Pacific Fleet Commander Visits Cold War Gallery

Admiral Harry Harris, USN and his Executive Assistant Captain Michael Boyle, USN share a laugh during their visit to the Cold War Gallery last week.

Admiral Harry Harris, USN and his Executive Assistant, Captain Michael Boyle, USN share a laugh during their visit to the Cold War Gallery last week.

Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and his staff visited the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s Cold War Gallery last Thursday.  Admiral Harris was in town for official business, but managed to swing by and visit the gallery and admire the P-3A Orion aircraft he sponsored in honor of Rear Admiral G. W. MacKay.

Adm. Harris and the P-3A Orion model now in the Cold War Gallery

Adm. Harris and the P-3A Orion model now in the Cold War Gallery

Captain Ted Bronson, USN (Ret.) shows the wall of plaques and squadron memorabilia to Admiral Harris.

Captain Ted Bronson, USN (Ret.) shows the wall of plaques and squadron memorabilia to Admiral Harris.


Adm. Harris was met and escorted at the Gallery by Naval History and Heritage Command Director Capt. Jerry Hendrix, a fellow P-3 NFO, and Navy Museum Director Jim Bruns.

Long-time volunteer and NHF memberCaptain Ted Bronson, USN (ret.) showed Admiral Harris around the Ready Room Theater, modeled on a VA-46 ready room from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and containing actual chairs from that great ship. Captain Michael Boyle, Executive Assistant to Admiral Harris, has a special connection to Captain Bronson and the Ready Room.  Captain Boyle’s father, Commander Ron Boyle, was the commanding officer of VA-46 aboard the Kennedy when Bronson served as his Executive Officer in 1974. Bronson then fleeted up to CO from 1975-1976.

Bronson, Harris, and Boyle

Bronson, Harris, and Boyle

NHHC Director Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN talks with Admiral Harris inside the Cold War Gallery

NHHC Director Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN talks with Admiral Harris inside the Cold War Gallery

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Going Ashore: Naval Ship to Shore Power for Humanitarian Services

By George Stewart

This paper was originally intended to be a follow on my experiences as an engineer aboard commercial tankers. The original intent was to provide a description of World War II-built turboelectric Destroyer Escorts and to illustrate the commonality they shared with commercial T-2 Tanker power plants. In the process of preparing this post, it became apparent that it would be desirable to expand it’s scope to include a discussion of the experiences that the U.S. Navy had in the delivery of ship to shore electrical power for humanitarian assistance.

In general, the amount of ship to shore power that can be delivered by US naval vessels is limited by a number of factors, including installed generating plant capacity and the availability of topside shore power connections. By far, the majority of current naval vessel electrical distribution systems are three phase, 450 VAC, 60 Hz. Exceptions are nuclear carriers, the newest LHA and LHD types, and the DDG 1000 Class ships which have (or will have) 4160 VAC distribution systems.  The new T-AKE 1 Class ships operated by MSC have 6600 VAC integrated diesel-electric power plants. As a general rule of thumb, it becomes necessary to go to higher voltages aboard ships with generating plants with a capacity of 10,000 kW or greater because of circuit breaker interrupting capacity and cable limitations.

The DDG 51 Flight IIA Class will be used as an example to illustrate existing limitations in generating plant capacity. Each of these ships is fitted with three gas turbine driven ship service generators (SSGTG), rated at 2500 kW 450 VAC, 60 Hz (3000 kW on DDG 91 and follow). Using these ships as an example, this would appear to provide a total generating plant capacity of at least 7500 kW. However, there are several additional limitations that must be taken into account.

  1. Generators must never be intentionally loaded to more than 90% capacity.
  2. Due to circuit breaker limitations, only two sets may be operated continuously in parallel. The third set serves as a standby unit.

Given these limitations, the usable generating plant capacity aboard these ships is approximately 4500 kW (5400 kW on the later ships). In addition, ships must supply their own in-port services that may be as much as 2500 kW or more. This only leaves a margin of about 2000 to 3000 kW of available excess energy. This is a bit misleading because the ships only had two topside shore power connections, each consisting of four cables; each rated at 400 amperes giving a total of 3200 amperes through eight cables. Assuming a power factor of .8 and no more than 90% loading, this results in a total delivery capability of about 1800 kW. Coupled with the fact that many of the countries that could require humanitarian relief have 50 Hz distribution systems, these factors impose severe limitations on the ability of modern surface combatant ships to deliver shore power.  Destroyer tenders (AD) and submarine tenders (AS) could deliver as much as 7000 kW at 450 VAC to ships alongside them. Only two submarine tenders remain in service as of 2014, USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), based in Diego Garcia, and USS Frank Cable (AS 40), based in Guam. Modern ships with integrated electric drive plants have high generating plant capacities. However, significant alterations would be required to make them capable of delivering large amounts of shore power.

The above limitations did not exist aboard older ships with turboelectric and diesel-electric plants because these ships had separate propulsion and ship service generating plants. It was possible to divert the bulk of the power from the main propulsion generators to shore at either 50 or 60 Hz provided that adequate cable reels were available. Some examples are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Approximately 440 Destroyer Escorts (DE) was built between 1943 and 1944. Ninety-five of them were converted to high-speed transports, and another seventy-eight was delivered to the United Kingdom under the Lend Lease agreement where they served as Captain Class frigates. The ships were divided into six classes and had four different propulsion plants including geared steam turbine, turboelectric, geared diesel, and diesel-electric systems.

One hundred and two ships of the Buckley (DE 51) and an additional twenty-two ships of the Rudderow (DE 224) had twin-screw turboelectric (TE) propulsion plants rated at 12,000 SHP. Maximum sustained speed was approximately twenty-four knots. A major reason for the use of turboelectric propulsion systems was limitations in reduction gear manufacturing capabilities during the war. Priority had to be given to manufacturing the double reduction gears required on destroyers, which had propulsion plants rated at 60,000 SHP. General Electric and Westinghouse manufactured the systems. They had many commonalities with the propulsion plants aboard the T-2 tankers described in a previous post. The machinery arrangement was similar to that aboard navy destroyers with alternating fire rooms and engine rooms. Each fire room contained a single D type boiler which produced superheated steam at a pressure of 450 PSI and a temperature of 750° F. Each engine room contained one main propulsion generator rated at 4600 kW, 2700 VAC, 93.3 Hz, 5400 RPM, one ship service turbo generator rated at 300 kW at 450 VAC/40 kW DC, and a 6000 SHP, 400 RPM main propulsion motor. The main propulsion control consoles were very similar in appearance to those on T-2 tankers. The ships had the capability of operating both main motors on a single main generator.

During World War II, a total of five ships of the Buckley Class and two British Captain Class frigates were converted into floating power stations for the purpose of supplying electrical power to shore in the event of a power outage. It is understood that a number of other ships of the class were recycled as floating power stations for coastal cities in Latin America under a program sponsored by the World Bank.  However, no additional information is readily available concerning this program. A discussion of the services provided by the five Buckley Class ships is contained in the following paragraphs.

A major part of the conversion process consisted of the removal of torpedo tubes and installation of large cable reels located on the O1 Deck, as shown in the following illustrations:

USS Foss

USS Foss

Shore Power Cable Reels

Shore Power Cable Reels

The floating power plants had a total generating plant capacity of approximately 8000 kW (estimated), 2300 VAC, 60 Hz, .8 Power Factor. This equates to a usable generating plant capacity of approximately 7200 kW taking into account the 90% load factor. 50 Hz power could be easily provided to locations where necessary. The only action required was to slow the main generators down from 3600 to 3000 RPM by the use of the governor control levers. This capability does not exist in any vessels currently in service.

USS Donnell (DE 56) was converted into a power barge in England in 1944 after a torpedo struck it during convoy duty. Damage was fairly extensive and propulsion power could not be readily restored. The ship was then towed to Cherbourg, France, where it supplied power for a period of time. This experiment was considered to be very successful. It resulted in the decision to convert the other vessels on this list into floating power plants.

USS Foss (DE 59) provided power to the city of Portland, Maine, in 1947-1948 during a severe drought and a number of forest fires. At the time, it was assigned to operational development duties along with its sister ship, the USS Maloy (DE 791). There is no record of Maloy ever being converted into a floating power plant. Foss later supplied shore power to various ports in Korea in 1950-1951.

USS Foss and  USS Maloy Supplying Power to Portland, Maine in 1947-48

USS Foss and USS Maloy Supplying Power to Portland, Maine in 1947-48

USS Whitehurst (DE 634) and USS Wiseman (DE 667) supplied power to the city of Manila for several months in 1945. During that period, Wiseman also provided drinking water to Army facilities in the harbor area. Wiseman later supplied power to the city of Masan, South Korea in 1950. USS Marsh (DE 699) supplied power to the island of Kwajelin from May until September in 1946. It later supplied power to the cities of Masan and Pusan in 1950 during the Korean War.

USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) entered service in 1928. Both ships were ahead of their time. They were fitted with turbo-electric propulsion systems rated at 180,000 SHP. The ships had four steam turbine driven main propulsion generators each rated at 35,200 kW, 5000 VAC. Unlike more modern installations, the plants were not integrated and ship service power was DC supplied by 6 separate generators, each rated at 750 kW, 240 Volts DC. Up until the early 1930s, the only use the U.S. Navy had made of AC was in the propulsion systems aboard the USS Langley (CV-1) and six battleships that entered service in the 1920s.

In 1929, Washington State suffered a drought that resulted in a loss of hydroelectric power to the city of Tacoma. The U.S. Navy sent Lexington, which had been in the shipyard at Bremerton to Tacoma to provide power to the city. A considerable amount of coordination was required between the city and the ship in order to allow Lexington to provide power. The hookup consisted of twelve cables connected to circuit breakers and a bank of transformers located on the dock with a total rating of 20,000 kVA. The ship then provided a total of 4,520,960 kilowatt hours from one main propulsion generator between 17 December, 1929 until 16 January, 1930, at an average rating of 13,000 kW until melting snow and rain brought the local reservoirs up to a level where normal power could be restored.

Lexington at Tacoma, 1930

Lexington at Tacoma, 1930

Lexington Shore Power Hookup

Lexington Shore Power Hookup

The US Army also had a Nuclear Power Program in the 1960s. As part of this program they converted an existing Liberty ship into the Sturgis (MH-1A), a floating nuclear power station. This involved the removal of the existing propulsion plant and installation of a pressurized water reactor in a 350-ton containment vessel. After several months of testing Sturgis was towed to the Panama Canal Zone where it supplied 10,000 kW of power to operate the locks from 1968 through 1976 because of a water shortage which had an impact due to the loss of hydroelectric power. Unfortunately, the cost of operation proved to be very high and Sturgis was retired in 1976 after the Army Reactor Program was discontinued.  Sturgis was then defueled and placed into the James River Reserve Fleet.


  1. NAVPERS 10864-C – Shipboard Electrical Systems, 1969
  2. Paper – Ship to Shore Power, US Navy Humanitarian Relief, Scott, 2006
  3. Transactions, SNAME, 1929
  4. NAVSEA Ship Information Book, AS39/40
  5. DDG 51 Flight IIA Electrical Plant Load Analysis
  7. USS Lexington (CV-2) report following supplying power to the City of Tacoma for a month, 1930.

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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Alfred, Ahoy! Foster Humfreville and His Cryptic Cartoons of World War II

Alfred Ahoy Cover

“With rare exceptions Alfred disapproves of everything he sees when on shore leave, although he does not object to others enjoying themselves.”

The Naval Historical Foundation received a few “rare editions” from a box of donated books last month.  Included in the list of usual naval history titles were two compendiums of World War II-era cartoons. Readers will be familiar with the first volume, a collection of 115 illustrations of “The Sad Sack,” a humorous Army cartoon that appeared in Yank Magazine throughout the war.  The other lesser-known title is a first printing of Foster Humfreville’s Alfred, Ahoy! This collection of “choice gags” features the character of Alfred, “one of the best loved goofs in the cartoon world.” Alfred the sailor appears in a variety of humorous situations both on shore and afloat. For many at the time, however, the droopy-faced hero of the cartoon became a major topic of conversation during the war. According to Collier’s Weekly Cartoon Editor Gurney Williams, sailors “began to clamor” for Alfred comics after their first appearance in the magazine. For some, Alfred became a household name and a source of well-needed diversion during a troubling time.

humfrevilleFoster Humfreville is surely one of the obscure cartoonists of the era. He is not listed among Collier’s top list of cartoonists (Joseph Barbera, Bill Mauldin, Hank Ketcham, etc.), yet his cartoons were popular enough during the Second World War to warrant a collection. According to a biography of the artist, Humfreville left the banking industry to pursue art during the depression, eventually moving to New York City to become a sculptor and artist. He is best known during this time for a WPA public service poster produced in 1937 for the New York Department of Corrections titled, “Shame May Be Fatal.” In 1941, he sold his first comic to Collier’s and quickly became an artist for the weekly magazine.

Humfreville’s Alfred cartoons are the perfect blend of intelligent humor and Navy life. The cartoons also capture the frantic nature of naval warfare in the 1940s: relative monotony punctuated by fierce and deadly combat. Throughout the comic strip series, Alfred is depicted performing a variety of humdrum tasks such as swabbing the deck, loading ammunition, conducting rifle drills, or sending semaphore flag signals.

jap planesWhatever situation Alfred found himself him, his facial expression remained the same. The indifferent and judgmental gaze of Alfred forces readers to wonder what the sailor is thinking. Humfreville himself admitted he knew very little about the Navy. Most of his ideas and inspiration for his Collier’s comics came from conversations with sailors about shipboard Navy life. Some cartoons take a completely literal and likely cryptic explanation of the image shown. It’s almost philosophical.  Take, for instance, the illustration below:

What does that even mean?

Alfred is never the one doing the talking.  It seems that the artist’s intention was to always show Alfred’s “fine disdain for rank and discipline and disregard for danger” through his silence and carefree demeanor.  After all, Alfred is described quite clearly as a mere “sensitive, simple-minded gob.” His profile closely resembles Alfred Hitchock’s signature pose. Perhaps there is more.  Reading the cartoons at “face-value” only lends itself to a small portion of its interpretation. Like all good art, there are layers of meaning. There must be more to this simpleton.

In the introduction to the collection, famed political reporter Walter Davenport gives readers a “somewhat incredible,” yet altogether fake, biography of Alfred. His description of Alfred is at first as hilarious as the cartoons themselves. But then you read further.  Clearly, you start to see an agenda and message forming from the scrawled images of Alfred and his antics. His description of Alfred and his father share some insight into the mind of the cartoonist, who considered himself the “foster father” of the character:

“Actually Alfred and his father were protesting against Japanese aggression, against the Jap violation of this important fact of life. As you study Mr. Humfreville’s drawings all this will become very clear.”

Humfreville moved back to his home state of California in the summer of 1942. His message is a clear nod to his disagreement with the internment of Japanese in California during the war.

Davenport also discusses the character’s motivation for enlisting in the Navy. Alfred enlists in the Navy under the idea that his actions will be motivated by four principles his father taught him.  Among other instructions like avoiding enthusiasm and “letting others do the thinking,” the final principle is particularly moving.  He simply states:

“People will always be trying to make you do something you don’t want to do. Let on you don’t hear them.”

Even a dim-witted gob can get philosophical from time to time.

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Titan? Try Again: Josiah Tattnall, USS Saratoga, and the 1843 Snow Storm

Temperature Anomalies for March 1943 (Image courtesy of

Temperature Anomalies for March 1943 (Image courtesy of

The 2013 winter storm is one of the most interesting weather anomalies in recent memory. Most Americans are by now familiar with terms like “polar vortex” and “snow squalls.”  Winter Storm Titan is currently wreaking havoc on the mid-Atlantic state causing thousands of flight delays and closures. This current is not, however, the only time that strange weather impacted the United States so deep into the season.  According to weather analysts, the 1843 winter season was far worse.  In Historical Climate Variability and Impacts in North America, John W. Neilson-Gammon and Brent McRoberts argue that March 1843 was possibly “the most abnormal weather month in the History of United States weather records.”  Cold weather and snowstorms gripped the country from the Kansas plains to New England.  For one naval officer, the storm almost proved his undoing.

Captain Edward Beach wrote in his history of the United States Navy that the period between the War of 1812 and the Civil War was “a time of complacency as the heroes of the famous naval war rested on past laurels.”

In 1843, Josiah Tattnall could easily rest on his own laurels.  Tattnall was an officer profoundly dedicated to doing his duty as a naval officer.  He, along with many other officers, felt the patriotic sway of his Georgia homeland far outweigh personal misgivings about secession during the American Civil War.

Josiah Tattnall

Josiah Tattnall

His early years of service are a testament to his future leadership.  As a young midshipman, Tattnall took a force from the Washington Navy Yard into battle at Bladensburg in a heroic yet unsuccessful attempt to thwart the British invasion of the capital. After the war, he sailed with Stephen Decatur to Algiers to fight the Barbary Pirates in the Second Barbary War. He helped capture the frigate Mashouda and brig Estedio.  After a number of years serving in the United States and the Mediterranean as the commanding officer of several ships and the Boston Navy Yard, Commander Tattnall was appointed the commanding officer of the sloop-of-war Saratoga, one of the newest and largest vessels of her kind.

Saratoga was built in the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1841 and commissioned in January 1843. Tattnall, fresh from a tour with the Mediterranean Squadron, returned to the United States to take command of the vessel. Plans were made for the ship to leave Portsmouth for New York in the middle of March for a tour with the Africa Squadron protecting American interests and stopping the slave trade. The ship departed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 16 March 1943 for New York when it encountered what one biographer of Tattnall called “a serious disaster.”

USS Saratoga

USS Saratoga

The weather on the afternoon of 16 March was terrible.  High winds and a low-pressure system put the northeast in a state of emergency. Tattnall and his crew felt they could get clear the New England coast before the weather become too dangerous and impassable.  By nightfall, blinding snow and a strong gale from the northeast forced the ship to return to Portsmouth.  According to the deck log, the wind blew away the foretopmast stay sail. Tattnall wrote to the Secretary of the Navy on the 19th in further detail.  The following are excerpts from his letter:

“At 11 P.M. we had passed Newburyport, and were heading to windward of Cape Ann, when the wind shifted to east southeast, and increased suddenly to a severe gale, with snow and sleet, obliging us to carry a heavy press of canvas to keep off shore, the snow and sleet, which froze as they fell, coating everything with ice and rendering it impossible to furl the sails, as the increase of wind and sea obliged us to take them in [. . .] the canvas was so frozen and stiff that their efforts were unavailing.”

“Preparations were made for anchoring and cutting away the masts [. . .] The heavy sea, and probably the tide (although allowance was made, in the course we steered, for both), drove us to leeward, the atmosphere being so hazy that we could not see more than half a mile in any direction [. . .] We found ourselves standing directly on to a rocky shore extending for some distance on both bows, and on which the sea was breaking heavily.”

“The ship was brought to the wind, both bowers let go, the chains veered to clinch in the teers, 150 fathoms on each, and the masts cut away. We were near enough to the shore to be benefited by the under tow, and rode out the remainder of the gale in safety.”

Tattnall’s cool head and quick thinking saved his ship and crew. When the storm cleared the following afternoon, the Saratoga was only a quarter mile from the breakers of Portsmouth along the sands of Rye Beach near the mouth of the harbor. Several officers wrote to Tattnall upon his return to Portsmouth, praising him for his heroic act and “good and bad fortune.”  One letter, dated 23 March 1943, is particularly blunt and to the point.  The colleague opens his letter to Tattnall by congratulating him from his “narrow escape from a watery grave.” The Saratoga slumped back into Portsmouth for a series of necessary repairs and refittings.  She would not get underway again for another two months.

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Norman’s Corner: My Protégé and My Mentor

By Norman Polmar

(Editor’s note: This is the 25th in a series of blogs by Norman Polmar—author, analyst, and consultant specializing in the naval, aviation, and intelligence fields. Follow the full series here.)

Dr. David A. Rosenberg

Dr. David A. Rosenberg

During the summer of 1965, when I was assistant editor of the Naval Institute Proceedings, a young man came into my Annapolis office.  After saying that he had read all of my articles and books (two published at that time), we had a brief talk.  I was up against a deadline and cut him short.  His name was David A. Rosenberg and he was planning to attend American University in Washington the following year, which I was attending at night. 

He seemed bright. I asked Dave to contact me when he was settled at AU.  Over the next four years he and I talked regularly and, with my wife, we had many dinners as he told us about school, life, and love.  Dave majored in history and, with my encouragement, worked part time and two summers at the Naval Historical Center, writing ships’ histories for the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships.  And, for two summers he was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution, also working on naval history projects.  In this period, while at the Naval Historical Division, Dave met then-retired Admiral Arleigh Burke, the Chief of Naval Operations from 1955 to 1961.  The admiral took an immediate liking to him.

Upon graduation from AU in 1970, Dave attended the University of Chicago to earn a master’s degree in history.  At Chicago he met Deborah Haines, a Quaker and pacifist.  Dave had never met a true pacifist and Deborah had never met a hard-core “navalist.”  It was “love at first discussion.” They married in 1973.  And, Dave began work on his doctorate in history at Chicago.

Meanwhile, in 1973, I was working for the studies firm Lulejian and Associates in Northern Virginia.   Dr. James Schlesinger became Secretary of Defense in July 1973, and soon after taking office he asked the question: “How did the United States and the Soviet Union come to develop and deploy the nuclear weapons that are now in our arsenals?”  The Army and Air Force established teams within their respective services to develop supporting papers on pertinent U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapon systems.  The Navy, however, went to a commercial contractor for the supporting papers on the development of U.S. and Soviet strategic missile submarines and U.S. nuclear-capable aircraft carriers.  The contractor was Lulejian and Associates, and I was named project manager.

While we had several highly qualified researchers and writers at Lulejian, I wanted Dave on our team to provide the perspective of a professional historian.  At first he was reluctant to interrupt his PhD program, but I prevailed—an interesting project, we could expedite obtaining security clearances for him, and we could pay him an excellent salary.  He and Deborah came to Washington.  Dave worked for Lulejian into 1975.

Back in Chicago, Dave completed his PhD dissertation on the first 15 years of U.S. nuclear strategy and war planning under Dr. Akira Iriye, one of the nation’s leading diplomatic historians.   In 1978—at the request of Under Secretary of the Navy James Woolsey—Professor Ernest May at Chicago asked Dave to undertake a history of long-range planning in the Navy.  Dave’s report was of considerable help to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas Hayward, in establishing the Navy’s Long-Range Planning Group (Op-00X).  This effort led to Dave meeting several of the Navy’s best and brightest officers at the time.

Dave and Deborah remained in Chicago, and he attempted to obtain a commission in the Naval Reserve.  Unfortunately, direct commissioning policies and Dave’s eyesight prevented him from entering the Navy.  Dave and I kept in contact and in March 1981, I went to Chicago to lecture on Soviet naval developments at Northwestern University. While there, I hosted a breakfast with my friend Samuel Sax, a Chicago banker and Naval Reserve captain (public affairs), and asked Dave and Deborah to join us.

Sax talked Dave into applying for a direct commission as a public affairs officer in the Naval Reserve.  Dave did so and, passing the physical, was given a direct commission as an ensign in January 1982. Dave was off and running.  He soon “converted” his Naval Reserve commission from public affairs to intelligence.

His writing on nuclear weapons and strategy, his work on the Schlesinger study, and his long-range planning report brought him to the attention of several Washington seniors.  In 1983-1985, he was a senior fellow at the Strategic Concepts Development Center (later the Institute for National Strategic Studies) at the National Defense University in Washington.

In his “civilian” life, Dave taught at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Houston,  the Naval War College, Temple University, and the National War College in Washington.  In addition to teaching, during his Naval Reserve service, Dave periodically went to sea, gaining his “sea legs” while also developing a broader understanding of the Navy.

We kept in contact and when he joined the faculty of the National War College in 1996, we began seeing each other on a regular basis.  In our discussions   I found that now our professional relationship was becoming reversed:  Dave was becoming my mentor.

Increasingly, Dave served on fleet and command staffs during exercises, bringing his special perspectives to those staffs.  During the 1991 Gulf War he was mobilized for duty in J5 directorate of the Joint Staff where he worked on war termination and national policy issues.  A year later he was assigned to write the classified history of the development of the Maritime Strategy.

In his “spare time,” Dave undertook a long series of interviews with Admiral Burke and began researching his voluminous papers in anticipation of a comprehensive biography of the admiral.  That is an on-going project.   Dave’s continuing interest in basic naval history led to his being named chairman of the Secretary of the Navy’s advisory committee on history, a position that he held for more than ten years, from 1995 to 2006.  And, in collaboration with Dr. Christopher Ford, he has written a most lucid and informative account of naval intelligence in World War II and the Cold War—The Admirals’ Advantage (2005, revised edition 2014).

Within the context of the Naval Reserve he was regularly advanced, being promoted to captain in 2003.  That year he assumed command of reserve intelligence unit 0566 at Suitland, Maryland. Under Dave’s leadership, the unit gained many accolades for its accomplishments and grew to the largest reserve intelligence unit.  When Dave was relieved of command in 2005, the unit was split into two organizations. He commanded another reserve intelligence unit in 2007-2009 prior to retiring from the Naval Reserve in September 2010.

Thus, Dave has had an interesting and at times exciting life.  Since 2006 he has been a senior analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Northern Virginia.

Dave’s long-time interest and expertise in submarine operational history has provided him with recent opportunities to work with the Naval Historical Foundation.  And, in a related move, in early 2014 Dave took the reins from retired Rear Admiral Jerry Holland to design the programs for the annual Naval Submarine League’s history seminars.

We see each other regularly, including a “luncheon clique” that tries to meet once a month, consisting of Tom Brooks, Jack O’Connell, K.J. Moore, Dave, and me, I being the only one who has never served in the Navy.  Dave and Deborah, my wife, and I also go out socially and have taken vacations together.

And, every time that I see Dave I learn more from him.

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In Death Unafraid: History, Memory, and the USS Maine (Part II)

In Death Unafraid is a four part blog miniseries chronicling the history and memory of the USS Maine from 1898 to present.  Read PART I here.   

Screen shot 2014-02-23 at 8.35.08 AM
Part II: Worse Than Hell

When riots broke out in Havana at the beginning of 1898, the McKinley government sent the battleship Maine there to protect American interests and “show the flag.”  Secretary of the Navy John D. Long remained adamant that the ship’s appearance off the coast of Cuba did not warrant any act of American aggression against the Spanish.

A month later, aggression came to the Maine.  An explosion in the forward magazine caused the deaths of nearly three-quarters of her crew. Americans were eager to seek justice for the dead.  More than that, they wanted to remember and honor those who lost their lives the evening of 15 February.

War in a Time of Peace
As quickly as the ship sank to the bottom of the harbor, Americans began a nationwide campaign to pay tribute.  Newspapermen like Hearst and Pulitzer fabricated the truth to sell newspapers.  Hearst went as far as to offer a $50,000 reward for the conviction of the “criminals” responsible for the explosion.  According to historian Ivan Musicant’s monograph Empire by Defaut, the New York Journal ran an average of eight and a half pages of material about the Maine in the week after the sinking. If Americans were unaware of the ship before, they became more than intimate with her details in the weeks to follow. Needless to say, theatrics of any kind dominated the opening months of 1898.

Looking through the history and documents today, one wonders why this single event instigated so much “war fever” amongst Americans. It was less than ten years since the end of the Indian Wars. Over thirty years passed since Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Both campaigns occurred inside the United States. Foreign intervention was, at the time, a thing of the past. Many Americans felt their ideals aligned closely with the emerging social theories of progressivism and reform. Economic growth and the spirit of invention dominated. Put simply, war and conflict was not a part of the postbellum term of peace.

Do we continue to “Remember the Maine” because of its severe loss of life? It was the first attack of its kind against the United States. It would take another forty-three years for a U.S. Navy ship to become as significant and symbolic as the Maine, the USS Arizona. Yet the Maine was not lost in wartime; it was a peacetime disaster.  Although the loss undoubtedly fomented a military response, her sinking in Havana Harbor came about amidst peace.

How does the Maine stack up among other naval disasters of its kind?  The following is a list of major U.S. naval disasters in peacetime:

Ship Year Description Loss of Life
USS Insurgent 1800 Presumed lost after it went through a West Indies storm in September 1800 340
USS Oneida 1870 Sank off Yokohama, Japan after a collision with the British steamship City of Bombay 125
USS Huron 1877 Sank in a storm off the NC coast near Nag’s Head 98
USS Maine 1898 Sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba, after an explosion caused the ship’s magazine to explode. 260
USs Cyclops 1918 Lost at sea in the Burmuda Triangle; likely due to a storm 306
USS Thresher 1963 Sank during deep-diving tests off the coast of the United States near Boston. 129
USS Scorpion 1968 Sank near the Azores with all of her crew; loss remains unsolved 99
USS Frank E. Evans 1969 Crossed bows with Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne during a training exercise 74
USS Iowa 1989 Open breech explosion in the center gun of turret Number Two killed 47 sailors inside 47

Perhaps it is a numbers game. The Maine ranks as one of the worst losses of life during a time of peace in U.S. naval history. Only the loss of the Cyclops in the Bermuda Triangle and the USS Insurgent ranks higher. In fact, fewer sailors died in the ensuing Spanish-American conflict than on the night of 15 February.

“To Hell With Spain”
Americans chose to remember the Maine through the use and utilization of contemporary media.  Contemporary media was the easiest and fastest way to strike at the hearts and minds of the American public. In an era before web technology and social media, three forms dominated the American public: print, music, and film.

Remember the MaineAmericans still needed a battle cry. According to folklore, a man in a Manhattan bar raised his glass and toasted, “Gentleman, remember the Maine.” Amidst the jeers of patriotic enthusiasm, one journalist in the bar that night overheard the speech and took it to the newspapers.  The published words became the rally of the Spanish-American War:


The slogan appeared in newspapers around the country.  Pins and buttons containing the slogan sold to anxious and eager crowds. Composer and lyricist E.A. Warren also took the opportunity to capitalize on the pregnant moment with his song, “Boys, Remember the Maine.” His patriotic ballad included lyrics dripping with fighting spirit and the necessity for war:
Boys Remember

“Our gallant fleet is on the move, we’re fighting treach’rous Spain,
Spurred on by the battle cry, ‘Re-mem-ber the Maine!’”

“The stars and stripes are waving on the land and sea,
Underneath this banner Cuba shall be free; The army and the navy,
While they’re fighting Spain, Go forth with the watchword, “Remember the ‘Maine!’”

One of the last lines of the song is particularly interesting. Warren goes back to the American Civil War to evoke the need for camaraderie against a singular foe:

“Now brothers in a common cause, they chant the same refrain, The ‘Blue and Gray’ march side by side, Remember the Maine.”

Everybody’s Sweet Song
Other songs surfaced.  Composer Bert Morgan’s “My Sweetheart Went Down with the Maine” is a touching ode to love and loss.  The song tells the story of a woman waiting to wed a sailor serving aboard the “gallant ship.”  He captures her uneasiness with the swift death that came to the sailor, unknowing of his eventual fate:

“Anchored at Havana, on the Cuban shore,
Conscious of no danger, dreaming love-days o’er,
Peacefully he slumbered in his hammock bed
While the stars in glorious beauty benediction said.”

Their marriage was cut short by the explosion.  Morgan ends the sorrowful song with a call to arms against  “the cowardly fiends who slaughtered the crew of the Maine.”

Political cartoonist also took advantage of the situation, drawing a slew of anti-Spanish and pro-war propaganda pieces in honor of the men lost aboard the Maine.  Political cartoons donning the immortal war cry began surfacing in April 1898, just as the United States Government chose to declare war against the Spanish Empire.

Acclaimed political cartoonist Clifford Berryman’s “And, Boys, Remember the Maine!” is a testament to the keen sense of patriotism and purpose felt by sailors entering the conflict.  The cartoon depicts Uncle Sam pointing to the wreck of the Maine.  Stern faced and wearing a flag-inspired sailor’s uniform, Uncle Sam sets the tone for reverence and vengeance.  You can easily see the wreck of the ship in the background.  The sailors on the ship are either looking into the distance or at Uncle Sam, as if to communicate a longing to move forward into the distance beyond the wreck and into victory.

War is Hell
The 30 April edition of Judge magazine plays on the fears and dehumanization so often seen in World War I and World War II propaganda.  The cartoon, titled “War is Hell,” shows a brutish Spaniard trampling on a starving Cuban child and dead Maine sailor. The caption reads, “Peace in Cuba under Spanish rule is worth than hell.” A devilish figure sitting atop a mountain of skulls is also seen in the background.

Disaster on the Silver Screen
Film in 1898 was still a relatively new technology.  Vaudeville and stage theaters were, however, a popular form of entertainment and diversion for Americans. According to the Library of Congress website “The Motion Picture Camera Goes to War,” conflict with Spain “increased the movies’ popularity, since films of the war sparked great interest and patriotism in theater-goers.” All moviemakers had to do was put the sensationalist stories in print on the silver screen.

The American Mutoscope & Biograph film company sent cameramen to Cuba to film the wreckage of the Maine “almost immediately” after she sank.  They also filmed other battleships, including the Spanish warship Vizcaya in the weeks and months that followed.  The company cleverly retitled the Iowa and Massachusetts as the “Maine” to peak the curiosity and interest of the American public. Competing companies like the Edison Manufacturing Company also traveled down to Cuba to shoot footage of the wreckage for the “War Extra” catalog.  Both companies offer a keen snapshot to the real (and often staged) footage of the Maine and her victims. The description to Edison’s “Wreck of the Battleship “Maine” is one of the few straightforward pieces of contemporary news footage about the ship you will see:

“The warped and twisted remains show how thoroughly this immense mass of iron and steel was blown out of all semblance of a vessel.”

Feature films were still an untamed concept.  The majority of releases in the late nineteenth century were short films.  The most notable silent film released about the Maine was “Divers at Work on the Wreck of the Maine – 1898,” directed by Georges Méliès.  The 53-second film is cartoonish at best.  It portrays divers surveying the blown-out hull of the ship at the bottom of the harbor.  Fake bodies are taken out of the ship and ferried up to the surface.  For the first time, the film medium gave the general public a visual representation of the words printed in Pulitzer and Hearst’s newspapers.  It is as traumatic and harrowing as film allowed for the time period.

“The Good Old Fashioned Way”
Today, the Maine rests easy off the Cuban coastline.  She is not only a sacred naval vessel, but also a careful cautionary reminder of the unique cause and effect relationship of the military when it is mixed with the powers of the press, propaganda, and persuasion.

A series of poems following Admiral George Dewey’s lop-sided triumph at Manila Bay were published in the 8 May edition of the Saint Paul Globe.  The title of the section, “Manila and the Muse,” was a full-blown dedication to Dewey and his victory in the Philippines.  One poem written by Boston Globe editor Edward F. Burns focused attention once again to the Maine. The first stanza of “They Remembered the Maine” says much about the power that the ship had on the psyche of the public and military at the height of the Spanish-American War. It is as if his victory secured the promise of justice and vengeance perpetuated through contemporary print, film, and music:

“Dewey! Dewey! Dewey!
Is the hero of the day,
And the Maine has been remembered
In the good, old-fashioned way-
The way of Hull and Perry,
Decatur and the rest,
When old Europe felt the clutches
Of the Eagle of the West;
That’s how Dewey smashed the Spaniard
In Manila’s crooked bay,
And the Maine has been remembered
In the good, old-fashioned way.”

For a full list of references, please email Matthew Eng at

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A Stag Party with President Truman and Some Fleet Admirals

GeorgeCMarshallDinnerProgram-92-8-15_Page_1GeorgeCMarshallDinnerProgram-92-8-15_Page_1On May 6, 1947, a party was held in Washington, D.C.  Among the honored guests there: A president, a few politicians, and a majority of the most important and influential officers in United States military history.  They all came to the “stag party” (according to President Truman’s presidential diary entry) to honor General George Marshall, Truman’s recently appointed Secretary of State.

GeorgeCMarshallDinnerProgram-92-8-15_Page_2This dinner came on the heels of General Marshall’s greatest achievement, the Marshall Plan, which would earn him the Nobel Prize in 1953. Marshall rolled out that plan during a speech at Harvard University just four weeks after this tribute dinner. The dinner at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. was a “who’s who” of American military leaders, politicians, and magazine magnates.  Among the names on the back of the program:

  • Thomas W. McKnew, later Chairman Emeritus at the National Geographic Society.
  • Everett Dirksen, Illinois Congressman.
  • Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, father of photojournalism, President of the National Geographic Society and editor of its magazine for over 50 years.

For naval history enthusiasts, the most notable names appear towards the bottom. Three of the four designated Fleet Admirals in the United States Navy signed their names: William D. Leahy, Chester W. Nimitz (Water mark on signature; appears to be his name), and Ernest J. King.

Directly above Admiral Leahy’s signature are two that are also worth noting: General of the Air Force Henry A. “Hap” Arnold and President Harry Truman. According to the Truman Presidential Library website, Truman met with Marshall earlier that day at lunch, most likely to discuss the Marshall Plan.

There appear to be twenty one signatures on the back cover of the dinner program. Only a handful are identified.  Can you tease out any others? Could that be Texas Congressman Sam Rayburn’s signature in the lower right? Leave a comment on your guesses.  Have fun with it!

The dinner program, part of the Naval Historical Foundation’s collection since 1992, was donated to the George C. Marshall Foundation this week.

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World War I-Era Naval Aviation Material donated to National Naval Aviation Museum

Donated Items from the Family of Ensign Dudley C. Lunt, USNRF

Donated Items from the Family of Ensign Dudley C. Lunt, USNRF

The Naval Historical Foundation recently received some very interesting pieces of naval aviation memorabilia from the descendants of Ensign Dudley C. Lunt, USNRF.  Lunt enlisted in the Naval Reserve in March 1918 and was called into active service shortly thereafter.  He found himself at a ground school for aviation cadets at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Early predecessor to V-12) before attending a six-week flight school on ballooning in Akron, Ohio.  He commissioned as an Ensign in Hampton Roads on 2 November 1918, nine days before the end of the war. In his short stint as a naval officer, Lunt served as the kite balloon pilot of the battleship USS Arizona. He made his first and only Caribbean cruise proving “the utter futility of attempting to fly kites from battleships.”   He spent time stationed in San Diego before heading back to the East Coast to pursue other ventures. The family offered up several items used by World War I-era naval kite fliers like Lunt for donation.  The items included:

  • Aviators flight log book
  • USS Pennsylvania spotting practice log book for 17 February 1919
  • Pay and expenses record book
  • Navy correspondence, 1918 to 1924
  • Goodyear Company “tech manual” on kite balloon operating instructions
  • Sea bag with naval aviation insignia

At the time that Arizona commissioned in 1915, sighting and spotting the fall of shot depended on the vantage point of the two cage masts on the ship.  To correct this, kite balloons were deployed to raise the vantage point so spotters could see even father. Lunt was one of a select few aviators assigned to a battleship.  According to one history of the Naval Reserve Forces, very few graduated from the program to become officers.  Most went back to join the enlisted ranks. Of those graduating officers, only a handful made it as kite observers on battleships.

Goodyear "Type R" Kite Balloon

Goodyear “Type R” Kite Balloon

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company produced the “Type R” Kite Balloon used by Lunt. Goodyear made over ninety of the 117 procured for the United States Navy during the World War I-era. Kite balloons went back as far as 1893 and remained unchanged through the First World War.  The cigar-shaped “Type R” balloon was 92 feet long with a diameter of around 27 feet.  Rigging attached to the balloon held the basket where naval observers could spot and identify targets.

Kite Balloon on USS Arizona

Kite Balloon on USS Arizona

According to historian Paul Stilwell, battleships like Arizona also began using airplanes at the same time they experimented with balloons. Aircraft like the French Nieuport and English Sopwith were used for scouting and spotting, though more preferred for the latter. Planes were better equipped for spotting than kite balloons, as Lunt quickly found out during his Caribbean cruise.  Planes also had the benefit of not being tethered to the ship.  Planes would eventually phase out kite observation balloons in the mid 1920s. Balloons did, however, resurface during World War II as a deterrent for dive-bombing attacks from enemy fighters.

Lunt left the Navy to attend Harvard Law School after a failed attempt to take on Wall Street in New York.  According to Lunt, he forgot that he was still just a “country boy.” Thankfully, the law proved more beneficial to him. Lunt became a lawyer in Delaware before beginning a well-received newspaper and literary career that lasted until his death in 1981.

As we have done on a number of occasions in recent years, the Foundation served as a facilitator between artifact donor and the most suitable repository to accept the donation. These items were sent to Hill Goodspeed, historian at the National Naval Aviation Museum.  We would like to thank long-time member Rear Adm. Mac MacKinnon for bringing the possible donation to our attention, and the family of Dudley Lunt for ensuring this intriguing slice of naval aviation and battleship history will be preserved for the benefit of historians, veterans and researchers!

Ensign Lunt's personal sketches in the back of the Goodyear tech manual.

Ensign Lunt’s personal sketches in the back of the Goodyear tech manual.

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BOOK REVIEW – Proceed to Peshawar: The Story of a U.S. Navy Intelligence Mission on the Afghan Border, 1943

Hill-Proceed to PeshawarBy George J. Hill, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, (2013)

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb, Ph.D.

George J. Hill, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Medical School, served in the Marines Corps and U.S. Public Health Service until he retired as a Captain, Medical Corps, USNR, in 1992. He is the son-in-law of Albert W. Zimmermann who is the focus of this intriguing and well-written biography. Hill used his father-in-law’s letters, notes, still images, and 16mm motion pictures.  He also used archival and Freedom of Information Act materials in the preparation of the book (xxiv + 228 pp.), which is accompanied by two maps and thirty original black-and-white pictures never before published. The author also utilized documents from five major archives, as well as 159 secondary sources and 14 interviews and correspondence in writing a five-chapter narrative augmented with 338 endnotes. The book is the result of meticulous and painstaking scholarship.

This is a cautionary and engaging tale that provides significant insight on the complexities of the little-understood region between Afghanistan and present-day Pakistan. The volume relates directly to the concept of the “Great Game,” a term for the strategic rivalry and struggle for supremacy between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia. The term has been attributed to Captain Arthur Conolly (1807-1842), an intelligence officer of the British East India Company.

It is at this point that Hill begins his narrative; the story of adventure in the Hindu Kush (the western extension of the Himalayas) in late 1943 and of a previously untold military and naval intelligence mission during World War II by two American officers along 800 miles of the Durand Line, a breachable border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (Pakistan was a part of British India until 1947).

Hill provides basic historical context from Alexander the Great to the British East India Company, and geographical background material in the initial chapter, noting that the prize of the “Great Game” was India and Russian access to the Indian Ocean. Two books provide an elaborated context: Tournament of Shadows: The Race for Empire in Central Asia and the Great Game  by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac; Washington, DC: Counterpoint/Perseus Book Group, 1999; (Kolb’s review at H-NET REVIEWS/ H-Russia [Russian History], 19 April 2000), and Frontier of Faith: Islam in the Indo-Afghan Borderland by Sana Haroon; New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. (Kolb review in Digest of Middle East Studies 17(2):94-96, 2009; published online 16 March 2010)

The second chapter, “The Travelers and Others Who were Involved in the Trip,” focuses on the three officers who made the trip. Iowa-born Major (later Colonel) Gordon Bandy Enders, USAR, age 46, was the “driving force” behind the trip. He spent his younger years in India and was a pilot and accomplished linguist (fluent in Hindustani, Tibetan, and Chinese). Enders had remarkably similar experiences to those of Kim O’Hara in Kipling’s Kim, and became a military intelligence officer by 1943.  Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Sir Benjamin Gonville Bromhead, OBE, IA, age 43, a hereditary British noble, spent much of his military career in the NWFP (1922-1943). Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Albert W. Zimmermann, USNR, age 41, a “socialite” and native of Philadelphia with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He was “apparently picked at random” but was a senior naval liaison officer in Karachi, India (later Pakistan).  Hill details other individuals “who knew” about this intelligence trip. Among them: Sir George Cunningham, Governor, NWFP; Lieutenant Commander Francis Smith, USN; Hon. Cornelius Engert, U.S. minister to Afghanistan; Lieutenant Colonel “Rex” Benson; Hon. Clarence Macy, American Counsel at Karachi; Field Marshall Archibald Wavell; and Lieutenant Colonel William Hay, British Commissioner, Baluchistan. Others who learned about the trip or likely learned about it are also documented.

“The Trip” was documented during the venture by Zimmermann. He kept notes and took more than 100 photographs. Zimmermann documents the trip in four chronological phases: 12-15 November 1943 (the city of Peshawar to the tribal territories); 16-23 November (the “northern portion” of the trip: Malikand, Swat Valley, and Chitral – including a visit to an antimony mine); 24-28 November (Peshawar and the Khyber Pass – Hill notes Lowell Thomas’s vivid 1923 description of the pass); and 29 November-15 December (Waziristan, Baluchistan, the Bolan Pass, and city of Quetta).

Chapter 4 “Aftermath: The Outcome, 1944 and Beyond” (pp. 88-128) considers the spring, summer, and fall of 1944. AZ reported that the team “had not discovered anything on the trip that was unexpected.”  The team was soon dispersed to other assignments, but Hill reviews Enders’s account of the trip and debriefings by superiors, noting that no official comprehensive report was ever prepared.  Zimmermann’s separate trip to Baluchistan in September 1944 is detailed briefly as is a popular article on the trip that appeared in the September 30, 1944 New Yorker.  During the winter of 1944-1945, Zimmermann sold pictures to National Geographic magazine.  However, they were never published and his article was not accepted. Hence, he gave up trying to publish his account of the adventure. Nonetheless, Hill documents the outcome of the trip, commenting that the Americans “perceived no national intelligence issue,” although the British were able to convey the nature of the problems they faced with the tribes in the NWFP and Baluchistan and how they were dealing with them. Was this an attempt to draw the U.S. into the next phase of the “Great Game?”

However, is was clear that the British (and ultimately the Americans) needed to understand the importance of honorifics, gift-giving, negotiations with tribal elders, blood feuds, and the significance of mullahs. The issues of the “Indian problem” and the “Pashtunistan problem” are reviewed, and Hill ends the chapter with concerns about Axis sympathizers and surrogates in the region, Russian interests in Afghanistan, and oil. He could have added mineral wealth: Copper, gold, iron, silver, and semi-precious stones (rubies, sapphires, garnets, and lapis).  In the fifth chapter, “Afterword and Closure, after September 11, 2001,” Hill reports that the 1943 trip appears to be the first time that any American officials were permitted to travel for any distance along either side of the Durand Line. The Americans were also the first to drive a motor vehicle over the Lowari Pass between Dir and Chitral. While Enders and Zimmermann comprehended the problems the British faced in the NWFP, other Americans saw the region as a “remote area of little interest to America.” The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to a reawakening for the Americans; places such as Tora Bora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Southern Waziristan, and the Haqqani network now appear frequently in U.S. newspaper headlines. What, if anything have we learned? Zimmermann’s meticulous accounts and Hill’s thoughtful and compelling research point to directions and missed opportunities. The narrative also provides insight about small group dynamics among the travelers, and British perspectives on the region.  The volume is a valuable contribution to the history and culture of the region – little has changed over the past seven decades. Hill ends his narrative, sobering and appropriately, with a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s Kim: “When everyone is dead the Great Game is finished.  Not before.”

Dr. Kolb, an Independent Scholar (National Endowment for the Humanities, Ret.) has written extensively about the history and culture of Afghanistan and worked in that country since 1965, most recently in October 2013.  


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BOOK REVIEW – The Battle of the Denmark Strait: A Critical Analysis of the Bismarck’s Singular Triumph


By Robert J. Winklareth, Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia, PA.  (2012).

Reviewed by Richard P. Hallion, Ph.D

The fateful encounter between the Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, Hood, and Prince of Wales at 0600 on the morning of 24 May 1941 midway between Iceland and Greenland has drawn the attention of numerous authors and analysts. It even inspired a now-classic film. The circumstances of the battle and the shockingly sudden destruction of Hood—arguably the most gracefuland beautiful of all capital ships built in dreadnought style—ensures that generations of students of naval warfare have avidly read all they can find about the ships involved, the battle itself, and the aftermath.allion, Ph.D.

Robert J. Winklareth’s book fits well within a historiographical pattern of works dating back to Russell Grenfell’s The Bismarck Episode (1962), progressing through such informed works as B. B. Schofield’s The Loss of the Bismarck (1972), Ludovic Kennedy’s widely popular Pursuit (1974), and Freiherr von Mullenheim-Rechberg’s survivor’s memoir Battleship Bismarck (1980).  These, of course, are but a fraction of the works dealing with the battle and the ships involved, and are distinct from the broader naval accounts of the action and its place within the history of the Kriegsmarine, the Royal Navy, and the larger naval history of the Second World War.

Where Winklareth’s book differs from others is in the author’s impressive effort to determine exact positions, firing angles, and firing effects. This is based on a technical analysis of the imagery of the engagement, the surviving documentation of vessel movements, speeds, headings, and the recollections of participants. He offers a salvo-by-salvo analysis of the battle from the moment of contact. He concludes that Bismarck hit Hood exactly at 0600 with a single 380mm shell that penetrated its aft armored side below the aft turrets, detonation ammunition stored in a magazine, most likely a 4-in. secondary armament magazine that then triggered the detonation of Hood’s aft 15-in magazines (p. 145).

This is, incidentally, not a surprising conclusion, as written by previous authors. What is interesting is his discussion of how the respective sides came to the point that, seconds before 0600, Bismarck reached a position where its firing solution enabled the fatal hit.

He then repeats this detail of analysis in following the encounter with Prince of Wales and then the subsequent disappearance, discovery, air attack, and final Götterdämmerung of Bismarck itself at the hands of the Fleet Air Arm and the surface combatants of the Royal Navy.

Winklareth’s book is highly speculative, as it is based upon the author’s insights and vigorous argument. Readers are cautioned that it is one historian’s view, but the view of an individual who went to uncommon lengths to buttress his argument with analysis and justifications, including many diagrams and textual explanations.

Not all readers will appreciate that the author covers the battle from the moment of interception to the breaking of contact in little more than 51 pages of a 336 page work, and that the actual exchange of fire between Bismarck and Hood is covered in little more than two pages of text (pp. 142-145, p. 144 being a page of photographs).

This reviewer appreciated that author Winklareth placed the action within a much broader context, including the respective development of capital ships in the British and German navies, the technical characteristics of each ship and its critical systems (sensors, armament, and performance), what happened to lesser vessels and forces, and what happened afterwards to the major vessels involved on both the German and British side.

Thus, the title of the book is in actuality a bit of a misnomer. The book is at once more and less than the title suggests.  It is less in that the attention devoted to the actual encounter at sea is less than the title would imply. It is more in that the reader receives further value for money in that the work constitutes a study of broader and more far-reaching value.

Winklareth is convincing in his writing even if the book becomes extremely detailed at times. This is a work that aficionados of naval engineering and gunnery will particularly find stimulating.  He tends to overwrite on occasion.  One example occurs at the beginning of the book. He claims that “The Battle of the Denmark Strait was undoubtedly one of the most famous and most important naval battles of World War II [and] is perhaps the most documented event in naval history.” (p. 11).

It was certainly famous, but “most important?”  Assuming either outcome—Bismarck sinks Hood or Hood sinks Bismarck—it is hard to imagine that either would have dramatically transformed the course of naval warfare in the European Theater of Operations. Had Bismarck reached St. Nazaire, it is likely that Operation Cerberus, the famed “Channel Dash” in February 1942 commanded by German admiral Otto Ciliax, might have consisted of Bismarck leading Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen through the Straits of Dover and into the North Sea. This force was powerful enough to add further to British woes, but little else. And what of that “most documented event in naval history?” Is documentation for this action more thorough than documentation for Jutland, or Midway, or even for the terminal encounter IJN Yamato had with naval aviators in April 1945? Hardly.

The Battle of the Denmark Strait features evocative photographs and maps, excellent diagrams and drawings, and a very useful bibliography and reference to key documents from Germany and Britain. In somewhat dated fashion, the author has employed numerous pencil drawings of his own to illustrate ships, aircraft, and actions during the battle and afterwards. While he undoubtedly has a fine drawing style, most of these are dwarfed what is shown in the photographs.

All in all, this is a most useful perspective, and if not completely convincing, the book is a worthwhile work that will both inform and stimulate its readers.

Dr. Hallion has been a previous contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.


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reilly-amphibious-gunboats-ww2By Robin L. Rielly, McFarland  & Co. Inc., Jefferson, NC and London, UK, (2013)

Reviewed by Samuel Loring Morison

The sub title of this work, A History of LCI and LCS(L) Ships in the Pacific, is a more appropriate title for the subject. With the exception of Rielly’s previous book on LCS(L)’s, very little (if anything) has been written about these two types of ships/craft. Rielly’s book does them complete justice in his included text and illustrations. Unlike most books of this type which stop at the conclusion of their U.S. Navy service, this book continues on with each ships service, especially the LCS(L)’s, (later LSSL’s) in their French, Japanese, South Vietnamese and/or Philippine service. Rielly is to be congratulated for an extremely well done and researched book.


Samuel Loring Morison is the grandson of the late Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison. A naval officer in the Vietnam War and naval historian in his own right, he has been in the naval history field for 50 plus years.


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BOOK REVIEW – Poseidon and the PC – The Letters of Lt. Paul W. Neidhardt

Neidhardt-Poseidon and the PCEdited by Gary W. Neidhardt. AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN, (2013)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

Editor Gary Neidhardt transcribed and annotated 115 letters that his father, Lt. Paul W. Neidhardt, wrote to his wife, Phyllis, between September 1943 and November 1945. Neidhardt, commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy in July 1942, went on to serve aboard two PC boats, USS PC 1172 in the Atlantic and USS PC 814 in the Pacific. Neither PC boat would encounter the German or Japanese enemy. Each ship did encounter a major storm at sea.  PC 1172 encountered the great Atlantic hurricane of September 1944 that ravaged the East Coast of the United States and Canada, while PC 814 was struck by Typhoon Louise in October of 1945 that devastated Okinawa.  The title of the book is derived from his father’s encounters with these two storms, as the editor considers them messages from Poseidon, the god of the sea.

Paul joined PC 1172 at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1943 and went to sea on board her via the Chicago-Illinois-Mississippi River Systems. The letters he wrote home are about family matters, his love of Phyllis, what he was doing, and life on board his boat. We are treated to a variety of incidents within his letters that cover personnel problems with the ship’s crew, auxiliary duties assigned for him to perform, runs ashore, and life at sea. There is almost no coverage of what assignments PC 1172 was carrying out or where she was. One has to read between the lines to ascertain where she was operating and what duties she was carrying out. It appears that PC 1172 spent most of 1943 sailing between Miami, Florida, and the Caribbean waters performing escort duties. Paul went into great detail concerning PC 1172’s two day encounter with this hurricane while escorting a convoy. He reported 35-foot high waves and rain so strong it sandblasted paint from the ship’s bridge.  He mentioned living on soup, coffee, and crackers. In February 1945, Paul, now a lieutenant, was relieved of duty on PC 1172 and ordered to San Pedro, California.

At San Pedro, Paul received orders to report as Executive Officer to PC 814 being built by Commercial Iron Works in Portland, Oregon.  PC 814 commissioned at Portland in June 1945 and undertook workup at San Diego, California. Paul oversaw the training of the crew and the two junior officers assigned to the ship. PC 814 arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on August 11, 1945 with the news of the A-bomb being dropped on Japan.  She was still docked there when the announcement of Japan’s surrender was made on August 14th. Paul heartily believes the dropping of the A-bomb his life and the lives of countless others. Thereafter, many of his letters discuss how many points he has and how many he needed to be discharged. He also discusses two new job assignments he was given: Recruiting Officer and Civil Readjustment Officer.

His account of PC 814 riding out Typhoon Louise at Okinawa is by itself worth the price of the book. Due to engine problems, they are unable to put to sea. They anchored in what they believed was a sheltered location. Before the storm passed by, however, they lost both of their anchors and eventually came to rest on a reef. PC 814 was so damaged that the Navy decommissioned her in place.   Before that could happen, however, an investigation of the circumstances of her being damaged had to be carried out. The investigation was not completed when Paul received orders to return stateside as Phyllis expected to deliver a child in December. The book ends with three letters Paul wrote to Phyllis in November 1945. A postscript added by the editor follows Paul and Phyllis through his return to the civilian world, his success in his chosen field, and their deaths.

The book is a nice easy read and is far more of a family autobiographical accounting than a military history. Yet the book gives amazing insight into the family life of an officer and his wife during World War II. Those interested in social history will find much material in this book.

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


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BOOK REVIEW – Pushing The Limits – The Remarkable Life and Times of Vice Adm. Allan Rockwell McCann, USN

LaVO_Pushing the LimitsBy Carl LaVO, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, (2013)

Reviewed by Charles H. Bogart

Those who study the United States Navy submarine service have encountered in their readings a mention of the McCann Submarine Rescue Chamber. This book is a biography of Vice Admiral McCann, who played a major role in shaping the United States’ submarine force and anti-submarine force during the 1940s. Unfortunately for the author, Admiral McCann left no trail of documents recounting his thoughts concerning his service in the U.S. Navy.  Carl LaVO had to craft his book using accounts written by others who served with the Admiral, or pry out facts about McCann from official and non-official accounts of actions and events he was involved in. Due to these limitations, the author admits that he was never able to know McCann as a man.  He was able to record his accomplishments and the place he deserves in the history of undersea exploration and warfare.

The book is less a biography of McCann and more a recounting of various U.S. Navy events he was involved in between 1917 and 1950. The time line presented in the book is not continuous and skips various periods within McCann’s naval career. McCann is always in the background to the greater story being told.

Four topics within the book highlight the failure to bring McCann to life. The first is the salvage of USS Squalus in which McCann was involved. We know what happened during the salvage operation, but we never encounter the reasoning why McCann and Momsen undertake certain actions. Second, the author, in covering the period between 1941 and 1943 when McCann commanded SubRon 6 in the South Pacific, devotes almost all of his text to the problem of the malfunctioning torpedoes fired by USN submarines.

Unfortunately, we never learn McCann’s thoughts concerning the failure of his submarines to sink enemy ships. The author made no use of submarine After Action Reports and the comments senior officers attached to these reports to flesh out our understanding of McCann. In fact, there is almost a total lack of information throughout the book on McCann as a commanding officer. The third is the failure to develop the topic of McCann as commanding officer of Tenth Fleet. The fourth incident concerns his tour of duty as Inspector General of the Navy during the “Revolt of the Admirals.” The account of McCann’s IG raid on Arleigh Burke’s Op-23 office deserves a chapter of its own, not just two pages.

While the book is very readable and contains a fountain of information about the USN during the period under discussion, it fails to turn Admiral McCann into a real person who the reader can evaluate as a man and a leader. There are also a number of errors of fact within the book, such as McCann made use of carrier based B-24 Liberators bombers to conduct anti U-boat patrols.

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


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BOOK REVIEW – In the Trough: Three Years on Ocean Station

Jaras- In the ThroughBy Thomas F. Jaras, iUniverse, (2013).

Reviewed by Thomas P. Ostrom

This book drew my attention because of my time in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in the 1960s. Between 1940 and 1980, the USCG had Ocean Station vessels in the Atlantic and Pacific performing a variety of national defense initiatives. These included search and rescue, communications, and aids to navigation missions in hazardous weather, sea, and ice conditions.

Lieutenant Thomas F. Jaras mentions Coast Guard personnel at the U.S. Navy refueling station on Adak Island in the Aleutian Islands. He revealed that his dress blue USN uniform had Coast Guard origins, one of the author’s many humorous anecdotes.

Jaras was an officer on the USS Vance (DER 387), where he stood bridge watch in treacherous seas with forty to ninety foot wave heights, caught in the kinds of trough vividly illustrated on the book cover.

The Vance, according to the author, was a WWII-era radar picket ship “resurrected for a modest role in the Cold War.”  Vance was assigned to Operation Deep Freeze in the Antarctic Ocean.  It was in the North Pacific along the Distant Early Warning Line during the early 1960s. Jaras experienced the challenges of mid-ocean seas with infrequent visits ashore between Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Alaska, and several smaller insular sites.

Jaras describes gut-wrenching seasickness, the hull rolling over to a dangerous fifty degree angle, and the bow submerging as enormous waves washed over the decks and bridge. He describes a mission “in the remote northern Pacific,” with crews and vessels serving as “Cold War sentinels […] guarding the United States against nuclear attack.” Loneliness and introspection fueled his memories, writing nearly fifty years after his naval service.

Jaras described the Vance as a “durable World War II relic […] the worst riding ship in the U.S. Navy…” that could “remain at sea longer than any USN ship before there was a nuclear fleet.” Jaras spent “three years before the mast” in “a love-hate relationship with the USS Vance” on a duty assignment he regrettably volunteered for.

Researching through deck logs at the National Archives in Silver Spring, MD reminded Jaras of Vance’s weather conditions and shipboard events. Jaras refreshed his memory of shipboard construction and living by visiting with former shipmates, naval experts, and boarding the Slater at the Destroyer Escort Museum at Albany, New York. Jaras studied Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, and consulted Capt. Joseph E. Bourchard’s book on the DEW Line mission, Guarding the Cold War Ramparts: The U.S. Navy’s Role in Continental Air Defense.

Jaras described the personnel specialties and missions carried out on the Vance (command responsibilities, engineering, supplies, gunnery, navigation, seamanship) in the “small steel cocoon” of the destroyer escort picket ship.  He also chronicled critical dry-dock repairs, and infrequent liberty excursions. Complexities between officers and the responsibilities of leadership and coordination between commissioned ranks and enlisted personnel were honestly described and evaluated.

Jaras acquired Officer of the Deck, Combat Information Center, and engine room responsibilities on the long Pacific missions between the Antarctic and Arctic waters, longing for release from his seagoing “prison.” The ecumenical officer was never comfortable with the military caste system of privilege that separated officers from galley “servants” and enlisted personnel, whose skills and professionalism he respected.

He admired senior petty officers and chief petty officers who knew more than he did about shipboard technology and seamanship.  He especially admired those officers who emerged from the enlisted ranks. Perhaps his laid back (but conscientious) attitude came from his 15 weeks of OCS training compared to the more extensive U.S. Naval Academy and NROTC training. Nonetheless, Jaras respected the service, his ship, and good officer and enlisted leadership skills.

The book photographs are interesting. The author’s background and sources are stated in the Preface and Acknowledgements. The book could use an Index.

Jaras’s recollections about the specialties, challenges, and responsibilities required of enlisted and commissioned personnel reminds readers of the excitement, rewards, sacrifices, and danger navy and military members have always faced.

Ostrom has written extensively on Coast Guard history.


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Shipping Out: My Experiences on a Commercial Tanker (Part III)

This is the third of three articles that describe my experiences while serving as an engineer aboard commercial tankers in 1961. These articles provide a perspective on the different engineering practices between the Navy and Merchant Marine in the post-World War II era.  (READ THE SECOND ARTICLE HERE

In the summer of 1961, I relocated my family to the East Coast and looked for a full time civilian career. But nothing very promising had turned up, and money began to run out. I called the marine department at Texaco to see if they had another assignment for me. Sure enough, there was an immediate requirement for a relief Third Assistant Engineer aboard the Texaco Washington. I was to meet the ship the next evening in Bayonne, New Jersey.

I packed by bag and took a Northeast Airlines flight to New York. My brother in law met me at the airport and took me to the marine terminal. We arrived about 9 PM. I promptly changed my clothes and went below to meet the person that I was relieving.

Texaco Washington was built at Sun Shipbuilding in Chester, Pa. as the S.S. Contreras, Hull No. 282. It was launched in April1943, about a month after its sister ship, Texaco Minnesota (ex. S.S.Churubisco), Hull No. 254.



The ship was basically a duplicate of Texaco Minnesota. It appeared to be in comparable condition. The only significant difference being that the propulsion plant was a Westinghouse vice a General Electric installation. The two vendors had somewhat different ideas on how to build a turboelectric propulsion system. But it was easy to cross deck between the two. After a couple of maneuvering watches, I felt right at home.



The plant proved to be in fine condition, although it was not as much fun to steam as the one aboard Texaco Delaware. There was not as much crew stability as the two West Coast ships I served on. It seemed like we changed first and chief engineers every month while I was aboard.

It was essentially an old person’s ship. I was the youngest member of the crew at age 25. The second youngest was the Master, who was 32. My fireman was 58 years old. Another was 66.

The ship was home ported in Port Arthur, Texas. While I was on board, its principal employment was to carry home heating oil from Port Arthur to ports in the Northeast. Our stops included Galveston, Wilmington, Camden, Bayonne, Carteret, Albany, Groton, Providence, Boston, and Portland.

There were some significant differences between tanker operations on the East and West Coasts where the climate was much milder. Port Arthur was very hot in the summer and the ships had no air conditioning or forced air ventilation in the machinery spaces where ventilation came by means of wind scoops. One of the oiler’s duties once underway was to go up to the top of the space and turn the wind scoops by means of hand cranks. This gave us the best possible conditions in the space, depending on which direction the relative wind came from. This worked out OK while underway, but it was of little use when dock side in Port Arthur where machinery space temperatures of 120° F were common.



In general, our trips from Texas to ports in the northeast were longer than those on the West Coast. We would always get a boost from the Gulf Stream when heading north and would run into it on the way South.

Early on, at least two T-2 Tankers broke in half heading into a seaway. For this reason, Texaco policy was quite conservative on this subject. One of the watch engineer’s duties was to slow the ship down and inform the bridge whenever he felt the ship was under excessive stress while pitching when we headed into a seaway. Conditions in the after part of the ship made the engineer the perfect man for the job.

One day, I noted that a number of circuit breakers on the Main Switchboard had red tags on them. When I asked the First Engineer what they were for, he informed me that they were the breakers that had to be opened in the event we broke in half. It was a bit disconcerting. He hurriedly informed me that this had never happened to a Texaco tanker. Unfortunately, the SS Texaco Oklahoma did break up off Cape Hatteras in 1971. It was of a later design than a T-2.

About one month after I reported to the ship, we entered the Todd Shipyard in Galveston for a one-week overhaul accompanied by the annual Coast Guard inspection. On the way in, we stopped and anchored to empty and clean the port bunker tank. The entire unlicensed National Maritime Union (NMU) unlicensed engineering crew promptly quit. I remember the old adage, “When there are no Indians, the chiefs become Indians”. Since the officers were not covered by any union contract and the job had to be done, the second engineer and I were sent down into the tank to finish the job. I remember sitting down in the bottom of the tank mucking Bunker C heavy fuel oil residue up with a rag and reflecting that less than a year earlier I had been the XO/navigator on a minesweeper. It was a good character building experience. It took about a week of scrubbing to get the entire black, tarry residue off my back. The only consolation was Texaco’s policy to pay us “penalty time” (175%) for the time we spent in the tanks.

The shipyard period was interesting, to say the least. While we were in the yard, a hurricane came through and flooded out most of downtown Galveston. Meanwhile, we sat comfortably alongside the pier and rode it out. Fortunately, we were back on our own power by that time. We managed to get through a very intensive yard period that included cleaning and inspection of both boilers, the main condenser, main generator and motor, pulling the tail shaft, and a variety of other items in only one week. The engine room was a bit of a mess afterwards. But in three or four days, our four-man wiper crew had it back to normal.

It seemed as if there were a lot of misadventures and near misses during my time aboard Washington. Here are some anecdotes:

I always thought the procedure for getting underway without testing the system was a bad idea. When I asked the First Assistant, “How do you know it is going to work?” his response was “Well how do you know it will work a second time”. I still think I was right on this one. When we were leaving port one day, the first bell was a SLOW ASTERN. I pulled the lever back and nothing happened. It turned out that the problem was that I had not latched the door to the rear of the cubicle properly when shifting from Auxiliary to Propulsion service. The chief caught it right away and there was no harm done. It was a lesson learned.

On another occasion, I had just taken over from the First Assistant when we were entering port. On the first STOP bell, I noticed the main turbine rpm was creeping up from its normal idle speed of 1200 RPM. The First Engineer went over and whacked on the governor linkage with a hammer to no effect. By the time we got the next bell, the speed was up to about 2300 RPM. The Chief Engineer told me to go ahead and answer the bell. There was a big Wham and the whole stern seemed to lift up as the motor synchronized at about 60 RPM, and then settled back down to normal speed. About then, I noticed that the first engineer left the HP extraction valve open. It was supposed to be closed when maneuvering. We were effectively bleeding back steam from the 75-psi auxiliary system into the turbine through a sticking check valve. As soon as the Chief closed the valve, everything settled back down.

On another occasion, we were entering port when I received a STOP bell. The ship still had way on, so the shaft kept rotating. The Master called down and demanded that I stop the shaft. I replied that the only way that I could do that was to start and synchronize the motor astern first. This would probably have thrown the stern off to port. He then started cursing at me and demanded to know if the Chief Engineer was down there. Naturally, he was not. Shortly afterwards, the Chief arrived and he asked me what the problem was. When I explained, his response was, “That guy doesn’t know what he is talking about, so don’t pay any attention to him”. He added, “If he screws up the landing it will be your fault and not his, so I will stay down here until we are tied up”. I was quite grateful.

On another occasion, I was getting ready to take over the watch in Port Arthur. The First Assistant met me at the top of the ladder and informed me that everything was normal down below. As I started down the ladder, I looked at the two Jerguson remote water level indicators mounted on the engine room bulkhead. The water level was all they way to the top in one glass and all the way to the bottom in the other one. I turned around, caught the First Assistant, and declined to relieve him until he straightened the situation out. I should point out that we never wrapped up a boiler on momentary high or low water on any tankers I served on. It was not uncommon to be the only engineer on board while in port. In the absence of an emergency diesel generator, I had no desire to attempt to relight fires in a boiler and raise steam by pumping diesel oil with a hand pump with only two people to help out.

During a transit of the Hudson River, the 0000-0400 fireman got into a dispute with the second and quit. I was pressed into temporary service as a fireman, even though I had only done it on the MMA school ship. I found it surprisingly easy. Unlike the U.S. Navy, the merchant service always assumed that you could do the job of any crewmember serving in a lower capacity, unless proven otherwise.

Another example of this occurred in Port Arthur one evening when the pump man did not show up in time to take on bunker fuel. So, I was asked to stand in for him. The operation looked fairly simple. There were only two bunker tanks. They were located immediately forward of the after deckhouse on the port and starboard side. The piping system was just a single header with port and starboard fill valves. The second mate helped me rig the hoses. I opened the ullage covers, determined the level in the tanks by peering down with my flashlight, and told the dock man to start pumping. The port tank started filling first, so I throttled back a bit on the fill valve. Shortly thereafter, I heard a noise that sounded like compressed air escaping. When it persisted, I turned around and discovered that it was not compressed air, but Bunker C fuel oil spraying into the harbor. A weld on the filling pipe had let go. The mate cursed a bit, threw some burlap bags on the spill, and then told me not to worry because this happened all the time. I doubted we would get away with it.

As we departed New York harbor, I went aft to secure the standby steering unit. This type of steering gear had no quick change over valves. The procedure was to open the bypass valve, close the line stop valves, and secure the motor. While I was on my way back to the engine room, an alarm bell went off in my head. I turned around and ran back to the steering gear. Sure enough, I had cut off the wrong motor. I quickly restarted the correct one. Fortunately, nobody had noticed. Interestingly, I have a copy of the National Transportation Safety Board Accident report of the collision of the bulk sulphur carrier SS Marine Floridian with the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge at Hopewell Virginia in 1977 due to a steering gear failure. The ship was a converted T-2 tanker with the same type of steering gear as the Texaco Minnesota and Texaco Washington.

We were scheduled to tie up in Bayonne, New Jersey, around 6 PM. I made a deal with the First Assistant that he would take my watches during this port stop while I took his in Port Arthur. My wife, brother in law, and his date were to pick me up at the pier. I was up on deck waiting to go ashore, when suddenly we swerved off to port just off Staten Island and dropped the anchor. We had to wait for the 0100 tide. I was quite upset, as there were no cell phones in those days. There was not much I could do. I went ahead and stood my regular watch. Then I changed into appropriate clothes to go ashore.

I knew I would have the maneuvering duty between 0000 and 0200. It normally involved was keeping the bell book while the second had the watch. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. We had a new fireman who was having trouble keeping up with the maneuvers. The second decided to go out to the fire room and turn the controls over to me. What followed was one of the longest maneuvering watches I ever went through. The telegraph was dancing wildly all over the place. It took about an hour for us to get tied up. In the middle of all of this, the second came running out of the fire room, pointed up to the bridge, and yelled out, “Those people up there are crazy.” It was quite a workout. For much of it, I was the only person in the engine room. When I finally left the ship, my relatives were waiting patiently at the gate. My brother in law’s date must have thought we were all nuts. My wife’s first question was, “What were all those whistles out there.” I told her that it was impossible to explain.

The next misadventure occurred when we were leaving Boson Harbor. It was the oiler’s duty to go up and take a crew muster prior to getting underway. As we leftthe harbor, we suddenly went to anchor. I got a call from the bridge. I was asked if we had taken a muster and I replied in the affirmative. The question came back, “What about your Chief Engineer?” When I queried the oiler, he told me that all of the lights were out in the Chief’s cabin and assumed he was in there asleep. Since none of the rest of us had a chief’s license, it was illegal to sail. We had to anchor and wait for him in a boat. Both myself and the oiler met him at the gangway and apologized for the screw up. He said it was his own responsibility. When we arrived in our next port, he was promptly relieved and bounced back to second engineer on another ship.

Shortly after departure from one port, I happened to look up at the gage board and noted that the main steam line temperature had dropped from its normal reading of 740º to less than 500º. The boiler water levels were normal. I thought a bit and remembered that I had just secured the steam supply to the deck machinery. But I forgot to secure the feedwater supply to the line desuperheater. I de-superheated the entire main steam system. As soon as I secured the valve, the temperature returned to normal. Stupid me.

By now, Christmas was about to roll around. I decided that this was not how I was going to spend the rest of my life. I asked to be relieved in Portland, Maine, where my parents were living at the time. There was one last bite. My last watch was on the 0800 to 1200 while we discharged cargo. For some reason, we had to take a boiler off the line. In the middle of the watch, the steam pressure started dropping. I could see heavy black smoke coming out of the stack through the skylight. When I went out to the fire room, I discovered that the electrician decided to megger the forced draft blower motor. He was performing the operation on the boiler that was on the line. After I yelled over to him, he quickly restarted the blower and things returned to normal. Another bullet dodged.

This ends my account of my year in the merchant service. While a year does not sound like a very long time, it was a very eventful one. I think a few things that really helped make it so:

  • Texaco put a fairly equal load on all three licensed engineers, rather than placing most of the responsibility on the first assistant. On a lot of merchant ships, the first assistant did all of the maneuvering.
  • Gaining experience with three different plants.
  • The fact that these were coastwise tankers that did a lot of maneuvering in restricted waters. This experience was not obtainable on ships engaged in open water voyages.
  • Having to play MM, BT, MR, and EM, at some time or another.
  • Being left on my own to figure out solutions to problems as they occurred.

Six months later, I was back in the Navy. I had another Chief Engineer’s tour on USS England (CG22) from 1967-70 and a tour on the CINCLANTFLT Propulsion Examining Board (PEB) from 1976-79. During that tour, I obtained a USCG Chief Engineer’s License. One of the things that concerned me during my tour on USS England was how little appreciation young sailors had for what they were operating. They saw things like 1200 psi boilers, 1000 psi return flow fuel oil systems, and Size 03 sprayer plates as normal. The senior petty officers of that era were not always experienced on these types of plants. The 1200 psi improvement program, PQS, and EOSS were yet to come. My biggest problem was probably keeping my hands off things. Sometimes it became necessary. The bottom line is that I was glad to have my merchant marine experience in later years. It got me through a lot of tricky situations.

Even though I was never on the bridge when entering or leaving port, I learned at least one lesson about ship handling during my time on tankers. Compared to my previous experiences on a destroyer, we went through some very wild maneuvering sessions, frequently with me on the throttles. In some ports, we received as many as 40 to 50 engine orders when maneuvering into a pier. FULL AHEAD to FULL ASTERN bells were not uncommon. I later realized these engine orders were necessary on a relatively large ship with a single screw and limited power in order to obtain adequate rudder action and it was possible to do this without building up much headway. About 20 years, later this came in very handy when I served as Commanding Officer of the destroyer tender USS Puget Sound (AD 38). We were entering the harbor in Barcelona, Spain when we had to make a sharp right turn to enter a narrow channel using full rudder. When the helmsman was told to steady up, he put the rudder hard left, but the ship’s bow kept going right. Just as it looked like we were going to run into a jetty I ordered “ENGINE AHEAD FLANK’ in order to get a good kick against the rudder. As soon as the bow started swinging back to port I issued the order “AHEAD 1/3”. The helmsman had no problem steadying up and we did not build up any appreciable headway. A valuable lesson learned.

By the 1990s, Texaco no longer operated a coastwise tanker fleet. These functions are now being carried out by integrated tug-barge assemblies.

Since the 1970s, there has been a major change over from steam to diesel power in the US Merchant Marine. Additionally, there is much more dependence on automation. Many ships are now being operated with unmanned engine rooms after reaching the sea buoy. This requires that they obtain the ABS certification ACCU. However, it is still important to make periodic rounds just as it was in the 1960s. If anything, more technical knowledge is required on the part of the ship engineers than in earlier days.

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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