Mar 14

The Navy’s ‘Smashers’

Monday, March 14, 2016 10:57 AM

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One of the 1826-pattern replica carronades on board the USS CONSTITUTION. When fired, the gun and its slide recoiled back along the stationary skid and against the breeching, the heavy rope through the carronade's loop. Side tackles were used to traverse or run out the gun. (USS CONSTITUION, Naval History and Heritage Command)

Introduced in the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the 19th century, the carronade saw extensive service in American warships during the War of 1812. The Carron Company in Scotland had produced a prototype of the weapon, designed for the protection of merchantmen, in 1776. The success of early carronades resulted in the Royal Navy placing large orders for the guns, and other naval powers soon copied the basic design. Henry Foxall, superintendent of the Eagle Foundry on the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia, cast the first American versions, but probably not until 1799. Certainly he cast the majority of the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 10

The Log of the Cristóbal Colón

Thursday, March 10, 2016 12:01 AM

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Christobal Colon.

A year before the U. S. Naval Institute would publish its very first book, Lieutenant-Commander (and enthusiastic Naval Institute member) Richard Wainwright’s Log of the U. S. Gunboat Gloucester, the Naval Institute published in its Proceedings an abstract of another log related to the Battle of Santiago de Cuba: that captured from the Spanish protected cruiser Cristóbal Colón. With the destruction of the USS Maine in February 1898, the tensions between Spain and the United States erupted into war. The Americans knew much about that fast and modern cruiser and the Spanish fleet as a whole; sheets distributed to the… 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 25

Wood That it Were

Thursday, February 25, 2016 10:42 AM

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A Japanese ukiyo-ye woodblock print of the battle.

The ramifications of a battle can extend far beyond its immediate impact on the conflict at hand. Sometimes, the greatest impacts are on the technology and tactics of war-fighting. Such was the case of the Battle of the Yalu River, the largest naval engagement of the first Sino-Japanese War on 17 September 1894. In the battles for control of the Korean peninsula, the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet was met by the Japanese Navy. The Chinese fleet was one of the most powerful in Asia, consisting of modern, European-built, steel, pre-Dreadnought ships. The Imperial Japanese Navy was also armed with several… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 22

‘A Broadside from Battleship Burns’

Monday, February 22, 2016 12:01 AM

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On occasion what we do at the U.S. Naval Institute, in this case, Naval History magazine, has caught the attention of the mainstream press. One such instance was in 1999, after we conducted an interview with award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns at his Florentine Films headquarters in Walpole, New Hampshire. Back in the Institute’s Beach Hall, Public Relations Director Kevin Clarke asked whether Burns had said anything controversial during the course of our conversation. Well, apparently he had, because we heard from Ann Gerhart, writer at the time for the Washington Post’s popular “Reliable Source” column. Her story went like… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 11

Excerpt from “The Black Midshipman at the Naval Academy”

Thursday, February 11, 2016 12:01 AM

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Dr. Alonzo C. McClennan.

For this week’s post, and in honor of Black History Month, the Naval History Blog offers a selection from a 1973 article in Proceedings by By Lieutenant Commander R. L. Field, U. S. Navy (Retired). In the following selection, Lieutenant Commander Field discusses some of the earliest black midshipmen appointed to the the Naval Academy. It is presented here without additional commentary other than to note that readers are encouraged to explore the remarkable lives of the men noted by LCDR Field after their separation from the academy.   The U. S. Naval Academy was established in 1845 by an… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 10

Extraordinary American

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 3:50 PM

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Jack Schiff selflessly dedicated himself to the Navy and related organization even after his death in 1998. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

In many ways, John J. “Jack” Schiff typified that once very large and now rapidly dwindling group of extraordinary Americans that Tom Brokaw so aptly characterized as “the greatest generation.” Like so many of those brave souls in those troubled times when Nazis and Fascists and other monsters roamed the earth, Jack left a promising business in Cincinnati to don his nation’s uniform in March 1942. Because it was not in Jack Schiff’s character to tell others of his achievements, we cannot know the full extent of his contributions to the war effort and can only piece together his service… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 4

Thomas Mandigo: From Slave to Seaman

Thursday, February 4, 2016 12:01 AM

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The gravestone of Thomas Mandigo, Sandy Hill A. M. E. Cemetery, Chester County, PA. Author's photo.

Tucked in the woods in the rolling foothills of Pennsylvania’s Welsh Mountains sits the tiny and largely forgotten Sandy Hill African Methodist Episcopal cemetery. A visitor to the rural graveyard is likely to be greeted first by the sound of clopping horses pulling Amish buggies along the rural highway. Taking a closer look, one will see several American flags marking the graves of veterans buried there. From there, one may see the stone of a sailor propped against a tree. It reads, THOMAS MANDIGO AGED 70 YEARS OF U. S. WAR SHIP LADOWNA The story of how Mandigo came to… Read the rest of this entry »