Author Archive

Apr 27

Death on the River

Thursday, April 27, 2017 4:48 PM

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Sultana at Helena, Arkansas, on April 26, 1865, a day before her destruction. She was cowded with about 2,222 people, a number that included 100 paying passengers (men, women, and children), a crew of 85, and 22 guards.

Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the explosion and sinking of the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River that claimed the lives of more than 1,800 recently-freed Union POWs packed on her decks for the voyage home — more than the number killed when the RMS Titanic sank in 1912. An excerpt from Noah Andre Trudeau’s 2009 Naval History article about the disaster is reprinted below. The full article may be viewed here.

 
Nov 4

Remembering the Caribsea

Friday, November 4, 2016 12:01 AM

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The nameplate of the motor merchant Caribsea. Photo by the author

Just after midnight on March 11, 1942, 22-year-old Jim Gaskill, second mate of the ore freighter Caribsea, went off watch and turned in for the night. The Caribsea and her crew of 28 had departed Santiago, Cuba, on March 2, and the ship would soon arrive in Norfolk with her valuable cargo of manganese. The freighter had slowed, waiting until daybreak and with it, air cover, to pass Diamond Shoals—which by March 1942 had seen such carnage from German U-boats it had become known as Torpedo Junction. As Gaskill left the bridge, perhaps he gazed out into the darkness toward his… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 28

Naval Aviation Oddity: The Butler-Ames Aerocycle

Friday, October 28, 2016 11:32 AM

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The Butler Ames Aerocycle atop a specially-built platform on USS Bagley at the Naval Academy, July 1910. Naval Institute Photo Archive

One afternoon in the summer of 1910, the torpedo boat USS Bagley (TB-24) made her way from the docks at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and made her way down the Severn River to the Chesapeake Bay. Bagley‘s design harkened back to the spar torpedo boats of the Civil War, and had spent many of her days in reserve or as a training ship for the Naval Academy. But today, her mission was different. Today, she carried on her a sign of things to come: Bagley, in a world first for destroyer-type ships, was carrying an airplane on top of… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 4

Views from Somalia: 23 Years Ago

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 12:37 PM

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As Somali men work to the unload cargo nets of sacks of wheat, a U.S. Marine CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter delivers another load to a field outside the Somali village of Maleel Jan 23, 1993. The helicopters are flown by the famous "Red Lions" of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 of Tustin, Calif. (Combat Camera Photo by PHCM Terry C. Mitchell, USN)

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu, which saw 18 servicemembers killed and many more wounded in the raid on a Somali marketplace to capture two lieutenants of warlord Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid. United Nations Operations in Somalia had been ongoing since early 1992 in an effort to stabilize the region wracked by civil war, but the fallout from the mission, chronicled in Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, ultimately led to the reevaluation of the United Nations Operation in Somalia and to the eventual discontinuation of that international intervention. The instability and… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 4

The Founding of the WAVES

Thursday, August 4, 2016 12:01 AM

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Captain Mildred McAfee, USNR. U.S. Naval Institute

On July 30th, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law legislation that authorized the U.S. Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers. These were the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service — the WAVES. The WAVES were led by Captain Mildred McAfee (1900-1994). Prior to the war she was President of Wellesley College. She commanded over 82,000 women in her role as director of the WAVES, helped found the Coast Guard’s SPAR program, and received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for her service. She married Dr. Rev. Douglas Horton after the war. In the early… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 28

Photographer’s Mate at Work

Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:01 AM

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Alfred J. Sedivi at work on his copy stand. Alfred J. Sedivi Colection, U.S. Naval Institute

Occasionally one will encounter a headline touting a “major archival discovery,” or something of that nature, though some may disagree with that assessment. But discoveries come from synthesizing information in a new way to reveal a certain truth, and in that vein we find today’s post. The Photography Collection of Photographer’s Mate Alfred “Alf” Joseph Sedivi (1915-1945) at the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive, consists of approximately 1,650 prints donated by Nickie Lancaster, Sedivi’s niece. The collection includes images of the aftermath of the battles on Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima as well as many showing shipboard life… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 21

Moon Mission: Quarantine

Thursday, July 21, 2016 9:24 AM

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President Nixon jokes with the astronauts on board Hornet, 24 July 1969. U.S. Naval Institute

This week marks the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” became the first humans to step foot on the moon and astronaut Michael Collins piloted the command module to and from their destination. Launching from Cape Kennedy on July 16th, 1969, the astronauts splashed down in the North Pacific Ocean on July 24th when they were retrieved by helicopter and brought aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVS-12) for a successful conclusion of their mission. But then began three weeks of quarantine. At the time, no one could predict with absolute certainty… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 7

Let’s Talk about Goofballs and Pep Pills

Thursday, July 7, 2016 12:01 AM

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U.S. Naval Institute

Facing a rising epidemic of drug abuse in the 1960s, the U.S. Navy responded forcefully and dramatically. In addition to opening treatment and rehabilitation centers — even one on a converted barracks ship in Vietnam — the Bureau of Naval Personnel (NavPers) produced a variety of informational pamphlets to combat the terrible toll drug use and addiction were having on service members. Some of these booklets have found their way into the Naval Institute’s archive, and a selection are shown in this post. Let’s Talk about Goofballs and Pep Pills (Including Tranquilizers and LSD) by Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D. was… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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