Jul 19

As War in Europe Escalated, 1940 Naval Expansion Act Came When #PlatformsMatter-ed Most

Saturday, July 19, 2014 8:00 AM

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Ships on the Building Ways, Groton, Conn. Photograph shows the new yard of the Electric Boat Company, June 1943. NHHC

Ships on the Building Ways, Groton, Conn.
Photograph shows the new yard of the Electric Boat Company, June 1943.
NHHC

Seventy-four years ago today the Second Naval Expansion Act, one of the largest procurement bills in the history of the U.S. Navy, was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The bill was so large it also goes by at least three other names: The Two-Ocean Navy Act, the Seventy-Percent Act or the Vinson-Walsh Act. It increased by 70 percent – 1.325 million tons — the Navy’s size for combat tonnage at a cost of $4 billion.

It also set into motion a strategy that more than seven decades later is still relevant today – basing American fleets in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Need was clear, timing was everything

The United States sympathized with France and Great Britain as the war in Europe began, but popular sentiment did not support going to war. However, despite its attempts to remain neutral, military and many government leaders knew it would be just a matter of time before the U.S. would be dragged back into a World War.

By Jun of 1940, World War II was escalating in Europe. German troops seized Paris on June 14, and just days earlier Italy’s Prime Minister Benito Mussolini threw his nation’s support with Germany hoping to slice out territory from France after its surrender. In the Pacific, Japan had been gradually expanding its empire since 1931, first by invading Manchuria, and then Nanking in 1937. Now they were closing in on Hong Kong.

On June 17, 1940, Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee Rep. Carl Vinson (D-Ga.) introduced a bill crafted by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold R. Stark and his staff that called for a 70 percent increase in the size of the U.S. Navy’s authorized combatant tonnage at the cost of a staggering $4 billion.

The next day, June 18, Adm. Stark testified before the Committee to break down the tonnage as 200 combatant and 20 auxiliary ships. Although he did not provide the Committee with numbers, he was expecting this increase would furnish his service with an additional seven battleships, 18 aircraft carriers, 27 cruisers, 115 destroyers and 43 submarines, and to maintain or purchase up to 15,000 “useful” naval aircraft.

Most importantly, the increase would allow the U.S. Navy to engage in offensive action against an enemy navy in one ocean while carrying out successful defensive operations against an opposing navy in another ocean.

It would be the first time the Navy’s warship numbers would rise above the limitations placed on it by the Washington Treaty of 1922 and end years of a declining naval fleet.

 

Concrete Landplane Hangars, San Diego Naval Air Station. Exterior arches reduced the amount of concrete required in the roof shell. NHHC

Concrete Landplane Hangars, San Diego Naval Air Station.
Exterior arches reduced the amount of concrete required in the roof shell.
NHHC

Why we needed Naval Expansion Acts

After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the five victorious powers — United States, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and France — gathered together to create the Washington Treaty of 1922 that would limit the tonnage of warships with a ratio of 5:5:3:1.75:1.75, respectively, in order to prevent an arms race. The London Treaty of 1930 enacted further restrictions.

But while most nations generally kept to the treaty’s limits, the United States tried to affect world disarmament by example and allowed the Navy’s fleet of warships to drop well below the treaty’s standards. 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.

But then former Under Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in March 1933. He believed the Navy needed to increase its strength at least to the Washington 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). Of the $3.3 billion appropriated, Roosevelt set aside $237 million 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, one of which would play a large part in the brewing World War II – USS Enterprise.

Naval Supply Depot, Norfolk. The three piers and the U-shaped 6-story storehouse and office building (left center) were built under the wartime expansion program. NHHC

Naval Supply Depot, Norfolk.
The three piers and the U-shaped 6-story storehouse and office building (left center) were built under the wartime expansion program.
NHHC

Another jump start on the Navy’s catching-up plan was the Naval Expansion Act of 1934 brought earlier by Rep. Vinson. That law authorized 65 destroyers, 30 submarines, one aircraft carrier and 1,184 naval aircraft.

The Naval Expansion Act of 1938 continued to beef up the Navy’s inventory with $1 billion for a dirigible, two light cruisers, one aircraft carrier, one large and two smaller seaplane tenders, mine layers, mine sweepers, two oil tankers, two fleet tugs, and an indefinite number of speedy, experimental torpedo boats.

That was followed up with the Naval Expansion Act of June 14, 1940, also known as the Eleven Percent Act. The June Act increased the Navy’s warship fleet by 11 percent, concentrating mostly on aircraft carriers, submarines and cruisers.

Three days later, Rep. Vinson introduced Stark’s Two-Ocean Navy Act asking for $4 billion.

CNO Harold Rainsford Stark NHHC

CNO Harold Rainsford Stark
NHHC

“Dollars cannot buy yesterday.” (CNO Adm. Harold R. Stark)

The House Naval Affairs Committee didn’t need a lot of convincing. Already that month Italy declared war on France and the United Kingdom and Norway surrendered to the Soviets, Nazi troops marched through the L’Arc De Triomphe in Paris and a British troopship, RMS Lancastria, had been sunk by a German dive bomber, killing more than Titanic and Lusitania together. The committee approved the bill the day after the CNO testified and it appeared before the full House June 22. The House approved the bill 316-0.

Stark was pleased, but also a bit surprised at his success, as he wrote that day to Adm. Thomas C. Hart, the Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet: “I exploded a bomb on the Hill this last week in asking for one million three hundred thousand tons of new combatant ships. . . . The thought back of it is that we might just as well go the whole hog and prepare to have a good sized fleet available in both oceans. . . . I am delighted to say the President went along with it.”

As swiftly as the bill went through the Committee and House, events in Europe were becoming more dire by the day. By the time the bill passed in the House, France had asked Germany for an armistice and the Soviets occupied Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

The Senate passed the bill July 10, and President Roosevelt signed it into law on July 19.

The Two-Ocean Navy Act and the monies thereafter appropriated by Congress to carry out its terms, laid the groundwork for the wartime U.S. Navy that was essential to victory in World War II.

Looking back on this turning point in the Navy’s history, Admiral Stark remarked in a January 1941 letter to Admiral Hart, “Congress woke up with a bang last June but what I would give now had I been able to get them in the June mood six months previous[,] when I first attempted it.”

Dry Dock No. 4, Puget Sound Navy Yard. Ready to receive first ship, October 1940. NHHC

Dry Dock No. 4, Puget Sound Navy Yard.
Ready to receive first ship, October 1940.
NHHC

 
Jul 17

#PeopleMatter – Navy Pilot comes up Aces during the Korean War

Thursday, July 17, 2014 2:14 PM
The only U.S. Navy Korean fighter ace Lt. Guy Bordelon smiles at the name plate on "Annie-Mo", his F4U-5N Corsair fighter in which he shot down five enemy aircraft during the Korean War. Courtesy National Archives

The only U.S. Navy Korean fighter ace Lt. Guy Bordelon smiles at the name plate on “Annie-Mo”, his F4U-5N Corsair fighter in which he shot down five enemy aircraft during the Korean War.
Courtesy National Archives

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communications and Outreach Division

There are the rare times when the number five is luckier than a seven. Not at a Las Vegas casino, perhaps, but definitely so for a naval aviator nicknamed “Lucky Pierre,” the U.S. Navy’s only ace of the Korean War.

Guy Pierre Bordelon Jr., a native of Ruston, La., was a pre-law student at Louisiana Polytechnic Institute and then later enrolled at Louisiana State University where he studied until the middle of 1942. A few months later he joined the Navy Reserves and went to Georgia for flight school as an aviation cadet. After completing advanced flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas, he became an ensign with his wings of gold in May of 1943.

Ensign Bordelon, who struggled through flight school, became what is known as a “plowback” instructor, assigned to the Training Command, rather than being assigned to the fleet.

It was a fortuitous decision. “Being kept back from going out to the fleet was the best thing that could have happened to me, because then I really learned how to fly,” Bordelon told his daughter Michele, as quoted in previous articles.

When the war ended, he had been training with an FM-2 Wildcat squadron. He then applied for the regular Navy.

Promoted to lieutenant in 1946, Lt. “Lucky Pierre” Bordelon’s career was relatively uneventful. He had been an instructor and staff officer and had done everything that was considered routine onboard ships like USS Corregidor (CVE 58), USS Valley Forge (CV 45), and USS Helena (CA 75). At the start of the Korean War, Bordelon served in numerous intelligence, operations and logistics positions within his Cruiser Division Three.

In April of 1952, Bordelon reported to Composite Squadron 3 (VC-3), an all-weather fighter squadron based at Moffett Field in California. He was the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of a detachment flying the Vought F4U Corsair. For the next year he gained experience in the relatively new field of night radar fighter interception that would soon make history.

Onboard USS Princeton (CVA 37), Bordelon and “team dog” performed night interdiction over the rugged peninsula of Korea almost nightly. During this time, Bordelon flew 41 low-level missions against Communist transportation systems and earned three air medals.

Bordelon and his team were accustomed to enemy flak and other dangers connected with night combat operations. So in the summer of 1953, Fifth Air Force requested his team’s services to take on low-flying Communist aircraft harassing United Nations forces at night. Several U.S. Air Force jets had been lost trying to engage these “Bed-Check Charlies” so Bordelon and his team went ashore to the U.S. Marine Corps base at Pyongtaek, Seoul and got their aircraft ready.

On June 29, 1953, shortly before midnight, Bordelon shot down two Yakovlev 18s. The next night he destroyed two North Korean Lavochkin fighters.

His “kills” weren’t the only exciting aspect of his missions. One evening he chanced upon two Tupolev Tu-2 bombers, but as he closed in on them, he discovered a disconnected wire kept him from firing. Rather than pulling off, Bordelon throttled his Corsair, pulling ahead of the enemy aircraft. What came next is remarkable. The former “plowback” pilot turned around, flipped on his landing lights and lowered his landing gear, and then headed directly at the two enemy aircraft. As Bordelon closed the gap, the enemy pilots panicked, with one diving straight down and the other pulling straight up. Bordelon’s gamble on his game of Chicken paid off – he had broken up their bombing run on Inchon.

Lucky Pierre’s fifth “kill” came early in the morning on July 17th when he shot down another Lavochkin fighter while dodging anti-aircraft fire. All five of these victories were accomplished in the same F4U-5N Corsair, named “Annie Mo”, in honor of his wife. He was the only pilot to earn “ace” status (shooting down five enemy aircraft, or kills) during the Korean War, the only U.S. pilot to score all of his “kills” at night, and the last American pilot to “ace” while flying a propeller-driven aircraft. See Bordelon’s own recollections of the night fighter experience here.

Alas, the “Annie Mo” lasted only another week; she was wrecked in an accident while being piloted by an Air Force Reservist.

In November of 1953, Bordelon went to Europe to instruct pilots of the French Aeronavale to fly Corsairs. When he returned to the United States in 1954 he served in various command and staff positions in the United States and the Pacific. One of his last staff assignments was for Commander, Task Force 140, which supported Apollo recovery missions.

Cmdr. Guy “Lucky Pierre” Bordelon had a 27-year career in which he flew more than 15,000 hours and earned 37 decorations, including two Silver Stars, Korean Order of Military Merit, the NASA Outstanding Service Medal and the Navy Cross, given to those who have demonstrated extreme valor in the face of an armed enemy. It is second only to the Medal of Honor.

Marcia Bordelon (from left), Anne Bordelon and Michele Bordelon unveil a display in 2004 during the dedication of Guy P. Bordelon Jr. Air Terminal at Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, outside New Orleans. US Navy photo

Marcia Bordelon (from left), Anne Bordelon and Michele Bordelon unveil a display in 2004 during the dedication of Guy P. Bordelon Jr. Air Terminal at Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base, outside New Orleans.
US Navy photo

After Bordelon retired in 1969, he and his wife Anne returned to Louisiana. He died Dec. 19, 2002. In 2004, the Guy P. Bordelon, Jr. Air Terminal at Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans was dedicated to him. In 2011, Bordelon was inducted into the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sources

 
Jul 15

#PartnershipsMatter: Japan, U.S. “Tomodachi” – Friendship – Goes Back to 1853 Navy Mission

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:45 AM
USS Saratoga was one of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's "black ships" that visited Japan during the expeditions of 1853 and 1854 to get Japan to open its harbors to trade with the United States.

USS Saratoga was one of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s “black ships” that visited Japan during the expeditions of 1853 and 1854 to get Japan to open its harbors to trade with the United States.

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Modern international partnerships are essential to global peace and prosperity. One of America’s most enduring partnerships is with Japan, sharing strong economic and security ties that trace their beginning back to 1791 when explorer John Kendrick became the first known American to visit Japan, spending 11 days there. The Far East nation, however, was a bit reluctant in opening its harbors to commerce. While the United States was an ardent pursuer to develop a relationship, Japan coyly rejected the upstart nation’s advances.

After two requests, in 1846 and 1848, failed to convince Japan to sign a treaty of commerce and protection with the United States, President Millard Fillmore decided to send in the big gun to get the job done: Commodore Matthew C. Perry. The career naval officer was more than up to the challenge of the mission, which was to have Japan agree to open its harbors to commerce, set up a “coaling base” for coal-driven steamships to restock their supply, and to ensure shipwrecked American sailors received fair treatment and could return to the United States in a timely manner. Perry’s long and distinguished naval career included commanding the African squadron from 1843-1844 while suppressing the slave trade. He knew the mission to Japan would be one of his greatest achievements, if he was successful.

NHHC - Matthew C. Perry c. 1856-58, in a photograph by Mathew Brady

NHHC – Matthew C. Perry c. 1856-58, in a photograph by Mathew Brady

Perry certainly knew how to make an entrance. When the veteran Navy officer cruised his squadron of four steamships into Japan’s Edo Harbor in early July 1853 — with coal-fired black smoke belching from the stacks — it made quite the impression on the Japanese who had never seen these “giant dragons puffing smoke.”

Wary of the black ships bristling with menacing armament, the Japanese government showed little interest in opening trade talks with Perry. Since the mid-19th century, Japan had been a closed society, resistant to diplomatic and commercial contact with most of the outside world. The isolationistic policies of Japan were primarily due to military threats from European nations and the influence of Western people who spread Christianity and cultures different from the Japanese. The only Europeans allowed into Japan were the Dutch, and that was only one ship per year. A few Chinese traders had privileges as well. The empire of Japan was flourishing at this time, so its leaders did not see the need to establish relationships with other countries.

Perry, with his side-wheel steamer USS Mississippi and three other black ships – USS Plymouth, USS Saratoga, and USS Susquehanna in what is now Tokoyo Bay — met with Japanese officials over the text of the proposed commercial and friendship treaty, but when he was directed to sail for Nagasaki where the Dutch had a small trading post, Perry refused, demanding permission to present the letter from President Fillmore and threatening to use force if denied.

While Perry waited in the harbor, the Japanese realized they were unable to resist Perry’s modern weaponry so they permitted him to land on the 14th to present his letter. After he presented the letter, Perry promised the Japanese he would return for a response.

In February of 1854, Perry returned to Japan with a larger squadron, this time with seven ships – four sailing ships and three steamers – and with 1,600 men. The Japanese were concerned by the American ships so they initially activated harbor defenses and mobilized soldiers to reinforce the forts and batteries near Edo in case of an attack.

After a tense standoff, Perry landed for peace and trade talks on March 8, 1854, and began to negotiate with the Japanese to establish a trade agreement. After almost three weeks of long and intense negotiations, Perry signed the Treaty of Kanagawa on behalf of the United States that established a permanent friendship between the two countries. The signing of this treaty signaled the end of almost 200 years of Japanese isolation.

The treaty opened two ports to American ships at Shimoda and Hakodate, and granted American ships permission to buy supplies, coal, water, and other necessary provisions. It also ensured American ships that wrecked on the Japanese coast would receive help and protection. The United States would also be given permission to build a consulate in Shimoda.

Commodore Perry received a gift of $20,000 by Congress for his success at breaking Japan’s barriers from the rest of the world. He wrote a 3-volume history of his adventure in Japan in 1855. He died on March 4, 1858 in New York City.

NEWPORT, R.I. President, U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter, Jr., and Japanese Capt. Hiroyuki Habuchi, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, render honors following a ceremonial wreath laying during the 30th Black Ships Festival opening ceremony at Touro Park July 19, 2013. The opening ceremony provided an opportunity for official representatives and guests of the festival to honor and celebrate American and Japanese history, culture and friendship. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl/Released)

NEWPORT, R.I. President, U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter, Jr., and Japanese Capt. Hiroyuki Habuchi, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, render honors following a ceremonial wreath laying during the 30th Black Ships Festival opening ceremony at Touro Park July 19, 2013. The opening ceremony provided an opportunity for official representatives and guests of the festival to honor and celebrate American and Japanese history, culture and friendship. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist James E. Foehl/Released)

But his visit to Japan, in spite of the somewhat threatening nature of it, lives on. Each year, the port city of Shimoda holds a “Blackship Festival,” or Kurofune, celebrating Perry’s arrival and opening trade to the west, an event that no doubt enriched the lives of the people living in those port cities. Shimoda’s festival is held in mid-May, which includes the parading of U.S. Naval marching bands and characters dressed like Commodore Perry and shogunte officials to Ryosenji Temple.

In the United States, Perry’s hometown of Newport, R.I., also celebrates a “Black Ship Festival,” thanks to its “Sister City” relationship with Shimoda. The 31st festival in Newport will be held July 17-19, while the 75th celebration was held in May at Shimoda.

Cover artwork courtsey of the Brooklyn Museum of Art: Asian Art Collection: Commodore Matthew Perry’s “Black Ship”Credit Line: The Peggy N. and Roger G. Gerry Collection.

 
Jul 10

#PlatformsMatter: Adding a ZERO to Navy Know-How Equals Victory

Thursday, July 10, 2014 2:24 PM
US military personnel inspect a Japanese Zero aircraft piloted by Tadayoshi Koga that crashed on Akutan Island after bombing Dutch Harbor on June 4, 1942. The Zero was later shipped to the US and put into flying condition for intelligence purposes. Koga was killed in the crash.

On July 11, 1942, U.S. military personnel inspect a Japanese Zero aircraft piloted by Tadayoshi Koga that crashed on Akutan Island after bombing Dutch Harbor on June 4, 1942. The Zero was later shipped to the US and put into flying condition for intelligence purposes. Koga was killed in the crash. Photo by Navy Photographer’s Mate Arthur W. Bauman

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communications and Outreach Division

Some called it the finest fighter in the world, quick, agile with fluid maneuverability. The biggest problem was it wasn’t an American fighter.

The Mitsubishi A6M2 carrier fighter ZERO had long dominated the skies at the beginning of World War II, earning a 12-1 kill ratio against slower, heavier Allied planes.

But American ingenuity and a chance mistake by a ZERO pilot leveled the aerial battleground and gave American pilots a fighting chance.

“In warfare, knowing the capabilities of one’s enemy translates into success on the battlefield and such was the case with intelligence gleaned from the Japanese Zero found in the Aleutians in 1942,” said Hill Goodspeed, historian and artifact collections manager at the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Fla. “It was salvaged and restored to flying condition, allowing test pilots to unlock mysteries of the acclaimed fighter’s performance to the benefit of those fighting in the skies over the Pacific.”

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

There was a heavily overcast sky on June 3, 1942 at Dutch Harbor, an American Army and Navy base on Amaknak Island in the Aleutians. When the clouds broke, though, it wasn’t sunshine that burst through – it was a squadron of Kate bombers and ZERO fighters from the carriers Junyo and Ryujo.

The surprise, however, wasn’t for the personnel of Dutch Harbor – an enemy message three weeks earlier had been intercepted and the base had been on high alert waiting for the attack. It was determined the Japanese attack at Dutch Harbor would split the U.S. Navy fleet headed toward Midway. And we all know how that turned out for the Imperial Navy.

As the Japanese pilots flew above the harbor, it was empty of their hoped-for objective: Navy ships. Greeting the incoming fighters instead was a hail of anti-aircraft fire.

Without their main target, the pilots unleased their bombs over Margaret Bay Naval barracks, and strafed the harbor before returning to their ships. They returned the following day to inflict more damage, killing 78 personnel with the loss of 14 aircraft. Of the 40 ZERO fighters involved over the two days, eight aircraft failed to return, with 10 pilots killed and five captured.

One of those dead was Petty Officer 1st Class Tadayoshi Koga in ZERO 4593. He was thought to be among a trio of fighters that downed a Catalina amphibian and then strafed the 7-member crew in their rubber raft until all were dead.

The three ZEROS joined eight others in shooting up Dutch Harbor again, but that was where karma caught up with Koga. Struck by ground fire, the ZERO began trailing oil.

Koga headed for Akutan Island, about 25 miles east of Dutch Harbor and a planned rendezvous spot for stricken fighters as a submarine waited to pick up any downed pilots. Koga prepared to land on what he thought was a grassy flat, but with his landing gear down already, he noticed too late it was actually a marsh.

As the landing gear struck mud, muck and marsh grasses, the plane flipped upside down, killing the 19-year-old Koga. Two other pilots that followed Koga had been given orders to destroy any ZEROS that crash-landed, but unsure whether Koga had survived, they left the plane, hoping he would turn up in the waiting submarine. The sub was soon chased off by the destroyer USS Williamson, but for Koga, who likely died instantly, it mattered little.

Out of sight from ships, and not on a typical path for patrolling planes due to low visibility, the wrecked ZERO could have remained undetected for weeks or months.

It was a serendipitous moment that led to the ZERO’s discovery more than a month later on July 10, 1942. In the days before GPS and radar, pilot Lt. William Thies was patrolling in his PBY Catalina by the use of dead (deduced) reckoning, and got a bit lost. As he reoriented his plane upon sighting the familiar Shumagin Islands and headed back on the most direct course to Dutch Harbor, the wreck was spotted. They marked the coordinates and a salvage team returned the following day. Koga’s body was cut from his harness and buried nearby. But attempts to pull the plane out of the marsh were not as successful. After the third visit on July 15, the ZERO was loaded on a barge back to Dutch Harbor, where it was turned right-side up and cleaned.

Arriving at Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego, the ZERO underwent repairs and its red roundel was replaced with the American blue circle-white star insignia. The plane was fit to fly on Sept. 20 and underwent 24 test flights by Lt. Cmdr. Eddie R. Sanders over the next month.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eddie Sanders taxis a captured Imperial Japanese Navy Zero fighter at Naval Air Station San Diego, Calif., in September 1942. The fighter, piloted by Tadayoshi Koga, had crashed on Akutan Island, Alaska on June 4, 1942 after participating in an attack on Dutch Harbor. Koga was killed in the crash. On July 11, 1942 the US military recovered the aircraft and sent it the US where it was put into flying operation and used for intelligence purposes. US National Archives photo #NA 80-G-12777

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eddie Sanders taxis a captured Imperial Japanese Navy Zero fighter at Naval Air Station San Diego, Calif., in September 1942.

The data received from the plane proved invaluable. The intelligence gained from the find chipped away at Japan’s superiority in the sky. Quick, agile and swift, the ZERO had its Achilles heel: It was sluggish in rolling maneuvers on its right side at speeds higher than 200 knots as gas in its float-type carburetor failed to keep up with gravity. An American pilot in his turbo-charged jet-fueled fighter could escape a pressing ZERO with a diving roll and a hard right at about 200 knots.

In the meantime, then-Lt. Bill Leonard, who was the fighter training officer with Commander Fleet Air, West Coast, had heard about the recovered ZERO despite its top secret status. Leonard and his boss, then-Lt. Cmdr. James Flatley (who retired as a vice admiral), argued the ZERO should be used against fleet units in advanced stages of training just prior to deployment. Based on their information, adjustments were made in new fighters, the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat, which gave Navy pilots better performance and superior speed.

The intelligence gained from ZERO 4593, coupled with Lt. Cmdr. John S. “Jimmy” Thach’s “beam defense maneuver” also known as the “Thach Weave,” had more and more Japanese pilots failing in their missions against American and Allied pilots or turning into single-use kamikaze bombers. By the time the last of four Japanese aircraft carriers sank after the Battle of Midway with its aircraft and the experienced pilots who flew them, Japan simply could not replenish its supply with the skill it had at the beginning of the war. Emboldened by success against the once-feared ZERO, American naval pilots turned the tide against the Imperial Navy.

Back on the home front, the idea of using “dissimilar” fighters for dogfight training became a weekday event from 8 a.m. until noon over Manteo, N.C. Pilots in training flew against “adversaries” that included fighters, dive-bombers, torpedo bombers and patrol planes. It provided the best real-time flying experience for young pilots, but was also the most fun, according to then-Cmdr. Tom Blackburn, commanding officer of the Jolly Rogers (VF-17).

It wasn’t until a dogfight between an Army Air Forces P-51 that descended below 500 feet over Norfolk that got Blackburn an uncomfortable conversation about the antics of his “hellions” with Vice Adm. Patrick N.L. Bellinger, commander Air Force, Atlantic Fleet.

Throughout the vast aerial battlefields of World War II, the tactics that proved successful were those evolved from the dissimilar air combat arena – training their own fighters against their enemy’s aircraft. Both Allied and Axis air forces developed specialized units to provide dissimilar air combat training after capturing sufficient examples of their opponent’s aircraft.

Ironically, the most agile fighter in the sky met its fate on the ground in February 1945. The driver of a SB2C Helldiver didn’t see the smaller fighter as it was taxing for take-off at San Diego Naval Air Station and its propeller tore it into scrap. Luickly, the pilot, Cmdr. Richard G. Crommelin, survived the mishap.

Part of the ZEROs wing after a taxi accident destroyed the fighter in Feb. 1945. It is part of a display in the World War II section of the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C.

Part of the ZEROs wing after a taxi accident destroyed the fighter in Feb. 1945. It is part of a display in the World War II section of the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C.

Pieces of the plane were salvaged by Rear Adm. William Leonard and donated them to the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard, where they are on display in the World War II section of the museum.

The instrument panel was one of the few things salvaged from a ZERO fighter after it was struck by a Hellfire during a taxi accident in Feb. 1945

The instrument panel was one of the few things salvaged from a ZERO fighter after it was struck by a larger fighter during a taxi accident in Feb. 1945

“The captured Zero was a treasure,” Rear Adm. William Leonard told American author Jim Reardon for his book Koga’s Fighter: The Fighter that Changed World War II. “To my knowledge no other captured machine has ever unlocked so many secrets at a time when the need was so great.”

Want to see a ZERO in person? Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum  in Pensacola, Fla. (or online) where they have a production version of the A6M2 ZERO on display.

Information for this blog came from numerous sources, including Fighter Tactics in World War II written by then-Lt. Cmdr. Dave Parsons and published in Naval Aviation News (1993).

 
Jul 1

#PeopleMatter Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr.: The Man Behind the Legend

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 2:40 PM

 

gravely

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

There’s been a lot of publicity today as Adm. Michelle Howard becomes the Navy’s first female 4-star admiral, who also happens to be African-American. Her special moment in history is shared with another stellar officer, as today marks the 43rd anniversary of then-Capt. Samuel Gravely Jr. becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of rear admiral. By the time he retired in 1980, he had earned the rank of vice admiral. His 38-year career was peppered with firsts as an African-American: first to command a combatant ship, to be promoted to flag rank, and to command a naval fleet.

During a series of interviews with the National Leadership Visionary Project, Vice Adm. Gravely described himself as a mild-mannered but strong man who takes the time to determine several courses of action to complete a mission and then pick the best one. “I always try to do the best job I know how,” he said. “I’m scared to death of failure, so I don’t let myself fail.”

He also described himself as “neat.”

Anyone who served with Gravely will remember he had a strong propensity for his ships being, well, ship-shape. After all, it was a desire for cleanliness that guided Gravely to the Navy after Pearl Harbor was bombed Dec. 7, 1941.

As the military sought more bodies to fill billets, Gravely was sure he would be drafted – but not by the Navy. “I didn’t want to go into the Army,” Gravely said, explaining his father had a 3-4 year stint in the Army and didn’t enjoy it. And there was something about the Navy that appealed to Gravely.

“Most people tell you the Navy slept in clean beds at sea, while the Army slept in mud holes and tents,” Gravely said. “I thought it would be a better life in the Navy.”

At the start of World War II, the Navy became semi-segregated, opening the door to African-Americans to be something other than mess man or stewards. Gravely joined the Naval Reserve in 1942, but “I refused to go in and cook.” He was sent to Great Lakes, Ill., as a seaman apprentice.

Gravely’s first duty station was San Diego, a segregated base where he lived in a hut with seven other guys that was made for “five-foot guys and not six-foot guys.” He was the only one who couldn’t stand up straight in his living quarters.

After a couple of months, he heard someone was picking people to be mess cooks. Gravely was determined not to be on that list.

“I’d been running away from that for years,” Gravely said. So he volunteered for compartment cleaning.

“Every day I got up, put on my clothes and would go outside after breakfast and pick up cigarette butts and do other odd jobs” in the areas where enlisted black men spent their time.

One day, the chief master of arms asked Gravely if he and another black Sailor wanted to run the pool hall in order to expand job opportunities for blacks.

“There were no blacks up there and whites didn’t want them up there, but I took over the pool hall along with another fellow and we ran it for four months,” Gravely said. “We changed the music a little bit and picked up a bunch of extra quarters in that juke box, and then we picked up more money playing pool because blacks started coming into the pool hall.”

Along the way, Gravely was asked to take the V-12 officer test. Out of the 120 who took it, only three passed, with Gravely the only African-American. He attended V-12 officer training camp at the University of California at Los Angeles. Combined with his credits from Virginia Union College, after two semesters at UCLA, Gravely went to midshipman’s school at Columbia University. On Nov. 14, 1944, Gravely was the only black officer among 1,000 graduates at St. John’s Cathedral.

“I felt proud, really, that I had accomplished something else that no one else had under the same constraints,” Gravely said. “My old dad could stand up and say ‘That’s my boy’ and feel proud, too.”

And speaking of his father, Gravely credited his hard work ethic and desire to do things right to Samuel L. Gravely Sr., a stern but loving disciplinarian.

“I was spanked for everything, but at the same time, it never killed me,” Gravely said. “I had a happy, fun-loving childhood. Dad wasn’t cruel, I could take it, but there were very few things I didn’t get a whipping about.”

And just like George Washington, there is a tree that factors into the childhood legend of Samuel L. Gravely Jr.

At his Richmond childhood home, a huge tree loomed in the back yard that had family members concerned about a lightning strike taking it down. Gravely and a cousin decided they would hasten its demise by putting a chip in the tree every day Gravely didn’t get a whipping over the summer.

“We didn’t get far on cutting that tree down,” he said. “As far as I remember, they had to saw it down.”

The discipline was just part of Gravely’s childhood, and nothing that bothered him. “My dad was a really good, loving man, but you had to do things right, it’s as simple as that.”

As proud Gravely was of his achievements, there were times when he wished the media focus had been more about his accomplishments as a naval officer rather than as an African-American naval officer. He admitted some of the early media attention on him was embarrassing and frustrating.

He described reporters who came onboard his ship, USS Falgout (DER-324), at Pearl Harbor, and set up in the ward room to take pictures. But they didn’t get the pictures they wanted.

“They didn’t want a picture of a black guy eating at a table with white guys, they wanted to see a black guy served first,” Gravely said. But in his ward room, the determination on who would be served first was not based on rank, but instead it was rotated around chair placement.

It would be a mistake and disservice to think Gravely’s rise in rank was just too convenient a coincidence at a time when the Navy was working so hard to prove it was desegregated, he was determined to be a destroyerman.

But he had never spent time on a destroyer thus far in his career. “I heard if you wanted to be on a destroyer, but you’ve never been to a destroyer, you can’t go to a destroyer. You have to work your way up as a junior officer.”

Gravely wasn’t about to let a bureaucratic catch-22 unravel his dream of commanding a destroyer. He wrote to the Naval Office of Personnel asking to be allowed to command, not just be second in command, and he wanted a destroyer. As it happened, the Chief of Naval Personnel at the time was Gravely’s former skipper on USS Iowa.

He had established a school and training program for those who had never been and never qualified for destroyer duty. So Gravely got orders to Destroyer Squadron SEVEN.

“They looked at me like I dropped out of the woods,” he said after reporting aboard.

Gravely decided if he would ever command such a ship, he needed to ride all eight ships and attend all of the training courses. Once all of that was done, just when he thought he would get his own destroyer, he was sent to another destroyer squadron, DESRON FIVE.

The skipper told Gravely the only way he would learn the ship from bottom to top was through the inspection process the ship commander held every year. And he handed him the manual.

“I went through the dumb thing chapter by chapter,” Gravely said. After finishing the book, the skipper agreed Gravely was qualified to command a destroyer. Shortly afterward, Gravely got word he would be in charge of the destroyer USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD 717).

“That was like going to Heaven,” Gravely said.

Gravely and his wife drove to its pier in Northern California to admire “the beautiful lines on that ship.” But that trip to Heaven required a detour to a shipyard. “Turns out (Chandler) wasn’t meant to be an operating member of the fleet, it was going to Hunters Point at the San Francisco shipyard for one whole year to be completely modernized,” Gravely said. “I saw the bucket cut down from the bridge right straight down to nothing but the waterline. Then I saw it being built again.”

Gravely never got the chance to command Chandler at sea. History was made when he got orders to be the commanding officer of USS Falgout (DER 324), then based at Pearl Harbor.

“I could have cried,” Gravely said. “I wanted to be a commanding officer of a destroyer.”

As luck would have it, the destroyer escort wasn’t in port when Lt. Cmdr. Gravely and his wife and children arrived at Pearl Harbor in December 1961. But when the ship arrived, the first thing the perfectionist noted was the gun mount was a-kilter due to bad weather. One of his first priorities as the ship’s commanding officer in January 1962 was get the gun mount fixed.

By 1966, then-Cmdr. Gravely was skipper of USS Taussig (DD 746), a destroyer that provided weapons and aerial support in Vietnam. Then in 1967, he earned the rank of captain, the first African-American to do so. On July 1, 1971, Gravely was appointed a rear admiral at age 48 while he was in command of USS Jouett (DLG 29), a guided-missile frigate also based at Pearl Harbor. At the time, he was also named director of naval communications.

Five years later, Rear Adm. Gravely was in command of the Navy’s Third Fleet based in Hawaii. After two years at the helm, he accepted shore duty in Northern Virginia as director of the Defense Communication Agency. Two years after that, in 1980, Vice Adm. Gravely retired from the Navy, worked in an engineering firm; volunteered in his church and community; sat on boards, earned an honorary doctorate — and dabbled again in his childhood hobby of raising pigeons. He died after suffering a stroke at the age of 82 on Oct. 22, 2004.

“Leadership is being able to take one man or a group of men and convince them on a course of action that you think is the best course of action you can take under the circumstances,” he said in the Library of Congress’ National Visionary Leadership project.

Faced with myriad obstacles that littered his path to success and overcoming them all, Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. proved he had the qualities he claimed it took to be a leader: to be ready; lead with integrity, professionalism and care; take pride and excel in your work, no matter the job; creatively address challenges; have the right attitude to earn respect, and perseverance.

 Read more about Vice Adm. Gravely’s naval career. Listen to the interviews by Vice Adm. Gravely with the Library of Congress’ National Visionary Leadership  project. Or read a previous blog by one of NHHC’s historians.

Please click the hyperlink to read Adm. Michelle Howard’s bio.

 
Jun 27

A Message From Capt. Henry J. Hendrix II, Ph.D

Friday, June 27, 2014 8:47 AM

On the Ocassion of His Retirement from Naval Service June 27, 2014:

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“It is difficult to believe that 26 years have rushed by since I raised my right hand and swore the oath in the Armory Building at Purdue University, and I am more than a little broken hearted that it is coming to an end. Being an officer in the Navy was always a dream of mine, and I have lived that dream and achieved all that I sought, and more. Wearing the uniform has been a privilege and being selected for promotion to Captain was the highest honor. “A Captain in the United States Navy!” Amazing to me, and humbling. I owe thanks to my parents who raised me to listen to and answer the call of duty. I am indebted to my wife who accompanied me and supported me throughout this journey, waving goodbye far too many times, but always there when I returned from the sea. I thank my children for inspiring me to be a better man and holding me to my promises. I thank my crewmates and shipmates who flew and sailed alongside me along the way, and became like Family to me. I thank the leaders who mentored me and brought me along, who tried to give me good advice, and never abandoned me when I chose to ignore it. I thank those of you whom I was honored to lead. Lastly I want to thank our Navy’s Sailors. They are the most awesome group of heroes that I have ever met, and now as I shed my uniform, eagles, and stripes, I will proudly claim their title as my own.”

~Captain Jerry Hendrix, Ph.D~

Biography of U.S. Navy Capt. Henry J. Hendrix II, Ph.D.

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Captain Henry J. (Jerry) Hendrix served as the Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, and Curator of the Navy. He is responsible for the Navy’s museums, art & artifact collections, the research library, 150 million pages of archives, and for collecting and interpreting U.S. Naval history throughout the world.

CAPT Hendrix was commissioned in 1988 through the NROTC program at Purdue University and earned his Naval Flight Officer wings in 1989. Ordered to Patrol Squadron TEN in Brunswick, ME, he deployed to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, North Atlantic, and Caribbean. Qualified as an Instructor Tactical Coordinator and Mission Commander, he was named by the Navy League the Casco Bay Junior Officer of the Year in 1990. Joining the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN-71) in 1994, he qualified as a Tactical Action Officer and made two Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf deployments, and was named the ship’s Junior Officer of the Year in 1997. In 1997 then Lieutenant Hendrix reported to Patrol Squadron THIRTY, the P-3 Fleet Replacement Squadron as the Fleet Training Officer and led efforts to introduce the Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP) to the Maritime Patrol Aviation community before reporting to Patrol Squadron EIGHT, in Brunswick, Maine, as the Aviation Maintenance Officer. While with the Fighting Tigers, he made his fourth Mediterranean Sea deployment, earned Commander Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing FIVE’s Crew of the Quarter designation, and contributed to the squadron winning the 2000 Battle Efficiency Award. CAPT Hendrix commanded Tactical Air Control Squadron ELEVEN, home ported at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California from 2006-2008, deploying to the Arabian Gulf.

 CAPT Hendrix’s staff assignments include service on the Chief of Naval Operation’s Executive Panel (N00K) where his efforts centered on Homeland Defense, Naval Aviation, and Navy Missile Defense. Additionally, he served in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (Force Development) as the Executive Secretary for the Irregular Warfare Quadrennial Defense Review cell. In 2009, Captain Hendrix was by name requested for assignment to the OSD Office of Net Assessment where he assisted the Director on topics related to future capabilities and alternative security environments. He also served as the Director and Designated Federal Officer of the Secretary of the Navy’s Advisory Panel where he contributed to the Secretary’s 2012 Department Posture Statement to the Congress.

Captain Hendrix also earned Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School and Harvard University and a Doctorate from King’s College, London. He was twice named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy History and Heritage Command, and was also NHHC’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. The author of Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy, he received a number of awards including the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement and the Naval Institute’s Author of the Year.

CAPT Hendrix’s awards include the Legion of Merit, the Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (two), Navy Commendation Medal (three) and the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal (two). Captain Hendrix is married to the former Penny K. Preston of LaGrange, Indiana and they have two daughters, Amanda and Michaela.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage. It is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archaeology, Navy history, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/.

 
Jun 20

NHHC Announces Spanish-American War Documentary Project

Friday, June 20, 2014 1:00 PM
USS Maine Court of Inquiry, 1898. Members of the Navy Court of Inquiry examining Ensign Wilfrid V. Powelson, on board the U.S. Light House Tender Mangrove, in Havana Harbor, Cuba, circa March 1898. Those seated around the table include (from left to right): Capt. French E. Chadwick, Capt. William T. Sampson, Lt. Cmdr. William P. Potter, Ensign W.V. Powelson, Lt. Cmdr. Adolph Marix. Photograph copied from Uncle Sam's Navy, 12 April 1898.

USS Maine Court of Inquiry, 1898.
Members of the Navy Court of Inquiry examining Ensign Wilfrid V. Powelson, on board the U.S. Light House Tender Mangrove, in Havana Harbor, Cuba, circa March 1898.
Those seated around the table include (from left to right): Capt. French E. Chadwick, Capt. William T. Sampson, Lt. Cmdr. William P. Potter, Ensign W.V. Powelson, Lt. Cmdr. Adolph Marix.
Photograph copied from Uncle Sam’s Navy, 12 April 1898.

 

 

By Dennis Conrad, Ph.D., Histories and Archives Division, Naval History and Heritage Command

 There are two wars that defined the modern U.S. Navy: World War II and the Spanish-American War. While the Navy’s performance in World War II gets lots of attention from the media (for example, the History Channel), historians, and history-buffs, its equally impressive record in the Spanish-American War is largely forgotten.

 A new documentary project from the Naval History and Heritage Command, entitled The United States Navy’s Involvement in the Spanish-American War, aims to change that. 

Naval History and Heritage Command historian Dennis Conrad, PhD.

Naval History and Heritage Command historian Dennis Conrad, PhD.

We are now preparing a new documentary history, to be e-published, that will capture the drama and heroism of what one contemporary called “that splendid little war,” which lasted less than four months but catapulted the U. S. Navy to world prominence. No longer an obscure, back-water, fifth-rate sea force, it had become a naval power of the first rank and demanded respect as such. It also marked the transition from a navy of wood and sail to one of steel and steam.

 That war also tore away the shroud of isolation that had hidden this country from the rest of the world and immeasurably broadened its frontiers to lands far removed in Asia, while defining the role the U.S. Navy was to play into the future, to operate forward and protect and defend the country’s access to lands and trade routes far from its shores.

 The first topics will be posted this summer and concerns the run-up to the war.

 Tentatively titled “Pre-War Planning,” the topic covered refutes the idea that the Navy went into war unprepared and unaware. It also takes on the popular idea that only Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had done any pre-war planning and therefore American naval success was exclusively the product of his genius.

 A second topic of documents concerns the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor—the incident that led to the declaration of war and cost this country almost as many dead as the war would. Documents in this topic group will explore why the Maine was sent to Havana, the impact of the disaster in the U.S. and in Spain, and the question of whether the Navy’s Court of Inquiry, held days after the disaster, was a real attempt to learn the truth or a sham exercise with a pre-determined outcome.

 The third topic grouping will look at the Navy’s mobilization effort. How prepared was the Navy when the fighting began? What kinds of things were done? Was its stellar performance the product of luck or preparation and, finally, was it truly much better prepared than the Army, whose performance became the subject of criticism and investigation.

 If you have any thoughts on what you would like to see in this Spanish-American War edition, documentary collection, please respond in the comments below.

 

NHHC historian Dennis Conrad, Ph.D, works on the text for a 3-topic documentary on the Spanish-American War that will be released on the internet soon.

NHHC historian Dennis Conrad, Ph.D, works on the text for a 3-topic documentary on the Spanish-American War that will be released on the internet soon.

 
Jun 20

CSS Alabama Continues to Yield Insights to 19th Century Life at Sea

Friday, June 20, 2014 8:05 AM
A shell recovered from the wreckage of CSS Alabama during a 2001-02 excavation shows it still in its wood case, with a rope tying it shut.

BEFORE: A shell recovered from the wreckage of CSS Alabama during a 2001-02 excavation shows it still in its wood case, held together with a rope.

After conservation, each material component of the shell has been preserved.

After conservation, each material component of the shell has been preserved.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communications and Outreach Division

What is perhaps one of the most important artifacts from CSS Alabama, which sank 150 years ago today off the coast of France, actually came from the ship that destroyed her – USS Kearsarge. It’s a shell from Alabama’s 110-pound rifle that smashed through USS Kearsarge’s transom frame shortly after 11 a.m. June 19, 1864, and lodged in her stern post – never exploding.

CSS Alabama fired this shell from its 110-pound rifle early in the action against USS Kearsarge, landing a critical blow into Kearsarge's stern post. But it didn't explode, allowing Kearsarge to continue the battle, eventually defeating Alabama. Photo by MC1 Tim Comerford

CSS Alabama fired this shell from its 110-pound rifle early in the action against USS Kearsarge, landing a critical blow into Kearsarge’s stern post. But it didn’t explode, allowing Kearsarge to continue the battle, eventually defeating Alabama. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released

Fired early in the action as the two ships circled each other, the shell jammed against the rudder, forcing four Sailors to man the helm. But the shell didn’t cripple Kearsarge, as an exploded one most certainly would have. Instead, Kearsarge methodically fired upon the travel-weary commerce raider, accurately sending shot after shot onto her deck and into her hull. Just over an hour after she fired the first salvo, CSS Alabama sank beneath the waves.

After cruising thousands of miles for 22 months, the famed commerce raider traveled her final 270 feet (45 fathoms) to the bottom of the English Channel, just 400 feet from the neutral waters of France.

After the battle, Kearsarge would continue across the Atlantic, cruise the Caribbean and finally pull into Boston Harbor to have the shell removed. Preserved and still encased in the stern post, the artifact showcases Alabama’s outstanding range and firepower that made her such a feared raider. It is also a monument to the importance of keeping gunpowder replenished and uncontaminated.

For 120 years, CSS Alabama’s legend was all that remained. But in 1984, the ship was discovered. Under customary international law, the wreck remains property of the United States although she lies in French waters. A Franco-American scientific committee was formed to oversee the excavation and recovery of artifacts.

Robert Neyland, PhD, the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archeology Branch, has been part of the team overseeing Alabama site management and artifact conservation since he joined NHHC in 1994.

Neyland and his crew of conservators and researchers will get another helping of CSS Alabama artifacts next week from the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, S.C., home of the submarine H.L. Hunley. The collection includes 15 artifacts from the 2001-2002 excavation, wood fragments, copper, alloys, buttons, rope and even coal, that took more time for treatment. Already there are more than 500 artifacts in the collection, with a number of them on loan and exhibited around the U.S. and France.

For conservators like NHHC’s Kate Morrand, one of the more exciting artifacts is a round shell with a brass percussion fuse that was found still encased in its original wood box, wrapped in fabric and tied with a rope.

“All very different material to treat, making it all the more difficult,” Morrand said. Each item needs its own type of treatment to mitigate the effects of 138 years in salt water.

The items taken off CSS Alabama have been an eclectic collection that give some insight into the life of a commerce raider as it cruised from South Africa to South America and as far east as Singapore and Vietnam.

“A lot of the artifacts we found with Alabama presumably were taken off other ships,” Neyland said.

As CSS Alabama made port visits, the crew was often treated like glamorous heroes, taken on exotic game hunts in South Africa, more typically attended by the ruling elite. Alabama’s third engineer was killed after his gun went off accidentally upon his return from such a hunt.

“One of the artifacts is the horn from a species of Asiatic or African deer, a souvenir from one of the hunts,” Neyland said. “There’s also a whale’s tooth in the collection, probably taken off an American whaling ship.”

There is a series of coins from Brazil, and a container of odds and ends, including buttons and a thimble.

Items such as Brazilian coins reflect CSS Alabama's life as a commerce raider. Kate Morrand, a conservator with the Underwater Archaeology Branch with the Naval History and Heritage Command points out the two salt cellars that held salt used by the cook on the ship. Photo by MC1 Tim Comerford

Items such as Brazilian coins reflect CSS Alabama’s life as a commerce raider. Kate Morrand, a conservator with the Underwater Archaeology Branch with the Naval History and Heritage Command points out the two salt cellars that held salt used by the cook on the ship. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released

“It’s like the stuff people throw into a drawer in their bedroom,” Neyland said.

Most of the artifacts so far seem to have come from the officer’s area of the ship, a beautiful ceramic chamber pot complete with flushing handle and a collection of white dinnerware accented in different colors, like blue and green. White plates with brown design were likely used by the crew, while green would be for mid-level officers, blue for upper-level officers, and a gold set for the captain, Neyland said.

“The plates, made by the Davenport firm in England, show the fouled anchor design,” Neyland said. “And the different color schemes probably had to do with rank and mess. You get a bit of the sense of the hierarchy, the social status differences between the senior and junior officers.”

The ship’s captain and officers claimed a Southern heritage, while the crew was decidedly European, including Russian, British, and French.

In 2002, a human jawbone was found lodged in the encrustation around a cannon after 138 years in the water. It is likely the remains of one of the nine Alabama crewmembers killed during the battle or one of the 12 who drowned when the ship sank.

“The remains were sent to the Joint POW/MIA Command where remains go to be identified,” Morrand said. “They were able to get DNA from dental analysis of the bone and it was determined to be European since they primarily ate wheat more typical of European cuisine compared to the corn of the United States.”

An exam of the teeth at the Smithsonian Institution revealed the jawbone’s owner was likely between 25-40 and in good health, other than an apparent habit of chomping on a pipe stem.

A ceremonial burial was held for the crewmember’s remains in Mobile, Ala., a bit far from the Confederate burial site located in Cherbourg for those who died during the battle.

“CSS Alabama is a pretty amazing story,” Neyland said. “The ship was built in secrecy by the British, while the French and British were on the fence whether to take sides in the Civil War. The Confederacy always had the expectation that foreign governments would side with them, but that really didn’t happen.”

With the return of more CSS Alabama artifacts next week, the commerce raider has once again captured our imaginations.

 To read more about CSS Alabama’s 22-month voyage as a commerce raider, check out this blog: http://www.navalhistory.org/2014/06/19/beautiful-and-dangerous-css-alabama-ruled-the-sea.

 
 
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