New Masters Degree in Naval History Offered Through Distance Learning at University of Portsmouth

A squadron of the Royal Navy running down the Channel and An East Indiaman preparing to sail, by Samuel Atkins (Christies/Wikimedia Commons)

A squadron of the Royal Navy running down the Channel and An East Indiaman preparing to sail, by Samuel Atkins (Christies/Wikimedia Commons)    

The University of Portsmouth is currently preparing a new program for students interested in British Naval History beginning in September 2016. The course offers real-life learning experiences working with archives and museums, as well as the opportunity to develop key transferable skills, such as independent learning, written communication, textual analysis and time management. This course also assists you with refining key research skills appropriate for progression to PhD level research.

Steven Gray, Lecturer in the History of the Royal Navy, took some time to share with us why this new MA program could be your next educational opportunity.

Why take this course?

  • ​What was the Royal Navy’s role in British history, and that of its empire?
  • What did a naval surgeon carry on the Mary Rose?
  • Why did Nelson become such a hero and how was he depicted?
  • What was it like to be stoker on the first Ironclad, HMS Warrior?
  • Why was the navy used to advertise cigarettes and biscuits?
  • How did it feel to be a sailor in the world wars?

Through a unique partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, this programme, based at the home of the Royal Navy, answers these questions through exploring over 400 years of naval history. The course establishes the importance of the Royal Navy to British and global history, and its interaction with other navies and empires, providing a unique insight into the political, military and cultural contexts of the day. Importantly, it also explores the life of the ordinary sailor in peace and war, the cult of the naval hero, and the navy – and its sailors – in popular culture. To do so, it will draw on a range of naval experts, curators, and primary sources, including access to the rich collections of Portsmouth’s naval museums. Through a flexible distance format, students will learn from short videos of leading naval experts as well as the latest scholarship and debates in the field, providing a well-structured and engaging history of the Royal Navy.

What will I experience?

On this course you will:

  • Access the rich archives and expertise of the National Museum of the Royal Navy to support your study.
  • Undertake study through flexible distance learning techniques, with the option to blend this with study days in Portsmouth.
  • Take advantage of unique connections with both Portsmouth and international maritime museums, with opportunities to go on field trips and experience behind the scenes tours.
  • Train in historical research and the interpretation of multi-archive sources.


You will study the following core units:

The Wooden Walls – The Royal Navy under Sail, 1509-1815

The navy changed immensely from that of Henry VIII, and his Mary Rose, to that of Nelson and Victory. Britain went from being a second rate European power to the sole world superpower by 1815. This module explores the changes which both navy and nation experienced in the early modern period. To do so, it looks at key events, including battles such as the Armada and Trafalgar, but also assesses how the navy was supplied and manned, and how the experience of the sailor changed in this period. Using the collections of the museums on the University’s doorstep, as well as the historic ships in Portsmouth, the course will look to understand what it was like to serve aboard a wooden sailing ship, and how the navy, and its heroes and ordinary sailors, were portrayed to the nation at large.

Rise and Fall – Naval Hegemony and Decline, 1815-1960

Emerging from the Napoleonic Wars as the dominant naval power, the Royal Navy assumed a role of imperial protector and global policeman. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, Britain began to be challenged globally, and found itself at war twice in the twentieth century. The rise of the USA, and the decline of its empire meant that, although victorious in both World Wars, Britain’s global power had disappeared soon after 1945. This module looks to understand how the navy fits into these wider trends, and the role it played in both peace and war. Using the collections of the naval museums, and those historic ships on our doorstep, including the first British ironclad, HMS Warrior, the course also looks at how technological change influenced its role, and how it changed the lives of those aboard.

You will also be able to select from a small range of optional units provided by specialists in their field of study.

Teaching and Assessment

The course can be studied entirely by distance learning through access to high quality interactive resources online, including unique primary sources, secondary literature, and video clips of world renowned experts. Dr Steven Gray, Lecturer in the History of the Royal Navy, will also be on hand to guide you through the course, as well as provide regular feedback and opportunities to discuss your work. Students will also be welcome to join optional campus based elements in Portsmouth, which will allow students to meet others on the course, participate in seminars, and access the resources, archives, historical artefacts and expertise of the naval museums in Portsmouth. There will also be optional field trips further afield, including abroad, that will further students’ understanding of the Royal Navy, and its role in the world. The MA is taught by specialised academics in naval history and staff from Britain’s premier Naval Museum and students will enjoy unprecedented access to the archives, galleries and expertise of the museum’s staff.  This flexible programme of delivery enables participation from students all over the UK and beyond.

How are you assessed?

The course offers opportunities for regular informal feedback on assignments based on each block’s topics, which will include using primary documents, objects, and artworks to explore key questions. Formal assessment will comprise essays, document analysis, and book reviews. Students will be able to utilise the university’s unique access to the collections of Britain’s premier Naval Museum in order to complete these assessments. The course also requires a 15,000 word dissertation based on original research, offering students opportunity to explore firsthand the history of the Royal Navy.

For more information, go to their website and course overview HERE.

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Norfolk Shipbuilding Event is Building Block for Fun and Learning

Kids and volunteers use the LEGO EV3 Mindstorms sets during the 2016 LEGO Shipbuilding Event. (Photo by John Paulson/NHF/Released)

Kids and volunteers use the LEGO EV3 Mindstorms sets during the 2016 LEGO Shipbuilding Event. (Photo by John Paulson/NHF/Released)

By Matthew T. Eng

On 6 February, the Hampton Roads Naval Museum (HRNM) hosted their fifth annual “Brick by Brick” LEGO Shipbuilding event. This yearly gathering of brick aficionados and enthusiasts in Norfolk, VA, has quickly become the museum’s signature event. This year marks the third time that the Naval Historical Foundation has supported HRNM in their blockbuster educational endeavor. Our generous donation helped fund a large quantity of toddler and special needs-friendly DUPLO bricks and two LEGO EV3 Mindstorms sets for the robotics portion of the day’s festivities. Several NHF staff members, including Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) traveled down to Norfolk to participate and show support.

Visitors build LEGO ships designed by HRNM staff members for this year's event. (Photo by John Paulson/NHF/Released)

Visitors build LEGO ships designed by HRNM staff members for this year’s event. (Photo by John Paulson/NHF/Released)

Over 2,000 visitors flocked to the Norfolk waterfront for LEGO fun this year, making it their largest event to date. According to HRNM Deputy Education Director Laura Orr, the influx in participation was due in large part to the change of venue. “We had the fantastic opportunity to work with Nauticus and move the event nearby to the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, which addressed our growing need for space in previous years,” said Orr. Because of this venue change, HRNM was able to invite other organizations such as the First LEGO League of Virginia and Engineering for Kids to do LEGO robotics demonstrations and activities for participants and attendees. “That was a big hit,” said Orr. Attendees had more space to view contest participants and build their own brick ship creations in the free play area. Laura also noted the importance of local volunteers, the majority of which were active duty Navy. “We couldn’t do it without them,” noted Orr. The popularity of the single-day event helped education staff at the museum develop a year-round educational program based on STEM principles and ship designs for local kids in the Hampton Roads area. Indeed, the museum prides itself for its quality educational program and accessibility to local area schools. Their new program will surely not disappoint. All of the HRNM-produced designs from this year’s competition are available to download for FREE on their website.

The most popular activity of the day was the shipbuilding contest. This year, HRNM separated contestant groups between those made at home and those built from LEGOs provided at the event. Participants (and parents) responded well to the new direction, as it allowed the opportunity for more kids to receive prizes on an even playing field. There were 107 individual entries for ships made by contestants at home, by far the most in the event’s history. Former NHF staff member and current NHHC Photo Archivist Dave Colamaria helped judge at the competition. He admitted that it was no easy task. “Judging was difficult, he said, “but it was great to see the level of talent of these kids grow every year my wife and I come.” Colamaria brought his own expertly-built LEGO ships this year as a display for aspiring naval architects to admire.

Nathan Cowfer

Nathan Cowfer through the years at LEGO Shipbuilding (NHF Photo/HRNM Photo)

There are many reasons why kids and adults come back every year to the competition. The thrill of building the new designs and seeing the burgeoning creativity of young minds surely top the list. Junior LEGO enthusiast and multi-year winner Nathan Cowfer is one of the few individuals who can say that they were at the event back when HRNM staff first “layed the keel” on the program. Since 2012, he has participated in every single LEGO shipbuilding event. Thanks to Laura Orr, I was able to contact Nathan and his mother to chat a bit about their experiences with the program and to talk a bit about his prize-winning design this year, the Viking ship “Skidbadnir.”

I have participated all five years and am already planning next year’s ship already! Mom and I look forward to and plan for this day every year. Having HARDLUG and the other displays was great, and separating the sets from the made-at-home kits was a real good idea. The separate judging made it more fair.

Nathan was equally enthusiastic about his Viking ship design:

The Viking ship was my choice because I’ve always liked the way they look. I had another ship started earlier in the year, but changed my mind later on. The challenge of designing my own ship seemed to flow once I focused on one of my favorites. I had to order a lot of the pieces and that was a wait that made me wonder if it would get finished in time. Picking a name for registration was kind of fun. Skidbadnir (Skeed-bahd-neer) is Nordic and means “wood leaf or wood blade.” It takes work just to say it!

HRNM posted the full list of winners this year on their museum blog.

Ship poster used for the event (NHF/HRNM)

Ship poster used for the event (NHF/HRNM)

When will you see LEGO shipbuilding next? HRNM staff members will be traveling up to Delaware next month to help out the Kalmar Nycklel Foundation put on their first annual shipbuilding contest. They will also be talking about their program success at this year’s CAMM and HNSA conferences.

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Generous Donation Helps Preserve and Make Accessible Valuable Navy Art

Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) stands with the Thomas Hart Benton print “Cut the Line” alongside members of the Cincinnati Insurance Company during a visit to their headquarters during his January 2016 visit. (left to right): Dawn Alcorn, Vice President, Administrative Services; Mike Weigel, Press Operator II, Printing; Roger Chamberlain, Secretary and Manager, Printing; Jack Schiff, Jr., Chairman of the Executive Committee, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Steve Johnston, President and CEO, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret), Executive Director, Naval Historical Foundation; Dirk Debbink, Director, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Tim Timmel, Senior Vice President, Operations; Lori Justice, Graphic Designer II, Printing; Brian Wood, Vice President, Human Resources; and Jim Streicher, Vice President, Personal Lines Support.

Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) stands with the Thomas Hart Benton print “Cut the Line” alongside members of the Cincinnati Insurance Company during a January 2016 visit to their headquarters in Fairfield, OH. Pictured (left to right): Dawn Alcorn, Vice President, Administrative Services; Mike Weigel, Press Operator II, Printing; Roger Chamberlain, Secretary and Manager, Printing; Jack Schiff, Jr., Chairman of the Executive Committee, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Steve Johnston, President and CEO, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret), Executive Director, Naval Historical Foundation; Dirk Debbink, Director, Cincinnati Financial Corporation; Tim Timmel, Senior Vice President, Operations; Lori Justice, Graphic Designer II, Printing; Brian Wood, Vice President, Human Resources; and Jim Streicher, Vice President, Personal Lines Support.

In 2016, the Naval Historical Foundation is celebrating its 90th year as a non-profit institution. As a testament to our Foundation’s mission to preserve, educate, and commemorate, we are highlighting instances where we are actively seeking out ways to keep naval history alive for generations to come.

By NHF Staff

The Navy Art Collection, most of which is in secure storage in the Washington, D.C. area, contains over 20,000 individual paintings, drawings, sketches, and engravings. Only a limited number of those art works are on display or in travelling exhibits at any one time. The Art Collection, administered by the Naval History and Heritage Command, collects, maintains, and exhibits art that is significant to the history of the Navy for the benefit of the American public and the Navy. Thanks to a steady flow of new donations, transfers and original artwork created by the two civilian artists currently on staff, the number of pieces in the Navy Art Collection continues to increase each year.

Some of the greatest artists of American history contributed to the Navy’s valuable collection. Artists like Gilbert Stuart and Charles Willson Peale vividly portrayed the leaders of the young American Navy during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The United States Navy began a more systematic documentation of its various military actions, explorations, and other activities prior to the First World War. Art works created by Navy combat artists added to the collection by showing the Navy at war from World War II through Vietnam. More recently, staff artists have added new work depicting the Navy during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

During the early part of the Cold War, the Navy’s Chief of Information (CHINFO) developed a process originally pioneered during World War II by companies like the Abbott Laboratories pharmaceutical company, who commissioned civilian artists to depict the Navy during that conflict, and then donated that art to the Navy. CHINFO devised a cooperative agreement with the venerable Salmagundi Club in New York City to similarly commission civilian artists to document military operations in the post-WWII era. This partnership became Navy Art Cooperation and Liaison Committees (NACAL) on east and west coasts to advise on art matters and to nominate artists for diverse assignments to portray Navy activities throughout the world. These artists were sent out to record their impressions in their desired medium and donate their work to the Department of the Navy under an agreement with NACAL. Although some works from the 1,785 pieces in the NACAL collection have been on display, most remain unknown and unavailable to the public.

Photographer Joe Rudinec and Todd Creekman stand with "Cut the Line." (Photo by Rudinec & Associates)

Photographer Joe Rudinec and Todd Creekman stand with “Cut the Line.” (Photo by Rudinec & Associates)

An ongoing Navy project over the last decade has been the photographic reproduction and creation of high resolution digital files for the 20,000 pieces of artwork within the collection, including those donated through NACAL. By September of last year, only 3,775 of those works had been photographed and digitized, including approximately half of the NACAL collection.

The Naval Historical Foundation, incorporated in Washington, D.C. in 1926, has supported the Navy Art Collection for decades, raising funds to purchase and conserve art. Recently, as the centennial of World War I gets underway with conferences and commemorations, we purchased and donated to the Navy an artist’s watercolor depiction of the arrival of the first USN destroyers at Queenstown, Ireland, in 1917 to begin operations with their British allies.

The Foundation also serves as an intermediary for major donations on behalf of the Navy Art Collection, including the ongoing art digitization effort. With a generous grant from The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, an additional 615 artworks from the NACAL collection have now been photographed and digitized by professional photographer Joe Rudinec of North Lima, OH. In just two and a half months’ time, Mr. Rudinec, who has also worked extensively with the Marine Corps’ and White House’s historic art, was able to digitally photograph each piece of NACAL art as well as provide a color transparency for further preservation by Navy Art curators. Not only have these important works been preserved, but the digital images are currently uploaded on our website where they are now accessible to the American public at We will continue to expand our website content to add additional Navy art in the future.

"Cut the Line," by Thomas Hart Benton (1944)

“Cut the Line,” by Thomas Hart Benton (1944)

In appreciation for their generosity, and in memory of Cincinnati Insurance co-founder and WWII Navy Supply Corps Officer LCDR Jack Schiff, Sr., Naval Historical Foundation Executive Director, retired Navy Captain Todd Creekman, travelled to Cincinnati to present the company a print of Thomas Hart Benton’s 1944 masterpiece “Cut the Line,” depicting the World War II christening of a Navy ship built not too far away from Cincinnati. This particular painting showcases the construction of LST 768, a 327-foot long Landing Ship Tank built by the American Bridge Company along the mighty Ohio River upriver from Cincinnati. Benton, a noted Midwest artist, served in the U.S. Navy during World War I where he documented Navy shipyard and ship camouflage work. Known for his fluid, sculpted figures and abstract landscapes, Benton’s striking painting of shipyard wartime work seen in “Cut the Line” is truly a masterpiece. As Benton put it, the work he did for the Navy during both world wars “was the most important thing . . . I had ever done for myself as an artist.” LST 768 served in the Pacific theater’s island-hopping battles in the final year of World War II, including the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns.

Captain Creekman met with the President and CEO of The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, Mr. Steve Johnston; retired Navy Vice Admiral and Cincinnati Financial board member, Mr. Dirk Debbink; and a select group of Cincinnati associates to present the print and thank the organization’s leadership for their vision to support a project which pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of generations of Navy men and women. This corporate commitment to the values that make America strong have resulted in the preservation of a significant collection of U.S. Navy art work, and its accessibility to the public.

For more information on how you can help us continue this worthy project in art digitization, please contact Naval Historical Foundation Executive Director Todd Creekman at

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Building for Victory: Interview with LEGO USS Indianapolis Designer

Dave Colamaria's LEGO USS Indianapolis Model (Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

Dave Colamaria’s LEGO USS Indianapolis Model (Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

If you are a fan or follower of the Naval Historical Foundation, you know that NHF has been involved with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s (HRNM) blockbuster LEGO Shipbuilding event for several years. The generous donation NHF provided this year to HRNM helped pay for a large quantity of DUPLO bricks for the event’s “youngest naval architects” and two LEGO EV3 Mindstorms sets. Our continued participation with this event helps fulfill our continued commitment to STEM and its correlation to naval history.

Former NHF staff member and current NHHC Photo Archivist Dave Colamaria has become a fixture to HRNM’s yearly signature event. Dave, an amateur LEGO model builder and enthusiast, has showcased many of his builds down in Norfolk both as a competitor and exhibitor. This year will mark the fourth appearance for Dave and his family, and the third ship model overall built specifically for the event.

Dave took some time out of his busy schedule to share some behind-the-scenes images of his third LEGO ship model and explain why he chose it as his contribution to this year’s shipbuilding event. 

USS Indianapolis Detail (Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

USS Indianapolis Detail (Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

NHF: This is your fourth year showing your spectacular ship models for the HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding Competition. What is your reasoning behind doing USS Indianapolis this year?

DC: I checked around and didn’t see many other Indianapolis LEGO models. It is surprising how difficult it can be today to find an historic ship without a model. There were a couple Indianapolis models that had been done, but I wanted to do it because the ship means a lot to me personally. Indianapolis is the reason why I am in this profession as a photo archivist for the U.S. Navy. I was watching a documentary on the ship thirteen years ago, and the ship’s doctor [Captain Lewis Haynes, MC, USN (Ret.)] his story really moved me – it both inspired and disturbed me. It got me to start to look into my grandfather’s WWII Army history – that eventually led me to my job working for the navy.

I am where I am now because of this ship and this story.

NHF: In the past, you have created a Fletcher-class destroyer, an Iowa-class battleship, and the carrier USS Lexington. Was this cruiser build easier or more difficult than your previous ones?

DC: When I do one of these big projects for this event, I have to remember what I am doing all over again. I learn new things and develop new tricks each time I do it.

NHF: Does that come from your past career as an engineer?

DC: The engineering does help. I use original blue prints to make a scale for the LEGO bricks that I need to purchase to build it.

NHF: How many bricks did it take to build USS Indianapolis (approximate)?

DC: There were approximately 5,000 bricks for this model. It is also five feet long.

(Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

(Photo by Dave Colamaria/NHF/Released)

NHF: Anything else you would like to add about your model?

DC: The color scheme was difficult to match. The problem with this ship was that there are very few photographs of it. As a photo archivist, I know that most of our photos come after a ship is decommissioned. As a sunken ship, Indianapolis was never decommissioned. I did my best to research and match the paint scheme – roughly measure 22 camouflage. The pieces used did not exactly with the colors, which is why you have a color that closely resembles blue. Design-wise, the ship is roughly in its configuration when it sank. I chose to leave the lifeboats off as a tribute to those who didn’t make it.

Any indications for future projects for the competition?

DC: Yes. Stayed tuned for more!

NHF: Thank you Dave.

Dave will be showcasing this model along with his previous models shown at the event (USS Lexington, Fletcher-class destroyer, and Iowa-class battleship) at a special table inside the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center next to Nauticus in Norfolk. Make sure to go over to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum’s Facebook page for more information about this fantastic event. And if you haven’t heard about our connection to HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding from the very beginning, make sure to take a read at the event’s history here on the NHF blog.View all of Dave’s photos on our Flickr page.

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Correspondence and Records of Early Navy Submariner Catalogued

Admiral Emory documenting the Picking Paper collection at the Washington Navy Yard (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

Admiral Emery documenting the Picking Paper collection at the Washington Navy Yard (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

In 2016, the Naval Historical Foundation will celebrate its 90th year as a non-profit institution. As a testament to our Foundation’s principle to preserve, educate, and commemorate, we want to highlight stories where we are actively seeking out ways to keep naval history alive for generations to come.

As the United States begins to commemorate the Centennial of the First World War, conferences, events, exhibits, and programs are cropping up around the country. The nation is abuzz with anticipation for these efforts, spurred by the recent announcement of the winning design for the National World War I Memorial.  For researchers, it is more important than ever to read first-hand accounts of the experiences of sailors in the United States Navy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Navy Department Library has recently received two such collections of documents that highlight the careers of two naval pioneers, one of whom played a key role in the success of the emerging American submarine force during World War I, and, perhaps more importantly, in the improved capabilities of the submarines and the training of their crews that would so dramatically influence the successful conclusion of the war in the Pacific in 1945.

The two large collections of professional correspondence and records are from the lives and naval careers of Rear Admiral Henry Forry Picking, USN (1840-1899) and his son, Captain Sherwood Picking, USN (1890-1941). The collections cover the period from the end of the Civil War through the years immediately prior to World War II. In all, the combined collections numbered 31 individual boxes donated by Susan Hamill and Sarah Helyar Chester, two Picking family descendants. Thanks to generous donations by Susan, Sarah, and several other family members, the Naval Historical Foundation was able to fund the travel and accommodations for former NHF Vice President, retired Vice Admiral George Emery, to travel to the Navy Yard from Maine to catalog the collection and provide the Navy Department Library with a detailed description of its contents from which the Library will develop a finding aid for future research purposes.

Picking Papers Collection (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

Picking Papers Collection (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng/Released)

When Admiral Emery, a career submariner in the nuclear navy, became aware of the Picking collection he offered the experience gained from cataloging other collections on behalf of the Naval Historical Foundation including those donated by the Rodgers family and by Rear Admiral George Henry Preble, to do the same for the Picking family papers. Donations of personal collections such as those of the Picking family help us to better understand the history, and the rich and proud heritage, of the United States Navy.

Sherwood Picking’s father, Rear Admiral Henry Forry Picking, enjoyed a notable and varied career in the often-tumultuous post-Civil War Navy. In the years following the end of the war, he served with the Asiatic Squadron between 1870 and 1873. Interestingly, VADM Emery notes that photographs included in a folio compiled by Henry during that time period were likely “taken during the action between the Koreans and the Asiatic Squadron in May-June 1871.” To Emery, the photographs “may well add to the history of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet during their Korean action.” Picking later served as Hydrographer of the Navy (1889-1891) and as the head of the Office of U.S. Light-House Inspector, Third District (1891-1892). Towards the end of his naval career in the mid-1890s, he served as Commander, South Atlantic Squadron, and Senior Officer Present in Rio de Janeiro aboard his flagship, USS Charleston, during a tension-filled mutiny of the Brazilian Navy, a mutiny recorded in detail in Henry’s papers. Other assignments included navigator on RADM John Rogers’ flagship USS Colorado, commanding officer of USS Kearsarge (1879-1881), the receiving ship USS Minnesota (1895), and finally the receiving ship Wabash (1898) just prior to his death in 1899.

Henry’s son Sherwood followed in his father’s footsteps, choosing a career in the Navy. After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1911, Ensign Picking briefly spent time aboard USS North Dakota (BB 29) before beginning his storied career as a submariner. His papers, charts, diaries and correspondence are incredibly valuable to understanding the development of the early submarine force. Prior to his involvement with the Atlantic Fleet during World War I, Lt (jg) Picking spent time in the Asiatic Fleet as Commanding Officer of the submarines A-6 (USS Porpoise), A-7 (USS Shark), and B-2 (USS Cuttlefish). His descriptions, drawings and photographs provide a unique history of the emergence of the American Asiatic Submarine Force in the second decade of the 20th century.

Captain Sherwood Picking (USN Photo # NH 72237-KN)

Captain Sherwood Picking (USN Photo # NH 72237-KN)

During the First World War, Sherwood was one of a handful of bright young Navy lieutenants sent to Europe by the Chief of Naval Operations to observe, first-hand, wartime operations at sea on allied submarines.  Lieutenant Picking’s lengthy and detailed report proved invaluable to the future design of American submarines, particularly their periscopes, and to the future methods of training their officers and crew.

Near the end of the war Lieutenant Picking was awarded a Navy Cross for his heroic action as the Commanding Officer of USS O-10 during hazardous duty patrolling the waters off the Azores amidst enemy submarines, destroyers, and mines. He continued to command submarines into the 1920s, interspersed by short tours aboard battleships USS Arizona and USS Texas before commanding the submarine squadron and base at Coco Solo, Panama, in 1939. His last duty took him to Washington, D.C., where he was the Assistant Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence. Regrettably, Sherwood was killed in a plane crash over Scotland en route to London for duty as Assistant Naval Attaché in September 1941. The Fletcher-class destroyer USS Picking (DD 685) was named in his honor.

With the Picking documents now catalogued by VADM Emery, the task shifts to Glenn Helm and his staff at the Navy Department Library to format the catalog into an online finding aid in the weeks and months ahead.

A very special thanks to Susan Hamill and Sarah Helyar Chester for their generous donation of valuable documents and the rest of the extended Picking Family (Will Hamill, Anne Hamill, Sherwood Hamill, Elizabeth Hamill, and Frances Helyar) for providing funds to make this project possible!

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BOOK REVIEW – Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli PiratesBy Brian Kilmeade, Sentinel, Random House, New York, NY (2015)

Reviewed by Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired) 

Written in lively style this book is both informative and a quick read. For most readers of Pull Together it will be a review of episodes in the early Navy, important to the history but all too easily forgotten. Names like Bainbridge, Barron, Chauncey, Dale, Decatur, Eaton, Hull, Morris, O’Bannon, Preble Somers, Sterrett and Stewart leap out of the pages. So too do John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and various North African potentates.

For years, if not centuries, the rulers of Barbary, Morocco, Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli, had sustained their realms on the booty and ransom extracted from European, and more recently, American merchant ships. At first the young United States tried negotiation and even ransom payment but soon found the amounts demanded for captured ships were ever-increasing, exorbitant and unaffordable. The only alternative seemed to be war: defeat the robbers and eliminate the problem. As Kilmeade expertly describes, it wasn’t quite that easy, as it took a while to build, train and put into action an effective American force.

Algerines had swarmed the American merchant ship Dauphin off the coast of Portugal as early as 1785. The crew was held captive and the ship taken to Algiers. Many remained captive under cruel conditions for ten years. After that, the United States tried tribute to keep the peace, albeit more than the young nation could afford. Thus, in 1800, USS George Washington under the command of William Bainbridge sailed into the Mediterranean carrying tribute to the dey of Algiers.

When the proffered tribute was declared inadequate, the dey commandeered George Washington and ordered Bainbridge to set sail and carry his ambassador, his entourage and his own tribute to the emperor in Constantinople. Adding insult, the ship would be required to lower the American flag and hoist the Algerine pennant. Having trustingly moored his ship under the guns of the Algerine fort, Bainbridge had little choice. Thus the ignominy had to be suffered. Tripoli soon joined in the Barbary campaign of affronts. In 1801, the Bashaw declared war on the United States.

Even while news of Tripoli’s declaration was wending its way to the United States a squadron of the Navy’s finest ships, three frigates and a schooner, set sail for the Mediterranean under the command of Richard Dale. Once in the Med they had little to show for their effort, save a victory in a one-on-one battle wherein Lieutenant Sterrett in Enterprise neatly handled a Tripolitan raider.

When news of that victory reached the United States, President Jefferson used the success to leverage Congress into approving the use of force against the brigands of the Maghreb. Two years passed before there was any meaningful action, however. The American fleet in the Mediterranean had to first suffer through the incompetent leadership of Commodore Richard Morris, a sad commentary on naval assignment practices in the early Nineteenth Century. His replacement Richard Preble soon proved to be the polar opposite of the dilatory Morris.

Despite his leadership, Preble soon ran into disaster. The frigate Philadelphia, on patrol near Tripoli giving chase to a group of Tripolitans trying to slip the blockade, ran aground. Kilmeade’s description of the sudden futility of trying to save Philadelphia and the horror of capture of ship and crew by Tripolitans racing from shore in itself is worth the read.

Fearful that the Tripolitans would repair and turn Philadelphia against them, Preble quickly realized that possibility must be removed from the game. The story of the heroism of Stephen Decatur and Charles Stewart who accomplished that with a daring night raid has been told many times, but Kilmeade tells it as well as any have.

After the Philadelphia episode the American blockade continued with several notable actions on and from the sea, each with varying success until a peace of sorts was concluded, but included a huge leap in respect for American naval power throughout the world.

A section of the book which may be new to even the more knowledgeable readers is the description of William Eaton’s march leading an army of Marines, Arabs and Bedouins from Derne past Bengazi to Tripoli. Most histories tend to slight this part of the war, probably because it was only moderately successful in the end; but out of it came one of the first Marine heroes, Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon; and a well-known phrase in the Marine Hymn, “To the shores of Tripoli.”

The major downside of Kilmeade’s effort is that he mistakenly lauds Thomas Jefferson and continually degrades John Adams’ regarding their respective contributions to the building up of an American Navy. This approach is at odds with most other histories of the era and is specifically contradictory to what has been written by David McCullough in John Adams and Ian Toll in Six Frigates. For a historian or a history buff this mistaken focus, unfortunately, detracts markedly from what otherwise would have been a fine book.

Nevertheless, as a popular history of the beginnings of the United States Navy, it’s a good read.


Vice Admiral Dunn is a former president of the Naval Historical Foundation.

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BOOK REVIEW – An Officer’s Story: A Politico-Military Journey

Kime_An Officers StoryBy Steve Kime, Authorhouse, Bloomington, IN (2015)

Reviewed by David F. Winkler, Ph.D.

One of the benefits of managing Naval History Book Reviews is that I get first dibs on incoming titles. Two decades ago, I interviewed Captain Steve Kime regarding his involvement with the Incidents at Sea Agreement negotiations and execution. He shared some insightful stories of his tenure first as an Assistant Naval Attaché and then Naval Attaché to the Soviet Union. He happily chose to self-publish these stories and more. When An Officer’s Story arrived at the Naval Historical Foundation, I grabbed it.

Perhaps at age 74, having already had one close call with the grim reaper, Kime decided to throw in everything including the kitchen sink into this book. He divided An Officer’s Story into two thematic approaches that are reflected in alternating chapters. The first theme is a memoir covering his youth and more than three decades of service to his country. The second theme is his personal worldview on what is wrong with the universe, how we got there, and suggestions on where we need to go. With his Kentuckiana upbringing, an education that includes a Harvard Ph.D., and real-world experience, Kime has the intellectual chops to provide constructive insights. Unfortunately, I am not sure that this book was the best forum to present them.

The advantage of doing a strict memoir is that the book is never dated. Fifty years from now, the book will remain relevant as a historical account of the life of a naval officer in the late twentieth century. On the other hand, his views on current topics ranging from homosexuality to whether the Naval Academy should play Division I football will quickly date the book.  Unless the author is writing a campaign biography for public office, such commentary is better slated for blogposts or articles in journals such as the Naval Institute Proceedings. Indeed, Kime has been a frequent contributor to Proceedings and other journals. Fortunately, the memoir portion is well worth reading as Kime is a good storyteller and he had a most unconventional career path.

A valuable lesson learned in this narrative is the actions you take early on may have positive consequences throughout your career. In Kime’s case, his study of Russian and participation in an exchange trip to the Soviet Union during his time at Louisville proved beneficial. Commissioned in 1962, Kime joined a submarine force that still ran on diesels. That would change in the next decade, leaving Kime outside of the standard warfare community career path. Instead, he applied for and was accepted for the Navy’s graduate program in international affairs and attended Harvard. He earned a Ph.D. under the supervision of noted Russian scholar Adam Ulam. His nuanced explanation of the function of a naval attaché and discussion of his travels to the four corners of the Soviet Union with William Manthorpe (See our December 30, 2014 review of Manthorpe’s A Century of Service: The U.S. Navy on Cape Henlopen, Lewes, Delaware: 1896-1996) is not quite that of Ian Fleming, but educational and entertaining nonetheless. For example, as a naval attaché, he just happened to be standing by the gate of a Leningrad shipyard when a truck departed with scrap metal. When Kime retrieved a piece that fell off the truck and had it sent back for analysis, it was discovered he had picked up titanium – the material that was being incorporated into the hull of a next generation Soviet submarine.

With the submarine force having gone nuclear upon Kime’s return from his first stint in Moscow, he forged a career path that exists today with the foreign area officer (FAO) program. Whereas joint duty was considered career ending in the pre-Goldwater-Nichols era, Kime made substantial contributions at National Defense University and helped broaden international aspects of the curriculum. At NDU, he worked for Vice Admiral Duke Bayne, the former Commander, Middle East Force (Vice Admiral Bayne is the subject of an NHF oral history). At the Defense Intelligence Agency, he argued for a more restrained assessment of Soviet naval capability.

His second tour to Moscow as a naval attaché opened with the shootdown of KAL 007 followed by a succession of leaders after the death of Brezhnev. Discussions of various duties, such as an agreement that allowed him to enter and leave the Soviet Union from several seaports and flying around on what his children dubbed “Aeroflop,” made for entertaining reading.

Kime followed his promotion to Captain with a grinding tour in the Navy’s Pol-Mil directorate in the Pentagon. He was set to retire afterwards, but was offered the job as academic director at the U.S. Naval Academy – the first non-graduate to hold the post. Several of his insights are thought provoking, such as the emphasis on STEM courses over the “Bull” liberal art requirements. Finally retiring in 1989, Kime continued to serve the nation as the president of the Servicemembers Opportunity College that has been in existence since 1972 as a partnership between the military and civilian academic institutions. There he built on the success of his predecessors.

The final pages of the book focus on America’s return to the greatness that he recalled with Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill.” Needless to say, Kime, like many Americans, is frustrated with the divisive partisan politics to the point where he foresees open rebellion. Unfortunately, this is the one area in the text where he comes up empty with regards to a solution.


Dr. Winkler is a historian with the Naval Historical Foundation.

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BOOK REVIEW – Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory

Ohara_TorchBy Vincent P. O’Hara, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2015)

Reviewed by John R. Satterfield, DBA

America entered World War II after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The nation focused on war in the Pacific through most of 1942.  However, the U.S. had established its “Germany First” strategy by 1940. Defeating the Axis European powers was the Allies’ first priority throughout the conflict, but it took time to ramp up the large-scale operations required to stop Germany.  Furthermore, the more experienced British dominated early planning meetings, advocating a peripheral strategy rather than the direct assault that American military leaders favored. This was the framework for Operation Torch, the November 1942 Allied landings in the French North African protectorates of Morocco and Algeria.

Author Vincent P. O’Hara has produced a meticulously researched, comprehensive history of Torch in a densely packed volume. He addresses not only amphibious and naval operations in every aspect of the invasion, but also the political, diplomatic, social, and military doctrinal contexts that led to the strategic decisions, planning and execution of an astonishingly complex campaign.  He covers the entire operation from the vantage point of the Allies, the Axis, the French collaborationist Vichy regime and the Free France insurgency. The task is daunting because the scope of the narrative is so broad. A full understanding of the invasion requires extensive explanations of the dynamics leading to deployments, force application and tactics, that O’Hara provides in his encyclopedic book.

Operation Torch was complicated and ambitious from start to finish, especially for untested U.S. Army forces and leaders. The commander, Lt. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, had become a general barely a year before the invasion. Many American invasion units voyaged straight from U.S. training camps.

A combined Allied armada of 850 vessels in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean transported the combined invasion force’s three subordinate commands. The Western Assault Force, under Major Gen. George Patton, hit three ports in and around Casablanca on French Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The Central Task Force, Major Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall commanding, struck Oran, and British Lt. Gen. Kenneth Anderson’s Eastern Task Force attacked Algiers, both in Algeria.  American, British, Free French and Allied land, naval and air forces took part in the invasion, an undertaking of unprecedented size and scope at the time, with almost Byzantine complexity that featured daring and usually disastrous raids into ports targeted in the assaults.

After the initial invasions, subsequent attacks took place in Bougie and Bone in eastern Algeria and Bizerte and Tunis in Tunisia, all designed to consolidate Allied control in North Africa. Torch was an operational success, but delays enabled German and Italian forces to mass in opposition to the Allies, forcing much hard fighting and high casualties until final victory in May 1943.

Vichy French forces opposed the landings, especially the Navy in several brave but unsuccessful sorties against the invasion fleets, but also in brief but intense occasional hostility from French land forces, killing about 500 and wounding more than 700 Allied personnel.  Numerous logistical difficulties also slowed the operation.  Coastal surf was particularly rough, destroying large numbers of valuable landing craft and impeding off-loading of vital supplies after ports were captured.

Political issues also were daunting. American military and diplomatic officials threaded multiple needles while navigating the political interests of several French factions vying for control of North Africa. The U.S. successfully co-opted several Vichy French commanders, helping to undo French unity of command and facilitate a rapid capitulation.

O’Hara also focuses on the strategic implications of Torch. The invasion eliminated France as a potential adversary in alliance with Germany and Italy, effectively ending the pretense of an independent Vichy France.  Although the French North African naval and military forces were largely outclassed, consistent resistance from the French army and navy not only against the invasion but also in subsequent Allied European campaigns could have made VE Day far more difficult. At the same time, many scholars argue that diverting resources in North Africa and the Mediterranean may have forestalled the Nazi defeat.

It’s hard to imagine a more complete treatment of Operation Torch. Although not an academic, O’Hara is a formidable scholar who apparently investigated every shred of extant documentation from all belligerents in the campaign. The narrative is probably the most comprehensive treatment of early operations in North Africa during World War II, including Rick Atkinson’s outstanding An Army at Dawn, the first volume in his Liberation Trilogy.  About the only complaint any reader could possibly offer is that few micro-level accounts of individual valor appear to add human interest and drama to the story, but including these stories would probably double the length of the book and detract from the continuity of a remarkably complete and still compelling account of one of the events that wrested initiative from the Axis and led to Allied victory in World War II.


Dr. Satterfield teaches military history and writes about weapon systems.  He has published two books on the U.S. Navy in World War II. 

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BOOK REVIEW – In the Shadow of the Alabama: The British Foreign Office and the American Civil War

In the Shadow of the AlabamaBy Renata Eley Long, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2015)

Reviewed by Kenneth J. Blume, Ph.D.

Built and launched at the Laird shipyard in 1862, CSS Alabama became the most notorious of the Confederacy’s commerce raiders, devastating Union merchant shipping and contributing to an irreversible “flight from the flag.” Her career ended two years later at the famous battle of Cherbourg (19 June 1864), when she engaged with and was sunk by the Union sloop-of-war Kearsarge. The saga of the Alabama had monumental diplomatic consequences, becoming an intense source of Anglo-American tension during the Civil War. Seven years after Appomattox, the “Alabama Claims” were resolved by international arbitration, which awarded the United States $15.5 million in damages.  Many writers—including Renata Eley Long—see the settlement as a turning point in Anglo-American relations, a significant step toward the “Great Rapprochement” of the late 19th century.

For the past 150 years, journalists, participants, and historians have explored and weighed the drama surrounding the building and escape of the Alabama. How was it able to avoid British authorities and escape into international waters, to be refitted, armed, and christened a Confederate cruiser? Renata Eley Long’s approach can be summed up in three quotations from her book. First, the sub-title, “The British Foreign Office and the American Civil War,” suggests where her focus will be. Almost immediately, she zeros in on Victor Buckley, a clerk in the British Foreign Office, claiming in the introduction (p. 2) “fresh evidence from hitherto neglected sources now point to the interesting conclusion that the young Foreign Office clerk was anything but insignificant.” Finally, at the end of the narrative, she describes the drama as “a story full of coincidences and unexpected connections.” (p. 210)

In its best sections, In the Shadow of the Alabama provides a rich picture of the “web of espionage” that the construction of “number 290″ set off. There were indeed “moles” everywhere, and many well-known figures were connected. Long is very good at presenting the human aspect of these activities: what motivated people; why they did or did not do certain things; what they were likely thinking. When she finally gets to the escaping ships, the drama is indeed high and well told. All in all, these parts of the book enrich one’s understanding of the events and emotions of the moment and the human element in foreign relations—which is easily forgotten when one immerses oneself in the official but generally dry diplomatic dispatches about an issue.

At the same time, Long’s approach includes some frustrating features.  For her, there are no irrelevant details; everything is connected to everything else. As a result, Alabama and the international drama sometimes get lost in a welter of details and names. In the first few chapters, for example, Long paints a very full and detailed picture of the background to the story—but sometimes the reader wishes she would hurry up and get to the main issue: Victor Buckley’s role in the escape of the Alabama. Long seems to know and love every small detail and intersection of her topic. Everyone is apparently connected to everyone else in some way. Hence, there are many fascinating tidbits, but tidbits that could have been relegated to footnotes: sections on novelist Charles Dickens, or Foreign Office copyist Charles Marvin, or Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote a novel whose title character, according to Long, was “undoubtedly based” on Victor Buckley. The penultimate chapter (19) becomes a series of paragraphs describing, one by one, what happened to everyone after the Florida Claims were resolved.

Two other quirks of the book. First, Long depends excessively on hypotheticals and subjunctives: “Events suggest” or “it is reasonable to assume that” or “if” are frequently employed in her reconstruction of the evidence. In discussing the escape of CSS Florida, for example, Long admits that there is no evidence for Victor Buckley’s role in the escape but then also asserts that there was a role.   A second quirk is the appearance. In her discussions of the Freemasons in the last quarter of the book, she posits a 21st century version of the 19th century “Freemasons are everywhere” theory. In Long’s version of the story, Freemasons appear to be the secret forces behind all the postwar negotiations. According to Long, they are the ones who resolve the controversy because every other person involved in resolving the Alabama Claims was a Freemason.

To construct her story, Long has used standard secondary sources, published collections of letters, the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies series, and a small amount of archival material. Curiously, she discusses Henry Hotze’s pro-Confederate propaganda newspaper The Index at length. She has apparently not read the actual publication, because she cites secondary sources rather than the newspaper itself, which is available online in PDF format.

Overall, this quirky study is an incorporation of diplomatic history, maritime history, and genealogy. Its stories of the intersections of the rich and famous bring together an example of history as a series of coincidences or unexpected intersections. It is both delightfully engrossing and annoyingly frustrating. The biggest historiographical objection might be that coincidences do not amount to causation, and Long seems to believe that they do.

Ultimately, Long concludes that Victor Buckley, the Foreign Office clerk, probably was the person who tipped off the Alabama so that it could escape before being captured. But once one moves beyond all the hypotheticals and coincidences, that conclusion is still questionable. In her acknowledgements, Long speaks with admiration of the late Frank Merli.  But in The Alabama, British Neutrality, and the American Civil War (2004), his final work (assembled by David Fahey from unfinished manuscripts), Merli argues that it was simply luck—not a conspiracy—that enabled the ship to escape. The question, therefore, remains unresolved and is likely never to be settled.


Dr. Blume teaches at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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BOOK REVIEW – T.E. Lawrence and the Red Sea Patrol: The Royal Navy’s Role in Creating the Legend

Johnson Allen_Red Sea PatrolBy John Johnson-Allen, Pen & Sword Military, South Yorkshire, England (2015)

Reviewed by Diana L. Ahmad, Ph.D.

Thoughts about World War I often bring up images of trench warfare, Big Bertha, and the battles at Liège and Flanders Fields, but rarely does the conflict to protect the Suez Canal enter into the reader’s mind.  John Johnson-Allen’s book focuses on the Red Sea campaign that freed the Ottoman-held area and helped the Arabs takeover the peninsula.  The author credits the Red Sea Patrol with victory over the Turks and states that Lawrence could not have succeeded in aiding the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire without the support of the Royal Navy.

Johnson-Allen went into significant detail about how the vessels from the Royal Navy, the Royal Indian Marine, and even the Arab dhows helped to protect the Suez Canal.  He discussed the various units from numerous parts of the British Empire that participated in the efforts to prevent the Turks from overrunning the Canal.  The Royal Navy carried supplies including ammunition, weapons, and food, to Arab forces on the Arabian coast in the Gulf of Aqaba.  The Red Sea Patrol seems to have spent most of its effort in that small part of the region.

Although the title of the book uses T.E. Lawrence’s name, there is little in the book about Lawrence. While many readers are likely to pick up the book because of this, the author rarely brings him into the work. The book is more about the importance of the Red Sea Patrol than Lawrence’s role in it. With that in mind, a chapter or two about the history of the region including the role of the British in Egypt and their role in the Arab Revolt would have clarified the importance of the area to readers. The author provided incredible detail about the comings and goings of the vessels, often without need. The author does not explain the Royal Navy’s role in patrolling the entire Red Sea region but he briefly noted German efforts to gain access to the waterway. Perhaps the book should have been retitled to show the significance of the Red Sea Patrol, rather than the role of Lawrence. More about Lawrence was needed to enhance the author’s thesis.


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


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BOOK REVIEW – Merchant Sailors at War 1943 – 1945: Beating the U-Boat

2792_001By Philip Kaplan, Pen & Sword, London, UK (2015)

Reviewed by Charles H. Bogart

Over the years, Pen & Sword have issued a number of Images of War books. This book is sub-titled Merchant Ships at War 1943 – 1945: Beating the U-Boats. The book consists of eight chapters, with each chapter introduced by three to four pages of text. The text provides a basic framework to give context to the photographs. The text consists of contemporary comments, “I was There” action snippets, and modern historical summaries of the war at sea during this period covering action in the North Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea. Following each chapter’s introduction pages is a section of black and white photographs (124 photos total) and illustrations of World War II posters. About half of the photos and illustrations within the book will be familiar to the student of the war at sea. The remaining photos are truly rare photos found by the author hiding in various Canadian and British archives. The majority of the photos in the book are of Allied ships and men. Each photo is accompanied by its own explanatory paragraph.

The book provides an excellent introduction to the war at sea waged by the Allies against Germany and Italy. All of the books in this series are great starter books for anyone building a library on military actions in World War II. One criticism is that all too often a photo is spread over two pages with detail being lost where the photo sits in the fold.


Charles H Bogart is a frequent reviewer for NHBR.


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BOOK REVIEW – A History of the Royal Danish Navy 1510-2010

Bjerg_History of the Royal Danish NavyBy Hans Christian Bjerg, The Royal Danish Navy, Copenhagen, Denmark (2015)

Reviewed by Mark Lardas

Hans Christian Berg’s A History of the Royal Danish Navy 1510-2010 offers a brief yet comprehensive account of the Royal Danish Navy’s rich heritage in a new English language translation. The Royal Danish Navy, as it was formally established in 1510, is one of the world’s oldest navies. While a shadow of the force once dominating the Baltic and North Seas exists today, it still commands the passage out of the Baltic. Relatively little is known about it in English-speaking nations, often limited to knowing it as Nelson’s opponent in 1801 or through Danish assistance of the nascent United States Navy in struggles with the Barbary Pirates.

The book begins prior to the creation of the Danish navy, opening in the Viking era of the late tenth century and following naval events involving Denmark through the end of the fifteenth century. This includes a discussion of Denmark’s struggles against the Hansa. The book next explores the era of wood and sails, running from the establishment of the permanent Royal Danish Navy in 1510 through Denmark’s war with Germany in 1864. The players with whom Denmark fought changed over those years. Denmark’s first serious naval rival proved to be Lübeck. Denmark, alongside Sweden, eventually defeated Lübeck in a quarter-century long struggle for dominance of the Baltic.

Over the next 200 years, the book shows Denmark locked in wars with Sweden for control of the Baltic. This period saw the appearance of the Dannebrog, the white cross on a swallow-tailed field of red still used as Denmark’s naval ensign. Although the Royal Danish Navy had ups and downs during these centuries, the book makes it apparent this was the apogee of Danish naval power. Denmark projected power against the Barbary States and established American colonies during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

The book also traces the decline of Danish naval power. Russia’s emergence as a naval power around 1700 upset the balance in the Baltic, creating a three-cornered struggle between Denmark, Sweden, and Russia. The struggle for mastery between Britain and France also spilled into the Baltic after the 1770s. Following Napoleon’s seizure of power, the Royal Danish Navy was ground between the millstones of the Royal Navy and the French Army. Denmark emerged from the Napoleonic Wars with its fleet destroyed and shorn of Norway.

Bjerg’s story from 1815 through the present is a story of Denmark attempting to maintain independence from the growing German state. Germany was a geographic concept prior to the nineteenth century rather than a nation. Through 1900 (and even through World War II) it was not certain Denmark would not be swallowed by the German nation that Prussia built. Neutralizing that threat led to a smaller Danish Navy.

A History of the Royal Danish Navy 1510-2010 has flaws.  It suffers from translation, and is occasionally too superficial.  Regardless, as an English-language introduction to the Royal Danish Navy, it is a valuable, and worth reading.

Mark Lardas is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

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BOOK REVIEW – Navies and Soft Power: Historical Case Studies of Naval Power and the Nonuse of Military Force

2785_001Edited by Bruce A. Elleman and S.C.M. Paine, Naval War College Press, Newport, RI (2016)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

Although each paper in this collection contains a disclaimer that the “thoughts and opinions expressed [. . .] are not necessarily those of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Navy Department, or the Naval War College (198),” it is very clear that these essays were collected together with a clear intention to influence policymaking and gain support to fund the US Navy in an era of sequestration and retrenchment.  While it is not clear whether this book is intended to influence decision makers directly or is expected to serve as a selection of well-written and thoughtful arguments for those people who will be interacting and lobbying on behalf of the Navy, this is a collection of essays that appears well-designed to reach its intended audience, whoever that might be. At 200 pages, it does not make for a demanding read while presenting a wide-ranging case for the importance of a robust navy in order to conduct nonmilitary operations that serve humanitarian and larger political and diplomatic aims.

In terms of its presentation, this book is filled with helpful aids so that the reader understands the points that the editors are making in this collection. The editors discuss the fact that navies have been used for more than fighting wars since at least classical times with anti-piracy efforts in Greek and Roman times. At the other end of the book, the editors make a somewhat lengthy conclusion that shows the various non-force uses of navies discussed in the previous essays, spelling out precisely what kind of lessons can be learned and applied for the future uses of the U.S. Navy, and also the Chinese navy.

Each of the nine essays in this collection are tailor-made to appeal to a nontraditional audience in terms of defending the legitimacy of the navy as an institution worth funding and supporting.  The first essay discusses the efforts of the sloop-of-war Constellation to interdict the Transatlantic slave trade between 1859 and 1861, demonstrating the need for effective naval forces to defend human rights abroad. The second essay discusses the obscure and deeply secret, and successful, efforts of the U.S. Navy to use an overwhelming concentration of force to deter German aggression against Venezuela. The third essay examines Herbert Hoover’s successful but difficult efforts at feeding civilians in occupied Belgium and Northern France despite the threats of submarines and mines that gave Great Britain cover in starving the Central Powers through a blockade during World War I. The fourth essay looks at the unsuccessful efforts of the United States in deterring Japanese aggression that ended up boomeranging into open warfare because the Japanese military leadership felt it had no way to back out and save face and their own positions.  The fifth essay gives a poignant discussion of the successful efforts of the U.S. Navy at providing humanitarian assistance and refugee resettlement after the fall of South Vietnam. The sixth essay discusses the environmental and financial benefits of using derelict naval vessels as artificial reefs in areas as far flung as Southern California, Florida, Delaware, and the Cayman Islands, discussing the regulatory challenges to such efforts as well.  The seventh essay discusses the importance of properly studying the cause of strandings and the effect of sonar use on marine life, and the political problems involved in environmental activism relating to naval activities. The eighth essay provides a detailed examination of the efforts of the Coast Guard-led response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and the way these efforts taxed both public and private capabilities in disaster relief and building goodwill and political capital with affected parties in the Gulf Coast. The ninth and final essay examines the political and diplomatic capital as well as the practical experience developed by the Chinese navy through its enthusiastic involvement in anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.

The conclusion summarizes these points and then adds another one by showing the Nobel prizes awarded to those researching through grants from the Navy in basic scientific research, showing another nonmilitary use of the Navy that is worthy of being recognized and continued.

Towards the end of this book, the editors make a broad-based case for preserving naval capabilities in the broadest possible way by commenting that

“many nonmilitary operations involving naval task forces or fleets-in-being can help keep ships in readiness for war. Even while performing useful missions of a nonmilitary nature, crews continue to train for duties essential to warfare. If these humanitarian missions can supplement training exercises, and in particular if some activities turn out to be even more useful than training exercises, they will be viewed in a different financial light—that is, as maximizing tax dollars by incorporating dual-use missions and training (197).”

This short but powerful book, with essays written by contributors with a broad array of research interests within the Navy and Coast Guard establishment and broader academia, has a broad scope of nonmilitary operations that the U.S. Navy has excelled at, but a clear purpose in making sure that the Navy and Coast Guard remain able to address humanitarian and environmental concerns in the future as well.

Read All of the Naval War College Newport Papers

Nathan Albright of Portland, Oregon, is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.


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A Look at the 2016 HRNM LEGO Shipbuilding Event

In case you haven’t heard, our friends at the Hampton Roads Naval Museums are set to host their fifth annual “Brick by Brick: LEGO Shipbuilding Event.” It is their yearly signature event. The Naval Historical Foundation is once again partnering with HRNM for this event. This is the third year that NHF has been involved with LEGO Shipbuilding down in the Hampton Roads area.

Some of the ship designs you can build at this year's event: USS Monitor, USS Seawolf, USS Cumberland, USS Liberty, USS Gettysburg, USS Maine, USS Harry S Truman, USS Wisconsin, USS Zumwalt, CSS Virginia (Courtesy HRNM/Don Darcy)

Some of the ship designs you can build at this year’s event: USS Monitor, USS Seawolf, USS Cumberland, USS Liberty, USS Gettysburg, USS Maine, USS Harry S Truman, USS Wisconsin, USS Zumwalt, CSS Virginia (Courtesy HRNM/Don Darcy)

We were thankful enough to get an exclusive interview with one of the coordinators of the event, HRNM Special Events Coordinator Don Darcy. Mr. Darcy took some time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about why this year’s event will be the best ever.

What is different about this year than in previous years?

We’ve greatly expanded our available space this year by moving the event into the Half Moone Cruise Terminal adjacent to the museum. That has allowed us to add extra activities, including a stronger focus on STEM with Lego robotics. Due to these added activities and space, we’ve increased our community partnerships–with the First Lego League, Junior First Lego League, Sea Perch, and Engineering for Kids. We’ve also added five new Navy ships for kids and adults to build–the USS Liberty, USS Monitor, CSS Virginia, USS Seawolf, and USS Maine.

How has the LEGO shipbuilding program impacted HRNM?

LEGO Shipbuilding has become our signature event, with over 2,000 visitors each year. We’ve also developed it into a free education program for schools, and we’re currently expanding that education program to include LEGO robotics through a grant we received from NHF.

What has been your favorite part of this process?

My favorite part of the process is designing new ships. I really like the creativity that goes into the design phase, including deciding how difficult the ship will be (easy, medium, hard, or expert) and how to make it look similar to the real ship. To choose which ships to design, this year we went through ships used in the past and either revamped them or built ships we hadn’t included already. This coming year, we will be offering the chance for organizations to sponsor ships, and we’ll also be looking for event visitors to tell us what they want to see.

Do you have a personal favorite ship design?

USS Maine

Do you have any final thoughts for this year’s event?

The event is FREE! Anyone interested in supporting the event, and future Lego events (and keeping them free!) can go to the HRNM Booster page to buy a t-shirt and support the event. All proceeds go to our foundation, which is funding the Lego Shipbuilding event.

Our own Digital Content Developer has a long relationship with the event. As a former employee of HRNM, he helped design the program in its early stages. In case you missed the history of HRNM LEGO shipbuilding post he wrote from last year, read it HERE.

We hope to continue our partnership with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum for future LEGO Shipbuilding events.

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Bernard F. Gribble Watercolor Donated to Navy Art Gallery

NHF Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) poses with the Gribble watercolor with NHHC Navy Art Curator Pam Overmann (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng)

NHF Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) poses with the Gribble watercolor with NHHC Navy Art Curator Pam Overmann (NHF Photo/Matthew Eng)

The Naval Historical Foundation recently donated a painting to the Navy Art Gallery by celebrated marine artist Bernard F. Gribble. The small watercolor painting (10.5in x 16in) appears to be an early study of The Return of the Mayflower, one of Gribble’s most notable works. Before NHF acquired the piece for donation, the watercolor was in the possession of Bill Whiteley of Parkstone, Dorset, UK.

Although there are many different versions of Gribble’s Return of the Mayflower circulating around the country, the painting’s central concept is similar in each subsequent study. The Return of the Mayflower depicts the first division of U.S. Navy destroyers on their approach to Queenstown, Ireland, on 4 May 1917. Leading the line of destroyers of Division 8, Destroyer Force, is USS Wadsworth (DD 60), flagship of Commander Joseph K. Taussig. The other destroyers of the Division include USS Porter (DD 59), USS Davis (DD 65), USS Conyngham (DD 58), USS McDougal (DD 54), and USS Wainwright (DD 62). Alongside Wadsworth, Division 8 had several encounters with German U-Boats as they patrolled the southern approach to the Irish Sea in the summer months of 1917.

Artist Bernard F. Gribble quickly rose in the ranks of the art world in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, following in the footsteps of 19th century seascape artist Henry Moore. His paintings personified the spirit of Winslow Homer with the meticulous detail of an architect. Gribble often studied photographs and ship schematics in order to give them the highest level of detail. His art was so revered by the public and prominent figures that future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt commissioned a smaller version of the painting while he served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1919. Some sources indicate that the painting’s title was suggested by Roosevelt. The same painting hung in the Oval Office when he became President of the United States in 1933. Other political figures and luminaries reported to own Gribble’s work include Queen Mary and Jackie Onassis (President John F. Kennedy was an avid collector of maritime art).

Various versions of The Return of the Mayflower

Various versions of The Return of the Mayflower

The most famous version of the painting, currently in the collection of the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, MD, shows USS Wadsworth, Porter, and Davis steaming ahead as a group of fisherman aboard a small boat wave with jubilant glee. The moment is intensely emotional and uplifting. In the wake of a disastrous string of U-boat raids off the English coast, the approaching vessels signal rebirth and ethereal light amidst the darkness of European isolation. Gribble used the same light/dark contrast made famous by John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress. In a blog post explaining the painting, Hampton Roads Naval Museum educator Diana Gordon expertly describes the pregnant moment:

“[Gribble] used darker tones to create a dramatic feeling while filling the canvas with a setting full of crashing waves and eerie clouds. He strategically placed a local British fisherman’s boat on the left side, full of darker shadows, expressing Britain’s despair and turmoil over the war. The fisherman’s boat fills the left side of the canvas, leading the viewer’s eye toward the center, where a United States destroyer steams straight ahead.”

Image Courtesy: The Art Record, July 27, 1901)

Image Courtesy: The Art Record, July 27, 1901)

Gribble’s portrayal of the Destroyer Division is equally important for naval historians. The Return of the Mayflower (and its subsequent studies/versions) provide an accurate depiction of the United States Navy’s pre-“flush deck” destroyers produced at the end of the First World War. Four of the six ships of the Division were Tucker-class destroyers, all of which were made before the U.S. entered into the war. USS Davis was a Sampson class destroyer and USS Wadsworth was O’Brien-class, which was succeeded by the six Tucker-class “1,000 tonners.” Gribble’s stark realism and attention to detail inspired more than one maritime artist or painter, notably Paul Wright’s recent Nicholas, Taylor and O’Bannon lead battleships Missouri and Iowa into Tokyo Bay, 29 August 1945.

Many of the familiar aspects of Gribble’s famed painting are included in the watercolor: vessel moving forward, fishing boat, etc. New aspects unseen in other versions are also present, such as the coastline and a second fishing boat. Unlike some of the other paintings, there is no light and dark contrast. This would suggest that this particular watercolor is an early study. A similar study was recently acquired by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, VA. The museum also has a large version of The Return of the Mayflower in the World War I section of their gallery, as well as an early artist’s study in their collection.

With the centennial of the First World War upon is, it is likely that Gribble’s many versions of The Return of the Mayflower will receive newfound worldwide attention.

“Pull Together”

Gribble’s famous painting has another connection to the Naval Historical Foundation. A short story about the origin of our Foundation’s motto appeared in a 1980 pamphlet published by NHF titled “Bayly’s Navy,” by Vice Admiral Walter S. Delaney.

Its introduction is reproduced below. You can find the full text online, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command:

The 1967 Spring Report of the Naval Historical Foundation—50 years after the arrival of the first U.S. destroyers at Queenstown, Ireland, in World War I—presented a short story of the close and harmonious relationship that prevailed between the personnel in the ships of the U.S. and British navies serving together under British Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, KCB, KCMG, CVO. They did so within the mutually accepted meaning of the slogan “PULL TOGETHER,” which was displayed on a signal board secured to the inboard bulkhead abreast the starboard main deck gangway landing of the tender USS Melville, moored in Queenstown Harbor. The board was placed there at the suggestion of Sir Lewis and with the complete concurrence of Captain J. R. P. Pringle.

That this respect and affection, which started in Queenstown among so many officers of the two navies dedicated to the same objective, and would extend through practically their entire later naval service lives, is a tribute to the significance which the seagoing navies attached to the words “PULL TOGETHER.” It expressed the basic human relations element of a command structure.

It seems appropriate and opportune that this pamphlet should be a follow through on that 1967 Report. It is intended to emphasize how today, as in 1917, these words can be applied to tasks of several bodies directed towards a common objective. Where that objective is the portrayal of the history of the U.S. Navy and its role in the security of the country, the understanding and application of the words are significant.

Our members have also favorably endorsed the choice of “PULL TOGETHER” as the title of our newsletter.

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