Apr 18

Reflections on Admiral Yamamoto

Thursday, April 18, 2019 12:01 AM

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On this date in 1943, U.S. Army Air Forces P-38 Lightning fighters, acting on U.S. Navy signals intelligence, shot down a bomber carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet and architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. Yamamoto’s death was a devastating blow to Japan’s war effort. Commander Edwin T. Layton, intelligence officer on the staff of Admiral Chester Nimitz, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander-in-Chief, played a key role in the events that led to Yamamoto’s death. Ironically, Layton had gotten to know the Japanese admiral while serving as assistant naval attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 16

Swimming Goes to War

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 12:01 AM

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World War II saw a great leap forward in military technology from things like sonar to jet aircraft. However, one basic human activity became “weaponized” and a very valuable addition to the U.S. Navy’s arsenal. Swimming grew from simple physical training and life saving into a war-fighting skill designed to overcome German and Japanese beach defenses and insure success in numerous amphibious invasions around the world. A major center for preparing such combat swimmers for action was the Amphibious Training Base in sunny Fort Pierce, Florida.[i] Here the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs), later organized into larger Underwater Demolition Teams,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 11

Diplomatic Exchange with Japan — 1942

Thursday, April 11, 2019 1:50 AM

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MS Gripsholm carrying prisoners of war, loads Red Cross supplies in New York Harbor.

While cataloguing photos for the Naval Institute’s digital image collection, one of our archivists brought this photo to my attention. I was intrigued, and started to search our content for the story behind the picture. It didn’t take me long to find the fascinating story related in a first person account by Captain Henri Harold Smith-Hutton, U.S. Navy (Retired) in his oral history transcript from interviews conducted by Captain Paul Ryan at Smith-Hutton’s home in Palo Alto, California in 1973. Captain Smith-Hutton was serving as Naval Attaché in Japan at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In Captain… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 7

Forty-Two

Sunday, April 7, 2019 12:01 AM

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April 7th, 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the sinking of K-278 Komsomolets, a Project 685 or in NATO-speak “Mike” class submarine. Forty-two souls were lost on that date in 1989. On the 20th anniversary, I travelled up from Moscow by train to St. Petersburg to represent the U.S. Navy at the ceremonies to honor those who died as well as those who survived. A service was first held at Nikolsky Cathedral, better known as the Sailor’s Cathedral, where the echoes of the singing and chants swung back and forth from the Orthodox priests to the choir and back again…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 4

The Great Seabee Tank Caper

Thursday, April 4, 2019 12:01 AM

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There was a significant, if not historical event, that took place during the height of the Vietnam War. It went completely unreported and was never mentioned again anywhere in the annals of the illustrious Seabee history archives. I am here to correct that error before everyone involved forgets or considers it too minor to mention anymore. Sometime around March 1968, U. S. Navy Seabee history was made when the Mobile Construction Battalion-121, Alpha Company became the only military unit in the history of the Vietnam War to capture an enemy battle tank! But before I go into detail on how… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 2

Covert Rescues at the Bay of Pigs

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 12:01 AM

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William T. Smoot

  William T. Smoot, an officer on board the escort destroyer USS Eaton (DDE-510), watched firsthand the covert support provided to the Cuban rebels during the abortive attempt to invade Fidel Castro’s Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. He saw the landing craft and the invasion site, and listened to voice radio transmissions. On one occasion, Smoot’s destroyer came under fire while in the Bay of Pigs. In this excerpt, Smoot describes being sent ashore to in a motor whaleboat to rescue rebels in the middle of the night.     To read more about the Naval Institute Oral… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 26

Sinking and Submerged: Emergency Escape Equipment for Submarines

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 7:49 AM

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When I picture a naval rescue operation, my mind turns to men in life preservers, huddled together in a lifeboat as they watch their vessel sink beneath the waves. At least, that’s what I thought of until last week, when a stack of World War II naval rescue images crossed my desk, ready for research and processing. There was a good number of the images I was expecting: men in lifeboats; men soaked to the skin wearing life preservers; and men bobbing on the surface of the water, ship sinking in the background. Then, at the bottom of the stack,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 21

Sinbad – The Dog Behind the Legend

Thursday, March 21, 2019 12:01 AM

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Throughout the centuries many ships have had mascots – cats, dogs, monkeys, parrots – and during World War II there were a profusion of them. Many were adopted as part of the ship’s crew, but somehow none ever achieved Sinbad’s stature or lasting fame. His fame extended to sailors of all countries whose ships plied the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea and spread ashore to American cities far inland. It all started on a winter’s evening in late 1937, Blackie and his friend Ed Maillard returned from Liberty to the Cutter Campbell in Staten Island, New York. Blackie was carrying… Read the rest of this entry »