Hell Below (PART I) REVIEW: The Wolfpack

Production still from "Hell Below" television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White

Production still from “Hell Below” television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White


Reviewed by Matthew T. Eng

If war is hell, then undersea warfare during the Second World War must be at its centermost point.

Smithsonian Channel’s new series Hell Below bring viewers an up-close look at the grit, stale air, and darkness characteristic of undersea warfare during the Second World War. Submariners on both sides of the conflict endured hardships and miserable conditions for cause and country, making their wartime patrols a new style of horror beneath the waves.  The six-episode program developed by Parallax Film Productions in Vancouver aired its first episode, “The Wolfpack,” last night. The episode was a perfect introduction to the deadly chess game played by the Axis and Allied navies throughout the harrowing Battle of the Atlantic.

According to the Parallax Film Production website, filming for the series began last year. The production team wanted to keep the documentary as authentic as possible, and as such recorded many of the show’s segments on WWII-era warships. They shot interior and exterior scenes of the American submarine USS Cod in Cleveland, Ohio, German U-boat U-995 in Laboe, Germany, and HMCS Sackville, a Flower-class corvette, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. These specialized shots helped bring about a dramatic realism often lacking in many historical series today. Because of the cramped conditions, many interior shots were shot with a handheld camera. Viewers can almost smell the oil and sweat in the clothes of the sailors as they are seen running through cramped corridors. The dark ambiance and stunning contrasts between light and dark would satisfy any fan of Frank Miller’s cinematography. Warfare is never pleasant, and the reenactors portrayed in this episode gives viewers a chilling reminder of what submariners endured.

The real Otto Kretschmer (wikimedia commons)

The real Otto Kretschmer (wikimedia commons)

The episode centered around German U-boat Ace Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer and his storied career as the commanding officer of U-99, a type VIIB U-boat and workhouse of the Kriegsmarine. Despite his limited career during the war, Kretschmer became the most successful U-boat commander of the Second World War, sinking 47 ships and over a quarter million tons of Allied war materiel. There is no mistaking why one naval historian on the program referred to Kretschmer’s “killer instinct” when it came to offensive submarine warfare: the tenacious leader believed in a “one shot, one ship” methodology. He and U-99 often stayed right to that guiding principle and raked in multiple kills in nearly all of her eight wartime patrols.

The series opens with the story of Kretschmer and U-99 on a solo mission south of Ireland on 8 July 1940. That evening, U-99 attacked ships of convoy HX 53, sinking the British merchant ship Humber Arm. It only took a short time for the hunter to become the hunted. In response to the attack, Royal Navy vessels attacked the submarine with depth charges, a primitive yet lethal device of anti-submarine warfare. The Flower-class corvettes, converted from commercial whale catchers, were dispatched to the sole purpose of sinking U-boats like Kretschmer’s. Each concussive blast beneath the water meant life or death for the German crew. The show’s producers did a masterful job telegraphing the pregnant moment for viewers. With little else to do in the water, the only viable option for U-99 was to ride the attack out. As the program pointed out, Kretschmer had a problem: the batteries keeping the ship powered underwater ran on limited time they already so desperately needed. Low on oxygen and out of options, Kretschmer remained calm and collected for his crew until they resurfaced nearly 12 hours later with no enemy fleet in sight. In all, 127 depth charges were dropped on U-99 by the HX53 escorts, with the ship coming out of it unscathed. His quit wit and calmness under pressure made him a name within the German Navy seemingly overnight.

German leadership back in Berlin knew their navy could not withstand this offensive onslaught alone, so Vizeadmiral Karl Dönitz decided to devise a new offensive strategy called “the Wolfpack,” where many U-boats banded together to strike convoys “like a vast driftnet of submarines.” With the fall of France, submarine bases in Lorient, Brest, St. Nazaire, and La Pallice made the disbursement of Wolfpacks even easier and most cost effective for fuel, leaving more time to hunt. The tactic proved immediately useful. Alongside his rival Joachim Schepke and U-100, German submariners managed to wreak havoc in the Atlantic in the late summer and early fall of 1940. At the end of September, Kretschmer and Schepke attacked convoy HX-72 headed for Liverpool. U-99 remarkably snuck through the convoy undetected on the surface. The impressive CGI graphics helped viewers understand just how bold and remarkable a strategy this was for the period. As one historian pundit explained, ASW technology of the day (ASDIC) was only beneficial for ships sailing beneath the waves, not on its surface. This new and daring tactic allowed Kretschmer to sink and destroy three ships from HX-72 with relative ease. His rival Schepke defeated seven during the engagement. The same surface submarine action was accomplished a month later against SC-7. The Wolfpack managed to sink twenty ships totaling nearly 80,000 gross register tons. Both U-boat commanders returned to Germany as national heroes. In a world at war, Kretschmer and Schepke were celebrities du jour in the Reich. With France in the hands of the Axis and the British Isles standing alone solely dependent on the convoys for supplies and war materiel, the situation seemed bleak for the Allies.

Production still from "Hell Below" television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White

Production still from “Hell Below” television series (c) 2015 Parallax Film Productions Inc. 1-604-531-2244 Photo by Sean F. White


Royal Navy officials were desperate to find any way to stop the steady flow of convoy losses. Seeing the U-boat as a fundamental threat to the overall war effort, Britain decided to take vessels off the coast of the country and assign them to attack German submarines. They also began equipping some of their ships, including the Flower-class corvettes synonymous with the hunter-killer motif, with unidirectional radar capable of detecting enemy vessels below the waves or on the surface. The Royal Navy also had Captain Donald MacIntyre, a young and dogged surface warfare officer intent on killing U-boats as his sole purpose. By the time Kretschmer and Schepke were receiving accolades in Germany, MacIntyre was given the responsibility of becoming Senior Officer Escort (SOE). MacIntyre’s first action as SOE and his newly organized escort group would become one of the most famous U-boat battles of the Second World War.

Kretschmer and Schepke returned to the Wolfpack in February 1941 to search out new convoy targets. In March, they came across the North Atlantic convoy HX-112, including MacIntyre and his ship HMS Walker. Once again, U-99 sailed through the convoys defenses to attack, sinking four tankers and a freighter. Unfortunately for U-100, they were discovered by HMS Vanoc and was subsequently rammed and lost, killing Schepke and most of her crew in the process.

Walker and MacIntyre were able to spot U-99 using new radar technology and proceeded to depth charge it profusely. The attack forced Kretschmer to bring the ship to the surface where his crew surrendered, ending a reign of terror unprecedented in undersea warfare history. The loss of U-100 and capture of U-99’s crew became one of the most significant early victories for the British Navy in the war effort; one that gave them a better understanding of what would be required to quiet the demons from the hell below the Atlantic.

Smithsonian’s presentation of the story was well rounded, methodical, and kept the viewer both informed and entertained. The information included was enough to educate uninformed viewers without belittling the already informed. The episode’s actors, specifically the main character of Kretschmer, were expertly portrayed. He was also believable as that character, something often lacking in most period war documentaries. Thankfully, the production team was wise to shoot many of the scenes inside the submarine for authenticity.

With its unique blend of robust historical analysis, believable reenactors, biting contemporary footage, and stunning modern graphics, Hell Below is likely to become your favorite historical program of the summer. Ditch the garage sale pickers, ancient aliens, and storage shed hagglers this summer and enjoy a real historical program exploring the heroic tales of submariners and their war underneath the waves of World War II.

New episodes of Hell Below will air Sundays at 9 PM/ET on the Smithsonian Channel from 24 July to 21 August. Look for the other reviews here at NavyHistory.org. Go to the official Smithsonian website to view the episode guide.

Matthew T. Eng is the Digital Content Developer at the Naval Historical Foundation. He also serves as the Digital Editor of the International Journal of Naval History and webmaster for the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy. 

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Sharing Naval History: Students Learn African American Heritage in Hampton City Schools

Ship's officers and crew on the foredeck, 1864-65. Photographed by Matthew Brady. Note 100-pounder Parrott rifled gun on a pivot carriage; men wearing white flat hats with the ship's name on the hat ribbon; foremast and yard; anti-boarding netting; and capstan. The original negative is # 111-B-469 in the National Archives. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Ship’s officers and crew on the foredeck, 1864-65. Photographed by Matthew Brady. Note 100-pounder Parrott rifled gun on a pivot carriage; men wearing white flat hats with the ship’s name on the hat ribbon; foremast and yard; anti-boarding netting; and capstan. The original negative is # 111-B-469 in the National Archives. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.


You never know where you find naval history. A recent email exchange that began through our social media outlets led to some interesting information one of our Facebook fans was kind enough to share about her family and professional ties to naval history.  

Guest Post By Pam Neilson

Alexander Leslie Winterbottom (Father) and Alexander Leslie Bower (Great-grandfather)

Alexander Leslie Winterbottom (Father) and Alexander Leslie Bower (Great-grandfather)

During my childhood in the 1950s and early 1960s, my father, Alexander Leslie Winterbottom, told me about the history that was not taught in schools.  One part of that history was the service of black Americans in every war the United States has fought.  As a young adult, I learned that my paternal great-grandfather, Alexander Leslie Bower, had served in the Union Navy from 1864 – 1865 as a landsman aboard USS Mendota.  In researching the USS Mendota, I learned that the Union Navy, unlike the Army, was integrated prior to and during the Civil War.  In fact, some of the most experienced sailors at the outbreak of war were black.

Years later, I became the teacher librarian at an elementary school with a large minority population.  Part of the fifth grade history curriculum was the Civil War.  The fifth grade teachers asked if I would create a Civil War research project for their students to complete during their library instructional time.  In planning this unit, I looked for topics that would interest my students.  The three topics I decided upon were blacks in the Union Navy, Fort Pocahontas (manned by white and U.S.C.T. who defeated Confederate cavalry) and Edward Ratcliff (a local U.S.C.T. who earned the Medal of Honor).

The Project 

Each class was divided into six groups of 4 students.  Two different groups researched each topic.  The completed project was a PowerPoint presentation that included four facts and four pictures.  The four web sites that the students used were:

The four web sites contained enough facts and pictures for the students to complete their presentations.  In addition, the PowerPoint program enabled them to add visual effects, sounds like gunfire and music to add interest to their presentations.

Each group presented their PowerPoint project to the class then I saved each class’ projects to a flash drive provided by the teacher.   The teacher in turn saved her class’ projects on the flash drives of each student so they could be viewed at home.  Parental response was very positive.


Pam Neilson was born and raised in Whitestone, NYC.  She earned an undergraduate degree in history/education at Muhlenberg College where she graduated cum laude with honors in history.  She received a master’s degree in library science from C.W.Post College.  For 25 years, Pam was an elementary teacher librarian at Forrest Elementary School in Hampton, VA. She is a mother of two children and grandmother of seven.  My hobbies are reading, travelling, the American Revolution, and the Civil War.

Do you have a personal story about naval history you would like to share? Please email Matthew T. Eng at meng@navyhistory.org and help us share your naval history.

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National History Day 2016 Recap: Fiery Exchanges and Glass Ceilings

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Ken Coskey Naval History Prize is announced during National History Day 2016 (Photo by NHF/Matthew Eng/Released)


It is always refreshing to see young adults learning and interpreting history with passion and dedication. With so much emphasis on science and technology in our school systems today, one might wonder if a fire for the liberal arts still burns in our country’s young minds. In no place is that fire burning brighter than at the annual National History Day academic competition at the University of Maryland in College Park. Thousands of middle and high school contestants and families from around the world came together for a riveting awards ceremony at the close of the event on 18 June.

The event is the culmination of a busy week for these young scholars. Students in middle and high school showcase their history projects, ranging from a variety of topics and presentations, to a group of expert judges. Awards are given according to type of presentation and subject matter, including naval history.

Naval Historical Foundation staff member Matthew Eng attended this year’s event to help hand out the Captain Kenneth Coskey Naval History Prize. The prize is named for the late Captain Ken Coskey, a Vietnam War combat aviator and Prisoner of War, and former Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation. Rosemary Coskey, wife of Captain Coskey, presented the award and generous $1,000 cash prizes to the junior and senior division winners. Thanks to the Coskey family’s generosity, awards were given to both high school and middle school representatives for the best naval history projects in their category. Captain Coskey was a longtime supporter of National History Day up until his death in 2013.

Junior Division Winner – Cassi Taylor (Mobile, AL)

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Junior Division Winner Cassi Taylor and Rosemary Coskey (Photo by NHF/Matthew Eng/Released)


The Junior Division Award was given to Cassi Taylor of Mobile, AL, for her Junior Individual Website titled “Exploring the CSS Alabama: Encounters of the Confederate Raider and the Fiery Exchange with the Kearsarge.” For Cassi, a naval topic was a “natural choice.” She used her location along the Gulf Coast as inspiration for her NHD Project. “The Gulf Coast area has an important place in our nation’s history, particularly that of the Civil War,” Cassi said in an email interview. “I love to learn about my hometown.” Interestingly enough, the Gulf Coast brought up the research topic of Semmes and his encounter with Kearsarge, all the way across the ocean off Cherbourg, France:

“As I was preparing my project in 2015 on the Battle of Mobile Bay, I realized that many residents believe Admiral Semmes was part of that Battle instead of a separate effort.  I knew early on that I would like to start 2016 with this topic and see where the research would lead.”

Cassi wanted to know more about Raphael Semmes and why he was “so notorious” in the eyes of many in the Union. Research and an urge to discover more about history is what makes the National History Day competition great. According to Cassi, “one thing led to another,” and soon she discovered just how complicated a character the intrepid Semmes was. Her research led her discovering more about Semmes as well as the arduous Alabama claims process. Her hard work is clearly evident on her website.

Thankfully, her website is available to view online, hosted by Weebly. As a lifelong student of history who now builds and updates websites, the work is verifiably impressive. Cassi’s work is cohesive, thorough, and well written. Her visual biography of Semmes includes poignant quotes, as well as a small section visually highlighting Semmes’ legacy in Mobile and beyond. What is more impressive is her outlook on history and historical scholarship in relation to naval history:

“History, and in this case, naval history, is our story.  It’s why we are where we are, and influences where we go in the future.  The saying goes that history often repeats itself, and while it usually doesn’t repeat exactly, the characteristics are so similar that we can really learn about what mistakes not to make again…if we pay attention.”

Cassi will attend Baker High School next year in the 9th grade. She hopes to return to National History Day in the senior division next year.

Senior Division Winner – Allie Tubbs (Johnston, IA

Senior Division Winner Allie Tubbs and Rosemary Coskey (Photo by NHF/Matthew Eng/Released)

Senior Division Winner Allie Tubbs and Rosemary Coskey (Photo by NHF/Matthew Eng/Released)


Allie Tubbs of Johnston, IA, is no stranger to National History Day.

She is a seasoned veteran in National History Day’s Junior level competition, specifically in the individual performance category where she shines. In 2014, Tubbs won the Junior Individual Performance category with her presentation titled, “Lou Hoover’s ‘Tempest in a Teapot’: Changing African American’s Rights and First Lady’s Responsibilities.” This past year, she won second place for “Jacobus tenBroek: A Leader with a Vision of Equality for the Blind and a Legacy of Constitutional Equality for All.” Her performance this year on the topic of Grace Hopper (“Grace Hopper Dared to Explore Computer Coding, Encounter the Glass Ceiling, and Exchange Intellectual Concepts”) helped her earn a sixth place finish in the Senior Division, and most importantly, this year’s Coskey Prize for Naval History.

Allie heard about Grace Hopper after reading several women’s history books while looking for a topic for this year’s theme of “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange.” “When I heard of this year’s theme,” she said, “I immediately thought of Grace Hopper.” Over the course of the project’s rigorous demand for research, rehearsing, and study, Hopper became an inspiration to Tubbs. She further discussed why Hopper why she fit into NHD’s theme:

“Grace Hopper explored computer code when it was just being invented. In a male-dominated math field, Hopper became well respected for her hard work and intelligence. Hopper exchanged not only programming ideas but created communication between the vastly growing computer users at a time when many hardware pioneers were looking to patent every new idea.”

Like RADM Hopper, Allie identified with her hard work and dedication. It shows. This is the third year in a row that Tubbs walked away with an award from NHD. We can only expect the same next year. Her outlook on history echoed Taylor’s sentiment of hope and cautious understanding – two things the world desperately needs instilled in young minds today.

“All history is important to create an understanding for the future. Being able to know about many aspects of the past allows you to interact in an intellectual setting appropriately. You are able to form opinions on current events based on what history has taught us. Without the knowledge of the past we are doomed to repeat ourselves.”

The Naval Historical Foundation is looking forward to next year’s amazing projects! A special thank you to the families of Cassi Taylor and Allie Tubbs for coordinating the online interviews included in this piece. Best of luck to both of you in the future.

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BOOK REVIEW – Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre, 1939-1945

very special intelligenceBy Patrick Beesly, Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, UK (2015)

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb, Ph.D.

In June 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Patrick Beesly joined the Royal Navy as a Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) officer, became a Sub-Lieutenant (Special Branch), and was appointed to the Naval Intelligence Division (NID 2) in the section concentrating on France, Spain, and the Benelux countries. He subsequently became an Assistant to Lieutenant Commander (later Vice Admiral) Sir Norman Denning in the Operations Intelligence Centre, OIC in July 1940. Beesly’s initial assignment dealt with the activities of armed merchant raiders, but from 1941 until the end of the war with Germany, he worked on submarine tracking as Deputy to Commander Rodger Winn. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and acted as Intelligence Officer to the Commander in Chief, Germany, at Flesburg and Minden.

Former British Royal Air Force (RAF) officer Frederick W. Winterbotham’s popular, unauthorized account The Ultra Secret: The Inside Story of Operation Ultra, Bletchley Park and Enigma (Orion Books Ltd, and Harper and Row, 1974) was the first to disclose the Allied success in breaking the German high command ciphers during World War II, and ushered in a new facet of historical investigation — the study of intelligence and its impact on military operations and international politics. Although mainly focusing on the distribution of intelligence (it was his task as a Group Captain during the war), it had been written from memory and shown by subsequent authors, who had access to official archival records, to contain inaccuracies. Since then, many World War II archival documents have been declassified and become available at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration or NARA (Record Group 457) and the British Public Records Office (Classes ADM, DEF, and HW).

As an RAF officer, Winterbotham was not in a position that permitted his access to the actual activities carried out at the Royal Navy’s OIC, but his book would open a flood gate of subsequent publications. Among these was Beesly’s authorized “insider” writings that appeared in three articles in The Naval Review, subsequently collected and enhanced in Very Special Intelligence (Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1977), which sought to set the record straight, corrected errors, and provided documentation (given the materials declassified and available to him at that time).  The Operational Intelligence Centre was the “nerve center” of the British Admiralty in World War II, and dedicated to collecting, analyzing and disseminating information from all possible sources which would illuminate on the intentions and movements of German Kriegsmarine (naval and maritime forces).  The term “Very Special Intelligence” referred to the decrypted German messages intercepted and decoded at the Code and Cypher Centre located north of London at Bletchley Park. The Kriegsmarine, unlike the Luftwaffe, regularly changed code keys and even by war’s end, some naval cyphers were remained undecrypted.

This “new” edition of Very Special Intelligence (Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, UK, 2015) is valuable, in the main, because of a 13-page “Introduction” by naval historian W. J. R. Gardner and 22-page “Afterword” by cryptographic historian Ralph Erskine.  They update Beesly’s original narrative and augment his 1974 text and expand the “Bibliography” to 104 entries.  Beesly (27 June 1913-16 August 1986) passed away nearly thirty years earlier and Gardner and Erskine’s more recent contributions were written in 2000 when the present volume was initially published as a reprint with the two new essays (Greenhill Books, 2000). Beesly also wrote Very Special Admiral: The Life of Admiral J. H. Godfrey CB (Hamish Hamilton, 1980) and Room 40: British Naval Intelligence, 1914-1918 (Hamish Hamilton, 1982). W. J. R. (Jock) Gardner is a historian in the Naval Historical Branch of Naval Staff of the Ministry of Defence where he has worked since 1994 following a naval career, specializing in antisubmarine warfare and intelligence. His interests are 20th century naval history and intelligence, and Gardner’s books include Decoding History: The Battle of Atlantic and Ultra (US Naval Institute Press, 2000) and The Evacuation from Dunkirk: ‘Operation Dynamo’, 26 May-June 1940 (Routledge, 2000).  Erskine and Michael Smith have written Action This Day: Bletchley Park, new ed. (Bantam, 2002) and most recently The Bletchley Park Codebreakers (Biteback, 2011).

In the “Introduction,” Gardner discusses three types of postwar historical volumes: 1) official histories of the events, 2) reminiscences of the participants, and 3) literature written from a background of considerable knowledge.  The first is exemplified by Stephen. W. Roskill’s The War at Sea, 3 vols.(HMSO, 1961) which deliberately omitted Ultra; the second by Ladislaw Fargo’s The Tenth Fleet (Obolensky, 1962), and Donald McLachan’s Room 39: Naval Intelligence in Action (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1968), and Winterbotham’s 1974 book; and the third by Beesly’s volume, F. H. Hinsley’s multi-volume British Intelligence in the Second World War (HMSO and Cambridge University Press,1979-1990), and David Kahn’s Seizing the Enigma (Houghton Mifflin, 1991). Gardner also comments that Beesly himself noted that because of Cold War security reasons, some of the most significant and useful OIC material did not survive into the postwar era. Correctly, Gardner noted that Beesly focuses on the Battle of the Atlantic and not the Mediterranean, Far East, or Pacific theaters of war.

Beesly begins with a chapter “Astute men” which is an overview of World War I naval intelligence when Room 40, a top secret British unit made significant strides in decoding German codes and war plans but was unable to put these findings into operational use. The Battle of Jutland is the classic example of this flaw; he elaborates this story in his 1982 book.  The initial twelve months in 1939-1940 were “lean times” for Allied codebreaking but significant strides were made from October 1940 to May 1941.  Beesly documents actions against the U-boats, but one of the more significant stories about the daring German plan – and British failure to intercept – is getting Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen from Brest, France through the English Channel to Germany in 1942. The sinking of the Bismarck and Operation Paukenschlag (Drumbeat) are likewise recounted as is the story of Convoy PQ 17.  Some activities in the Indian Ocean are recounted, and the demise of Scharnhorst and Tirpitz are detailed.  The Battle of the Atlantic and its climax (January-May 1943 and June-December 1943) and Dönitz’ final attempts with the U-boats are recounted.

The “Epilogue” focuses on a number of important issues: 1) accounting for U-boats (every one of the 1,170 built from 1935-1945 have been accounted for and documented); 2) the importance of intelligence team efforts; and 3) the Admiralty. Beesly notes that the OIC acted as part of a highly coordinated maritime effort with Bletchley Park, Bomber Command, the Joint Intelligence Committee, and Special Operations Executive (SOE).  [Sidebar: The latter is the considered within Sir William Samuel Stephenson’s The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas, 1940-45 (Fromm International, 1999), see: Charles C. Kolb, H-NET REVIEWS/H-DIPLO (Diplomatic History), an electronic book review, 17 pp.  Published on 3 December 1999. www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3623 .]  In the Admiralty, Erskine details the operational functions and responsibilities of the OIC, the organization and composition of the Board of Admiralty and its responsibilities and relationships to the Naval Staff regarding ship allocations, and the Bomber, Fighter, and Coastal commands and the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

Erskine’s “Afterword: Codebreaking in the Battle of the Atlantic” reviews topics such as Ultra and the role of Bletchley Park’s cryptanalysis and Hensley’s important history before focusing on breaking the Kriegsmarine Naval Enigma (an explanation of the Enigma cypher machine, the valuable contributions of the Polish cryptologists, Alan Turing, and Gordon Welchman). Other SIGINT is also reviewed: HF-DF stations, TINA, AFH, American efforts in breaking Enigma (ECM MK II better known as SIGABA), and German success in February 1942 in breaking US Naval Cypher No. 3 dealing with convoy traffic. He also discusses Cyphers No. 4 and No. 5, and American contributions to SIGINT, notably the Purple cypher machine and breaking the Japanese JN-25 code.  German cypher security and their failures in codebreaking are attributed to their uncoordinated and fragmented efforts (p. 284).

In spite of its age and the two augmentations in 2000, this very well-written volume remains a classic in cryptologic history and the naval war during WW II.

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Dr. Kolb is now an independent scholar (National Endowment for the Humanities, Ret.).

 

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BOOK REVIEW – THE PIRATE KING: The Incredible Story of the Real Captain Morgan

the pirate kingBy Graham A. Thomas, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY (2015)

Reviewed by William H. White

Henry Morgan was a “pirate” (the author used “pirate,” “buccaneer,” and “privateer” virtually interchangeably) whose rampages in the Caribbean and on the Spanish Main were the stuff of legends. Many authors, both contemporary to Morgan and modern, have written copious tales of buccaneers in the Caribbean, and more particularly, Henry Morgan. Thomas has rehashed most of them, offering little new or particularly insightful in this volume. It appeared to me that he did little research of his own, using (and crediting) others for their efforts to that end. I find the use of secondary and tertiary sources in a non-fiction account fraught with issues, some of which become perilous to the credibility of the author. From the bibliography, it would seem that the only primary source material investigated was available “on line,” specifically, British History Online, which Thomas credits in his acknowledgments. For the rest, Thomas used the previous books by Dudley Pope, Steven Talty, and Terry Breverton. One contemporary (to Morgan) writer, Alexander Esquemiling (also shown as “John”), is quoted often, while less often we see reference to a book (1740) by Charles Leslie, A New History of Jamaica.

The story of Henry Morgan is one that deserves more than a rehash of previous works. He was a larger than life character in the 17th century Caribbean and, it could be said, responsible for Jamaica remaining in British control. (While currently independent, Jamaica is still decidedly wearing her British heritage.) Morgan was loyal to his king, focused on the survival of Jamaica in the face of Spanish, French, and even Dutch threats, and, while surely lining his own coffers with plundered booty, always paid the mandated fair share to the Crown and the governor of Jamaica. He would have been not a pirate, but a privateer, always sailing under a commission or letter of marque from the governor, and always against the enemies of Jamaica. While one of the writers of contemporary accounts (Esquemiling) accused Morgan of barbarous acts of torture on prisoners, Thomas discounts them as an effort to discredit Morgan by someone not quite an admirer of the man. In point of fact, Thomas points out that Esquemeling, who sailed as surgeon on some of Morgan’s adventures, is known to have exaggerated these acts of barbarism. That observation comes from Dudley Pope, on whom Thomas relies most heavily for his information, opinions, and observations.

While Graham Thomas is known for his military non-fiction, much of it is centered on World War II and British aviation. He has two other books on pirates, one on Capt, Kidd and one on the pirates of Africa. These “pirate-oriented” efforts could perhaps explain his often labelling Morgan as a pirate. He is further not totally conversant with the nomenclature of the sea and ships, frequently mentioning “large guns” and “small guns” without reference to their size i.e. “sixteen pounders,” or “four pounders.”

Where Thomas does shine, however, is in the later chapters when Sir Henry “swallows the anchor” and assumes the role of lieutenant governor and governor of Jamaica, though he gives short shrift to Morgan’s knighthood, offering only a passing mention of it. Political rivalry has Morgan sent to England as a prisoner, but he ends up with a knighthood and assignment as lieutenant governor. His take on the political rivalries, back-stabbing, and pandering to the Crown are excellent, giving the reader a keen insight to the competition for recognition so distant from the “mother country.” Weak political sycophants are Morgan’s main rivals, and he “eats them alive” for the most part. Continual changes in the relationships between England and Spain, France, and the Dutch kept one constantly alert and untrusting when a foreign flagged ship hove into view from the lookout at Port Royal. Any treaties that were executed had to travel for several months before they could be implemented in Jamaica, and often were already out of date. Small wonder Morgan maintained his fleet of buccaneers in Port Royal; they were often the only protection the island had.

While a strong editor would have been of much help to this effort, likely removing such repetitive phrases as “we’ll look more closely into that in later chapters,” some of the contradictions, and some largely tautological instances, Thomas has produced a generally readable, though not terribly revealing, treatise on Sir Henry Morgan and his tenure in Jamaica. I, for one, would have enjoyed learning a bit about how Morgan came to be a leader of the “Brethren of the Coast.” All in all, I can only recommend this book to a reader with no previous knowledge of the subject.

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White wrote this from his enclave at West Bay, Grand Cayman. An accomplished author of early 19th century historical fiction, his works can be found on www.seafiction.net .

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BOOK REVIEW – The Path to War – U.S. Marine Corps Operations in Southeast Asia 1961 to 1965

the path to warBy Col. George R. Hofmann Jr. USMC (Ret.), Marine Corps History Division, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (2014)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

The title of this publication is somewhat misleading, as the author actually covers the period 1954 to 1965 within the pages of this book. It covers both political and military matters of that era relating to Southeast Asia and the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps first became involved in Southeast Asia in October 1954 when Marine advisors were assigned to the newly formed South Vietnamese Marine Corps. The first commitment of a Marine unit to Southeast Asia took place between March and October 1961 when 300 Marines from Marine Airbase Squadron 16 (MABS-16) were deployed to Udorn, Thailand, to support Air America helicopter operations.

Col. Hofmann centers his discussion of events in Southeast Asia around the topics of political and military actions in South Vietnam and their effect on the rest of the region. The first half of the book is concerned with the development and deployments of the South Vietnam Marine Corps and the involvement of individual Marines and Marine units in their support. The author within the above context explores what led to USMC units being deployed to South Vietnam’s I Corps area. Col. Hofmann also explores the Marine Corps unpreparedness to conduct counter insurgent operations and the changes in doctrine and training the Corps had to undertook to meet this challenge.

The story of the 1961 deployment of MABS-16 to Thailand to provide maintenance support to Air America’s Sikorsky HUS-1 Seahorse helicopters is well told. Col. Hofmann not only tells the story of what the men of MABS-16 accomplished in support of Air America, but the interaction between the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Defense concerning the activities of MABS-15 within Thailand.

Deployment of Marine Corps units to South Vietnam is covered in the last half of the book. Col Hofmann in telling this story starts his account in April 1962 when HMM-362 with its Sikorsky UH-34D helicopters deployed to Vietnam and ends it in March 1965 with the amphibious landing of Battalion Landing Team 3/9 on the beaches north of Da Nang, South Vietnam. This story of the deployment of Marine units to Vietnam is set within the political and military situation evolving in Vietnam and the world. This tale covers both administrative and combat actions undertaken by the Marines in Vietnam.

The contents of this book are supported by a great collection of black and white photographs and colored maps. The story told will appeal to both the historian and the casual reader.

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Charles H Bogart is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Great Siege of Malta: The Epic Battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Knights of St. John

great siege of MaltaBy Bruce Ware Allen, ForeEdge: An Imprint of the University Press of New England, NH, (2015)

Reviewed by Robert P. Largess

On May 18, 1565, a Turkish fleet of 193 ships arrived off the arid, searing hot island of Malta, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean between Africa and Sicily. Its target was the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, the last surviving remnant of the international orders of knighthood born during the Crusades. Over the centuries, the Knights had evolved from caring for the sick, to defending pilgrims, to a naval force, the most consistent and effective opponent to Ottoman Turkish control of the Med – and to the piracy of the North African corsairs, endemic over twelve centuries. The Turks expected a walkover. Their force, estimated at 35,000 to 48,000, included 15,000 Spahis and Janissaries – crack Ottoman imperial troops, the rest being corsairs and volunteers, Jihadis from around the Muslim world. Opposing them were 500 Knights, 2500 professional soldiers in their employ, and 3,000 men of the Maltese people, behind the walls of a handful of fortified positions. There they resisted bitterly throughout the summer, hoping for relief by a Spanish force being assembled in Sicily. Meanwhile, all of Europe held its breath; as Queen Elizabeth of England said: “If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what might follow to the rest of Christendom.”

This battle had the potential to be a sweeping turning point of history away from the course we know – like Gettysburg or Midway. Instead, the Knights won, and this represented the high water mark of centuries of steady Turkish expansion that swallowed up the Eastern Roman empire and Europe from Greece to Hungary, reaching its climax under Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire’s greatest Sultan, who ruled from 1520 to 1566.  Bruce Allen’s “The Great Siege of Malta” tells, and tells brilliantly, how this victory was achieved. Allen is an independent scholar, and the book is a labor of love of many years. It is also a remarkable piece of scholarship, using original sources and modern scholarship in Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and translations from Turkish and Arabic. He uses this knowledge to create a rich tapestry of the times, the place, the day-to-day development of the battle, the experience of the men involved. He does justice to the courage and sacrifice of both sides, and makes the situation so vivid and real one can taste it. Above all he gives a very perceptive and persuasive sense of what the leaders on both sides were planning and thinking during the battle, their tactics and leadership in this contest of wills. This is truly fine writing and fine history.

Of course, nothing is more conducive to great history than great sources. This was a highly literate age and numerous contemporary accounts are extant, in particular the personal journal of the siege by Francesco Balbi da Coreggio, soldier and participant, and the knights’ official historian of the siege, Giacomo Bosio. Ernle Bradford’s excellent “The Great Siege; Malta 1565” (1961) is based on his translation of Balbi, but Allen casts his net wider for sources and scholarship. The chief interest for the military historian is the question of how this particular magic trick is done, that of winning a defensive battle against apparently hopeless odds. A large part of the answer lies with the leadership and determination of Jean de Vallette, Grand Master of the Knights.

At the beginning, the Turks seemed to have everything in their favor, numbers, unlimited supplies, seasoned leaders, freedom of maneuver, and the tactical initiative. Spain was unlikely to intervene unless the Turks visibly faltered. And yet the Knights won – but how? They endured the heaviest artillery bombardment thus far in history (130,000 cannonballs) which reduced the walls of their forts to rubble, and endured repeated mass assaults. Yet they cost the Turks perhaps 35,000 casualties. (Turkish archives indicate 10,000 of the officially listed Turkish army troops – Spahis and Janissaries – were lost.) This is versus the loss of about 150 Knights, 800 of their soldiers, and about 2000 of the people of Malta. The Turks made some errors, but no individually disastrous ones. So what advantages did he Knights have? Essentially two things: themselves and a strong defensive position. The Knights were hardened by a lifetime as professional fighting men, sworn brothers defending their religion, fighting for the existence of their 542-year old Order. They were also, unlike the Turks, heavily armored. And Malta’s Grand Harbor was blocked by the small Fort St. Elmo, weak and flawed in design, but supported by forts St. Michael and St. Angelo further inside the harbor. St. Elmo had to be taken first, but the assaults on its walls had to be made under the covering fire of the heavy guns of St. Angelo. And essentially these men were motivated by something – call it the spirit of the last ditch defense – where there is absolutely no choice but to hold, endure, fight, and die if need be, buying time and perhaps life for your cause and your comrades.

An illuminating example of how leadership is an essential element in this situation is Allen’s description of the handling of an appeal from St. Elmo in the final stages of its reduction. Its defenders explained that its fall was inevitable, and begged to be allowed to abandon it and retreat to St. Angelo where they could fight on. De Vallette had to make it plain to them that what he needed was for them to buy as much time and Turkish casualties as they could – in short, to fight and die to the last man. He did so, in one of the most powerful moments of the book.

The Turks, of course, could afford to be prodigal with lives, and were. Repeated failures only increased their prodigality, as assault after assault and stratagem after stratagem failed, and they grew desperate to win before the summer campaigning season ran out. Sometimes the attacker has vast resources to expend, but wasting them on failure makes defeat into a disaster.  Military history provides many interesting parallels, for example the North Vietnamese assaults on the South Vietnamese strong points of Hue, Kontum, and An Loc during their 1972 Easter Offensive. This was a concerted effort to topple the S. Vietnamese government, and the loss of these positions would have made S. Vietnam strategically indefensible. The North assembled a massive force of infantry, artillery and armor – 200,000 men, the largest military offensive since the Chinese invasion of Korea in 1950 – to overwhelm the small and more poorly equipped garrisons of these positions. But during their armor and human-wave infantry assaults, the North Vietnamese were concentrated targets for US air power and naval gunfire, which cost them ruinous losses – much like the Turks at St. Elmo. Meanwhile the South Vietnamese troops held on, except at Quang Tri; it was the quality of their leadership that made the difference. The North lost over 100,000 casualties (plus about 750 tanks) versus about 35,000 for the South; like the Turks, the North was prepared to expend lives on massive scale to win, but failure turned these losses into a disaster, the beginning of a year of military and political setbacks. Of course, the North Vietnamese themselves held out, endured, rebuilt their forces, and came back three years later when the political situation had shifted in their favor. Suleiman the Magnificent likewise intended to return to Malta, but died in 1566, and under his less competent son Selim, the offensive was never renewed, and the balance of power shifted to the modernizing West, with its new mastery of oceanic trade and exploration.

It is the privilege of the reviewer to lecture the author on how to make a good book even better; and I think this one could benefit from a bit more explanation of some specific technical areas, such as infantry tactics in the pike-and-matchlock age, galleys and their tactics, and principles of fortification (in particular why the design of St. Elmo was flawed). The author talks about these things in the context of his narrative, but an occasional digression of a couple of brief analytical paragraphs to make these things clear would be useful to the newcomer to 16th century warfare. I personally also think the book would benefit from a few pages that explicitly answer the questions of: “Who were these Turks? And why were they so much to be feared?” A phenomenon in history, these tough and warlike nomads from the Central Asian steppe, recent converts to Islam, flooded into the declining Arab world around 1000 AD and revitalized its efficiency and aggression. Their target was the Eastern Roman Empire, which had resisted Arab aggression for centuries, and by the 12th century they had taken Anatolia (the Crusades were intended to resist this), and in 1354 they crossed into Europe, and quickly conquered much of the Balkans, reducing Byzantium to little more than the city of Constantinople itself – still a great metropolis and powerful fortress. But in 1453, the Turks used the new weapon of powerful artillery to breach its great walls, bringing some 2300 years of Roman history to an end. This was followed by Suleiman’s conquest of Serbia and Hungary and unsuccessful sieges of Vienna in 1529 and 1532. This check in central Europe and his success in driving the Knights from their earlier stronghold at Rhodes in 1522 led him to expand into the Mediterranean with naval support for the resurgent North African corsairs – as well as fighting the Portuguese for control of the Indian Ocean and invading Christian Ethiopia, Persia, and the Caucasus.

By the 1500’s, the Ottoman Empire was geographically vast, containing 20 to 30 million people, and waging a true world war against its fragmented opponents. It represented a remarkable combination of a largely European successor state to the Byzantine Empire, plus the Islamic Caliphate established by Mohammed’s successors stretching from Morocco to Mesopotamia. Its genius lay in developing unique institutions to simultaneously conquer and exploit its European subjects, while establishing its influence and authority over the Muslim world. Key to its organization for war and expansion was the institution of the Sultanate itself, which provided a centralized, undivided, and absolute military command.  It had many unusual features, such as the “devshirme” or child tax, which obliged all Christian households in the Empire to contribute a son at ten-year intervals. These boys became slaves of the Sultan and were taken to Constantinople to be trained as soldiers – the Janissaries – or educated to fill most positions up to the highest in his government.

What would the fate of Europe had been, if Malta and/or Vienna had fallen, followed by the invasion of central Europe, Italy, and still-Muslim southern Spain (which revolted with Ottoman support in 1568). A united Christendom, fighting with its back to the wall? Not likely; the probable result would have been a divided and dependent Europe, its cultural Renaissance and oceanic expansion short-circuited by the struggle for survival. Mr. Allen tells us how France had already begun its long anti-Hapsburg alliance with Turkey in 1525, cooperating with them in military operations and permitting a corsair fleet to base at Marseille and Toulon in 1543-1544, from which it raided Spain and Italy. Well – the first rule of politics is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, and who they are is less important than who looks like winning.

This book offers many excellent things: it’s a gripping read, and its scholarship opens a window onto a fascinating world. It provides deep insights into the nature of war and battle – or perhaps one should say into human nature – as well as providing some very thought-provoking parallels with today’s geopolitical situation. Highly recommended to all readers.

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

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BOOK REVIEW – The Battle of Lake Champlain: A “Brilliant and Extraordinary Victory”

Lake ChamplainBy John H. Schroeder, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK (2015)

Reviewed by Diana L. Ahmad, Ph.D.

Like the Korean Conflict, the War of 1812 is often glanced over in many American history survey courses, which is too bad because one of the most significant naval battles in American history occurred near the end of the war on Lake Champlain. John H. Schroeder provides a wonderful, thorough, and easily read volume on the significance of the battle fought just off Plattsburgh, New York’s shores in September 1814. Offering far more than a description of the blow-by-blow conflict between United States Navy Commander Thomas Macdonough’s four warships and ten gunboats and Royal Navy Captain George Downie’s four warships and eleven gunboats, Schroeder deftly demonstrates the importance of the battle and its impact on the negotiations at Ghent, Belgium. Using archival materials and excellent primary sources, the author also looked at the classic histories of the War of 1812, including Reginald Horsman’s The War of 1812 (1969).  The book contains excellent illustrations, four detailed maps, and a table of the naval squadrons at the battle.

Putting the battle into the broader context of the British-American conflict, the author explained how the British hoped to win concessions from the United States, such as redrawing the border between the United States and Canada and a buffer between the Americans and the Native Americans loyal to the British. Particularly excellent is the balance that the author used in his approach to writing military history. Schroeder divided the book into the diplomatic and political reasons for the conflict, the military strategies used by the two sides during the war, and an account of the naval battle at Cumberland Bay. Schroeder did not ignore the army side of the conflict and well described the efforts of Brigadier General Alexander Macomb’s 1,800 man army against Sir George Prevost and the 8,000 members of his group, including 2,600 men who had fought with the Duke of Wellington against Napoleon.

While the naval battle lasted only two and a half hours and involved Macdonough winding his flagship, Saratoga, Schroeder explained the strengths of the commanders and the vessels for both navies that fought on September 11. The British commanders in the Navy and Army largely had superior qualifications to the young and relatively inexperienced men who commanded the American Army and Navy. Schroeder explained that the Americans won because of both skill and luck. For example, while both Captain Downie and Commander Macdonough had served in their respective navies since the 1790s, Downie’s experience included commands during the war with Napoleon, while Macdonough had never commanded in a battle prior to Lake Champlain, although he had served in the Barbary Wars and in the Quasi-War. Macdonough and Macomb got along well and cooperated with one another, as demonstrated when Macomb sent some of his men to help crew Macdonough’s undermanned vessels. On the other side, Prevost and Downie had only met briefly before Downie took command of the British squadron just before the battle and neither assisted the other prior to the conflict. Downie’s HMS Confiance carried 37 guns, including 27 24-pound long guns that functioned best at a range of more than 1,000 yards, while Macdonough’s USS Saratoga carried only 26 guns with only 8 of them being 24-pounders. While the British had greater firepower, Macdonough’s group had the advantage because he forced Downie to fight at close range as the Americans had lined up their ships close to Plattsburgh’s shore in Cumberland Bay, making Downie’s 24-pounders ineffective.  In another turn of bad luck for the British, Captain Downie died instantly just after the start of the battle when a shot from Macdonough’s flagship knocked a British gun off its carriage hitting Downie. After that, the British officers failed to act in a unified fashion in their attacks on the U.S. Navy. While the conflict also involved a land assault on Plattsburgh, Prevost had poorly planned for the battle and choose to retreat as soon as he heard of the Royal Navy’s defeat.

The results of the battle took only a few days to get to New York City and Boston, but four weeks to travel to London and five to Ghent. The American victory restored confidence in Madison’s administration, kept New England in the United States, and brought great praise to Macdonough and Macomb. In Ghent, the British negotiators had expected a total victory, but upon hearing of the loss at Lake Champlain, the British quickly dropped demands for redrawing the United States/Canada borders, as well as dropping the idea of an Indian buffer zone. Even though American losses continued after the Battle of Lake Champlain and Plattsburgh, Macdonough’s victory was the turning point in the war and ultimately in American history.

Schroeder convincingly argued that the United States Navy and Army cooperated better, fought better, and communicated better than their counterparts resulting in a significant victory for the United States. People interested in naval history will be well rewarded for reading this book.

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Dr. Ahmad teaches history at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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BOOK REVIEW – Operation Neptune

Operation NeptuneBy Craig L. Symonds, Oxford University Press, New York (2014)

Reviewed by Rear Admiral William J. Holland, Jr. USN (Ret.)

Professor Symonds has done it again! This splendid book starts with the assertion, “During World War II, a dearth of shipping was the key logistical constraint in Allied decision making and because of it, the most important Anglo-American decisions of the war were less a product of what they wanted to do than of what they could do.”  From there, he justifies his proposition describing the strategic debates and tactical operations that led to the Normandy invasion in June 1944. He makes the case that the LSTs were the most important ships of the war; detailing occasions in which assignment and allocations of these vessels were a major subject in conferences of heads of state.

Symonds begins his history sketching the European war before Pearl Harbor then continues with increasing details until the fall of Cherbourg in July 1944. Two facets of his easy to read narrative stand out – people and ships. No historian since Samuel Eliot Morison exhibits as competent a grasp of the sea and operations on it. His profiles of individuals from admirals to boatswain’s mates are depictions of character and personality. Those who have served at sea can easily recognize and appreciate the personalities and foibles of the main characters in this under-recorded aspect of World War II.

Most exciting are his detailed descriptions of the not well known destroyers’ action at Omaha Beach. With the landing force pinned below the cliffs, two destroyers independently closed the beach to open direct fire on the German positions. Sensing the crisis, their squadron commander led five others into shallows to hammer German fortifications, to open the beach exits and to rescue the landing force. Here were ships operating at good speed with no more than a foot or two of water under keel while firing every gun, including some small arms. This chapter alone is worth many times the price of the book and will inspire every seaman who reads it.

Professor Symonds continues his highly regarded career as a recorder of American naval history. Operation Neptune is his best yet and belongs in the library of every veteran of the Navy, Coast Guard and merchant service.

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Rear Admiral Holland is a former Vice President with the Naval Historical Foundation.

 

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BOOK REVIEW – Into the Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond

Into the Lions MouthBy Larry Loftus, Penquin, New York, NY, (2016)

Reviewed by Martin J. Bollinger

Lawyer and author Larry Loftis accomplishes three things in his new book Into the Lion’s Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond. He does an excellent job in documenting – virtually day by day — the activities of double-agent Duŝan Popov in World War II, the center of the legendary TRICYCLE network of supposed German spies really working for Britain. Loftis accomplishes this via the outstanding integration of memoirs and archival material. Second, he advances the view that Popov was the role model for James Bond. He builds this case on evidence that, even if well documented with archival sources, in the end inevitably remains circumstantial. Thus, he ably reaffirms Popov position on the list of individuals (at least 15 by one count) who are claimed to have served as inspiration for Ian Fleming’s character of James Bond. Third, and of specific interest to naval historians, he renews an argument introduced in the 1980s about Popov, German intelligence, missed warnings and Pearl Harbor.

In this third area he provides near-definitive evidence of two major findings. The first, demonstrated with impressive use of archival sources, is that agent Popov provided information that the Germans were interested in Pearl Harbor to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in August 1941. This centers on a questionnaire from the German Abwehr, about one-third of which involves a request for intelligence regarding the defenses (including against torpedo attack) at Pearl Harbor. His second finding, again backed by impressive evidence, is that Hoover neglected to send this intelligence on to FDR or other officials, for whatever reason. These arguments have been raised before, as Loftis himself clearly indicates, but this latest work is almost certainly the most compelling summary to date.

The naval historian hopes ultimately for additional evidence that, had Hoover forwarded Popov’s evidence of German interest in Pearl Harbor, it might have made a difference in preparing the U.S. for the attack and could have shaped the outcome of events in 1941. Of course, it is dangerous to try to prove any counterfactual, and perhaps wisely Loftis does not go there. Instead, Loftis implies, but does not state, that this information, nine months after the successful British attack at Taranto in November 1940, would have sufficed to alert the U.S. Navy to the danger of an impending Japanese attack.

Loftis has prepared the ground for others to deepen this line of inquiry. For example, the U.S. Navy was well aware of the attack at Taranto and implications for Pearl Harbor but generally believed in error that the shallow waters at Pearl Harbor ruled out such an attack there. Would the Popov information have changed that view? At the time, the Japanese consulate in Honolulu was able to gather much of the intelligence requested on the questionnaire on its own by direct observation, and indeed was busy doing so. Would this German questionnaire itself force the Americans to conclude that the Japanese were suddenly keen to gather information on Pearl Harbor? U.S. analysts and leaders certainly were aware of the potential for conflict with the Japanese, but didn’t put Pearl Harbor high on the list of targets. Would this questionnaire have redirected their attention, or were similar intelligence inquiries being directed against the Philippines, Australia, India, Guam or other potential targets?

Stylistically, the book is a pleasant and interesting read, though one filled with tremendous detail that some will skip over. This reader wished the author would not switch back and forth continuously between code names (e.g., DREADNOUGHT), first names (Ivo) and last names (Popov) when identifying the many players in the book, often done within the same paragraph. It forces the reader to cycle back and forth between the content and the very helpful guide to “who’s who” provided at the front. Finally, regardless of whether an error originates in the source material or with the author, a correction in the footnotes would be appreciated. For example, HMS Queen Elizabeth was a battleship, not a submarine.

In the end, the lack of full resolution by Loftis of the Pearl Harbor issue, which encompasses perhaps only 10% of his book, shouldn’t detract from his broader mission: the excellent integration of primary and archival sources to document ably the workings of the TRICYCLE intelligence network in World War II. It is highly readable book and an excellent introduction into challenges in living the life of a double agent.

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Marty Bollinger is the Vice President of the Naval Historical Foundation.

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BOOK REVIEW – Discovering the North-West Passage: The Four-Year Arctic Odyssey of H.M.S. Investigator and the McClure Expedition

Discovering the north-west passageBy Glenn M. Stein, McFarland, Jefferson, NC (2015)

Reviewed by Ingo Heidbrink, Ph.D.

Most people who are only slightly familiar with the history of the high-latitudes will know the story of John Franklin’s Lost Expedition searching for the North-West Passage (1845), as well as of Roald Amundsen’s first transit through the passage during his 1903-1906 expedition with the Gjøa. In comparison to these two well-known expeditions, Robert McClure’s expedition with HMS Investigator (1850-1854) is nearly forgotten, known only to those with a special interest in Arctic history.

Polar historian Glenn M. Stein’s new book Discovering the North-West Passage brings not only the story of McClure’s expedition to the light, but provides a meticulously researched account of the expedition based on a wide variety of primary and secondary sources and highlights that it actually was McClure, not Amundsen, who completed the first transit of the North-West passage. Of course, Amundsen was the first who completed the transit all the way on a ship, while McClure and his men travelled the central section on foot after the loss of HMS Investigator.

While McClure and his men had failed to achieve a complete transit by ship, they established the existence of a North-West Passage during one of their sledge journeys in the late Summer/early Fall of 1850 when they observed a strait between Banks Island and Melville Island. Thus, they provided the needed knowledge that enabled the first successful passage by ship a half a century later.

Stein’s book deserves credit for bringing the story of the McClure expedition to center stage and pointing out that the great names of the heroic age of polar research built their accomplishments on previous knowledge. The history of the Northwest-Passage is much more complex than just Franklin’s Lost Expedition and Amundsen’s success.

One of the largest challenges for any polar historian dealing with the exploration of the Arctic in the Victorian period is the limited number of first-hand accounts. Reconstructing the history of a journey like the HMS Investigator is a major challenge, which Stein mastered extremely well. Beyond providing the factual history of the expedition, his book sheds light on the tensions among crew-members and provides an extremely detailed insight into the microcosm to be found on any expedition ship operating for extended periods of time in remote areas. Organized chronologically, the book provides a readable account of the complex history of the expedition, yet never fails to discuss topics in analytical detail. Stein’s main tool for reaching high scholarly quality and maintaining readability are the appendices that allow him not to overburden his main narrative for the casual reader while providing the details for the scholar.

For example: In Appendix 2, Stein provides an extremely detailed discussion of the few diaries and journals available for research on the McClure expedition, a most useful tool for future polar history research and a best-practice example of how such materials can be successfully integrated into such a research project.

Indeed, some of the seven appendices might be of equal relevance for polar history research than the main text of the book.  For example, Appendix 3 isn’t just the standard crew list to be found in many books about the history of Arctic exploration, but a set of well researched short biographies that allows to reconstruct the social fabric onboard the ship and to understand that some of the conflicts between the members of the crew and McClure actually could be expected even prior to the HMS Investigator even setting sail, in particular when realizing that a small portion of the crew had substantial Arctic experience, while most crewmembers including some of the officers had no Arctic experience at all.

Appendix 5 details the various sled parties and Appendix 7 discusses the history of the creation of the Arctic Medal as a story that is nearly as complex and interesting than the story of the expedition itself – at least for any historian interested in phaleristics.

Published by McFarland, the book is of the usual high technical quality to be expected. A good number of contemporary illustrations will help the casual reader as well as the specialist to get a better grip of the topic and to develop a feeling for polar research during the Victorian era. While there are a number of charts included in the book, mainly contemporary area maps, a map showcasing the whole area and the whole expedition is unfortunately missing. For the reader familiar with the Arctic this might not be a big deal, but for any other reader, such a map would have been a most helpful tool to understand the complex geographic setting of the historical events discussed in the book. Adding such a map should not have required too much effort by the publisher.

Altogether the book is a most welcome addition to the literature about early polar exploration, regardless if for the specialists in the field of polar history or for a naval historian interested in the Arctic activities of the Royal Navy or even for a more casual reader interested in another story besides John Franklin’s lost expedition. In addition, with the North-West Passage as well as other Arctic Routes having gained increased public attention throughout the last years and today even cruise ships transiting through the North-West Passage on a more or less regular base, Stein provides a most welcome and enjoyable historical background story that also needs to be recommended to all those debating the legal status of the Northwest-Passage today.

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Dr. Heidbrink teaches at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

 

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World War II Fighter Pilot Jack Taylor Dies: Founded World’s Largest Car Leasing Company

By David F. Winkler

The Naval Historical Foundation is saddened to hear of the loss of a friend of naval history last Saturday with news of the passing of Jack Taylor in St. Louis, MO. He was 94.

Jack Taylor as an aviation cadet in the Navy in 1943. Photograph by the U.S. Navy. Courtesy of Jack Taylor. (via mhmvoices.org)

Jack Taylor as an aviation cadet in the Navy in 1943. Photograph by the U.S. Navy. Courtesy of Jack Taylor. (via mhmvoices.org)

One of the legendary and tragic stories to arise from the Battle of Midway was the plight of Torpedo EIGHT. With no fighter escorts, this torpedo plane squadron was mauled by Zero fighters and faced a hail of anti-aircraft fire. No aircraft and only one pilot survived the attack. Three years and three months later, another torpedo plane squadron attempted a similar attack against one of the largest battleships ever built, the Musashi. However, this time the Japanese were not able to bring the brunt of the anti-aircraft defenses against the attackers due to the covering actions of Hellcat fighters swooping down on the superbattleship with guns blazing. Ensign Jack Taylor was one of those fighter pilots who performed not one, but two strafing runs against one of Japan’s most formidable warships. With Taylor and his squadron mates suppressing the Musashi’s anti-aircraft batteries, the torpedo planes and accompanying dive bombers dropped their weapons and hit their mark, sending the superbattleship to the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea.

Taylor’s fighter squadron served as a component of Carrier Air Group FIFTEEN.  When he arrived on the USS Essex as a replacement pilot in late June 1944, the squadron had already distinguished itself in the famed “Marianas Turkey Shoot” splashing sixty-seven of the attacking enemy aircraft. During the remaining months of the deployment, the squadron claimed the destruction of 500 to 600 more aircraft. Twenty-six pilots scored five or more kills, to earn the coveted title of “Ace.” Having credit for two kills, Taylor was not among the twenty-six. However, while only mentioned briefly in Edwin P. Hoyt’s McCampbell’s Heroes: The Story of the U.S. Navy’s Most Celebrated Carrier Fighters of the Pacific War, Taylor’s role is significant as he flew as a wingman to many of the aces, including Group Commander David McCampbell, to insure these pilots could press forward with their attacks without fear of ambush. Consequently, Taylor’s receipt of his two Distinguished Flying Crosses and other citations were well deserved.

On July 9, 2001, I had the opportunity to fly out to St. Louis to interview Mr. Taylor. Having flown in such an elite squadron at a critical time of the war, Taylor’s recollections were most welcomed. In addition, he provides excellent insights about the flight training process that thousands of other aviators experienced. For the transcript of this interview click HERE.

Jack Taylor (via FoxNews)

Jack Taylor (via FoxNews)


The interview was made possible due to Jack’s son Andy Taylor. Thanks to the Taylor’s continued support for the naval history enterprise, the Naval Historical Foundation presented him this year’s NHF Distinguished Service Award at the National Maritime Awards Dinner held last April 21st, at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

While the presentation recognized the company’s generous support to organizations such as the U.S. Naval Institute, the National Museum of Naval Aviation, and the Naval Historical Foundation, the presentation also served as homage to the father Jack.

In his remarks before the presentation, Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, recently retired as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanding officer of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during her 20th deployment, at the opening of Operation Enduring Freedom following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, talked briefly about “the remarkable connection that the Taylor family has with the United States Navy” – a reference to Jack Taylor who flew F6F Hellcat fighters from USS Essex (CV 9) and USS Enterprise (CV 6) during World War II. He eventually named his new car rental company after the Enterprise.

Enterprise Holdings Executive Chairman Andy C. Taylor accepts the NHF Distinguished Service alongside NHF Chairman Admiral William J. Fallon, USN (Ret.), Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, USN (Ret.), and Gary Jobson. (Photo courtesy Joe Rudinec/Rudinec and Associates/Released)

Enterprise Holdings Executive Chairman Andy C. Taylor accepts the NHF Distinguished Service alongside NHF Chairman Admiral William J. Fallon, USN (Ret.), Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, USN (Ret.), and Gary Jobson. (Photo courtesy Joe Rudinec/Rudinec and Associates/Released)


As a tribute to the Taylor family patriarch Jack Taylor’s World War II service, NHF Chairman Admiral William J. Fallon presented Andy and his family with several framed photographs of Enterprise (CV 6). Andy Taylor spoke briefly about the honor of the award. “I am proud to continue my father’s Navy legacy,” he said in his acceptance speech. His final remarks about his father echo the unique way naval history comes together, and continues to enthrall us today: 

“[He originally] named the company Executive, but when we had to change it, and wanted a name that started with “e”, it wasn’t going to sound as good if we used the ship name Essex. He spent more time on Essex, but Enterprise is a better name for a rental car company. We are so glad we did that.”

We at the Naval Historical Foundation concur as we mourn the passing of another veteran from “the Greatest Generation.”

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CHOW: The (Navy) Daiquiri

Chow Cover Daiquiri
CHOW is a new blog and video series exploring the history behind U.S. Navy culinary traditions. Read the first two entries here: S.O.S. and Navy Bean Soup.

By Matthew T. Eng

Well, it is officially summer. If the spiking temperatures and humidity here in the nation’s capital do not tell you what time of year it is, the abundance of mosquitos buzzing around your backyard barbeques will. If you are like me, you enjoy the refreshing taste and sharp bite of a cold and stiff drink on a hot summer’s day in the sun. In honor of summer, this next edition of CHOW will feature a classic summertime cocktail introduced into the United States by a naval office at the turn-of-the-century.

I think drinks are best served with a little bit of naval history. Here is the story behind the daiquiri.

A Simple Drink of Lemon or ‘limón: A Complicated Recipe

The daiquiri is not a complicated drink. Take a shaker of ice, fill it with blanco rum, some sour juice, a dash of sugar, and mix it. Serve chilled. Easy, right? That is apparently wrong. There is much more to this Cuban export than meets the eye, and the Navy plays a key role in its development.

Daiquiri shown during the Spanish-American War, 1898. (NHHC Photo # NH 1490)

Daiquiri shown during the Spanish-American War, 1898. (NHHC Photo # NH 1490)

The combination of rum, sugar, and lime juice was a well-known elixir of choice throughout the Caribbean in the 16th and 17th centuries. The concept of mixing fruit juice with rum is not lost on any naval enthusiast, either. During the 18th century, Royal Navy Admiral Edward Vernon ordered the daily rum ration be diluted with water and lime. This order served two purposes: British sailors would be soberer and abler to fight off scurvy with a hefty daily dose of citrus.

Fast forward to 1898. Spanish American War. Cuba.

The origin story of the original recipe is as murky as the drink’s consistency. There are countless websites, blogs, and articles that detail their version of the recipe, all of which claim to be the “most accurate to the original.” The drink is not complicated because it’s creator, Jennings Cox, had little materials to make a fancy drink.

Legend has it that Jennings Cox, an American iron miner who came to the island in the wake of the American victory, was planning to entertain guests one night, only to realize he ran out of gin. With limited materials at hand, he bought a common island liquor (rum) to mix together with citrus juice, sugar, and a little bit of water. After mixing it, he poured it together with ice to make as a punch for his guests. His guests instantly loved it, and its popularity grew on the island.

Stories continue to surround exactly how he came up with the name “daiquiri.” The easiest explanation was that he named it after the town of Daiquiri where his mine was located east of Santiago de Cuba. Another story from the 14 March 1937 edition of the Miami Herald reposted by the blog “To have and Have Another” details a much more spontaneous origin:

“One day a group of American engineers who had come into town from the Daiquiri mines were imbibing their favorite drink in this restful spot.  It was one of those wonderful rum concoctions made from Ron Bacardi.  A jovial fellow by the name of Cox spoke up.  ‘Caballeros y amigos, we have been enjoying this delicious mixture for some time, but strange to admit the drink has no name.  Don’t you think it is about time something was done to extricate us from this sad predicament?’  It was unanimously agreed that the drink should be named, without further procrastination. 

There was silence for several minutes as each man became immersed in deep thought.  Suddenly, Cox’s voice was heard again.  ‘I have it, men!  Let’s call it the “Daiquiri!”’  And so it was christened.” 

Jennings Cox and RADM Lucius Johnsons (TheAlcoholProessor/WETA)

Jennings Cox and RADM Lucius Johnsons (TheAlcoholProessor/WETA)


Whatever story you believe, the drink eventually made it into the hands of a junior medical officer, Lucius W. Johnson, in 1909. Johnson and the crew of USS Minnesota were in Cuba touring the battlefields from the Spanish American War. The future Rear Admiral was introduced to Cox during a tour of the island’s battlegrounds. Cox was quick to introduce him to his favorite drink; which Johnson instantly fell in love with the refreshing drink. He explained his first encounter with Cox in detail in a 22 August 1952 edition of the Baltimore Evening Sun:

“We were greeted by a tall, well-tanned man whose urbane and genial manner is still a pleasant memory [. . .] When we were pleasantly relaxed he prepared for us a drink which brought quick relief to our arid throats. He had put it together, he told us, to make the locally produced rum more agreeable to foreign taste. It had been christened Daiquiri in honor of its birthplace.

Johnson was smart enough to know the drink had a future beyond the Cuban coastline. He brought several gallon jugs of rum home with him and introduced the drink to the Army and Navy Club in downtown Washington, D.C., which “scored an immediate success.” In fact, the Club staked its reputation on the cocktail throughout the early to mid-twentieth century. In 1984, the Club’s manager humorously remarked on the history of the drink in the New York Times, stating that they “feature it, but these guys will drink anything.”

Baltimore Sun Article by Lucius Johnson (Courtesy Bacardi)

Baltimore Sun Article by Lucius Johnson (Courtesy Bacardi)

The drink was later introduced to the University Club in Baltimore and Army and Navy Club in San Francisco. From San Francisco, the drink made it to Honolulu, Guam, and Manila. The regional specialty from Jennings Cox was a global phenomenon in the Prohibition era. By then, additions to Johnson’s specifications brought over stateside had already made it a different drink altogether (i.e. the Ernest Hemingway version). The water was removed from the mix, and additional elements like bitters and sweet liquors were introduced. The daiquiri we know in contemporary America today is a bastardization of the original, often served as a frozen drink with more sugar and less alcohol. Any good British sailor of the 18th century would be rolling in their graves.

And then there is the issue of the recipe itself. Most scholarly and secondary source research into the drink’s origins put it as a simple recipe that includes rum, ice, sugar, and lime juice. The concoction is then shaken together and served in a chilled or frosted glass. The drink is traditionally served this way at the Army Navy Club in its aptly-named Daiquiri Room bar. Lucius Johnson corroborated this recipe in a brief article that appeared in the Baltimore Evening Sun article:

“Over cracked ice he poured two jiggers of rum, then added a level teaspoonful of sugar. Next he squeezed into each glass the juice of a lime, being careful to include some of the oil from the skin. The mixture was stirred gently and, in that humid climate, the cold glass quickly became frosted.”

Variations, however, exist. Through the research into the culinary history of the cocktail, the “original” Jennings Cox recipe for the daiquiri in special collections at the University of Miami library used the juice of a lemon, not a lime.

This is unfortunately one of the only places to include this distinction. Despite the recipe card from Cox, online tutorials still use lime juice instead of lemon. The popular rum blog “The Rum Nerd” explains why the recipe card may be in error:

“One thing to note is that Cox says to use lemons, however as limes are abundant on Cuba and are commonly referred to as ” ‘limón” it’s probable he was referring to limes.  The recipe as written is similar to that for Grog, the drink used to serve the daily rum ration to sailors of the Royal Navy, so adding lime and sugar to rum is hardly a great leap of logic.”

The Recipe

(via University of Miami Special Collections)

(via University of Miami Special Collections)


I wrestled over which citrus fruit to include. Lemon or lime? In the end, I decided to remain faithful to the recipe card and use a lemon. If you prefer to use lime as the “traditional” recipe, that is your prerogative. The following recipe serves 2-3 individuals, or one if you are particularly thirsty or in need to fight off scurvy:

Ice
1 Cup Blanco Rum
3 tbs. Lemon Juice (1 Lemon)
1 tsp. Sugar
1/3 Cup Water

Mix all materials together in a shaker and serve in a frosted martini glass or on ice.

The Taste Test

The original recipe is not as sweet and forgiving on the palette as the frozen versions I am used to drinking poolside in the summer. Upon first taste, I was struck by how sour the mixture was. The lemon juice cuts through the mix. Jennings Cox was right. Despite how sour it was, the lemon juice cut the harshness of the rum. The small portion of sugar hits the back of your tongue as a sweet note at the very end. Although the sheer amount of rum makes the drink still strong, it is a perfectly fine example of what a little bit of naval history can do to cool you down in the arid heat of the summer.

Try it yourself with a few of your friends and let us know what you think of it in the comment section below.

Primary Sources: 

“Amid Many Daiquiris, A Club Closes,” The New York Times, January 2, 1984.

“Early Days of a Cocktail: The Daiquiri In Cuba and Baltimore,” The Evening Sun, August 22, 1952.

“Origin is Disclosed of Daiquiri Cocktail,” Miami Herald, March 14, 1937.

Secondary Sources:

“Daiquiri Room,” ArmyNavyClub.org.

“Original Daiquiri recipe by Mr. Cox,” University of Miami Libraries Special Collections. (online)

Brian Petro, “Classic Cocktails in History: The History,” The Alcohol Professor. (Blog)

“The Daiquiri,” The Rum Nerd. (Blog)

Mark Jones, “The District’s Claim to the Daiquiri,” Boundary Stones (WETA). (blog)

“The Hemingway Daiquiri(s),” To Have and Have Another. (Blog)

“The Navy Doctor & the Daiquiri,” The Grog: A Journal of Navy Medical History and Culture, Spring 2011: 23.

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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:

TO COMMANDER OF TASK FORCE, DURING 9TH AND 10TH OF MAY THE U.S. NAVAL SHIPS TAYLOR AND WALKER SYSTEMATICALLY AND ROUGHLY VIOLATED INTERNATIONAL RULES OF THE ROAD AT SEA AND MADE DANGEROUS MANEUVERING WHICH CAUSED DANGER OF COLLISION WITH SOVIET NAVAL SHIP.  AS A RESULT OF SUCH A HOOLIGANS ACTION THE DESTROYER WALKER RAN DOWN THE PORT SIDE OF SOVIET DESTROYER 022 AND CAUSED DAMAGE TO HER.  SUCH ACTIONS OF NAVAL SHIPS CANNOT BE AFFORDED.  REQUEST STOP THE VIOLATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL RULES OF SHIPPING AT OPEN SEA IMMEDIATELY. COMMANDER SOVIET TASK FORCE.

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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