Nov 15

“Saving American lives” Andrew P. Hayes and the hunt for the Taliban

Monday, November 15, 2010 12:01 AM

Army Green Berets fighting the enemy in Afghanistan on 15 November 2001 had discovered a hornet’s nest as Taliban tanks and armored vehicles rumbled up to within two miles of the special operators. They obviously intended to attack at any moment, and the men did not have the heavy weapons to stop tanks. They needed help, and fast.

Lieutenant Andrew P. Hayes of Fighter Squadron (VF)-102, the radar intercept officer of a Grumman F-14B Tomcat, launched as the lead of call sign Brando 01, a flight from aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). As Lieutenant Hayes assumed forward air controller duties he spotted the Taliban, and thinking quickly, decisively took command of the situation and attacked the Islamic extremists.

The tribesmen resolutely opened fire but Hayes dropped three laser-guided bombs and scored direct hits on two moving tanks and on a revetted armored vehicle. Meanwhile, his wingman released three additional GBU-12 laser-guided bombs which Hayes guided in to destroy two revetted tanks and a fuel truck. When the truck exploded about fifty Taliban leapt out of their positions and fled into the desert.

Over the next six hours Hayes continued to guide weapon deliveries by a dozen aircraft from Blueridge, Everest, Rocky and Sinai flights, and to track the Taliban as they scattered, until low fuel forced him to disengage and return for refueling. Hayes’ heroic actions resulted in the destruction of 33 vehicles, 27 of them armored.

“…The bigger accomplishment was saving American lives on the ground” the lieutenant humbly reflected afterward. “It was Americans helping Americans. It was my job to make sure they were safe while they continued their mission…” Lieutenant Hayes subsequently received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism that day.

Nov 14

Albert P. “Scoofer” Coffin and Guadalcanal

Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:30 PM

On the morning of 14 November 1942, the eleven transports of Rear Admiral Raizō Tanaka’s Outer South Seas Force Reinforcement Force were steaming southeast down the “Slot” toward Guadalcanal. Filled with more than 7,000 Imperial Japanese Army troops and tons of ammunition and supplies and escorted by the ships of three destroyer divisions, these ex-merchantmen were on a mission to reinforce the Japanese infantry units on Guadalcanal.

Spotted by American search aircraft after 0700 and again just before 0900, Tanaka’s force soon was targeted for attack. At about 1100, a combined Marine-Navy thirty-eight plane strike began taking off from Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. This group included seven TBF Avenger torpedo planes of ENTERPRISE’s VT-10, under the command of Lieutenant Albert P. “Scoofer” Coffin, the squadron’s XO. Coffin, a 1934 graduate of the Naval Academy from Indianapolis, had the lead division of four TBFs. Arriving over the Japanese reinforcement force just after the completion of several unsuccessful attacks on the ships by SBD dive bombers from Guadalcanal, Coffin’s aircraft descended for torpedo attacks on two transports in the southern column. His lead division managed to put two torpedoes into the port side of one transport, while the trailing division, under Lieutenant Macdonald Thompson, put another torpedo into the starboard side of the other ship.

Scoofer Coffin was later awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” in combat in the Solomon Islands area during the period of 13-15 November 1942. At war’s end, he was commanding Carrier Air Group 19 in San Diego.

Nov 14

Apollo 12: All-Navy Crew

Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:01 PM

Apollo 12 was the second manned mission to the moon and the only one that boasted an all-Navy crew of Comdr. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Comdr. Richard F. “Dick” Gordon, and Comdr. Alan L. Bean.

Apollo 12 lifted off on 14 November and on 19 November Conrad and Bean became the third and fourth humans to walk on the moon.

The crew of Apollo 12 boated many accomplishments, including: the first precision manual moon landing; the first time the pilot maneuvered the Command Module into a different orbiting trajectory, a requirement for future missions; an extended visit to the lunar service–almost three times as long as Apollo 11–including two separate moonwalks and recovery of equipment from an earlier unmanned probe; and finally, the first deployment of an automated scientific analysis package, which remained operational for eight years and provided a wealth of information.

The excellent performance of the spacecraft, the crew, and the support personnel ranked this “all-Navy” mission as one of the most successful in NASA history.

Nov 14

Eugene B. Ely’s First Flight From a Ship: November 14, 1910

Sunday, November 14, 2010 12:01 AM

Short version of “Wings for the Navy” highlighting Ely’s First Flight on 11-14-1910.


Nov 13

“Paying the Ultimate Price” Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC

Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:01 AM

Today, USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) joins the fleet. Here’s a little bit of background about her namesake.

From the beginning, it seems fate had destined Jason Dunham to join the Marine Corps. He was born in Scio, N.Y., on 10 November 1981. That same day, the Corps celebrated its 206th birthday. Dunham joined the Corps when he was 22 years old.

Corporal Dunham served as a rifle squad leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced). While performing a reconnaissance in Karabilah, Iraq, on 14 April 2004, Dunham’s squadron heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire approximately 1 ½ miles away. Discovering that their battalion commander’s convoy had been ambushed, Corporal Dunham led his squad to the site to provide fire support, when they came under attack.

Corporal Dunham ordered his team to dismount their vehicles and continue the attack on foot toward the ambushed convoy, where they discovered several Iraqi vehicles attempting to retreat. As the team approached the vehicles to conduct a weapons search, an Iraqi insurgent jumped out and attacked Corporal Dunham, resulting in the two men struggling on the ground, and the insurgent releasing a grenade.

Realizing the danger, Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines and quickly used his helmet and body to cover the grenade and shield the blast. He was severely wounded, while protecting the lives of two fellow Marines.

Corporal Dunham was later flown to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he was presented the Purple Heart. He succumbed to his injuries eight days later with his parents by his bedside. On 11 January 2007, he was officially awarded the Medal of Honor.

On 23 March 2007, Navy Secretary Donald Winter officially announced the naming of the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, the Jason Dunham (DDG 109), in a ceremony held in Corporal Dunham’s hometown.

Corporal Dunham’s undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, resulted in him paying the ultimate price for his country, upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Nov 13

Safety First! John Dahlgren and American Naval Ordnance

Saturday, November 13, 2010 12:01 AM

November 13, 2010 marks the 201st birthday of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, known to history as the “father of American naval ordnance.” Dahlgren, however, almost didn’t make it past his 40th birthday.

On 13 November 1849, he was test firing a 32-pounder cannon to determine its range when suddenly the piece exploded, killing a Sailor on the gun crew and nearly killing Dahlgren himself.

The incident spurred Dahlgren to develop detailed specifications for manufacture and proof testing of cannon which yielded safer and more reliable cannon than the Navy ever had before. Unlike previous American wars, not a single Dahlgren smoothbore exploded during combat during the Civil War.

All told, John Dahlgren instituted into the Navy a culture of safety which had not existed before and which exists to this day.

Nov 12

MAtt1c Leonard R. Harmon and Comdr. Mark H. Crouter, Gallantry off Guadalcanal, 12-13 November 1942

Friday, November 12, 2010 12:00 PM

Poster featuring Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon, USN and USS Harmon (DE-678), which was named in his honor. He was killed in action on board USS San Francisco (CA-38) during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 13 November 1942. For his heroism in that action, Mess Attendant Harmon was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The poster also features the text of his award citation and a representation of the Navy Cross medal. Photo #: NH 69652

There was no shortage of heroism on land, sea, under the sea, or in the air over Guadalcanal.

Two decades separated their births; half a continent separated their birthplaces. One man graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1919, the other enlisted in 1939. One man was white, the other black. The former had no limitations in his service, the latter, because of his race, could only serve in the messman branch. Yet circumstances drew them together in one ship, in one battle, and saw each give up his “life in the defense of his country.”

Mark Hanna Crouter — born in Baker, Ore., on 3 October 1897 — was appointed midshipman on 21 June 1916. Known as someone wh

o could achieve academic success without effort (and who exhibited a “handclasp that will bust a couple of fingers”) he graduated with the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1919. Over the next two decades, “Mard” Crouter, “the very best kind of shipmate,” served in cruisers, gunboats and battleships, from Siberia to Hampton Roads.

Leonard Roy Harmon — born in Cuero, Texas, on 21 January 1917 — enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Houston on 10 June 1939 as a mess attendant third class (MAtt3c). After receiving training at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Va., he traveled in the heavy cruiser Tuscaloosa (CA-37) to join her sister ship, the San Francisco (CA-38). Harmon reported on board the San Francisco on 28 October 1939. Advancements in rate followed: to MAtt2c on 16 August 1940, and to MAtt1c on 5 November 1941, a little over a month before Pearl Harbor.

On 11 May 1942, Comdr. Crouter reported on board the San Francisco as her executive officer. Less than six months later, he distinguished himself in the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October 1942, the ship’s “high morale and outstanding skill displayed by the officers and men during the engagement” directly attributed to the “organization and training [that] he did so much to perfect.”

Less than a month after Cape Esperance, on 12 November 1942, the San Francisco was covering a force of transports disembarking reinforcements off Guadalcanal when Japanese land attack planes, carrying torpedoes, attacked. During the ensuing engagement, one of the enemy aircraft crashed the San Francisco despite a withering barrage of antiaircraft fire, and caused “considerable damage and intense fires,” demolishing the after control station and burning out Battle II, putting the after antiaircraft director and radar out of commission. One officer and 15 men were either killed outright or died of their injuries soon thereafter. Four officers – including Comdr. Crouter — and 25 men were wounded, most suffering horrible burns. The San Francisco transferred the wounded men to the transport President Jackson (AP-37) – with one exception.

“Rather than submit to transfer for medical treatment,” Comdr. Crouter, although in “intense pain and waning strength” from severe burns on both legs, insisted on remaining on board “so that he could be returned to duty in a minimum of time,” exhibiting “sturdy endurance and courageous disregard for his own personal safety.” MAtt1c Harmon had exhibited “unusual loyalty on behalf of” Crouter. It seems most likely that Harmon attended to the wounded executive officer before the young mess attendant had to proceed to his battle station later, for that night, the San Francisco fought again, this time in a desperate surface engagement at close quarters in the confined waters off Guadalcanal.

The San Francisco suffered heavy damage from Japanese guns ranging from 14-inch shells to machine gun bullets. During the battle, a projectile plowed into Comdr. Crouter’s cabin and exploded, inflicting fatal wounds. MAtt1c Harmon, meanwhile, was rendering “invaluable service in caring for the wounded and evacuating them to a dressing station” until, as he was working as a stretcher bearer topside, near the cruiser’s secondary battery 5-inch mounts amidships, a 6-inch projectile from the secondary battery of the Japanese battleship Hiei struck in the vicinity and exploded. Shouting “Look out, Doc!” Harmon moved to shield Pharmacist’s Mate 3d Class Lynford L. Bondsteel from the lethal fragments, pushing him to the deck. Although Bondsteel managed to get his courageous shipmate below, Harmon died of his wounds soon thereafter.

Mark Crouter and Leonard Harmon were each awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously, and the Navy honored each in the naming of a destroyer escort. In Harmon’s case, it proved a double tribute, for he was the first African-American in the U.S. Navy to have a ship named for him. In 1975, a building at NAS North Island was named for him.

“I feel proud always,” AAMM Leonard Roy Harmon, II, his grandson, said in 1982, “I feel he has set us an example to follow.”

Nov 12

Remarkable Fire Discipline” Lt.(j.g.) Albert T. Harris, USNR, and the Battle of Guadalcanal, 12 November 1942

Friday, November 12, 2010 6:00 AM

USS President Jackson (AP-37) maneuvering under Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal, 12 November 1942. In the center background is smoke from an enemy plane that had just crashed into the after superstructure of USS San Francisco (CA-38), which is steaming away in the right center.

Ens. Albert Thomas Harris reported for duty on board heavy cruiser San Francisco (CA-38) at Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of 6 January 1942. Ten months later, on the afternoon of 12 November, 21 Japanese twin-engined torpedo planes attacked San Francisco’s task group off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.

Commanding an antiaircraft battery, the newly promoted Lt. (jg.) Harris directed the fire of his guns on an approaching plane that had been set ablaze by gunfire from a nearby transport. As the enemy unswervingly bore in, Harris and his gunners exhibited equal determination and remained at their posts, maintaining a heavy fire until the bomber crashed into them, killing Harris and three of his four crews.

San Francisco’s senior surviving officer praised “the remarkable fire discipline and courage” of the 27-year old Georgian and his Sailors: “They met their deaths without flinching and in a manner which has been an inspiration to us all.” For conspicuous bravery “in the face of certain death,” Harris was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously. USS Albert T. Harris (DE-447) was named in his honor and sponsored by his mother, Mrs. J.D. Harris.

In conflicts throughout the history of the U.S. Navy, Sailors have met a sometimes suicidal enemy with commensurate courage and resolve, exemplifying the service’s core values.