Feb 4

Navy TV – Back to Boot Camp!

Friday, February 4, 2011 9:35 AM

If you want to remember what you went through; if you want to show your family what you went through or what you as a recruit will be going through, NAVY TV is here to help! In the February edition of All Hands Television, we take an in depth look at Recruit Training Command all the way from recruits’ arrival at the airport to P-days to the intense physical training. We also get a preview of what we can expect next month, as the “Return to Boot Camp” segment continues. All this and more on the February edition of All Hands Television!

Feb 4

Unsung Petty Officers

Friday, February 4, 2011 12:01 AM

February 1800 found the twelve-gun United States schooner Experiment cruising along the southern coast of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Its mission was the protection of American-flagged merchantmen against depredations of French privateers. On the fourth, there were more than forty prisoners from captured vessels on board the schooner, which, having detached officers and men to the prizes, coasted along short-handed. About eleven that night, off the harbor of Benet, a large unidentified vessel approached Experiment. Lieutenant William Maley, Experiment’s commanding officer, rousted his boatswain, Thomas Tickner, from his sleep to call all hands to quarters. On deck, Tickner repeated Maley’s order to have the flying jib loosed to clear the bow gun for action. No one came forward to do it, so the boatswain himself climbed out onto the jib-boom.

When the strange sail came within musket shot, Maley had the bow gun fired, but instead of coming to, the stranger responded with a volley of musketry and the fire of one or two carriage guns. Maley immediately ordered a broadside, but only six or eight men stood to their quarters, and only three or four of Experiment’s guns were ready for action. Maley’s standing orders were that every night the captain of each gun make sure powder horns, cartridges, and matches were in their proper places and report to the officer of the watch on deck that everything was in order. Those orders had been neglected the evening of 4 February, and several guns were missing their match and powder horns. Quartermaster George Diggs found some powder horns below and handed them up through the skylight.

Carpenter’s Mate Philip Emerick was the only man on board belonging to the aftermost gun on the quarterdeck and on his own could not get his gun to bear on the enemy. Maley, wounded in his right hand, used his left to elevate the gun, and together the two managed to fire the gun twice. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Joshua Blake, at the next gun, took shelter behind a shot locker and gave Seaman George Weaver, who had to search for match, little help in firing their gun. Despite Maley’s repeated orders, Experiment fired altogether only five or six guns. With the enemy returning the schooner’s fire with musketry and cannon shot, Maley ordered Experiment hove about to seek assistance from the officers and crews manning the prize ships. The stranger stood in for the land and escaped into the night.

The U.S. schooner Experiment’s experience in a sudden hostile action on the night of 4 February 1800 illustrates how essential to success were adept and diligent forward and petty officers. While, “in consequence of the neglect of the Gunner,” as Lieutenant Maley later concluded, “the men would not stand to their quarters,” it was the prompt action of boatswain, quartermaster, and carpenter’s mate that avoided an absolute disaster.

Note that the records of this event are colorblind. It is only from an unrelated source that we learn that George Diggs, Experiment’s quartermaster who located the needed powder horns in the sudden night engagement, was “a free man of Color.”

Feb 1

Happy 110th Birthday Sir!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 7:08 PM

Frank Buckles describes his experiences in the ambulance Corps in World War I. Buckles is the only known living World War I

Feb 1

Black Sailors in the Great White Fleet, 1907-1909

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 12:01 AM

When the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Battle Fleet, known to history as the Great White Fleet, made its famous 1907-1909 world cruise, the composition of the Navy’s personnel was in the midst of a major transformation. Beginning with the introduction of steam power before the Civil War, and accelerating in pace at the turn of the century, the size, work, classification, and character of the enlisted force underwent a revolutionary metamorphosis.

Ratings changed as the skills needed evolved. Seamen were no longer needed who could reef sails, but electricians who knew how to operate electrical apparatuses were. Growth came principally in the skilled trades and engine-room responsibilities, while the number in the seaman’s branch declined.

Even as the enlisted ranks grew with the expanding Navy, enlisted men came to be more American. Far fewer were born abroad, and the percentage of naturalized citizens dropped as well. In 1899, 60 percent of the Navy enlisted men were native born, in 1910, 89 percent. In the same period, non-citizens fell from 20 percent to less than 1.5, while the percentage of naturalized citizens declined from 20 to 7.

The change in the character of recruits resulted from a deliberate Navy policy to fill its ranks with youths from middle America. The Navy sought solid, patriotic young men who possessed or could develop technical proficiencies

The Navy’s new recruiting policy was not designed to attract members of one class of citizens, African-American men, who made up an eighth of the American male population. Although the Navy had not yet become segregated and there were still black sailors among the ranks of the petty officers, the Navy of 1907 could not escape the racial attitudes of the American society of the time, and hence, of a large portion—although not all—of its white recruits. In 1896 the United States Supreme Court had declared that racial segregation in public accommodations was constitutional. Jim Crow laws and practices were soon the norm across much of the nation. At the same time that many enlisted whites objected to slinging their hammocks next to blacks and to eating their meals with them, naval leaders doubted the innate ability of blacks to master the new technical skills needed in the Navy. In rapid order, black sailors were relegated to the ranks of the mess men or to the laborious and hot work of the engine room crew, as members of which they would eat and sleep separately from the rest of the crew.

Despite the decline of opportunity for advancement in the Navy and the demeaning nature of relations with their white shipmates, roughly 1,700 African-Americans served in the Navy throughout the Theodore Roosevelt years. The conditions on board ship in many cases would have been less demeaning than what African-Americans encountered in a great number of towns and cities throughout the United States, particularly in the South.

Of the many hundreds of photographs of sailors in the world cruise of the Great White Fleet, only two have been identified that clearly include black sailors.

Feb 1

1 February 1941 Fleet Reorganization

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 12:01 AM

70 years ago today, the United States Fleet was reorganized into Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic fleets. The Atlantic and Pacific fleets had been established from their 19th century predecessors in 1906/1907, but by the end of World War I most of the Navy’s combat power was in the Atlantic. In 1922 the Secretary of the Navy had established a single United States Fleet with four permanent subordinate organizations that moved periodically between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans: the Battle Fleet, the Scouting Fleet, the Control Force (a skeleton blockade and base-seizing force), and the Fleet Base Force providing fleet logistics. Smaller reorganizations continued during the interwar period, and by the end of the 1930s most of the Navy’s combat power was in the Pacific in anticipation of a possible war with Japan. But by early 1941 there was an actual, not potential, war in the Atlantic (although the U.S. was not then in it), and the 1 February reorganization recognized the fact that a single operational fleet was not sufficient for an increasingly likely two-ocean war. The United States Fleet remained in existence but mainly as an administrative organization, and the Commander in Chief (CINC) was the senior of the three fleet CINCs on additional duty. Immediately after the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a separate CINC U.S. Fleet was reestablished with authority over the other fleets. Early in 1942 the duties of Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet were consolidated with those of CNO in the person of Admiral Ernest J. King. The position of CINC U.S. Fleet was finally abolished in October 1945.

Jan 31

Bulletin on the Okinawa Operation

Monday, January 31, 2011 9:00 AM

On 1 April, 1945, Allied forces landed on the shores of Okinawa. This 1945 color film, produced by the Marines Corps Photographic Service, tells the story of the initial phases of the campaign. Part 1 contains footage of the naval gunfire bombardment, the amphibious assault on the beach, and movement inland over the rugged terrain of the island. Also shown is a captured Japanese “Ohka” suicide rocket plane. Part 2 continues the story as American forces fight through the streets of small towns and villages, and encounter stronger Japanese resistance in the hills. Also shown is a small fleet of unused Japanese “Shinyo” suicide boats. Part 3 concludes the film with the pitched battle for Okinawa’s capital, Naha. As the film was produced during the war, with fighting on Okinawa still raging, it ends prior to the defeat of Japanese forces on the island.

Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-26.

Jan 26

John Paul Jones’ Crypt

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:01 AM

A most impressive site at the United States Naval Academy is the crypt holding the body of America’s great Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones. Visited by thousands of people each year, it is an icon of both the Naval Academy and the United States Navy. How that crypt came to be is an interesting story.

Jones died alone and almost forgotten in Paris in 1792, where he was buried in an obscure cemetery that was later paved over. When in the early 1900’s President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to celebrate the emergence of the United States as a world-class naval power, he decided that the country should pay due honor to its first great naval hero.

The first step was to find the body. It took the American ambassador to France, Gen. Horace Porter, several months and much money to find Jones’ remains, which were finally located beneath a laundry on the outskirts of the city.

Once a careful comparison of the remarkably well-preserved corpse with a bust done of Jones by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1780 confirmed that the body was that of Jones, Roosevelt decided to return it to the United States with appropriate pomp and to demonstrate that the U.S. was fast becoming the world’s premiere naval power, as Jones had once predicted it would. Four cruisers brought the body to American waters where they were joined by eleven of the Navy’s finest battleships. This combined force steamed into Chesapeake Bay, where the body was unloaded and sent to Annapolis. Commemorative exercises were held there on 24 April 1906, with speeches by numerous dignitaries, including Roosevelt.

Then the process stalled. Congress was slow to appropriate money for a permanent resting place so the body remained on trestles in Bancroft Hall for seven years and irreverent midshipman were soon singing a parody of the popular song “Everybody Works but Father”:

Everybody works but John Paul Jones!

He lies around all day,

Body pickled in alcohol

On a permanent jag, they say.

Middies stand around him

Doing honor to his bones;

Everybody works in “Crabtown”

But John Paul Jones!

Not until 26 January 1913 was Jones’ body moved into its permanent resting place, the marble sarcophagus designed by Sylvain Salières and modeled after the tomb of Napoleon in the Invalides. It took a long time, but everyone must agree, they got it right in the end.

Jan 26

Thomas Phelps and the Battle of Seattle, 26 January 1856

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:01 AM

As a young lieutenant assigned to the sloop of war Decatur, Thomas S. Phelps took part in the suppression of the Indians of varying tribes at the settlement of Seattle in the Washington Territory. Decatur had been stationed in Puget Sound both in anticipation of trouble with local Indians, but also as a deterrent against Indians from Vancouver Island who regularly raided local settlements. On the morning of 26 January 1856, upon receiving reports that the Indians were occupying the woods near Seattle, Decatur’s commander, Guert Gansevoort, ordered a landing force of sailors and Marines ashore.

Supported by a howitzer, which they brought ashore with them, and the ship’s battery firing solid shot, shells, grape shot, and canister, the landing party engaged the Indians and drove them back within thirty minutes. When the Indians paused to eat at 11:45 a.m., the settlers evacuated the women and children to Decatur. Fighting resumed when the settlers attempted to retrieve arms and valuables from their homes. When scouts reported that the Indians were preparing to burn settler buildings, Decatur shifted its firing to the settlement, damaging several dwellings.

By 10:00 p.m. all firing had ceased when the Indians disengaged and retreated with their dead and wounded into the woods. No sailors or Marines were lost due to fighting, and the actions of the combined Navy/Marine Corps force had safeguarded, if only temporarily, the frontier settlement.

Lieutenant Phelps went on to serve in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Squadrons. He achieved future fame for commanding the steam sloop of war Juniata during the January 1865 combined Navy/Marine Corps assault on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, during the Civil War. Phelps was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1884 and retired a year later.