Jan 8

Telling Sea Stories

Friday, January 8, 2016 12:01 AM

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9781612514161

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 »

 
Jan 5

The First Surface Action

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 12:01 AM

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Action Report

U.S. victories were few and far between during the early months of the Pacific war, especially for the hard-pressed and understrength U.S. Asiatic Fleet, which along with other Allied forces was attempting to stem Japan’s conquest of the Dutch East Indies. Nevertheless, four Asiatic Fleet CLEMSON-class destroyers share the honor of winning the first surface action of the Pacific contest, a tactical victory that was of little strategic importance. In the early hours of 24 January 1942, the flush-deck four-pipers attacked a dozen Japanese transports assembled off Balikpapan, Borneo, prior to the invasion of the oil center, sinking four of… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 29

The Launch of Navy Radar

Tuesday, December 29, 2015 10:41 AM

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The frame just above the pilothouse of the USS NEW YORK is the antenna for the XAF, the prototype radar set developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. Installed in 1938, it was the first to be used on board a U.S. warship. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

The rectangular frame-like object seemingly fastened above the pilothouse of the USS New York (BB-34), above, wasn’t an oversized mattress spring or an early-model solar panel. It was the antenna for the XAF, the first radar set installed on board a major U.S. warship. Successful tests of the new device—including three months of 20-hour-a-day operation for aircraft detection, navigation, and gunnery practice—convinced the Navy that radar would be a godsend. The awkward-looking, 17-foot-square antenna could reliably detect aircraft as far as 100 nautical miles out and spot surface ships 15 miles away. And it could track projectiles and falling shot… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 24

Here Comes Santa Claus

Thursday, December 24, 2015 12:01 AM

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Santa South Pole

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. . . .” —… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 17

Monument of the Month: The Saitō Pagoda

Thursday, December 17, 2015 12:01 AM

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DSC00226 copy

Just outside the west entrance to Luce Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy sits a stately thirteen-tiered stone pagoda. Though it is relatively unadorned by the standards of many monuments, if one looks closely, on its base one may find this (English) inscription: “In memory of JAPANESE AMBASSADOR HIROSI SAITO, who died at Washington on February 26, 1939, and whose remains were by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, conveyed on board the U.S.S. Astoria to his native land, and in grateful appreciation of American sympathy and courtesy this pagoda was presented by his wife and children to the United… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 11

‘Football over Baseball Was a No-Brainer’

Friday, December 11, 2015 12:01 AM

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USNI Archives.

An Interview with Joe Bellino Joe Bellino won the 1960 Heisman Trophy, becoming the first of only two U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen (Roger Staubach being the second, in 1963) to win the award. As the 2015 Army-Navy game approaches, many thought Navy’s record-breaking quarterback Keenan Reynolds should have at least been invited to the Heisman award ceremony. But, as Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo said early this week, “I’m really disappointed for Keenan, but life goes on.” Joe Bellino talked with Naval History in 2004 about his extraordinary career, including the real reason he chose pro football over baseball. Naval History:… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 10

A Midget Submarine Emerges

Thursday, December 10, 2015 12:01 AM

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current hoist

Monday last marked the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much indeed has been written about the attack, which killed 2,403 US servicemen died, as did 64 of the Japanese attackers and 35 civilians. One particular area of interest has been the operations of the Japanese midget submarines during the attacks. For several decades after the attack, many mysteries surrounded the efficacy and fate of the two-man submersibles. With 9/10 of their crews having perished in the attack, one man (and his vessel) being captured, very little could be found to piece together just what had happened… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 9

Midwatch in Surigao Strait

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 12:01 AM

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Roy West and his shipmates on the McDERMUT escaped being sunk by Japanese torpedoes in the Battle of Surigao Strait. (U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive)

On the night of 24–25 October 1944, Torpedoman’s Mate Third Class Roy West and the other men manning a torpedo mount on the destroyer USS McDERMUT (DD-677) did not know the details of the battle plan, but they did know that a large Japanese force was coming north through Surigao Strait directly toward them. The lifejackets and helmets that always seemed a burdensome nuisance during drills now brought a mixed sense of foreboding and comfort as the minutes ticked slowly by. Sometime after 0200 a quick look at the gyro repeater confirmed that the ship had turned south. West heard… Read the rest of this entry »