Mar 20

Navy’s First Carrier Commissioned, 20 March 1922

Sunday, March 20, 2011 12:01 AM

USS Langley (CV 1) was commissioned on 20 March 1922 as the first U.S. aircraft carrier, under the command of Cdr. Kenneth Whiting. The Norfolk Navy Yard had converted Langley from the collier Jupiter (AC 3), replacing her coal-handling derricks with a wooden flight deck, and converting holds to hangars and fuel tanks. While the ship was officially named in honor of aviation pioneer Samuel P. Langley, pilots also endearingly nicknamed her the “Covered Wagon.” The Navy’s first carrier takeoff took place on board Langley on 17 October 1922, followed nine days later by the first carrier landing.

Transferred to the Pacific in 1924, Langley was the platform from which naval aviators, guided by Capt. Joseph M. Reeves, undertook the development of carrier operating techniques and tactics. Though newer, larger, and faster aircraft carriers began arriving in the fleet by the late 1920s, Langley remained an operational carrier until October 1936, when she began conversion to a seaplane tender.

Reclassified AV 3 following completion of this work in early 1937, Langley was mainly employed in the Pacific for the rest of her days. Through the early months of World War II she supported seaplane patrols and provided aircraft transportation services. While carrying Army fighters to the Netherlands East Indies on 27 February 1942, Langley was attacked by Japanese aircraft. Hit by several bombs and disabled, she was scuttled by her escorting destroyers.

Mar 19

USS Oregon (BB-3) Begins Her “Dash” Around South America, 19 March 1898

Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:01 AM

USS Oregon (BB-3) was commissioned in San Francisco, California, in 1896, and was serving on the West Coast in 1898 when she was ordered to the Atlantic for service in the impending Spanish-American War. Departing San Francisco on 19 March, Oregon coaled in Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Barbados, and experienced severe weather along the way that included a dangerous storm in the confining Strait of Magellan. Oregon arrived in Florida on 24 May, 66 days and 14,000 miles out of San Francisco, and by 1 June was in the war zone off Cuba.

This epic voyage—conducted without radar, radio, or underway logistics, and with the power for every knot delivered by stokers moving coal with shovels—caught the attention of the American public. It demonstrated the ability of Navy ships to operate in all conditions, and underscored the need for a Central American canal between the oceans. Five years later, construction on what is now the Panama Canal began.

Oregon returned to the Pacific in 1899 and supported the Army during the Philippine Insurrection. The rest of Oregon’s career was anticlimactic. The battleship alternated between periods out of commission and quiet peacetime service between 1906 and 1917, and played only a small role in World War I. By the end of 1919 the ship had been decommissioned for the last time. Oregon was loaned to the state of Oregon in 1925 and was on public display in Portland until 1942. The Navy retrieved the ship for her scrap value, but changed its mind and converted the ship to an ammunition storage hulk for use at newly reconquered Guam. The ship remained at Guam past the end of the war, although in 1948 a typhoon broke the ship from her moorings, to be recovered several weeks later and 500 miles away. Oregon’s hulk was sold for scrapping in 1956.

Mar 19

The Navy’s First Enlisted Women, 19 March 1917

Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:01 AM

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels authorized the enlistment of women on 19 March 1917 to help alleviate a projected shortage of clerical workers. They served under Class 4 of the 1916 United States Naval Reserve Force that provided for the first enrollment or enlistment of officer and enlisted personnel. Loretta Perfectus Walsh of Olyphant, Pennsylvania, became the first woman to enlist on 21 March 1917. By the time war with Germany was officially declared on 6 April, 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 not available in the civilian sector. Unlike their male counterparts, the highest rank a Yeoman (F) could reach was that of chief petty officer. Since they did not receive basic training, these enlisted women took classes and learned how to drill in the evenings. They worked as couriers, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, masters-at-arms, mess attendants, paymasters, recruiters, switchboard operators, and translators. A select few worked overseas at base hospitals in France and in naval intelligence in Puerto Rico. Female reservists also participated in Victory Loan Drives and parades. By the signing of the 11 November 1918 armistice between the Allies and Germany, a total of 11,275 Yeomen (F) had served in the Navy. The last Yeoman (F) was discharged from active duty in July 1919.

Mar 18

NavyTV – Women’s History Month Tribute

Friday, March 18, 2011 5:52 AM

March is Women’s History Month and NavyTV thought it would be appropriate to reintroduce the Navy’s top four Sailors in 2010 — the first time all four awardees were women! Meet HMC Ingrid J. Cortez, OSC Samira McBride, HMC Shalanda L. Brewer, and CTC Cassandra L. Foote, as they talk about their pride in their work and their responsibility to their Sailors here on NavyTV. In July, 2010, the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead presided over the pinning ceremony for the four Sailors of the Year, the first year all four awardees were women.

Mar 16

River Warrior: LT Harold “Dale” Meyerkord

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:01 AM

Captain William H. Hardcastle, the chief of the U.S. Naval Advisory Group in South Vietnam during the early 1960s, believed that the ideal advisor had to be a “co-equal” leader with his Vietnamese counterpart, and be in the forefront of all operations. “Should an advisor flinch under such fire, or show signs of nervousness, or momentary indecision,” wrote Hardcastle, “it would be immediately noted by the Vietnamese River Force personnel, and the advisor’s effectiveness would be diminished.”

Lieutenant Harold “Dale” Meyerkord exemplified these virtues. By the spring of 1965, he had received enemy fire on more than 30 combat missions, and in several of these actions, had performed well above and beyond the call of duty.

For Meyerkord, service with a Vietnamese River Assault Group represented an opportunity to participate in operations not witnessed by many U.S. Navy officers since the American Civil War. Meyerkord joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1960 shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri at Columbia as a political science major. After serving on the cruiser Los Angeles (CA-135) and the destroyer Duncan (DD-874), he volunteered for duty as an advisor in Southeast Asia because, as he wrote in a letter to his mother, “a lot is going on there that will eventually change the world.”

On the day of his last mission, 16 March 1965, Meyerkord was scheduled to appear at the Naval Advisory Group headquarters to receive a Bronze Star. Early that day, Meyerkord contacted Captain Hardcastle’s office and asked to be excused from the ceremony, explaining that he wanted to accompany his counterpart, Lieutenant Dai Huy Hoa, on a mission against a suspected Viet Cong position near Vinh Long. Later that day, he and Hoa lead a small flotilla of riverine craft down a canal. The small boats turned a bend and caught a fusillade of enemy fire. Chief Eugene Barney seized his 12-guage shotgun and took cover with an Army advisor behind a bench. Meyerkord remained in the exposed deckhouse and returned fire with his pistol. After a bullet slammed into his stomach, he cried out, “I’m hit,” and collapsed on the deckhouse but continued firing. Barney got up and grabbed Meyerkord in a bear hug and attempted to get him to safety. A round hit Meyerkord in the chin and another struck Barney’s back. Both men collapsed onto the deck of the commandement. Barney, who would later receive a Bronze Star for his heroism that day was flown by helicopter to the Third Field Hospital near Saigon, and then back to the United States, where would spend the next six months recovering from his wound at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. Meyerkord was not as fortunate. He died by the time the commandement reached Vinh Long a few hours later.

Meyerkord was one of the first U.S. Navy officers killed in Southeast Asia. His death marked the end of the advisory period of the war and the beginning of a more active phase in the Navy’s involvement in South Vietnam. The Navy ultimately awarded Meyerkord a Navy Cross and named a frigate (FF-1058) after him. The U.S. Navy lost one of its best riverine fighters when Meyerkord died, but as one of Meyerkord’s U.S. Army colleagues, Oscar Padgett, put it, “If you send the best over here, you’re going to lose the best.”

Mar 15

Transatlantic Flight Record

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:09 AM

March, 15th 1957
Goodyear N-class ZPG-2 airship, commanded by Commander J. R. Hunt, landed at NAS Key West, Florida after a flight that began on March, 4th at South Weymouth, Massachusetts. The flight continued over the Atlantic toward Portugal, then south toward the African coast and back across the Atlantic covering 9,448 miles and remaining in air 264 hours and 12 minutes, without refueling, setting a new world record in distance and endurance.

Mar 14

Million-Man Training

Monday, March 14, 2011 12:01 AM

On 14 March 1943 the Fleet Operational Training Command, Atlantic Fleet was formally established, with Rear Admiral Donald B. Beary in command. Beary, known as “Red” to his fellow Naval Academy graduates of the Class of 1910, came to the new assignment from a seventh-month stint as Commandant of the Naval Operating Base in Iceland. He was the perfect choice for this exacting job. A member of the Navy’s Gun Club who had earned a PG degree in electrical engineering at Columbia, he had been known since his Midshipman days as a man who possessed drive above all else.

During the year-and-a-half he served as COTCLANT, Beary successfully administered the creation and operation of a wide variety of training facilities along the U.S. East Coast, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and on Culebra Island, Puerto Rico. These included such esoteric facilities as Anti-Aircraft Training Centers and the Anti-Aircraft Training Afloat program on board U.S.S. Wyoming, the Combat Information Center, Group Training Center in Norfolk, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Norfolk, the Fleet Sonar School in Key West, and the Minecraft Training Center in Little Creek, Virginia. In all during his time in command, Admiral Beary directed the training of more than 1,000,000 officers and men of the United States Fleet and supervised the shakedown or refresher training of some 5,000 vessels.

It is not surprising, therefore, that in the citation for the Distinguished Service Medal he was awarded in February 1945 for his accomplishments, he was singled out as a “resourceful and aggressive administrator” who was responsible for “the high state of battle proficiency and readiness for action maintained by the vessels under his command.”

Mar 11

Operation Market Time Begins in Vietnam

Friday, March 11, 2011 1:38 AM

March, 11th 1965

Operation Market Time was established after the Vung Ro incident to blockade the vast South Vietnam coastline against North Vietnamese trawlers that could carry several tons of arms and ammunition in their hulls. The ships would maneuver out in the South China Sea, waiting for the cover of darkness to make high-speed runs to the South Vietnam coastline. If successful, the ships would off load their cargoes to waiting Viet Cong or North Vietnamese forces.

The discovery in February 1965, of a 130-foot junk off-loading enemy supplies in Vung Ro Bay brought about the decision to order the Coast Guard patrol vessels to Vietnam. In this particular case, the camouflaged junk had infiltrated with enough arms and supplies to outfit an entire enemy battalion. There were reasons to believe that similar landings were being made at other points along the coast.

Example of a round up

Commander R. L. Schreadley, U. S. Navy, pointed out in “Sea Lords” (Proceedings, August 1970),

“By almost all measurable criteria the task forces (Market Time, Game Warden, and Mobile Riverine) had achieved a high degree of effectiveness (by the fall of 1968). There had been no known attempts to infiltrate large shipments of men or arms into South Vietnam by sea since the Tet offensive earlier in the year. Possibly, small intra-coastal transhipments may still have occurred, but if they did, it was at a high cost to the enemy because of the intensive and well co-ordinated Market Time air and sea patrols. These patrols had forced the enemy to reorient his entire logistics system and to organize and construct networks of infiltration routes in the Demilitarized Zone, in Laos, and in Cambodia.”

In his article “Skimmer Ops” (Proceedings July 1977) Lieutenant J. F. Ebersole, U. S. Coast Guard remarks in the words of one Market Time Swift boat (PCF) skipper,

“If we hadn’t done our job so well, they wouldn’t have had to build the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

Swift boat