Sep 23

“The Fastest Ship in the Navy”: The Strange Saga of the USS Reina Mercedes

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 6:00 AM


Reina Spanish

On April 29, 1898, Almirante (Admiral) Pascual Cervera y Topete of the Spanish Navy steamed out of Cape Verde islands with a fleet of four armored cruisers and three destroyers. His destination: the West Indies, to defend Spain’s empire against the American fleet. Hampered by a number of deficiencies, the fleet struggled into the harbor at Santiago de Cuba. Meeting and later joining the squadron there was the Reina Mercedes, an unarmored cruiser capabale of propulsion under both sail and steam. Built in Cartagena, Spain, in 1887, she had become the station ship at Santiago in 1892. By 1898, she… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 21

Knox Lifetime Achievement Awards Honor Naval Institute Authors

Monday, September 21, 2015 1:55 PM



Naval historians from around the world mustered last week in Annapolis for the U.S. Naval Academy’s biennial two-day, deep-immersion McMullen Naval History Symposium. During a banquet at the DoubleTree Annapolis Hotel on Friday night, 18 September, attendees heralded the latest authors to receive the Commodore Dudley W. Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the U.S. Naval Historical Foundation. As in years past, the names of all three honorees in 2015, along with the namesake of the award himself, are familiar to readers of U.S. Naval Institute publications.

Sep 18

Monument of the Month: Granite, Old and New

Friday, September 18, 2015 6:00 AM



The old NSS Annapolis, otherwise known as the Naval Communications Station Washington, D.C. Transmitter, at Greenbury Point on the Severn River to the West of Annapolis, is not a place where one might expect to begin a discussion on monuments. But sometimes the most curious and intriguing of things are found in overlooked and unexpected places. The three red-and-white radio towers on the wooded peninsula, once used to communicate with submerged submarines are the most prominent reminders of what was once a bustling and active radio transmitting facility. Though it is still a gunnery range and part of the NSA… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 16

Cruisers: Interwar Roles and Limitations

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 11:52 AM



An excerpt from “The Fleet’s Ambiguous, Versatile Warships,” by Norman Friedman, in the October issue of Naval History magazine With the end of World War I, U.S. naval policy turned from concentration on Europe to concentration on the Far East and Japan. Even so, supporters of continued U.S. naval construction exploited widespread anti-British feeling in the United States by suggesting there was a U.S.-British naval rivalry. This was despite the fact that the United States and Great Britain were given naval parity in the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty while the far more likely enemy, Japan, was given the short end… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 11

The VT Fuze: The Other Secret Weapon of World War II

Friday, September 11, 2015 9:16 AM


USNI VT fuze.

As a young officer, then-Lieutenant Commander (later Admiral) W.H. P. Blandy, USN, had a keen interest in gunnery. Writing for Proceedings in 1920 (“Director Fire a Century Ago”) and 1925 (“Possible Improvements in our Gunnery Training”), LCDR Blandy understood well the history of fire control and what could be done to improve its effectiveness. Ever forward-thinking, Blandy noted elsewhere in 1925 of what a remarkable device a fuze that would detonate based on its proximity to the target would be. The key would be to find a way to trigger the shell to that its fragmentation pattern would be effective,… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 3

Target Practice!

Thursday, September 3, 2015 8:00 AM



Anyone who has had the pleasure (or should I say frustration) of searching through an archive knows you never know what you are going find. Looking through box #15 in the USNI Archives I found a unique series of photos featuring the ex-Iowa. Seeing the caption “ex” is perhaps the reason I stopped to look closer. The USS Iowa (BB-4) was originally commissioned in June 1897 and saw action in the Spanish-American War. She then spent time with the Pacific Squadron, the North Atlantic Fleet, and the South Atlantic Squadron before being decommissioned in March 1919. She was renamed Coast… Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 1

On Our Scope

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 10:37 AM



“Our New Cruisers” was how the U.S. Naval Institute announced the news in 1883. The ten-year-old organization had been founded by a group of naval officers concerned about the stagnant state of the Navy. But now the service was taking a huge leap forward by building its first modern, steel ships—three cruisers (the Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago) and a dispatch vessel (the Dolphin). The Institute’s Proceedings recognized the momentous occasion with a special issue whose sole article was written by a participant in the nautical resurgence: Assistant Naval Constructor Francis T. Bowles. An 1879 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy… Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 27

Monument of the Month: The Naval Academy Skyhawk

Thursday, August 27, 2015 6:00 AM


A4D-2 Skyhawk

One chilly December night in 1976, nearly the entire Naval Academy Cass of 1980 gathered in front of the Halsey Field House, dressed in their white works and sweats. It was the week of the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, and spirits were running high after the 38-10 trouncing the team had given the Army’s squad. They were a class with a purpose. The object of their mission: the A4D-1 Skyhawk on display by Worden Field. The Skyhawk was a high-visibility target, having been placed by the parade grounds specifically for its visibility. One midshipman produced a saw, and soon the… Read the rest of this entry »