Dec 11

Operation Inland Seas

Saturday, December 11, 2010 12:01 AM

 The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, allowing large ships to transit from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. That summer, the U.S. Navy launched Operation Inland Seas, a massive public relations tour of the lakes by ships from the Atlantic Fleet. This 1960 documentary, narrated by Glenn Ford, tells the story.


Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-23.

Dec 10

NHHC Wishes Photo Curator Ed Finney Fair Winds and Following Seas

Friday, December 10, 2010 11:19 AM
NHHC Photo Curator Ed Finney and CINCHOUSE, Daisy at Ed’s farewell in the Museum Education center on 7 December 2010.

The Naval History & Heritage Command won’t be the same anymore after today’s retirement of photo curator extraordinaire, Ed Finney. Ed started out at the-then Naval Historical Center as a GS-4 clerk typist over 20 years ago. RUMINT has it the number of words per minute he could type is still classified.

Ed is a third generation U.S. Naval Academy graduate (Class of 1967). His grandfather was Class of 1902 and his father was class of 1937 .

He has helped countless of researchers over the years with their inquiries. When asked by Naval History Blog about some of the more bizarre requests he had received over the years, he said requests for satellite imagery of the August 1942 invasion of Guadalcanal and a bizarre phone call in which the caller asked, “What time is it where you are?”

Ed will be missed at the NHHC but hopefully he will be back to visit us.

Dec 10

Diving History — History of the Navy Diver Rating

Friday, December 10, 2010 12:01 AM

Back in the late 1800’s, the very first Diving rating was Gunners Mate. Instruction in simple diving had been part of the course at the Gunnery School because Gunners Mates were assigned as ships divers as a collateral duty. The introduction of the torpedo, a weapon that revolutionized Navy warfare caused the Navy to require a more in depth training pipeline to support torpedo testing and recovery. In order to support this, the Navy established a school under Chief Gunners Mate Jacob Anderson to teach diving (in 1882). Chief Anderson’s two week course was the first designed solely to train divers. Based in Newport, RI; the school trained divers to descend to a maximum depth of 60 feet to recover exercise torpedoes. The course of instruction was based solely on dress of the diver and underwater procedures. Things like decompression, DCS or AGE were still decades from being discovered. As the mission of the Navy Diver grew, so did the training and recognition of the program.

In 1929 two Diver’s distinguishing marks (patches) were introduced. The Master Diver mark had a block letter “M” on the breast plate and the First Class Diver mark had the numeral “1”. Shortly there-after, two additional Diver distinguishing marks were added; Second Class Divers and Salvage Divers. These cloth marks were awarded based on in-water/operational knowledge as much as they were on the training the individual received.

The outstanding contributions the Navy Diver had during WWII caused the Navy to attempt the establishment of a Diver rating in 1948. This rating was called Underwater Mechanic – established in 1948 from wartime diving details but never actually activated. Originally this rating fell under the Exclusive Emergency Service Rating (in response to WWII needs) and later was planned as a General Rating that would be placed under the Engineering/Hull ratings. The specialty badge consisted of a MK-V helmet superimposed over a two headed wrench with the rating designator of UM. The Navy planned the rating and had manufacturers even create insignia for it, but never implemented it until 1964 when it was disestablished. It was also at this time that the metal qualification badges that we all wear today would be created and approved for wear:

1) Second Class Pin – Obvious heritage symbol of the diving community representing its primary job of diving — The MK V helmet.

2) First Class Pin – Heraldic Dolphins come from the sub community. These mythical fish/dolphins were tied closely to Poseidon the Greek God of the sea. It symbolizes speed and the ability to reach deep depths.

3) Master Diver – Also from the sub community. Seahorses pulled the chariot of Poseidon and traditionally stand for wisdom and sea power – the double tridents mastery of the ocean. The knot is a carrick bend, used to hold and position the divers air hose. This was placed on the breast plate to reflect ties to the operational side of diving and to differentiate it from the diving medical pins that use the caduceus on the breast plate.

In July 1, 2006 the Navy Diving (ND) rating was officially established as a general rating and falls under the Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations ratings. The MKV helmet on the rating badge reflects our main operational environment as well as our heritage/history. The pins are still worn on uniform to distinguish both warfare qualification as well as level of diving training/qualification.

Dec 9

Baseball and the Navy: Bob Feller, “The Heater from Van Meter”

Thursday, December 9, 2010 12:01 AM

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, asking him, “What do you want [baseball] to do? . . .We await your order.” The President replied, “I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” With this recommendation, the league began a massive effort to support the war. However, some players chose a more patriotic path. Waiving his draft deferment as the sole provider for his family, pitcher Robert Feller enlisted in the Navy on 9 December 1941, becoming the first Major League player to join the service.

Already a national star, Feller was first assigned as a physical training instructor. However, his desire to go into combat led him to volunteer for gunners’ school in 1942. Chief Petty Officer Feller was placed in command of a 40mm antiaircraft mount aboard Alabama (BB 60), and served through the campaigns in the North Atlantic and throughout the Pacific theater. In March 1945 he reported to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois, where he managed the baseball team. In August he returned to the Cleveland Indians and resumed his Major League career.

Feller got his nickname, “The Heater from Van Meter,” due to his lightning fastball and his hometown, Van Meter, Iowa. Some baseball experts have credited him as being the hardest throwing pitcher in history. An 8-time All-Star and a World Series champion, Feller’s number 19 was retired by the Cleveland Indians, for whom he played his entire 18-year career. He retired from baseball in 1956, and in 1962 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Bob Feller also holds two other great distinctions: he never played a game in the minors after being signed by the Cleveland Indians, and he is the only pitcher in Major League history to throw a no-hitter on opening day.

Dec 8

Jointness at Wake Island 8-22 December 1941

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:01 AM

The 8 to 22 December 1941 defense of Wake Island provides an interesting example of Navy and Marine Corps cooperation before the advent of “jointness.” Recognizing the island’s strategic location, the U.S. Navy began to develop facilities including an airfield on Wake in January 1941. This work was undertaken by some 1,200 civilian contractors supervised by Mr. N. D. Teeter. At the time, it was also an airport for the Pan American Airlines clippers.

In October, the U.S. Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion arrived under Major James P. S. Devereux to provide for base surface and air defense with what would eventually total 450 men.

As the clouds of war gathered in November, Commander Winfield S. Cunningham arrived as naval air base commander along with 67 officers and sailors. Also present were five U.S. Army Air Corps communicators engaged in moving bombers to the Philippines.

Final reinforcements arrived by carrier with Marine Fighting Squadron 211 led by Major Paul A. Putnam. This disparate group fought a sustained air and surface battle for two weeks against Japanese air and naval forces. The gallant defense against impossible odds was with the cooperation of all involved—civilian contractors preparing defenses, a Pan Am clipper flying search patrols, and the Marines providing air and surface fighting power. Though ending in defeat, it provided a model for success at Midway, Johnston, Palmyra, and American Samoa and highlighted the value of interservice, civil, and military teamwork.

Dec 7

Pearl Harbor Day – Navy TV

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 9:23 PM

Now on Navy TV

Navy TV has been granted permission by Periscope Films to air their newly restored HD-BluRay version of “Victory at Sea”‘s episode on Pearl Harbor: “The Pacific Boils Over.” Using captured Japanese footage and material from John Ford’s “December 7th,” viewers see the planning, execution and, ultimately, the celebration of the surprise attack on Hawaii. All 26 episodes are available for sale through the Navy Memorial’s Ship’s Store.

Dec 7

Remember Dec. 7th!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 12:40 PM

Remember Dec. 7th! Poster designed by Allen Saalburg, issued by the Office of War Information, Washington, D.C., in 1942, in remembrance of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

Dec 7

Message Home

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 11:55 AM

In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, families back home in the United States with loved ones serving in the Pacific were naturally worried about their status. Lieutenant (junior grade) Thomas C. Provost, III, a naval aviator in Fighting Squadron (VF) 6 serving in the carrier Enterprise (CV 6), was out at sea far away from the damage and destruction wrought by enemy aircraft on the morning of December 7th. Only when the “Big E” slipped into port at dusk on December 8th did Provost and those on board see firsthand the devastation of the attack. After being refueled and replenished through the night, the carrier steamed out of Pearl Harbor in the early morning hours of December 9th. On that day, Provost joined other members of the crew in placing this card into the outgoing mail, delivering word to his family that he was well, had received a letter from them dated November 24th, and would write to them shortly (which he did on December 15th).

As a member of VF-6, Provost participated in the early battles of the Pacific War, including air-to-air combat at Midway, where he and and a squadronmate were credited with splashing an enemy dive bomber. He later flew F6F Hellcats with VF-81, scoring a kill with that squadron. Provost died after World War II in an aircraft accident while serving as a test pilot.