Apr 1

Operation Iceberg — Okinawa Invasion in 1945

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 1:33 PM

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

Editor’s Note: The following photos tell just a brief story of the U.S. Navy’s involvement during the Okinawa Invasion and Battle of Okinawa. One of the unique items NHHC has in its archives is an oral history of Cmdr. Frederick J. Becton, commanding officer of destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which saw action during the Okinawa operations. To read Cmdr. Becton’s interview click here. All the photos below are courtesy of NHHC’s Photo Archives, the Navy Art Collection and the National Archives.

 D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).


D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).

On April 1, 1945, under heavy naval gunfire and aircraft support, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops began the invasion of Okinawa, the last major amphibious assault of World War II. For Japan, the island was the barrier to a direct invasion of its homeland, while to the Allies, once the island was in their control, it would clear the path for the final invasion of Japan. When the island was finally declared secure on June 21, after 82 days of battle, the campaign ended up being the largest and one of the most costly battles in the Pacific.

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

 Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, 1 April 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055


Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, April 1, 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

The invasion and ultimate seizure of Okinawa was not an easy operation, in fact it was a significantly costly operation. From April – June 1945, U.S. Navy merchant ships went to this island in great numbers with the intent of bringing much needed supplies — bombs, gasoline, and more, to consolidate the operational needs of this outpost on the direct road to Tokyo.

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14"/50 main battery guns, 1 April 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-K-3829 (Color).

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14″/50 main battery guns, April 1, 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (80-G-K-3829 (Color).

 USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, 1 April 1945. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-325209.


USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, April 1, 1945. 80-G-325209.

 Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, 1 April 1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of the NHHC Photo Archives), NH 89369.


Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, April 1,1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. NH 89369.

The operation, under the strategic command of Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on March 18, 1945, and initial landings on Okinawa itself on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. An enormous assemblage of ships participated in the operation, during which 36 of them of destroyer size or smaller were lost, most to the heaviest concentration of kamikaze attacks of the war.

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, April 1, 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

 Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).

 Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground.

 Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.


Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

As April 7 rolled around, the last remnants of the Japanese Navy were met by overwhelming Navy airpower. Japanese battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk in the one-day battle. Once U.S. Joint Forces secured Okinawa, the supply lanes of the East China Sea were blocked, isolating all southern possessions which were still in Japanese hands … the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands was finally cleared.

To learn more about the Navy’s participation at Okinawa, click here. You can also read more about the U.S. Army’s involvement by clicking here.

 
Mar 26

March 27, 1953: Korean War Sailor Earns Medal of Honor

Thursday, March 26, 2015 3:57 PM
NH 59604 Hammond

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond

 

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

Residents of Alexandria, Va. can honor an American hero with a tip of their hats to Francis C. Hammond Middle School on Seminary Road this Friday. It was 62 years ago on Friday when that school’s namesake, a young Alexandria man, performed “great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds” while taking care of wounded members of the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

Hammond was born Nov. 9, 1931 to Harry and Elvira Hammond, in Alexandria, Va. Harry worked at a pharmacy, and after high school Francis joined him, planning to become a pharmacist.

Then, on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations Security Council called the invasion a “breach of peace” and President Harry S. Truman quickly committed American troops to a combined United Nations force to defend the 38th parallel.

Francis decided to enlist, joining the Navy. First, he headed off to the Navy’s Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Ill. Once a medic, he proceeded to California for more training. Anticipating he would be sent to Korea, Francis married his girlfriend in June 1952. The following year, Feb. 1, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Hammond was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in South Korea.

On the night of March 26, Hammond and the 1st Marines were trying to retake Combat Outpost Reno, which the North Koreans had overrun earlier that day. The Marines encountered heavy mortar and artillery fire as they neared the outpost.

“We kept going forward and finally gained posts in a small shallow trench,” said Marine Sgt. William R. Janzen from a series of articles collected by B.J. Sullivan a librarian at the school which bears Hammond’s name.

Undeterred and undaunted by the mortar and artillery fire, Hammond got to work.

“He was all over the place patching up the wounded, no matter how slight their wounds,” Janzen remembered. “Even after he himself was wounded he continued moving about the area, ignoring his own wounds, and giving as much aid and comfort to the other wounded as he possibly could under the circumstances.

“The bravest man I saw out there that night was Corpsman Hammond.”

As a relief unit showed up, Hammond’s division was ordered to pull back. Hammond refused. According to the Virginia War Memorial’s website, “[he] did not want to leave his men, so he stayed behind to help evacuate the wounded, refusing care for himself. While assisting the units relieving them, [Hammond] was mortally wounded by enemy mortar fire.”

Four months later, an armistice would end the conflict.

For his actions, Hammond posthumously received the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation concludes, “By his exceptional fortitude, inspiring initiative and self-sacrificing efforts, HC Hammond undoubtedly saved the lives of many Marines. His great personal valor in the face of overwhelming odds enhances and sustains the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

A port bow view of the frigate USS FRANCIS HAMMOND (FF 1067) underway.

In his honor, the Navy commissioned a frigate named for him on July 25, 1970, the USS Francis Hammond (FF 1067). She served her country until decommissioned in July 2, 1992.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School was named for the Medal of Honor recipient in 1956. It became a middle school in the 1970s.

The Francis C. Hammond High School, which opened in 1956, was named in his honor. Now a middle school, “the school crest (donated by the Class of ‘62) still graces the floor of Hammond’s central hall with the motto ‘Vivat Academia’ (Long live Academics) and is protected by four sparkling brass 3-inch .50 caliber ammunition shells (simulated) donated by the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia,” according to a city of Alexandria website. There is also the Francis Hammond Parkway, a street in Alexandria lined with tidy brick homes.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Francis C. Hammond never saw the middle school named in his honor. But no doubt another legacy Hammond would leave behind — Francis C. Hammond Jr., born a few months after his father’s death – would see the school named for his father’s selfless action.

 

 
Mar 23

Driving Navy Innovation: Turboelectric to Hybrid Propulsion

Monday, March 23, 2015 4:39 PM

By Rear Adm. Kevin Slates

Director, Energy and Environmental Readiness Division

Rear Admiral Kevin R. Slates

Rear Admiral Kevin R. Slates

Ninety-eight years ago today, the Navy deployed a new technology on USS New Mexico (BB 40) that was then hailed as one of the most important achievements of the scientific age: the turboelectric drive. Before this major event, ships used a direct-drive steam turbine, which started with the HMS Dreadnought. Direct drive turbines were very efficient at faster speeds, but at slow speeds they wasted energy when the propeller turned too quickly, causing cavitation. Since the average underway speed of battleships was under 15 knots, this proved to be an issue.

Photographed from an airplane, while steaming in line with other battleships, 13 April 1919. Note S.E.5A airplane atop the flying-off platform atop the battleship's second turret. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph)

Photographed from an airplane, while steaming in line with other battleships, 13 April 1919. Note S.E.5A airplane atop the flying-off platform atop the battleship’s second turret. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph)

The newly designed turboelectric drive used only one turbine, and rather than driving the propeller shaft, it turned one or two electric generators. The electricity was then routed to electric motors mounted to the propeller shaft heads. Using this method, the turbine would turn at a constant, highly efficient rotation rate, while the electric motors would turn at the most efficient speed to turn the propellers. For full backing power, the electric motors were simply reversed, which eliminated the need for several pieces of equipment and steam piping.

The decision to install the turboelectric drive proved more economical, fuel efficient, and helped improve maneuverability. This innovative technology gave USS New Mexico a strategic advantage over her sister ships, and the nickname, “The Electric Ship.” USS New Mexico would ultimately become the flagship of the newly-organized Pacific Fleet, and an essential part of the war effort during World War II.

NH 59949

The Navy continues to drive toward new technologies that increase combat capability. Over the past six years, with the commissioning of USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in 2009 and USS America (LHA 6) in 2014, the Navy included auxiliary propulsion systems (APSs) on our newest amphibious platforms in addition to the main gas turbine engines. Ships equipped with APS use less fuel at slower speeds, which represents the majority of time amphibious ships operate. During slow speed operations, the APS draws electrical power generated from the ship’s service generators, which are used for HVAC systems, lighting, combat control systems, etc., to assume the full propulsion load. This greatly increases fuel efficiency by being able to shut down the gas turbines engines, which are efficient at high speeds, but inefficient at slow speeds. This can allow the ship to remain on station longer, extend the time between refueling, or transit greater distances which directly increases the ship’s ability to respond in times of combat or crisis.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 22, 2014) The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) is underway as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond/Released)

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 22, 2014) The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) is underway as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond/Released)

The next generation of energy efficient propulsion is the Hybrid Electric Drive Electric Propulsion System (HED EPS), which is planned to be installed on Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) Class Flight IIA ships. HED EPS attaches an electric motor to the propulsion plant to enable the ship to draw power from the ship’s electric generators and shut down main propulsion engines. Similar to the USS Makin Island and USS America, using the ship’s electrical power for propulsion at slower speeds can save tremendous amounts of fuel. For example, using HED EPS 50% of the time can increase time on station by as much as two-and-a-half days between refueling, which can provide extra time at on station or greater endurance when the ship’s Captain and crew may need it most.

The Navy continues to explore an array of technological innovations to our energy challenges. Some examples include upgrading to solid state (LED) lighting aboard ships to improve Sailor’s working conditions and reduce energy consumption; using stern flaps to improve fuel economy; and using anti-fouling coatings to minimize hull drag. We’re also working to integrate energy awareness into our training pipeline, and implementing best practices that capitalize on lessons learned from technical experts and our deckplate Sailors.

Looking forward, we’re turning towards more innovative ways to manage power on our ships. For example, DDG 1000, which is the Navy’s newest class of “Electric Ship” generates and stores electrical power using a common system, which is then used to distribute power throughout the ship for all its energy needs, including propulsion, heating and cooling, combat systems, and weapons. This type of capability is not only more efficient, but it’s essential to support the high energy weapons Navy is currently fielding, such as the laser weapon and electromagnetic railgun.

PCU Zumwalt (DDG 1000)

PCU Zumwalt (DDG 1000)

If you have an energy idea you believe will help the Navy improve our ability to perform our mission and propel us into the future, we’d like to hear about it. You can email our energy team at energywarrior@navy.mil and download the Navy’s Energy Warrior App here. To learn more about the Navy’s ongoing energy initiatives, visit http://greenfleet.dodlive.mil/energy.

 
Mar 21

Celebrating the First Women to Join the Naval Reserve Force

Saturday, March 21, 2015 8:00 AM
Chief Petty Officer Loretta P. Walsh photographed circa 1917 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Chief Petty Officer Loretta P. Walsh photographed circa 1917 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Holly Quick, public affairs specialist, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Every March during Women’s History Month we commemorate the diverse contributions women have made, and continue to make, to our nation and our military. This March also marks the Centennial of the Navy Reserve and it would be remiss not to celebrate the contributions of Chief Yeoman (F) Loretta P. Walsh, the first woman enrolled in the Naval Reserve Force, and the women who joined her in support of the First World War.

In March 1917, as the United States was reaching the final decision to enter World War I, the Navy’s need for clerical assistance was far greater than had been anticipated. Shore stations, whose activities had been increased by the preparation for war, were asking for assistance.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels consulted with his legal advisers and discovered just because women had never served in the Naval Reserve as yeomen didn’t mean it was prohibited by law.

“Then enroll women in the Naval Reserve as yeomen,” said Daniels, “and we will have the best clerical assistance the country can provide.”

On March 19, 1917, the Navy Department authorized the enrollment of women in the Naval Reserve. Women served under Class 4, the Naval Coast Defense Reserve, of the 1916 United States Naval Reserve Force, which included members who were capable of performing special useful service in the Navy or in connection with the Navy in defense of the coast.

The circular from the Bureau of Navigation stated:

“The Bureau authorizes the enrollment of women in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve in the ratings of yeoman, electrician (radio), or in such other ratings as the commandant may consider essential to the district organizations.”

World War I Navy "Yeoman (F)" women lined up outdoors, with what might be the Washington Monument behind them, national mall, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

World War I Navy “Yeoman (F)” women lined up outdoors, with what might be the Washington Monument behind them, national mall, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

On March 21, 1917, two years after the Naval Reserve was established, and two days after women were authorized to enroll in the Navy, Walsh enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a Chief Yeoman. By the time the U.S. joined its allies to fight in World War I on April 6, 200 women had joined her.

To distinguish these women from their male counterparts the Navy established the rate of Yeoman (F), though they were also known as “Yeomanettes” or “Yeowomen.” Men and women in the same rank earned equal pay, something that was unheard of in the civilian sector. However, unlike their male counterparts, the highest rank a Yeoman (F) could reach was that of chief petty officer.

 

At the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany on Nov. 11, 1918, a total of 11,275 Yeomen (F) had served in the Navy. All Yeomen (F) were released from active duty by July 31, 1919, and to them Secretary Daniels sent the following message:

“It is with deep gratitude for the splendid service rendered by the Yeomen (F) during our national emergency that I convey to them the sincere appreciation of the Navy Department for their patriotic cooperation.”

To read more about Women in the Navy, please visit NHHC’s website: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy.html

 
Mar 19

‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley’s European Theater Exploits Heroic

Thursday, March 19, 2015 7:40 AM
In Naples harbor, Italy, in August 1944, just prior to the Invasion of Southern France. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

In Naples harbor, Italy, in August 1944, just prior to the Invasion of Southern France. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

If you were intrigued last week by Lt. John D. “Sea Wolf” Bulkeley’s daring journey to drive his PT boat 600 miles in unchartered waters, through minefields and dodging Japanese patrol boats to get General Douglas MacArthur to safety, then you’re in luck today; there is more to his story. The commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three was no one-hit wonder when it came to World War II heroics.

Bulkeley’s exploits didn’t end in the Pacific Theater. By June 6, 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley was commanding officer of the PT squadrons protecting the Normandy Invasion fleet from attacks by E-boats, the German version of Bulkeley’s own PT boats.

Photo of Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley dated dated Sept. 4, 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Photo of Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley dated dated Sept. 4, 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

During an interview with CBS journalist Charles Collingwood on July 3, 1944, Bulkeley explained his squadron protected minesweepers that cleared the path for the invading fleet of warships and landing craft of Operation Overlord. His PT boats were among the first to enter Cherbourg harbor, “but we didn’t stay long,” he quipped.

The PT boats were being used to draw fire from a shore battery that was holding out. Sure enough, they drew fire and just as surely, they it. When they returned the following day, there was a white flag on the fort.

Bulkeley shrugged off the interviewer’s concern about mines and having officers of high rank onboard. “Well, we’re used to mines and to high rank. We had the King of England aboard this ship (his flagship PT 517) not so long ago (the day before the invasion). … He asked me how I got along with the British. I told him I was getting along fine. In fact, five years ago, I married a British girl.”

When Collingwood asked Bulkeley which campaign was tougher, the Pacific or European theaters, Bulkeley explained it was the Pacific. “Over here (Europe) you don’t have mosquitos, malaria and rain. You have short distances to run. Only six hours of darkness right now, and you are fighting the Germans and not the [Japanese]. With the [Japanese], you know if you meet them, that it is a battle to the death. They don’t run away, and you know that if you are sunk, they will leave you to drown or try to kill you in the water. And then if you are lucky enough to reach land, they’ll kill you on the land. Over here, there is still some decency to war, if war ever can be decent.”

In mid-July, just 38 days after the Invasion of Normandy, he was given the command of destroyer Endicott (DD 495). The destroyer would be part of a ruse in appearing to invade La Ciotat to draw two German divisions from St. Tropez. The destroyer fired 3,000 rounds continuously over two nights, Bulkeley recalled in a Proceedings Magazine article in August 1994. The diversion worked. When Gen. Mark Clark landed his troops where the real assault took place in Southern France for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, he lost only one soldier who stepped on a mine.

Pictured from left to right: Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., USNR, Commander of the Special Operations Group’s Eastern Diversionary Unit, Capt. Henry C. Johnson, commander Special Operations Group and Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley, commanding officer of USS Endicott (DD 495) on the destroyer’s bridge during the Southern France Operation in August 1944. This photo may have been taken after the Aug. 17 engagement that sank the German corvette Capriola and armed yacht Nimet Allah. Courtesy of Rear Adm. John D. Bulkeley Naval History and Heritage Command photograph NH 54383

Pictured from left to right: Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., USNR, Commander of the Special Operations Group’s Eastern Diversionary Unit, Capt. Henry C. Johnson, commander Special Operations Group and Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley, commanding officer of USS Endicott (DD 495) on the destroyer’s bridge during the Southern France Operation in August 1944. Courtesy of Rear Adm. John D. Bulkeley Naval History and Heritage Command photograph NH 54383

Following the operation, Bulkeley was sent to Sicily for repairs to Endicott. Along the way, he heard two German gunboats were attacking two British ships, the Scarab and Aphis. “They were river gunboats built for China duty, and they had very little fire control. Their guns were small and their speed was not more than 8 or 12 knots,” he said.

Bulkeley turned his ship around immediately to provide assistance. “We soon saw huge clouds of black smoke, which looked almost as though some ships were on fire. I didn’t know what was on the other side, so I crashed on through.”

The British ships were in retreat, followed by the German corvettes Nimet Allah and Capriolo going 28-30 knots, Bulkeley recalled. Endicott was cruising at 36 knots.

“When you run into the enemy, you’ve got to attack, no question about it,” he said.

Unfortunately for Bulkeley, some of his guns had overheated during the heavy bombardment at La Ciotat and the breaches weren’t closing. There was only one gun working at mount three, and the gunner’s mate first class was pumping the shells in by hand and using a sledgehammer to close the breach.

With one gun blazing at two German ships armed with 5-inch guns, the Endicott zigg and zagged toward her targets. “We swept the decks with the 40-mm and 20-mm gunfire,” Bulkeley said. “By this time, we had closed to within 800 yards, and our 5-inch guns were scoring some hits. One of the ships capsized and the other sank later on.”

With the fight over, Endicott picked up 179 German survivors, giving them medical treatment.

Sketch by Radioman 2nd Class Grantier, depicting Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley photographing the sinking of the German corvette Nimet Allah by Endicott during the Southern France Operation, Aug. 17, 1944. He is using a 35mm camera. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Sketch by Radioman 2nd Class Grantier, depicting Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley photographing the sinking of the German corvette Nimet Allah by Endicott during the Southern France Operation, Aug. 17, 1944. He is using a 35mm camera. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Bulkeley would later serve on cruisers and a battleship, but he remained loyal to the needs of smaller craft, such as the Cyclone (PC 1) class most of which are still in service today.

“These boats are far more sophisticated,” he said of the PCs in the 1994 interview. “They are more capable, have more firepower, and are more deadly than I ever even envisioned in my PT boats. There’s a future for them all right.”

Those ships remain in service today and are an important part of the Navy’s presence in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.

 
Mar 13

Military Sealift Command and Innovation: New Platforms and Avenues for Meeting Navy’s Needs

Friday, March 13, 2015 3:00 PM
Sacramento (AOE-1), the first of a new class of underway-replenishment ships designed to provide fuel, ammunition, freight, and provisions to the fleet at sea. Bigger than most battleships of World War II, and comparable in size to many aircraft carriers of that period, her high speed makes it possible for Sacramento to operate as an integral part of a fast carrier task force. In one seven-month deployment to Vietnam, she provided rapid, versatile support to naval forces in that theater; cargo and passengers were transferred in alongside replenishments and by heavy-lift cargo helicopter on 583 different occasions.

Sacramento (AOE-1), the first of a new class of underway-replenishment ships designed to provide fuel, ammunition, freight, and provisions to the fleet at sea.

By Rear Adm. Kevin C. Hayes, Deputy Commander, Military Sealift Command

RDMLHayes

Rear Adm. Kevin C. Hayes

 

This day in 1964, our Navy commissioned USS Sacramento (AOE 1) at Seattle, Washington. She was the first ship that combined the characteristics of an oiler, ammunition and supply ship. Anyone familiar with the current class of fast combat support ships can see the enduring value of fast, one-stop shopping for our combatant vessels at sea.

Today’s Navy still puts a premium on the innovative design and use of new ship platforms, but it’s no secret that we operate in a tough fiscal environment. Budget realities mean leaders must provide the best possible bang for our nation’s buck while still meeting emergent requirements worldwide. As Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert outlined in his Sailing Directions, our number one priority is warfighting.

Military Sealift Command is a strong enabler for Navy and Marine Corps warfighting and this innovation mindset. In particular, the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) platform represents one centerpiece of the seabasing concept that will permit our forces to operate away from the shore, ultimately supporting special forces missions, counter-piracy/smuggling operations, maritime security operations and mine clearance, as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Keeping with MSC’s emphasis on innovation, in early 2012, MSC converted USS Ponce from an amphibious transport dock ship to an AFSB-I (Interim) that deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet roughly six months after work began. Ponce’s work in the region – which included acting as a base for mine-sweeping MH-53E Sea Dragons in the Persian Gulf as well as serving as a test bed for the deployment of the Navy’s new Laser Weapon System – continues to the present. The ship’s success is a terrific example of looking beyond a ship’s original design to leverage new capabilities.

The recently christened USNS Lewis B. Puller, expected to deliver later this year, is the first of three permanent vessels specifically designed as AFSBs and are built on the same hull as our new mobile landing platforms. Together, with several other vessels that MSC operates, Puller will give the Navy and Marine Corps team fresh, forward-based options for these critical missions.

To be sure, Puller and its sister AFSBs are no replacement for amphibious warships. They are intended for relatively secure maritime environments, where they can perform tasks that free up amphibious ships for their intended purpose – high-end warfighting.

Despite this caveat, Puller is an impressive at-sea home for warfighters and their equipment. Our Navy and Marine Corps demand innovative, cost-effective platforms like Puller. MSC will continue to provide the proven, expert operation of these vessels so warfighters can do their jobs.

 
Mar 11

‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley’s Daring Journey Earns Medal of Honor

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 3:40 PM
Lt. John D. Bulkeley, photographed while on board a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT), circa 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Lt. John D. Bulkeley, photographed while on board a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT), circa 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Seventy-three years ago, Lt. John D. Bulkeley, the commander of Patrol Torpedo Boat No. 41, waited at the north pier off the island of Corregidor for the words that would begin a harrowing 2-day journey through minefields, unchartered waters and a Japanese fleet on the prowl.

“You may cast off, Buck, when you are ready.”

With those words spoken by American General of the Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Bulkeley, commanding officer of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, pulled away at 7:45 p.m. March 11, 1942, into what was becoming increasingly a misty and moonless night.

Japanese forces had gained a stronghold in the Philippines, and they were closing in on the island that housed MacArthur, his family and staff, plus an additional 14,000 military and civilian personnel, including Gen. Jonathan Wainwright. MacArthur wanted to stay and fight, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur off the island to prevent his capture, which would be demoralizing to the nation still recovering from the shock of the attack at Pearl Harbor and then the surrender at Wake Island.

Sources may argue when and why MacArthur agreed to have his small staff and family travel by PT boats across close to 600 miles of ocean dotted with reefs, through a harbor strewn with mines and a dragnet of prowling Japanese ships. Initially, plans were to have MacArthur spirited away in the submarine USS Permit (SS 178) or flown out by PBY flying boats.

Those plans may have been scrapped due to MacArthur’s claustrophobic tendencies, or that he had never flown before, not to mention the problems Catalinas had landing at Corregidor.

But no one questioned MacArthur’s belief and trust in Lt. John D. ‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley.

MacArthur and Bulkeley were already stationed at Corregidor before the war began. MacArthur had a soft spot for the small, swift patrol torpedo (PT) boats. He had even recommended the Navy Department add something similar to their fleet of ships as defensive weapons in the mid-1930s. The Navy was not impressed. MacArthur never forgot the snub.

So when MacArthur was appointed to defend the Philippines, he took a special interest in PT boat operations and required the squadron commander to report directly to him each day in person.

As MacArthur weighed the options – by sea or by air – the general chose the risky option of traveling above the water by PT boat, trusting his fate in the hands of the lieutenant he called a “bold buckaroo with the cold green eyes.”

It was hardly the easiest option. To make the distance, the PT boats would need to carry drums of gasoline on their decks that could easily be struck by a stray bullet or shrapnel. After being loaded down with an additional three tons of fuel, the boat’s main advantage, its speed, would be reduced to 30 knots. The boats themselves had no radar and only a few areas of the ocean had been mapped.

Bulkeley himself was lobbied hard during the days leading up to the departure. Thinking MacArthur would no doubt take the submarine, some of the remaining officers wooed Bulkekey as to when and where he might pick up them and their families to get them “out of Dodge” before the Japanese set foot on the island. Bulkeley made no effort to dissuade them since MacArthur’s departure was kept secret.

MacArthur had already told Wainwright he would be left behind with dwindling supplies and facing the full brunt of the Japanese forces. He promised upon his return to Corregidor he would promote Wainwright to lieutenant general. Wainwright promised if he was still alive, he would be there when MacArthur returned. Only one could keep their promise.

On the evening of the departure, however, the gig was up as MacArthur’s chosen chariot proved to be Bulkeley’s squadron. More than 15 of MacArthur’s staff were ferried to Bataan where they loaded onto PT boats 32, 34 and 35. So it was just MacArthur, his wife, Jean, 4-year-old son Arthur 32 35and his nanny, his aide Lt. Col. Sidney Huff and three other staffers who left from Corregidor.

After Bulkeley’s PT 41 caught up with the other three, they traversed a mine-laden harbor in single file before speeding through the choppy waters. It didn’t take long for the Army and civilian personnel to feel the effects of what the Navy men called “moderate” seas, which only worsened during the tripmarked by occasional squalls. Nearly all were violently seasick, including MacArthur, who stated in his 1964 book “Reminiscences: General of the Army,” that being on the PT boat was “what it must be like to take a trip in a concrete mixer.”

The only passenger who seemed not to mind was an air corps captain, oblivious to motion sickness, who slept soundly, snoring in his bunk, during the trip.

The trip took its toll on the Navy men of Squadron Three. With no maps and virtually no light, the boats became separated. PT 34 arrived first at the planned rendezvous point at Tagauayan Island. When PT 32’s operator saw a ship in the distance, he thought it was a Japanese destroyer and jettisoned fuel to increase the speed of the boat, only to find out the silhouette he saw was PT 41 with a couple of passengers standing. Attempts to collect the jettisoned fuel became futile, so PT 41 and PT 32 continued to the rendezvous point to find PT 34. But there was no sign of PT 35.

With only two good engines and little fuel, the passengers on PT 32 were divided between PT 41 and 34 which headed for their destination. The crew of PT 32 stayed behind to wait for the submarine Permit. Which was lucky for the crew of PT 35 – they finally arrived at Tagauayan Island and were told by the PT 32 crew that the other two PT boats had already left for their destination, so PT 35 followed.

Bulkeley’s crew had no easier time with it, even with their skipper handling the navigation. With no sleep in more than 48 hours, one crew member fainted while at the wheel, and another was found dozing while standing up in gale-force winds.

Bulkeley and his second-in-command, Lt. Robert Kelly, when they weren’t slicing through stormy seas, now faced a daylight dash through the Mindanao Sea, narrowly missing detection by one apparently inattentive Japanese warship. MacArthur had wanted to press on, fearing he would miss the awaiting B-17s at Cagayan that would take him to Australia. He had no way to know the planes would be delayed three days.

Upon his arrival at Cagayan, a shaky MacArthur voiced his appreciation for Squadron Three’s daring voyage.

“You’ve taken me out of the jaws of death and I won’t forget it,” MacArthur vowed.

A few hours later, PT 35 would arrive, completing the mission with all aboard. The sub Permit picked up the remaining 32 crew members, although the boat was sunk rather than leaving it for the Japanese. Bulkeley, not knowing the fate of PT 32, spent several hours in planes searching for his missing crew.

MacArthur, in the meantime, was aghast at the Flying Fortress that landed with damaged turbo superchargers and faulty brakes, bullet holes patched by ration cans and piloted by a 24-year-old and youthful-looking Lt. Harl Pease. He rejected the plane stating no way would he put his family and staff on “that broken down crate with a boy at the controls.”

While waiting for another plane, MacArthur would have one more request for his “buckaroo.” He tasked Bulkeley with evacuating Philippine President Manuel Quezon from his location on the island of Negros. Quezon, sick from tuberculous, was tired of his homeland being fought over by the Americans and Japanese, and entertained the thought of going neutral so both warring factions would leave. MacArthur did not want that to happen. So Bulkeley was told to fetch him “by any means necessary.”

Quezon at first resisted the notion of leaving the Philippines. In George W. Smith’s 2005 book “MacArthur’s Escape: John ‘Wild Man’ Bulkeley and the Rescue of an American Hero,” there is a passage that might explain Quezon’s reluctance in following the “reincarnated pirate” who stood before him on March 18.

“The skipper wore no uniform, only an old oilskin. His boots were mud-caked, and his unruly black beard and longish hair tied around his head with a bandanna gave him a menacing appearance. Embellishing that sinister look, Bulkeley strode around with a tommy gun, two pearl-handled pistols strapped to his waist, and a nasty-looking knife tucked ominously in his belt.”

Eventually, Quezon agreed to leave, so Bulkeley whisked the Philippine president, his family and staff back to the safety of Mindanao.

Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley Receives the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, circa July 1942. Bulkeley was awarded the medal for heroism while he commanded Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three during the Philippines Campaign, December 1941 - April 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley Receives the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, circa July 1942. Bulkeley was awarded the medal for heroism while he commanded Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three during the Philippines Campaign, December 1941 – April 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

MacArthur made good on his promise to not forget “Sea Wolf” Bulkeley. He nominated the lieutenant for the Medal of Honor, which he received for his actions between Dec. 7, 1941 and April 10, 1942 as commanding officer of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three. Not one to rest of his laurels, Bulkeley continued to make his imprint on the Navy, earning the rank of vice-admiral over the course of a 55-year career. Along the way, he also earned the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star Medal (Army) with Gold Star in lieu of the Second Silver Star Medal (Navy), the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Army Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart Medal, Army Distinguished Unit Emblem, and the French and Philippine Decorations. Other awards included the China Service Medal with bronze star; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; the Korean Presidential Unit Citation Badge; and the Philippine Defense Ribbon. He also had the Expert Pistol Shot Medal and Expert Rifleman Medal.

The general would return to the Philippines as promised Oct. 20, 1944. But MacArthur would not find Gen. Jonathan Wainwright there. Those left behind on Corregidor, after living at near starvation levels and unable to fight off the Japanese, had surrendered May 6, 1942. The military and civilians not killed outright were taken as prisoners of war and worked in Japanese work camps. Wainwright, the highest-ranking American POW, survived his three years in captivity where he was often brutalized by the Japanese. MacArthur and Wainwright would meet finally after the Japanese agreed to surrender Aug. 19. MacArthur asked Wainwright to stand next to him during the formal Japanese surrender ceremony Sept. 2, 1945 on USS Missouri, and gave him the pen he used to sign the document.

One final note of interest. Remember baby-faced pilot Lt. Harl Pease? He turned 25 a few days after MacArthur rejected his patched-up B-17 and he, too, would earn a Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty” in action with the enemy Aug. 6-7, 1942. Even though he was not scheduled to take part in a bombing mission to Rabaul, New Britain, Pease prepared the most serviceable airplane at the base for combat, declared unusable for other combat missions. Despite being intercepted by 30 enemy fighter aircraft before reaching his target, Pease and his crew were successful in destroying several Zeros before dropping his bombs on the intended target. Upon his return, enemy pursuit aircraft shot down his plane. Pease and a crew member bailed out, but were captured by the Japanese. On Oct. 8, 1942, they were forced to dig their own graves and beheaded. MacArthur endorsed Pease’s nomination for the Medal of Honor, which was presented posthumously to Pease’s father.

 
Mar 10

On the Eve of Peace, the War Still Rages

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:47 PM
Alliance under sail, in a painting by Nowland Van Powell, courtesy of the Bruce Gallery, Memphis, Tenn. (NH 92873-KN)

Alliance under sail, in a painting by Nowland Van Powell, courtesy of the Bruce Gallery, Memphis, Tenn. (NH 92873-KN)

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

After a long struggle for independence, the United States of America succeeded in its break from Great Britain. Suffering several more defeats following the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781, British Parliament agreed in April 1782 to cease offensive operations against their soon-to-be ex-colony and peace negotiations began. Both sides saw no point in fighting, and an armistice was struck but an official end to the war was still more than a year away.

So for some, the Revolutionary War continued.

Especially since at the time, information took a bit longer to cross the Atlantic pond than today. As word of the cease fire spread, the battlespace of the war slowly shrunk. Cities and major battlefields got the word early. Those fighting in out-of-the-way, off-the-main-road countrysides received word a bit later. Sailors on the wine-dark open ocean got news of the armistice last.

At sea, the last shot of the American Revolutionary War was fired from the bow of the Continental frigate Alliance into the HMS Sybil, if the evidence is anything to go by.

While in France, the 32-gun Alliance received orders to Havana to transport gold to Philadelphia. After brief repairs, Alliance set out on her mission, touched at St. Eustatius and Cape Francois, and reached Havana on the last day of January 1783.

Portrait of Capt. John Barry

Portrait of Capt. John Barry

However, another American warship, the 20-gun Duc de Lauzun, was already in port on the same mission. The specie (coins) had already been loaded on that ship, so instead of waiting on orders elsewhere, Alliance’s skipper, Capt. John Barry, decided to escort Duc de Lauzun home.

Almost immediately upon getting underway, though, the duo encountered two Royal Navy frigates. Barry decided not to fight them. The risk to the cargo he escorted was too great. Alliance and Duc de Lauzun evaded their pursuers.

Three days later, on March 10, off the coast of Cape Canaveral they encountered the same pair—HMS Alarm and HMS Sybil. Again, Barry chose to evade rather than engage the enemy.

At first, Alliance started pulling away. Duc de Lauzun, however, couldn’t maneuver as swiftly, and Alarm started gaining ground on her. And then Alarm gave up. Sybil was left to her lonesome for the presumed attack—which she then started.

Once within range, Sybil began firing on Duc de Lauzun. But she was overconfident. Perhaps her captain thought the evading ships under-capable or unprepared for a fight. If so, he was wrong.

Alliance was well able to fight, and Barry maneuvered her between Sybil and Duc de Lauzun so his comrades could break for safety. Sybil refocused her attention and turned her fire toward Alliance. She managed to send one shot from her bow chaser into the American frigate’s cabin, mortally wounding a junior officer and scattering many splinters.

But Barry held his fire. Not until Alliance was within a stone’s throw of her opponent did he unleash his broadside on his enemy. The two crews engaged in of close-in fighting warfare for either 40 minutes or a lifetime.

During the battle, Sybil’s captain, Capt. James Vashon, saw his eventual defeat. In fact, he said he had “never seen a ship so ably fought as the Alliance.” Capt. Barry impressed him. “Every quality of a great commander was brought out with extraordinary brilliancy,” Vashon said of Barry.

While this brief naval battle raged, diplomats were negotiating the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which would be officially signed Sept. 3, 1783, ending the Revolutionary War.

But out on the deep blue sea, America’s sea warriors made sure the final battle of the American Revolution was a victory for the new republic.