On the evening of 16th February, 1804, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia was burned in Tripoli Harbor. The frigate had been captured on October 31, 1803 when the ship ran aground on a reef a few miles outside Tripoli. The war with Tripoli had raged since 1801, the entire action of the war mostly amounting to a few naval skirmishes and a lackadaisical blockade of Tripoli. When Commodore Edward Preble arrived to take command of the war, he had hoped to up the tempo of operations against Tripoli and quickly bring the war to a successful conclusion. The capture of the Philadelphia dramatically complicated this objective. The capture meant the Philadelphia’s captain and her crew, 307 Americans, became Tripoli’s prisoners. The capture also diminished American prestige among the Barbary States. Preble decided it was necessary to destroy the captured ship. The mission would be extremely dangerous; Preble expected the destruction of the ship would only come with great loss of life. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. volunteered to command the mission. His success restored American prestige and secured him a reputation of valor that followed him the rest of his life. The burning of the Philadelphia was a heroic episode during the Barbary Wars that made Decatur a hero and greatly increased the reputation of the Navy and the United States. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
In a cold night off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 17, 1864, the Sailors manning federal sloop of war USS Housatonic continued their duties, much as Sailors of today do while underway. They maintained the engine, ate chow and stood watch – though at the time it was a watch against Confederate blockade runners during the Civil War. The monotonous duties had been going on for months and the ship had not seen any action in the war since a few months before when they were part of a failed attack on Fort Sumter.
One of the Sailors on watch saw something drifting slowly through the water. In the night it would be hard to tell exactly what it was – a porpoise? A log?
By the time the Housatonic crew realized it was a vessel, operating mostly below the waterline, it was a hundred feet away, too close — too late — to bring their guns to bear. Reacting with desperation, the crew let slip the ship’s anchor chain and reversed the engine to evade the vessel.
Then the crash of something hitting the ship. Seconds later an explosion sounded, coming from Housatonic’s starboard side. Within five minutes the bulk of the 1,240 ton vessel lay beneath the waters in the shallows of South Carolina, five Sailors dead and the rest awaiting rescue in the ship’s rigging or lifeboats – victims of the first submarine attack. It was the only real success any submarine had during the American Civil War.
That successful sinking of Housatonic actually came at a greater cost to the vessel that sank her. CSS H.L. Hunley and her 8-person crew never returned to base, disappearing that night. She would not be found for more than a century.
L. Hunley was fashioned from a boiler iron and expressly built for hand-power. The vessel, named for one of her designers and financer, Horace Lawson Hunley, was designed for a 8-person crew, seven to turn the hand-cranked propeller and one to steer and direct the boat. A true submarine, it was equipped with ballast tanks to be flooded by valves and pumped dry by hand pumps. Iron weights were bolted as extra ballast to the underside of her hull. H. L. Hunley was equipped with a mercury depth gauge, steered by a compass when submerged and light was provided by a candle whose dying flame would also warn of dwindling air supply. When near the surface, two hollow pipes could be raised above the surface to admit air. Glass portholes were used to sight when operating near the surface.
It was not surprising the vessel went down. The pioneering submarine had failed twice before, the first time killing five sailors inside and the second time killing designer Hunley and a crew of seven. By the time it attacked Housatonic, Confederate Gen. Pierre Beauregard, in charge of South Carolina’s defenses, refused to let the vessel dive anymore, insisting the crew keep it awash (at water level).
Originally the ship was supposed to drag a torpedo 200 feet behind her. She would dive beneath a target ship and come up on the other side, continuing on her way until the torpedo struck the vessel behind her. By the time of the attack on Housatonic, the vessel was outfitted it with a Spar Torpedo, much like the Confederate torpedo boat CSS David, to try and sink vessels.
The Confederate submarine was found in 1995 about 1,000 feet from the where the action took place against Housatonic, more than a century before. Five years later, the little sub was raised and transported to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston where it undergoes conservation to this day.
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) acts as the administrator for the curation and ultimate disposition of the submarine.
“We are the federal manager of the submarine,” said Robert Neyland, Ph.D., director of NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB). “We have a programmatic agreement with the state of South Carolina regarding the recovery, preservation, and final exhibit of the Hunley. We are currently working on a loan agreement between the South Carolina Hunley Commission and Navy.”
Neyland has played a part in the story since the vessel was found in 1995.
“From the fall of 1998 to 2001, I was loaned under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act to the state of South Carolina to oversee the submarine’s recovery and then I continued working there part time until the excavation of the interior and recovery of the crew’s remains was complete.” Neyland said. “Naval History and Heritage Command and Underwater Archaeology has been heavily involved in the project since that time and we are now finishing up a report on the recovery of Hunley.”
And other commands have helped out too.
“Naval Research Laboratory did some materials science research related to the Hunley,” Neyland said, “and during the recovery we needed some security on site and the special boat unit detachment came down and handled security.”
The conservation center submitted a conservation plan to the U.S. Navy in 2006. After peer-review by conservationists around the world, it was finalized incorporating their suggestions.
Now other commands have come to use the Hunley as a research and teaching tool.
“Naval Surface Warfare Center-Carderock Division and Office of Naval Research has been doing a whole series of simulations and studies related to the explosion that sunk the Housatonic and what it would have done to the men inside the Hunley and the Hunley itself,” Neyland said. “They are using some of the same science and technology they use to analyze explosions and the impacts on Navy ships.”
“They can present their findings to people without the classified sticker,” added UA archaeologist Heather Brown. “They can discuss the specifics of the incident and discuss how their models work.”
Though there are many views of what might have caused the vessel to sink with all hands, the reason for its sinking may remain a mystery for some time. There’s no hurry, however, as it is scheduled to take another 8-to-10 years for the vessel to be fully conserved. Concreted materials are slowly being removed from both the inside and outside of the submarine. Now more than 70 percent of the concretion on the outside hull has been removed, leaving more delicate work to be done on the brittle cast iron pieces.
“A lot of the artifacts have been conserved, but the vessel itself is the biggest artifact – completing the deconcretion is now underway,” Neyland said. “Once that is done Clemson University conservators will be able to put it in a caustic solution to remove the corrosive chlorides and the salts. When it comes out of treatment, the solution will be removed with a series of washes and then the submarine will get a protective coating.”
Then there is a question of reassembly.
“If you put everything back together, you can’t see the interior,” Neyland said. “So do you reassemble everything, and use a camera for the inside?”
A place for its ultimate disposition is still being considered.
“The state and city of North Charleston are considering a site for a new museum – probably on land of the former Charleston Navy shipyard,” Neyland said.
He’s looking forward to a road trip sometime in April, in order to see the deconcretion in process and to meet at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center with the Clemson University Restoration Institute’s Hunley scientists and seeing NSWC and ONR scientists’ analysis of the Hunley torpedo explosion.
For more information on USS Housatonic and CSS H. L. Hunley, visit the Naval History and Heritage Command website at www.history.navy.mil, www.hunley.org and for information on the submarine restoration visit www.clemson.edu/restoration/wlcc/project/hunley.html .
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
From 1961 to 1993 the Navy could boasted veterans in the nation’s highest office, with the exception of Army veteran Ronald Reagan’s 8-year term of 1981-89. John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, James E. “Jimmy” Carter and George H.W. Bush all previously served their nation wearing Navy blue.
Interestingly of the presidents who served between ’61 and ’93, only Reagan held office for two full terms:
- Ford, Carter and Bush were single-term presidents;
- Kennedy was assassinated after 1,000 days in office;
- Johnson was elected once and chose not to seek a second term after finishing Kennedy’s term for a total of 5 years, 2 months, and
- While Nixon was elected twice, he served less than 18 months into his second term before resigning to avoid almost certain impeachment over his role in the Watergate scandal.
Of the six presidents with sea service, five have had ships named after them: Kennedy (aircraft carrier CVA 67 as well as CVN 79 which has yet to begin construction), Johnson (Zumwalt-class destroyer PCU DDG-1002), Ford (aircraft carrier PCU CVN 78), Carter (submarine SSN 23), and Bush (aircraft carrier CVN 77).
Nixon joins the remaining 20 presidents who have not had ships named after them. Our nation’s first President, for whom President’s Day was originally named, has a record-holding eight ships named Washington, with four between 1775-76, one each in 1798 and 1814, followed by the ballistic nuclear submarine (SSBN 598), decommissioned in 1985, and aircraft carrier CVN 73 commissioned in 1992.
Abraham Lincoln pales in comparison with just three ships: a former German steamer turned transport ship (President Lincoln 1917-18), one sub (SSBN 602), decommissioned in 1981, and Nimitz-class supercarrier (CVN 72), commissioned in 1989.
The following are brief synopsis of each president’s naval career. For more information, please click on the hyperlinks on their names:
President John F. Kennedy (1961-63) was appointed an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve in Oct. 1941. Initially he was assigned to the staff of the Office of Naval Intelligence before attending the Naval Reserve Officers Training School from July 27-Sept. 27, 1942. He then entered the Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center in Rhode Island. Upon his graduation Dec. 2, Lt. j.g. Kennedy was assigned to the Motor Torpedo Squadron 4 as the commanding officer of PT 101. A month later, PT 101 and four other boats were ordered to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 14 based at Panama.
Seeking combat duty, Kennedy transferred Feb. 23 as a replacement officer to Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2, which was based at Tulagi Island in the Solomons. He took command of PT 109 April 23, 1943.
It was the night of Aug. 1, 1943 when PT 109, with Kennedy at the helm, was run over by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri, cutting the torpedo boat in two. At the impact, Kennedy was thrown into the cockpit where he landed on his back, injured prior to him joining the service.
As some of the survivors clung to pieces of the ship, Kennedy swam to the remaining crew members to bring them back to the floating remnant of PT 109. Two had died during the collision. Kennedy towed one injured crew members as he and the other survivors swam five hours to cover the distance of three miles to an island.
After swimming to Nauru Island, Kennedy and his executive officer found natives. Kennedy wrote a message on a coconut: “11 alive native knows posit & reef Nauru Island Kennedy.” The survivors were rescued by PT 157 on Aug. 8. In September, Kennedy went to Tulagi where he became the skipper of PT 59. In Oct. 1943, Kennedy was promoted to lieutenant and the squadron moved to Vella Lavella.
Due to continued problems with his back, a doctor ordered Kennedy to leave PT 59 Nov. 18, and he returned to the United States in early January 1944. Kennedy would spend much of the rest of his Navy career getting treatment for his back injury. He was released from all active duty and retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve on physical disability in March 1945.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69) had already earned his bachelor’s degree, worked as a school teacher and elected twice to Congress before being appointed as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve June 21, 1940 at age 32.
He reported for active duty on Dec. 9, 1941 and was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. After training, he proceeded to Headquarters, Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, Calif., for inspection duty in the Pacific.
While stationed in New Zealand and Australia, he worked as an observer of bomber missions in the South Pacific, for which he was later awarded the Army Silver Star Medal.
After President Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress in the Armed Forces to return to their legislative duties, Johnson was released from active duty under honorable conditions June 16, 1942.
In 1949 he was promoted to commander in the Naval Reserves.
Richard M. Nixon (1969-74) joined the Navy at the age of 29 as a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Naval Reserve June 15, 1942. A lawyer, he had been working as an attorney for the Office of Emergency Management in Washington, D.C.
Following his appointment, Nixon began aviation indoctrination training at the Naval Training School, Naval Air Station in Quonset Point, R.I. After completing the course in October 1942, he went to the Naval Reserve Aviation Base in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he served as Aide to the Executive Officer until May 1943.
Looking for more excitement, Nixon volunteered for sea duty and reported to Commander, Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet where he was assigned as Officer in Charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal in the Solomons and later at Green Island. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of the cargo aircraft.
For this service he received a Letter of Commendation from the Commander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force for “meritorious and efficient performance of duty as Officer in Charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command…” Nixon was promoted to lieutenant Oct. 1, 1943.
From August through December of 1944, Nixon was assigned to Fleet Air Wing 8 at Naval Air Station Alameda, Calif. Then he was transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington, D.C, through March 1945. His next assignment as a newly-promoted lieutenant commander, was as the Bureau of Aeronautics Contracting Officer for Terminations in the Office of the Bureau of Aeronautics General Representative, Eastern District, headquartered in New York City. Nixon was released from active duty on March 10, 1946. He was promoted to commander in the Naval Reserve on June 1, 1953.
Gerald R. Ford (1974-76) was preparing to open his law practice at Grand Rapids with a fellow Yale Law School classmate, but the attack on Pearl Harbor changed his plans. Rather than waiting to be drafted, Ford sought to join the Navy.
At age 29 with a law degree, Ford was commissioned as an ensign April 13, 1942. His first duty-station was to attend V-5 instructor school training at Annapolis. His background as a coach and trainer made him a good candidate for instructor in the Navy’s V-5 (aviation cadet) program.
After a month of training, Ford was assigned to the Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill. He also coached all nine sports that were offered, but mostly in swimming, boxing and football.
By the time he was assigned to USS Monterey (CVL 26) he had been promoted to lieutenant. While onboard, Ford served as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and antiaircraft battery officer. The carrier helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts and participated in carrier strikes against Kavieng, New Ireland in 1943. During the spring of 1944, Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines and North New Guiena, as well as the Battle of Philippine Sea. Aircraft from Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukus and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.
Monterey escaped damage by the Japanese, but Mother Nature nearly took out both the ship and future president when Adm. William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 sailed straight into Typhoon Cobra on Dec. 17-18, 1944. Three destroyers were lost along with 790 men, with another nine warships damaged and 100 planes lost either overboard or by explosion. Monterey was damaged by a fire that started when several of the ship’s aircraft tore loose from their cables and collided during the storm.
After Ford headed for his battle station on the bridge of the ship in the early morning of Dec. 18, the ship rolled 25 degrees, which caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The two-inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him down enough so he could roll and twist into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated: “I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard.”
While Monterey underwent repairs at Bremerton, Wash., Ford was detached from the ship and sent to the Athletic Department of the Navy Pre-Flight School, St. Mary’s College, Calif., where he was assigned to the Athletic Department until April 1945. He was then assigned to the staff of the Naval Reserve Training Command, Naval Air Station, Glenview, Ill., as the physical and military training officer, during which time he was promoted to lieutenant commander. He was released from active duty on Feb. 23, 1946.
James Earle Carter (1976-1981) was the fifth consecutive president who had served in the Navy. He is the only president thus far to have graduated from the Naval Academy. After completing the accelerated wartime program, he graduated June 5, 1946 with distinction and obtained his commission as ensign.
For his first duty station, Carter was stationed at Norfolk as radar and CIC officer on USS Wyoming (E-AG 17), an older battleship that had been converted into a floating laboratory for testing new electronics and gunnery equipment. After Wyoming was decommissioned, Carter became Training and Education Officer on USS Mississippi (E-AG 128). After completing two years of surface ship duty, Carter chose to apply for submarine duty. Accepted, he began the six-month course at the U.S. Navy Submarine School, Submarine Base, New London, Conn. from June 14 to Dec. 17, 1948.
Upon completion of the course, Carter reported Dec. 29 to USS Pomfret (SS 391) based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During a simulated war patrol, Carter served as communications officer, sonar officer, electronics officer, gunnery officer and supply officer. On March 9, he served as the approach officer for a simulated torpedo firing at target ships, and scored a “hit.” Soon after Carter’s promotion to lieutenant junior grade on June 5, 1949, Pomfret was sent in July to San Diego where the submarine operated along the California coast.
Carter’s next assignment was as engineering officer for the precommissioning detail for USS K-1 (SSK 1), the first postwar submarine built. After K-1’s commissioning on Nov. 10, 1951, Carter served as executive officer, engineering officer, and electronics repair officer. During this tour he also qualified for command of a submarine.
When Adm. Hyman G. Rickover (then a captain) started his program to create nuclear powered submarines, Carter was interviewed and selected for the program by Rickover. Promoted to lieutenant, Carter was sent to the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, Division of Reactor Development in Schenectady, N.Y. He served a four-month TDY with the Naval Reactors Branch, U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, D.C. to assist “in the design and development of nuclear propulsion plants for naval vessels.”
As Carter was preparing to become the engineering officer for the nuclear power plant to be placed in USS Seawolf (SSN 575), one of the first submarines to operate on atomic power, his father died in July 1953. Carter resigned from the Navy to return to Georgia to manage the family interests. Carter was honorably discharged on Oct. 9, 1953 at Headquarters, Third Naval District in New York City.
George H.W. Bush (1989-1991) wanted to join the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, but he had to wait six months to graduate high school, enlisting on his 18th birthday June 12, 1942. Ten months later, having graduated pre-flight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bush was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve a few days shy of his 19th birthday, making him the youngest naval aviator at the time.
After more flight training, Bush was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as photographic officer in September 1943. As part of Air Group 51, his squadron was based on USS San Jacinto (CVL 30) in the spring of 1944. San Jacinto was part of Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June.
On June 19, the task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. During the return of his aircraft from the mission, Ensign Bush’s aircraft made a forced water landing. The crew was rescued, but the plane was lost in the explosion. On July 25, Ensign Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship.
After Bush was promoted to lieutenant junior grade on Aug. 1, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On Sept. 2, 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichi Jima. Encountering intense antiaircraft fire, Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his mission and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits.
With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man’s chute did not open and he fell to his death. Two other crewmembers were killed in action. While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by submarine USS Finback (SS 230). During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of other pilots. Bush returned to San Jacinto in Nov. 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines.
When San Jacinto returned to Guam, the squadron, which had suffered 50 percent casualties of its pilots, was replaced and sent to the United States. Throughout 1944, Bush had flown 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded San Jacinto.
Because of his valuable combat experience, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk and put in a training wing for new torpedo pilots. Later, he was assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, VT-153. With the surrender of Japan, he was honorably discharged in September 1945 and then entered Yale University.
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford,
Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
It was a call to arms not unlike “Remember the Alamo” 62 years earlier. While that Texas bravado has endured the decades, memory may falter on a similar outcry: “Remember the Maine!” Or at least why it should be remembered at all.
Unlike the Alamo, in Texas during its fight for independence in 1836, the Maine in this instance was not the state, but a battleship. USS Maine was in a foreign port, Havana, Cuba, in 1898 to protect American citizens when pro-Spanish forces caused riots to break out across the island.
There was good reason for such a show of strength. In the late 1800s Cuba was fighting a vicious battle to free itself from Spain. American sympathies were with the Cubans, a situation made worse when, during the first Cuban insurrection, the Spanish captured the ship Virginius. The Virginius, a freebooter supporting the Cuban revolutionaries, was hired to deliver men and arms to Cubans and was considered by the Spanish to be pirates. They executed 55 of the British and American crewmembers, some of them young boys.
When the second Cuban insurrection began in 1895, Spain sent in Gen. Valeriano “The Butcher” Weyler to serve as governor. Under his rule, thousands of Cubans perished in his reconcentration camps, mostly to disease and starvation, as he sought to separate the insurgents from civilians. As the situation worsened, the United States sent in Maine to protect its interests.
The battleship set out from Florida on Jan. 24, 1898, to Havana, where it stayed moored to the pier. The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee, mindful of the trouble on the island, did not allow enlisted Sailors to go ashore. For three weeks Maine was a peacekeeping influence. But Feb. 15, a quiet night in Havana Harbor, the peace was shattered as an explosion rocked Maine, sinking the ship and killing 266 Sailors.
A board of inquiry, after a month in Cuba, came back with their verdict – a mine detonated under the ship. Though no blame was fixed for the mine, it set loose a rallying call to “Remember the Maine!” by journalists seeking to influence America to get involved in a war with Spain.
On April 11, President William McKinley asked Congress to end the fighting between the Spanish and insurgents and establish a stable government. Congress passed a joint resolution April 20 acknowledging Cuba’s independence and began a blockade into Cuba’s harbors. Spain followed with a declaration of war on April 23. The Spanish-American War ended with a cease-fire on Aug. 12, 1898, giving Cuba its independence.
Years after the Spanish-American War, in 1912, the wreck of the ship was cleared to facilitate an additional investigation into the cause of her sinking. Her remains were subsequently scuttled in deep waters north of Havana, but parts of her can still be found across the country today. Dozens of artifacts from the ship proudly bear marks of their heritage.
Navy / Military kept items
- Ship’s Mainmast and Anchor at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.
- 6-in. 30-caliber Deck Gun, Spare Propeller and Bronze Windlass at Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington D.C.
- Foremast, a Life Preserver, two Port Hole Covers, Log Glass, Keys to the Magazines, an Electric Light Bulb and Shade, a Bugle, a 1888 Penny from Sigsbee’s desk, Sigsbee’s ink well, and Sigsbee’s Binoculars at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.
- Union Jack at Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, Va.
Museum kept items
- Stern Scrollwork Nameplate at the Museum of American History, Washington D.C.
- A Deck Plate Key, Two Capstan Gears, A Capstan, Part of the Starboard Quarter Boat Davits, A Piece of Worm Drive, and a Metal Fragment at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio
- Sigsbee’s Bathtub from the Ship at the Hancock Historical Museum, Findlay, Ohio
- A Bolt at the Museum of History, Raleigh, N.C.
- Iron Hooks at the Miami Valley Military History Museum, Dayton, Ohio
Government kept items
- Anchor Chain Hooks in Newton, Mass.
- A Shell in Easton, Penn.
- A Bow Anchor in Reading, Penn.
- A Torpedo Tube in Pittsburgh, Penn.
- Two Portholes and a 10-inch Shell in Scranton, Penn.
- A Bowscroll in Bangor, Maine
- The Conning Tower Base in Canton, Ohio
- A Capstan in Charleston, S.C.
- A Capstan in Butte, Mont.
- A Gun Port in Oakland, Calif.
- A Ventilator Cowl in Los Angeles, Calif.
- A Worm Gear in Sacramento, Calif.
- A 6-inch Gun in Alpena, Mich.
- A 6-inch Gun (Barrel Only) in Portland, Maine
- A Six-pounder Gun in Columbia, S.C.
- A One-pounder Gun in Milford, Maine
- A 10-inch Turret Sighting Hood in Key West, Fla.
- A Ventilator Cowl in Woburn, Mass.
- A Ventilator Cowl in Rock Island, Ill.
- The Ship’s Silver Service in Augusta, Maine
- A Steam Whistle in Larchmont, N.Y.
- A 10-inch Shell in Port Chesters, N.Y.
- An Engine Room Funnel in Pompton Lakes, N.J.
Also 28 bronze plaques made from the metal of the battleship are spread out throughout the country.
A website that tries to track parts of the Maine, www.spanamwar.com, has a laundry list of the battleship’s parts and where they reside.
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
There were no boxes of chocolates or roses for the crew of USS Constitution as Valentine’s Day rolled around in 1814. But when the day was over, they were awash with lumber, fish, and flour – spoils from an engagement with a British merchantman named Lovely Ann.
On that Feb. 14, USS Constitution’s wooden hull was a figuratively green whippersnapper, a mere 17 years old. President George Washington named the 44-gun frigate that had been ordered through the Naval Act of 1794. The heavy frigate was launched in 1797 and remains the oldest commissioned ship in the world that can still sail under its own power. She is soon to go into dry dock in Boston for a scheduled maintenance and upkeep.
A veteran of both the Quasi War with the French and the First Barbary War, Constitution’s greatest glory came during the War of 1812. It was during the two-and-one-half year conflict she made five cruises and captured, burned or sent in as prizes nine merchantmen and five ships of war, most notably the British warship HMS Guerriere.
Under the command of Capt. Isaac Hull, it was that engagement where Constitution earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides,” because Guerriere’s cannon balls glanced off her hull during the Aug. 19, 1812 battle. Guerriere was scuttled the next day. The victory made Constitution the rock star of her day and thus began more than two centuries of public adoration for the three-masted frigate.
By the time Feb. 14, 1814 rolled around, Capt. Charles Stewart was Constitution’s 10th captain and they were sailing along the northern coast of South America. That morning, Constitution’s crew spotted the British schooner HMS Pictou off the coast of Barbados. The schooner was escorting the armed merchant ship Lovely Ann hauling a cargo of lumber, fish, and flour.
After an hour long chase, Constitution passed Pictou on her starboard side and fired. Her deck and main mast were destroyed within minutes. Stewart realized Pictou was sinking and ordered his men to rescue the British sailors. After the Pictou’s men were saved, they captured the Lovely Ann and hours later the crew of the Constitution celebrated with food and wine. The engagement between Constitution and Lovely Ann may have been brief, but well worth celebrating on that Valentine’s Day of 1814.
By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
For eight days in the beginning of February 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin convened one of the most secretive meetings of modern times.
The decisions that came from this intense conference set in motion some of the major events of the next century that would shape the U.S Navy and the world. And even today questions remain, what was the real price of the decisions made at the conference? Did they cost our country and the world more than they gave in return?
The president relied heavily on the Navy for getting him safely and quietly to high-level meetings and conferences during World War II. Roosevelt and Churchill had met secretly in August 1941 aboard USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland. It was aboard the ship the two forged a strong alliance and developed the premise of a pact they hoped would be agreed upon by the League of Nations: to “respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.”
This was also the case with Yalta. USS Quincy (CA 71) was tasked with transporting the ailing president to the Russian resort city on the Crimean peninsula.
President Roosevelt and his party embarked aboard the Baltimore-class heavy cruiser at Newport News, Va., on Jan. 23, 1945, for passage to Malta in southern Europe, arriving Feb. 2. Roosevelt then departed Quincy and continued on to the Crimea by air.
Once all the leaders were gathered in Yalta, the discussion, bargaining and debating began for the second conference of World War II. The first had been the highly secret meeting in 1943 between the “Big Three” in Tehran where they agreed to a military operation that would eventually become the Invasion of Normandy or Operation Overlord.
The Yalta Conference was to take the blueprint of the Atlantic Conference and hammer in the details. As with most international conferences, the leaders and their entourages had their own agendas, goals, cultural and political differences. With Germany’s surrender expected, their focus was on post-war reorganization, reestablishment of a war-torn Europe and how best to enforce the reparation and demilitarization of Germany.
Article II of the conference stated: To foster the conditions in which the liberated people may exercise these rights, the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis state in Europe where, in their judgment conditions require,
(a) to establish conditions of internal peace;
(b) to carry out emergency relief measures for the relief of distressed peoples;
(c) to form interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of Governments responsive to the will of the people; and
(d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.
Though they each had their own issues, they all wanted the unconditional surrender of Germany. Roosevelt sought agreement and establishment for his “United Nations” and for the need of military support for the ongoing war in the Pacific theater. The fate of Eastern Europe, especially Germany’s division and Poland’s borders, were the main bargaining chips for “The Big Three.”
The level of corporation required from the conference was unprecedented. The Soviet Union agreed to join the Allies in the war against Japan with two caveats: the Mongolian People’s Republic would be preserved and territories in the southern part of Sakhalin that had been taken by Japan in 1904 would be returned to the Soviet Union, along with the Kurile Islands. The commercial port of Dairen would be internationalized, allowing Soviet interests and the ability to lease property for a base at Port Arthur.
Roosevelt got Stalin’s agreement in the Pacific, but Stalin appeared to be running the show.
Expectations were high but short-lived as history proved when the players on the field suddenly shifted. Only a few weeks after the Yalta Conference, President Roosevelt died at his “Little White House” at Warm Springs, Ga. He had served an unprecedented 12 years in office and had just started his fourth term that would have seen him through the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, and to some degree, keeping Stalin reined in.
While Stalin and Roosevelt were able to come to terms despite huge differences in philosophy, that was not the case with Roosevelt’s successor, President Harry S. Truman. As he agreed with the Yalta Conference, Stalin did throw his support against Japan, another factor that led to Japan’s surrender. An interesting historic side note is that USS Quincy, the cruiser that carried Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference, was among the flotilla of ships in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, for the Japanese surrender.
But the end of the war also signified the end of Stalin’s cooperation. Agreements made during the Yalta Conference, based on the premise of “the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live,” didn’t apply to the border countries within the Soviet Union’s Eastern bloc of nations.
Luckily for Roosevelt, he never witnessed the erasing of the lines they drew at Yalta so the Eastern European countries could retain their sovereignty. As the Soviet Union expanded borders further west and more nations were integrated into Stalin’s communist government, the Iron Curtain separated the East from the West.
In the end, what came from Yalta sparked the military, economic, scientific, political, and ideological start of the Cold War. Once again for nearly 45 years, America’s Navy was on the front lines of the cat and mouse games in the high-stakes Cold War conflict.
The comfort of 70 years of hindsight make it possible for us to look critically at the decisions made at Yalta and the policies that followed, but perhaps the most important question is what could have realistically been done differently?
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
If Theodore Roosevelt could spin in his grave, no doubt the former president was a whirling dervish in his crypt Feb. 6, 1922. It was that date 93 years ago when the Washington Naval Treaty was signed, limiting the frenetic Roosevelt’s beloved Navy to no more than 500,000 tons.
For the numbers folks, that breaks down into 15 Colorado-class battleships; 14 Saratoga-class aircraft carriers; 71 Omaha-class light cruisers; 411 Clemson-class destroyers – or any combination thereof.
Also known as the Five-Power Treaty, there was sound reason behind it. Following the aftermath of World War I, some nations were a bit reluctant to stop their war-time build-up of armament, and of particular concern was Japan.
With Congress pushing to end any escalating of warships and armaments – especially between the United States, Great Britain and Japan – Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes invited nine nations to the table at what would be called the Washington Naval Conference that began Nov. 12, 1921. The countries involved were the U.S., Great Britain, Japan, France, Italy, Belgium, China, the Netherlands and Portugal.
By Feb. 6, 1922, when the conference ended, three major treaties were signed, all named for the level of participation: Four-Power, Five-Power and Nine-Power. Two of them reflected the wariness both the United States and Great Britain had concerning Japan’s continued military build-up and interest in expanding beyond its borders.
The Four-Power Treaty between the U.S., France, Britain and Japan replaced the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902 between Japan and Great Britain. Should a conflict arise between the United States and Japan, the 1902 treaty would have obligated Great Britain to side with Japan.
The new 1922 pact dictated the four countries would consult each other should a conflict develop between any of them, obligating none to side with the other.
The Nine-Power Treaty invited seven other countries to partake in the party that was the U.S. Open Door Policy in China: equal opportunity for all nations wishing to do business there, with China promising not to discriminate against the other nations. But the treaty also ensured all those who signed the agreement would recognize China’s territorial boundaries, including Japan’s dominance in Manchuria.
Japan and China agreed to their own bilateral pact that returned the Shandong province and railroad to China that Japan had liberated from the Germans during World War I, and Japanese troops would withdraw from Siberia.
The Five-Power Treaty was highly successful as a compromise, since no one was entirely happy with the results. Japan and the United States each wanted a greater ratio of warships and all three nations sought the ability to expand their own Pacific fortifications.
Great Britain and the United States each were allowed 500,000 tons of warships because both countries had colonies flung across two oceans; Japan was held to 300,000 tons and France and Italy each had 175,000 tons, or a 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratio.
Japan had sought a greater percentage in the top three ratios at 10:10:7, while the United States, wary of Japan’s growing militarism, wanted a 10:10:5 ratio.
At the time of the treaty, the Navy had commissioned three of the four planned 32,600-ton displacing battleships: Colorado (BB 45), Maryland (BB 46) and West Virginia (BB 48). If you’ve never heard of the fourth, well, that’s because PCU Washington (BB 47), although 75 percent completed, was cancelled to keep the United States in compliance with the new limitations of the Five-Power Treaty. Six more battleships either in planning or building mode were also scrapped: South Dakota (BB 49), Indiana (BB 50), Montana (BB 51), North Carolina (BB 52), Iowa (BB 53) and Massachusetts (BB 54).
The United States tried to affect world disarmament by example, allowing the Navy’s fleet of warships to drop well below even the standards of the original 1922 treaty. It was a lofty idea that never caught on and resulted in “a rapid decline in the strength of our Navy between 1922 and 1930,” according to the 1944 legislative document Decline and Renaissance of the Navy 1922-1944 by Sen. David I. Walsh (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee.
Since surface warfare ships under 1,800 pounds weren’t mentioned in the 1922 treaty, armament on destroyers would become the loophole. The United States, however, was awash in destroyers, with all 267 of the Wickes-Clemson-class destroyers built by 1922. To meet the standards of the treaty, many of those flush-deck, four-stack destroyers were either converted to minesweepers, mothballed or sold to other nations.
A revision during the London Naval Treaty of 1930 between the same countries closed that loophole, regulating “surface vessels of war” that weighed less than 1,850 tons with “guns not above 5.1-inch (130 mm), according to Ship’s Data for U.S. Naval Vessels. By the time of the third revision, the Second London Naval Treaty of 1936, was being held, Japan declared it would no longer abide by the terms of the treaty and Italy also was secretly disregarding it.
As the United States was willingly allowing its naval fleet to fall below readiness standards, another Roosevelt was making his mark. Just like his uncle before him, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a soft spot for the U.S. Navy, having served as Under Secretary to the Navy. After taking office in March 1933, FDR believed the sea service needed to increase its strength at least to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limits.
In order to help the nation recover from the Great Depression and give the Navy a boost, Roosevelt pushed through Congress the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) in 1933. Of the $3.3 billion appropriated, $237 million was set aside to construct Navy warships to help improve the economy with increased employment. The Navy responded by contracting to build 20 destroyers, four submarines, four light cruisers and two aircraft carriers.
As rumblings of aggression began again in Europe and Asia, and with both Japan and Italy openly violating the Washington Naval Treaty, President Roosevelt would embark on the long road to rebuild the U.S. Navy through the Naval Expansion Acts of 1934, 1938 and 1940, followed a few days later by the Two-Ocean Navy Act.
The Washington Naval Treaty, despite hampering the U.S. Navy in maintaining a ready fleet to operate forward across two oceans, did have its silver lining. Two years after the treaty was signed, the nearly-completed hulk of PCU Washington was hauled out to sea and sunk by USS Texas (BB 35) and New York (BB 34) as a test target.
The test would prove there wasn’t enough deck armor on the super-dreadnought and so future battleships – commissioned between 1941-44 — included triple armor plating on the hull: North Carolina (BB 59), Washington (BB 56), South Dakota (BB 57), Indiana (BB 58), Massachusetts (BB 59), Alabama (BB 60), Iowa (BB 61), New Jersey (BB 62), Missouri (BB 53) and Wisconsin (BB 64). All would survive World War II. Of the nine battleships hit during the attack on Pearl Harbor, only three could not be salvaged: Utah (AG-16 formerly BB 31), Oklahoma (BB 37) and Arizona (BB 39), all built before the triple-plating.
The Evergreen State would finally get another ship named for it when the up-armored USS Washington (BB 56), a North Carolina-class fast battleship, was commissioned May 1941, weighing in at 35,000 tons at the cost of around $60 million. After serving throughout World War II, she was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1961.
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
When Capt. John Paul Jones accepted command of the frigate that would become Bonhomme Richard on Feb. 4, 1779, he had no idea a future battle aboard would both illustrate his career and be a rallying call to arms centuries later. And just like the man who commanded her, the wooden frigate continues to pique the interest of scientists and Sailors alike 236 years after her sinking.
Pirate, privateer, patriot, courageous, glory-hound are just a few of the words used to describe Jones. Contentious though his life might have been, he was a bantamweight courageously entering the ring to take on the heavyweight that was the British Royal Navy during the Revolutionary War.
Jones’ ship, originally named Duc de Duras, was a gift from France. In keeping with the ship’s French heritage, Jones renamed the ship Bonhomme Richard, which translated to “Goodman Richard,” a nod to the nom de plume “Poor Richard” used by Benjamin Franklin, America’s commissioner at Paris. His famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.
On Sept. 23, 1779, a little less than eight months after Jones assumed command, Bonhomme Richard engaged the Royal Navy frigate HMS Seripis during the Battle of Flamborough Head, off the English coast. After an initial volley of fire, two of the American frigate’s guns were destroyed and many Sailors injured. Jones realized he was outgunned by a more powerful and faster opponent. When the captain of the British ship asked if Jones’ ship would strike her colors to surrender, Jones famously answered, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
As the chance of victory appeared to begin slipping through his fingers, Jones came up with a dangerous plan. He moved his ship closer to Serapis where he thought he could board her or have his sharpshooters pick off her men and officers. When Bonhomme Richard moved into position, Serapis’ anchor fouled in Bonhomme Richard‘s hull, holding the two ships together. Jones strengthened the bonds with grappling hooks. After a bloody and brutal four hour fight, Serapis surrendered at last.
Sadly, Bonhomme Richard was critically damaged, on fire and taking on water fast. Despite all efforts to save the ship, she sank into the North Sea two days later.
Before she went down, Jones transferred his crew to their newest prize, Serapis, and sailed to Texel Roads, Holland. Jones stayed busy for the remainder of the war and the 12 years of life he had left, so he may never have looked back to Bonhomme Richard.
More than 200 years later, the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archeology Branch actively seeks to piece together a more thorough picture of Bonhomme Richard to see what clues it might reveal about her historic master.
“It’s one of the Navy’s most important ships because of its role in Navy history,” said Robert Neyland, Ph.D., UA director. “The victory helped to raise American morale when the war was not going too well and helped confirm to the French that the Americans were a cause worth supporting.”
In an effort to find Jones’ lost vessel, Neyland and the rest of his tea at NHHC have been investigating sites and putting together pieces of information for the last eight years.
“Since 2006 there have been various expeditions,” Neyland said, explaining there have been many partners in the search, from governments, to companies and private entities. “It’s been on a basis of ships of opportunity. When some French minesweepers have been in the area they have donated a few days of survey time.”
It’s not an easy task. The passage of centuries can cause a significant amount of damage to wood, even below the surface of the ocean, and the ship was badly damaged by the combat already.
“It’s a large area to survey, the water depth ranges from 160-200 feet, 15-20 miles off shore and 500 square nautical miles,” he said. “The weather and seas are volatile out there and the ship may be partially or completely buried by sediment. Shipwrecks tend to break apart and bury themselves in sediment. They may be exposed at times and at other time buried.”
And the Bonhomme Richard would hardly be alone under the waves.
“Recently the French Navy and the Ocean Technology Foundation found a wooden-hulled ship wreck that probably dates between the late 18th century and early 19th century,” Neyland said. “It hasn’t been ruled out totally that it is not Bonhomme Richard. But, it definitely shows that older wooden ships can still be preserved under the North Sea sediments.”
The top scientist at UA isn’t daunted by the monumental task of finding an artifact under miles of ocean and sand. He and his team continue to utilize scientific research to find Bonhomme Richard and others of interest.
“There’s not a shipwreck out there that can’t be found,” he said.
For more information on the Naval History and Heritage Command and the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch visit our website at http://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology.html