Shouldering Incident Reminiscent of Sea of Japan Bumpings

USS Gravely on June 17, 2016 from the deck of Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry. (Image courtesy RT via USNI News); serving refueling operations between USS HORNET (CVS-12) and USS TALUGA (AO-62) in the Sea of Japan, 9 May 1967. USS WALKER (DD-517) is in right background. (NHHC Photo # USN 1123797)

USS Gravely on June 17, 2016 from the deck of Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry. (Image courtesy RT via USNI News); serving refueling operations between USS HORNET (CVS-12) and USS TALUGA (AO-62) in the Sea of Japan, 9 May 1967. USS WALKER (DD-517) is in right background. (NHHC Photo # USN 1123797)

UPDATE: 1 July 2016

On Friday June 17, the destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) passed in front of the Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry (FF 727) in the Eastern Mediterranean. Video from the Russian frigate shown on Russian Television (RT) captured the aggressive maneuvering of the American missile destroyer which an RT newswire claimed “neglected Rule 13 [International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS)], which stipulates that an overtaking vessel must keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.” Missing from the footage was the nearby aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) which Gravely was escorting. A U.S. official informed USNI News that the Russian frigate had been attempting to close in on the American aircraft carrier which was stationed in the region to conduct flight operations against ISIS. Six days later, it was reported that the same frigate approached within 150 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) while that carrier was conducting flight operations in the eastern Mediterranean. That the Gravely shouldered off the Russian frigate on the 17th was reminiscent of similar confrontations at sea a half century ago.    

In the summer of 1966, the destroyer USS Walker had departed Vietnamese waters to participate in a joint U.S.-Japanese antisubmarine exercise in the Sea of Japan. On July 24, 1966, the Besslednyi (DD 022) a Soviet Navy Kotlin-class destroyer joined up with the allied task force and assumed a tailing role. Walker kept an eye on the Besslednyi, with orders to screen away the snooping Russian visitor should she try to charge towards the center of the allied ship formation. A Lt. (jg) on board the Walker later recalled that during this transit, the Soviet warship was not really persistent in her attempts to break into the formation. As with this most recent Gravely-Yaroslav Mudry encounter, American screening efforts were effective enough to draw a formal Soviet protest issued on August 10, 1966.

Ten months later, the Walker again entered these waters. As part of Task Group 70.4, Walker joined the destroyer USS Taylor and destroyer escort USS Davidson to provide a screen for the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. At 1030 on May 9, 1967, the Besslednyi reappeared to assume shadowing duties. Throughout the day, the Besslednyi turned into the screening Taylor on several occasions and backed off only when the American destroyer refused to yield. At one point, only 50 feet separated the two ships. As night fell, the Soviet ship retreated, keeping five miles away from the formation.

About 0845 the next morning, the C.O. of the Walker, Comdr. Stephan W. McClaren, received orders to relieve the Taylor of her shouldering duties. At approximately 0900, McClaren assumed the conn of the Walker and within fifteen minutes had his ship positioned between the Soviet and the Hornet. For the next two hours, Walker strove to keep the Russian destroyer at bay. One observer counted fourteen approaches during which the Besslednyi came within 100 yards. Four of these approaches were within fifty yards, and two came within fifty feet. At 1106, the two ships had maneuvered themselves into a collision situation. With the Soviet ship approximately thirty-five feet off Walker’s starboard beam and still closing, the Officer of the Deck, Lt. (jg) John C. Gawne, USN, dashed for the 1MC (the ship’s public address system) and passed the word: “Standby for collision starboard side, that is standby for collision starboard side.” He then sounded the collision alarm.

USS Walker (DD-517) colliding with the Soviet Kotlin class destroyer Besslednyi in the Sea of Japan, 10 May 1967. NPC #1166379. (Image Courtesy NAVSOURCE/DCC(SS/SW) David Johnston, USN)

USS Walker (DD-517) colliding with the Soviet Kotlin class destroyer Besslednyi in the Sea of Japan, 10 May 1967. NPC #1166379. (Image Courtesy NAVSOURCE/DCC(SS/SW) David Johnston, USN)

The two warships rubbed up against each other for about a minute with the bridge of the Besslednyi positioned just aft of the Walker’s bridge. After the two vessels separated, both skippers brought their respective vessels to a stop to inspect the damage. No personnel appeared to be injured on either ship. As for damage, the Walker suffered a torn radio antenna, a mangled paint stowage locker, and a dented vent opening. On the Soviet ship, the whaleboat dangled in the water off one of the port davits. Shortly after the collision, the Walker sent the first of many radio messages to the Task Group Commander, Rear Adm. Harry L. Harty, Jr. The collision details were then sent via “flash” message precedence to the Joint Chiefs in Washington. As Harty’s staff received amplifying reports, they prepared and sent additional “SitReps” that also were received in Washington. The Walker situation was not the only problem concerning the task group commander.  An hour before the collision, one of his ASW helicopters detected a possible contact in the vicinity of the two dueling destroyers.  Perhaps the Soviet surface warship had been acting to divert attention from an undersea comrade.

In the early dawn of the following day, the Besslednyi departed, relieved by an older Krupnyy-class (DDGS 025) destroyer.  Shortly after her arrival, the Krupnyy transmitted a flashing light message to the Hornet:


At 1059 on May 11, the Walker received orders to resume shouldering duties. For the next three hours, the Krupnyy stayed approximately a mile off Walker’s starboard quarter, paralleling the American ship’s course and matching her speed. Relieved for an hour and a half to refuel, Walker again resumed her watchdog duties. At the request of Commander McClaren, Lt. (jg) Gawne had been the Officer of the Deck since 1030. Gawne recalled that in the late afternoon after the formation had reversed course, the Russian destroyer made several attempts to break past the Walker to approach the carrier. Each time the American destroyer blocked the Russian’s path. After one series of maneuvers, the Russian ship had positioned itself ahead of the Walker’s starboard bow. Suddenly, DDGS 025 came left, placing both ships in extremis. Gawne signaled, “YOU ARE STANDING INTO DANGER” and “DO NOT CROSS AHEAD OF ME.” The Lt. (jg) then sounded the danger signal–six short blasts on the whistle, and then passed the word over the 1MC “Standby for collision starboard side forward, standby for collision starboard side forward.”

After the two ships collided, the Krupnyy continued to the right and then stopped about 1,000 yards from the twice-hit American destroyer, which now sat dead in the water with her crew again scampering to battle stations. In contrast to DD 022, the Americans noted that this Soviet destroyer had secured all of her hatches and ports (indicating a higher degree of watertight integrity) and that she had her lifeboat rigged and griped down.

The Soviet "Kotlin"-class destroyer BESSLEDNYI (pennant number 022, at left), seen from the deck of the American destroyer USS WALKER (DD-517), was photographed by a U.S. Navy cameraman a short time before the two ships collided in the Sea of Japan during the morning of 10 May 1967. (NHHC Photo # K-36401)

The Soviet “Kotlin”-class destroyer BESSLEDNYI (pennant number 022, at left), seen from the deck of the American destroyer USS WALKER (DD-517), was photographed by a U.S. Navy cameraman a short time before the two ships collided in the Sea of Japan during the morning of 10 May 1967. (NHHC Photo # K-36401)

As the signal lights blinked between the two ships, damage control teams assessed the condition of the ship. Again there were no injuries apparent on board either ship. Damage to the Walker consisted of dented frames on the starboard side near the bow and a six-inch puncture above the waterline. The Soviet ship sustained damage to her port quarter that included bent stanchions, an eight-inch-diameter hole above the waterline, and a ten-foot-long dent in her gray hull. In this case, the American skipper believed his ship was deliberately rammed. He stated that his suspicion was confirmed when the Soviet destroyer immediately flashed: “TO SKIPPER OF DESTROYER WALKER.  YOU STARTED BY VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL RULES OF ROAD AT SEA.” McClaren believed such a message, sent within two minutes of the collision, could have been sent only if it had been pre-prepared. Twenty minutes later, the Walker responded: “YOU VIOLATED RULE 21 OF INTERNATIONAL RULES OF THE ROAD FOR PREVENTING COLLISIONS BY NOT MAINTAINING COURSE AND SPEED.”

Within two hours after the Walker completed her initial reports, Rear Admiral Harty released another flash message for transmission to the Joint Chiefs. Chargé d’Affaires Cheryakov was summoned from the Soviet Embassy to the State Department to relay a message to his government urging that it should “take prompt steps to halt such harassment.” Elsewhere in Washington, House Republican Leader Gerald R. Ford asserted that Soviet leaders were “seeking to challenge the United States.” He further stated that “we certainly can’t tolerate other such incidents.” The future President suggested that American skippers should be given specific guidance to protect their ships, including utilizing their weapons. The White House press secretary stated that President Johnson “deeply regrets the incidents” and “considers them a matter of concern.”

Meanwhile, Radio Moscow blamed the United States for the collisions. Two days later, the Soviets summoned Ambassador Thompson to deliver a formal protest, claiming that the acts of the United States warships were of “a premeditated, arrogant nature.” A few days later, Admiral Gorshkov, in an article in Izvestiya, accused McClaren of acting with “malicious intent,” and ridiculed the warmonger Gerald Ford for his “irresponsible statement.” The Soviet Navy Commander concluded: “It is not hard to imagine what might happen if warships were to begin shooting at each other when they collide.”

The Soviets subsequently ignored American calls for “Safety at sea talks” until November 1970. On November 9, the British aircraft Ark Royal, operating is waters in the Eastern Mediterranean not too distant from the most recent US-Russian ship encounter, had a Soviet Kotlin-class destroyer Bravvy pass ahead in a deliberate attempt to disrupt flight operations. Apparently, the British did not detail a destroyer to fend off the pesky Soviet DD. Despite the best efforts of Ark Royal’s captain, Ray Lygo, the carrier hit and rolled the Soviet warship, knocking seven sailors overboard. Five of the sailors were recovered but the incident proved fatal for two of Brazzy’s crew.

The next day in Moscow, the Soviets suddenly responded to the Americans long-standing request for safety at sea talks. The Incidents at Sea Agreement was subsequently signed in 1972 with the provision for an annual review to discuss the accord’s implementation and behaviors of the respective forces afloat and above. At the most recent review held in Moscow earlier this month, the over flights of the USS Donald Cook (DD 75) last April in the Baltic by Russian Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft likely made the agenda. Little doubt this latest Gravely-Yaroslav Mudryincident and Mudry’s approach on Dwight D. Eisenhower approach on the Dwight will be reconstructed and studied at next year’s gathering.

NOTE: Sea of Japan excerpt from author’s Preventing Incidents at Sea: The History of the INCSEA Concept, Dalhouse University, Halifax, Nova Scotia (2008).

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Life on a Naval Vessel During the Vietnam War in the 1960s

Stern view, Firing Terrier missile from stern launcher. (US Navy Photo/NAVSource)

USS England Stern view, Firing Terrier missile from stern launcher. (US Navy Photo/NAVSOURCE)

By Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.)

This episode starts when I was a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. I was due to graduate in September, 1967. Our Detailer from BUPERS was due to visit with us to discuss orders. When I went in to see him, I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me if I would take another Chief Engineer’s tour. He said that he needed to find a replacement for an officer aboard a guided missile frigate (DLG) who had just resigned. The DLG’s were relatively new and were considered to be the top of the line of the destroyer force at the time. The ship was USS England (DLG 22) homeported in Long Beach. I had been stationed in Long Beach in the late 1950s, which was where I had first met my wife. We still had several close friends from our single days there. We proceeded to find a home in Huntington Beach.

It was time to go to work. There would be plenty of adventures over the next couple of years. I called the ship on the phone to find out where it was located.  It was at the Long Beach naval station on Terminal Island, only a few piers away from the minesweepers that I had left 7 years earlier. I found the ship and identified myself. I was immediately taken up to the wardroom where I met the CO and XO. I discovered that the ship would soon be entering overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and was scheduled for a six month deployment starting the next June.

From there, it was off to San Diego for three weeks of school prior to actually reporting to the ship. I drove down and checked into the 32nd Street BOQ, the same place I had stayed as a fresh caught Ensign eleven years earlier. I had not been to San Diego since 1960. Some significant changes had taken place since I left. Some of the more obvious ones:

  • There was a freeway between Los Angeles and San Diego by way of Orange County.  Previously, you had to drive up Highway 101 to go too or from Long Beach.
  • There was a bridge over to Coronado and you no longer had to reach it by ferry.
  • The ships all had berths at the Naval Station. You no longer had to stay out at buoys. The water taxis had gone out of business.
  • The city had major league football and basketball teams and would soon get a National League baseball franchise.

I actually preferred it the old way. The three weeks of school went by without incident and it was time to report to the ship. I packed up my bags and reported on board.

 (DLG-22) Off Bath, Maine on 18 May 1971. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command # NH 106507)

(DLG-22) Off Bath, Maine on 18 May 1971. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command # NH 106507)

First, a bit about the ship itself. It was a Leahy-Class ship. At the time, it was classified as a guided missile frigate (DLG). It was one of nine ships of the Leahy (DLG 16) Class that entered service between service between 1962 and 1964. The ships were built in 6 different shipyards. In 1975, at the direction of the CNO, the ships of the class would be re-designated as guided missile cruisers (CG). These were the largest destroyer type ships in existence at the time, being 533 feet long and having a full load displacement of 7,800 tons. Their primary purpose was to provide anti-air and anti-submarine protection for fast carrier task forces. The ship was fairly new, having been commissioned in December 1963. It had been built right nearby at the Todd Shipyards in San Pedro. The living accommodations and command and control spaces were all air conditioned. The ships principle weapon was the Terrier surface to air guided missile. It was an intermediate range missile with a range of about 35 to 40 miles. There were two missile launchers, one forward and one aft. The ships were referred to as “double enders”. The missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. There was also an ASROC launcher in the forward part of the ship plus a number of anti-submarine weapons.

The ships were the first and only frigate class designed without a main gun battery for shore bombardments or ship to ship engagements. All it had was a pair of 3”50 twin gun mounts, located one on each side of the ship amidships. This limited its capability to perform some functions in close in waters, such as the Tonkin Gulf. Also, at the time the ship was not fitted with the latest state-of-the-art combat direction system (NTDS).

Nevertheless, the ship presented a very impressive appearance and was considered to be a very prestigious assignment. All of the major jobs on the ship were filled by officers one grade higher than those aboard a destroyer. The CO was a full captain, the XO a commander, and the department heads were lieutenant commanders.

A list of the major ship characteristics follows:

  • Length – 533 ft
  • Beam – 53 ft
  • Draft – 24 ft 6 in
  • Full load displacement – 7,800 tons
  • Propulsion – Twin screw – steam turbine – 4 boilers 85,000 shp
  • Speed – 32 knots
  • Range – 8,000 nautical miles at 20 knots
  • Complement – 396 (31 officers & 365 enlisted) including squadron staff

Because of lessons learned during the Vietnam War, the navy went to a somewhat modified design in the follow on Belknap (DLG 26) class ships. These were referred to as “single enders” because they only had a single Terrier launcher located in the forward part of the ship. This launcher was also capable of firing ASROC, eliminating the need for a separate launcher. A 5”/54 gun mount was located in the after part of the ship. Otherwise their characteristics were very similar to those of the Leahy-class ships. The nine ships of this class entered service between 1964 and 1967.

I had met the CO and XO from previous tours. The CO had been commanding officer of a ship in Newport and the XO had been XO of one of the ships in our squadron, Desron 12, in Newport. The three captains that I ended up serving under had entered the navy as junior officers right near the end of World War II. The officer that I was to relieve as chief engineer had decided to resign and get out of the navy.

It was a good ship to be aboard. Despite some flaws, the ship was among the newest in the fleet, and the XO was excellent to work for. His general methodology was to act as a big scoutmaster and to keep everybody happy. I actually wound up car-pooling with him over the next couple of years. It was about a half hour to and from work. I still remember first hearing about the RFK assassination on the radio during one of these trips. The basic ship’s organization was essentially the same as that on my previous ships.

The ship proved to be a bit of a challenge. We entered the shipyard just as I was taking over as Chief Engineer and I had not really had a chance to see it steam as yet. It was obvious, however, that the ship was beginning to show some wear and tear and the machinery spaces gave the appearance of a ship much more than four years old. The machinery plant was state of the art for 1963. The ship was propelled by a twin-screw steam turbine propulsion plant rated at 85,000 HP. Steam was provided by four D Type boilers that provided superheated steam at a pressure of 1200 psi and a temperature of 950 °F. This was approximately double the pressure that the World War II-era ships operated on. The navy started building 1200 psi ships in the early 1950s. Ironically, I was to commission the last one, USS Moinester (FF 1094) in 1974 as commanding officer. Since then, all naval surface combatants have been powered by gas turbines.

The ship did not have a lot of automation, other than automatic boiler controls which were pneumatically operated. Actually, it had about the same amount as the commercial T-2 tankers that I had previously sailed on. But it was a good deal more complex than the World War II destroyers and the plant required a definite care and feeding. The basic machinery arrangement was the same as that aboard the World War II destroyers with alternating firerooms and engine rooms. However, a number of major steam cycle components which previously been located in the engine rooms were now located in the fire rooms. This included the deareating feed tanks, feed booster pumps, and main feed pumps plus the aforementioned automatic boiler control systems. In addition, there was much more emphasis on boiler water testing and chemical treatment.

The electrical plant consisted of four 1000 kW, 450 VAC, 60 Hz turbo generators, two in each engine room. There were also two 300 kW emergency generators. The forward unit was driven by a Solar gas turbine while the after set was driven by a Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine.

This was the first significant application of a gas turbine aboard a combatant ship and it was to provide me with many adventures over the next couple of years. Bear in mind that there was no Gas Turbine Technician rating at the time and none of my sailors had any significant training on the unit. The automatic start sequence did not work but the crew had managed to come up with a manual sequence. When I asked for a demonstration, I was told that during one of the times that the unit had been started it had produced a significant jet of smoke and flames from the side of the ship out onto the pier. I decided that I could not mess it up any more than it was already, so I made it my own personal project to figure out what was wrong with it on my duty nights, assisted by an EN or EM. I finally obtained the services of a NAVSEA technician who was able to get us straightened out. After that, the turbine became somewhat of a show piece for visitors. But we were eventually able to depend on it as an emergency generating plant.

Aboard my first ship, a Fletcher-class destroyer, most of the senior petty officers had been through World War II and had as much as 12 to 14 years of experience in operating ships of that type. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that most of these people were now retired and the follow on generation had much less experience on ships of this type. The hands on experience that I gained studying at Massachusetts Maritime academy and sailing on Texaco commercial tankers (plus my previous naval tours) was to prove invaluable over the next couple of years.

Getting out of the shipyard proved to be a nightmare. It was one casualty after another. It soon became obvious that I was going to have to be the chief troubleshooter. Crew training appeared to be nonexistent. My Chief Boiler Technician (BT)’s previous ship had been a 250 psi converted Liberty Ship and he was completely lost.  On the day before shipyard sea trials, we still had not been able to successfully raise steam in the forward fireroom in #1A boiler and I was down there until about 1 AM before we were finally successful. But somehow we did manage to get through sea trials.

It soon became obvious to me that, in order to survive, I was going to have to concentrate on the engineering plant and remain as a non-watch stander. So I avoided any deck duties whatsoever over the next two years. The trouble with that is that a naval line officer did not make any points that way. None of my commanding or executive officers had any engineering experience and it was all up to me. One problem with that was that engineering in the navy has historically been an “out of sight-out of mind” occupation and people could not directly observe what I was doing or what contribution I was actually making. It was not uncommon in those days for naval officers to come out of chief engineer tours with glowing fitness reports while leaving heaps of rubble behind them. Because I concentrated on engineering, I was constantly being reminded that “I was not a well rounded naval officer” and I was viewed as somewhat of a freak.

We somehow managed to muddle our way through refresher training in San Diego and returned to Long Beach. It was in the middle of the Vietnam War and there was a lot going on around us, but we had a job to do. We had a six month deployment to the Far East (Westpac) coming up in June of 1968. June 17 came up all too soon and the next thing you knew we were heading off with Palos Verdes disappearing over the horizon. It was to be a very long six months. It would be England’s fourth deployment to the western Pacific in four years.

USS England (DLG 22) departing Pearl Harbor heading for a WestPac deployment in June 1968. U.S.Navy photo by PH3 R. Hartkopp.

USS England (DLG 22) departing Pearl Harbor heading for a WestPac deployment in June 1968. U.S.Navy photo by PH3 R. Hartkopp.

After an unmemorable stop in Pearl Harbor, it was on to Midway. Things were not going too well. We had gotten some new sailors aboard just before we left and my BTs were not getting along with each other. Half way between Midway and Pearl Harbor I was settling into my bunk when I heard the engines slowing down and the lights went out. We were adrift. I ran down to main control and waited for the emergency power to come on. Nothing happened. The compressed air flasks that we need to start the emergency gas turbine and diesel generators had lost their charge. We were in a pickle. The operations officer came storming down to main control and started screaming at me that he had no power to supply his communications equipment. I promptly kicked him out of the space.

Finally somebody figured out how to get some compressed air from the Gunners Mates and we managed to get the emergency generators started. In about 1/2 hour we had ship’s power restored and were back underway again.

Obviously, changes had to be made. After giving it some thought, I made two decisions that were to turn everything around and change what had started out to be a bad tour into a rousing success.

  1. I remembered something similar happening to me on the Fletcher-class destroyer Halsey Powell 10 years earlier and I took the same remedy. I transferred half of the sailors assigned to the forward fire room to the after fire room and vice versa. That broke up most of the squabbling that had been going on.
  2. I decided that I needed a reliable main propulsion assistant (MPA). Our previous MPAs did not have adequate training. One of my Ensigns had worked as an apprentice machinist in his fathers shop during the summers, appeared to have a good mechanical aptitude, and was eager to learn. I got him taken off the watch bill, put him in coveralls, and developed a comprehensive training program for him where he had to trace out piping systems, lean how equipment was operated, and then do it himself. Bit by bit, he began to learn what was going on.Within a couple of months, he could operate most of the equipment himself. This was unheard of for an Ensign. His final exam consisted of a conducting a plant light off prior to officially qualifying him as an engineering officer of the watch (EOOW).  Some of the Chief Petty Officers resented it. But they had their chance. The younger sailors proved to be quite supportive.
  3. It became obvious to me that changes had to be made with regards to the operation of our ship service and control air system. Ship service air compressors and other components were located in a variety of spaces and nobody appeared to have charge of the overall system. I traced out the system, assigned responsibilities and established a doctrine as to how the system would be operated. Later, in the 1970s problems of this type became far less prevalent after the establishment of the 1200 psi improvement program. It included a program called EOSS (Engineering Operational Sequencing System) that included manuals containing system diagrams and prescribed operating procedures applicable to each specific ship class. That pretty well corrected problems of this type.

These actions changed everything. We were able to work as a team and things began to improve mightily. We really did not have any further serious engineering problems during the rest of the time that I was aboard.

The rest of the deployment went fairly smoothly. In fact, it was fairly dull. Our first stop was in Subic Bay for turnover to the Seventh Fleet in July. The remainder of the month was taken up with picket station duties. In August, we spent a good bit of the time in the Gulf of Tonkin on Search & Rescue (SAR) station. Our major function was to carry a helicopter that would be used to pick up downed pilots ashore. Our flight deck was originally designed to handle drone anti-submarine helicopters (DASH), a program that the navy had discontinued but fortunately the deck was large enough to handle conventional helicopters. Fortunately there were no downed pilots to pick up during our deployment.

The atmosphere was a bit surreal. Each evening I would go up on deck and look over at the shore where you could see gunfire going on. The bullets flying back and forth looked like fast moving fireflies in the distance. From there I would go down to watch the evening movie in the wardroom. Our favorites were some awful “Spaghetti Westerns” staring Stewart Granger as a character called “Old Surehand”. The movies were bad enough to provide comic relief. After the movies, I would take a complete tour of the engineering spaces followed by a visit to Main Control to write up my night orders.

Occasionally a MIG would start out from the beach and head in our direction causing us to go to battle stations. We always prepared to launch a Terrier Missile, but it never proved necessary as the aircraft always turned back. It was just as well because my battle station was adjacent to piping carrying steam at 1200 pounds per square inch and 950 Degrees F. Not a good place to be when being shot at.

The only direct contact we had with the war was one quiet Sunday afternoon when a South Vietnamese PT boat came alongside right after a battle with several crew members shot up. All of a sudden the ship’s doctor had a mess on his hands. The mess deck had to be hastily turned into a hospital. Some of the Vietnamese crewmembers died and had to be airlifted ashore in body bags. It was the closest we got to real shooting.

Our only ports of call during the cruise turned out to be Sasebo, Hong Kong, and Subic Bay. In fact, we wound up in drydock in Subic Bay in September for three weeks when we turned out to have severe corrosion in our starboard stern tube that was located inside a tank causing fuel to be contaminated with seawater. Our sailors were delighted. Despite the fact that Olongapo was a dump, they preferred it to Japan or Hong Kong, all for the wrong reasons.

SAR operations in the Tonkin Gulf, Mar/Apr 1967 aboard the USS England (DLG 22). An SH-3 is parked on the fantail flight deck while a UH-2 picks up a traveler via sling. (NAVSOURCE)

SAR operations in the Tonkin Gulf, Mar/Apr 1967 aboard the USS England (DLG 22). An SH-3 is parked on the fantail flight deck while a UH-2 picks up a traveler via sling. (NAVSOURCE)

After leaving Subic, it was back to Yankee Station in October. For a brief period, we provided plane guard services for USS America (CV 66). In November, we had stops in Sasebo and Hong Kong for rest and recreation. During the latter part of the month, we served as flagship for Commander Cruiser Destroyer Force, Pacific and then as training coordinator for destroyer exercises in the Tonkin Gulf. In all cases, we were limited in what we could be assigned to because of our lack of significant gun fire capability.  Finally it was time to go home. While enroute, we celebrated the ship’s fifth birthday. We finally arrived home in Long Beach on 17 December 1968.Our families were waiting to greet us on the pier.

Professionally, the cruise had been a big success. I wound up with a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, the same award that was to plague CNO Mike Boorda 25 years later. It was specifically stated on the accompanying certificate that I was entitled to wear the “V.”

There were no overseas deployments scheduled during 1969. In July, we went on the annual Pacific Midshipman Training Cruise (PACMIDTRACRU 69). We were part of a group that included USS New Jersey (BB 62). Our scheduled ports of call were San Francisco, Monterey, and Pearl Harbor. The only other memory I have of that cruise was watching the Moonwalk in the officers club at Pearl.

I had a memorable personal experience that spring when my brother in law accompanied by his wife and family came out from Ireland to visit us. We had a very nice weekend in Palm Springs. But on the last day before we left for home, both of their kids came down with a rash. They had both come down with the measles. On the way home, I remarked to my wife that I had not ever had a case of measles as a child. Sure enough, within a couple of days I was deathly ill and confined to my bed. My vision was affected and I began shredding skin in some alarming places. The squadron doctor made a house call. But he had no idea how to treat a case of adult measles and his visit was spent sitting next to the bed reading medical textbooks on the subject. Nothing seemed to work. In desperation, my wife called a longtime friend who was an ex nurse for ideas. Her advice was to give me an enema. Darned if it didn’t work. My fever broke and the spots started clearing up. But I was still very weak and in need of some time to convalesce.

The adventure was still not over. On the Friday before the ship was scheduled to go to sea, my wife got a call from our CO. It turned out that he was fearful to take the ship out without me on board. He asked if I could come down and complete my recovery in my bunk on the ship. I reluctantly agreed. It is nice to be considered indispensable. But this was ridiculous. My wife drove me down to the ship and I went aboard. I immediately went below and crawled into my bunk. The announcement came over the 1MC to set the special sea detail prior to getting underway. About that time I heard a knock on the door. It proved to be the CO checking up on my welfare. We were scheduled to conduct engineering drills. The CO asked me if I felt well enough to participate. I still felt pretty weak, but I agreed to go on down to Main Control. I found a seat on a bucket. I was still wearing dark glasses and I could barely read the gages. I was sweating profusely and still felt quite weak. In the middle of things, we experienced a problem in the After Fireroom. Instinctively I jumped up, went up the ladder and descended the ladder into the fireroom. It was hotter than blazes down there. We got the problem fixed and I went back to Main Control. Then I noticed that something really strange had happened. I no longer needed my dark glasses, my vision was normal, and I felt at full strength. Don’t ask me to explain it.

USS England (CG 22) undergoing dismantlement at International Shipbreaking Limited on 15 JAN 2004. (NAVSOURCE)

USS England (CG 22) undergoing dismantlement at International Shipbreaking Limited on 15 JAN 2004. (NAVSOURCE)

As previously mentioned, the ship had been completed without the state of the art combat direction system due to funding limitations. But all of the ships of the class were scheduled for a six month AAW Modernization program at Bath Iron Works in Maine. The ship was due to sail for the East Coast around 1 February 1970. The fall of 1969 was spent in preparation for the trip to Bath including an underway period with Bath Iron Works personnel on board in order to demonstrate the ship.

Finally, I received a set of orders to be the commissioning XO of the USS Blakely (DE 1072), a Knox-class frigate (then called a destroyer-escort) under construction at Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans. The ship would be home ported in Charleston, South Carolina. But I would first have to organize the pre-commissioning crew in Newport, Rhode Island. So it would be back to New England for the first time since 1965. I was present at the decommissioning ceremony for the England at Bath in April 1970 while I was visiting my parents in Portland, Maine. It would be the last time that I would set foot on the ship.

The Leahy and her sisters of the Belknap-class were taken out of service in the early 1990s as part of the cut back at the end of the Cold War. England was decommissioned and stricken from naval service on January 21, 1994. It was scrapped in Brownsville Texas in 2004. The last naval ship that was powered by 1200 psi boilers was the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63) which was decommissioned in 2009. I would still have plenty more exposure to 1200 psi engineering plants coming up as a member of the Atlantic Fleet propulsion examining board and the Board of Inspection and Survey, along with six years of experience in billets relating to the Knox-class frigates. As previously stated, I was the commissioning CO of the last 1200 psi ship to ever enter service, the USS Moinester (FF 1097) in 1974.

As an additional side note a number of celebrities were assigned to ships of this type during this time frame. These included:

  • Ensign John Kerry –  USS Gridley (DLG 31) – Our sister ship in Long Beach
  • Robert Woodward – Well known reporter – Communications officer on USS Fox (DLG 33)
  • John Poindexter – His first seagoing assignment was as chief engineer of the USS Halsey (DLG 23). Later he served as commanding officer of the England between 1974 and 1976.
  • Stansfield Turner – Later CIA director – Commanding Officer USS Horne (DLG 30) 1967-1968

George W. Stewart is a retired US Navy Captain. He is a 1956 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. During his 30 year naval career, he held two ship commands and served a total of 8 years on naval material inspection boards, during which he conducted trials and inspections aboard over 200 naval vessels. Since his retirement from active naval service in 1986 he has been employed in the ship design industry where he has specialized in the development of concept designs of propulsion and powering systems, some of which have entered active service. He currently holds the title of Chief Marine Engineer at Marine Design Dynamics.

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Blood, Bravery, and Intrepid Ships: 5 Epic Naval Battles (PART II)

blood and bravery

Blood, Bravery, and Intrepid Ships is a new limited, 5-part blog series exploring 5 epic naval battles throughout the history of the United States Navy.

DISCLAIMER: This post is related to the 6th Season, 9th episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones titled “Battle of the Bastards.” Although the historical content of the five naval battles included are accurate, its ties to the HBO series remain wholly fictional. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Read a recap of the episode at EW

The views and opinions represented in this post are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not necessarily represent those of the Naval Historical Foundation, Naval History and Heritage Command, or United States Navy, unless explicitly stated. If you have any questions, please contact our Digital Content Developer, Matthew Eng, at

 By Matthew T. Eng

The Story Behind Blood, Bravery, and Intrepid Ships
If you have perused social media within the last week or so, you are likely aware that television history was made. The wildly popular HBO television series Game of Thrones aired their episode “Battle of the Bastards” to over 7.66 million anxious and excited viewers. It was an epic showdown between the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton for supremacy of the North. Amidst all the chaos, Jon Snow and House Stark prove triumphant, once again displaying the banner of the dire wolf at Winterfell.

Many reviewers online are calling it the most elaborate battle sequence in television history. The battle itself was meticulously planned and executed, requiring countless stuntmen, extras, and shooting days. Beneath the battle, there is deeper meaning. Can we draw any historical parallels of a battle of pure fantasy with the true wit, heroism, and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Navy?

Surely. Ready a raven, Lord Snow. You might want to write this down and let the others in the seven kingdoms know.

Real life battles are spontaneous and chaotic, but no less epic. Indeed, history is never so nice and neat to be wrapped up in a one-hour episode. Sets are battlefields, directors are commanders, and eyewitnesses give us the only glimpse into a camera’s eye view of the events that transpired. Battles rage on, casualties rise, and victories are made at a high cost. Our collective knowledge tells us that knock-down, drag out fights have occurred throughout the history of the United States so wars could be won and the freedom and protection of the United States secured. In a figurative sense, the men and women of the United States military have made sure that the banners of our great nation remain intact. The United States Navy plays a key role in that narrative – no extras or stuntmen required.

Here are five epic engagements that give “Battle of the Bastards” a run for its money. READ PART I

virginia and monitorPART II: The Battle of Hampton Roads: A Bloodied Nose (March 8-9, 1862)

“Thousands of men don’t need to die, only one of us. Let’s settle this the old way. You against me.” – Jon Snow

Not all battles end in victory. Some are chalked up to a draw, leaving the historians and enthusiasts to wage new wars over their memory. Battles that end in a draw do not, however, make that specific conflict no less ferocious. After all, it’s not like there was a giant monster on your side to help win the battle (RIP Wun Wun). That is, unless you are the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. Then you would have the “rebel monster:” CSS Virginia.

As far as naval battles go, no other engagement exemplified the “bloodied nose” aesthetic between pitched combatants like the punishing display of firepower demonstrated by both Monitor and Virginia during the second day of the Battle of Hampton Roads. Think about the fight between Ramsay and Jon in the Winterfell courtyard in the “Battle of the Bastards” episode, but with ships.


At least that is what many newspapers in the North and South waxed eloquently about in the months leading up to the famed Battle of Hampton Roads. For months, both the Union and Confederacy had known about each’s respective design for an ironclad warship, a new and relatively untested form of naval warfare. The new style of warfare brought about new fears from the public and policymakers alike: Virginia could hold Washington, D.C. for ransom, while Ericsson’s “cheesebox on a raft” might be powerful enough to uphold Scott’s “Great Snake” along the southern coastline. Only time would tell.

Like Jon Snow, CSS Virginia was resurrected from death to do battle once again. The rechristened CSS Virginia was built around the lower hull and machinery of USS Merrimack, which was intentionally burned to the waterline and sunk to avoid capture when Confederates took Gosport Navy Yard in April 1861. Swedish engineer and inventor John Ericsson, long known as a pariah to the United States Navy for a mishap involving the death of Secretary of the Navy Abel Upshur in 1844, eventually agreed to build his revolutionary design to meet the Confederate behemoth within 100 days.

Cincinnati Daily Press (Cincinnati, Ohio), December 24, 1861, Page 4, Image 4, Col. 1-2. (Library of Congress)

Cincinnati Daily Press (Cincinnati, Ohio), December 24, 1861, Page 4, Image 4, Col. 1-2. (Library of Congress)

A 20 December 1861 article included in the Memphis Daily Appeal called Ericsson’s design a “terrible engine of destruction.” Ericsson himself made no plan to make his design secret. He wanted everyone to know, including the Confederacy, exactly what they were up against. In turn, Virginia would be slow but powerful, complete with a casemate design of ten cannons and ram to puncture wooden warships in two. By then, Virginia was nearly six months into construction, her designers confident that Ericsson’s design could not penetrate her iron casemate armor and two feet of wood to protect it.

Nobody knew how well either “Ericsson’s Battery” or the “rebel monster” would perform. One thing was clear: they would find a way to meet on the battlefield. That chance came in early March 1862 in the waters off Hampton Roads.

The first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads fared as well as the opening conflict for Snow’s forces in “Battle of the Bastards.” In all, it became the single greatest loss of life for the United States Navy until Pearl Harbor. Virginia steamed out from Norfolk to meet the Union blockade head on. She managed to sink USS Cumberland, force the surrender of USS Congress (ultimately leading to her demise later that night), and badly damage USS Minnesota after she ran aground on a sandbar.

In the middle of the night, Monitor arrived in a panic, still largely uncompleted, to do battle with the rebel monster. Historian Craig Symonds referred to their first view of the battle’s aftermath as a “scene of devastation.” What transpired the next day made history: the first duel between ironclads.

“You suggested one-on-one combat didn’t you. I’ve reconsidered I think that sounds like a wonderful idea.” – Ramsay Bolton

Virginia made her appearance known the morning of the 9th to finish off Captain G.J. Van Brunt and his wounded Minnesota. It was at that moment that Lt. Worden and Monitor made their grand entrance into the fray, promising Van Brunt that he would “stand by you to the last” as he did so. Hollywood could not write a better line. Monitor Executive Officer Lt. S. Dana Greene explained the pregnant moment:

“Our captain…made straight for the Merrimac, which had already commented firing; and when he came within short range, he changes his course so as to come alongside her, stopped the engine, and gave the order, ‘Commence firing!”

Franklin Buchanan and Virginia responded in kind, quickly scoring hits on Monitor’s armored turret. The center held. Virginia’s point blank shot did not penetrate, and the tower remained intact as it continued to rotate and fire. Lt. Greene later commented that the fire between the two vessels soon occurred only a few yards away. This deadly dance continued to rage on for hours. Neither ship managed to cause irreparable damage.

Many of the paintings depicting the battle tend to summarize the entirety of the two-day battle in one image, showing the destruction of Cumberland alongside the duel between ironclads. The more realistic paintings show the two ironclads in pitched battle with the surrounding sailors and soldiers watching them in the middle of the water in what Craig Symonds compared to an "amphitheater" akin to the Roman Coliseum.

Many paintings depicting the battle have a tendency to summarize the entirety of the two-day conflict in one complete image, thereby showing the destruction of Cumberland and Congress alongside the duel between ironclads. The more realistic paintings show the two ironclads in pitched battle with the surrounding sailors and soldiers watching them in the middle of the water in what Craig Symonds compared to an “amphitheater” akin to the Roman Coliseum.

The fog of war inside Monitor’s turret was as cramped, congested, and terrifying as the scrum of warriors huddled together fighting against the Bolton Army’s shields and lances in the latest Game of Thrones episode. The clang and clamor of shots inside reverberated and echoed loudly, causing some sailors’ nose and ears to begin bleeding who stood too close to the concussive pressure from blasts. And still, both sides continued to fight on in what Tom Cutler called “a determined fury.” One bystander from the shore likened the fire from Virginia to Monitor like “pebblestones thrown by a child.”

Cramped at the Battle of the Bastards and Inside the Turret. At least 18 men were inside Monitor's turret while in operation. (HBO/MaritimeTexas)

Cramped at the Battle of the Bastards and Inside the Turret. At least 18 men were inside Monitor’s turret while in operation. (HBO/MaritimeTexas)

Around noon, a shell from Virginia’s cannon struck Monitor’s pilothouse. Eyewitness accounts place the shot not ten yards from each other. Monitor commanding officer Lt. Worden was standing in the pilot house when the shot struck, causing him to be stunned and temporary blinded. Cutler included a description of the scene of chaos in A Sailor’s History of the United States Navy:

“Worden had taken much of the blast full in his face, and his eyes were filled with smoke and burning powder. He staggered back, his hands to his face, and cried: ‘My eyes. I am blind!’ With blood pouring down his face, Worden was taken to his cabin.”

Monitor disengaged from battle to regroup after the shot to the pilot house. Buchanan and Virginia saw this as their cue to end the day’s fighting. By the time Lt. Greene returned to engage, Virginia was gone. After four hours of intense close-quarters fighting akin to hand-to-hand combat, both steamed away to lick their respective wounds, each claiming victory in the first duel between ironclad combatants. Both vessels did not survive the year, never to face again. Virginia was scuttled and destroyed off Craney Island in May 1862 just before the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, and Monitor sank off the coast of the Outer Banks on New Year’s Eve. Although history was not kind to the fate of these vessels, their memory and place in the annals of naval history is still secure today.

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Blood, Bravery, and Intrepid Ships: 5 Epic Naval Battles (PART I)

blood and bravery

Blood, Bravery, and Intrepid Ships is a new limited, 5-part blog series exploring 5 epic naval battles throughout the history of the United States Navy.

DISCLAIMER: This post is related to the 6th Season, 9th episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones titled “Battle of the Bastards.” Although the historical content of the five naval battles included are accurate, its ties to the HBO series remain wholly fictional. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Read a recap of the episode at EW

The views and opinions represented in this post are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not necessarily represent those of the Naval Historical Foundation, Naval History and Heritage Command, or United States Navy, unless explicitly stated. If you have any questions, please contact our Digital Content Developer, Matthew Eng, at

 By Matthew T. Eng

If you have perused social media within the last week, you are likely aware that television history was made Sunday night. The wildly popular HBO television series Game of Thrones aired their episode “Battle of the Bastards” to over 7.66 million anxious and excited viewers. It was an epic showdown between the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton for supremacy of the North. Amidst all the chaos, Jon Snow and House Stark prove triumphant, once again displaying the banner of the dire wolf at Winterfell.

Raising the Flag (USN 902736)

Raising the Flag (USN 902736)

Many reviewers online are calling it the most elaborate battle sequence in television history. The battle itself was meticulously planned and executed, requiring countless stuntmen, extras, and shooting days. Beneath the battle, there is deeper meaning. Can we draw any historical parallels of a battle of pure fantasy with the true wit, heroism, and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Navy?

Surely. Ready a raven, Lord Snow. You might want to write this down and let the others in the seven kingdoms know.

Real life battles are spontaneous and chaotic, but no less epic. Indeed, history is never so nice and neat to be wrapped up in a one-hour episode. Sets are battlefields, directors are commanders, and eyewitnesses give us the only glimpse into a camera’s eye view of the events that transpired. Battles rage on, casualties rise, and victories are made at a high cost. Our collective knowledge tells us that knock-down, drag out fights have occurred throughout the history of the United States so wars could be won and the freedom and protection of the United States secured. In a figurative sense, the men and women of the United States military have made sure that the banners of our great nation remain intact. The United States Navy plays a key role in that narrative – no extras or stuntmen required.

Here are five epic engagements that give “Battle of the Bastards” a run for its money.

PART I: The Battle of Lake Erie: Symbolism Matters (September 10, 1813)

Symbols have an important place in U.S. naval lore. Ask any sailor, and they will name a few. The anchor and chains. The dolphin. Wings of gold. Every sailor, both officer and enlisted, wears a symbol to denote their rank and/or rating.

These symbols are worn as a sign of pride and a marker displaying allegiance. After all, why does every ship in the U.S. Navy today have a seal or crest? Are things so different in the world of Game of Thrones? Bloggers and critics worldwide are still debating the symbolism of Jon Snow’s use of the House Mormont shield to deflect his enemy’s expertly aimed arrows in the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. The shield has meaning, just as medals do to sailors. These symbols become much more than painted images on flags, shields, and steel. Their imagery also helps boost the morale and fighting spirit of combatants during battle. This was the case during the Battle of Lake Erie when a young and daring commander named Oliver Hazard Perry used five words to rally his rag tag group of sailors and volunteers to the Navy’s most decisive victory during the War of 1812: Don’t Give Up the Ship. Like a sigil on a shield, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” became a powerful message the U.S. Navy adopted and continues to use today.

Marmont Shield used by Snow in "Battle of the Bastards" (HBO); "Don't Give Up the Ship Flag (Photo courtesy New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and  Historic Preservation), Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate (Wikimedia Commons/

Marmont Shield used by Snow in “Battle of the Bastards” (HBO); “Don’t Give Up the Ship Flag (Photo courtesy New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation), Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate (Wikimedia Commons/

Things did not look hopeful for Oliver Hazard Perry in the Summer of 1813. After receiving the order to take command of naval forces along the NW frontier of Lake Erie earlier in the year, he set about the arduous task of securing or building ships for battle. His orders were simple enough: defeat British forces and gain control of Lake Erie. The only problem was that he didn’t have any ships to fight with. Engagements along the lake remained stagnant at best in the winter and spring of 1813. While the rest of the Navy fought in epic ship-to-ship conflicts in the high seas to the delight of American newspapers, the war in the Northwest remained relatively quiet until things began to heat up with the coming summer months.

Perry’s British adversary on Lake Erie, Commander Robert Heriot Barclay, was no Ramsay Bolton. A battle seasoned naval officer who cut his teeth at the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, Barclay took command of a detached squadron of British ships on Lake Erie. During the beginning of the summer, Perry and Barclay sat at their bases of operation on the lake, calculating the best time to strike. Procuring ships to fight, however, proved no easy task. If there ever was an early version of an arms race in the young Republic, it first occurred along Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Perry and the Navy set about building ships and procuring men and materials to help protect his base of operations at Presque Isle shipyard. By the middle of the summer, Perry’s shipbuilding plan seemed to work. He built a fleet of two brigs, three gunboats, and a pilot boat that outnumbered the British fleet. There was only one problem: manpower. Added to the stress and confusion for Perry was the news that his good friend James Lawrence, commanding officer of USS Chesapeake, was killed in an engagement with HMS Shannon near Boston. Perry used his friends dying words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” as motivation to press on, eventually using it as his personal battle flag made for him. As an added honor, he named one of the brigs built as his flagship after his friend, Lawrence. On the other side of the water, Barclay took the opportunity to continue to blockade Perry in at Presque Isle at the end of July.

Eventually, the blockade was abandoned, allowing Perry and his ships to escape. Soon, men and materiel from the east, along with a small continent of Major General Harrison’s Army of the Northwest, swelled Perry’s meager ranks at Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Barclay, now unable to move at Amherstburg, had little choice but to meet Perry’s makeshift in battle.

Painting by William H. Powell, depicting Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry transferring his flag from the disabled U.S. Brig Lawrence to the U.S. Brig Niagara, at the height of the action. (NHHC Photo $# KN-621)

Painting by William H. Powell, depicting Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry transferring his flag from the disabled U.S. Brig Lawrence to the U.S. Brig Niagara, at the height of the action. (NHHC Photo $# KN-621)

The battle began in the late morning of 10 September. Perry discovered Barclay coming down from Malden harbor with purpose to attack and immediately set out from Put-in-Bay to fight with the flag of his friend’s immortal words high atop the masthead of Lawrence. One account stated how “every heart was electrified,” with crews cheering as they sailed to battle. Both squadrons lined up in line of battle formation when the first shots were fired around 11:45am. Unfortunately, the wind soon favored the British. Perry intended to take advantage of the carronades and avoid the British long guns at a half-mile distance but failed to do so. Like a barrage of long arrows, the long ranged fire from the British began. HMS Detroit opened a heavy barrage of her long guns onto Lawrence for nearly twenty minutes, inflicting heavy damage and causing many casualties. Naval surgeon Usher Parsons referred to the first shot of the battle as an “electric shock.” Detroit and Queen Charlotte, two of the biggest British ships, wasted no time and steadily pounded Lawrence into submission. Things looked grim for Perry and his fleet at the outset. Like Jon Snow, the tide needed to be turned, and quickly. An American eyewitness described the carnage:

“The loss of the Americans was severe, particular on board the Lawrence. When her flag was struck she had but nine men fit for duty remaining on her deck [. . .] Her deck, the morning after the conflict [. . .] exhibited a scene that defies description- for it was literally covered with blood, which still adhered to the plank in clots – brains, hair and fragments of bones were still sticking to the rigging and sides.”

Naval surgeon Parsons described an equally harrowing scene in his discourse delivered before the Rhode Island Historical Society:

“In proper time however as it proved, the dogs of war were let loose from their leash, and it seemed as though heaven and earth were at logger-heads. For more than two long hours, little could be heard but the deafening thunders of our own broad-sides, the crash of balls dashing through our timbers, and the shrieks of the wounded.”

With four fifths of his crew either killed or wounded, Perry decided to transfer his flag to Niagara, flag in tow, gallantly rowing through heavy gunfire while Lawrence was surrendered. Although the American fleet was battered, their British counterparts didn’t fare any better. Both Detroit and Queen Charlotte were badly damage from the battle, with most of their crews killed or wounded. Barclay himself was wounded from the engagement.

A break in the line for Perry at Lake Erie (HBO/Naval History Heritage Command)

A break in the line for Perry at Lake Erie (HBO/Naval History Heritage Command)

The “Sansa/Little Finger cavalry” moment that saved the day came when Perry, once safely aboard Niagara, chose to steer his remaining ships into close action with Barclay’s battered vessels. By this time, Detroit collided with Queen Charlotte, giving more opportunity to Perry to strike. Barclay mistakenly believed Perry would take his bloodied fleet back to Put-in-Bay to lick their wounds. But wind was finally in Perry’s favor, and he used it to his advantage to break through the British link and fire crippling broadsides against them. Detroit and Queen Charlotte could do nothing and surrendered by 3:00pm. The remaining British ships attempted to escape but were soon captured. Perry turned the tide. The surrender took place on the recaptured Lawrence. In the end, symbolism proved true: Perry did not give up battle, or the ship named after his dear departed friend. Perry took a moment to pen after the battle to pen his famous message to General Harrison:

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one school and one sloop.

Americans controlled Lake Erie for the remainder of the war. What will Jon Snow’s success mean for the future of Winterfell?

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The First U.S. Naval Electric Propulsion Plant

By Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.)

This post provides a basic description of the turboelectric propulsion plant aboard the collier USS Jupiter (AC 3) in its original configuration. Much of this information was obtained from the textbook Practical Marine Engineering (1917) by Captain C.W. Dyson, USN. Additional information was obtained from an article in the 1941 SNAME transactions, titled “Alternating Current in the U.S. Navy,” which was written by LCDR H.G. Rickover, USN.  Copies of the ship’s general plans for USS Jupiter in its original configuration as a collier are available on line at

Jupiter entered service in 1913 as one of a four ship class of colliers. It was, however, the only one of the four with an electric drive installation. The other three ships of the class were all lost at sea. USS Cyclops (AC 4) was lost in 1918 without a trace. USS Proteus (AC 9) and USS Nereus (AC 10) were lost in late 1941. Both were apparently sunk by German U-Boats. At the time, they had been sold to a Canadian company for use in carrying bauxite. Jupiter was later converted into the first US naval aircraft carrier USS Langley (CV 1) in 1920.

 Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 16 October 1913. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 52365)

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 16 October 1913. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. (NH 52365)

In its original form, Jupiter had the following major characteristics:

  • Length – 542’
  • Beam – 65’
  • Draft -27’8”
  • Displacement 19,360 Tons
  • Complement – 163 personnel

The plant was twin screw with a rating of approximately 6500 SHP. The ship had a sustained speed of approximately 15.5 knots. It represented the first significant application of AC power aboard a US naval vessel. It was essentially an experimental installation.  Prior to 1932, all US Naval vessels utilized direct current (DC) in ship service distribution systems and most of the ship’s auxiliary and deck machinery was steam driven. Ship service power aboard Jupiter was supplied from three 35 kW turbine driven DC generators.

The steam turbine was invented in Great Britain by Charles Parsons in 1884. The first marine installation was aboard the SS Turbinia, launched in 1894. By the early 1900s, turbines could be found aboard several large passenger vessels. Several very significant technical obstacles had to be overcome in order to make steam turbines viable for marine applications. The first and most significant was that turbines operate most efficiently at high RPM, while propellers must operate at much lower speeds in order to avoid cavitation. A compromise between efficient turbine and propeller speeds was required. The approach at the time was to add stages to the turbine in order to make it operate more slowly so it could be connected directly to the propeller shaft which then had to be operated at higher than desirable speeds with a subsequent loss in propeller efficiency. Additionally, the turbine rotor diameters had to be quite large, as much as 12 feet in diameter aboard transatlantic liners in order to develop the torque necessary to turn the propeller shafts. By 1910, the navy had begun to experiment with electric and reduction gear drive in order to overcome these issues. However, reduction gear drives in naval vessels did not come to general use until after 1915. Jupiter’s sister ships, USS Cyclops and USS Proteus, were fitted with reciprocating steam engines, while USS Nereus had geared steam turbine drive.

Jupiter’s basic propulsion system consisted of a single 5000 kW AC main turbo-generator driven by a Curtis turbine, two AC induction motors, two water cooled rheostats, and one main switchboard. Excitation for the main generator was obtained from one of the ship’s 35 kW DC ship service turbo-generators. Available information indicates that the total weight of Jupiter’s propulsion plant was 166.5 tons. By comparison, the plant aboard her sister ship USS Cyclops (AC 4) which was propelled by twin reciprocating steam engines, weighed 260.8 tons.  The arrangement of the machinery in the engine room is shown in the following diagram:

This drawing shows the machinery arrangement on the lower level of Jupiter’s engine room. The port and starboard main propulsion motors and shaft lines can be clearly seen. The motors were located in water tight pits. The main turbo generator set was located on the centerline with the generator located forward of the turbine and the turbine located forward of the main condenser. The three 35 kW DC ship service turbo generators are shown on the starboard side. The two water cooled rheostats were located near the forward bulkhead of the space. The main switchboard and propulsion controls were on the upper level above the rheostats. The propulsion control functions were all performed separately by manually operated switches and levers.

The generator and motors essentially functioned as an electric reduction gear for the main steam turbine. The generator was fitted with two poles, while each motor had 36 poles. This provided a speed reduction of approximately eighteen to one, although the slip of the induction motors resulted in a decrease in RPM of approximately 10% below synchronous speed. As an example, with a turbine speed of 1800 RPM, the actual motor output speed would have been approximately 100 x 90% = 90RPM.  After the motors had been started, all changes in motor speed were accomplished by changes in turbine speed, which resulted in a change in generator output frequency.  Because both motors were connected to the same generator, the motors could not be varied independently in speed. However, it was possible to operate on a single propulsion motor with significant losses due to wind milling from the idle propeller.

The propulsion motors were of the wound rotor induction type. The motor rotors were fitted with three phase windings which were fitted with external leads via collector rings to the water cooled rheostats. The rheostats were used in order to provide increased torque during starting, reversing and maneuvering operations.  The original intent of development of an AC motor of this type was to permit independent control of motor speed and to provide high starting torque without the necessity to vary input frequency. For many years, it found applications on deck machinery aboard ships with AC distribution systems. The only application of a wound motor induction motor that I ever encountered was when I served aboard a minesweeper where it was utilized on the deck winch that was used for streaming and recovering minesweeping gear. The need for propulsion motors of this type has since gone away due to the advent of solid state control devices. Most AC propulsion plants aboard ships built since 1940 have utilized synchronous type AC propulsion motors. DDG 1000, which is under construction, is propelled by four advanced induction motors (AIM), two per shaft. Modern electric drive ships make use of integrated power plants with multiple AC generators supplying both propulsion and ship service power from the same bus.  Note that integrated power plants were not practical for many years because of the need to vary generator speed and output frequency in order to control propulsion motor speed.

The Jupiter propulsion plant had two basic operating modes.

  1. Maneuvering – In this mode, the rheostats were kept into the rotor circuits on both motors in order to provide increased torque during starting and reversing operations. Continuous operation in this mode was uneconomical because of losses associated with the rheostats.
  2. Cruising – Once the ship had settled down to economical cruising, the operator could cut the rheostats out of the circuit by means of a short circuiting device. All speed changes were then accomplished by varying the main turbo generator speed and output frequency by means of the main turbine governor. As previously mentioned, both motors had to be operated at the same speed, although operation was possible on a single motor with the other motor disabled.

In its original configuration Jupiter was fitted with two double ended coal fired Scotch fire tube boilers that supplied saturated steam at 190 psi. The following illustration shows one of Jupiter’s original boilers being lifted on board during construction:

One of Jupiter's boilers being lifted aboard for installation while fitting out at Navy Yard Mare Island, circa 1912-13. Navy Yard Mare Island photo (NavSource)

One of Jupiter’s boilers being lifted aboard for installation while fitting out at Navy Yard Mare Island, circa 1912-13. Navy Yard Mare Island photo (NavSource)

Along with their coal bunkers, the boilers were located in a single fire room immediately forward of the engine room. Because the boilers had to be fired from both ends, four separate firing aisles were required, two per boiler each with direct access to an adjacent coal bunker. This was the original arrangement shown in the ship’s general plans which are available on line. In its original configuration, Jupiter’s boilers all exhausted to a single stack located amidships.  Later photos of the ship show two stacks, one to port and one to starboard.

Jupiter was converted into the first U.S. aircraft carrier at the Norfolk, VA, Navy Yard for the purpose of conducting experiments in seaborne aviation. The conversion was authorized by Congress in 1919.  The ship was decommissioned in March, 1920 and her name was changed to USS Langley (CV 1). The ship was recommissioned as USS Langley (CV 1) in March, 1922. It is assumed that the ship was converted to burn oil during the conversion but this is not specifically stated in any available records. In addition, records indicate that Langley was refitted with three Bureau Type express boilers. Although no specific description of this installation can be found a memorandum written by Langley’s executive officer on 1 February 1923 describing the normal ship’s routine specifically states that all aviation operations will be accomplished with 3 boilers on the line. A change over to water tube boilers would have probably been desirable because the original Scotch fire tube boilers were very sluggish in response to the frequent changes in steam demand that the ship would experience in its’ aircraft carrier role.

Under reconstruction from the collier JUPITER at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, circa late 1921. (NHHC Photo # NH 93538)

Under reconstruction from the collier JUPITER at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, circa late 1921. (NHHC Photo # NH 93538)

The aircraft carrier conversion resulted in the following significant changes in the major ship characteristics:

  • Reduction in displacement from 19,360 to 11,500 tons
  • Full load draft reduced from 27’8” to 18’11’
  • Complement increased from 163 to 468 personnel

A major problem associated with the conversion was smoke dispersal. Jupiter was originally fitted with a single funnel however this was later changed to two funnels. The funnels were located to port and starboard. Obviously this configuration was unsuitable for carrier operations. Therefore, Langley was refitted with a short folding funnel to port and a smoke opening below the flight deck level to starboard. In theory either could be used, depending upon the wind. The starboard opening was fitted with water sprays for cooling. Problems were experienced with this installation and the ship was eventually retrofitted with a pair of hinged funnels on the port side.

Due to the success of the Jupiter installation, AC propulsion systems were subsequently utilized in six battleships that entered service between 1918 and 1923, plus USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Saratoga (CV 3), both of which entered service in 1927 with four screw plants rated at 180,000 SHP.  All subsequent steam turbine installations aboard US naval vessels built after 1927 utilized gear drive, an exception being the 124 destroyer escorts of the Buckley (DE 102) and Rudderow (DE 224) classes that were built during World War II. These plants followed the same general lines as those aboard the 481 MARAD T-2 commercial tankers which entered service during the war.  The reason for the use of electric drive aboard these ships was limitations in available gear manufacturing capacity and priority had to be given to destroyers and large combatants which had much higher power requirements.  In recent years, electric drive has experienced a rebirth with integrated plants aboard cruise liners, some naval auxiliaries, and the upcoming USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) which just completed acceptance trials. When compared to gear drive electric drive has some disadvantages, including greater cost and complexity, increased space requirements and lower transmission efficiency. However, it is very suitable for ships with large auxiliary loads that spend extended periods at low cruising speeds. The use of integrated electric drive has become virtually universal in the cruise liner industry.

By the mid 1930s, a number of large aircraft carriers had joined the fleet and due to her small size and slow speed Langley was no longer needed as a carrier. In 1937, the ship was converted into a seaplane tender (AV-3). The ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of Java in 1942.

In summary, Langley played a very important part in the development of naval aviation and its propulsion plant served as a model for future development.

George W. Stewart is a retired US Navy Captain. He is a 1956 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. During his 30 year naval career, he held two ship commands and served a total of 8 years on naval material inspection boards, during which he conducted trials and inspections aboard over 200 naval vessels. Since his retirement from active naval service in 1986 he has been employed in the ship design industry where he has specialized in the development of concept designs of propulsion and powering systems, some of which have entered active service. He currently holds the title of Chief Marine Engineer at Marine Design Dynamics.

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Awards, Monitors, and Vectors: 2016 Annual Meeting Recap

NHHC Director Admiral Sam Cox, USN (Ret.) and NHF Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) stand next to Naval History and Heritage Command historians who recently received the John Lyman book prize for their contributions to naval history from the North American Society for Oceanic History during a special presentations at the 2016 NHF Annual Meeting.

NHHC Director Admiral Sam Cox, USN (Ret.) and NHF Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) stand next to Naval History and Heritage Command historians who recently received the John Lyman book prize for their contributions to naval history from the North American Society for Oceanic History during a special presentation at the 2016 NHF Annual Meeting.

By Matthew T. Eng

Members and friends of NHF had the opportunity to meet for fellowship at this year’s annual meeting at the Washington Navy Yard on 11 June. It was a great day to sit back and reflect on the many accomplishments of the Foundation and our members since they gathered together last year.

Sufficed to say, it’s been a productive year for the Naval Historical Foundation. From June 2015 to June 2016, the Foundation has been involved in several major projects that correspond to our main mission: the preservation, education, and commemoration of naval history.

Year in Review

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We look forward to another great year!

NHF Volunteer of the Year

Captain Paulson receives his award from NHF Chairman William Fallon (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

Captain Paulson receives his award from NHF Chairman William Fallon (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

NHF recognized former staff member and current volunteer STEM-H education coordinator Captain John Paulson, USN (Ret.) as the 2016 NHF Volunteer of the Year. John helped secure a recent STEM grant with the Naval Academy and Hornet Museum, which helped train museum and historic ship educators this past year. He has also expanded NHF’s STEM-H program through engagement with Dr. Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust and his exploration vessel Nautilus. In the words of Admiral Fallon, “we simply could not function today without John.”

Monitor and Music

“Once a great ironworks
Stood at the end of my street
And they hauled in The Monitor
Fit her with armor
For to save the union fleet”

“The Monitor,” by Bishop Allen

Dr. Anna Holloway gives the David Leighton Lecture at the 2016 NHF Annual Meeting (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

Dr. Anna Holloway gives the David Leighton Lecture at the 2016 NHF Annual Meeting (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

Who knew that USS Monitor had a connection to Swedish death metal music? Anna Holloway, apparently.

National Park Service maritime historian Dr. Anna Holloway delivered this year’s David Leighton lecturer to annual meeting attendees. Her presentation, “The Battle of Hampton Roads in Art, Music, and Home Appliances,” explored the cultural impact of the Navy’s first ironclad from everything from refrigerators to today’s top music artists.

Over the course of her career, she has grown to become one of the foremost experts on the Civil War ironclad. She previously served as the Vice President of Museum Collections and Programs and Curator of the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA. During her time there, she helped develop the award-winning “Up Pops the Monitor” exhibit, which formed the basis of her talk at this year’s meeting.

(Courtesy Library of Congress)

(Courtesy Library of Congress)

According to Holloway, the Monitor as a vessel and symbol of the U.S. Navy was “personified in many ways following the engagement in Hampton Roads.” Unlike CSS Virginia, individuals took it upon themselves to assign personalities to the ship and use that as a selling point for everything from ballads and songs to newspapers. The evidence is clearly visible in contemporary books, music, newspaper articles, and art, which Holloway expertly guided guests through. To her, it was Monitor “that developed the true personality” because it was always about the machine, and not the people inside of it. Indeed, her description of Monitor’s impact on popular culture is just one of the ways that naval history as a discipline is rather unique: we remember the ships from the past, but not necessarily the men or women that sailed in them. In effect, Anna is using the example of a Civil War ironclad to change how we understand naval history and its impact on culture today.

The highlight of the presentation was Anna’s descriptions of songs and ballads penned in honor of Monitor and her 1862 fight with CSS Virginia. Most contemporary songs, popular in parlors, were mostly segregated to the North. It was fascinating to hear musical snippets from the “Monitor Polka” and “Ericsson Galop,” many of which are available to hear courtesy of the Library of Congress. Even music’s top artists today, which Holloway mused “would give you cool points if you mentioned it to your kids,” used the story and personification of Monitor to sell records. Two notable examples are indie artists Bishop Sullivan and Titus Andronicus, who based songs and albums off Monitor and her engagement at Hampton Roads. Even one hundred and fifty years later, “the ship continues to sell music today.”

She ended her talk by discussing the time that Monitor came to the Washington Navy Yard in October 1862, describing it as a media sensation. “Anybody who was anybody,” she said, “came down to the Navy Yard to see the famous ship.” For Washington, D.C. residents, she was both the savior of the Union and a true celebrity, one again solidifying Holloway’s assertion that the ship, not the men who sailed in it, was the hero.

A New Vector for NHF

One of the most important and exciting things to come out of the meeting was the announcement of a new “vector” by NHF to gain membership and relevance with the general public. This new “vector” is something that Chairman Admiral Fallon and President Rear Admiral Bud Langston have worked with the staff over the course of the Spring to formulate. In effect, we want our members and potential members to rediscover our maritime domain in the 20th century by using our rich naval and maritime heritage of the past.

NHF is currently forming a plan to assemble a volunteer cadre of energetic enthusiasts willing to spend time helping us partner with deep sea exploration that enables us to rediscovers naval history and actively supports our mission of preservation, education and commemoration.  Our goal is to begin a new expanded dialog about the maritime domain and inspire a new generation of maritime enthusiasts by illuminating naval history and the importance of maritime security in protecting our oceans for a safe and prosperous future.

Stay tuned for exciting opportunities for interested parties in the near future.

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More than Luck: Submarine Nautilus Plays Critical Role at 74th Midway Celebration Dinner

Midway veteran William Fentress entertains active duty naval officers at this year's Midway dinner (NHF Photo)

Midway veteran William Fentress entertains active duty naval officers at this year’s Midway dinner (NHF Photo)

By Matthew T. Eng

This year marked the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, one of the most pivotal events of the Second World War. VIPs, invited guests, active duty military, and veterans once again braved foul weather to attend the annual Battle of Midway Celebration Dinner at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA.

This was the 16th year that Navy organizations came together to honor and commemorate those who fought in the historic event so many years ago. In 1999, then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay Johnson sent a message to the Navy to commemorate both the 13 October Navy Birthday and the 4-7 June Battle of Midway. Organizers quickly banded together to help make the commemorative occasion a fitting testament to the honor, courage, and commitment an outgunned and outnumbered American fleet displayed that would eventually turn the tide of the war. Years later, Navy commands around the world continue to gather each year to remember the service and sacrifice of Midway sailors in what Admiral Chester W. Nimitz called, “a glorious page in our history.” The dinner itself has grown since then become an annual hallmark within the academic, military, and veteran communities in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Many distinguished guests, both civilian and active duty, attended this year’s celebration, including former Secretary of the Navy Will Ball, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, USN, Carrier Strike Group Three Commander Rear Admiral Ronald Boxall, and Rear Admiral David Hahn, who is the senior technical advisor to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, representing the Chief of Naval Operations. NHF Chairman Admiral William J. Fallon, USN (Ret.), and President Rear Admiral Bud Langston, USN (Ret.), were also in attendance.

The real honored guests were the Midway veterans, all in their 90s. Thankfully, five veterans, all of which have previously attended Battle of Midway Commemoration Dinners in the past, were able to attend. Guests were more than honored with their presence, with each individually recognized amidst a roar of thunderous applause. Junior officers and sailors flocked by their sides before the official program began to hear their stories of service and sacrifice. These types of interactions are important to the development of our young officers and sailors as they begin their own careers in leadership. The five Battle of Midway veterans present were (seated L to R):


  • Cook Third Class William Fentress, Aircraft Carrier Yorktown
  • Lieutenant Commander Joseph Miller, Aircraft Carrier Hornet
  • Captain Jack Crawford, Aircraft Carrier Yorktown
  • Chief Gunner’s Mate Henry Kudzik, Submarine Nautilus
  • Chief Yeoman Bill Norberg, Aircraft Carrier Enterprise

The dinner committee also recognized General Earl Anderson, United States Marine Corps, a Midway veteran of carrier Yorktown who passed away in November of last year. General Anderson attended the 2015 Battle of Midway Commemoration Dinner.

Although never a guest at the Washington, D.C., dinner, the committee felt it appropriate to also remember Captain Jack “Dusty” Kleiss during the introductions. Kleiss passed away in April this year at the age of 100. He was the last surviving SBD Dive Bomber from Midway. As a member of USS Enterprise’s VS-6 “Scouting Six,” he earned the Navy Cross for scoring hits on the Japanese carriers Kaga and Hiryu on 4 June, as well as the Japanese cruiser Mikuma on 6 June. In honor of Captain Kleiss and his heroic actions, the Naval Historical Foundation produced a brief video commemorating Kleiss. The video was produced in coordination with Kleiss biographers Dr. Timothy and Laura Orr and our partners at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Va.

Before the dinner  began, International Midway Memorial Foundation (IMMF) President and Founder Dr. Jim D’Angelo made a special presentation to speaker David Jourdan and Dr. Jim Delgado, who is the Director of the Maritime Heritage Program at NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. For their tireless work preserving the memory of the Battle of Midway D’Angelo presented Jourdan and Delgado with National Midway Memorial Coins.

The Search for the Japanese Fleet

David Jourdan speaks (NHF Photo)

David Jourdan speaks (NHF Photo)

Marine explorer and author David Jourdan rounded off the evening’s festivities with his talk, “The Search for the Japanese Fleet.” This year’s lecture built on the intelligence theme of last year’s event, which Jourdan admitted was a “significant part of the story.” Using his knowledge as an underwater explorer and researcher, Jourdan based his informative talk on his 2015 book of the same name. Jourdan has become an expert on the battle and the heroic exploits of submarine USS Nautilus. His resume is fitting. A 1976 Naval Academy Graduate and career submariner, Jourdan is best known as the President and Founder of Nauticos, a company devoted to the exploration of the deep ocean.

Jourdan used his expertise as an engineer and physicist to show the audience a different perspective of the battle – the silent war that raged beneath the water. Jourdan masterfully set the stage for the conflict, explaining why Nautilus’s participation, albeit overshadowed by the heroic actions of the carrier fleet, was nonetheless critical to the overall success of the battle. These submarines, crammed with nearly 100 men working in a space “no larger than a four-bedroom house,” had the will and determination to detect and engage the Japanese fleet which outgunned and outnumbered the American Navy.  Nautilus takes precedence here, due in large part to her then-commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander William H. Brockman, Jr. Brockman. Brockman operated the submarine aggressively over the course of the battle, including counterattacking the Japanese destroyer Arashi, which, as she sped back to rejoin the main Japanese attack force, led the still-searching American aviators (led by USS Enterprise VB-6 Air Group Commander Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky) straight to the heart of the Japanese fleet:

“Then he saw a Japanese destroyer the Arashi. The Arashi had been left to finish off the Nautilus and at some point it had been called back to the fleet and had headed in a bee-line for the fleet. McClusky followed it and lined up their planes. They were soon rewarded by masts on the horizon.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Their aviators were able to put an end to the carriers Kaga and Akagi, both of which played a heavy hand in the attack at Pearl Harbor just six months before. Both McClusky and Brockman received the Navy Cross for their actions at Midway.

LCDR William R. Brockman, Jr., USN (NHHC Photo #80-G-20016)

LCDR William R. Brockman, Jr., USN (NHHC Photo #80-G-20016)

The most interest aspect of Jourdan’s lecture was his discussion of the effect of depth charges aboard USS Nautilus during the Battle of Midway. Over the course of the battle, Nautilus experienced 42 such charges, all of which came during their very first war patrol and first engagement. These weapons, which Jourdan noted were the “most dangerous enemy” of the submarine, had the potential to cause the swift destruction of a submarine from the power of the hydraulic shockwave it produced.

Most of the depth charges Nautilus experienced came from the IJN Arashi. Using his background and knowledge of physics, Jourdan accurately explained the science behind depth charges. Jourdan could only comment in hindsight after talking to a few veterans that it must have been truly “an awful experience:”

“When a depth charge explodes, it creates a bubble of gas and a million pounds of pressure in that little bubble. This creates a shockwave, meaning the water was moved so fast that it propagates a lot of energy away from that explosion faster than the speed of sound. When that hit the ship, you would hear a click or ping like a hammer blow on the hull, and you would feel it. The next thing that happened is the deafening blast that moved to you at the speed of sound. Quite often that bubble would collapse and rebound and you’d have multiple reverberations.”

In the end, all you could really do is sit and stare at your shoes and hope you’d make it through it. As Jourdan said, “you didn’t want to see another man’s fear in his eyes.” Unlike most historians, Jourdan does not feel that luck played a key factor in the victory at Midway. To him, it was more a case of relentless brave attacks by American airmen and submariners on the fleet that caused the Japanese to be out of balance and without time to retaliate.

He ended his talk with a brief overview of the 1999 exploration Nauticos conducted in coordination with the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office to search for the lost Japanese aircraft carriers.

By reconstructing the Nautilus patrol through their meticulous notes and deck logs, they were able to positively identify wreckage from the Japanese carrier Kaga using deep-tow sonar devices. Because Brockman had attacked that ship, Jourdan and Nauticos knew exactly where to search. Like Dr. Bob Ballard and the Ocean Exploration Trust, Jourdan’s myriad contributions to the field of underwater archaeology today are a reminder that the understanding and exploration of the Navy’s past is as important as it ever was. As we begin to celebrate and commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Second World War later this year, these contributions will not go unnoticed. Stay tuned to the Naval Historical Foundation for updates.

Looking to the 75th Anniversary

We are one year away from the grand spectacle of the battle’s 75th anniversary. Mark your calendars for this fantastic event on 4 June 2017 at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va. A special thanks to the other dinner partners that help make this event a continued success: The Association of Naval Aviation, The Association of the United States Navy, the Naval Order of the United States, the Naval Submarine League, The Navy League of the United States, the Surface Navy Association, The Tailhook Association, the U.S. Naval Institute, and the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation.

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FDR’s Vision Fulfilled: A Visit to the National Museum of the Royal Navy

Portsmouth Overhead

HMS Victory

By David F. Winkler

As the United States fought a two ocean war during World War II, the commander-in-chief had a post-war vision of a naval heritage complex with representative ships of the late 18th century, the Civil War era, the new Steel Navy, and World War I astride of an interpretive naval museum. To underwrite the operational and maintenance costs of the endeavor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned charging admission – a dime!

FDR's proposed naval museum (NHF Archives)

FDR’s proposed naval museum (NHF Archives)

With Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, plans for a DC tidal basin that would host the Constellation, Hartford, Olympia, and a World War I destroyer as well as an adjacent museum died with him. However, Roosevelt’s vision would be validated – by our British allies at Portsmouth, England.

Two decades ago, I traveled to Portsmouth to visit the Royal Navy Museum and the HMS Victory. Both entities were operated by the Royal Navy with civil servants operating the museum and Sailors manning the ship. In addition, I had the opportunity to visit the recently reconstructed HMS Warrior and viewed Mary Rose, a Tudor period warship that had been launched in 1510 and capsized in1545. Recovered in the 1970s, the ship was undergoing conservation work during my visit. Both ships were operated by independent trusts not affiliated with the Royal Navy – similar to the situation we have in the U.S. with the majority of our historic naval ships displayed around the nation.

Victory was impressive. Yet I could see the challenges that were being faced by the over two-hundred year old hull as buckets were strategically placed to capture dripping water. The Royal Navy Museum displays provided a nice narrative of Royal Navy actions in the 18th and 19th centuries. The missing 20th century story was glaring. Overall it was underwhelming.

In August 2002, Jonathon Band was promoted to admiral and assumed the duties of Commander-in-Chief Fleet. Having a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, Band appreciated naval history. “I have always used geography of where we are going to teach the relevance of it and when we were here last time and what we did,” Band stated in a 2012 interview in Pull Together.

Sir Jonathon Band

Sir Jonathon Band

With the bicentennial of Trafalgar approaching, Band met with the Navy Board to explore how the battle commemoration could serve as a launch pad to fight “what a number of us had seen as ‘Sea Blindness’.” During ongoing discussions, the Navy Board reviewed the museum set up and Band concluded, “this is pretty disjointed – we had a very good sailing navy museum in Portsmouth — and of course we have the Victory which was still owned by the Crown and is the national flagship – we had a fantastic museum for the Royal Marines, for the submariners, for the aviators, but nowhere did we tell the whole Navy story.”

It was a case of be careful what you ask for. Upon retiring as the First Sea Lord in 2009, Band found himself as the chairman of the recently reorganized National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) consolidated the four existing museums under a quasi-government non-profit arrangement. Under Band’s leadership, the NMRN took control of the HMS Victory and set up a separate trust to support her upkeep. Of note, the ship still remains as the oldest warship in commission as the Royal Navy “leases” the ship for this purpose and still provides manning for the historic vessel.

Since Band’s 2012 interview, the NMRN has taken procession of the Belfast-based HMS Caroline – a former cruiser that had served for decades as a training ship. The recent opening of this World War I vintage cruiser proved timely given her service at Jutland. In addition, the NMRN reached an agreement with the Hartlepool Borough Council to take custody and operate the existing Hartlepool Maritime Experience which took visitors back in time to an 18th dockyard surrounding the HMS Trincomalee, Britain’s oldest warship afloat. With Hartlepool’s location on Northern England’s East Coast, the Napoleonic-era frigate is now the centerpiece of what has recently become NMRN, North.

Back in Portsmouth, I recently had the opportunity to revisit the Historic Dockyard, tour the existing and new attractions, and meet with Paul Elgood and John Rawlinson of the NMRN staff to discuss the continuing growth of the museum. One of the recent administrative accomplishments was the merger of the NMRN with the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard which had operated as a separate non-profit organization. This new rubric enhanced the ongoing partnerships with the Warrior Presentation Trust, the Mary Rose Trust, and the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

Though there are multiple operational entities at Portsmouth, for the visitor the experience is seamless. There is now a single visitor center operated by NMRN where tickets for the individual attractions can be purchased. With a steady increase of the number of attractions, many visitors find value with the All-Attraction Ticket. At 33 pounds (approximately 48 dollars), the ticket allows entry to the dockyard’s ten attractions for the next year.

HMS Caroline and HMS Trincomalee (Courtesy NMRN)

HMS Caroline and HMS Trincomalee (Courtesy NMRN)

Unfortunately time constraints did not allow me the opportunity to take the ferry over the Gosport to visit the Royal Navy Museum Gosport, home of the HMS Alliance, Holland1 and X24. Also located in Gosport is the new Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower. The addition to the NMRN is situated within 18th century buildings at the Royal Navy’s armaments depot of Priddy’s Hard. Promoted as “A frightening collection of firepower,” the museum includes the Grand Vault that once stored 4,000 barrels of gunpowder for Nelson’s Navy. Both of these attractions will be “must see” on a return trip over.

Mary Rose was closed for conservation work and is expected to reopen later this Summer. HMS Victory remains magnificent, though her rigging was removed for preservation work. HMS Warrior remains my favorite ship on the property. The contrast between the Sloop of War Constellation in Baltimore and Warrior could not be more striking. Placed in service in 1853, Constellation was the last sail-only vessel constructed for the U.S. Navy. Seven years later, the British introduced the iron-hulled steam and sail driven Warrior embodies some of the most revolutionary changes in warship design in the history of the Royal Navy. For example, to facilitate sail operation, the 26-ton propeller could be raised via a well in the stern.


An unexpected surprise was M.33.  Placed within an historic dry dock, the Royal Navy monitor, launched in May 1915, is the Royal Navy’s sole surviving warship from the Gallipoli campaign. Volunteers spent thousands of hours to ready her for public touring. In addition to M.33, the NMRN also acquired LCT 7074 – the last surviving World War II landing craft that had participated in the D-Day landings.

Since I last visited, additional attractions have appeared around the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I was fortunate my visit coincided with the recent opening of the “36 Hours: Jutland – the Battle that Won the War.” Touted on billboards throughout the nation, the exhibit combined multimedia effects with a rich collection of artifacts and ship models. Most impressing where displays of ensigns that were flown from several of the British combatants during the battle. While it might be a stretch to claim that the battle won the war, most historians concur that had the German High Seas Fleet scored a Trafalgar-like victory over the Royal Navy, it could have been game-set-match.

One of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s industrial buildings has been opened to the public to allow viewing of conservation/restoration work being conducted of the NMRN’s large assortment of small craft. In addition, the building hosted interactive activities for visiting children.

HMSThe interior of the building I visited two decades ago housing exhibits on the Royal Navy has undergone an extreme makeover. There are two wonderful galleries paying homage to Admiral Nelson and interpretation of the nearby Victory. Another gallery covers life in the Royal Navy during the age of sail. Then there is that missing 20th century that has been addressed in “Hear My Story” where the history of the Royal Navy during the 20th Century requires the visitor to sit down and view/listen to video recordings of Sailors who served in various campaigns over past decades. There were other interactive activities targeted towards younger audiences. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I had to admit that children and their parents were getting into it. The final gallery, a special exhibit on the failed World War I Gallipoli campaign, was provoking and much to my liking. Overall, the National Museum of the United States Navy does a far better job in telling historical narrative than does this British counterpart.

However, this is where FDR’s vision comes into play. Navies are about ships. In an era where museums are spending millions of dollars to create immersion experiences for their paying guests, the Portsmouth hosts the ultimate immersion experience in the form of its ship collection. With Mary Rose the visitor is transported back 500 years to experience life in the Tudor-era navy. Victory represents the pinnacle of capital warship design in the late 18th century and is a national shrine. Warrior displays Britain’s greatness as the initiator of the industrial revolution. M.13 continues the narrative into World War I and LCT 7074 will tell of story of Great Britain’s involvement in the greatest over-water assault in history. Alliance helps tell the Royal Navy’s role in the Cold War. By walking in and around these vessels visitors absorb by sheer osmosis the history of the Royal Navy and the importance of sea power through an experience that is difficult to replicate in a brick and mortar structure.

Perhaps Admiral Band expressed it best in the 2012 Pull Together interview:

“There is no doubt that the Royal Navy is a great brand and its history is also a great brand, and everyone in the world who knows anything about the sea has heard of HMS Victory. So if you can put the right package together there are people who will support you, particularly if you bias it towards whatever their interest is whether it be technology, education, or training.”

Not surprisingly when I sat down with Paul Elgood and John Rawlinson, who have the rather enjoyable jobs of selling and marketing the brand, they produced the statistics that bore out the thesis on the drawing power of ships. During 2015, NMRN attracted nearly 900,000 visitors. Rawlinson cited ticket sales to the “The Big 4” (Mary Rose, Victory, Warrior, Alliance) as the major generator of income for the enterprise. To further attest to the drawing power of the ships, Rawlinson noted that overall attendance was off this year due to the closure of Mary Rose.

While ticket sales cover the majority percentage of the annual operating costs, additional millions of pounds are provided by the on-site retail operations and facility rentals, generous support from Great Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund as well as grants from local governmental entities, and the Royal Navy. To illustrate the success NMRN has had since its inception in 2009, initially NMRN generated just over one pound per pound the Royal Navy contributed. Today the ratio stands at 4.3 to 1.


Commodore Jerry Kyd with Queen Elizabeth II in the background. Queen Elizabeth will soon become a close neighbor to the NMRN

Overall, since 2009 the Royal Navy has recognized a tremendous return on its investment given that NMRN provide training and ceremonial function assets for the fleet. With the commissioning and home porting at Portsmouth of the first British supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth next year, NMRN’s fleet support mission will only expand.

With regard to actual fundraising, Rawlinson pointed out that if you have to rely on fundraising to support operational costs, then you have a defective business model. Instead, fundraising provides a margin of excellence to underwrite blockbuster exhibits such as the new Jutland exhibition or collect and restore new artifacts. A former fundraiser for the National Army Museum, Elgood attracts corporate and individual partners through putting “the right package together.” Not all partners are Brits. Elgood works to foster the New York City-based “Friends of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.” Led by retired Rear Admiral Joseph Callo and retired Captain Sally McElwreath Callo, the Friends have hosted a “Pickle Night” dinner. Held at the New York Yacht Club every early November, the dinner celebrates the schooner Pickle which brought home the news of the Royal Navy’s great victory at Trafalgar and the sad news of Nelson’s death.

This year’s dinner, to be held on Veteran’s Day, November 11, will feature Commodore Jerry Kyd who will be the first commanding officer of Queen Elizabeth and Commander Carrier Strike Group. For those interested in joining this annual Anglo-American naval bonding experience contact Captain Sally McElwreath Callo at

Thanks to the vision of the former First Sea Lord, the efforts of a dedicated staff, hundreds of volunteers, government financial support, and generous donors, the Royal Navy has accomplished much to address its “Sea Blindness” problem, turn Portsmouth into a world class visitor destination, and improve and open other naval heritage attractions throughout the United Kingdom. For further details about the NMRN experience visit

Dr. Winkler is a historian with the Naval Historical Foundation

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U.S. Naval Leadership in World War I: Discussed and Debated at Greenwich

By David F. Winkler
Naval Historical Foundation

With the Battle of Jutland centennial in our recent wake, the British Commission for Naval History, The British Commission for Maritime History, and The National Maritime Museum hosted a conference titled “The First World War at Sea, 1914-19” on June 3-4, 2016, at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

Given the location of the conference and focus of the subject in British higher education, it was no surprise that British scholars made up the majority of those in attendance. Not surprisingly, many aspects of Jutland were covered ranging from the historiography, performance of the opposing fleets, personal experiences, lessons learned, and the underwater archaeological legacy. Other themes scholars explored included operations in the Mediterranean including the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign, Anglo-American naval diplomacy, countering the U-Boat threat, and the development and use of new technologies.

A contingent of approximately a dozen American historians was on hand to present perspectives from the “other side of the pond.” Some of these scholars included Annette Amerman of the Marine Corps History Division who discussed Marine Corps aviation in the Great War, Jesse Tumblin of Boston College who explored the Royal Navy’s relationship and control of empire naval assets prior to the war, Eugene Beiriger of De Paul University who explained Anglo-American naval relations and the U.S. Naval Act of 1916, Bradley Cesario of Texas A&M who examined a contentious relationship between the Admiralty and the British press, and Norman Friedman who challenged arguments that it was the implementation of convoys that defeated the U-boat menace.

josephus danielsU.S. naval leadership was the focus of papers presented by trio of Yank scholars. Dennis Conrad of the Naval History and Heritage Command closed out the final first day session in the lecture theater with the paper, “Were they Really So Unprepared: Josephus Daniels and the US Navy Entry into World War I. ” Conrad addressed assertions made by Rear Admiral William S. Sims following the war that accused the Navy Secretary of dereliction of duty and incompetence that led to the loss of 2.5 million tons of allied shipping. In coming to Daniels defense, Conrad explained the career motivations of the American officer corps of that era, rebuking an assertion made in the opening keynote address made by Dr. Nicholas Rodger of All Souls College at Oxford that American officers saw the Prussians as role-models, becoming militaristic and intolerant of civilian leadership. Conrad called Rodger out, saying that U.S. naval officers were much like those in other fields (doctors, engineers) in the Progressive era who sought to professionalize and become more efficient and effective.

In defending Daniels, Conrad made a convincing case that given the political constraints he faced in a Wilson administration that had been determined to keep America out of the war, Daniels performance was actually “commendable; and that the U.S. Navy’s performance at the beginning of the war was strong and timely.”

Concluding his presentation, Conrad anticipated being challenged by the two American Sims scholars in the audience, David Kohnen of the Naval War College and Chuck Steele of the U.S. Air Force Academy. However, during discussions following that evening over a few pints, both scholars concurred that Sims, who had returned Newport following the war to again serve as the president of the Naval War College, displayed insubordinate behavior.

Reflecting after the conference, Steele observed: “I thought Conrad’s presentation was outstanding. While all of the papers addressing American participation in the Great War were tremendously useful in gaining a better understanding of this nation’s role in the maritime dimensions of the war, the emphasis on Daniels and Sims added depth to the breadth of coverage. Indeed, Conrad’s presentation was essential in establishing a more thorough/ appropriate context for understanding Sims and his role in helping to organize the American naval effort.”

Placed on an all-American panel to open the second day, the two Sims scholars provided attendees additional insights about a fractured American naval leadership situation at the beginning of the conflict that featured blurred responsibility divisions between the General Board, the Navy Secretary, the newly established Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Enter William S. Sims, who had been promoted to Rear Admiral but awaited authority to don the uniform, and served as the recently appointed president of the Naval War College. As such, he was in position to be called on to liaison with the British in preparation of America’s entry into the war. With America declaring war just before his arrival to the mother country, Sims created his own command authority within an evolving naval hierarchy.

This image was originally taken on 8 June 1917, upon Pershing's arrival.  Note that he arrived in three star status and Sims is standing in the uniform he had made which features two stars.  Pershing was two years junior to Sims by lineal precedence, but received his promotion to four stars while Sims received his promotion in July to three stars (with the promotion back dated to May according to the register).  In essence, Pershing always outranked Sims as the AEF commander, but Sims held the chair as senior naval representative on the Allied Naval Council in London.  (NHHC Photo # NH 52790)

This image was originally taken on 8 June 1917, upon Pershing’s arrival. Note that he arrived in three star status and Sims is standing in the uniform he had made which features two stars. Pershing was two years junior to Sims by lineal precedence, but received his promotion to four stars while Sims received his promotion in July to three stars (with the promotion back dated to May according to the register). In essence, Pershing always outranked Sims as the AEF commander, but Sims held the chair as senior naval representative on the Allied Naval Council in London. (NHHC Photo # NH 52790)

Air Force Academy historian Steele in his paper titled “William Sowden Sims: The Good Ally,” argued that Vice Admiral Sims spearheaded “the American effort to keep the sea lanes of communication open, thus facilitating a new breath of life for the allies.” He noted Sims “was a committed student of naval affairs, an admirer of Britain’s Royal Navy, and a trustworthy partner in coalition warfare.” To bolster his argument, Steele contrasted Sims with the Army’s General John J. Pershing. Steele, who previously taught at West Point, argued that Pershing’s experiences before the war had hardly prepared him for the task ahead.

After Steele provided a broad perspective of how Sims contributed to the war effort, Newport historian Kohnen presented his paper, “The ‘London Flagship:’ Admiral William S. Sims and Anglo-American naval collaboration in the First World War.”  Kohnen provided the nitty-gritty of the personal relationships that Sims had developed previously with British counterparts that enabled him to pioneer “American ties with the Royal Navy, and in coordinating U.S. Navy operations with intelligence.”

The London Flagship (NHHC Photo # NH 2433)

The London Flagship (NHHC Photo # NH 2433)

Having arrived in civilian attire and still not authorized to wear the uniform of an admiral, Sims had one made up and he assumed the title of “Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.” He subsequently established a headquarters building at Grosvenor Square that he dubbed “The London Flagship” following British shore-establishment naming conventions.

Over the next two years, Sims exerted command authority that never existed on paper. That he was not fired for insubordination, reinforced Dennis Conrad’s assessment of Navy Secretary Daniels who appreciated the critical role Sims played in enabling the U.S. Navy to join the war effort.

In his closing remarks, Kohnen discussed the impact of the World War I UK-US command relationship experience on many of the staff officers whose names would loom large during Worlds War II. Asked to join a toast after the war the proposed the U.S. Navy join in an alliance with the naval forces of the British Empire, Ernest J. King would raise his glass and heartily concur and declared that the alliance’s headquarters would be in Washington. Indeed, Kohnen invoked the name of future American Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet during World War II when he closed stating the alliance effort during World War II was that of “A King’s Navy.”

At the conference, Dr. Winkler presented the paper “Manning up the U.S. Fleet: the Naval Reserve Force and National Naval Volunteers.” During his remarks he noted that the banner head for the Naval Historical Foundation’s Pull Together newsletter hailed from the slogan shared between British and American Sailors stationed in Queenstown during the Great War.

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BOOK REVIEW – Medieval Maritime Warfare

Medieval maritime warfareBy Charles D.  Stanton, Pen & Sword Maritime, Barnsley, UK (2015)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

As a former US naval officer and airline pilot whose research has been in medieval Mediterranean history, Charles Stanton is well equipped to undertake the task of writing a comprehensive introduction to medieval naval warfare. With several well-received articles in scholarly journals about the Norman conquest of Sicily and Southern Italy and a previous book on Norman naval operations in the Mediterranean, this book represents an expansion of his areas of published expertise. At 292 pages of text, followed by extensive scholarly footnotes and a thoughtful selected bibliography that ought to encourage further reading in the subject for interested readers, Stanton demonstrates his knowledge of existing research into specific aspects of medieval maritime history while providing an overall study that ought to encourage further research in the field.

The book itself is organized geographically, with a short introduction about the transition between Roman and Medieval naval history, and with ten chapters divided slightly unequally between Southern Europe (the Mediterranean and Black Sea) and Northern Europe (the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and English Channel). While examining the history of medieval naval warfare in Southern Europe, the author draws upon the history of the Byzantine-Muslim struggle for supremacy, Norman naval expansion in the Central Mediterranean, the Crusades, the Genoese-Pisan rivalry for supremacy in the Western Mediterranean, the war of the Sicilian Vespers between Angevin (French) and Aragonese sea power, and the Venetian-Genoese competition for control of trade routes in the East. In discussing the history of Medieval naval warfare in Northern Europe, Stanton divides the period into Viking raids and conquests, the Norman Invasion and the rise of Anglo-French warfare during the early Plantagenet period, the Hundred Years War, and the military operations of the German Hanse, followed by a conclusion that points to the age of discovery as marking a transition between Medieval warfare and more modern warfare based on ship-destroying canons and centralized state navies, using the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople and its immediate follow-up as a case study in this transition.

One of the striking aspects of this book is that it does not ignore any aspect of naval warfare.  Each chapter of the book contains a detailed case study of the specific area of Medieval maritime warfare in question, ranging from the siege of Constantinople in 717-718 to the Battle of Acre in June 1258 to the Battle of Sluys in June 1340 to the strange voyage of the Saint-Pierre de La Rochelle between 1462-75, which shows concerns of tactics and strategy. The author peppers his work full of specific language, and occasional drawings, that show the technology of shipbuilding in Medieval Europe, as well as maps of battles and theaters of operation, along with a few photos of tapestries and geographic landmarks towards the end of the book. Yet neither does the book neglect less familiar aspects of naval warfare, pointing out the immense achievement of William the Conqueror in using strength in logistics to give him an advantage in his conquest of England, and the pervasive use of blockades and other logistical warfare in the struggles of the Hanse against rivals for control of the Baltic Sea trade, and pointing out the demographic results of massive military losses like the decisive crippling of Pisa’s power after the disastrous Battle of Meloria and the French disaster at Sluys. The author also makes sensible comments on the larger geostrategic importance of seemingly minor matters, like the favoritism shown to the piratical Cinque ports of Southern England and the continual efforts by Normans and others to take places like Malta and the North African port of Mahdiyah.

Given the widespread lack of knowledge of the vital importance of sea power to Medieval military history, this volume provides its readers with a solid education in the campaigns, broader political and technological trends, and strategic aims of the maritime powers of Medieval Europe, the Levant, and North Africa. The author explores the relationship between trade and piracy, points out the rapid development of naval strength in the face of intense competition, and comments as well on the demographic importance of having a well-trained body of seamen with political loyalty to the ruling regime, a factor that could not be taken for granted among Coptic crews of Muslim-led fleets, for example, or untrained landlubbers impressed into naval service without adequate training before being forced into disastrous battles against rival powers.  Whether one’s interest is in the technology of medieval naval warfare, the strategy and tactics of engagements and campaigns, or a study of the complex interaction between naval institutions and the societies that they served and preyed upon, Stanton has crafted a thoughtful work that should encourage more research and writing into the fascinating field of medieval maritime warfare.


Nathan Albright resides in Portland, OR.

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BOOK REVIEW – Confederate Saboteurs: Building the Other Secret Weapons of the Civil War

confederate saboteursBy Mark K. Ragan, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX (2015)

Reviewed by John Grady

Mark Ragan’s Confederate Saboteurs does a wonderful job of shining new light on the extraordinary steps that the government in Richmond, and more importantly the inventive men from all over the seceded states, were willing to take to win independence. These men were literally risking their fortunes and their lives, possibly only for a bounty.

He does an excellent job tying together the work of E.C. Singer [related to the sewing machine family] and his torpedo engineers starting out in Texas and the persistent men were critical in the investment, development, and manning of submarine Hunley.

Knowing the work of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Isaac Brown, Robert Minor, Hunter Davidson and others in the Confederate Navy headquartered in Richmond in seeding the James River with electrically-detonated mines [called torpedoes at the time] and the roads leading to Columbus, Kentucky early in the war, I was surprised at the advances Singer and his men made in developing better contact mines.

While Ragan does not clearly identify why senior Confederate Army officers such as John Magruder and P.G.T. Beauregard had such a strong and continuing interest in irregular warfare, particularly the use of mines, the implication this reviewer drew from this was that they faced increasingly desperate circumstances.

This was certainly true later in the war, but there were other reasons. Magruder’s brother George was a senior officer in the Union Navy, chief of ordnance and hydrography, before he resigned his commission. He was certainly familiar with the keen interest of some civilian secretaries, such as John Y. Mason, [but not shared by a host of senior officers] in mines to defend harbors as the Russians did in the Crimean War. Since both men were assigned to Washington sharing insights would not be out of the question.

The Magruders were also friends with Maury, who certainly kept abreast of developments in this arena. He later brought that knowledge to the Confederacy in posts in Richmond and London where he continued to work with some of Great Britain’s leading physicists. There was also the formal relationship between Maury and George Magruder: As superintendent of the observatory, Maury answered to him.

“Prince John” also had Gabriel Rains, the more famous of the “Bomb Brothers,” with him at Yorktown as the Peninsula Campaign was beginning in the spring of 186.  Rains almost killed himself during the Seminole Wars planting roadside mines, but he was such a strong advocate for the weapons that he was sent to Yorktown to place the “infernal devices” in the river to deter Union gunboats from operating with the Army on land or destroy transports trying to land soldiers to join the attack.

Although John Magruder said that he was not responsible for mining the abandoned fortifications at Yorktown, he certainly didn’t stop Rains from doing so, either. Rains boasted of doing it again in the Confederate withdrawal from Williamsburg, slowing George McClellan’s cautious advance up the peninsula to a crawl through swamps. By then, Magruder was a convert to mine warfare – in all its forms.

Although Beauregard was under a cloud from Jefferson Davis’ administration for his performance in Mississippi, he turned Charleston into a cockpit of asymmetric defense during his second tour there. Obstructions, mines and heavy guns to beat down “iron sea elephants,” strong rope lines from land point to land point to snarl screw propellers, submersibles and submarines were his orders of the day.

As he did in his earlier work Submarine Warfare in the Civil War and his current work on the Hunley project, Ragan brought great detail and insight into that program. The book would be even stronger if there were detail given on the submersibles – the Davids, also described as “torpedo boats” in a number of Confederate references in correspondence with the Navy and War Departments. Army Captain Francis Lee, Navy Lieutenant W.T. Glassell, Dr. St. Julien Ravenel and Theodore Stoney certainly fit the bill of “Confederate saboteurs” in Charleston’s defense.

After all, a David at least once towed Hunley into position for an attack on the Union blockaders and Glassell successfully sent New Ironsides, the largest ship in the Union Navy at the time, to the sidelines for a long repair stint after his October 1863 attack on it.

It should be added that Confederate Army commanders such as Magruder, Beauregard, Dabney Maury, and Leonidas Polk were far more willing to work with their Navy counterparts and detailing men and equipment to the fight than was largely the case on the Union side where service rivalry was often the order of the day. Ulysses Grant, William Sherman, Andrew Foote, and David Dixon Porter were the most notable exceptions.

The author is to be highly commended for including Bernard Janis Sage’s efforts to systematize Confederate energies in irregular warfare without stifling innovation.  While the Davis administration paid him lip service of acknowledgement, he certainly received a far warmer hearing and acceptance at the state level, such as in Virginia, in attempting to create “volunteer navies” overseas. Sage himself went to Great Britain to buy ships and consulted with Maury and Raphael Semmes, commander of Alabama, there about the advantages of sail over steam in commerce raiding and blockade running. The advantage: Not having to find a foreign port to buy coal where a Union warship could trap and sink the raider or blockade runner.

For all interested in the naval aspects of the Civil War, Ragan’s latest book is a must read. Confederate Saboteurs advances not only his work in this area, but puts into new context Alex Roland’s Underwater Warfare in the Age of Sail, published in the late 1970s and Milton Perry’s Infernal Machines, The Story of Confederate Submarine and Mine Warfare, published in the mid 1960s – pioneering works in this field.


John Grady is the author of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Father of Oceanography: A Biography, 1806-1873. He has contributed to Naval History, the Civil War Monitor’s Front Line series, the New York Times Disunion series and the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Sesquicentennial blog on the Civil War.

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BOOK REVIEW – A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah

2808_001By Dwight Sturtevant Hughes, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2016)

Reviewed by Diana L. Ahmad, Ph.D.

A graduate of the Naval Academy in 1967, Dwight Hughes provides an excellent account of CSS Shenandoah that is easily understood by historians and lay audiences alike. Readers quickly come to feel the movement of the ship as she sailed through tropical storms, fog, and near the icebergs of the Arctic Circle.  Focusing on the experiences of several of the vessel’s officers, including James Waddell, William Whittle, Charles Lining, and John Mason, the author analyses the reasons why the men undertook the mission of raiding United States merchant vessels and whalers. By the end of their mission, Shenandoah had captured and destroyed over thirty ships after taking all the supplies, food, and whatever else the Shenandoah’s crew deemed necessary. They tried to recruit the sailors of the captured ships into their ranks as members of the Confederate Navy. Other passengers, civilian and sailor alike, were taken to safe harbors or put on ships that were spared being destroyed.

Relying on primary sources, especially personal journals of the officers and the annotated log of the captain, the book provides a great insight into the men who commanded the vessel showing their various moods that ranged from delighted at hearing about the Confederate battle victories to sadness at missing their loved ones at home. Hughes easily blended explanations of the various ships’ designs and nautical terms into his story with no difficulty making the book available to readers of all backgrounds.

Between October 1864 and November 1865, the Confederate raider circumnavigated the globe in thirteen months and covered 58,000 miles. Captain Waddell’s crew was a polyglot of CSA officers and men from the ships they raided and who volunteered to join the Confederates in their mission to destroy as much Yankee shipping as they could. Waddell had the most experience of the officers having served over twenty years in the U.S. Navy, but seemed reluctant to take bold action against either potential victims or running the vessel as much as she might have been. Many thought of Shenandoah as a second Alabama and feared the raids by the new vessel.

The mission of Shenandoah also included diplomacy.  During their first months, they needed to go to Melbourne, Australia, for repairs to the ship and while there caused diplomatic difficulties for the American consul in the city. Some of the Australians sided with the Confederates, while others took the Yankees’ side. Diplomatically, Great Britain needed to make it appear that they remained within international law, despite the fact that they provided Shenandoah (formerly called Sea King) to the South. The ship even visited Pohnpei in Micronesia where they encountered Western beachcombers and the islanders who Captain Waddell managed to have pleasant experiences with during their few days there.

In addition to providing excellent descriptions of the interactions between the ship’s men, the solitary lifestyle of the ship was obvious. They received little or no communication with others as sometimes weeks went by without even sighting another vessel, let alone the possibility of speaking to other people beyond their shipmates. Many of the men developed hobbies, including learning French or navigation skills and reading dozens of books taken from ships they had raided.

One of the most difficult decisions made by Captain Waddell was where to turn in the ship once he was convinced the South had lost the war. He had to decide whether to sail to an American, African, or European port.  Ultimately, despite disagreements among the officers and crew, Waddell chose to surrender the vessel in Liverpool where the ship was built. The crew, officers and sailors alike, scattered once they were permitted to leave the ship. In the Epilogue, Hughes provided a much-welcomed biography of each of the main people in the book permitting readers to find out what happened to those who figured so prominently in Shenandoah’s story. A Confederate Biography is an excellent look at an interesting slice of the Civil War.


Dr. Ahmad teaches at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri.

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BOOK REVIEW – From Imperial Splendor to Internment

2621_001By Nicolas Wolz, Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, England (2015)

Reviewed by Winn Price

The students of seapower who follows the Naval Historical Foundation’s Naval History Book Reviews have probably read several books about the First World War at sea. There are, after all, hundreds of titles, ranging from the memoirs of the participants published in the 1920’s about the “war to end all wars,” to the World War I centennial authors of today.

Arthur Marder and Robert Massie have written about every aspect of the Great War at sea in comprehensive detail, ranging from the war’s origins, shipbuilding, technology, design, to the grand strategy and details of each battle. However, each author has a clear emphasis on the Royal Navy. Marder’s 2,500-page, five-volume study, From Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, has recently begun the process of republishing, joining Robert Massie’s Dreadnought (914 pages) and Castles of Steel (880 pages) as the last word (or more accurately, hundreds of thousands of words). What can a recent author add to Marder and Massie? How many ways can Jutland be analyzed?

So, why read From Imperial Splendour to Internment by Nicholas Wolz? I can think of two very good reasons. 1) Wolz writes a more balanced book from “point of view,” drawing equally from British and German diaries, correspondence, and memoirs. 2) Our time is precious, and at 200 pages, Wolz eases the commitment required of a reader considering Marder or Massie.

To be fair, the title, From Imperial Splendour to Internment, is misleading as it would suggest another comprehensive naval history. Instead, Wolz uses the battles, naval politics, and life on the home front as case studies to illustrate the slow decline of morale of the two officer corps and their crews during four years of operational stagnation (Jutland the exception). His aim “to provide the general reader with a personal experience of the past by allowing those involved at the time to speak.”

The rare fleet actions are adequately described by Wolz. Less attention is given to the U-boat war and none to the surface raiders – rightly so given the author’s aim. The crews of the submarines and raiders were frequently engaged with the enemy. Meanwhile, the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet, anchored at the extremes of the North Sea, stared at each other across a virtual DMZ. One officer corps led by modest engagement with their crews in remote Scapa Flow; the other returned to home and hearth in Wilhelmshaven each evening, leaving idle crews onboard year by year. By war’s end one navy faces a wide-spread mutiny. Wolz focuses on these festering crews and their neglectful officers, by using their own words.

I found the chapter on the internment and subsequent scuttling of the German fleet particularly intriguing. Far more distressing, I assume, would be running through the bilges cranking opening valves to the sea. Though after four years of boredom, mistreatment, terminating in a humiliating treaty, scuttling those steel prisons must have provided a perverse pleasure to some. Many of these crewmembers, no doubt, joined the fringe elements of socialism, communism and eventually fascism during the economic collapse that was the Weimar Republic.

Three excellent maps 1) The chase of the Goeben 1914 2) The East Asia Squadron August to December 1914 3) Battle of Jutland 31 May – I June 1916. Once you know the location of Scapa Flow and Wilhelmshaven, the last two years of this war have little call for maps.

Early in his foreword, the author nicely summarizes the false expectations ungirding the Great War at Sea, “On either side of the North Sea, the inconspicuous role of the fleets during the war, stood in sharp contrast to the political, military, and also social significance which had been ascribed to them before the war.”

The bitterness and futility expressed in diaries and letters home serves to set the stage for the navy of the Third Reich planned, built, and deployed by World War I veterans such as Doenitz and Raeder.

I recommend From Imperial Splendour to Internment by Nicolas Wolz for its insights into both German and British morale, its accessible style, and its moderate length.


Winn Price retired from the Naval Reserve. He is a student of naval history in the late 19th century and a writer who has completed the manuscript to a novel on the Samoan cyclone of 1889.

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BOOK REVIEW – Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic

Privateers of the AmericasBy David Head, The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA (2015)

Reviewed by Joseph-James Ahern

David Head’s Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic provides a wonderfully researched and written study into the issues faced by American merchants and sailors who participated in Spanish American privateering, as well as the frustration United States customs and naval officers faced as they tried to enforce the law. Spanish American privateering came from the crisis of the Spanish crown in 1808 following the French invasion when Napoleon ousted King Fernando VII and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain. In response, Spanish colonies in America set up their own juntas to govern, some staying loyal to the crown, other seeing it as their time to declare independence. Lacking naval forces, these colonies turned to privateers. Into this situation sailed merchants, captains, sailors and filibusters from the United States who took up privateering for both noble and financial reasons.

Head’s goal in this study is to explore how Spanish American privateering worked, who engaged in it, how the United States government responded to it, and why those involved chose this course of action. As he states, “Re-creating the world of Spanish American privateering sharpens our picture of how the United States encountered the world in the early nineteenth century.” (5)  To recreate that world, Head relies on the court cases held by the National Archives (both criminal and civil) relating to the legal actions against privateers in the Federal courts. In doing so, he creates a history that is personal – fleshing out who these individuals were and the multifaceted reasons why they engaged in privateering.

Understanding the diplomatic situation that existed between the United States, Spain, and Spanish American during this period is central to understanding how the United States responded to Spanish American privateers sailing from its shores. Head spends his first chapter sketching out the issues confronting the Spanish crown as Napoleon took charge of the country, and the efforts of the South American colonies to gain their independence – even after the monarch was returned. At first, the United States opted for neutrality as it was then in negotiations with Spain over retributions from the Quasi-War with France and to settle border negotiations regarding the Louisiana Purchase. The United States was friendly, but cautious towards the Spanish American republics; balancing security and border concerns, with issues of trade. Into this neutrality came the question of support for the Spanish colonies – while the law forbade active participation by citizens, it allowed for the trade of war supplies, one of many loopholes privateers would exploit. Americans themselves were supportive of the Spanish American independence movements – toasting them during July 4th celebrations, and naming children and towns after prominent Spanish American leaders. Over time, United States sentiment towards Spanish America cooled particularly in fear of the areas ties to Catholicism and its views toward slavery.

With the stage set, Head next looks at the United States locations from which privateers sailed: Louisiana, Baltimore, Galveston, and Amelia Island. The geographical and political nature of New Orleans made smuggling and privateering attractive business ventures. Of particular note were the Laffite brothers who established a dominant business at Barataria for auctioning and transporting smuggled goods into Louisiana, and helping supply and man privateers. Like New Orleans, Baltimore was active in South American privateering, with investors taking shares in the fitting out of ships. Given its location, Baltimore sent out larger ships on longer cruises to further locations (including near Spain itself). Head does a nice job of reviewing the mechanics of how Baltimore privateers obtained their commissions, made it out to sea, and disposed of their prizes. Unlike privateering out of New Orleans and Baltimore, the operations on Galveston and Amelia Island skirted around the issue of neutrality and sovereign status. At both locations, filibusters set up operations they declared to be either independent states, or part of the Mexican republic such as handing out commissions, and adjudicating prizes. Head also reviews government reaction to privateering in the different locations, particularly how legal loop holes and questions of neutrality towards belligerents hindered efforts of local authorities out of United States ports. Over time, changes in legislation and official policy impacted the profitability of those involved in privateering. Response to activities in Galveston and Amelia Island was influenced by their location and questions of sovereignty.

Equally important to how Spanish American privateers operated are the reasons why they chose this path. Head shows that those involved with Spanish American privateers (captains, sailors, merchants, and filibusters) did so for multifaceted reasons ranging from champions of freedom to opportunistic moneymakers and adventurers. In many cases, they did it for multiple reasons at once. As he states, “As a group, then, they were good and evil, noble and depraved, selfish and self-sacrificing, cosmopolitan and attached to one place.” (148) Head does note that the historical record is limited, and cannot address why thousands of individuals participated. However, using the sources at hand, he is able to illustrate why a handful of captains, sailors, and filibusters participated in this illegal activity.

Head’s Privateers of the Americas is a worthwhile library addition to anyone interested in the maritime history of the Atlantic world and Early Republic. It expands the readers understanding of what took place following 1815 with the end of international conflict and the resurgence of Caribbean piracy in the 1820s. While the study is light on naval action for naval historians, it does highlight the issues faced by naval officers on station near ports active in privateering as they endeavored to enforce United States law while simultaneously navigating the issues of Spanish American sovereignty. Overall, Privateers of the Americas is a well written and fascinating study of this overlooked part of American history.


Joseph-James Ahern is with the University of Pennsylvania

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BOOK REVIEW – Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Civil War Rocket Torpedo 1862-1863

Sea MinerChuck Veit, Self Published (2016)

Reviewed by Robert P. Largess

Chuck Veit is something of a master in recreating the world of Civil War America and the personality of real individuals of that time through contemporary newspapers, letters, speeches, and diaries. In The Yankee Expedition to Sevastopol, he did a remarkable job of bringing salvor, inventor, and self-taught engineer John Gowen to life. In Sea Miner, he takes aim at a potentially even more interesting character, Major Edward B. Hunt. Graduating second in his 1841 West Point class, Hunt was a member of the Army Corps of Engineers and a husband of the poet and advocate for the American Indian, Helen Hunt Jackson. He was also an accomplished mathematician and physicist, with many written contributions to scientific journals, as well as the professional literature of Army engineering. While in command of the construction of Fort Taylor at Key West in 1862, he submitted a proposal to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles for a new weapon he called “Sea Miner,” promising it “will totally revolutionize sea warfare and become our main resource for defense.” Sort of a predecessor to the self-propelled torpedo, it was a rocket launched from an underwater tube, intended to travel under water and penetrate the hull of an enemy ship below the waterline. Welles was obviously sufficiently impressed to meet with Hunt and then authorize him to construct and test his weapon at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Throughout history, ships have often proved very difficult to sink with gunfire. In the age of sail, ship duels typically ended with boarding and capture, not sinking. During World War II, we have the cases of the Bismarck and the Hiei, battered to bits by enemy shellfire but still floating. This resistance to gunfire damage was greatest at mid-19th century with the invention of the armor clad warship, as the 1862 fight between the Monitor and the Virginia or the 1866 Battle of Lissa showed. In both cases, ironclads pummeled each other for hours without doing much damage. Significantly, the most valuable ironclad actually sunk at Lissa was due to ramming; the solution to sinking a warship outright was breaching the watertight integrity of its hull. During the Civil War, stationary “torpedoes” or mines, and spar torpedoes employed by steam launches and primitive submarines, as well as ramming vessels, were developed for this. They had occasional successes, as did the “automobile” torpedo later in the 19th century. However, mechanical delicacy, inaccuracy, short range, low speed, and the vulnerability of the torpedo boat to gunfire made them largely ineffective against a warship under way and defending itself on the open sea, at least until the 20th century.

Would the Sea Miner have worked any better? Would it have worked at all? Indeed, how was it supposed to work? Plainly, Hunt was a man of the highest intelligence and character for Welles to give him his immediate full support, but did he grasp the details necessary to turn his idea into a practical weapon?

At this point Veit’s research runs into several serious roadblocks. The first is that Hunt left behind almost nothing of a description of his ideas, his invention, and his own process of conceiving and working it out – no notes, diaries, detailed explanations in letters. We know more about his invention (and personality) from the recollections of his wife and associates than from the man himself. Next, the secrecy of the project meant that “all plans were destroyed as soon as they had served their purpose. Veit had to use careful detective work to reconstruct what the Sea Miner actually was, and the gaps in factual knowledge had to be bridged with conjecture. For example, Veit created his own equipment, a “balancing board”, to model and understand Hunt’s ingenious device for maintaining the rocket’s center of gravity as its fuel was consumed.

The first test of Sea Miner ended in failure and the end of the project – an oversight led to an explosion and Hunt’s death. But would it have worked anyway? I believe Veit mistakenly extrapolates from data for early Whitehead torpedoes to obtain a very misleading estimate of the range, speed, and penetrating power of Hunt’s rocket torpedo. “If we apply the simple ratio of one horsepower to two knots from the Whitehead to Hunt’s final 12-inch torpedo, the result is an incredible 1,520 knots (1748 mph) – a number that beggars belief.” But if I (another amateur) am correct, doesn’t surface friction drag rise exponentially, at the square of the velocity, and so speed and range would be much less?

As a writer on naval technology, I understand how easy it is to be tripped up by my own incomplete understanding of engineering. In our defense, most scientists never tell their own stories, but depend on us historians and wordsmiths to do so. (And the problem works both ways; scientists often commit similar howlers when pronouncing on subjects such as history or philosophy of which they know little.) But could it be that Veit isn’t aware of this because Maj. Hunt wasn’t either? Serious study of ship hull resistance seems to have begun with William Froude about 1861, who began towing models and constructing the first towing tank facility in the late 1860’s. So it seems quite possible that Hunt wouldn’t have appreciated the problem. Capt. Cowper Coles, the inventor of a revolving gun turret, designed the HMS Captain, laid down in 1867, to combine the fighting qualities of a low-freeboard turret ship with the seagoing endurance of a full rig of masts and sails. He apparently ignored Froude’s work on the effects of hull form on stability published in 1861, and indeed, Captain capsized in a gale in 1870. This was a period when the engineering imagination often preceded the science necessary to explain it; engineering often proceeded by empirical trial and error, and disastrous failures were not uncommon, in an age when the confidence in the power of technology to solve any problem seemed unlimited.

This book contains many good things. The guided tour Veit gives us of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1862 is well worth the price of admission – its workshops, docks, ships under construction and repair, as well as the crowd of gawkers, newspapermen, and potential foreign spies who were free to enter and poke their noses into just about anything that was going on there. But as a story, this book is rather disappointing; Sea Miner remains at the conclusion still incomplete, little understood, and probably ill-conceived. Still, researchers in the field of early underwater weapons should be aware of Hunt and his work. Veit provides a valuable contribution also by summarizing in good detail the work of a number of Hunt’s contemporaries who pursued similar concepts of underwater rockets and guns. Like Sea Miner, their purpose was fore sighted, to provide a simple and easily produced device to serve the tactical function of the torpedo, in the period before the successful but mechanically complex Whitehead torpedo was developed.


Robert P. Largess is the author of USS Albacore; Forerunner of the Future and articles on the USS Triton, the SS United States, the development of the towed sonar array, and the History of Lighter-Than-Air.

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