2005

Late in 1942, Jacobsen transferred to Guadalcanal with a team that established a new radio intercept and cryptologic unit there as the battle for the Solomon Islands raged, and he served at other Pacific sites as the march toward Japan continued. He retired from the Navy in 1969 after 28 years of service, nearly all in communications intelligence.

 
Jun 4

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 7:00 AM

 

Navy Cryptology and the Battle of Midway: Our Finest Hour

A special feature of the BATTLE OF MIDWAY ROUNDTABLE

by LCDR Philip H. Jacobsen, USN-Ret 

(Editor’s note: the following is the text of an address given by LCDR Jacobsen to a gathering of Naval Security Group personnel at San Diego in 2000. It has been edited slightly for clarity and to better suit this format.)

The Advent of U.S. Naval Cryptology

 Although my part in the Battle of Midway was very small, I appreciate this opportunity to relate to you some of the more important achievements of my contemporary naval cryptologists that made the success of the Battle of Midway possible. As a current member of the Naval Security Group, you can take pride in the great accomplishments of your predecessors, not only related to the Battle of Midway but long before World War II as well as throughout World War II.

There are not many naval cryptologic veterans alive today that were involved in providing the communications intelligence information that gave our inferior forces on land, sea and especially in the air the equalizer of knowing the composition of enemy forces, and when and where those huge Japanese forces would attack U.S. territory under Admiral Yamamoto’s grandiose invasion plan. This crucial communications intelligence information, when combined with the heroic actions of fighting forces under the brilliant command of Admiral Nimitz, led to the great U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway.

We should keep in mind that intelligence itself does not win battles. However, I believe the lesson of the Battle of Midway is that good, solid intelligence can make the difference between winning and losing a crucial battle for our country. I hope you will keep this in mind in the future.

What was the genesis of the naval cryptologic success at the Battle of Midway? So much was involved in building up dedicated experts in all the various fields of cryptology that it is impossible to point to one single source. Credit must be given to many individuals who operated under difficult conditions, extremely limited budgets, and poor promotional opportunities. This relatively tiny group of dedicated individuals accomplished much in their efforts over the years to keep abreast of the growing force of the Japanese navy and their ever increasing communications security precautions. With the Japanese instigation of war with the U.S., this cadre of technical experts made it relatively easy to expand into a large organization and to immediately provide increasingly vital intelligence to not only U.S. Navy operational forces but also to U.S. Army and Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.

 

Attacking JN-25 

 

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Captain Joseph John Rochefort
U.S. Naval Historical Society

 Despite successes with prior Japanese naval and diplomatic codes, the high priority placed on the small group of naval cryptologists to provide decrypts of Japanese diplomatic communications precluded any significant decrypts of the current Japanese fleet code, JN-25B. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Station HYPO in Hawaii under Commander Joseph J. Rochefort was given the authority to attack JN-25B. By early 1942, HYPO was producing some usable JN-25B decrypts. Station CAST at Corregidor, which was moved to Melbourne after the Philippines fell, and Station NEGAT in Washington soon followed with a number of important JN-25B decrypts. 

HYPO first reported an offensive action in the “AK” or Hawaiian area which culminated in the ineffectual bombing of Oahu on the night of 4/5 March 1942. Rochefort determined that the long range Japanese seaplane was refueled by a submarine at the isolated island of French Frigate Shoals. This information would later play a vital part of the preparation for the Battle of Midway. 

 

The Japanese Plan for Midway 

 

The Japanese geographical designator “AF” began to appear in partially decrypted messages as early as 4 March 1942. On 13 March, Corregidor firmly identified “AF” as Midway. Melbourne and Washington confirmed that “AF” was Midway from subsequent decrypts, but for some unexplained reason Washington evaluated it as a communications designator, not a geographical designator even though Midway was obviously not a Japanese communications station.

Decrypts in late April by Melbourne and Hawaii showed intentions of hostile Japanese action at Dutch Harbor and Kodiak in the Alaskan area.

Beginning on 1 May, activity in Japan proper reflected preparations for both the Midway and Alaskan areas and provided detail of Japanese planning and the size of the forces committed to each objective. As the Japanese ships departed their anchorages, communications intelligence provided information on their future disposition. Both Melbourne and Hawaii reported the pairing of Japanese Carrier Divisions 1 and 2 for exercise activity in home waters on 3 and 12 May. In addition, HYPO provided a decrypted message of 7 May 1942 containing the complete agenda for an “aviation conference” on 16 May called by Vice Admiral Nagumo in Kagoshima, Kyushu. Also to be discussed was an “amphibious assault” and battle for “air superiority” together with a study of organizations for use in dive bombing, torpedo attacks, bombing, and strafing to wipe out local resistance.

For some time the status of Admiral Kondo’s powerful Second Fleet was clouded. Finally on 8 May 1942, HYPO correctly associated the carriers of the 1st Fleet with several important 2nd Fleet elements and warned of a possible creation of a strike force organization under Vice Admiral Nagumo, Commander 1st Air Fleet, consisting of CarDivs 1 and 2, CruDiv 8, two battleships from BatDiv 3, and other 2nd Fleet elements. These early correct conclusions gave a major advantage to the planners in the U.S. Pacific Fleet. They were reinforced by Melbourne on 9 May by a decrypt ordering destroyer screens for many of the capital ships in the Striking Force and revealing a sailing date from Sasebo of 21 May.

 

Troubles in Washington 

 

On 14 May Admiral King directed Admiral Nimitz to declare a state of “Fleet Opposed Invasion” and gave Nimitz complete control of all military forces, including B-17s in the Hawaiian Islands. By 16 May Admirals King and Nimitz were in almost total agreement concerning Japanese intentions toward Midway and the Aleutians. However, this view was in sharp contrast to the confusion that reigned between OP-20-G (Station NEGAT) and War Plans staff under Admiral Richmond K. Turner. Turner placed some ridiculous restrictions on what Station NEGAT could report. 

On 16 May, Nimitz ordered Admiral Halsey [Task Force 16 with USS Enterprise and Hornet] to return to Hawaii, indicating the Japanese would probably make simultaneous offensives against Port Moresby, Dutch Harbor, and Midway where the main striking force would be employed.

Two days later, all three navy cryptologic centers reported that the Strike Force’s attack would be from the northwest from N minus 2 days until N day, while Hawaii and Melbourne added that the attack would be launched from fifty miles northwest of AF. While this did not solve the attack timing problem completely, Nimitz immediately sent messages to Halsey and Fletcher [Task Force 17 with USS Yorktown] to expedite their return to Pearl Harbor as well as ordering submarine search activity off Midway to an area fifty miles northwest of the island.

An acrimonious relationship between Admiral Turner and his War Plans Division and OP-20-G continued, with Turner directing Commander Redman not to comment on certain intelligence evaluations and assume that Turner’s views were correct. The record suggests that the analysts in War Plans and OP-20-G were so engrossed in their own activities that they sometimes overlooked information concerning the Imperial Fleet readily available from translations in OP-20-GZ and the daily reports of the Pacific centers.

While the Pacific centers were convinced that the identity of AF was Midway because of its position in the “A” or American digraphs in the Japanese designator system, various persons at OP-20-G and in Washington thought it might be Johnston Island, Samoa, the U.S. West Coast or even Hawaii itself. HYPO was aware of this lack of agreement on AF in Washington. In order to rid themselves of this annoying backbiting, Rochefort approved a ruse that was probably thought up by Jasper Holmes, the author of Double Edged Secrets. Nimitz approved the message to be sent in the clear from Midway complaining of a water shortage. Rochefort let Melbourne make the first report of the decrypt from Tokyo Naval Intelligence advising of a “water shortage at AF.” Even the naysayers in Washington could not argue with this confirming evidence. 

 

Stealing the Enemy’s Secrets 

 

Additional information about a Japanese northern force prompted Nimitz to activate Task Force 8 under Admiral Robert A. Theobald. In spite of accompanying and subsequent accurate information about Japanese intentions in the Aleutians from decrypts, Theobald chose to treat such information as enemy deception and moved his forces out of the area to the Kodiak vicinity. That allowed the enemy to pound Dutch Harbor and occupy Kiska and Attu.

From information of Japanese successes in determining carrier movements simply by monitoring air to ground communications, Nimitz ordered Halsey and Fletcher to maintain radio silence, particularly among the aircraft when coming in to land. He also warned MacArthur that the Japanese were intercepting air-to-ground contacts between Port Moresby and allied planes. Nimitz also implemented a MacArthur suggestion that two or three U.S. vessels in the South Pacific conduct radio deception to create the impression that our carriers were remained in that area.

On 22 May, a Melbourne decrypt revealed the word “Midway” in a request for photographs of the island that had been “handed over to you.” Washington published a message from Nagumo to the 11th Air Fleet showing that his carriers had 33 aircraft on board that were destined to be the nucleus of land based aircraft in the new Japanese perimeter. Their loss was completely unnoted in accounts of Japanese carrier losses.

The 25th of May began with HYPO’s critical discovery of the Japanese date cipher. Now the U.S. possessed the means to determine the final ingredient of the Japanese plans—when the attack would take place. Application of this information allowed Rochefort to predict that the Japanese attack on the Aleutians would occur on 3 June and on Midway on 4 June. Despite objections from his staff, Nimitz decided to base his final timetable on these dates. Melbourne applied this date cipher information to older traffic and alerted the Pacific Fleet that on the 22nd of May CruDiv 8 and the battleships Kongo and Kirishima were scheduled to depart the Inland Sea of Japan.

Task Force 16 (Hornet and Enterprise) under Admiral Halsey returned to Pearl on the 26th and began a whirlwind of preparation for battle. The CINCPAC Bulletin of the 26th reported that the Northern Force had begun to depart Ominato and that all the Japanese carriers were probably at sea. Admiral Nimitz advised King how much he was dependent on communications intelligence and noted that they were only copying 60 percent of Japanese naval messages and only decrypting 40 percent of those copied. King attributed all of the Navy’s progress in the Pacific to the success it was having from timely information from Japanese naval codes. Without this information King said, “disaster is probable.”

 
Preparations for Battle 

 

On the 27th of May, the Yorktown finally limped into port, showing the damage inflicted during the Coral Sea battle. This good news was offset by some bad news from Commander Rochefort’s center: a new underlying code (JN-25C) and additive cipher had been introduced that rendered unreadable almost all the texts of JN-25 messages from the 27th on. However, some previously originated messages were still readable including one from the 5th Fleet that contained tactical call signs for the Northern Force, its Strike Force, and the Occupation force for “AQ” and “AO” identified as Kiska and probably Attu. Again, Theobald refused to believe this intelligence and kept his force near Kodiak. Another prior message concerned the “Ichiki Detachment” to command the 2nd Combined Landing Force, which was to occupy Midway’s Eastern Island. A third message revealed the intended use of civilian engineers captured on Wake Island to be used in the rebuilding of Midway. Additional warnings that the carriers were at sea were also published.

On 30 May, U.S. task force commanders were alerted by HYPO that direction finding had located three submarines in northern waters and one west of Midway. That day, the Yorktown (Task Force 17) slipped out of Pearl but was detected by the ComInt unit aboard the Yamato, Admiral Yamamoto’s flagship. However, due to radio silence restrictions, this information was not passed on to the Japanese carriers. NEGAT in Washington reported that the carrier Ryujo was at sea with the Northern Forces and that the Commander of the 6th Army Air Force was probably aboard the Akagi.

An old message produced the important information that fighter pilots from the carrier Zuikaku had been transferred to the Northern Force, ruling out the possibility that the Zuikaku could be called on to support either the Aleutian or Midway campaigns. Another message determined that major participants were called to a conference aboard the Akagi on the 26th, which meant they were still in port on that date.

Melbourne’s analysis of air activity in the Marshalls on 2 June led them to conclude that the Occupation Force was approaching the Marshalls. However, Admiral King’s headquarters report of that day contained serious errors. It estimated that BatDivs 2 and 1, CarDiv 4, and DesRon 3, parts of the Main Body, were still in the Bonins home waters area when in fact this force was approaching the western edge of the occluded front northwest of Midway. Perhaps, more importantly, the Office of Naval Intelligence chose this moment to report the presence of a fifth carrier, and identified the carrier as the Zuikaku. Fortunately, Admiral Nimitz and his intelligence staff had confidence in the information being generated by the centers in the Pacific, and this ONI estimate was not acted on or repeated to the task forces off Midway.

 
Predictions Confirmed 

 

As predicted by HYPO, the Japanese offensive against the Aleutians began on 3 June with the carriers attacking Dutch Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Midway notified Nimitz that the Japanese “Main Body” was sighted at 2100Z by a patrol plane bearing 261 degrees and a distance of 700 miles from Midway. After a second sighting of a smaller group of warships and cargo vessels, Nimitz advised that the forces sighted were the attack and occupation forces, not the main body. HYPO’s report of 3 June identified Admiral Yamamoto, CINC of the Combined Fleet as in overall command and correctly identified major commanders and functions of 2nd Fleet, 1st Air Fleet, and 5th Fleet.

discovering the fleet

Diorama of PBY discovering Japanese minesweepers. NHHC Photograph Collection 80-G-701843

Just after midnight on the morning of 4 June, Nimitz realized he had not yet advised the task forces how far the “Main Body” was from Midway. In addition to repeating earlier reports on its course and speed, he concluded it was now 574 miles from Midway. At 0604 Midway time, a reconnaissance plane from Midway spotted two Japanese carriers and their escorts and reported “many planes heading Midway” from 320 degrees, distance 150 miles. Less than a half hour later, Midway was attacked by Japanese carrier aircraft.

Nimitz was only able to muster 47 warships and 26 submarines against the Japanese fleet of 113 warships and 16 submarines. However, the U.S. was able to concentrate its forces at Midway with a slight advantage at the scene of the battle with three carriers, 22 escorts, 234 aircraft afloat and 110 at Midway versus four carriers, 17 escorts, 229 aircraft and 17 seaplanes for the Japanese. In addition, Admiral Nimitz and his task force commanders had advance knowledge of the identity of the Japanese objectives; virtually the entire Japanese Midway and Aleutian order of battle; the organization of the Midway forces into a Striking Force, Occupation Force, Invasion Force; the preliminary and final timetables of the Midway and Aleutian Striking Forces; the general direction from which each force would approach Midway, and the Midway Strike Force’s plan of attack. All of that information was supplied by communications intelligence in time to influence decisively the provisions of Admiral Nimitz’s Operation Plan 29-42.

In addition, luck was on the side of American forces in several key instances. Partly due to poor Midway bomber group sighting reports, two of the U.S. carrier aircraft groups [from Enterprise and Yorktown] were fortunate to locate the enemy carriers after changing their original course, while Hornet’s planes failed to make any contact. The late takeoff of the #4 search plane from the cruiser Tone prevented the Japanese from discovering the presence of U.S. carriers in time to make significant operational changes.

 
A Victory of Intelligence 

 

The Americans lost only one carrier, one destroyer and 147 planes, while the enemy suffered the loss of four large carriers, all their aircraft, as well as one heavy cruiser and the damage to one heavy cruiser. These losses plus the rejection of the enemy invasion and occupation forces resulted in a huge victory for the U.S. Navy early in WWII. This great success after so much bad news from Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia was a great morale booster to the American people.

After the battles of Coral Sea, Midway and the Aleutians, the invaluable contributions made by communications intelligence were recognized by senior naval officials in Washington and Honolulu. In their words, communications intelligence had given the United States a “priceless advantage” over the Japanese. In few battles before or since would any navy possess an enemy’s order of battle, their plan of attack, and their timetable, all of which had been provided to the U.S. Navy’s high command by the communications intelligence units in Hawaii and Australia under the direction of Commander Joseph J. Rochefort and Lieutenant Rudolph Fabian, respectively.

 
May 31

Commemorating the Battle of Midway

Friday, May 31, 2013 12:35 PM

The Battle of Midway, fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway, is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific and one of the most significant events in US Navy history. Through innovative naval intelligence, bold tactics, raw courage, and determination, the US Navy emerged victorious and changed the tide of the war. The victory also had tremendous influence on the ethos of the US Navy and helped set the standard for expectations of today’s Sailors.

Join us online for the Battle of Midway panel “U.S. Navy: The Battle of Midway and the Pacific Today” using a Google+ Hangout scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Monday, June 3rd. Those interested can participate on the US Navy’s Google+ page at http://www.google.com/+usnavy. Panel will be recorded and available for viewing afterwards at http://www.youtube.com/usnavy.

Please check out our Battle of Midway blog series at www.navalhistory.org from 3-7 June, as we investigate and discuss the innovative intelligence gathering and analysis techniques employed by the US Navy; share stories and experiences of the Sailors and pilots that fought the battle; and share the important lessons learned and the impact the battle had on shaping future Navy doctrine.

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We have a few other surprises planned throughout the week, so be sure to stay tuned to all of our digital properties for additional content.

Web: www.history.navy.mil

Naval History News: www.navy.mil/local/navhist

Facebook: www.facebook.com/navalhistory

Twitter: www.twitter.com/NavyHistoryNews

Naval History Blog: www.navalhistory.org

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/groups/Naval-History-Heritage-Command-1944509?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

 

 
May 9

May 9, 1865: The American Civil War Officially Ends

Thursday, May 9, 2013 1:00 AM

This August 1945 Proceedings article was published by P. H. Magruder, former Secretary of the Naval Academy as “The U.S. Naval Academy and Annapolis During the Civil War 1861-1865: An outline of the conspicuous part displayed by the locality during those tragic days”.

There may be relatively few of this generation who realize what a very in­teresting and important part Annap­olis and the Naval Academy played in the Civil War, particularly in its early stages. Annapolis, on account of its close proximity to Washington, naturally became an impor­tant strategic position for the defense of the Capital, especially as the geographic position of Annapolis on the Chesapeake, with a steam railroad direct to Washington, made it an important focal point in the early stages of that defense. The fact that Maryland was directly adjacent to the Mason and Dixon line caused her population to be very evenly divided in their sympathies between the Union and the Confederacy.

In April of 1861 the secessionist elements of Maryland were rapidly organizing in their strenuous efforts to have Maryland secede, and the situation appeared grave, as it was almost inevitable that the National Government would employ a large force to defeat such a move. Attempts had been made by Southern sympathizers to burn the bridges, over the rivers between Baltimore and the Susquehanna River, of the Philadel­phia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, along which line dangerous rioting was in progress to prevent the passage of troops from the North for the defense of Washing­ton. To lessen this hazard, the Federal troops were diverted to water transport at Perry­ville, on the north bank of the Susquehanna, and brought down the Chesapeake to An­napolis and Baltimore in large numbers to disembark and continue by train for Wash­ington. This soon got the situation in better control. The Naval Academy and Annapolis became the pivotal point of operation for the disembarkation of troops, and vast numbers of transports filled the wharves and harbor, presenting a scene of great activity. This condition not only existed in the early stages of the war, but continued throughout. Large expeditions for the South were fitted out in Annapolis to join other units then organiz­ing. An unusual number of Army transports filled the inner harbor at the time General Burnside’s large expedition was forming. It has been estimated there were between 35,­000 and 40,000 troops in this vicinity at that time, and more than 70,000 troops were in Annapolis at different times during the pe­riod of the war. These troops were quartered within the Naval Academy reservation, which afterwards became an Army post, St. John’s College grounds, and later at Camp Parole and Camp Richmond adjoining, to­gether with other camps on towards South River.

Passing back to the problems confronting this locality, the Federal Government’s at­tention was kept closely fixed on this area, and considerable concern was felt about the events that were occurring here, as will be shown by the following letter of President Lincoln to General Scott, under date of April 25, 1861:

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May 3

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Friday, May 3, 2013 7:45 AM

The level of significance and strategic use of Airships has fluctuated since their introduction to service in the U.S. Navy in the early part of the 20th century. However, it’s mode of operation and deployment is similar to the days of old and they still play a vital role in today’s modern Navy.

USS Los Angeles

USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), moored to USS Patoka (AO-9), off Panama during Fleet Problem XII, circa February 1931.
Photo #: NH 73285

 

1931: The USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) was a rigid airship built in 1923–1924 in Friedrichshafen, Germany but was surrendered to the US Navy by the German Government as part of the war reparations from World War I. The ZR-3 went on to log a total of 4,398 hours of flight, covering a distance of 172,400 nautical miles (319,300 km) traveling to places in both the Pacific and the Atlantic. It served as an observatory and experimental platform, as well as a training ship for other airships. The USS Patoka (AO-9) was a fleet oiler named after the Patoka River and was made famous as a tender for airships.

KEY WEST, Florida (April 24, 2013) Military Sealift Command-chartered vessel HSV 2 Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K Aerostat. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released)

KEY WEST, Florida (April 24, 2013) Military Sealift Command-chartered vessel HSV 2 Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K Aerostat. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released)

2013: The Military Sealift Command’s high-speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K aerostat gets underway from Key West, Florida on 24 April to conduct a series of at-sea capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat can support future operations in the U.S. 4th fleet area of responsibility. The TIF-25K, which can be deployed and operational within a few hours of arrival on site, supports not only communications and intelligence gathering but also surveillance and reconnaissance activities. The HSV 2 is a non-commissioned, hybrid catamaran originally leased by the Navy as a mine countermeasure and sea basing test platform. It is now primarily used for fleet support and humanitarian partnership missions and its home port is Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, VA.

 
May 1

May 1, 1898: Admiral Dewey Defeats the Spanish at the Battle of Manila Bay

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 1:00 AM

This article, titled “Manila Bay in 1898″ and written by Captain Edward L. Beach, was published in the April 1920 issue of Proceedings.

Recently I have read journals and letters I wrote in 1898 while attached to the U. S. S. Baltimore in Manila Bay. The events of those stirring days come vividly to mind and are fresh in memory as if they had happened yesterday. What follows is a narrative of those events as they seemed at the time to a participant, so this article is not history. No attempt is made to give a connected account or description of Admiral Dewey’s campaign. A person in a battle, particularly if he plays a subordinate part, sees but a small part of the actual battle, and his mental vision generally is limited. All that is offered in this paper are the views and ideas of a subordinate officer whose own part was not large, and these views are given as they existed at the time, uninfluenced and unmodified by knowledge gained later. Here goes!

Late in April, 1898, the U. S. S. Baltimore, in company with other ships of Commodore Dewey’s squadron, left Mirs Bay, China, bound for Manila.

The captain of the Baltimore was Nehemiah Mayo Dyer, who was then 60 years old. Captain Dyer had entered the navy during the Civil War as a volunteer officer. Previous to this he had seen rough service in whaling ships. I think that by nature he had a vehement temper, and that this had been accentuated by his early training in merchant ships where the crews frequently were rough and disorderly and understood better the meaning of hard knocks than of soft words. Aboard the Baltimore Captain Dyer some­times seemed unnecessarily harsh. His standards of character and duty were high. And when, as happened at times, he believed officers and crew did not measure up to his standards, his re­proofs and reprimands were expressed in violent language. His uncompromising intolerance, his harsh temper, caused us to fear him at all times, and sometimes to carry with us a sense of injury. But in time we came to know he was magnificent in his efforts to keep his ship and his officers and crew high in efficiency and high in morale. Though not gentle in methods he was withal an officer and a gentleman of the highest, truest type; and in remembrance of his sterling character the Navy Department has recently named a new destroyer Dyer.

When we steamed away from Mirs Bay, that April day, we knew but little of the Philippine Islands, not even that Manila was spelled with but one “l.” Rumor, eagerly believed, told us that the narrow entrances leading from the outside to Manila Bay were filled with mines and defended by high-powered modern coast defense cannon, all of which added to the intense interest that was with us.

On the second day out “all hands” were called aft to the quar­terdeck. Here Captain Dyer made a speech to his ship’s company.

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Apr 29

CSS Alabama Britten Shell and Box

Monday, April 29, 2013 3:09 PM

CSS Alabama, a screw sloop-of-war, was commissioned by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It was built in Liverpool, England and launched on 24 August 1862. Alabama served the Confederate Navy as a commerce raider and captured more than 60 vessels during her two year storied career.

On 19 June 1864, Alabama left port in Cherbourg, France to engage the USS Kearsarge. Approximately an hour after the first shot of the battle had been fired Alabama began to sink. The commander of Alabama, Raphael Semmes, then surrendered and the ship’s survivors were rescued by Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound.

Semmes on Alabama

The wreck site of Alabama was discovered in 1984 by the French Navy mine hunter Circe, and an agreement was created between the French and United States governments to form a committee that would oversee any archaeological work on the site.

Several artifacts were recovered from the wreck site of Alabama, including a wooden box housing a shell which has been of particular interest. This is in part due to the unique nature of this set of artifacts. While it is not unusual to find shells, discovering a box built to house a single shell is not common. The box and shell are both currently being housed and studied at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

The box and shell were found in excellent condition and received prompt conservation treatment at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. A lack of oxygen and cold temperatures both contributed to the exceptional state of preservation of the artifacts.

Alabama 021

The 7-inch Britten pattern shell and wooden box recovered from the CSS Alabama.

Research revealed that the shell is a 7-inch Britten pattern shell. Britten projectiles were patented in Great Britain in 1855 by Sir Bashley Britten. Britten’s patent for a new shell also introduced an innovative method for attaching sabots to shells in an attempt to increase the accuracy of the weapon. Both the Union and Confederate forces used Britten shells, however only the Confederate States purchased the shells in large calibers.

Information regarding the box, however, has proven more difficult to uncover. General references to boxes for shell and other ordnance storage have been found in multiple sources. These resources include the ordnance manuals for the Confederate and United States Navies as well as the writings of the chief foreign agent for the Confederate States, James D. Bulloch. However, research about the exact origins and purpose of the Alabama box is ongoing.

Alabama 023

Another view of the shell and box displaying the damaged portion of the box.

Specific information about the cargo and equipment aboard Confederate ships is frequently difficult or nearly impossible to find with the current sources available. Precise data was often not recorded for wartime security or has been destroyed over the years. For example, Confederate leaders were careful to not provide specific information regarding the sources of their supplies. In a letter discussing the purchasing of supplies and ships for the Confederate Navy, Bulloch wrote to a colleague, “The fear that this letter may fall into wrong hands induces me to withhold the names of the contractors.”

While the box and shell remain a bit of a mystery, conservation will be the key to uncovering more of their secrets. Only through proper conservation can we continue to research, study, and analyze vital artifacts.

 
Apr 18

71st Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid

Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:00 AM

April 18th, 1942

Launching of the Doolittle Raid

Seventy one years ago, the first American air raid on Japan was made, a little more than four months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The raid, for which Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle earned the Medal of Honor, was instrumental in lifting American morale at the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II. In acknowledgement of the 65th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, the April 2007 issue of Proceedings included an article by Barrett Tillman, which documented the origins of the raid and its influence on American performance in the war. As Tillman emphasized in his article, the Doolittle Raid was not simply valuable for increasing American morale, but for uniting the various service branches in joint efforts to make the best possible use of limited resources in a large-scale war. According to Tillman’s article, the Doolittle Raid was the first of many successful joint efforts, and began a tradition of interservice alliances which continues today.

Officially it was the First Special Aviation Project, a bold concept devised by a naval officer—a submariner, no less—and executed by Sailors and Airmen. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 
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