Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Jun 20

A Gun to Counter the Dive Bomber

Monday, June 20, 2016 12:01 AM


A gun crew practices on a quadruple 1.1-inch mount at Dam Neck Training Center Virginia. Note the large, cumbersome magazines. (National Archives)

The quadruple 1.1-inch machine cannon, affectionately known as the “Chicago Piano,” was the first medium-range antiaircraft gun adopted by the U.S. Navy.1 Engineered and built by the Naval Gun Factory during the Great Depression, it was designed specifically to combat dive bombers. The four-barreled weapon fired a one-pound explosive shell that was fused to explode on contact with the thin doped fabric that covered the wings of the era’s biplanes. The resulting shrapnel would tear through the wing, causing loss of control. The need to provide the Fleet with a new antiaircraft gun became evident in the late 1920s in… Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 22

Life as a Dependent

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 12:01 AM


“I say ‘we’ because don’t tell me wives don’t have [duty], too.”—Mary Smith, wife of Commander Roy Campbell Smith Jr., U.S. Navy

Our men and women in uniform are not the only ones who serve their country; the spouses and families of each service member do so as well. John Mason Jr., the former director of the U.S. Naval Institute’s oral history program, interviewed Frances Smalley Mitscher and Mary Taylor Alger Smith to get their side of Navy life in first half of the 20th century. Mary Smith grew up on the U.S. Naval Academy grounds, where she met her future husband, Roy Campbell Smith Jr., who was a midshipman. They married on 1 August 1912 when he was an ensign. Over… Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 8

H.H. Jalbert

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 12:01 AM


Donations by David M. Jalbert

One of the perks of being a photo researcher is getting to interact with professionals at museums and news agencies around the world. To find inspiration for my blog posts, I scour the USNI Archives for forgotten photo albums or unusual images. In January I discovered an album belonging to H. H. Jalbert of the Naval Air Station in Queenstown, Ireland, during World War I. It appeared to be missing three photos, which had been kept by the donor D. M. Jalbert—a family member, perhaps? Later that month, I found a collection of photos of the Naval Oil Reserve in… Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 4

The Great Graphic Novel of the World War II Pacific—and the Man Behind It

Friday, March 4, 2016 3:42 PM


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Writing for Naval History is always an interesting undertaking, but sometimes a genuinely unique topic comes along—in this case, it was one that represented a fusion of two lifelong interests: naval history in general (and World War II naval history in particular), and comic books. In researching and writing the Sam Glanzman story, I got to retrace the amazing, prolific, and long-running career of a legendary comics artist—and also got to immerse myself in his most celebrated work: A Sailor’s Story, his great 1980s graphic-novel memoir of his Pacific war experiences, now available for a new generation of readers in… Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 22

Oil & Politics: Harding’s Watergate

Monday, February 22, 2016 12:01 AM



Teapot Dome, Wyoming, was once the location of a naval oil field—and the name of a forgotten 1920s political scandal that took place there. The naval oil reserves were exactly that: petroleum reserved specifically for the Navy. However, when President Warren G. Harding nominated Senator Albert Fall as Secretary of the Interior, this changed. Fall convinced President Harding to transfer ownership from the Navy to his department, and then abused his position to allow two oil men, Edward Doheny and Harry Sinclair, to drill there in exchange for substantial bribes. Their illegal arrangement was eventually discovered and the property was… Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 25

An Unforgettable Movie–and Book

Monday, January 25, 2016 12:01 AM


(courtesy of Doctormacro)

The special affection I hold for this classic story goes back 60 years—to the summer of 1954, when I first saw the movie that made its debut in June of that year. My recollection is that I saw it while sitting on an aisle step in the balcony because the theater was so crowded. (That may not be the way it happened, but that’s the way I remember it.) At that time, nine years before my first sea duty, I didn’t appreciate a lot of the naval practices, but I understood the drama and the basics of the plot. It… Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 12

Naval Air Station Queenstown, Ireland 1918

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 12:01 AM


H.H. Jalbert's photo album (Photographed by Melissa King)

Located in the U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive is a record of a long-forgotten naval base, a naval aviation base to be precise. Perhaps the reason Naval Air Station Queenstown—situated at Aghada, four miles from Queenstown (present-day Cobh), Ireland, in County Cork—was forgotten is because it existed for less than a year. Established in 1918, after the United States had entered World War I, the antisubmarine base closed a few months after Armistice Day. Queenstown was one of four naval air stations the United States established in Ireland under the command of Navy Commander Francis McCrary. It consisted of six… Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 8

Telling Sea Stories

Friday, January 8, 2016 12:01 AM



I’ve learned some things about writing nonfiction since Adak, the Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2003, the first of what have since become seven books from NIP about maritime history. The first thing I learned since then is that it takes me some 3,300 hours, or the better part of two years, to research and write a 300-page book. This means that the first person my budding story has to interest is me. The second is NIP’s acquisition editor, once Tom Cutler and now Gary Thompson. A second lesson learned is that I… Read the rest of this entry »

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