Jan 9

MSC: Proud of our heritage, ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges

Friday, January 9, 2015 3:03 PM

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By John Thackrah, Executive Director, Military Sealift Command

Today marks the creation of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service in 1918 to carry cargo during World War I. Sealift capabilities played a key role in our nation’s defense then, and are still crucial to our Navy and DOD’s ability to operate forward – where it matters, when it matters.

Post-World War II, our nation consolidated its sealift transport services into a single entity in 1949 – the Military Sea Transportation Service, later re-named Military Sealift Command.

World War I transport ship Henderson, USN 1917-1948 (built by USN, 1917). 10,000 Tons (displacement); Length 483.8'; Breadth 61.1'

World War I transport ship Henderson, USN 1917-1948 (built by USN, 1917). 10,000 Tons (displacement); Length 483.8′; Breadth 61.1′

Fast forward to 2015, and MSC has grown from a handful of missions to more than 20. Our command is a critical part of our Navy, efficiently and cost-effectively operating some of our fleet’s most innovative ships. The growing number and diversity of our ships honors the spirit of our forerunners, and highlights the trust we’ve earned over decades.

Take our mobile landing platform, for instance. The first ship in the class, USNS Montford Point, demonstrated during last year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise and again during the Pacific Horizon 14 exercise that it can meet the growing needs of our Marine Corps for sea-basing assets.

Montford Point and its sister ship, USNS John Glenn, have two primary capabilities: transfer of equipment, personnel and sustainment at-sea, and delivery of vehicles and equipment ashore. In tandem with sealift vessels like USNS Bob Hope and high-speed transport ships like the joint high-speed vessels, MLPs allow large-scale logistics movements from sea to shore, which reduces reliance on foreign ports.

Another exciting set of ships is the afloat forward staging base variant of the MLP. Unlike Montford Point, AFSBs like the recently launched USNS Lewis B. Puller add a flight deck, equipment storage and repair spaces. The variant can provide a base of operations for everything from counter-piracy/smuggling, maritime security and mine clearing to humanitarian aid and disaster relief. We expect that Lewis B. Puller will undergo at-sea testing prior to its delivery this year.

140718-N-QY430-002 BIG CREEK, Belize (July 18, 2014) The Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) crew and service members on-load gear and vehicles during Southern Partnership Station 2014. Southern Partnership Station is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

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BIG CREEK, Belize (July 18, 2014) The Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) crew and service members on-load gear and vehicles during Southern Partnership Station 2014. Southern Partnership Station is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

Finally, our joint high-speed vessels spent 2014 proving their versatility in real-world operations and exercises. USNS Spearhead, the first ship in the class, completed the first leg of its maiden deployment to U.S. 6th Fleet last May, and deployed again to U.S. 4th Fleet after a short pit-stop in Little Creek, Virginia. These are hard-working ships – just a few weeks ago, Spearhead departed Virginia and is currently operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

Our Navy and Marine Corps team has been actively discussing and testing what these ships can do, and we’ve discovered that they are useful for missions beyond their original design. In November, USNS Choctaw County participated in Bold Alligator 2014 and conducted proof-of-concept testing that included small boat launches and helicopter operations.

I am confident that as we continue to explore other mission sets that include theater security cooperation, non-combatant evacuations and counter-illicit trafficking detection and monitoring, the JHSV will continue to prove itself as a valuable fleet asset worldwide.

Bottom line, MSC is grateful for the expanding responsibilities entrusted to us, and ready to hit the ground running in 2015.

141106-N-EW716-001) SAN DIEGO (Nov. 6, 2014) The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard. Lewis B. Puller is the first afloat forward staging base (AFSB) variant of the MLP and is optimized to support a variety of maritime missions. (Photo courtesy of NASSCO)

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SAN DIEGO (Nov. 6, 2014) The mobile landing platform Lewis B. Puller (T-MLP-3/T-AFSB-1) successfully completed launch and float-off at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard. Lewis B. Puller is the first afloat forward staging base (AFSB) variant of the MLP and is optimized to
support a variety of maritime missions. (Photo courtesy of NASSCO)

 

 

 
Jan 8

Celebrating the Birth of the Nuclear Navy

Thursday, January 8, 2015 5:05 PM
USS Nautilus (SSN 571) Water color by Albert Murray

USS Nautilus (SSN 571)
Water color by Albert Murray

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

The director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program will host a ceremony Jan. 9 at Naval Reactors’ Washington Navy Yard headquarters celebrating one of the first major milestones of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.

Adm. John M. Richardson, joined by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, and the Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, will honor the 60th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear-powered warship, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), getting underway on nuclear power. It was on Jan. 17, 1955 at 11 a.m. when Nautilus Commanding Officer Cmdr. Eugene Wilkinson announced “UNDERWAY ON NUCLEAR POWER.”

In addition to being an engineering marvel, Nautilus was the first in a long line of nuclear-powered ships to serve the U.S. Navy with an outstanding record of more than 155,000 million miles safely steamed on nuclear power. Just as important, she represented a huge leap in American energy security, increasing strategic independence, sustainability, and operational capability.

Adm. Hyman G. Rickover on USS Nautilus.

Adm. Hyman G. Rickover on USS Nautilus.

Getting Nautilus “underway on nuclear power” was a remarkable accomplishment that began with the concept of harnessing the power of splitting uranium atoms in 1939 by scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory. That concept became reality when then-Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, an engineering officer, signed onto the project in 1946. Just six years later, on June 14, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed the keel of the first nuclear-powered submarine.

Nautilus Launching Program

It was Jan. 21, 1954 when Nautilus was launched at Electric Boat Shipyard, Groton, Conn. The boat was commissioned a few months later, Sept. 30. For a video of the 60th anniversary of the commissioning, please click here.

USS Nautilus in New York on Aug. 25, 1958, following her historic voyage across the North Pole on Aug. 3. US Navy photo

USS Nautilus in New York on Aug. 25, 1958, following her historic voyage across the North Pole on Aug. 3. A ticker tape parade was held to celebrate the occasion. US Navy photo

Nautilus’ career was a record-setting one, including being the first submarine to cross the North Pole – under the ice – on Aug. 3, 1958. After 25 years and four refuelings, Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980. Two years later, the first nuclear-powered submarine was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

After undergoing historic ship conversion in 1986, USS Nautilus continues to serve her country at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton.

Editors Note: On Jan. 9 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that SSN 795, a Virginia-class attack submarine, will bear the name USS Hyman G. Rickover.

Mabus named the submarine to honor U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the man credited for developing USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. For more information click here.

 

 
Jan 8

Battle of New Orleans: In 1814 We Took A Little Trip…

Thursday, January 8, 2015 8:27 AM

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Painting depicting the Naval Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between U.K. and U.S. forces in the War of 1812, by Thomas L. Hornbrook (active 1836-1844). (Image Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.)

Painting depicting the Naval Battle of Lake Borgne, Louisiana, between U.K. and U.S. forces in the War of 1812, by Thomas L. Hornbrook (active 1836-1844). (Image Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland.)

Today marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was settled at Chalmette Plantation, where Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops scored a final victory for the United States.

Less known, however, is the naval skirmish three weeks prior that set up Jackson’s victory. During the Battle of Lake Borgne, American Sailors and Marines, with just a few gun boats, slowed the approach of 8,000 British troops advancing toward New Orleans. Armed with the knowledge the British were coming, Jackson was able to prepare and amass his troops for the greatest land battle victory during the War of 1812. All thanks to the intuition of Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson.

Capt. Daniel Todd Patterson by John Wesley Jarvis

Capt. Daniel Todd Patterson by John Wesley Jarvis

Patterson was born on Long Island in 1786 and like so many Americans at the time, descended from loyal British subjects. His uncle had been a royal governor of what is now St. John’s Island in Canada. Patterson started his career in the Navy in 1799, fought the French, was taken captive during the Quasi Wars, and led raids against pirates blocking New Orleans. He was later a prisoner of the Barbary pirates in Tripoli until the American victory in 1805.

Stationed in New Orleans, by 1812 Patterson was highly experienced in combat and leadership. He was ready for the British, who had won battles in the Great Lakes, burned Washington, and were now ready to invade the South.

But where? The British had already sent ships to the Gulf of Mexico. Jackson believed it would be Mobile, Ala., and he insisted Commodore Patterson, now the Commander of New Orleans, to send whatever he had to protect Mobile from attack. Patterson repeatedly refused Jackson, convinced the British would attack New Orleans.

In the meantime, the British Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station, Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane, had anchored in the Gulf of Mexico with a large armada of ships holding 8,000 soldiers and sailors ready to invade.

Patterson had little with which to respond. As the Master Commandant, he had written to the Secretary of the Navy many times asking for ships that could stand a chance in combat against the British fleet. Patterson wrote the year before in December 1813 that none of his ships could even depart from the Gulf of Mexico without “falling into enemy hands.”

The British had HMS Seahorse, which carried 22 nine-pounder guns. Cochrane also had ships like Armide and Sophie, which contained two six-pounder bow guns and 16 32-pounder carronades, which were giant short-range cast iron cannons.

Patterson had five gunboats, a schooner and two sloops of war, USS Alligator and USS Tickler. The squadron had fewer than 250 Sailors, armed with 16 long guns, 14 carronades, two howitzers and 12 swivel guns. The gun boats were often referred to as “Jefferson-class” tug boats, because they were built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson who believed all America needed was a coastal patrol force, not a blue-water navy. The “Jefferson-class” gun boats didn’t even have names. They had numbers — Numbers 156, 163, 5, 23, and 162.

But now the British were anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. Vice Adm. Cochrane decided the easiest way to New Orleans would be through Lake Borgne, where Patterson’s squadron was patrolling and reporting back to Jackson about the British logistics and movements.

Finally, on Dec. 12, 1814, 1,200 British sailors and marines began their approach to Lake Borgne. After 36 hours of rowing, the invaders faced a hail of grape shot. Patterson had calculated correctly that even without ships to match the Royal Navy, his gunboats could harass any landing party as they rowed ashore, blocking the entrance of Lake Borgne, the gateway to New Orleans.

But outmanned and outgunned, the British captured all the American gunboats on Dec. 14. The British then made a tactical error. Rather than pressing forward, they were allowed time to rest.

Jackson heard about a British encampment just seven miles from New Orleans and exclaimed: “By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil.”

So during the night of Dec. 23, the Americans attacked the British with troops by land and with USS Carolina and Louisiana, stationed in the Mississippi River, bombarding their encampment. Heavily outnumbered, the Americans were forced to retreat.

The British realized their advance would not be as easy as they thought, and again, hesitated, allowing even more time for Jackson to shore up his forces and prepare their defense. Under bombardment and constant attack, the British tried to advance into New Orleans for the next two weeks until the culmination of the battle on Jan. 8, 1815.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium on Dec., 24, 1814, just one day after Jackson’s assault on the British. But neither side knew the treaty had been signed until after the battle was over two weeks later. After Jan. 8, the British, in one last effort after losing New Orleans, tried to take Mobile again, but then withdrew upon hearing of the treaty. It would formally end all hostilities between the two nations.

Patterson himself commanded naval batteries on the Mississippi during the Battle of New Orleans. He, as well as his Sailors and Marines fought alongside Jackson’s Soldiers during the last week in December and the first week in January. Jackson would go on to give high praise to Patterson, who would be promoted to captain. Patterson would later take command of USS Constitution, and serve in the Navy for another 24 years.

And old Hickory himself, a national hero, would ride his 1815 victory to become the nation’s seventh president in 1829.

The penultimate battle of the War of 1812

Today in 1815 marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. It was Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s Army that carried that ball over the goal line for the win. But they crossed that end zone because the U.S. Navy got the ball to within the 10-yard line.

How so, you might ask? The British planned to attack New Orleans weeks prior to Jan. 8, 1815, but a small contingent of American gunboats kept the Red Coats from coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Borgne, allowing Jackson the time to amass more men to prepare for their attack.

A history teacher named Jimmy Driftwood back in the 1936 wrote a little ditty called the Battle of New Orleans to get his history students interested in the War of 1812, using a popular American folk tune called “The 8th of January.” Singer Johnny Horton turned into a 1959 hit.

But since that song was about the land battle that kept the British out of New Orleans, with our apologies to Driftwood, here’s the Navy version, based on the same tune, on how a handful of Navy boats held off the Royal Navy, and helped set the stage for the bigger victory three weeks later on Jan. 8, 1815.

NewOrleans.pdf

 
Jan 6

Honoring the Legacy of Navy Nurses Worldwide

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 8:00 AM
Navy Nurse Corps POWs posing with Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kincaid, Commander of the 7th Fleet and Southwest Pacific Force, after their rescue from Los Banos, Feb. 23, 1945. They were imprisoned Jan. 6, 1942 where they were stationed in the Philippines.

Navy Nurse Corps POWs posing with Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kincaid, Commander of the 7th Fleet and Southwest Pacific Force, after their rescue from Los Banos, Feb. 23, 1945. They were imprisoned Jan. 6, 1942 where they were stationed in the Philippines.

By Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, Commander, Navy Medicine Education and Training Command and Director, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps

Rear Adm. Rebecca J. McCormick-Boyle Commander Navy Medicine Education and Training Command

Rear Adm. Rebecca J. McCormick-Boyle
Commander
Navy Medicine Education and Training Command

January 6 commemorates the 72nd anniversary of one of the most tragic, yet heroic and triumphant moments in Navy Nurse Corps history. On that date in 1942, 11 Navy Nurses and three civilian nurses were taken prisoner by Japanese forces in the Philippines. During their 37-month imprisonment these nurses – known as the “Band of Angels” – continued to care for the sick and injured despite the fact they suffered from their own malnutrition and disease. They were liberated in February 1945.

Throughout World War II, Navy Nurses served at 40 naval hospitals, 176 dispensaries, and on board 12 hospital ships. They earned over 300 military awards and honors for their efforts.

From the proud and humble beginnings of the first Navy Nurses, “The Sacred Twenty” to today’s force of more 4,000, Navy Nurses are committed to duty and heroic sacrifice in the service of our country. Navy Nurses have set the highest standards for our profession since its inception, and we continue to carry the banner of that proud legacy.

Today, we continue this proud tradition of selfless service at home and around the globe, at military treatment facilities (MTFs), ambulatory care centers, research facilities, education and training commands, and a broad range of operational settings. Navy Nurses are also at the forefront of joint operations, serving alongside health care providers from our sister services and with allied forces medical teams. Paying homage to the “Band of Angels,” I would be remiss if I did not highlight our continued presence and commitment to our mission in the Pacific, where Navy Nurses are on call and ready to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, as well as annual partnership missions like Pacific Partnership. We are a team of professionals who serve with one overall mission: to provide the best possible care for our patients.

This charge to care both on and off the battlefield is truly a calling, not just a career. It’s a calling to deliver competent and compassionate nursing care whenever and wherever we are needed. For many patients, the first person they see when they open their eyes after surgery, illness, or an injury is their Navy Nurse. No matter where they are serving, Navy Nurses stand ready at bedsides around the globe and are a vital force in any setting.

I am humbled by our Navy Nurses who are recognized for bravery, heroism, and leadership throughout our naval history. From the proud and modest beginnings of the first Navy Nurses and the “Band of Angels” to today’s force of nurses, our professional Nurse Corps waves the banner of our Navy legacy – providing caring, compassionate, and competent care, anytime, anywhere.

 
Jan 4

In 1989 Dogfight Navy Tomcats Best Libyan MiGs

Sunday, January 4, 2015 8:00 AM
The National Air and Space Museum’s F-14D (R) is on display at the museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. It is credited with one MiG kill during a fleet defense mission near the coast of Libya, Jan. 4, 1989. Credit: Image by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Image Number: 2006-24265

The National Air and Space Museum’s F-14D (R) is on display at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. It is credited with one MiG kill during a fleet defense mission near the coast of Libya, Jan. 4, 1989. Credit: Image by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Image Number: 2006-24265

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division The F-14 Tomcat has been replaced from the Navy’s inventory with the F/A-18 Hornet, yet it was 26 years ago today when a pair of Tomcats on the prowl played cat-and-mouse with a matching pair of Libyan MiG-23s. Increasingly aggressive moves on the part of the Libyan aircraft forced the Tomcats to unsheathe their claws with Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. And just like their counterparts from 1981, where the Libyans actually fired on the F-14 Tomcats, just seconds later, both MiGs were “splashed” in the ocean, ending the 8-minute engagement. It was just another incident between the United States and Libya that had been building for 10 years since the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was burned down in Dec. 1979 and the U.S. declared Moammar Gadhafi’s regime a “state sponsor of terrorism.” By May 1981, the Reagan administration had cut diplomatic ties with Libya, stating the U.S. would “not conduct business with a regime that grossly distorts the rules of international behavior.” Libya’s Washington embassy was closed and their diplomats expelled. While the U.S. Navy was conducting a routine exercise in August 1981, two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 fighter pilots challenged two Navy F-14 Tomcats from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CV 68) over the international waters of the Gulf of Sidra. The Libyans fired upon the F-14s, and the Tomcat pilots promptly responded by shooting down both Libyan fighters. The United States continued to tighten its economic sanctions against Libya. By 1985, Gadhafi called on his guerrillas to launch “suicide missions” against those who worked against his regime. In March 1986, Libya fired anti-aircraft missiles as U.S. jets approached his “line of death” in international waters. Navy aircraft and a missile cruiser fired back, destroying the Libyan missile ships and damaging a missile launch site. Gadhafi vowed to retaliate against NATO bases that harbored U.S. warships, and a few days later, a discotheque in West Berlin was bombed, killing two American servicemen. After an investigation confirmed Libya was responsible, the U.S. bombed military targets near Tripoli and Benghazi.

Mediterranean-bound, John F. Kennedy (CV-67), part of Task Group 24.4, turns to port, preparing to launch a Grumman F-14 Tomcat from her number one catapult, on Aug. 12, 1988. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2d Class William Lipski

Mediterranean-bound, John F. Kennedy (CV-67), part of Task Group 24.4, turns to port, preparing to launch a Grumman F-14 Tomcat from her number one catapult, on Aug. 12, 1988. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2d Class William Lipski

In late 1988, the United States accused Gadhafi of building a chemical weapons facility and stationed aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CV 67) off Libya’s coast as a deterrent. Libyan terrorists were also suspected in that month’s bombing of Pan Am Flight 101 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On the morning of Jan. 4, 1989, four F-14 pilots from VF 32 and VF 14 were conducting exercises with A-6 Intruders and a E-2C Hawkeye from VAW 126 about 130 miles north of Libya near Crete. The pilots had been warned to expect hostilities as they approached Gadhafi’s “line of death” in international waters of the Gulf of Sidra. Shortly before noon, the E-2C pilot reported four Libyan Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG-23) Floggers had left the Al Bumbaw airfield near Toburk, the first pair about 30 miles ahead of the second pair. The VF 32 pilots with their respective RIOs (radar intercept officer) turned toward the first pair of Floggers, Which were both armed with AA-7 Apex missiles. The F-14 pilots activated and locked their AWG-9 radar onto the Floggers as a warning signal. Yet the Libyans failed to turn away. At 61 miles and closing fast, the F-14 pilots performed defensive maneuvers, such as dropping from 8,000 feet to 5,000 feet. Yet for each move, the pilots reported the Libyans had “jinked” (aggressive maneuver) back to them, repositioning to continue heading straight for the Tomcats. “53 miles, bogeys (Libyans) coming straight at us,” a pilot stated, who dropped from 9,000 to 3,000 “angels (altitude).” “Bogeys jinked back into us, now starboard 30 degrees the other side.” Shortly afterward, Alpha Bravo (the on-scene commander, later identified as Rear Adm. David Morris) stated “Warning yellow, weapons hold.” At 35 miles, a pilot reported “bogeys jinked back into me for the third time – with noses on, angels 7. I’m taking another offset, starboard two one zero.” Moments later, the pilot reported the bogeys had “jinked back into me for the fourth time,” and indicated he was “coming back starboard” at 27 miles, the Libyans at 7,000 feet. After a fifth maneuver, the pilot reported “bogeys have jinked back at me for the fifth time, they’re on my nose now, inside the 20 mile.” Soon after, the pilot reported he was “centering up the t– Bogeys jinking back into me again.” As the MiGs continued their aggressive behavior, coming to within 13 miles, the RIO from the lead Tomcat deployed two Sparrow missiles, but neither found their target. Still, neither MiG turned back. The F-14s split up, with both MiGs turning onto the wingman as the lead Tomcat maneuvered to get behind the Floggers. As the aircraft drew to within four miles, the Tomcat wingman released its Sparrow, sending the first MiG into the ocean, and soon after, the lead Tomcat launched a sidewinder that sent the second MiG down. The pilots reported back to Alpha Bravo: “Down to 3,000, let’s get out of here. (The) other chute is high. We’re heading north.” Although both MiG pilots were able to get away from their stricken aircraft, they were not recovered. Libya would later claim the U.S. had shot down unarmed reconnaissance planes. According to a Pentagon spokesman at the debriefing conference afterward, it was explained while the pilots were under “warning yellow, weapons hold,” with tensions increasing and hostilities possible, the pilots were authorized to respond as necessary. The lead Tomcat from that dogfight is on loan to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. Although it was an F-14A model at the time of the incident, the Tomcat was part of the F-14D upgrade program and later assigned to VF-31 in a precision strike role. Gadhafi’s 42-year reign would end Aug. 23, 2011 after he was captured by the anti-Gadhafi National Transitional Council and killed during the “Arab Spring” uprising.

 
Jan 3

Great White Fleet Assists Following Messina Earthquake

Saturday, January 3, 2015 8:00 AM
A street in Messina, Sicily, showing damage caused by the earthquake that hit Dec. 28, 1908. Photographed in January 1909. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph from the Collection of Lt. Cmdr. Richard Wainwright (who was assigned to USS Connecticut during the relief mission to Messina).

A street in Messina, Sicily, showing damage caused by the earthquake that hit Dec. 28, 1908. Photographed in January 1909. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph from
the Collection of Lt. Cmdr. Richard Wainwright (who was assigned to USS Connecticut during the relief mission to Messina).

 

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

When President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet embarked on its historic 14-month world cruise in 1907, its mission was to promote goodwill and foster partnerships with other countries, but also show American might and seapower. Even then, partnerships and presence mattered.

As the fleet pulled into any of its 20 ports across six continents, the officers and crew were often handled like royalty, treated to parades and parties.

Along the way, however, the fleet was given the opportunity to show they could give as much as they received: On January 3, 1909, the first of several American ships arrived in Messina, Italy which had been devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami just six days earlier on Dec. 28, 1908.

The decision to send the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet on a voyage around the world came during a particularly turbulent time for the United States. It had gained territory in the Philippines and Guam following its victory in the 1898 Spanish-American War, which required naval resources for protection.

Roosevelt, a former assistant Secretary of the Navy, believed it would take a strong navy for a nation to project its power and prestige abroad. When he became president after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Roosevelt began building up his navy. Shipyards churned out 11 battleships in three years from 1904-1907. A naval base was also established in 1904 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to provide security during the construction of the Panama Canal.

As the United States continued to expand its reach, Roosevelt mediated the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1906, ending the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese, however, felt Roosevelt favored the Russians. In California, anti-Japanese feelings began to arise due to steady a stream of Japanese immigrants, which in turn sparked anti-American protests in Japan.

And so it was under those conditions Roosevelt decided his 16-battleship fleet, painted white and gilded in gold, would circumnavigate the world to impress upon Japan and other countries that the U.S. Navy could shift its presence from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They left Hampton Roads Dec. 16, 1907.

A little more than a year later, as the Great White Fleet was nearing the conclusion of its 14-month voyage, just before dawn on Dec. 28, 1908, a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck southern Italy, devastating the Sicilian city of Messina. The death toll was terrible, with estimates of those killed running up to two hundred thousand. Those who didn’t die immediately from the earthquake would succumb to starvation, disease and injury.

And it was at that moment the Great White Fleet’s “goodwill” cruise went from rhetoric to reality.

USS Scorpion (1898-1929) was the first U.S. Navy ship to provide aid after the Dec. 28, 1908 earthquake that struck Messina, Italy. Based as the station ship at Constantinople, Turkey, the former yacht arrived at Messina on Jan. 3, 1909. In this photo, USS Scorpion is at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, circa April 1898, carrying her battery of four 5"/40 guns located on her sides, fore and aft of the superstructure from when she was converted for the Spanish-American War service. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Scorpion (1898-1929) was the first U.S. Navy ship to provide aid after the Dec. 28, 1908 earthquake that struck Messina, Italy. Based as the station ship at Constantinople, Turkey, the former yacht arrived at Messina on Jan. 3, 1909. In this photo, USS Scorpion is at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., circa April 1898, carrying her battery of four 5″/40 guns located on her sides, fore and aft of the superstructure from when she was converted for the Spanish-American War service. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Although its presence in the Mediterranean was minimal at the time, the United States did have the gunboat USS Scorpion on station at Constantinople, Turkey. The former luxury yacht left Dec. 31 and arrived at Messina on Jan. 3 to begin U.S. humanitarian relief to the stricken region.

Other nations’ navies sent men and ships to help Italian authorities with recovery and relief work. Among these were the British, whose large Mediterranean Fleet soon had two battleships, five cruisers and a destroyer at the scene. The Russians, whose training squadron was also in the vicinity, provided men from several battleships, cruisers and gunboats. While digging through the remains of collapsed buildings to rescue survivors and locate the bodies of the dead, some of the Russian sailors lost their own lives when an aftershock buried them in rubble.

The greatest response in terms of aid, however, came from the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Atlantic Fleet’s battleship force was steaming up the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal nearing the end of its passage from the Far East during its great world cruise.

Messina Earthquake, Dec. 28, 1908 -- Refugees waiting for transportation at Messina, Sicily, where USS Culgoa and USS Yankton fed many hungry earthquake survivors. Photographed in January 1909. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph from the Collection of Lt. Cmdr. Richard Wainwright (who was assigned to USS Connecticut during the relief mission to Messina).

Messina Earthquake, Dec. 28, 1908 — Refugees waiting for transportation at Messina, Sicily, where USS Culgoa and USS Yankton fed many hungry earthquake survivors. Photographed in January 1909. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph from the Collection of Lt. Cmdr. Richard Wainwright (who was assigned to USS Connecticut during the relief mission to Messina).

The fleet’s Commander in Chief, Rear Adm. Charles S. Sperry, ordered the supply ship Culgoa, carrying hundreds of tons of food, to head for the disaster zone as soon as she could get through the canal. She left Port Said, Egypt, on Jan. 4 and arrived at Messina four days later. She remained in the area until Jan. 15.

While Culgoa was on her way, six Navy surgeons from the battleships, as well as medical supplies, were put aboard the tender Yankton (another converted yacht) and on Jan. 5, set off from Port Said, arriving at the stricken city on Jan. 9.

They were followed by Sperry’s flagship, the battleship Connecticut, which called at Messina on Jan. 9, while en route to Naples.

The battleship Illinois arrived on Jan. 14 to help recover the bodies of U.S. Consul Arthur S. Cheney and his wife, Laura, from beneath the ruins. This mission, involving hazardous tunneling through the ruined consulate building, was soon completed. Illinois sailed the next day for Valetta, Malta, where she rejoined her division.

A large quantity of supplies, originally intended for Sperry’s fleet, along with a hastily loaded prefabricated hospital left the United States at the end of December on board the Navy supply ship Celtic, arriving at Naples Jan. 19 and then taken to Messina. Celtic and her crew were in the Sicily-Naples area for about two months, distributing urgently needed supplies to towns along the Sicilian coast, erecting temporary shelters and otherwise helping the quake’s survivors.

When Celtic left to return home on March 21, Assistant Surgeon Martin Donelson remained in Sicily with a detachment to construct housing and provide further medical assistance. Donelson was ordered back to the United States on June 10, 1909, bringing to completion more than five months of Sicilian earthquake relief work by U.S. Navy personnel.

Just as it was 106 years ago, the U.S. Navy continues to build and maintain partnerships around the world with a strong presence. It’s those relationships that have allowed freedom of trade and navigation to provide stability and security for the global economy, according to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a speech in September to an audience focused on international relationships.

“No matter how big, no matter how capable, no one country can do everything. We have to rely on partners worldwide. The more interoperable we are, the more we exercise together, the more we operate together, the better we will be when a crisis comes,” Mabus said.

 
Jan 2

Adm. Zumwalt’s Legacy, Spirit Carries Through Today’s Navy

Friday, January 2, 2015 4:34 PM

By Capt. James “T” Kirk, Commanding Officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit ZUMWALT (DDG 1000)

Capt. James Kirk

On January 2, 2000, Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., the 19th Chief of Naval Operations, died at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. On this date 15 years ago, we lost a great man whose legacy and spirit still serve as the backbone of today’s Navy.

Adm. Zumwalt was born in San Francisco, Calif. on Nov. 29, 1920 and raised in nearby Tulare by his parents, Drs. Elmo and Frances Zumwalt. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1942 in the wartime-accelerated class of 1943, he headed to the Pacific. There, he served aboard destroyers USS Phelps and USS Robinson and was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat “V” for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He served as navigator during the Korean conflict aboard USS Wisconsin and as the commander of all naval forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970.

First and foremost, Adm. Zumwalt was a warrior who deeply believed in his calling to serve and defend his country. In 1970, he was selected ahead of many more senior officers to become the youngest officer promoted to admiral and began a tumultuous and sometimes controversial four-year tenure as CNO.

Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations from July 1, 1970 to July 1, 1974.

Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations from July 1, 1970 to July 1, 1974.

Adm. Zumwalt’s influence on our Navy can be found just about everywhere. We are a more diverse force today – one that better reflects the demographics of our society overall. That was unthinkable in 1970 when Adm. Zumwalt began an assault upon bigotry and racism within the Navy with Z-gram 66 (Equal Opportunity). By 1972, Adm. Zumwalt was doing the same for women in our Navy with Z-gram 116 (Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women). On his watch, the first African-American and woman were promoted to flag rank – Rear Adm. Samuel Gravely and Adm. Arlene Duerk.

Adm. Zumwalt instituted the Navy’s command master chief program, the ombudsman program, and made the elimination of “Mickey Mouse” regulations, like those that once prohibited enlisted Sailors from having civilian clothes aboard ships, a priority. At the core of all these initiatives was Adm. Zumwalt’s compassion and belief that every human being deserved to be treated with dignity. He recognized before most that making the Navy a moral, just, and fair institution was both the right thing to do and a necessity as the services transitioned from a conscription force to a volunteer one.

Had Adm. Zumwalt accomplished little else on his watch, he would rightfully be remembered as one of our most influential and successful leaders. While his people programs attracted much attention – and even a Time magazine cover – his force structure reforms were equally bold.

Immediately upon taking the baton as CNO, he directed a strategic planning effort, Project 60, to determine what changes needed to be made to the U.S. Navy to meet the challenge of an increasingly capable Soviet Navy. He reduced force structure by eliminating obsolete equipment and used those savings to invest in a more balanced and capable Navy.

He was largely successful in implementing a high-low mix approach to achieve his goals. The Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) helicopters, minesweeping helicopters, Harpoon missiles, and the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) all made their debuts during or soon after his watch and have served our Navy well for decades.

 Members of the christening party for the guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) pose for a photo after the ship's christening April 12, 2014. Capt. James A. Kirk, front, prospective commanding officer of PCU Zumwalt; retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt; ship sponsor Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, Secretary of the navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, and ship sponsor Ann Zumwalt. The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by Dennis Griggs/Released)

Members of the christening party for the guided-missile destroyer Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Zumwalt (DDG 1000) pose for a photo after the ship’s christening April 12, 2014. Capt. James A. Kirk, front, prospective commanding officer of PCU Zumwalt; retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt; ship sponsor Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers, Secretary of the navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, and ship sponsor Ann Zumwalt. The ship, the first of three Zumwalt-class destroyers, will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces and operate as part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. The lead ship and class are named in honor of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations from 1970-1974. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by Dennis Griggs/Released)

Adm. Zumwalt’s reform-minded legacy lives on. It lives on in the programs he implemented during his tenure as CNO, and it will live on in the Sailor spirit and steel of the ship that will bear his name. In 2015, the future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) will go to sea for testing and trials. Not long after those trials are complete, she’ll join the fleet. In both appearance and capability USS Zuwmalt will be as unmistakable as her namesake, and that is just how it should be to honor one of our finest naval leaders, Adm. Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt Jr.

 

USSZumwalt_edited

Precommissing Unit Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is under construction at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works by M. Nutter/Released)

 

 
Dec 31

Dear Diary: Insights on the Burden of Leadership from the Man Who Won the War in the Pacific

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 8:00 AM

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

k13796It was 73 years ago today when Adm. Chester Nimitz stood on USS Grayling (SS 209) in port Hawaii to assume the duties of Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. A battleship might be more befitting such a ceremony, but many of the Navy’s battleships were at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the carriers were out chasing down the Japanese.

While the ceremony itself may have taken place on the 31st, however, Nimitz was selected for the position on Dec. 17. Three days after his selection, Nimitz is on a train heading for the West Coast. It is through Nimitz’s hand-written diaries and letters, many written to his wife Catherine Vance Freeman, that we can better understand the man who was thrust into national leadership.

It’s hard to imagine a world void of PowerPoint presentations, mobile devices and instant updates. His first task on the train was deciphering all the information, data and reports to piece together a more complete picture of the situation at Pearl Harbor. Once on station he’d have to focus on rebuilding the Fleet and wining the naval war in the Pacific Theater.

Those days spent traveling offered Nimitz some of the few in which he might enjoy a restful night’s sleep through the war years.

As he traveled westward, his correspondence decreased as the demand for his attention to the war effort increased. Sleep became less satisfying as his mind became increasingly “active.” He grappled with the unfolding uncertainty and enormity of the task at hand, but – as if to assure himself – added frequently that he’d do his best.

Nimitz 20 Dec. 41 - 1

Dec. 20, 1941 – It was 4:30 p.m. Saturday when Nimitz and his aide Cmdr. Hal Lamar, passengers on the Santa Fe “Chief” headed west through Illinois, when Nimitz takes the time to write home. “I have preliminarily read all the data which was furnished me on leaving Washington – some 10 pounds of paper – and my conscience will now permit me to relax,” he wrote, adding they had stopped at the Navy Department only long enough to see Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold Stark and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox before getting on the train in Washington, D.C. “I was plum frazzled out and emotionally torn and worn. Even the Secretary was highly emotional and had difficulty controlling his voice.”

Nimitz 20 Dec. 41 - 2

Nimitz and Lamar managed to keep the classified documents away from prying eyes because they had adjoining rooms with a door between them, so they could lock the outer doors. The two shared scotch cocktails, had dinner and then perhaps the last “fine” sleep Nimitz would reference.

“I awoke at 7 a.m. really refreshed and feeling that I would cope with the situation,” he wrote. His anonymity on the train, however, was compromised when a professor who had heard him speak on Oct. 31 at Lincoln, Neb., recognized him and called him by rank and name. “My professor friend had the decency not to pursue me further on the train then, as we passed through the lounge car on the way from dinner and heard him point me out as “the Admiral.”

The professor wasn’t the only one on the train Nimitz needed to avoid. “Lamar warned me that (an ex-Congressman Ralph E. Church) was sitting just behind me in the diner. He had been in the Navy Department yesterday to try to get back the Naval Reserve Commission which we took away from him last summer.”

Nimitz 20 Dec. 41 - 3

Nimitz took a layover in Chicago for the opportunity to get a haircut near the Navy pier as “I had tried for the last week to get a haircut in Washington and had no time.” While there, he “saw the old fat Chief that used to be at the destroyer base as assistant to Martin and Carter in taking care of the grounds.”

After squeezing in a few more meetings, Nimitz continued to go over papers. “As I get more sleep and rest things are looking up and I am sure by the time I reach Pearl Harbor I will be able to meet the requirements of the situation.”

Nimitz 21 Dec. 41 - 1

Dec. 21, 1941, Sunday p.m. – After having spent a sunny morning in Colorado, Nimitz and Lamar were now in New Mexico, where the weather had turned dreary, and so, too, Nimitz’s thoughts. “Had a fine sleep and awoke much refreshed – but after spending most of today reading reports and estimates I find it difficult to keep on the cheerful side. Perhaps when I actually arrive and get over the first shock things will be better.”

He also wrote of seeing the changes in command throughout the Navy. “Last night’s paper announced King as C in C N.S. [Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King, Commander in Chief and the Chief of Naval Operations] and he is apparently displacing Stark insofar as concerns operations. Ingersoll is C. in C. Atlantic [Royal Ingersoll, Commander in Chief]. What a grand overall shakeup! At any rate I am convinced that there will be more action in the Pacific then elsewhere for many a day to come.”

Nimitz 24 Dec. - 1

Dec. 24, 1941, 3 p.m. – Nimitz and Lamar visit Rear Adm. Ernest Gunther at Air Station 11th Naval District, San Diego, Calif., after adverse weather prevented Nimitz’ departure the day before. Among the visitors was Vice Adm. John S. McCain. “I greatly regret taking these pilots away – and the crews on Christmas Eve, but I see no choice on my part. I only hope I can live up to the high expectations of you and the Pres. [President] and the Dept. I will faithfully promise to do my best. I am sorry I could not get out to P.H. [Pearl Harbor] before the inspecting board got there.”

Nimitz 31 Dec. 41 -1

Dec. 31, 1941 – Just minutes before his change of command ceremony, Nimitz took a moment to write: “This is just a very hasty note to tell you that at 10.a.m. – just 30 minutes from now — I will relieve Pye and become C in. C. Pacific Fleet [Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet]. May the good Lord help and advise me and may I have all the support I can get for I will need it. I have still not reached the point where I can sleep well because there is so much going on and so much to do. I am well however and full of energy.”

Nimitz 22 Jan. 42 -1

Jan. 22, 1942 – Nimitz’ time writing home has become greatly impacted by his overwhelming responsibilities. “My days are very much the same – long hours in the office – long discussions etc. Two days ago I sneaked onto and played two sets of tennis near the BOQ with Capt. T. Davis – my aviation assistant. I felt very strange on the court, but won in 1 set 6-4, and post 6-1 second set. Although I enjoyed the games I am afraid tennis will be very infrequent.”

Nimitz 29 Jan. 42 - 1

Jan. 29, 1942 (P.H.) Pearl Harbor – When Nimitz penned this, it was during a time when the Japanese menace threatened the entire Pacific, while promotion news for two of his peers was not favorable. “I do feel depressed a large part of the time but I always hope for a turn for the better. The news has not been too cheering recently so far as our allies are concerned.

“Secretary Stimson [Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War] announcement went that I was holding the bag out here forced a press conference on me today and he had to duck a lot of tough questions. The unity of command was placed in the Navy before I reached here.”

“Although this has been a bad day for me, it has had its compensations. The flag selection list came in today and there are some sad people. I most distressed over Train and Gunther, both of whom should have been promoted.”

“I will turn in hoping to get to sleep. My mind is still in a whirl and I lie awake long hours but perhaps that will end.”

 

Editor’s Note: Transcriptions of this portion (Dec. 1941 to Jan. 1942) of Nimitz’s diaries were compiled and transcribed from original scans of hand written entries pictured above. To download scans of the original documents click here Dec. 1941 and Jan. 1942.

In mid-February 2014, the Naval War College unveiled an online 4000-page “Gray Book” collection of Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz “operational communications” that started in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack and ran right up until the closing days of the war.