May 6

‘The Necessity of the Fight’

Friday, May 6, 2016 12:01 AM

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Surrounded in his CBS office with a modest library and an array of memorabilia from a distinguished career in journalism, Cronkite did not take the term "retirement" very seriously. Above his assistant's desk the headline from a clipping read, "Cronkite Cannot Say No." Courtesy L. Furgatch.

We were in an editorial meeting when our secretary, Marcia Owens, walked in and whispered, “There’s a guy on your phone who says he’s Walter Cronkite. Yeah, right! It actually does sound like him, though. What should I say?” It was indeed the man who had become known as “the most trusted man in America.” He was calling to correct an error in memory he had made in an answer to a question I had posed during our interview the previous week. We were putting together our D-Day 50th Anniversary commemoration, and we thought that someone who had had a… Read the rest of this entry »

 
May 5

The Elephant in the Archive

Thursday, May 5, 2016 12:01 AM

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Naval Institute Photo Archive.

It was in 218 B.C. that the Carthaginian commander Hannibal famously marched some 30 elephants across the Alps and over the Rhône River by boat to attack Rome during the 2nd Punic War. In the millennia that have followed, the use of elephants in naval warfare has not accounted to much — certain films, of course, excepted. But that has not stopped pachydermous photographs from appearing in the Naval Institute’s Photo Archive for one reason or another. The selection that follows shows some of the interactions naval personnel have had over the years with the elephants they’ve encountered in their… Read the rest of this entry »

 
May 2

On Naval History’s Scope

Monday, May 2, 2016 12:01 AM

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Cover-MJ-16

  In Naval History, we try to recognize small but significant naval anniversaries as well as large and momentous ones, such as the centennial of the Battle of Jutland. It was expected to be a cataclysmic fight—the upstart German fleet against the traditional ruler of the waves, the British fleet. But the World War I battle didn’t quite live up to its billing. Jeremy Black argues in “Jutland’s Place in History” that although it lacked the decisiveness of the Royal Navy’s great victory at Trafalgar, the battle greatly influenced the war at sea and the Imperial German Navy’s ultimate defeat…. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 29

Q&A with Vince O’Hara, Naval Institute Press Author of the Year

Friday, April 29, 2016 11:48 AM

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9781612518237

Vincent P. O’Hara received the 2015 Naval Institute Press Author of the Year Award at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2016 Annual Meeting. The Press was delighted that Vince accepted our invitation to talk about his books and some of his inspirations. Naval History: What are your books about and why do you write them? Vince O’Hara: I write because I’m passionate about naval history. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. The focus of my first three books, German Fleet at War, The U.S. Navy against the Axis, and Struggle  for the Middle Sea is naval surface combat. Collectively, they describe… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 26

‘Life was very simple. Very simple’

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 12:01 AM

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Midshipmen with sweethearts in 1903
(U.S. Naval Archive)

Mary Taylor Alger Smith was born on 1 May 1892 and grew up at the U.S. Naval Academy, where her father, Philip R. Alger, a naval officer, was assigned. Below are a few quick excerpts from her descriptions of life at the turn of the 20th century. Despite Mary Smith’s statement that “life was very simple” back then, I think these stories below demonstrate people have not changed: children getting into trouble, girls meeting boys, socializing, dating. Perhaps the things that have changed are our clothes and hairstyles.   Q: How did you arrange a date with a midshipmen if… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 21

‘Subdue, Seize, and Take . . .’

Thursday, April 21, 2016 2:59 PM

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NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
Captain Thomas Truxtun set the precedent for a young U.S. Navy by capturing the French frigate L’INSURGENTE during the Quasi-War with France.

On 9 February 1799, the U.S. frigate CONSTELLATION was cruising in Caribbean waters when a lookout reported an unidentified ship just over the horizon. Captain Thomas Truxtun ordered his ship to come about, then went below to record in his log: “At noon saw a sail standing to westward, gave chase. I take her for a ship of war.” The pursuit continued for about an hour with the CONSTELLATION gradually gaining. Drawing closer, it became apparent that the other ship was a heavily armed frigate. A lesser captain with a lesser crew might have decided to look for an easier… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 21

Surprise in the Archive: A Distinctive ‘do in ’62

Thursday, April 21, 2016 12:01 AM

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A distinctive 'do. Naval Institute Photo Archive.

Sometimes in the routine work of the photo archives, you come across something surprising. In this case, in the process of sleuthing out information enough to adequately describe a group of uncaptioned and undated photographs from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy revealed a surprise amidst a crowd gathered aboard USCGC Eagle (WIX-327). Though one man’s face was hidden, his very distinctive hairdo unveiled the context of the otherwise an uncaptioned scene. That hair was recognized as belonging to President John F. Kennedy. Armed with that knowledge, the story of the photo quickly unrolled itself. It was warm and cloudless… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 20

Salty Talk: “Over a Barrel”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 12:01 AM

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"Kissing the Gunner's Daughter."

In previous “talks” we have mentioned the seagoing practice of flogging as the principal form of punishment, and how the recipients of such punishment usually were triced up in a spread-eagle position to receive it. Occasionally, some skippers of men-of-war preferred to have the men bent over a cannon to receive their lashes. This position was more commonly used, however, for the ships’ boys and young student officers (midshipmen) when they required discipline. Sometimes, they got the “cat,” but, at least in the U.S. Navy by the mid-19th century, a “boy’s cat” or “colt” — a somewhat less lethal device… Read the rest of this entry »