Going Ashore: Naval Operations in Casco Bay During World War II (Part IV)

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By George Stewart

(This is the fourth and final installment in a series of blog posts covering the various operations conducted in Maine during WWII. Click to read Parts I, II, and III of George Stewart’s blog series about Casco Bay during WWII. To read all other post by George, go HERE.) 


This post is a continuation of the description of historical naval events that occurred in Casco Bay, Maine, during World War II. It includes a discussion of the postwar events that occurred in the bay between 1946 and 1947, plus photos of some of the historic ships that visited the bay during the war years.

The map of the area showing the basic geography and the major coastal defense facilities that appeared in Part I is repeated here for clarity. In general, the major afloat facilities including mooring, buoys, and anchorages were located on Long and Chebeague Islands with access to the open ocean by way of the gate in the anti-submarine net located in Hussey Sound, between Peaks and Long Island. Access to naval support activities in Portland was all by watercraft with trips up to approximately three to six miles. Downtown Portland also served as a “liberty port” for sailors whose ships were moored or anchored in the bay.


There are few records that cover the immediate postwar period in the bay. When the war ended, a rapid de-mobilization took place. Many ships that served during the war were decommissioned, although a significant number of these would return to service for the Korean War in 1951. Additionally, many of the ships that served in the Atlantic were transferred to the Pacific in 1945. By December 27, 1945, DESLANT consisted almost entirely of new Sumner and Gearing class destroyers, many of which were commissioned too late for significant wartime service. By this time, most shakedown and refresher training for East Coast-built ships was being conducted at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where it would remain up into the 1990s.

The U.S. Navy considered making further use of the bay after the war. The bay had a number of disadvantages due to its remote location, the lack of suitable docking facilities, weather, and other concerns. There were naval shore side facilities in Portland, but waterfront facilities for mooring ships were very limited due to lack of space. During the war, ships were required to anchor or moor out in the bay. This made it necessary to provide transportation to and from Portland by ferryboats, often under rather unpleasant circumstances (as shown in the following illustration below):

2Although Narragansett Bay had some of the same disadvantages, they essentially went away after the destroyer piers in Coddington Cove at Newport were completed. In retrospect, the disestablishment of the facilities in Casco Bay was probably the proper move.

In 1946, the Navy directed the Long Island Fuel Annex to be utilized for emergency refueling only. In 1962, it was placed in a caretaker status. Finally, in 1967, it was declared surplus and sold.

A total of 770 ships are on record as visiting Casco Bay between January 1941 and 1 January 1947. Destroyers and destroyer escorts comprised 480 of these ships. An additional 140 ships could have visited the bay during the aforementioned period, although it is not specifically stated in their histories. A total of 46 ships on the list were later wartime losses. Some historically significant ships that visited the bay during the war years are discussed in the following paragraphs.

BATTLESHIPS – A total of 15 battleships appear on the database. Five are still in existence as museum ships.

  • USS Texas (BB 35) – Museum ship in San Jacinto, Texas.
  • USS North Carolina (BB 55) – Museum ship in Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • USS Massachusetts (BB 59) – Museum ship in Fall River, Massachusetts.
  • USS Iowa (BB61) – Museum ship in San Pedro, California.
  • USS New Jersey (BB 62) – Museum ship at Camden, New Jersey.

USS Iowa (BB 61)

USS Iowa (BB 61)

USS Iowa (BB 61) visited Casco Bay for operational training in 1943. During that period, the ship ran aground when passing through Hussey Sound between Peaks and Long Island. Later that year, she carried President Roosevelt to and from a conference in Teheran. In 1944, the ship was transferred to the Pacific. Iowa saw active service in the Atlantic from 1984-1990. During that period, she suffered a major explosion in Turret #2 with the loss of forty-nine lives. Iowa is now serving as a museum ship in San Pedro, California. 

CARRIERS – Since the bulk of the action involving carriers occurred in the Pacific during the war, only three carriers are on record as having visited Casco Bay. An additional five escort carriers (CVE) appear in the database.

  • USS Ranger (CV 4) – First ship designed from keel up as a carrier.
  • USS Yorktown (CV 5) – Sunk in Pacific in 1942.
  • USS Wasp (CV 7) – Sunk in Pacific in 1942.

USS Ranger (CV 4)

USS Ranger (CV 4)

USS Ranger (CV 4) was the first ship designed from the keel up as a carrier. She entered service in 1934. It visited Casco Bay in 1941 as part of the Neutrality Patrol. Ranger returned in 1943 prior to supporting the invasion of North Africa. For much of the war, this was the only large carrier assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Ranger was transferred to the Pacific in 1944.

CRUISERS – A total of twenty-two cruisers appear in the database.

  • USS Augusta (CL 31) – Carried FDR to meeting with Churchill at Placentia Bay for signing of Atlantic Charter in 1941.
  • USS Juneau (CL 52) – Sunk in the Pacific in 1942.
USS Juneau (CL 52)

USS Juneau (CL 52)

USS Juneau (CL 52) performed training exercises in Casco Bay shortly after entering service in 1942 after which it was transferred to the Pacific shortly thereafter. A torpedo off Guadalcanal sank her on 13 November 1942. This was the famed ship that the five Sullivan brothers served aboard. All were lost at sea. This incident resulted in modifications to the military “Sole Survivor” policy to prevent a reoccurrence.

DESTROYERS – A total of 263 destroyers are listed in the database. Of these, forty-seven 47 were “Four Pipers” (also referred to as “Flush Deckers”) of the Wickes and Clemson classes. These ships were carryovers from the World War I era having entered service right after the end of the war. The largest single group was the destroyers built between 1934 and 1942, with 116 ships encompassing ten different classes on the list. These ships can be recognized by their raised forecastles and in the pre-war classes, portholes in the sides. The list also includes sixty Fletcher Class ships built between 1942 and 1943 and thirty-nine Sumner and Gearing Class ships built between 1944 and 1945. These ships reverted to the “Flush Deck” configuration. Some historic ships on the list include:

  • USS Greer (DD 145) – Involved in first incident with U-Boat in 1941.
  • USS Reuben James (DD 245) – First US ship loss during war in 1941.
  • USS Hobson (DD 464) – Sunk in collision with USS Wasp in 1952.
  • USS Kearney (DD 432) – Torpedoed while on Neutrality Patrol in 1941.
  • USS Niblack (DD 424) – First action with a U-Boat in 1941.
  • USS Thompson (DD 627) – Served as the setting for The Caine Mutiny.
  • USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570) – Flagship of famous “ Little Beaver Squadron” under Capt Arleigh Burke.
  • USS Spence (DD 512) – Sunk in a typhoon in Pacific in 1943.
  • USS Gyatt (DD 712) – Converted into world’s first guided missile ship in 1956.

USS Reuben James  (DD 245)

USS Reuben James (DD 245)

USS Reuben James (DD 245) was a Clemson Class destroyer built in 1920. The ship served on Neutrality Patrol where she was sunk by a torpedo off Argentia on 23 October 1941 before the US entered the war. The last stop before she sank was Casco Bay. Rueben James was the first US ship loss of World War II.

USS Kearney(DD 432)

USS Kearney (DD 432)

USS Kearney (DD 432) was a Gleaves Class destroyer that entered service in 1940. Kearney was torpedoed while on neutrality patrol prior to outbreak of war in October 1941. She returned to duty and served as convoy escort and patrols in support of invasions of Italy and Southern France. She was sent to the Pacific in 1945.

USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570)

USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570)

USS Charles Ausburne (DD 570) was a Fletcher Class Destroyer built in Orange, Texas. She entered service in 1943 and underwent shakedown training in Casco Bay. Shortly thereafter, she was transferred to the Pacific and served as the flagship of the famous “Little Beaver” Squadron under future Chief of Naval Operations Arliegh Burke.

DESTROYER ESCORTS – Next to the destroyers, the destroyer escorts formed the second largest groups of ships to visit Casco Bay during the war. There are 223 ships on the list that visited the bay between 1944 and 1945. Those ships represented five different ship classes. USS Tills (DE 748) was mentioned in the first part of the blog series. It appears that virtually every East Coast built DE visited the bay for shakedown or ASW training at one time or another. The majority of these ships served in the Atlantic on convoy escort, ASW patrols, and as members of hunter-killer groups. A number of them were assigned to naval reserve training duties after the war. Some historically prominent ships that appear on the list include: 

  • USS Farquhar (DE 139) – Last ship to sink a U-Boat in 1945.
  • USS Stewart (DE 238) – Museum ship in San Jacinto, Texas.
  • USS Vance (DE 387) – Involved in book, The Arnheiter Affair.
  • USS Mason (DE 529) – First naval vessel with predominantly black crew.
  • USS Edward H. Allen (DE 531) – Rescued survivors from liner Andrea Doria sinking in 1956.

USS Stewart (DE 238)

USS Stewart (DE 238)

USS Stewart (DE 238) was built in Houston, Texas. The ship entered service in 1943. During the war, Stewart performed duties as a convoy escort and on ASW patrols in the Atlantic. It was transferred to the Pacific in 1945. The ship now serves as a museum ship in Galveston, Texas. In 2007, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. She is mentioned in a separate blog on this website. Stewart is one of only two World War II-built destroyer escorts still in existence.


  • USS Denebola (AD 12) – DESLANT flagship from 1941-1944.
  • USS Yosemite (AD 19) – DESLANT flagship from 1946-1969. Served until 1994.
  • USS Vulcan (AR 5) – First USN ship with female crewmembers in 1978.
  • USS Alcor (AG 34) – DESLANT flagship in 1944-1945.
  • USS Biscayne (AGC 18) – DESLANT flagship in early 1946.

USS Yosemite (AD 19)

USS Yosemite (AD 19)

USS Yosemite (AD 19) was a Dixie Class destroyer tender built in Tampa, Florida. The ship entered service in 1944. Yosemite was initially assigned to wartime duties in the Pacific. However, it was transferred to Casco Bay in 1946 where it assumed duties as the COMDESLANT Flagship during the period where the base was closing down. In 1947, the ship was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island where she continued to serve as the DESLANT flagship until 1969. Yosemite was to remain in active service as a destroyer tender on the East Coast and in the Mediterranean until decommissioned in 1994 after fifty years of continuous service. 

MINESWEEPERS - There are thirty-six minesweepers in the database. Most were in Casco Bay for shakedown and ASW training. Unlike their post war counterparts that were (and are) of wooden hull construction, World War II minesweepers had steel hulls.

USS Jubilant (AM 255)

USS Jubilant (AM 255)

SUBMARINES – Thirty-three submarines appear on the list. The majority were home ported in New London and provided to COMDESLANT for ASW training purposes. They were generally of obsolescent types built between 1918 and 1926. Two of them were captured Italian subs used for training purposes during the latter part of the war.

S-25 in Casco Bay

S-25 in Casco Bay

The S-25 was built in 1923 and transferred to Great Britain and later to Poland. Allied Escorts later mistakenly sank the submarine off Norway in 1942.

PATROL VESSELS – Seventeen of the thirty-eight patrol vessels that appear on the list were Tacoma Class Patrol Frigates (PF). These vessels entered service between 1944 and 1945, too late to have a significant impact on the war. Many wound up being sold to foreign navies. Others were converted yachts (PY) that were used as flagships. Some historically significant vessels on the list include:

  • USS Eagle (PE 56) – Sunk by U-853 off Cape Elizabeth in 1945.
  • USS Vixen (PG 53) – Converted yacht. Served as CINCLANTFLEET flagship in 1942-1944.
  • USS Zircon (PY 16) – Converted yacht. Served as CINCLANTFLEET flagship in 1944-1945.
  • USS Mizpah (PY 29) – Converted yacht. Served as DESLANT flagship in 1945.

USS Eagle (PE 56)

USS Eagle (PE 56)

The USS Eagle (PE 56) was a World War I-built patrol vessel. It was one of sixty “Eagle Boats” built under a plan initiated by Henry Ford in a shipyard on the River Rouge near Detroit, Michigan in 1918-1919. PE 56 was one of only seven of the vessels that saw service in World War II. She was torpedoed off Cape Elizabeth, right outside Portland Harbor by U-853. However, there is still some debate as to whether or not she was torpedoed or sunk by an internal explosion. 

COAST GUARD – During World War II, the Coast Guard served as an integral part of the Navy. A total of fifty-one Coast Guard vessels appear on the list. A number of these vessels had very long service lives. Two remain on display as museum ships. Note that Coast Guard light ships were taken off station during the war and used for other purposes. The list includes seven Treasury Class cutters, several of which served into the 1980s. Some historic vessels include:

  • USCG Ingham (WPG 35) – Museum ship in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • USCG Taney (WHEC 37) – Museum ship in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • USCG Nantucket (LV 112) – Nantucket light ship – Served as an examination ship in Portland during the war.
  • USCG Portland (LV 90) – Portland light ship.
USCG Duane (WPG 33)

USCG Duane (WPG 33)

USCG Duane (WPG 33)

USCG Duane (WPG 33)





USCG Duane (WPG 33) was a Treasury Class Cutter that entered service in 1936. She remained on active service until 1985. The ship is shown above in its wartime and peacetime configurations. Duane was based in Portland from 1978-1985. 

A large number of service craft were based in Casco Bay during the war in order to provide the necessary services to ships moored out in the bay.

SS Green Island (YFB 32)

SS Green Island (YFB 32)

The vessel shown above entered service as the Casco Bay Lines steamer SS Aucocisco in 1897. The ship’s functions were to carry passengers and freight to the various islands in the bay. In 1942, the U.S. Navy took it over and re-named her USS Green Island (YFB 32). During WWII, she served as a ferryboat based in Portland to and from naval vessels moored or anchored out in the bay. Along with its sister vessel the Penobscot Bay steamer North Haven (YAG 12), Green Island served as a large “liberty boats”. A trip down the bay covered distances up to six miles from Portland and included multiple stops, often under unpleasant weather conditions. The steamer was coal fired. After the war, Green Island was returned to Casco Bay Lines where it continued to serve under its original name of Aucocisco until 1952. I rode it to and from Peaks Island a number of times in the post war era.

The above photo shows the area in Casco Bay where the moorings and anchorages were located at it appears today. This photo was taken from the Northern end of Peaks Island in 2005.

REFERENCES: The following references were used in preparation for the presentations delivered at museums in the Portland area in 2006 and 2009.


  • Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Online (DANFS)
  • NAVSOURCE Photo Archives
  • The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II
  • U.S. Naval Historical Center (Now the Naval History and Heritage Command)
  • U.S. Naval Institute
  • United States Coast Guard
  • Naval Vessel Register
  • Hyper War, U.S. Navy in World War II, Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945
  • Dreadnoughts to Greyhounds: Ships of the US Navy
  • Destroyerhistory.org (Casco Bay)
  • U.S. Coast Guard Cutter List
  • Casco Bay Online, World War II, Joel W. Eastman
  • Eastern Sea Frontier War Diary


  • Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II, Crescent Books, 1992 Reprint
  • Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1947-1982, Part I, US Naval Institute
  • U.S. Destroyers, Revised Edition, Friedman, US Naval Institute Press,2004
  • United States Navy Destroyers of World War II, Blandford Press, 1983
  • Allied Escort Ships of World War II, Elliot, Naval Institute Press, 1977
  • History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Samuel Elliot Morison, Castle Books, 2001 Reprint
  • The Two Ocean War, Samuel Elliot Morison,1963
  • Tin Cans: The True Story of the Fighting Destroyers of World War II, Theodore Roscoe, US Naval Institute, 1953
  • The Defeat of the German U-Boats, Syrette, University of South Carolina Press, 1994
  • The Naval War Against Hitler, Donald Mcintyre, 1971
  • The Casco Bay Islands, 1850-2000, Kimberly E. MacIsaac, Arcadia Publications, 2004



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The Never-ending Season: Vietnam POWs and the Lifetime Baseball Pass

Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. (Defense.gov)

Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. (Defense.gov)

In 2006, during the 25th anniversary of the return home of the 52 American hostages in Iran, then Washington Post staff writer Les Carpenter wrote a wonderful piece about the generous gesture of MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to grant lifetime game passes to each of the detainees released in 1981. The article went on to discuss the lives of several hostages who utilized the priceless passes over the course of the preceding decades.

The article, however, is only part of the story of Major League Baseball’s special treatment of VIPs. Lifetime baseball passes were not a phenomenon of the 1980s alone. In fact, the concept of lifetime passes dates back to the turn of the 20th century, with a significant special category created in the early 1970s.

In 1896, silver coins were given out to the champions of the National League and (then) American Association Circuit. Teams like the New York Giants issued lifetime passes to the Polo Grounds throughout the early twentieth century.   According to a brief history of the metal passes in the latest issue of the Numismatist, you had to be an “important person” of prestige to receive the silver passes. (Image Credit: Pinterest)

In 1896, silver coins were given out to the champions of the National League and (then) American Association Circuit. Teams like the New York Giants issued lifetime passes to the Polo Grounds throughout the early twentieth century. According to a brief history of the metal passes in the latest issue of the Numismatist, you had to be an “important person” of prestige to receive the silver passes. (Image Credit: Pinterest)

In 1896, silver coins were given out to the champions of the National League and (then) American Association Circuit. Teams like the New York Giants issued lifetime and season passes to the Polo Grounds throughout the early twentieth century.   According to a brief history of the metal passes in the latest issue of the Numismatist, you had to be an “important person” of prestige to receive the silver passes.

Carpenter mentioned a conversation between Navy Admiral Jeremiah Denton, a former Vietnam War POW, and Commissioner Kuhn during the hostage crisis in the Washington Post article. According to Carpenter, the genesis of the lifetime pass grew from that very discussion. Kuhn was “hard pressed” to note any other time those baseball passes were given out. A week after the article was published, Marc I. Alvarez, son of Navy Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr., noted the memory lapse of the former Baseball executive. Commander Alvarez was held at the “Hanoi Hilton” for 8.5 years, making him one of the longest held prisoners of war in American military history. According to Mark Alvarez, among the many gifts given to returning POWs in 1973, when Kuhn was Commissioner, was the famed lifetime baseball pass. One of the POWs who received that pass was former NHF Executive Director Captain Kenneth L. Coskey, USN (Ret.). Captain Coskey served as NHF Executive Director from 1987 to 1999. During the Vietnam War, he flew the A-6A Intruder before being shot down over North Vietnam. Captain Coskey spent five years in captivity before being released with nearly 600 other POWS in the spring of 1973 during Operation Homecoming.

Current Executive Director Captain Charles Creekman, USN (Ret.) had a chance last month to catch up with Kenny Coskey, the son of Captain Coskey. Through a series of email exchanges, Kenny reminisced about the pass and the special experience of going to see a baseball game as a guest of Major League Baseball.

According to Coskey, he and his father cherished the pass. Baseball was still the predominant national pastime in the 1970s, and a way of life for countless Americans. Although no pennant race could compare to the feeling of freedom, the baseball pass was just one of the many endorsements and incentives given to the men who came back in 1973. Vietnam POWs understood that. They appreciated the gesture from Major League Baseball all the same. It was a great opportunity to use the familiarity of baseball to help ease the minds of the POWs as they returned to their regular lives. What better way than with something that symbolized American competition and spirit?

KLC_MLB_Lifetime Pass
The rectangular pass itself measures 2 inches by 3 and 3/8 inches – no larger than your average credit card. It is made of aluminum and finished in brushed gold. By all appearances, the pass seems plain by today’s standards. Yet in your possession, you could pass through any the gates of any stadium around the country. The pass gave each recipient and their guest exclusive admission to any Major League or Minor League baseball game, with exception to the playoffs and World Series games. It was truly a Golden ticket. POWs and hostages alike traded in the red carpet vanity of Hollywood-style celebrity treatment for peanuts, Cracker Jack, and bleacher seats.

Many did. Marc Alvarez and his father went to several iconic games that would have been otherwise “nearly impossible to attend.” He mentioned, among others, attending Cal Ripkin’s record breaking game and Nolan Ryan’s final game as a Texas Ranger. Kenny Coskey also noted the power that the card held as a “way to connect” to his father. He discussed how important the pass was to his childhood experiences in the immediate years following the end of the Vietnam War:

“Boy, did my dad and I take advantage of the pass, especially in Chicago and at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Major League Baseball would usually seat us right behind home plate or in some really good seats.”

The original baseball lifetime passes were issued to only those deemed high profile enough. The passes issued to POWs in 1973 were a small token of gratitude from Major League Baseball to men like Captain Coskey and Commander Alvarez for their service and sacrifice. Through their hardships and pain, those passes allowed their lives to move forward in peace, sharing the experience an endless summer of the game with loved ones.

Kenny Coskey’s favorite year for using the lifetime pass? 1983 – the year the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series…


Play Ball!

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Why Not Comic-Con? 10th Maritime Heritage Conference Draws the Best and Brightest in Maritime/Naval History

By Matthew Eng

I thought my experience at this year’s 10th Maritime Heritage Conference would be like every other history conference. Most conferences roll by mechanically on autopilot. A variety of presentations and panels on historical subjects form the crux of discussion. Hotel food is eaten. Conversations are made. Cards are exchanged. Hands are shaken. Logo-laden swag is picked up with feverish intensity. This year’s conference, however, felt different. It felt special. All it took was one little comment to completely change the way I view these semi-annual gatherings.

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.) address crowd at a luncheon held during the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference. Admiral Papp was awarded the National Maritime Alliance Award of Distinction by celebrated author Clive Cussler.

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.) address crowd at a luncheon held during the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference. Admiral Papp was awarded the National Maritime Alliance Award of Distinction by celebrated author Clive Cussler.

At this year’s 10th Maritime Heritage Conference, I presented a paper on Navy baseball during World War II. The panel I presented with was titled, “Hampton Roads Under the Influence of War.” Thankfully, the panel occurred at the opening of sessions on Thursday. I could get it out of the way and enjoy the rest of the conference without those pesky “presentation jitters.”

1OTHMHCCOMIC CONI got to the panel room fifteen minutes before it began on the fourth floor of the Marriot Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, VA. My fellow panelists were already there. After some pleasant exchanges of excited conversation, we sat down and waited for attendees to populate the large conference room.

The empty room soon filled up with familiar faces.

Before our session began, Corey Thornton, Curator of History for Portsmouth Museums, leaned over to me and said, “Wow, it’s like Comic-Con.” I don’t think he was being completely serious. I chuckled quietly to myself left it at that. We went through with our program and presentation. About an hour later, during a panel on the latest developments with USS Monitor, the idea popped into my head. The statement got me thinking. The more I thought about it, the more I started to believe that Corey was right. I found myself at the end of the day trying to find ways the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference DID NOT draw similarities.

What does that event in San Diego have that the 10th MHC doesn’t? Let’s go down the list:

Exhibitors representing cutting edge information about the industry? CHECK.

Ship History on Instagram (Steamship Historical Society)

Ship History on Instagram (Steamship Historical Society)

Special exhibits and demos honoring relevant items of media interest? CHECK.

Ceremonial Sword from Algiers (Hampton Roads Naval Museum)

Ceremonial Sword from Algiers (Hampton Roads Naval Museum)

VIP parties and special “meet and greet” events? CHECK.

MHC Opening Reception aboard Battleship Wisconsin. (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

MHC Opening Reception aboard Battleship Wisconsin. (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

Attendees looking “out of uniform” from their normal attire. CHECK.

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.) was awarded the National Maritime Alliance Award of Distinction by celebrated author Clive Cussler during the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference.

Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., USCG (Ret.) was awarded the National Maritime Alliance Award of Distinction by celebrated author Clive Cussler during the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference.

Awards ceremonies honoring the lifetime achievements of industry leaders? CHECK.

2014 Commodore Dudley W. Knox Naval History Award Winners (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

2014 Commodore Dudley W. Knox Naval History Award Winners (NHF Photo by Matthew Eng/Released)

Let’s be honest: Comic-Con is just a large-scale fan convention. In today’s digital age, there is little to separate these concepts save scope and subject matter. Are we not all fans of naval and maritime history? The 10th MHC is a convention and a community on the smaller, yet vitally important, scale. Like Comic-Con, the event is multi-genre and multi-platform. You can hear about Civil War naval history one minute and move into a discussion on the creative ways we are discovering and recovering shipwrecks in another. Everyone at MHC is a star in his or her own right. Most of these men and women work quietly out of the limelight of the American public. Yet they are transcending what stars of television, film, and comic book culture can do – they are promoting and sustaining our rich maritime heritage for generations to come. They embody what the conference’s keynote speaker. Dan Basta said about the state of the maritime community: “It is more about projection than protection.”

You might see a big celebrity talk about their recent projects at Comic-Con, or an influential artist who is paving the way for groundbreaking graphic novels and short stories. In this field, the best and brightest stars are here to tell us about their research and providing updates of their institution’s latest developments. Sure, there isn’t anybody dressed in costume – well, not really. Scuba divers and underwater archaeologists attending are surely out of their element in suits and ties.

The conference reminded me why I got into the business of naval history in the first place. It might be why WE ALL got into this business. It’s why you, constant reader, are still reading this instead of going back to Facebook. This information moves you. It fascinates you. Like waves in water, the ebb and flow of the business change constantly through time, allowing many of us to be swept away in its current. No two situations are the same. Every instance is an opportunity to grow. We want to further the field and advance our nation’s understanding of the wonderful and exciting world beyond our island nation. This conference gives everyone an opportunity to shine. No waiting in line for hours to talk to a movie star for thirty seconds. At MHC, you get real face-to-face interaction and meaningful conversation with some of the greatest minds of naval and maritime history. What more can you ask for? In my opinion, MHC transcends any Comic-Con. I hope you were like me and skipped San Diego for Norfolk.

To all the conference attendees, exhibitors, panelists, moderators, and organizers: Thank you for taking time out of your busy lives and sharing the wonderful work you do. You all have adoring fans in our field. I might be the biggest one. They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. In that respect, I’m still looking for employment. Thank you all for keeping me jobless.

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Monitor’s Coat: A Rare Find in Conservation


By Matthew T. Eng

I have never been more happy to arrive early to an event in my entire life. 

There have been several great talks and panels at the 10th Maritime Heritage Conference this week in Norfolk. Too many, in fact, to mention in a single blog post. Being a fan and enthusiast of the Civil War navies, however, I gravitated towards panel presentations focusing on ironclad ships and commerce raiders. Given the recent news this summer that the Monitor Center Wet Lab had reopened, I wanted to make sure to check out the Thursday panel on USS Monitor. The panel covered every conceivable aspect of the ship, from its influence in mainstream consumer culture (Wonderfully done by the intrepid Dr. Anna Holloway) to the way we can it provides for creative and meaningful relationships with the community at large (Dave Alberg). The most interesting presentation, however, came from Dave Krop, Director of the Monitor Center. Dave talked about a variety of ongoing projects and conservation techniques his team in the lab are currently conducting on Monitor artifacts both large and small. The most interesting artifact he mentioned was a double-breasted sack coat discovered inside the turret. According to Krop, the coat was recovered in pieces in 2002 by NOAA. At first, the piece looked like a wet mass on the floor of the turret. Their meticulous conservation has drastically changed that in recent years. Dave was happy to report to attendees that the coat is finally out of the treatment process. With help from funding, the center’s ultimate goal is to have the coat completely conserved and displayed in Newport News.

Friday’s talks on the “Civil War at Sea” were also excellent. I am happy to report on all fronts that Civil War naval history is alive and well. Feeling content with my fix for Civil War naval knowledge, I gathered my things yesterday afternoon for the 10th MHC evening reception across the water in Newport News. Looking to avoid the rush from Friday traffic on the busy interstates of Hampton Roads, I opted to leave Norfolk much earlier than anticipated. I haven’t been away from the area long enough to forget how bad it can get at rush hour.

DSC_4031Boy, am I glad I left when I did. As one of the first guests to arrive, I had my own private audience to chat with three Monitor Center staff members already there: Dave Krop, Will Hoffman, and Kate Sullivan. After spending a few minutes of chatting about the conference, Dave and his crew invited me to a private viewing of the Monitor sailor’s coat. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity. One short elevator ride later, I was up in the conservation lab, staring down at a near-perfect specimen of material culture largely unseen for the last 150 years.

The coat is absolutely stunning in person. The colors seem vibrant and alive, as if you just picked the coat out of the closet to wear. It is remarkable how together it looks. I have some clothes that look worse for wear than the Monitor coat!

It is always to a treat to listen and learn history. Seeing it up close in front of your face, however, is a different animal altogether.They have done a truly remarkable job keeping such a delicate artifact intact and well-preserved over a decade after it came out of the water. You can see every nuance and detail from the buttons. The buttons were found next to the coat because the cotton fiber holding them to the coat degraded in the ocean water.

Button Detail on the Coat.

Button Detail on the Coat.

The coat was privately produced and modified for military service. The material is likely composed of a fine, merino-like wool. Looking at the artifact as a whole on their table, there is a lot to be said about quality craftsmanship – much of it stayed together underwater. The team at the lab said the jacket is approximately 85 percent complete. They also found footwear and other personal clothing items near where the jacket was found.


These dedicated men and women working on this ongoing project are a shining example of why the Monitor is still relevant today. From this one artifact, you can now ask a hundred new questions. Who was its owner. Why was it modified? What is the significance of the buttons? The list goes on. It amazes me to think how one ship can continually change and alter how we think about naval warfare and its preservation for years to come. With continued help and support, Dave and his team can continue making great advanced in their field for the betterment of all those who wish to see their proud naval heritage preserved for generations to come. That’s an ironclad promise we’d all like to keep.

Go to their blog HERE for more updates and information on their continuing projects and partnerships with NOAA.

A special thanks to Dave Krop, Will Hoffman, and Kate Sullivan for giving me a special treat to an already spectacular evening at the Mariners’ Museum.

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Winchester, VA: A Hub of Naval History?

ADM Richard E. Byrd and Igloo, Winchester, VA

ADM Richard E. Byrd and Igloo, Winchester, VA

By Matthew T. Eng

I wanted to be a bit spontaneous yesterday. I decided to skip the throng of crowds in Baltimore’s Bicentennial of the Star-Spangled Banner (Our friends at NHHC had it covered) and spent the day in Winchester, VA. The sleepy, historic town was just over an hour away. It would be the perfect place for my wife and I to get out of the city and clear our heads. I put on some Patsy Cline and headed down I-66 towards the Shenandoah Valley.

We arrived a shade under an hour and a half. To my surprise, parking was free there on the weekends. We picked a spot on the street near Winchester’s Judicial Center and started making our way towards the nearby historic district. As we walked away from our parking spot, I noticed a statue off in the distance in front of the building. It looked oddly familiar. I told my wife to wait a second while I did a little bit of detective work. Sure enough, I realized why it looked so familiar once I got closer:

ADM Byrd Statue (Matthew Eng Photo/Released) and Admiral Byrd with Igloo (NHHC Photo)

ADM Byrd Statue (Matthew Eng Photo/Released) and Admiral Byrd with Igloo (NHHC Photo)

As it turns out, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, famous naval explorer of the Antarctic, was born in Winchester. His boyhood home was only a few blocks away The Byrd statue depicts the famous photograph of the explorer with his dog “Igloo” during his first Antarctic Expedition in 1930. A transcript of the 1997 dedication ceremony found online revealed that the statue was built “entirely by contributions, large and small, from members of the community, friends, neighbors, and admirers.” Then Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton. Dalton had much to say about the “lion of a man” that became one of the most decorated naval officers in U.S. Navy history:

“He was a man who loved a challenge. He was a man of firsts. The first to fly over the North Pole. The first to fly over the South Pole. The first to explore and map the vast continent of Antarctica. Amazing feats . . . and especially so, given our reliance today on the wonders of navigation now available to us, like the global positioning system. Admiral Byrd had no such tools available . . . he called upon his courage almost exclusively, to achieve the firsts that began out search for those marvelous tools we use today. His was a special breed of courage.”  (Remarks of Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton, Winchester, VA, 14 July 1997)

Admiral Byrd is honored in other ways around in Frederick County. Admiral Richard E. Byrd Middle School, opened in 2005, is named in his honor. According to their site, several letters and pictures from his incredible career are on display at the school. The school mascot is the “Husky,” which I found to be a fitting tribute to the man and his love for dogs.

Antique Store Finds in Winchester!

Antique Store Finds in Winchester!

We walked into a nearby antique store in the historic district to search for anything interesting for my house. The day had no agenda – why not? I briefly talked to an employee about the Byrd statue. He knew a great deal about the statue and the history behind it. The gentlemen told me that Byrd was also a descendent of Englishman John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Byrd’s thirst for exploration and adventure was in his bloodline.

The antique store looked more like a museum of Americana, bookended between the turn-of-the-century and the 1970s. While there, I managed to find two interesting pieces of naval history: A 1946 edition of Your Navy (NAVPERS 10600) and a rare children’s copy of Don Winslow of the Navy, published in 1940. More on these later.

There are several other famous naval figures from Winchester. RADM Louis M. Noulton, interwar Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, was born in Winchester in 1869. Commodore John H. Aulick, War of 1812 hero and Midshipman prize master of HMS Boxer after her engagement with Enterprise in 1813, was also born in Winchester in 1787.

(Image Credit: NAVSOURCE)

Commodore Aulick (Image Credit: NAVSOURCE)

I left Winchester with a huge smile on my face. Who knew there would be so much naval history in a small town inside the Shenandoah Valley? It goes to show you that you can find naval history just about anywhere.

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A lot of Growing Up to Do After 9/11: 13 Years Later

NORFOLK (Jan. 24, 2014) An officer aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) bows his head during the invocation of the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the ship's 9/11 Tribute Room in honor of all those who died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. One hundred and twenty-five military service members and civilians lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

NORFOLK (Jan. 24, 2014) An officer aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) bows his head during the invocation of the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the ship’s 9/11 Tribute Room in honor of all those who died in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. One hundred and twenty-five military service members and civilians lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

By Matthew Eng

I was 17 years old in 2001. My worldview did not extend beyond the confines of my immediate friends and family. Although I was a Senior in high school, I still had a lot of growing up to do. A lot of that experience happened on the morning of September 11th. Like others around the country, I watched in horror as my narrow scope of the world shattered, opening my eyes to the harsh realities of an America at war.

I had lived in Hampton Roads my entire life. Naturally, everybody knew somebody who is in the military – friends, neighbors, or family. Every resident of Hampton Roads knows what jet noise sounds like. After years of conditioning, the sound becomes soothing. I remember seeing the hub of activity Norfolk was during Operation Desert Storm. This was different. It was even different than the response from the attack on USS Cole, home-ported in Norfolk. There was more of a frenzy. The following week, it was hard not to hear lunchtime conversation around you talking about enlisting and joining up. I didn’t think much of it back then. I think about it almost every day now. I can imagine the buzz of fervor was much the same around the United States in December 1941. Or in February 1898. Or April 1861.

A girl places a flower beneath a row of flags during a 9/11 ceremony in Norfolk, Va. The City of Norfolk hosted an all-day healing and remembrance ceremony at Town Point Park to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stuart Phillips/Released)

A girl places a flower beneath a row of flags during a 9/11 ceremony in Norfolk, Va. The City of Norfolk hosted an all-day healing and remembrance ceremony at Town Point Park to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Stuart Phillips/Released)

I graduated in 2002 and went off to college. Many of my classmates went off to join the military. I am grateful for every one of those individuals who answered the call of duty – past, present, and future. Some of those classmates went off to the Middle East. Some came back unscathed, while others returned with injuries both on the inside and outside.

Historically, it hasn’t been that long since the attacks. Watching the footage still evokes emotion. It seems like it was yesterday. Watching older films with the iconic NYC backdrop always make note of the Twin Towers in the distance.

Enemy attacks on the United States are still very well in the memory and minds of the American public. We are only a shade over 70 years since Pearl Harbor, and are currently commemorating the bicentennial anniversary of the British attack on our nation’s capitol, typified by this weekend’s “Star-Spangled” events in Baltimore.

I am 30 years old now. I STILL have a lot of growing up to do. The world has a lot of growing up to do. I can sleep safe knowing that our men and women of the United States Navy are keeping the watch, making sure the aging process for both goes as smooth as possible. Take a second today and thank your fellow service members who answered the call, and honor those who gave their fullest measure of devotion on the morning of September 11th and beyond.

Do you have a story about your experiences with 9/11? Share it here or on our Facebook page. 

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Black Shoe Dog at Sea: Wiley and the USS Stephen W. Groves

It’s no secret that everybody loves dogs. A recent post on our Facebook site led us to discover the interesting story behind a rare ship’s mascot aboard USS Stephen W. Groves on her final deployment.

Wiley aboard Stephen W. Groves, 2011

Wiley aboard Stephen W. Groves, 2011

By Matthew T. Eng

You can’t deny that we like to keep things on a tight schedule.

Each Tuesday, NHF posts content on our social media pages highlighting where the history of the United States Navy and popular culture has connected over the years (#NavyHistoryinPopularCulture). On Thursdays, better known as “TBT: Past vs. Present,” we bridge connections of naval history from the Navy of yesterday and today. Using thematic concepts and images from our Navy’s illustrious history, our fans choose which instance from past or present they feel is best suited to the question. Would you rather go on a Navy exploring expedition with Captain Charles Wilkes or Admiral Richard Byrd? Our fans decided they would prefer to chill out with Admiral Byrd in the Antarctic. Perhaps everyone is a little tired of the oppressive heat right now!

“His selfless and loyal service provided fellow Sailors with fond memories of life back at home, a much-appreciated boost in morale and the occasional reminder to smile.”

With workflow resembling a small skyscraper on my desk, I needed a quick idea to post on our social media pages for last week’s edition of  “TBT: Past vs. Present.” I checked the time on my phone, which has a picture of my wife and dog on the home screen. That’s it! What about dogs and the Navy? I know there is a plethora of information on the internet where dogs became ship mascots in times of peace and war. Most of those images stop around the end of the Second World War. What about the present day? I contacted Laura Orr at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum to see if she had any pictures that might relate to the subject. She sent me an adorable picture of a cute Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix dressed up in service blues. I thought the image was a perfect portrayal of the “present,” and quickly included the image on the post.

Image Credit: Matthew Rick

Image Credit: Matthew Rick

When I first saw the picture, I assumed the pup was dressed up and brought aboard for photos before the ship left for deployment. The only description I had was, “Wiley aboard USS Stephen W. Groves, 2011.” Within an hour, the comment section on our feed started to unravel the story. As it turns out, Wiley is a real “salty dog!” The story behind the ship’s last deployment is as interesting as Wiley’s service to the Navy. Thanks in large part to the information and images provided by Commander Matthew Rick and LT Aubra Thomas, Wiley’s story can now become true naval history.

Petty Officer Second Class Dog Wiley Jarvis Thomas in his dress whites for homecoming in July 2011. (Photo Credit: Matthew Rick)

Petty Officer Second Class Dog Wiley Jarvis Thomas in his dress whites for homecoming in July 2011. (Photo Credit: Matthew Rick)

Commander Matthew Rick must be a big fan of dogs. Prior to her final deployment to the African coast in 2011, the Stephen W. Groves CO explained the history behind ship mascots to his shipmates. According to LT Thomas, she and several Junior Officers hatched a plan to resurrect the tradition. They collectively “came up with a proposal for CDR Rick, stating how noteworthy a mascot could be on a ship nowadays.” CDR Rick endorsed the idea. Thomas adopted Wiley and medically screened him with the Veterinarian. Fit for duty, Wiley was ready for his new adventure.

Seaman Wiley Jarvis Thomas departed with USS Stephen W. Groves in January 2011 for a six-month deployment in the 6th Fleet AoR. Her previous deployments during her thirty-year history took the ship on various counter drug, anti-piracy, and humanitarian missions around the world.

P02 Wiley Thomas, USN (Ret.)

P02 Wiley Thomas, USN (Ret.)

Wiley’s first (and only) deployment gave him a taste of life few other dogs living today can say they lived. Yet Wiley made up for his smaller “sea legs” in no time. During the deployment, Wiley circumnavigated Africa, seeing exotic ports and countries along the continent’s coastline. Wiley was aboard the ship throughout various counter-piracy operations. He provided the sailors with much-needed amusement and relief during those tense times. Thomas explains:

“His selfless and loyal service provided fellow Sailors with fond memories of life back at home, a much-appreciated boost in morale and the occasional reminder to smile.  Wiley remained ever vigilant and would come wagging to the rescue if someone was having a bad day.  He understood his duties and performed them with the utmost devotion!!”

Wiley returned to Florida in July 2011. He left the ship a “seasoned and salty” Petty Officer 2nd Class. He is currently enjoying his retirement with the Thomas family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That does not mean he plans to rest easy. Now four years old, Wiley continues to enrich the lives of others. Wiley hopes to extend a helping paw in his retirement years as a therapy dog at the local VA hospital. Although his ship is now decommissioned, I am sure his memories still gravitate to his time at sea. Thanks for keeping the watch, Wiley.

Have you deployed on a ship with a ship mascot? Let us know in the comment section or email at meng@navyhistory.org.

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John Paul Jones and Oliver Hazard Perry are “Baddass?” We Knew All Along

Screenshot via Cracked.com Facebook Site

Screenshot via Cracked.com Facebook Site

By Matthew Eng

It is a rare and beautiful thing when naval history is highlighted in popular culture. According to a recent story by a popular social media site, naval history is alive and well.

Social media outlets outside the realm of naval history will occasionally publish content relevant to the history of the United States Navy. For better or worse, students and enthusiasts of the subject cannot help but crack a smile that information once held so close to the vest is now blasted to millions of people everyday. Cracked.com, the website and social media faction to the popular magazine of the same name, put out an article yesterday on the Internet extolling the heroic “trash talk” of some of histories greatest warriors. The article, titled “The 10 Greatest Uses of Trash Talk in the History of War,” makes no illusion that the half-history/half-humor list is about (warning – mild language):

“Yet history records some baddass trash talk that would put Schwarzenegger to shame, some spoken in dire circumstances. Of course, it takes a certain type of badass.”

By all accounts, the amount of historical research and knowledge presented is respectable. The article mentions everyone from King Leonidas to Joan of Arc. Included in the list historical situations were two of the most famous events in the history of the United States Navy: John Paul Jones’s fight with the Serapis and Oliver Hazard Perry’s exploits at the Battle of Lake Erie.

#7 John Paul Jones

Original Image - Wikimedia Commons

Original Image – Wikimedia Commons

The list discusses Captain John Paul Jones’s extraordinary fight with the HMS Serapis during the Battle of Flamborough Head. Unfortunately, the sites are linked to Wikipedia and not a historical site. The brief text included in the article describes Jones’s decision to ram the Serapis in an all-out act of heroism and desperation. During this, he utters his now famous line; the kind of trash talk any true patriot loves to hear over and over again:

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

The outcome?  The Bonhomme Richard was lost (and still trying to be found today), but the intrepid leader commanded the Serapis to nearby Amsterdam on a victory cruise. It is the kind of situation where legends are made from, clearly evident by some of the humorous captions included with the images, which are borderline meme-worthy:

Screenshot via Cracked.com

Hey – at least they attributed the Naval History and Heritage Command! Screenshot via Cracked.com

#6: Oliver Hazard Perry

The next piece of “trash talk” included in the list was Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous “We have met the nemey and they are ours” quote from the Battle of Lake Erie. The author begins the situation by saying that Perry was “the type of man that Cracked lists were invented for, starting with his impossibly ballsy name.” There is no arguing there. Looking through the description, the author of the article had as much fun talking about the physical description of Perry than describing the story behind the line itself:

Screenshot via Cracked.com

Screenshot via Cracked.com

The author eventually discusses how Perry’s daring decisions led to a decisive victory against the British fleet at Lake Erie. He includes enough history in there to both fascinate and entertain and educate. Are there pieces missing to the story? Certainly. That does not mean that men like Perry should not get their due and proper, now two centuries later.

Anybody that says history cannot be fun and relevant should read these articles (likely with a grain of salt). For many fans of naval history – this is all old news. Countless books and scholarly articles discuss the daring heroics of two of the United States Navy’s most iconic sailors. Even so, others had a hard time placing a finger on these two men:

Screenshot via Cracked.com Facebook Site

Screenshot via Cracked.com Facebook Site

Unfortunately, John Paul Jones is often misunderstood for the bass player of Led Zeppelin. These misconceptions are not reserved for Cracked alone. According to Urban Dictionary, a web-based dictionary, the fourth definition of John Paul Jones lists the Father of the U.S. Navy as “some navy guy:”

Screenshot via Urban Dictionary

Screenshot via Urban Dictionary

Of course, many of us know John Paul Jones as a daring sailor who helped secure our nation’s independence. Despite what social media says, he will always be that way. That’s not to say Led Zeppelin isn’t great either.

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BOOK REVIEW – Ready Seapower: a History of the U.S. Seventh Fleet

Marolda, Ready-Seapower1By Edward J. Marolda, Naval History & Heritage Command, Washington, DC (2012)

Reviewed by Paul W. Murphey, Ph.D., CDR, CHC, USN (Retired)

Ready Seapower is an attractive book. Its coffee table format and design make it appealing for guests to flip through and comment on. The large selection of well-chosen pictures and illustrations fit well with the text. Each chapter has a special inset that usually highlights a ship, often an aircraft carrier or flagship of the Seventh Fleet. These can very easily stand up on their own. Persons who played a prominent role in Seventh Fleet history and operations are treated with respect and admiration.  The author worthily acknowledges the contributions of the distinguished core of naval historians to which he belongs. It is an altogether pleasure to hold in one’s hands and read.

The book encompasses the life and work of the Seventh Fleet from its inception in World War II (1943) up to its involvement in peace and war from its homeport in Yokosuka, Japan through 2010. The author, Edward Marolda, is noted for his extensive knowledge and writing on the role of the United States Navy in Asia and the Pacific. While other historians could also have done well with the task, Marolda has the background and insights to make this an engrossing story of one of the Navy’s most vital elements.

Each chapter begins with a concise statement of what follows in each chapter, ending with an equally concise summary conclusion. Persons, events, and places are all woven together in a seamless story. The author is at pains to vividly demonstrate the vital role the Seventh Fleet has played in times of war, including World War II, the Korean Conflict, the war in Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Marolda also highlights the role of the Seventh Fleet in lesser conflicts, particularly in the Far East, such as Operation Paul Bunyan in Korea and the difficult engagements against terrorism and piracy.

The Seventh Fleet helped maintain peace by serving as a type of American ambassador of goodwill. This was accomplished not only in extensive far-flung humanitarian efforts, but also in overt diplomatic missions as well, particularly with China. Seventh Fleet units participate in more than a hundred exercises each year, many of them with other nations such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and more recently, India. This serves as evidence of the Seventh Fleet’s place in multinational cooperation. They are commited to maintaining open sea-lanes for commerce and protecting national interests as well as the safety and security of its allies. The Seventh Fleet has often been the lead partner in performing the delicate dance with Chia.

Histories can be written in many ways. If the author wrote for other historians or naval scholars, he would have provided the documentation requisite to that task. This is not, however, a book for that audience. Therefore, the citations are more general than specific. An author is acknowledged as the source of a quoted statement, but the actual work in which that citation appears is not given. While this is adequate for its purpose, I would have liked the citations as endnotes.

Dr. Marolda was able to spend some time in face-to-face interviews with key players in the Seventh Fleet, enhancing the book’s authenticity. He is an accomplished and skilled historian familiar with the records essential for writing such a history and bringing records to life through personal acquaintances with those making that history.

Since most of my naval career was spent on Seventh Fleet ships, I found the book especially meaningful. I began active duty with Destroyer Squadron Fifteen and was on the Lockwood (FF 1064) for Operation Paul Bunyan. I was back in Japan years later on Midway (CV 41) when we deployed to the Indian Ocean and then back again when Midway got underway set sail for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The faces and places the author presents are among my most cherished memories of naval life.

There is one minor caveat I have. The Index, which I expect was done by a research assistant (or software program) rather than the author, omits a reference to Midway, although I counted seventeen citations including the marvelous inset highlighting Midway on page 85. Otherwise, the book does what it sets out to do in commendable fashion: making knowledge of the Seventh Fleet available to a wide and hopefully more appreciative readership.


After over 15 years on active duty, Murphey has retired to the Pacific Northwest.

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BOOK REVIEW – Legends in Sail

Engvig_Olaf_Legends in SailBy Olaf T. Engvig, Themo Publishing, Los Angeles, CA (2013)

Reviewed by Mark Lardas

Norway has a long maritime tradition. While it is still among the world’s major shipping nations, it used sailing vessels much later than the rest of the world. Regardless, much of its recent maritime heritage is largely unknown outside Norway. Part of the problem is a dearth of English-language works on the subject. Primary sources are mainly in Norwegian, a language spoken by approximately six million people with relatively few scholars. Legends in Sail, by Olaf T. Engvig, attempts to correct this lapse. Written by a Norwegian maritime historian, the book was published in both English and native language editions. The book’s introductory chapter presents Norwegian maritime history from the Viking era to the present.

It then dives into the heart of the story:  biographies of nine noteworthy Norwegian sailing vessels. Three were Arctic exploration ships: Gjøa, Fram, and Maud. Four were sail training vessels: Statsraad Erichsen, Christiana, Transatlantic, and Christian Radich. Two were sailing cargo ships: Lancing and Lindgard. These ships were launched between 1858 and 1937. Engvig spends a chapter on the history of each ship, its significance, and its fate. Engvig provides an outstanding collection of black and white photographs, color photographs, paintings, and drawings to illustrate each chapter.

Although he is no Joseph Conrad, Engvig’s English version is clear, albeit a tad stolid. His facts are solid, and the story is engaging. The events related are stirring, yet there is a bleak similarity in many of the tales. Outstanding achievements during the dying days of sail are followed by obsolescence, neglect, and oblivion. Only three of the ships presented still exist. Only Christian Radich still sails. Gjøa and Fram are museum ships housed ashore. Maud was wrecked. The remaining were scrapped, including one ship restored by supporters and donated to a museum for preservation only to be sold for scrap immediately afterwards.

Engvig’s book reveals how much of Norway’s sail heritage (and the poor preservation of its heritage) was due to Norwegian poverty before petroleum dollars converted Norway from Europe’s poorest nation to its richest. Norway’s men became sailors because of limited opportunities ashore. Norway continued operating sailing vessels after most others went to steam because sailing ships were cheaper to buy and operate. Norway continued sail training because it needed sailors to man these remaining sailing ships. Ultimately, poverty led to the lack of preservation of the sailing ships. None of this detracts from the majesty of the sailing ship or the accomplishments of Norway’s merchant marine. Engvig tells a direct tale of the end of the sailing era, one those interested in that subject will want to read.

Purchase Legends in Sail HERE.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush

Igler, David_The Great OceanBy David Igler, Oxford University Press, New York, NY (2013)

Reviewed by Nathan D. Wells

Professor David Igler recently won the North American Society for Oceanic History John Lyman Book award for the category of U.S. Maritime History, and rightly so. The Great Ocean is a tale of the interaction between different Pacific cultures from around 1770 to 1850. While the initial temptation of this period might be to look at it from an American viewpoint (from a colony on the verge of independence to a world economic power), the author goes for a grander scale. While the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Columbian Exchange are well known for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas, there was an equally important and lesser known interplay in the larger Pacific Ocean. Professor Igler has ably set out to redress this lack of attention.

“The Great Ocean” was coined by a Prussian-educated French aristocrat named Adelbert von Chamisso. The aristocrat sailed on the Russian vessel Rurik, whose mission was to discover a Pacific-based Northwest Passage from 1815-1818. In his Remarks and Opinions of the Naturalist of the Expedition, he called for the retirement of the terms “Pacific Ocean” and “South Sea.” Instead, von Chamisso argues that “The Great Ocean” is a far more accurate term due to the scale and complexity of the area. These complexities are covered in six chapters and a conclusion.  “Seas of Commerce” focuses on the changing maritime trade, especially the prime players from the later eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

While there had been important maritime avenues beforehand, such as the Spanish silver fleets and Dutch East Indian Company, the later eighteenth century saw the British East India Company (EIC) ascendant. After the Napoleonic Wars, however, her former colony, the United States, began to push the EIC out of the China trade, assisted by Continental powers hoping to recover from those same wars. In desperation, British merchants turned to the forced importation of opium.

“Disease, Sex and Indigenous Depopulation” looks at the devastating effects that disease spread through sickness and sexual contact had on communities around the Pacific. Many of these diseases, such as Syphilis or Gonorrhea, affected multiple generations, or prevented them due to sterility. It became a horrific “gift that kept on giving.” “Hostages and Captives” deals with the reality that most first-contact situations (or successive interactions, for that matter) led to hostage-taking and permanent “gunboat diplomacy.” “The Great Hunt” chronicles the wholesale slaughter of Sea Otters, Seals and Gray Whales. The first two were nearly driven extinct for their valuable pelts. The latter was prized for the high quality “sperm oil” in the first few decades of the Industrial Revolution for the maintenance of machinery. The Petroleum Revolution that followed would have equally important economic effects.

“Naturalists and Natives in the Great Ocean” looks at some of the “Scientifics” that went on expeditions, both trade and exploration. The aforementioned Adelbert von Chamisso was one such “Scientific,” and probably the one who had the most long-term view of the changes being wrought upon the area by European and American mariners. “Assembling the Pacific” recounts the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. While initially associated with the flaws of the expedition’s commander, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who was court-martialed upon the fleet’s return to New York.

One of the “Scientifics” on board, James Dwight Dana, would leave a legacy far beyond the original scope of the expedition’s parameters. Dana was the first person to assemble all the pieces discussing how the Pacific region came about. Like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, he was able to use preexisting theories to create a more complete picture. In his “Origin of the Grand Outline Features of the Earth,” he was able to formulate theories on the creation and decline of volcanic ranges without the advantage of sonar. The latter was based on his cornerstone embrace of erosion over time, while he dubbed the former “a grand volcanic border” (now referred to as the “Ring of Fire”) that surrounded the Pacific.

Both concepts also alluded to an earth much older than hereto believed, especially when partnered with Darwin’s contemporary research. The conclusion, titled “When East Became West,” illustrates how the Pacific Worlds had changed since Cook’s voyage. The Gold and Silver Rushes and the Petroleum Revolution led to new maritime realities, as would the opening of Chinese and Japanese ports. Steam ships would make the Pacific (and by extension the world) a smaller place.

This is an excellent book overall. The major criticism that I have is that the only map is not very detailed. This is especially glaring when trying to track different voyages. All criticism aside, I recommend the book to anyone interested in Nautical History or Exploration. Just make sure that you have an atlas within arm’s reach.


Nathan D. Wells is an adjunct instructor of History at Quincy College in Quincy, MA.   


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BOOK REVIEW – Rebalancing U.S. Forces: Basing and Forward Presence in the Asia-Pacific

Lord_Carnes_Rebalancing US ForcesEdited By Carnes Lord and Andrew S. Erickson, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2014)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

For those readers who have an interest in reading the plans of the U.S. Navy in addressing the complicated concerns of logistics, tactical and strategic concerns, and funding issues for operations in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as a case for efforts towards sea basing, this is a book that contains a detailed and nuanced analysis. Readers with a high tolerance for three and five letter acronyms and jargon will find a wealth of information about American capabilities in the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins, as well as the threat to forward bases in Japan and Taiwan.

At a slim 216 pages of written material (followed by an index), this book includes eight essays on a bevy of concerns for the Navy in the Asia-Pacific region, written by a variety of contributors from both academia as well as high-ranking officers from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. This also includes a substantial body of contributors from the Naval War College. After an introduction discussing the reasons behind the publication, there are essays about everything from the role of Guam in Pacific defense to the complicated strategic situation for American security at Diego Garcia. Taken individually, these essays provide a snapshot focus on different areas of interest in a large and complicated region of contemporary and likely future importance for American security.

Each of the essays has a similar approach.  All essays include a historical analysis of American involvement with that particular nation or region (as well as the involvement of other relevant naval forces), current threats or opportunities, and future (and likely) strategic concerns with other powers.  Despite the variety of contributors and approaches, there are some consistent threads that run through this work.  One of those threads relates to the relative importance of treaty relationships (five of which are in the Asia-Pacific region:  Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand), and the fact that Singapore, a non-treaty relationship appears more important to American security than either the Philippines or Thailand in the long term.  Another thread is the vulnerability of American bases in the region to the vicissitudes of local politics or to threats from Chinese (and to a lesser extent, North Korean) ballistic missiles.  There is also a consistent thread of tradeoffs between strategic and tactical flexibility as well as cost and safety.

Given all of these concerns, the comparative lack of political difficulties in Guam and Diego Garcia (because Guam is an internal territory where the military is popular and because Diego Garcia is ruled by a very close ally with no civilian population), as well as Singapore (which has shown a willingness to pay for its own bases and made them available to our littoral ships there), make them appealing for both political and economic reasons.  For these reasons, the last essay makes a cautious but clear appeal for the United States to consider developing sea bases that will be less vulnerable to Chinese attack than fixed-point land bases in territories where local political concerns may threaten the presence or activity of American forces.  In stark contrast to China, India is seen as a potential partner to the United States in helping to protect the security of the Indian Ocean because of common interests and common threats (again, mainly China).

Taken as a whole, it is clear that the people responsible for researching this work have taken a great deal of time and effort in presenting a strong case for a specific suite of actions in the Asia-Pacific region.  These actions emphasize the vulnerability of bases to military and political concerns, a strong concern for logistics (including the need to control costs because of American political realities), and also a thoughtful regard for the diplomatic and military issues that the United States faces now and in the future.  Although there is no top-secret information to be found here (except insofar as this book talks about intelligence regarding the potential capabilities of China,), this is clearly a work that is designed to reflect the goals of the Navy and to influence those decision makers who have concerns in this part of the world.  It manages to update the thinking and approach of Mahan in contemporary language dealing with contemporary concerns with an eye towards the next few decades as well.  As a thoughtful and persuasive work, it deserves attention by military as well as civilian audiences. It serves to make a public case for supporting the goals of the Navy by politicians both in the United States and in allied nations by seeking to reduce our vulnerabilities to local political pressure or military attack while also building the naval infrastructure necessary to ensure freedom of action for military action or disaster relief and uphold American security interests in a volatile part of the world.


Nathan Albright lives in Portland, Oregon, and has also lived in Thailand.

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BOOK REVIEW – War Letters 1914-1918, Vol. 2: From a Midshipman at Sea with the Royal Navy During the First World War

PhilipcoverEdited by Mark Tanner, Self Published, (2013)

Reviewed by Capt. Winn Price, USNR (Ret.)

In 1911, 13 year-old Philip M. de Carteret received an appointment to the Royal Naval College in Osborne. His letters form the second of nine volumes, each compiling the letters of nine servicemen with two characteristics in common. All served during the First World War. None came home. No doubt each set of letters is poignant. I read letter after exuberant letter, sharing the fortunes and misfortunes of his early career. All the while, knowing that the letters would suddenly end brought a peculiar sadness and vague mourning 98 years after his death. Philip died aboard the battle cruiser H.M.S. Queen Mary amidst the Battle of Jutland.

Mark Tanner’s value-added is not the prose. That was provided by the century-old correspondence of a teenage naval cadet and his family. Rather, Tanner’s notes illuminate the letters, which might be less intelligible to us since we are not contemporaries of Philip de Carteret. We might be an American reader at risk of becoming cross-threaded by our common language.

Philip’s letters start in the fall of 1914 while he is serving on HMS Canopus, a pre-dreadnaught escorting two colliers to resupply RADM Cradock’s force off Chile. Before reaching the Royal Navy’s Pacific Station, the Germans under RADM Graf von Spee make short work of Monmouth and Good Hope in the disaster that was the Battle of Coronel, the opening World War I fleet action. “They were sunk with all hands. We were all frightfully sick at missing the action,” writes a naïve cadet to his father.

The letters follow his course from the Battle of the Falklands (1914) when Philip’s pre-dreadnaught is deliberately grounded in the harbor. Despite this, the ship still gets its first licks with her 12” battery. The next letters arrive home in Jersey with “postmarks” from Malta and the Dardanelles. Amidst the prolonged standoff at the straits, Philip writes his father that swim call often follows the inevitable game of deck hockey.

Nearly all of the cadet’s letters were addressed to his father or his brother Guy. No doubt this provided an intermediary censor as not to bring on an attack of vapors to the women folk. An exception to this was a 1915 Christmas letter to his grandmother. The letter unfortunately gave no indication that a war was underway. He opens the letter with a note of gratitude for her gift of one pound for Christmas, acknowledging that he will be challenged to spend it until his next visit to Malta.

In May of 1915, the campaign at the Dardanelles drew to a close. Canopus returned to England. After a period of leave, Philip joins the gunroom of HMS Queen Mary. In late May, he writes his last letter before Queen Mary left Roysth, Scotland, never to return.

The letters that form the core of this ebook are relatively few in number. Many of the letters from home undoubtedly went to rest on the bed of the North Sea.

War Letters 1914-1918, Vol. 2: P. Malet de Carteret offers the reader a series of verbal snapshots of gunroom life aboard two battleships from the perspective of a young man. If Philip lived, he might have become better known as a senior officer in the next conflagration at sea. Although it takes little time to read, it is easy to access on Amazon.com. During this centennial year, this work provides an extensive archive of WWI references for the professional who desires to pay tribute to those who fought the war to end all wars.


Winn Price has been researching the first Navy secret code developed in 1887 by Cdr. Hubbard and four newly commissioned classmates from ’85, including Ens. Coontz. The code permitted the navy to use Western Union for communications with shore bases and deployed ships visiting ports.

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BOOK REVIEW – Render Harmless

Liebman_Marc_Render HarmlessBy Marc Liebman, Fireship Press Tucson, (2014)

Reviewed by Charles H. Bogart

This is the second book in the author’s Lt. Josh Haman USN series. The first book, Big Mother 40, was set in Vietnam. In that book, Lt. Haman was a USN helicopter pilot.  Lt Haman is once again the central character in Render Harmless. The book is set in 1973, while Lt. Haman is serving as an exchange pilot with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Many Americans have unfortunately forgotten that the 1970’s was an era of terrorist attacks upon the United States, Israel, and NATO members by a number of terrorist organizations. These terrorist groups ranged from the far right to the far left, but most were supported either indirectly by the Soviet Union or directly by the East German government.

The main antagonist in Render Harmless is a terrorist group that calls itself the “Red Hand.” The members of this organization are former members of the Nazi Party who are seeking to form The Fourth Reich. Their political agenda calls for the use of improvised explosive devices to sow fear among West Germans and cause them to lose faith in their present government. While the main targets of these bombs are Americans and Jews, the perpetuators quickly justify the fact that these attacks kill innocent German bystanders. German inncoents are part of the price German society must bear for achieving a greater good, a Germany free of foreigners and people of Jewish descent. With this accomplished, Germany would once again reign as a military, economic, and political powerhouse dominating the world scene.

When the West German government law enforcement agencies proved incapable of stopping members of the Red Hand from carrying out terrorist attacks, Navy Seal Team Six is given orders to use any means necessary to render the Red Hand harmless. The story takes place during height of the Cold War, and the author captures the fact that within the Cold War a dirty hot war was being fought where innocent people were killed in order to bring about a group’s desired change in society. This was an unconventional war in which the adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” rang true. Within the story, the reader confronts the fact that terrorist groups with totally different agendas can and do band together to attack a common enemy. Thus, part of the central theme in the story is the Communist Party supporting a Nazi movement they hope will destabilize NATO.

The author crafts a reasonable story of why a resurgent Nazi movement is born in Germany and how it attracts the support of Arab extremist and the East German government. In turn, the author provides an excellent explanation as to why the resurgent Nazi movement is willing to work hand in glove with the East German Communist government and vice versa. Both sides are sure that they are in control of the current political scene and that they will be able to crush the other side once their overall goal is achieved.

The tale of how the perpetuators are discovered and tracked to their lair is reasonable. However, the manner in which the “bad guys” are taken out crosses the line from reality to James Bond spy story. Nevertheless, the story line flows freely, carrying the reader along at a nice pace. Particularly interesting is how the political fallout from the smashing of the terrorist plot plays out among all the contenders within the affair. In the closing scene, both sides total their loses and wins. Based upon this calculation, they reward or punish their players in this deadly game.

The book is a great read with just the right amount of solid historical background to make the story believable to those who lived through the Cold War. Treat yourself to a nice weekend read and purchase a copy of this book. I am looking forward to the next book on the adventures of Lt. Josh Haman.


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

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BOOK REVIEW – The Republic Afloat

1342_001By Matthew Taylor Raffety, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL (2013)

Review by Sam Craghead

With the rise of the American merchant fleet to a position rivaling that of Great Britain, the lives of American seamen (from the end of the American evolution to the beginning of the Civil War) sparks great topical interest. Coming to the forefront of this phenomenon was the identity of Americans as individuals entitled to the rights of citizens of a nation.

From the Colonial Period to the Civil War, Americans went to sea in trade ships carrying goods across the globe. Whaling ships penetrated the vast seas from the tropics to the Polar Regions. U.S. Navy ships, flying their new nation’s flag, explored and charted expeditions aiding the country’s seaborne commerce.  American seamen confronted issues ranging from serving on unsafe ships to personal abuses from those in command.

Personal honor was woven into disputes held by individual men, officers and seamen collectively, and society at large. Disputes were not just decided by the Judiciary, which required those concerned to be in court. They were also handled within the Consulates located in cities and countries outside U. S. boundaries (There would be 282 Consular Offices by 1860).  Although most Consuls lacked legal training and experience, they proffered sailors a place to air their grievances, secure shelter, obtain documentation of their American citizenship (undefined until the Fourteenth Amendment was added in 1868 to the U. S. Constitution), and generally receive a helping hand in foreign environs.

Matthew Taylor Raffety’s scholarly work will benefit those with an interest in the law and American history, especially those focused on the early maritime life of the American Republic.

Sam Craghead is a Marketing Outreach Specialist and Public Relations Manager at the Museum of the Confederacy.

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