Mar 21

Celebrating the First Women to Join the Naval Reserve Force

Saturday, March 21, 2015 8:00 AM
Chief Petty Officer Loretta P. Walsh photographed circa 1917 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Chief Petty Officer Loretta P. Walsh photographed circa 1917 at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Holly Quick, public affairs specialist, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Every March during Women’s History Month we commemorate the diverse contributions women have made, and continue to make, to our nation and our military. This March also marks the Centennial of the Navy Reserve and it would be remiss not to celebrate the contributions of Chief Yeoman (F) Loretta P. Walsh, the first woman enrolled in the Naval Reserve Force, and the women who joined her in support of the First World War.

In March 1917, as the United States was reaching the final decision to enter World War I, the Navy’s need for clerical assistance was far greater than had been anticipated. Shore stations, whose activities had been increased by the preparation for war, were asking for assistance.

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels consulted with his legal advisers and discovered just because women had never served in the Naval Reserve as yeomen didn’t mean it was prohibited by law.

“Then enroll women in the Naval Reserve as yeomen,” said Daniels, “and we will have the best clerical assistance the country can provide.”

On March 19, 1917, the Navy Department authorized the enrollment of women in the Naval Reserve. Women served under Class 4, the Naval Coast Defense Reserve, of the 1916 United States Naval Reserve Force, which included members who were capable of performing special useful service in the Navy or in connection with the Navy in defense of the coast.

The circular from the Bureau of Navigation stated:

“The Bureau authorizes the enrollment of women in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve in the ratings of yeoman, electrician (radio), or in such other ratings as the commandant may consider essential to the district organizations.”

World War I Navy "Yeoman (F)" women lined up outdoors, with what might be the Washington Monument behind them, national mall, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

World War I Navy “Yeoman (F)” women lined up outdoors, with what might be the Washington Monument behind them, national mall, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

On March 21, 1917, two years after the Naval Reserve was established, and two days after women were authorized to enroll in the Navy, Walsh enlisted in the Naval Reserve as a Chief Yeoman. By the time the U.S. joined its allies to fight in World War I on April 6, 200 women had joined her.

To distinguish these women from their male counterparts the Navy established the rate of Yeoman (F), though they were also known as “Yeomanettes” or “Yeowomen.” Men and women in the same rank earned equal pay, something that was unheard of in the civilian sector. However, unlike their male counterparts, the highest rank a Yeoman (F) could reach was that of chief petty officer.

 

At the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany on Nov. 11, 1918, a total of 11,275 Yeomen (F) had served in the Navy. All Yeomen (F) were released from active duty by July 31, 1919, and to them Secretary Daniels sent the following message:

“It is with deep gratitude for the splendid service rendered by the Yeomen (F) during our national emergency that I convey to them the sincere appreciation of the Navy Department for their patriotic cooperation.”

To read more about Women in the Navy, please visit NHHC’s website: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy.html

 
Mar 19

‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley’s European Theater Exploits Heroic

Thursday, March 19, 2015 7:40 AM
In Naples harbor, Italy, in August 1944, just prior to the Invasion of Southern France. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

In Naples harbor, Italy, in August 1944, just prior to the Invasion of Southern France. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

If you were intrigued last week by Lt. John D. “Sea Wolf” Bulkeley’s daring journey to drive his PT boat 600 miles in unchartered waters, through minefields and dodging Japanese patrol boats to get General Douglas MacArthur to safety, then you’re in luck today; there is more to his story. The commander of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three was no one-hit wonder when it came to World War II heroics.

Bulkeley’s exploits didn’t end in the Pacific Theater. By June 6, 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley was commanding officer of the PT squadrons protecting the Normandy Invasion fleet from attacks by E-boats, the German version of Bulkeley’s own PT boats.

Photo of Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley dated dated Sept. 4, 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Photo of Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley dated dated Sept. 4, 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

During an interview with CBS journalist Charles Collingwood on July 3, 1944, Bulkeley explained his squadron protected minesweepers that cleared the path for the invading fleet of warships and landing craft of Operation Overlord. His PT boats were among the first to enter Cherbourg harbor, “but we didn’t stay long,” he quipped.

The PT boats were being used to draw fire from a shore battery that was holding out. Sure enough, they drew fire and just as surely, they it. When they returned the following day, there was a white flag on the fort.

Bulkeley shrugged off the interviewer’s concern about mines and having officers of high rank onboard. “Well, we’re used to mines and to high rank. We had the King of England aboard this ship (his flagship PT 517) not so long ago (the day before the invasion). … He asked me how I got along with the British. I told him I was getting along fine. In fact, five years ago, I married a British girl.”

When Collingwood asked Bulkeley which campaign was tougher, the Pacific or European theaters, Bulkeley explained it was the Pacific. “Over here (Europe) you don’t have mosquitos, malaria and rain. You have short distances to run. Only six hours of darkness right now, and you are fighting the Germans and not the [Japanese]. With the [Japanese], you know if you meet them, that it is a battle to the death. They don’t run away, and you know that if you are sunk, they will leave you to drown or try to kill you in the water. And then if you are lucky enough to reach land, they’ll kill you on the land. Over here, there is still some decency to war, if war ever can be decent.”

In mid-July, just 38 days after the Invasion of Normandy, he was given the command of destroyer Endicott (DD 495). The destroyer would be part of a ruse in appearing to invade La Ciotat to draw two German divisions from St. Tropez. The destroyer fired 3,000 rounds continuously over two nights, Bulkeley recalled in a Proceedings Magazine article in August 1994. The diversion worked. When Gen. Mark Clark landed his troops where the real assault took place in Southern France for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944, he lost only one soldier who stepped on a mine.

Pictured from left to right: Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., USNR, Commander of the Special Operations Group’s Eastern Diversionary Unit, Capt. Henry C. Johnson, commander Special Operations Group and Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley, commanding officer of USS Endicott (DD 495) on the destroyer’s bridge during the Southern France Operation in August 1944. This photo may have been taken after the Aug. 17 engagement that sank the German corvette Capriola and armed yacht Nimet Allah. Courtesy of Rear Adm. John D. Bulkeley Naval History and Heritage Command photograph NH 54383

Pictured from left to right: Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., USNR, Commander of the Special Operations Group’s Eastern Diversionary Unit, Capt. Henry C. Johnson, commander Special Operations Group and Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley, commanding officer of USS Endicott (DD 495) on the destroyer’s bridge during the Southern France Operation in August 1944. Courtesy of Rear Adm. John D. Bulkeley Naval History and Heritage Command photograph NH 54383

Following the operation, Bulkeley was sent to Sicily for repairs to Endicott. Along the way, he heard two German gunboats were attacking two British ships, the Scarab and Aphis. “They were river gunboats built for China duty, and they had very little fire control. Their guns were small and their speed was not more than 8 or 12 knots,” he said.

Bulkeley turned his ship around immediately to provide assistance. “We soon saw huge clouds of black smoke, which looked almost as though some ships were on fire. I didn’t know what was on the other side, so I crashed on through.”

The British ships were in retreat, followed by the German corvettes Nimet Allah and Capriolo going 28-30 knots, Bulkeley recalled. Endicott was cruising at 36 knots.

“When you run into the enemy, you’ve got to attack, no question about it,” he said.

Unfortunately for Bulkeley, some of his guns had overheated during the heavy bombardment at La Ciotat and the breaches weren’t closing. There was only one gun working at mount three, and the gunner’s mate first class was pumping the shells in by hand and using a sledgehammer to close the breach.

With one gun blazing at two German ships armed with 5-inch guns, the Endicott zigg and zagged toward her targets. “We swept the decks with the 40-mm and 20-mm gunfire,” Bulkeley said. “By this time, we had closed to within 800 yards, and our 5-inch guns were scoring some hits. One of the ships capsized and the other sank later on.”

With the fight over, Endicott picked up 179 German survivors, giving them medical treatment.

Sketch by Radioman 2nd Class Grantier, depicting Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley photographing the sinking of the German corvette Nimet Allah by Endicott during the Southern France Operation, Aug. 17, 1944. He is using a 35mm camera. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Sketch by Radioman 2nd Class Grantier, depicting Lt. Cmdr. Bulkeley photographing the sinking of the German corvette Nimet Allah by Endicott during the Southern France Operation, Aug. 17, 1944. He is using a 35mm camera. Courtesy of Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Bulkeley would later serve on cruisers and a battleship, but he remained loyal to the needs of smaller craft, such as the Cyclone (PC 1) class most of which are still in service today.

“These boats are far more sophisticated,” he said of the PCs in the 1994 interview. “They are more capable, have more firepower, and are more deadly than I ever even envisioned in my PT boats. There’s a future for them all right.”

Those ships remain in service today and are an important part of the Navy’s presence in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.

 
Mar 13

Military Sealift Command and Innovation: New Platforms and Avenues for Meeting Navy’s Needs

Friday, March 13, 2015 3:00 PM
Sacramento (AOE-1), the first of a new class of underway-replenishment ships designed to provide fuel, ammunition, freight, and provisions to the fleet at sea. Bigger than most battleships of World War II, and comparable in size to many aircraft carriers of that period, her high speed makes it possible for Sacramento to operate as an integral part of a fast carrier task force. In one seven-month deployment to Vietnam, she provided rapid, versatile support to naval forces in that theater; cargo and passengers were transferred in alongside replenishments and by heavy-lift cargo helicopter on 583 different occasions.

Sacramento (AOE-1), the first of a new class of underway-replenishment ships designed to provide fuel, ammunition, freight, and provisions to the fleet at sea.

By Rear Adm. Kevin C. Hayes, Deputy Commander, Military Sealift Command

RDMLHayes

Rear Adm. Kevin C. Hayes

 

This day in 1964, our Navy commissioned USS Sacramento (AOE 1) at Seattle, Washington. She was the first ship that combined the characteristics of an oiler, ammunition and supply ship. Anyone familiar with the current class of fast combat support ships can see the enduring value of fast, one-stop shopping for our combatant vessels at sea.

Today’s Navy still puts a premium on the innovative design and use of new ship platforms, but it’s no secret that we operate in a tough fiscal environment. Budget realities mean leaders must provide the best possible bang for our nation’s buck while still meeting emergent requirements worldwide. As Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert outlined in his Sailing Directions, our number one priority is warfighting.

Military Sealift Command is a strong enabler for Navy and Marine Corps warfighting and this innovation mindset. In particular, the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) platform represents one centerpiece of the seabasing concept that will permit our forces to operate away from the shore, ultimately supporting special forces missions, counter-piracy/smuggling operations, maritime security operations and mine clearance, as well as humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Keeping with MSC’s emphasis on innovation, in early 2012, MSC converted USS Ponce from an amphibious transport dock ship to an AFSB-I (Interim) that deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet roughly six months after work began. Ponce’s work in the region – which included acting as a base for mine-sweeping MH-53E Sea Dragons in the Persian Gulf as well as serving as a test bed for the deployment of the Navy’s new Laser Weapon System – continues to the present. The ship’s success is a terrific example of looking beyond a ship’s original design to leverage new capabilities.

The recently christened USNS Lewis B. Puller, expected to deliver later this year, is the first of three permanent vessels specifically designed as AFSBs and are built on the same hull as our new mobile landing platforms. Together, with several other vessels that MSC operates, Puller will give the Navy and Marine Corps team fresh, forward-based options for these critical missions.

To be sure, Puller and its sister AFSBs are no replacement for amphibious warships. They are intended for relatively secure maritime environments, where they can perform tasks that free up amphibious ships for their intended purpose – high-end warfighting.

Despite this caveat, Puller is an impressive at-sea home for warfighters and their equipment. Our Navy and Marine Corps demand innovative, cost-effective platforms like Puller. MSC will continue to provide the proven, expert operation of these vessels so warfighters can do their jobs.

 
Mar 11

‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley’s Daring Journey Earns Medal of Honor

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 3:40 PM
Lt. John D. Bulkeley, photographed while on board a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT), circa 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Lt. John D. Bulkeley, photographed while on board a Motor Torpedo Boat (PT), circa 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Seventy-three years ago, Lt. John D. Bulkeley, the commander of Patrol Torpedo Boat No. 41, waited at the north pier off the island of Corregidor for the words that would begin a harrowing 2-day journey through minefields, unchartered waters and a Japanese fleet on the prowl.

“You may cast off, Buck, when you are ready.”

With those words spoken by American General of the Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Bulkeley, commanding officer of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, pulled away at 7:45 p.m. March 11, 1942, into what was becoming increasingly a misty and moonless night.

Japanese forces had gained a stronghold in the Philippines, and they were closing in on the island that housed MacArthur, his family and staff, plus an additional 14,000 military and civilian personnel, including Gen. Jonathan Wainwright. MacArthur wanted to stay and fight, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur off the island to prevent his capture, which would be demoralizing to the nation still recovering from the shock of the attack at Pearl Harbor and then the surrender at Wake Island.

Sources may argue when and why MacArthur agreed to have his small staff and family travel by PT boats across close to 600 miles of ocean dotted with reefs, through a harbor strewn with mines and a dragnet of prowling Japanese ships. Initially, plans were to have MacArthur spirited away in the submarine USS Permit (SS 178) or flown out by PBY flying boats.

Those plans may have been scrapped due to MacArthur’s claustrophobic tendencies, or that he had never flown before, not to mention the problems Catalinas had landing at Corregidor.

But no one questioned MacArthur’s belief and trust in Lt. John D. ‘Sea Wolf’ Bulkeley.

MacArthur and Bulkeley were already stationed at Corregidor before the war began. MacArthur had a soft spot for the small, swift patrol torpedo (PT) boats. He had even recommended the Navy Department add something similar to their fleet of ships as defensive weapons in the mid-1930s. The Navy was not impressed. MacArthur never forgot the snub.

So when MacArthur was appointed to defend the Philippines, he took a special interest in PT boat operations and required the squadron commander to report directly to him each day in person.

As MacArthur weighed the options – by sea or by air – the general chose the risky option of traveling above the water by PT boat, trusting his fate in the hands of the lieutenant he called a “bold buckaroo with the cold green eyes.”

It was hardly the easiest option. To make the distance, the PT boats would need to carry drums of gasoline on their decks that could easily be struck by a stray bullet or shrapnel. After being loaded down with an additional three tons of fuel, the boat’s main advantage, its speed, would be reduced to 30 knots. The boats themselves had no radar and only a few areas of the ocean had been mapped.

Bulkeley himself was lobbied hard during the days leading up to the departure. Thinking MacArthur would no doubt take the submarine, some of the remaining officers wooed Bulkekey as to when and where he might pick up them and their families to get them “out of Dodge” before the Japanese set foot on the island. Bulkeley made no effort to dissuade them since MacArthur’s departure was kept secret.

MacArthur had already told Wainwright he would be left behind with dwindling supplies and facing the full brunt of the Japanese forces. He promised upon his return to Corregidor he would promote Wainwright to lieutenant general. Wainwright promised if he was still alive, he would be there when MacArthur returned. Only one could keep their promise.

On the evening of the departure, however, the gig was up as MacArthur’s chosen chariot proved to be Bulkeley’s squadron. More than 15 of MacArthur’s staff were ferried to Bataan where they loaded onto PT boats 32, 34 and 35. So it was just MacArthur, his wife, Jean, 4-year-old son Arthur 32 35and his nanny, his aide Lt. Col. Sidney Huff and three other staffers who left from Corregidor.

After Bulkeley’s PT 41 caught up with the other three, they traversed a mine-laden harbor in single file before speeding through the choppy waters. It didn’t take long for the Army and civilian personnel to feel the effects of what the Navy men called “moderate” seas, which only worsened during the tripmarked by occasional squalls. Nearly all were violently seasick, including MacArthur, who stated in his 1964 book “Reminiscences: General of the Army,” that being on the PT boat was “what it must be like to take a trip in a concrete mixer.”

The only passenger who seemed not to mind was an air corps captain, oblivious to motion sickness, who slept soundly, snoring in his bunk, during the trip.

The trip took its toll on the Navy men of Squadron Three. With no maps and virtually no light, the boats became separated. PT 34 arrived first at the planned rendezvous point at Tagauayan Island. When PT 32’s operator saw a ship in the distance, he thought it was a Japanese destroyer and jettisoned fuel to increase the speed of the boat, only to find out the silhouette he saw was PT 41 with a couple of passengers standing. Attempts to collect the jettisoned fuel became futile, so PT 41 and PT 32 continued to the rendezvous point to find PT 34. But there was no sign of PT 35.

With only two good engines and little fuel, the passengers on PT 32 were divided between PT 41 and 34 which headed for their destination. The crew of PT 32 stayed behind to wait for the submarine Permit. Which was lucky for the crew of PT 35 – they finally arrived at Tagauayan Island and were told by the PT 32 crew that the other two PT boats had already left for their destination, so PT 35 followed.

Bulkeley’s crew had no easier time with it, even with their skipper handling the navigation. With no sleep in more than 48 hours, one crew member fainted while at the wheel, and another was found dozing while standing up in gale-force winds.

Bulkeley and his second-in-command, Lt. Robert Kelly, when they weren’t slicing through stormy seas, now faced a daylight dash through the Mindanao Sea, narrowly missing detection by one apparently inattentive Japanese warship. MacArthur had wanted to press on, fearing he would miss the awaiting B-17s at Cagayan that would take him to Australia. He had no way to know the planes would be delayed three days.

Upon his arrival at Cagayan, a shaky MacArthur voiced his appreciation for Squadron Three’s daring voyage.

“You’ve taken me out of the jaws of death and I won’t forget it,” MacArthur vowed.

A few hours later, PT 35 would arrive, completing the mission with all aboard. The sub Permit picked up the remaining 32 crew members, although the boat was sunk rather than leaving it for the Japanese. Bulkeley, not knowing the fate of PT 32, spent several hours in planes searching for his missing crew.

MacArthur, in the meantime, was aghast at the Flying Fortress that landed with damaged turbo superchargers and faulty brakes, bullet holes patched by ration cans and piloted by a 24-year-old and youthful-looking Lt. Harl Pease. He rejected the plane stating no way would he put his family and staff on “that broken down crate with a boy at the controls.”

While waiting for another plane, MacArthur would have one more request for his “buckaroo.” He tasked Bulkeley with evacuating Philippine President Manuel Quezon from his location on the island of Negros. Quezon, sick from tuberculous, was tired of his homeland being fought over by the Americans and Japanese, and entertained the thought of going neutral so both warring factions would leave. MacArthur did not want that to happen. So Bulkeley was told to fetch him “by any means necessary.”

Quezon at first resisted the notion of leaving the Philippines. In George W. Smith’s 2005 book “MacArthur’s Escape: John ‘Wild Man’ Bulkeley and the Rescue of an American Hero,” there is a passage that might explain Quezon’s reluctance in following the “reincarnated pirate” who stood before him on March 18.

“The skipper wore no uniform, only an old oilskin. His boots were mud-caked, and his unruly black beard and longish hair tied around his head with a bandanna gave him a menacing appearance. Embellishing that sinister look, Bulkeley strode around with a tommy gun, two pearl-handled pistols strapped to his waist, and a nasty-looking knife tucked ominously in his belt.”

Eventually, Quezon agreed to leave, so Bulkeley whisked the Philippine president, his family and staff back to the safety of Mindanao.

Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley Receives the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, circa July 1942. Bulkeley was awarded the medal for heroism while he commanded Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three during the Philippines Campaign, December 1941 - April 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Lt. Cmdr. John D. Bulkeley Receives the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, circa July 1942. Bulkeley was awarded the medal for heroism while he commanded Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three during the Philippines Campaign, December 1941 – April 1942. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

MacArthur made good on his promise to not forget “Sea Wolf” Bulkeley. He nominated the lieutenant for the Medal of Honor, which he received for his actions between Dec. 7, 1941 and April 10, 1942 as commanding officer of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three. Not one to rest of his laurels, Bulkeley continued to make his imprint on the Navy, earning the rank of vice-admiral over the course of a 55-year career. Along the way, he also earned the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star Medal (Army) with Gold Star in lieu of the Second Silver Star Medal (Navy), the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Army Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart Medal, Army Distinguished Unit Emblem, and the French and Philippine Decorations. Other awards included the China Service Medal with bronze star; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; the Korean Presidential Unit Citation Badge; and the Philippine Defense Ribbon. He also had the Expert Pistol Shot Medal and Expert Rifleman Medal.

The general would return to the Philippines as promised Oct. 20, 1944. But MacArthur would not find Gen. Jonathan Wainwright there. Those left behind on Corregidor, after living at near starvation levels and unable to fight off the Japanese, had surrendered May 6, 1942. The military and civilians not killed outright were taken as prisoners of war and worked in Japanese work camps. Wainwright, the highest-ranking American POW, survived his three years in captivity where he was often brutalized by the Japanese. MacArthur and Wainwright would meet finally after the Japanese agreed to surrender Aug. 19. MacArthur asked Wainwright to stand next to him during the formal Japanese surrender ceremony Sept. 2, 1945 on USS Missouri, and gave him the pen he used to sign the document.

One final note of interest. Remember baby-faced pilot Lt. Harl Pease? He turned 25 a few days after MacArthur rejected his patched-up B-17 and he, too, would earn a Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty” in action with the enemy Aug. 6-7, 1942. Even though he was not scheduled to take part in a bombing mission to Rabaul, New Britain, Pease prepared the most serviceable airplane at the base for combat, declared unusable for other combat missions. Despite being intercepted by 30 enemy fighter aircraft before reaching his target, Pease and his crew were successful in destroying several Zeros before dropping his bombs on the intended target. Upon his return, enemy pursuit aircraft shot down his plane. Pease and a crew member bailed out, but were captured by the Japanese. On Oct. 8, 1942, they were forced to dig their own graves and beheaded. MacArthur endorsed Pease’s nomination for the Medal of Honor, which was presented posthumously to Pease’s father.

 
Mar 10

On the Eve of Peace, the War Still Rages

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 6:47 PM
Alliance under sail, in a painting by Nowland Van Powell, courtesy of the Bruce Gallery, Memphis, Tenn. (NH 92873-KN)

Alliance under sail, in a painting by Nowland Van Powell, courtesy of the Bruce Gallery, Memphis, Tenn. (NH 92873-KN)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

After a long struggle for independence, the United States of America succeeded in its break from Great Britain. Suffering several more defeats following the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781, British Parliament agreed in April 1782 to cease offensive operations against their soon-to-be ex-colony and peace negotiations began. Both sides saw no point in fighting, and an armistice was struck but an official end to the war was still more than a year away.

So for some, the Revolutionary War continued.

Especially since at the time, information took a bit longer to cross the Atlantic pond than today. As word of the cease fire spread, the battlespace of the war slowly shrunk. Cities and major battlefields got the word early. Those fighting in out-of-the-way, off-the-main-road countrysides received word a bit later. Sailors on the wine-dark open ocean got news of the armistice last.

At sea, the last shot of the American Revolutionary War was fired from the bow of the Continental frigate Alliance into the HMS Sybil, if the evidence is anything to go by.

While in France, the 32-gun Alliance received orders to Havana to transport gold to Philadelphia. After brief repairs, Alliance set out on her mission, touched at St. Eustatius and Cape Francois, and reached Havana on the last day of January 1783.

Portrait of Capt. John Barry

Portrait of Capt. John Barry

However, another American warship, the 20-gun Duc de Lauzun, was already in port on the same mission. The specie (coins) had already been loaded on that ship, so instead of waiting on orders elsewhere, Alliance’s skipper, Capt. John Barry, decided to escort Duc de Lauzun home.

Almost immediately upon getting underway, though, the duo encountered two Royal Navy frigates. Barry decided not to fight them. The risk to the cargo he escorted was too great. Alliance and Duc de Lauzun evaded their pursuers.

Three days later, on March 10, off the coast of Cape Canaveral they encountered the same pair—HMS Alarm and HMS Sybil. Again, Barry chose to evade rather than engage the enemy.

At first, Alliance started pulling away. Duc de Lauzun, however, couldn’t maneuver as swiftly, and Alarm started gaining ground on her. And then Alarm gave up. Sybil was left to her lonesome for the presumed attack—which she then started.

Once within range, Sybil began firing on Duc de Lauzun. But she was overconfident. Perhaps her captain thought the evading ships under-capable or unprepared for a fight. If so, he was wrong.

Alliance was well able to fight, and Barry maneuvered her between Sybil and Duc de Lauzun so his comrades could break for safety. Sybil refocused her attention and turned her fire toward Alliance. She managed to send one shot from her bow chaser into the American frigate’s cabin, mortally wounding a junior officer and scattering many splinters.

But Barry held his fire. Not until Alliance was within a stone’s throw of her opponent did he unleash his broadside on his enemy. The two crews engaged in of close-in fighting warfare for either 40 minutes or a lifetime.

During the battle, Sybil’s captain, Capt. James Vashon, saw his eventual defeat. In fact, he said he had “never seen a ship so ably fought as the Alliance.” Capt. Barry impressed him. “Every quality of a great commander was brought out with extraordinary brilliancy,” Vashon said of Barry.

While this brief naval battle raged, diplomats were negotiating the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which would be officially signed Sept. 3, 1783, ending the Revolutionary War.

But out on the deep blue sea, America’s sea warriors made sure the final battle of the American Revolution was a victory for the new republic.

 
Mar 7

NHHC Director Speaks at USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association Reunion

Saturday, March 7, 2015 1:55 PM
USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

 

This weekend members of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations are gathered for their 2015 reunion in Houston, Texas. In addition to conducting the business of the organization the reunion featured a dinner last night in which Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provided the keynote remarks updating reunion attendees on the NHHC study of the condition of Houston’s wreck as well as ongoing Navy and diplomatic efforts to prevent further unauthorized disturbance of the ship which is the final resting place of more than 700 Houston Sailors and Marines who went down with the ship.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

One of the highlights of this weekend’s event is the 72nd Anniversary Memorial Service held Saturday at Sam Houston Park’s USS Houston Memorial, honoring those lost onboard the ship and the survivors who have since passed away.

In 2014, a Naval History and Heritage Command underwater archaeologist assisted in a survey of the wreck of USS Houston as part of the 2014 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. U.S. Navy divers, assisted by personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the World War II wreck in June. Houston was sunk during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942 with the loss of more than seven hundred souls. The ship remains sovereign property of the U.S. under customary international law, and is a popular dive site.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The purpose of the CARAT 2014 mission was to determine the vessel’s current condition and provide real-world training to rescue and salvage divers in maneuvering around a sunken ship. The team’s interim report confirmed the site’s identity and documented conclusive evidence of a pattern of unauthorized disturbance of the wreck site. While the findings from the interim report remain intact, the final report released last summer benefits from additional archival research and more exhaustively details the condition of the wreck.

Houston, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” was sunk in combat during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. Capt. Albert H. Rooks, the ship’s commanding officer who was killed in action, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism, while USS Houston was awarded two battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Cmdr. Andy Schroder, who represented the Royal Australian Navy at the reunion dinner, pauses for a photo with Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox and Carter Conlin, USN retired and former Commander of the US Naval Order, Texas Commandery. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and the 2015 USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association & Next Generations scholarship winner along with John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The Department of the Navy’s sunken ship and aircraft wrecks represent a collection of more than 17,000 fragile, non-renewable cultural resources distributed worldwide. They often serve as war graves, safeguard state secrets, carry environmental and safety hazards such as oil and ordnance, and hold great historical value. While it is not feasible to conduct similar surveys of all sunken military craft, Navy leadership desires to ensure the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when Houston went down remains in a respected and solemn condition.

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

 
Mar 6

The Legacy of Ships Named Enterprise

Friday, March 6, 2015 3:46 PM
RED SEA (June 21, 2011) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr./Released)

RED SEA (June 21, 2011) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Strait of Bab el Mandeb in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr./Released)

 

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Lockwood, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

On March 6, 1822, a 12-gun schooner named Enterprise captured four pirate vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. The event is little known, not well documented, and it was one of her last operations before sinking in the West Indies a year later. But her actions on this day stand alongside a proud history in the legacy of the Enterprise.

There have been eight U.S. Navy ships named Enterprise, creating a legacy that will carry well into the future as PCU Enterprise (CV 80) is designed, constructed and joins the fleet a decade from now.

The first Enterprise was originally a British ship named George. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65's official website.

The first Enterprise was originally a British ship named George. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65’s official website.

ENTERPRISE I (1775-77)

The first Enterprise originally belonged to the British and was named George. She cruised on Lake Champlain and supplied English posts in Canada. On May 18, 1775, Col. Benedict Arnold captured the ship, outfitted her with guns and thereafter defended American supply routes in New England from British attacks. The ship was one of many that embarked more than 1,000 troops in August that year as part of an expedition against three Canadian cities: St. Johns, Montreal and Quebec. British reinforcements caused the Americans to retreat. Regrouping in October, Arnold’s soldiers disrupted the British invasion into New York. Enterprise was one of only five ships to survive the two-day battle. The following year, the British would be defeated at Saratoga, N.Y., which helped bring about a French alliance with the colonists, and with them, their powerful navy. Enterprise, however, wasn’t around for the Battle of Saratoga. The sloop had been run aground on July 7, 1777 during the evacuation of Ticonderoga and was burned to prevent its capture.

The second Enterprise was an 8-gun schooner. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65's official website.

The second Enterprise was an 8-gun schooner. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65’s official website.

ENTERPRISE II (1776-77)

The second Enterprise, a schooner, was a successful letter-of-marque before she was purchased Dec. 20, 1776 for the Continental Navy. Commanded by Capt. Joseph Campbell, Enterprise operated principally in Chesapeake Bay. She convoyed transports, carried out reconnaissance, and guarded the shores against foraging raids by the British. Only meager records of her service have been found; they indicate she was apparently returned to the Maryland Council of Safety before the end of February 1777.

 

USS Enterprise, circa 1799, a 12-gun schooner shown capturing a Tripolitan corsair in 1801. Drawing by N. Hoff. National Archives and Records Administration

USS Enterprise, circa 1799, a 12-gun schooner shown capturing a Tripolitan corsair in 1801. Drawing by N. Hoff. National Archives and Records Administration

ENTERPRISE III (1799-1823)

The third Enterprise was the schooner used to capture the pirate ships during the Barbary Wars. At her time of service, anti-piracy operations were a major part of the Navy’s mission. American shipping vessels were frequently attacked in the Caribbean, and the Navy was tasked with fighting them. It was her commanding officer, Lt. Stephen Decatur Jr., who pulled off the daring expedition to burn the frigate Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli in 1804. She would be refitted as a brig during the War of 1812. On Sept. 5, 1813, Enterprise chased down the British brig Boxer in a close-combat battle that took the lives of both ships’ commanding officers, Lt. William Burrows and Capt. Samuel Blyth. From 1815 to 1823, Enterprise suppressed smugglers, pirates and slavers until July 9, 1823, the ship became stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies, without any loss of her crew.

 

The fourth Enterprise was a 10-gun schooner. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65's official website.

The fourth Enterprise was a 10-gun schooner. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65’s official website.

ENTERPRISE IV (1831-1844)

The fourth Enterprise was a schooner built by the New York Navy Yard where it launched on Oct. 26, 1831. Its original complement was nine officers and 63 men and, for most of its life, it protected U.S. shipping around the world. After spending time guarding American interests near Brazil, the schooner spent time in the Far East (Africa, India and East Indies). She was back cruising South America until March 1839 when she left Valparaiso, Chile, to round the Horn, make a port call at Rio de Janeiro, and then head north to Philadelphia, where she was inactivated on July 12. Recommissioned a few months later, Enterprise sailed from New York back to South America on March 16, 1840. After four years, she returned to the Boston Navy Yard, decommissioned June 24, 1844, and sold four months later.

 

USS Enterprise off New York City during the early 1890s. NHHC photo

USS Enterprise off New York City during the early 1890s. NHHC photo

ENTERPRISE V (1877-1909)

The fifth Enterprise was a bark-rigged screw sloop-of-war. She was built at the Portsmouth Naval Yard in Maine by John W. Griffith, launched June 13, 1874, and commissioned March 16, 1877. Decommissioned and recommissioned several times, she primarily surveyed oceans, littoral areas, and river founts around the world, including the Amazon and Madeira Rivers. When not on hydrographic survey cruises, she spent time sailing the waters of Europe, the Mediterranean and east coast of Africa. From 1891 to 1892 Enterprise was the platform on which cadets at the Naval Academy trained and practiced. Then she was lent to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for duty as a maritime schoolship for 17 years. Returned to the Navy on May 4, 1909, Enterprise was sold five months later.

 

The sixth Enterprise was a 66-foot motor patrol craft purchased by the Navy on Dec. 6, 1916. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65's official website.

The sixth Enterprise was a 66-foot motor patrol craft purchased by the Navy on Dec. 6, 1916. Photo courtesy of USS Enterprise CVN 65’s official website.

ENTERPRISE VI (1916-19)

The sixth Enterprise (No. 790), a 66-foot motorboat, was purchased by the Navy on Dec. 6, 1916. Placed with the 2nd Naval District on Sept. 25, 1917, the noncommissioned motorboat performed harbor tug duties at Newport, R.I. before going to New Bedford, Mass., Dec. 11, 1917. The motorboat was transferred to the Bureau of Fisheries Aug. 2, 1919.

 

USS Enterprise (C 6), was the most decorated ship in U.S. Navy history when she was decommissioned in 1946.

USS Enterprise (C 6), was the most decorated ship in U.S. Navy history when she was decommissioned in 1946.

ENTERPRISE VII (1938-1947)

Once again a proper warship, this time a Yorktown-class carrier, Enterprise (CV 6) earned her nickname—Big E. In World War II, she earned 20 battle stars, the most for any U.S. warship in World War II, for the crucial roles she played in numerous battles, including Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Enterprise took three direct hits, killing 74 and wounding 95 crew members. It was the Enterprise that took on the Hornet’s aircraft after that carrier was abandoned during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Island Oct. 26, 1942.

U.S. Navy ships firing at attacking Japanese carrier aircraft during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Oct. 26, 1942. USS Enterprise (CV-6) is at left, with at least two enemy planes visible overhead. In the right center is USS South Dakota, firing her starboard 5/38 secondary battery, as marked by the bright flash amidships. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-20989

U.S. Navy ships firing at attacking Japanese carrier aircraft during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Oct. 26, 1942. USS Enterprise (CV-6) is at left, with at least two enemy planes visible overhead. In the right center is USS South Dakota, firing her starboard 5/38 secondary battery, as marked by the bright flash amidships. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
Catalog #: 80-G-20989

By the end of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 15, Enterprise had shared in sinking 16 ships and damaging eight more. After an overhaul for much of 1943, Enterprise was back in the fight when, on Nov. 26, 1943, the Big E introduced carrier-based night fighter operations in the Pacific. The Big E suffered the last of her damage on May 14, 1945, after a kamikaze plane struck the ship near her forward elevator, killing 14 and wounding 34 men. The most decorated ship in U.S. naval history entered the New York Naval Shipyard on Jan. 18, 1946 for inactivation and was decommissioned Feb. 17, 1947. She was sold July 1, 1958.

 

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Underway, probably in the 1990s. This photograph was received in 1998. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Underway, probably in the 1990s. This photograph was received in 1998. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

ENTERPRISE VIII (1961-2012)

In 1954, Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise. The giant ship was to be powered by eight nuclear reactors, two for each of its four propeller shafts. This was a daring undertaking, for never before had two nuclear reactors ever been harnessed together. As such, when the engineers first started planning the ship’s propulsion system, they were uncertain how it would work, or even if it would work according to their theories. Three years and nine months after construction began, Enterprise (CVN 65) was ready to present to the world as “The First, The Finest” super carrier, and the construction was proven capable. Her long career, consisting of 25 deployments and 51 years of service to the United States, has been well documented and this space can’t begin to list her accomplishments, but those can be found here at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s website and in libraries across the country. The ship was inactivated Dec. 1, 2012; she is not expected to be decommissioned until 2016 following four years of nuclear defueling, dismantlement and recycling.

For more than two centuries, Enterprise Sailors have set the standard for excellence aboard the eight ships to proudly bear her name and will continue to do so upon the future commissioning of PCU Enterprise (CVN 80), the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier that is scheduled to be delivered to the fleet between 2025-27.

 
Mar 4

Constitution: The History of Maintaining America’s Ship of State

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 9:32 AM
Briton Michael Haywood’s romantic "Eagle of the sea takes wing" (2005) seeks to portray Constitution when first she went to sea in July 1798. This is part of the Library of Congress' online historical collection on USS Constitution

Briton Michael Haywood’s romantic “Eagle of the sea takes wing” (2005) seeks to portray Constitution when first she went to sea in July 1798. This is part of the Library of Congress’ online historical collection on USS Constitution

From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat, is as much a symbol of early America as the Betsy Ross flag and the bald eagle. Launched in 1797, the wooden-hulled sailing frigate played vital roles in a young nation’s fledging naval fleet – from the Quasi War with France, the Barbary Wars with pirates, to the War of 1812.

As the Navy changed from wood to steel ships, from sail to steam-driven, Constitution’s greatest foe would be the hardest to defeat: Deterioration from age. By 1916, the once-proud fighting frigate was taking on up to 25 inches of water a week at her dock in Boston. A $100,000 patch nearly 10 years before had simply bandaged a bigger problem. By 1924, Old Ironsides required daily pumping just to stay afloat. Without $400,000 in repairs, the frigate was doomed.

Rather than requesting the funding from Congress, however, Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur decided to get the nation involved. Congress was more than happy to authorize the Navy to collect funds for the ship, passing an omnibus bill on this date (March 4), 1925. Two days later, as the 128-year-old Constitution listed at her dock, Wilbur appointed Rear Adm. Louis de Steiguer to lead the National Save Old Ironsides Campaign committee.

Wilbur had hoped America’s 16 million school children would contribute three cents each or less, and that idea fell a bit flat, bringing in $154,000. The sale of reproductive prints of the ship brought in another $292,000. Then came the sale of souvenir items off the frigate, items like wood, gavel sets, bookends, bolts, cigarette boxes, plaques and anchors.

When Constitution entered Dry Dock #1 in the Charlestown Navy Yard it was only her second time into this particular dock. She has the distinction, however, of being the first vessel to ever enter Dry Dock #1, on June 24, 1833, in the presence of Vice President Martin Van Buren and with Commodore Isaac Hull directing the docking from the ship’s quarter deck. This docking in June, 1927, marked the beginning of a 4-year, nearly $1 million restoration of the ship.

When Constitution entered Dry Dock #1 in the Charlestown Navy Yard it was only her second time into this particular dock. She has the distinction, however, of being the first vessel to ever enter Dry Dock #1, on June 24, 1833, in the presence of Vice President Martin Van Buren and with Commodore Isaac Hull directing the docking from the ship’s quarter deck. This docking in June, 1927, marked the beginning of a 4-year, nearly $1 million restoration of the ship.

After five years, the fundraising campaign had raised $617,000. Constitution went into drydock on June 16, 1927. But once repairs began, an additional $300,000 in funding from Congress was required.

To thank the citizens of the U.S. who had donated money and materials to the 1927-1931 restoration, the U.S. Navy sent Constitution on a "National Cruise" – a 3-year, 3-coast trip where she visited 76 ports for 90 stops and hosted over 4.6 million men, women, and children. This photograph shows Constitution being tugged into Corpus Christie, Texas, Feb.14, 1932.

To thank the citizens of the U.S. who had donated money and materials to the 1927-1931 restoration, the U.S. Navy sent Constitution on a “National Cruise” – a 3-year, 3-coast trip where she visited 76 ports for 90 stops and hosted over 4.6 million men, women, and children. This photograph shows Constitution being tugged into Corpus Christie, Texas, Feb.14, 1932.

This was not the first time USS Constitution would have school children sending pennies to keep the national treasure afloat. And it may not be the last.

Today, the frigate is preparing to once again go into drydock for another restoration. At 217 years old, about 12 percent of Constitution’s hull and keel are wood that was chopped down sometime in 1794. For the upcoming drydocking, 35 white oak trees were harvested at Naval Support Activity Crane in Indiana to support the ship’s repair.

“There will be no historic restoration at this time. We are checking the structural integrity of the ship and will try to do repairs in as historically accurate a manner as can be done,” explained Elizabeth Freese, the special assistant for the Historic Ship and Aircraft Maintenance within the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Constitution has undergone many repairs and restorations over her 200-plus years in service. The effort is not to bring Constitution back to her 1797 origins, but to her glory days during the War of 1812.

Even some of the ship’s repairs have historical significance. By 1803, while laid up in Boston, it was discovered that the English copper sheeting protecting the frigate’s hull had weakened during the time the ship sailed against the French during the Quasi War.

With the need to have warships protecting American merchant vessels from Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, the old copper was removed and replaced with 3,668 pounds of copper sheeting from a copper mill owned by Paul Revere. (Yes, that Paul Revere, not the lead singer from the 60’s American rock band). It took 14 days to complete the task.

As soon as Constitution could set sail, she was tapped as the flagship of the third Mediterranean squadron during the Barbary Wars. Both the Tripoli and Tunis peace accords would be signed in the captain’s cabin on Constitution during 1805.

After a couple more overhauls between 1807-1811, Constitution was refitted at the Washington Navy Yard as tensions heated up between Great Britain and the United States. It was during this conflict the frigate would gain her greatest fame with an undefeated record against five British ships.

USS Constitution meeting with the Guerriere, 1812, 1812 -National Archives and Records Administration.

USS Constitution meeting with the Guerriere, 1812, 1812 -National Archives and Records Administration.

Her famous, first nickname came as Constitution and HMS Guerriere traded shots on Aug. 19, 1812. As British shot bounced off the ship’s hull, a sailor shouted: “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” And thus the moniker, Old Ironsides, was born during the heat of battle.

While her sides weren’t made of iron, happily American live oak is stronger than English white oak and Constitution’s designer, Joshua Humphreys (the namesake of the newly-renovated NAVSEA building at the Washington Navy Yard), placed the ribs of the frigate four inches apart rather than eight as English shipbuilders had done. The frigate’s narrow but longer hull and nearly an acre of sail enabled her to outmaneuver larger ships.

By the end of 32 months, the wooden-hulled frigate was the darling of the War of 1812, and the only ship to have all of her captains from that war decorated by Congress: Capt. Isaac Hull, Commodore William Bainbridge and Capt. Charles Stewart

Just 15 years later, however, outdated and obsolete, Constitution loitered in the Boston Navy Yard when a survey was conducted to see what it would cost to bring the ships there into commission. A newspaper misunderstood the report and reported the grand old frigate would be scrapped. And that inspired a law student to pen a farewell to “Old Ironsides.”

Written by then-unknown poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the poem was reprinted coast to coast by newspapers, garnering public support for the ship. It was through his words Constitution received her second nickname from the last line of the second stanza: The Eagle of the Sea. The frigate received much-needed funding for repairs between 1833-34, and Holmes became one of America’s beloved poets.

Another serendipitous moment in Constitution’s life would come a generation later when the ship was brought back to the Boston Navy Yard just prior to her 100th birthday, thanks to the efforts of a Massachusetts congressman named John F. Fitzgerald… the grandfather of a future president who bore his name.

Constitution became a "receiving ship" in 1882 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine, when a large barn was built over her top deck and offices and barracks were installed on board. A receiving ship was a place where officers and enlisted personnel would await new orders. She was returned to Boston in September, 1897, one month before her centenary, still with the barn attached; the barn would not be removed until the superficial restoration of 1906-1907.

Constitution became a “receiving ship” in 1882 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine, when a large barn was built over her top deck and offices and barracks were installed on board. A receiving ship was a place where officers and enlisted personnel would await new orders. She was returned to Boston in September, 1897, one month before her centenary, still with the barn attached; the barn would not be removed until the superficial restoration of 1906-1907.

The ship had been out of active service with the Navy since 1881 and was again in need of repairs. The possibility – no matter how farfetched – of using the storied ship as target practice drew the ire of an Armenian immigrant, Moses H. Gulesian. He sent a telegram to Secretary of the Navy Charles Joseph Bonaparte offering $10,000 to purchase the ship.

Once the offer made the headlines in the Boston Globe Dec. 12, 1905, along with Bonaparte’s decline of the offer, Congress authorized $100,000 for repairs and designated her as a national treasure. Gulesian would later be elected president of the Old Ironsides Association.

Unfortunately, the repair work was mostly cosmetic, removing a barracks-like structure from her deck and replacing the sails, masts, spars and rigging, as well as putting in replica cannon. Despite the money, the hull continued to deteriorate, which set up the circumstances for the March 4, 1925 act of Congress to repair the mighty frigate again.

Also that same year, bronze salvaged from the ship was used to make 25 Medals of Honor given to World War I recipients.

Following the 1925 campaign to save Constitution, the frigate offered her thanks as she visited ports along with the East and West coasts.

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law authorizing the Navy to repair, equip and restore Constitution to her original appearance as much as possible.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Constitution’s launch on Oct. 21, 1797, the ship sailed under her own power off the coast of Marblehead, Maine. This celebratory event, with six new sails, was the first time Constitution had sailed in 116 years.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Constitution’s launch on Oct. 21, 1797, the ship sailed under her own power off the coast of Marblehead, Maine, in 1997 following a four-year restoration. This celebratory event, with six new sails, was the first time Constitution had sailed under her own power in 116 years.

Another restoration in 1992 included the re-installation of diagonal cross riders which have helped significantly to reduce the ship’s hogging and led to Old Ironsides proving she was indeed, the Eagle of the Sea, by sailing out of Boston Harbor in 1997 under her own power for the first time in 116 years.

USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor Aug. 29, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney/Released)

USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor Aug. 29, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney/Released)

To celebrate Constitution’s 200th anniversary of her victory over HMS Guerriere, the frigate sailed again Aug. 19, 2012, under her own power for the first time since 1997. Although an underway wasn’t in the offing, the ship recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of her final ‘dual-victory’ over Royal Navy ships HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on Feb. 20, 1815 in the final days of hostilities during the War of 1812 with a ceremonial gun salute, ceremony and reception.

Although soon to be out of active service to tourists and the Boston community, the much-beloved ship will continue to remain an icon in American history. Upon her return in 2018, the mighty frigate will once again prove to be the Eagle of the Sea.

 

Old Ironsides

By Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Aye tear her tattered ensign down

Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

And burst the cannon’s roar;

The meteor of the ocean air

Shall sweep the clouds no more.

 

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,

Where knelt the vanquished foe,

When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,

And waves were white below,

No more shall feel the victor’s tread,

Or know the conquered knee;

The harpies of the shore shall pluck

The eagle of the sea!

 

Oh, better that her shattered hulk

Should sink beneath the wave;

Her thunders shook the mighty deep,

And there should be her grave;

Nail to the mast her holy flag,

Set every threadbare sail,

And give her to the god of storms,

The lightning and the gale!’