Archive for the 'People' Category

Mar 5

Admiral Thach: A Tactical Artist

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 12:01 AM

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Lieutenant Commander John Thach in the cockpit of an F4F Wildcat, 10 April 1942 (NHHC)

Standing about six feet tall and weighing a measly 135 pounds, it is hard to imagine how young Jack Thach felt as he prepared to begin his plebe training at the United States Naval Academy. It was the summer of 1923, and at his initial physical assessment, Jack’s frailty evoked great skepticism from the examining physician. Told to eat and exercise more, time would tell if Jack could translate his high school football success in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to achievement at the Academy. Two weeks into his first academic term, Midshipman 4/C Thach received failing grades in every subject. After… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 5

What to do when your commander burns his own perfectly good fleet?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:01 AM

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Hernando Cortez scuttles his ships

If you ever find yourself in command of an invading army, and surrounded by a numerically superior enemy hell-bent on your destruction, it is probably not a good idea to intentionally eliminate your only means of retreat. Yet that is what the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés did in 1519 when he sunk his own naval fleet to keep his men from deserting during his campaign to conquer the Aztec Empire. It was one of the biggest gambles in military history. He conquered the Aztec two years later, but things could have easily gone the other way. If Cortés had been defeated,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 10

Heroes in Camouflage

Thursday, January 10, 2019 12:01 AM

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We are very familiar with the names of famous naval leaders and heroes of World War I. But there are hundreds of other individuals whose efforts contributed to achieving victory in 1918. The story of a few starts in Philadelphia and the individuals who worked for the Fourth Naval District and the U.S. Shipping Board. Their stories are presented here as an example of those efforts. Sara Elizabeth Carles was born in Philadelphia on the first day of January, 1894. Her brother, Arthur Beecher Carles Jr., was 12 years older. Nothing indicated at the time that the siblings would, in… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 13

USS Lakatoi – A Short, but Heroic Life

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 12:01 AM

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USS Lakatoi (Australian War Museum)

If there were a contest to find the U.S. Navy ship with the shortest career from commissioning to sinking, USS Lakatoi, with just six days, would certainly be a serious competitor. Its career was so short the ship never received a hull number. I would never have heard about the ship if not asked to find out the truth behind a “sea story.” The sea story began with an improbable premise – a U.S. Navy midshipman assigned to duty at Guadalcanal during the desperate days of 1942. After extensive research, I found two of the four officers of USS Lakatoi,… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 31

Naval Superstitions – A Sailor’s Antiquated Guide to Avoiding Bad Luck

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 9:55 AM

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An eerie glow winks out from diving helmets aboard the USS Escape (ARS-6), serving as Jack-O'-Lanterns for the ship.

It’s that time of year once again! Where children and adults alike dress up, go to fun parties, and probably eat far too much candy. It’s also a time of spooky stories and superstitions, which is what I decided to research for my dive into naval history this month. Growing up in Wisconsin, sailors and maritime life was not something familiar to me. Most of my impressions of sailors came from movies, television, and books, and one theme always stuck out more than any other: they were just a little bit spooky! There always seemed to be an air of… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Sep 27

The Programming Pirate: The Inspiring Life of “Amazing” Grace Hopper

Thursday, September 27, 2018 12:01 AM

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Captain Grace M. Hopper, USNR
Description: Head of the Navy Programming Language Section of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Working in her office, 1 August 1976. Photographed by PH2 David C. MacLean. (NHHC)

  On 7 December 1941, Grace and her husband Vincent listened to the radio at their home as news of a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was reported. The next day, the United States joined Britain and declared war on the Japanese Empire. The Pearl Harbor attack “would also be the chronological fulcrum from which Grace Hopper’s own life would pivot. In the months that followed that fateful day, Grace Murray Hopper would leave her position as a tenured professor at Vassar College, divorce her husband, and join the U.S. Navy at the age of 36… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 16

U.S. Marines in Nicaragua, 1927-1932

Thursday, August 16, 2018 12:01 AM

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Marines on Patrol (USMC History Division)

The Second Nicaragua intervention of 1927-1932 marks a unique and very interesting chapter in Marine Corps history. Marines were dispatched to the Central American republic to support democracy by supervising a contentious presidential election and building an apolitical internal security force, the Guardia Nacional, that could take over from the Marines and police their own country. However, U.S. Marines soon found themselves deep in the jungles, manning lonely posts and on the trail chasing elusive rebels that refused to honor a political process they saw as being tampered with by meddlesome foreigners. Many innovations were developed and countless lessons were… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 7

Ticonderoga: The Almost-First Steam-Powered Warship

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 12:01 AM

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Commodore Thomas Macdonough (Gilbert Stuart-National Gallery of Art)

Demologos, later renamed Fulton after its creator Robert Fulton, was the first steam-powered vessel in the U.S. Navy in 1815. The unique floating battery almost did not receive that distinction. Only a matter of months earlier, Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough almost brought a steam-powered warship to the most decisive battle of the War of 1812. The United States and Great Britain had been at war since June 1812, and Napoleon’s defeat in April 1814 brought thousands of experienced soldiers to Canada. The war of 1812 began as a sideshow to the British government, but now had their military’s undivided attention…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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