A Game of Inches – Navy Intelligence Highlighted at 73rd Midway Celebration Dinner

Admiral John Richardson, USN addresses crowd at Midway Dinner (NHF Photo)

Admiral John Richardson, USN addresses crowd at Midway Dinner (NHF Photo)

VIPs, invited guests, active duty military, and veterans braved torrential downpours last Thursday to attend the annual Battle of Midway Celebration Dinner at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the pivotal World War II battle that changed the face of the Pacific Theater. The commemoration has been a major highlight for the Navy community since former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay Johnson signed a 1999 message to commemorate both the 13 October Navy Birthday and the Battle of Midway. Since then, a core group of dedicated Navy and Marine Corps heritage organizations have worked tirelessly to put on a celebratory dinner to honor the men who fought and died there over seventy years ago. It was truly one of the greatest gambles in naval history that may have gone differently had Admiral Nimitz decided to disregard his naval intelligence at Pearl Harbor, which was the theme of the dinner.

Admiral John Richardson, USN poses with Midway veterans, L to R:  Joe Miller, Hank Kudzik, Bill Fentress, Bill Norberg, Jack Crawford (USS Yorktown), and Earl Anderson (USS Yorktown). (NHF Photo)

Admiral John Richardson, USN poses with Midway veterans, L to R: Joe Miller (USS Hornet), Hank Kudzik (USS Nautilus), Bill Fentress (USS Yorktown), Bill Norberg (USS Enterprise), Jack Crawford (USS Yorktown), and Earl Anderson (USS Yorktown). (NHF Photo)

The weather did not dampen the spirits of dinner attendees, even if their clothing was. Many took advantage of the period before the dinner began to share a drink with old friends and shipmates. Some had the pleasure of talking to one or more of the six Midway veterans who were the guests of honor for the evening.

It was a special evening to recognize the efforts and sacrifice of each veteran. “Midway is something we all need to remember and remind ourselves,” said emcee RADM James A. Robb, USN (Ret.) to open the evening’s main festivities. The Naval Historical Foundation honored the life and legacy of CDR William Roy, USN (Ret.), who died earlier this year at the age of 95 in Lake City, Florida. The video tribute debuted during the dinner last Thursday. You can see the brief video below:

The Chief of Naval Operations tradition of supporting the Battle of Midway Celebration dinner continued this year. Naval Reactors Director Admiral John Richardson, USN, attended the dinner on behalf of CNO Admiral Jonathan Greenert. Richardson, himself a career submariner, opened his brief introduction to the evening’s speaker with a brief historical retrospective of Nautilus’s (SS 168) engagement with the Japanese fleet at Midway. Admiral Richardson compared the engagement between Nautilus and the battleship Kirishima as a “knife fight between two ships.” It was a refreshing reminder to many that submarine and surface forces also played a pivotal role in the battle. “It boils down to one submarine doing what they’re paid to do.”

Author Elliot Carlson talked about U.S. Navy codebreaking efforts at the Battle of Midway. INHF Photo)

Author Elliot Carlson talked about U.S. Navy codebreaking efforts at the Battle of Midway. INHF Photo)

Although Admiral Richardson claimed to be only an amateur historian at heart, he framed the history and context of the battle well. “It’s one of my favorite times of the year,” he said in his introduction to the main speaker. “Every time it’s the beginning of June, I begin to get in the mood for Midway.” He went on to describe how the Battle of Midway was truly “a game of inches.” Each turn in the battle added slowly to the decisive victory at Midway. With the two Task Forces split apart during the battle, things were often disconnected and uncertain. Richardson believed that the men who bravely faced the enemy amidst the mounting uncertainty won the battle. The sailors on ships like Yorktown (and their damage control efforts) were an “example of people just doing their best [. . .] that takes perseverance and determination.” None of this, of course, would have been possible if it wasn’t for the efforts of cryptanalysts and cryptographers at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor.

JN-25B worksheet from Station HYPO (Carlson)

JN-25B worksheet from Station HYPO (Carlson)

The highlight of the evening was Elliot Carlson’s keynote address about U.S. Navy codebreaking and the Battle of Midway. Carlson, a long-time journalist for several well-known newspapers and magazines around the country, has kept an interest in the Pacific War since the early 1960s. That interest propelled him to write the award-winning book, Joe Rochefort’s War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamato at Midway. Rochefort was the primary subject of his informative talk. He identified Midway as one of two major battles during the Second World War whose outcome was directly tied to Allied codebreaking. Carlson went on to talk about LCDR Joseph Rochefort, a rather “unusual officer” whose career path was as jumbled as the code he would eventually decipher at Pearl Harbor. Eventually Rochefort would rise in the ranks and good graces of men like Chester Nimitz, who grew to trust the intelligence fed to him regularly by Rochefort from Station HYPO, a drab basement located in an administrative building. Eventually, Rochefort and his team would push through the pain and frustration of twenty-hour days to eventually break the coveted Japanese JN-25 code, thus ensuring the element of surprise at Midway. Carlson noted the “excruciating mental effort” needed to break the code, which surprisingly was done by pen and paper, not machine like the German Enigma Code. That herculean effort eventually trickled down to every man serving off Midway on 4 June.

Carlson’s lecture confirmed Admiral Richardson’s comparison of the battle to a “game of inches.” Indeed, the heroism and sacrifice of the men we honor each year are literally the measuring stick of success for all servicemen and women today.


A Special Thanks to the Dinner Organization Committee for putting on another great event: Association of Naval Aviation, Association of the United States Navy, Naval Historical Foundation, Naval Order of the United States, Navy League of the United States, Naval Submarine League, Surface Navy Association, Tailhook Association, United States Naval Institute, United States Navy Memorial Foundation

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2015 Beach Award Winners Chronicle Battle off Samar

Midshipman First Class Philip Youngberg (left) and Midshipman First Class Dana Petersen (Right) pose for pictures with Mrs. Ingrid Beach at the 2015 Awards Ceremony.

Midshipman First Class Philip Youngberg (left) and Midshipman First Class Dana Petersen (Right) pose for pictures with Mrs. Ingrid Beach at the 2015 Awards Ceremony.

Executive Director Captain Todd Creekman joined Ingrid Beach, wife of the late Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., a naval historian, author, and long-time NHF board member, to present Midshipman Dana Petersen and Midshipman Philip Youngberg with the Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr. Naval History Award at the United States Naval Academy’s annual History Department Awards Ceremony.

Petersen and Youngberg were two of twelve First Class Midshipmen to visit the Taffy 3 70th Reunion in San Diego, CA in October of last year. They were present to interact with survivors of the epic Battle off Samar during the Leyte Gulf campaign in October 1944 and record the veterans’ histories of service during the Second World War. For three days, more than two dozen veterans provided oral histories of their involvement in Taffy 3. The thirteen ships comprising Taffy 3, also known as Escort Carrier Task Force 77.4.3, are best known for their engagement with the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Center Force when their audacity turned back the Japanese battleships and preserved the landing forces.

LCDR Tom Cutler, USN (Ret.), U.S. Naval Institute; CAPT Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.), NHF; Mrs. Ingrid Beach; Midshipman First Class Philip Youngberg; Midshipman First Class Dana Petersen; CAPT Craig Felker, USN, History Department Chairman; COL Paul Montanus, Humanities and Social Sciences Division Director; Dr. Andrew Phillips, Academic Dean

LCDR Tom Cutler, USN (Ret.), U.S. Naval Institute; CAPT Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.), NHF; Mrs. Ingrid Beach; Midshipman First Class Philip Youngberg; Midshipman First Class Dana Petersen; CAPT Craig Felker, USN, History Department Chairman; COL Paul Montanus, Humanities and Social Sciences Division Director; Dr. Andrew Phillips, Academic Dean

Their documentation of the reunion provided the basis for NHF to honor them with the Beach Award. The genesis of the project came out of the midshipman’s participation in the Pacific War history research seminar last fall. The interviews gathered in San Diego last fall will be compiled and provide primary source information for future senior capstone research papers and other scholarship.

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Ditty Bag: Uncle Sam’s Latest, Greatest, Shortest War

Ditty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation
An Artifact and Collections Blog Series

Ditty Bag: Uncle Sam’s Latest, Greatest, Shortest War

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This 1898 magazine depicts some of the United States new steal navy’s successes during the Spanish-American War. Uncle Sam’s Latest, Greatest, Shortest War: Superbly Illustrated by Photographs and Drawings from Leslie’s Weekly includes images of Spanish soldiers in Cuba, American sailors on duty, and the US Battleship Iowa. The 27 page magazine was produced by the Arkell Publishing Company. Arkell was responsible for the weekly publications of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News Paper which ran from 1852 – 1922. Uncle Sam’s Latest, Greatest, Shortest War was donated to the Naval Historical Foundation in September of 1931. This publication was part of a large donation of magazines, manuscripts, and lithographs pertaining to the Spanish-American War, Sino-Japanese War, and the new steel navy.


N.W. Ayer & Son, The American Newspaper Annual (New York, 1897) 1896: Journals of the Campaign.

05d807eDitty Bag: Collections of the Naval Historical Foundation is a new artifact blog written by Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf Curator. She will periodically write posts about various artifacts and accessioned items in the Naval Historical Foundation collection and their impact on naval history. You can view all of the collections highlighted in Ditty Bag on our Flickr page HERE. To contact Emily or to inquire about NHF collections, please email Emily Pearce at epearce@navyhistory.org.

For previous releases of Ditty Bag, Please go HERE.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Supercarriers: The Forrestal and Kitty Hawk Classes

The SupercarriersBy Andrew Faltum, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2014)

Reviewed by Mark Lardas

They were the first aircraft carriers designed from the keel up to operate jet aircraft. When they appeared, they were so big a jump over their World War II predecessors; they were considered not just aircraft carriers, but rather supercarriers. And now they all are gone.

The Supercarriers: The Forrestal and Kitty Hawk Classes, by Andrew Faltum, tells their story. The book examines eight ships: four Forrestals, three Kitty Hawks, and John F. Kennedy (a fossil-fuel design that followed the nuclear-powered Enterprise).

The book offers a workmanlike introduction to these vessels, offering an overview of their development, and the operational histories of the classes discussed and the individual ships.

Faltum does a first-rate job describing the environment in which these vessels were created in. In many ways, the first four chapters, presenting design and development of these carriers, are the most interesting in the book. Faltum shows how the resulting design was a compromise between the goals they were to achieve and the limitations under which they operated.

The discussion is nicely bookended with an examination of the unbuilt United States in the late 1940s and the rise of the nuclear-powered carriers in the 1960s. The United States discussion bridges carrier design from World War II up to the Forrestal. The rise of the nuclear carrier reveals how the nuclear carrier superseded the oil-fired vessels.

Those expecting a detailed, nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the individual classes will be disappointed. Faltum keeps things at a high level. There are overhead and side views of Saratoga and Constellation on the endpapers, and three smaller drawings showing internal arrangements of the ships in one of the appendices. The book contains 85 pages of appendices. These too, are high level collections of data. The bulk of the appendices are a list of the composition of the air group of each carrier while in commission.

The Supercarriers also spend significant space describing the various aircraft, missiles, and weapons systems deployed on these ships. These comprise carriers’ weapons, much like battleship guns; make up its striking power. As such they form an important context for the operation history of a carrier. These tend to independent of the carrier, however. Someone interested in the ships rather than the carrier system may be disappointed. Of greater interest to naval architecture buffs are Faltum’s discussions of systems such as catapults and radar.

The result is a book that feels like a supersized Osprey New Vanguard, one with twice the pictures, six times as many pages, and no color plates. The greater size offers more scope for an expansive discussion on operational history, which those interested in history will appreciate.

The Supercarriers is great for those looking for a comprehensive introduction to this subject. Wargamers may find the technical specifications and air group listing useful. Model-makers or those interested in technical detail may not find much, but The Supercarriers should interest those whose primary focus is history.


Mark Lardas is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews

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BOOK REVIEW – Oil, Ice, and Bone: Arctic Whaler Nathaniel Ransom

Frink_Oil Ice and BoneBy Helen Hiller Frink, Peter E. Randall Publisher, Portsmouth, NH (2015)

Reviewed by Ingo Heidbrink, Ph.D.

In her book Oil, Ice and Bone, Helen Hiller Frink describes the whaling voyages of Nathaniel Ransom. She begins with his first journey as a fourteen year old boy in 1860 and culminates with the 1871 disaster in which most of the North-Pacific whaling fleet was lost. In his final cruise, thirty-three whaling ships were either crushed by the ice or abandoned by their crews.

Nathaniel Ransom’s diaries were the main source for this book. These first-hand accounts of the various journeys offer a close look into the everyday routine onboard New England whaling ships and the wider whaling community of the mid-19th century. While it is always a pleasure to learn about this important period of American maritime history, it must be asked if Oil, Ice and Bone offers something that has not already been described in the existing body of related literature. Hiller Frink’s book manages to tell an interesting story, depicting whaling as both a series of both heroic hunts and long stints of routine without sight of a whale for weeks. Hiller Frink’s book does not bring much new information to the table, but successfully articulates a personal perspective of everyday life on a whaling vessel.

Oil, Ice and Bone depicts the composition of the crews’ interactions with one another, making obvious the strains of the international industry and differences among crewman of different nationalities. He successfully describes the often-overlooked fact of poor crew retention, as very few ships returned to their homeports. Her description of Ransom’s ability to court his future wife despite being at sea for the majority of a year provides a unique insight into private relations long before the age of global connectivity. Consequently, this book deserves high praise and will definitely result in a better understanding of the men working in this past industry.

There are also a number of weak points, most notably the absence of a transcript of the original diaries. Hiller Frink has chosen to use the original source text for narrating a single coherent story in her own words rather than commenting on the original text. Her approach results in an increased readability for the general public, but leaves the professional historian somewhat unsatisfied. There is no chance to revisit the original source material or to use the diaries as material for questions outside the focus of Hiller Frink’s book. Nevertheless, a brief but well selected bibliography provides other contemporary whaling diaries and journals. These can help the professional historian to identify the materials relevant for future research into the American whaling industry of the 19th century.

This book is a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any reader interested in the history of the U.S. whaling industry. While it lacks analytical depth, the book remains a successful narrative of those who worked in this industry.

For historical research, this book lacks source material. For everybody else, this book will be an interesting read, as it provides an insight into an industry once among the most relevant of maritime industries of the U.S. More importantly, this book offers insight into the everyday life of people related to the whaling industry, which has recently regained a good deal of public interest. The recent growth in public interest is due to the discussion to end commercial whaling and the recent successful 38th voyage of the 19th century Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving U.S. whaling vessel.


Ingo Heidbrink teaches history at Old Dominion University.

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BOOK REVIEW – They Were Heroes – A Sergeant Major’s Tribute to the Combat Marines of Iraq and Afghanistan

Devaney_They Were HeroesBy Sergeant Major David K. Devaney, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired). Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2015)

Reviewed by Charles H. Bogart

This book is not for the fainthearted to read. Within this book, we encounter fifty-one men, who with the exception of one individual, are all enlisted. The title of the book, however, is slightly deceiving. Included within the book are stories of U.S. Navy Corpsman who served side by side with the Marines. Twenty-six of these stories take place in Iraq and twenty-three in Afghanistan. Two stories concern two enlisted Marines who served a tour as Casualty Assistance Calls Officers and who were later killed in combat. The fifty-one men included in this book represent a cross section of the United States – three are immigrants and the others were born in states ranging from Rhode Island to Hawaii.

The author follows the same format in documenting what these fifty-one individuals did in order to protect their fellow Marines. The reader is first introduced to the individual, then his fellow Marines tell in their own words what happen, and then if a medal was issued to the individual being highlighted the individual’s medal citation is presented. A number of Marines and Corpsman we meet within the book are not the holders of one or more of the many different types of medals of bravery that the United States awards, but are instead posthumous recipients of the Purple Heart. As one reads each of the accounts, one is struck by the randomness by which heroic actions gain official recognition.

The author does an excellent job bringing the memories of those who survived the action to life. The intensity and confusion of each encounter recorded is vividly written so that the reader is drawn into the battle. What is of interest that the majority of the actions recorded in this book are incidents of random violence perpetuated by individuals who are often indistinguishable in dress from the surrounding general population. I highly recommend that everyone should take time to read Lieutenant General John Kelly’s tribute to Corporal Jonathan T. Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter.

This is an excellent book about men in combat. The book should stand the test of time and become one of the essential books concerning Marines in combat. I highly recommend purchasing and reading this book and then donating it to your local high school library. The only negative comment I can make about the book is a lack of pictures of the individuals highlighted.


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


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BOOK REVIEW – A Common Virtue: A Novel

A Common VirtueBy James A. Hawkins, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2014)

Reviewed by Colonel Curt Marsh, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)

A Common Virtue is the first novel by author James Hawkins, a former Marine who served during the Vietnam War. The story is about a Marine officer and a young enlisted Marine who lead in the establishment of the Marine Force Recon organization. The story flows fairly well and the combat scenes are vivid and well told.

The story starts with Captain Rivers, an experienced leader of Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) that were experiencing high casualty rates and not obtaining the intelligence that was desired. His plan is to reduce the LRRP size from 10 Marines to something less and to use more stealthy tactics. He recruits Lance Corporal Jackson, a talented but young combat veteran who he quickly promotes up to Sergeant. They embark on their first patrol together as a two man team which turns out to be productive but becomes rather hairy. They eventually end up with four man recon teams. The story then follows Jackson who is awarded a field promotion to Second Lieutenant and is sent back to Quantico to attend Officer Candidate School. He then returns right back to Vietnam to assist in setting up 3rd Force Recon.

I had a flashback to W.E.B. Griffin’s Brotherhood of War and The Corps series when Jackson meets up with another candidate, Bill Williams, who turns out to be very rich, as his family owns some fancy hotels including the Hotel Delmonico in New York City. (A similar plot device used by Griffin.) They become good friends and Williams seems cut out to be a good Marine officer, but this story line is not developed beyond their OCS experience. I presume this is a set up for a follow on book and possibly a series.

Hawkins used another plot devise that bothered me. He correctly references some of the real senior Marine officers in Vietnam at the time, but he also creates characters that are a little too close to real people. For instance, Jackson helps save a “Major Kruzak” during a large assault by the North Vietnamese Army on a fire base. Major Kruzak’s father happens to be a Marine Lieutenant General. Do not confuse him with the real future Marine Commandant Charles Krulak and his father Lieutenant General Victor Krulak. There are other instances of this conflation of real people and fiction.

I initially questioned the overly familiar banter and the constant use of some slang (such as “REMF”) between the officers that didn’t quite ring true to me as a post-Vietnam Marine officer. I passed to book over to a friend who served in Vietnam as a Marine infantry Captain in the same area and at the same time covered in this novel. Here are his comments:

“I found the novel, A Common Virtue, by James A Hawkins to be a riveting book that

held my attention from the first chapter through to the end. From my prospective as a Captain with the 26 Marine Regiment at Khe Sanh 1968, I found this Novel to be very accurate. The names have been changed, but I recognize many of the characters such as Colonel Lownse played by Colonel MacDonald. This book is accurate from beginning to the end. Captain Rivers and Sergeant Paul Jackson are very real Marines. The Mustang Marines like Sergeant Jackson were very highly respected Marines in Viet Nam. This book takes me back nearly 50 years to the days I spent at Khe Sanh with my good friend Lieutenant Jack Blize a Mustang Marine as tough and brave Marine as you will find and to Sergeant Nichols a fearless sniper in my unit. I could picture their faces as I read this wonderfully exciting novel.”

Col. Jim Leslie, USMC (Ret.)

I did have a few “inside baseball” criticisms, such as the employment of Close Air Support (CAS) and Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS). He also misidentifies the “Blacksheep Squadron” as VMFA-214 flying F-4 Phantoms rather than as VMA-214 which flew the A-4 Skyhawk. This may be a minor point, but it reveals some lack of research. Regardless, this is an excellent novel that covers an important period in the Vietnam War where the Marines were adjusting tactics to meet the challenges of a determined enemy. It clearly received the “stamp of approval” from one who was there and also provides the story of how the Marine Force Recon units were established. The primary characters are well developed and Hawkins seems to be setting the stage for a follow-on book or series. I do hope he avoids reusing other writer’s plot devices. However, with that minor criticism, I highly recommended this book for anyone interested in getting an intimate perspective of combat Marines in the Vietnam War.


Colonel Marsh is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews

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BOOK REVIEW – Sheppard of the Argonne

Weatherly_Sheppard of the ArgonneBy William Weatherly [Capt. George Jackson, USN (Ret.)], iUniverse (2014)

Reviewed by Jason McHale

What if the Washington Naval Conference collapsed and its terms were never ratified? What if the post-World War naval buildup continued unabated until the Second World War?

Sheppard of the Argonne is set in an alternate history where those questions become an engrossing narrative.

In Sheppard of the Argonne, the assassination of the head of the Japanese delegation to the Washington Naval Conference, Baron Tomsaburo Kato, causes the collapse of the disarmament talks and the continuation of post-World War naval building programs by all nations. Along with this change to the timeline, certain technologies have been accelerated while others remain essentially true to reality. This creates a world where the big guns and heavy armor of the battleships and battlecruisers still rule the day and the aircraft carriers stand to support them on the high seas.

History and fiction are blended throughout the novel in creative ways. The major characters on all sides are works of fiction. This allows for creative freedom, and the reader is well rewarded for it. For example, the novel’s main character, Captain Sheppard McCloud, hero of Pearl Harbor, is a conflicted and damaged man. He fought his ship, the battlecruiser Shenandoah, courageously against the Japanese attack force but suffered mentally and physically in the process. His demons from that battle play a prominent role as we follow him into battle on the North Atlantic in command of the battlecruiser Argonne. Mounting the latest technology, including 18” guns and a Combat Information Center, Argonne is one of the most advanced ships in the US Navy’s arsenal. While McCloud doubts his own abilities, his commanders do not. They hope putting him back to sea after a prolonged recovery on shore will bring him back to fighting trim.

William Weatherly is the pen name of George Jackson, whose experience as a retired naval officer shines through as we watch McCloud handle the stresses of command while struggling with the responsibility he has to his crew, their families, his country, and himself. He is pushed to the breaking point by what others call his heroics and McCloud judges as his failures. During the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we discover a man who wants to do his best but sometimes fails to believe he possesses what is required to do so. This inner conflict drives a powerful narrative of what command at sea is like in wartime.

The narrative is written in an accessible and technical prose that will engage the naval enthusiast without putting off the average reader. George Jackson does not seek to tell the entire story of his different Second World War. He inserts just enough detail of outside events to make it clear that the war is quite different from what we know and spur the reader’s interest while not detracting from the central story of Captain McCloud and his date with a German fleet in the North Atlantic.

Sheppard of the Argonne is an exciting sea tale adventure that leaves the reader wanting to learn more about this different Second World War. It is a fine first entry into the literary world for a distinguished naval officer.


Jason McHale is an adjunct history professor at Quincy College, Edmonds Community College and Southern New Hampshire University. He specializes in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War.

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Tortorice_I HoratioBy Donald A. Tortorice, Author House, Bloomington, IN (2014)

Reviewed by John R. Satterfield, DBA

I, Horatio is a fictional autobiography about Horatio Nelson, clearly a subject of note for those who care about naval history.

Nelson’s titles were read out loud to an assemblage of mourners at his funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This litany reflects his heroic status and naval achievements, as well as his legendary vanity and self-absorption:

“The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim.”

1st Viscount Nelson’s unquestionably epic status as a naval leader mixes with his equally epic character flaws, most notably in his abandonment of his wife Frances for the euphemistically described courtesan Emma Hamilton, herself the mistress and later wife of Sir William Hamilton, British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples. Nevertheless, the Royal Navy and Britain’s government tolerated Nelson’s personal failings and scandals because his tactical skills, leadership abilities, imagination and initiative. His participation in naval battles like Cape St. Vincent (1797), the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and Trafalgar (1805) were instrumental in defeating Napoleon Bonaparte’s aspirations for European dominance. This complex, controversial and ambivalent character is the stuff of great biography. More than 100 works have appeared since the first official volume in 1809, with renewed interest and new books from the bicentennial of Trafalgar in 2005.

Author Donald Tortorice, a retired attorney, law professor, and former Vietnam War swift boat commander, has commendably attempted to take a new look at Nelson by producing a historical novel written in the first person.

Unfortunately, the attempt failed for this reviewer. Mr. Tortorice undoubtedly knows his subject, having studied and drawn inspiration from Nelson throughout his life. A successful faux autobiography cannot work, however, unless the reader suspends disbelief. The French call this dramatic attribute vraisemblance. When this narrative, attributable to Nelson, begins with his own assessment of his impact on British history after his death (something he could not possibly have known), vraisemblance vanishes and never returns. In fairness, speaking in first person is extraordinarily difficult, even more so when the writer must channel the mind of another dead for more than 200 years. Presentism and hindsight almost inevitably creep into the monologue throughout this volume. For example, Nelson’s voice often refers to Marines embarked on ships under his command using rifles when the Sea Service Brown Bess .75-caliber musket was the standard British naval firearm from the American Revolution until the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.

More importantly, the story involves little in the way of interior thinking that should be in the moment in all cases. It focuses instead on largely hindsight views of activities observed and documented by others, as well as in Nelson’s own correspondence, used liberally throughout the book as if it were contemporaneous conversation rather than historical record. One would expect, of course, for Nelson to think of himself in positive terms, but there is almost no expression of self-doubt, connivance or duplicity. These are modes of behavior that all of us practice and at least occasionally acknowledge in moments of honest reflection. Consequently, Nelson as the novel protagonist seems mechanically formal and distant from his surroundings, even when describing frequent sexual encounters with women throughout his life, a topic rarely addressed explicitly in biographical works.

Despite the author’s obvious devotion to Nelson, I would recommend this book only to readers whose aversion to substantive historical narratives would overcome their interest in learning about Nelson’s life. Good relatively recent biographies (averaging about 800 pages each) include Roger Knight’s The Pursuit of Victory (2006): the two-volume work by John Sugden Nelson: A Dream of Glory, 1758-1797 (2004) and Nelson: The Sword of Albion (2013): and Nelson (1996) by Carola Oman. Nelson’s correspondence is available in multiple volumes, and analyses of his career in command are also numerous. A particularly good one, used at the Naval War College when this writer completed the course, is Captain Geoffrey Bennett, RN (Ret.)’s Nelson the Commander (1972, repr. 2005).


Dr. Satterfield teaches and writes about military and naval history. He is a member of the Nelson Society and the 1805 Club.

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BOOK REVIEW – Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol. II

Dreadnought to Scapa FlowBy Arthur Marder, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2013)

Reviewed by Captain Winn Price, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.)

Of the first of five volumes that compose Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, this review addresses Volume II, subtitled “The War Years: To the Eve of Jutland 1914-1916.” These five books, which address World War I from the Royal Navy perspective, were first published in the 1960s.

In Volume I, we learned about the five reforms that Jackie Fisher, the First Lord of the Admiralty, brought to the navy leading up to the war. The Selborne Scheme focused on personnel and training – the broadening of the officers’ training and improving living conditions for the tars. HMS Dreadnought introduced a new standard for the ship-of-the-line, the battleship emphasizing a robust main battery. The final three reforms: Nucleus Crew Concept, Scrapping of Obsolete Men-of-War, and Redistribution of the Fleet were interrelated and reflected a major shift in strategy. The Royal Navy’s 19th century mission of extending and then preserving their empire was scrapped. Its focus became containing the German Navy and being ready to win the climatic, Mahanian-style fleet action. So how did the Royal Navy perform after these and other reforms?

Dr. Barry Gough offers his answer in the first paragraph of his introduction:

“From the vaunted expectations of how such a well-trained, well-commanded naval force with its powerful traditions and pride, dating from the age of Nelson and before, would acquit itself, only disappointment ensued.”

In Volume II, author Arthur Marder provides a host of examples to confirm disappointment as an appropriate description of the first two years of the Great War at sea. The first test was finding and sinking the German battle cruiser Goeben in the Mediterranean. Despite the Royal Navy domination of the Med, Goeben escaped to Istanbul and “joined” the Turkish Navy. (See Captain John Rodgaard’s recent review)

The following month, three obsolete light cruisers of the “live-bait squadron” (yes, as they were known in the Channel Fleet) were sunk by the U 9 within an hour. The Battle of Coronel re-confirmed that not all obsolete ships had been purged from the British fleet the following month, when a superior German force sank the cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth with all hands. Revenge came off the Falklands when the same German squadron (led by SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau) was soundly defeated by British battle cruisers.

The modest but successful German raid on the coastal towns of Scarborough, Whitby, and Hartlepool shook the English public. The Battle of Dogger Bank provided more examples of mistakes and communications failures.

Less glamorous (but even more deadly) was the German mining campaign. Germany laid 25,000 mines around the British Isles. Their victims included 214 minesweepers, five battleships, three cruisers, and nearly 600 auxiliaries and merchant ships.

But the most colossal failure, Churchill’s attempt to create a second front during the Dardanelles campaign, left a host of ships on the bottom of the straits and an army ashore in a stalemate. Heads rolled in the admiralty and a new team was put in place by the end of the first nine months of conflict. At this juncture in the book, the reader might be tempted to double check the winner of World War I in Wikipedia.

Marder knows the Great War at sea. Many of the naval leaders were still living when he started researching and writing this five volume set. His interviews and correspondence with the key players ensures first person accuracy and an airing of the squabbles as some enduring disagreements survived decades after the war.

Marder’s view of the importance of leadership is underscored in the first chapter that delves into the British and German personalities. During the late Victorian period a service reputation was built on shiphandling, ship smartness, and drill performance. When war came some admirals made the transition to fighting officers, many did not. This malaise was described by Marder, as rooted in a “peacetime routine of ‘Follow senior officers’ motions’ [sic] and when in doubt ‘Request instructions.’”

As a yardstick for measuring admirals and captains, Marder introduces Adm. Sir William James’ three aces:

“The three aces…are the attributes of Nelson, ‘the perfect Admiral: 1. A gift for leadership, for drawing loyal, wholehearted service from officers and men. This was the most important ace. It transcended everything else. The finest leadership include the other aces. 2. Fertile imagination and a creative brain, as in the ability to plan battles.3. Eagerness to make full use of the brains and ideas of juniors and to take them into one’s confidence. The third attribute was particularly rare in the Navy of 1914-1918…There was a fourth Nelsonian attribute that was particularly important in war: offensive spirit.” (fn. 2 pg. 8)

Another element of naval leadership described by Marder is civilian oversight. Churchill, who initially did so much to prepare the RN for the pending war, eventually interfered and overstepped, which resulted in his dismissal for the Dardanelles fiasco. Former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (1902-1905) was selected to replace Churchill and bring “patience, cheerfulness, and imperturbable calm…” Marder catalogues a list of super-human qualities, but then balances these virtues with “Serenity and union were restored to the Admiralty – but at a high price. Balfour was, let us face it, a lethargic man. His energy was desultory; he lacked sustaining power.” Lloyd George (P.M. 1916-1922) described Balfour as a ‘dawdler.’

Volume II becomes comparatively uneventful after the Dardanelles. “Watchful waiting” became the byword of the day. Germany’s High Seas Fleet cautious, waiting for the right moment to challenge the British Grand Fleet on the North Sea. The British warships lurked in Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth waiting for the opportunity to pounce. In the last chapter Marder surveys the two fleets and their leadership on the eve of the only Mahanian fleet action of the war.

Eight excellent maps accompany this volume. As 2015 is the centennial of the first full year of the Great War, readers will find one anniversary date after another, as 1915 progresses. Although 447 pages take some dedication to complete, Marder’s prose about English seapower reward the reader’s engagement.


Winn Price has completed the first in a series of maritime novels. The writing of the second novel has just begun and is primarily set in the South Pacific, The Kingdom of Hawaii, and the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

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Former CNO, NHF Chairman Attends Centennial Anniversary

WASHINGTON (May 11, 2015) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert and retired Adm. James Holloway, former CNO, cut the cake during the centennial celebration for the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Navy staff at the Washington Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

WASHINGTON (May 11, 2015) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert and retired Adm. James Holloway, former CNO, cut the cake during the centennial celebration for the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Navy staff at the Washington Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

Former Chief of Naval Operations and distinguished NHF Chairman Admiral James L. Holloway, III, USN (Ret.) was on hand at the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard on 11 May to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the office of Chief of Naval Operations. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and current Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, USN joined Holloway in celebrating this date, which marks the appointment of the first CNO in 1915, Admiral William S. Benson.

Admiral Holloway is the oldest living CNO today. Admiral Greenert took time out of his address to personally thank Admiral Holloway for his dedication as CNO and his mentorship to him. Following his brief address, Holloway and Greenert posed for pictures as they cut a cake commemorating the event.

In honor of the event, our partners at the Naval History and Heritage Command released a commemorative program book about the establishment of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. CNO Greenert presented special guests with the NHHC publication. The book, available online, tells the story of the establishment of the office and includes brief biographies on each of the forty CNOs from 1915 to present day.

Holloway served as the 20th Chief of Naval Operations from 1974 to 1978. Following his retirement from active duty in 1978, he served as a consultant and board member to many military and maritime organizations, including the Naval Historical Foundation.

Holloway served as the President of the Naval Historical Foundation from 1990 to 1998, the longest in the history of the organization. He moved on to become the Chairman of NHF from 1998 to 2008. He was named Chairman Emeritus after the position was taken over by Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) that year.

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NHF Flix Vol. 1, Issue 1: The Sand Pebbles

The first of our new publication series NHF Flix is now available! Remember, you can continue to vote for your favorite Navy films on the NHF Flix page on our website HERE. We will be releasing these publications b-monthly.

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Swift Boat Sailors Association Visits Washington Navy Yard

A Swift boat veteran listens to Dr. Edward Marolda talk during their visit to the Washington Navy Yard and PCF-1 (NHF Photo)

A Swift boat veteran listens to Dr. Edward Marolda talk during their visit to the Washington Navy Yard and PCF-1 (NHF Photo)

By Matthew T. Eng

Nearly two hundred Swift boat veterans traveled into Washington, D.C. this past Saturday to view the Swift boat on display outside on the Washington Navy Yard waterfront and tour the exhibits at the National Museum of the United States Navy. Their excursion to the Washington Navy Yard was part of the organization’s 2015 Reunion, which began on Thursday, 7 May in Tysons Corner, VA. The Swift boat on display at the Washington Navy Yard, PCF 1, is one of two patrol craft preserved as static displays in the country. The other Swift boat display is located on the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California. Staff members of the Naval Historical Foundation were on hand to greet the assemblage of veterans and cover the event. Also in attendance were staff members from the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, who took several oral histories from willing veterans throughout the morning of the 9th.

Swift boats were first used to patrol the South Vietnamese coastline during Operation Market Time in 1965. Historians have called Swift boat sailors the “workhorses” of Task Force 115, the Coastal Surveillance Force largely responsible for the Market Time operation. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the beginning of that operation. Swift boats were also heavily involved in the SEALORDS campaign in 1968, which was Admiral Elmo Zumwalt’s successful interdiction strategy up the Mekong Delta. According to the Swift Boat Memorial website, between 3,000 and 3,500 Swift boat sailors served along the rivers and waterways of Vietnam between 1965 and 1973. Of those men, fifty died from wounds suffered in combat. Their names are now inscribed on a plaque placed near PCF 1 this week to commemorate their sacrifice during the war.

DSC_8358Six buses filled with veterans and the loved ones arrived late in the morning on the 9th. It was heartening to see so many family members present with their relatives, with some families representing three generations. After a quick respite to stretch their legs, the assembled mass of people walked through the fence line gate of the Navy Yard to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail where PCF 1 has been on display since 1998. Former Senior Historian of the Naval Historical Center, Dr. Edward Marolda gave a brief introduction on the role played by Swift boat sailors during the Vietnam War, especially during the 1965 Market Time and 1968 SEALORDS operations. Marolda, himself an Army veteran of that war, has been studying that conflict for the majority of his professional career. As a member of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (then called the Naval Historical Center) staff, Marolda actually rode on PCF 1 when she rode up the Anacostia to be transferred to the Naval Historical Center in 1995. “I have some small idea of what you all went through” Marolda mused to the veterans during his brief. He is the co-author of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s latest publication on the Vietnam War, Combat at Close Quarters: Warfare on the Rivers and Canals of Vietnam. The book is not yet available online, but once the electronic version is complete, it will be posted on their website. Marolda had a chance to provide an advance copy of the book, which included photographs and information about Swift boats operations, to Association Chairman Dave Wallace.

With that, the throng of veterans had a few moments to look around and admire the craft and tour the nearby Navy Museum before getting back on their buses. Many paused to read the information contained on the three reader rails installed this past week by NHF through the determined efforts of staff member Captain John Paulson, USN (Ret.). Some of the veterans spent their time mingling with one another, swapping stories about close calls in combat or the rigorous training they endured back in Coronado. Coastal interdiction was often a dangerous guessing game for the crewmembers serving aboard Swift boats. Several stories of courageous actions under fire were shared between NHF staff members and veterans. “It’s both comforting and haunting to see this vessel here like this,” one veteran said to NHF Digital Content Developer Matthew Eng. “I have a hard time looking at her without bringing myself back to the heavy fighting I witnessed in 1969.”

Following their brief visit to the Navy Yard, the Swift boat sailors and their families traveled to the U.S. Navy Memorial to lay a wreath in honor of those lost during the war.

An Active Organization

Swift boat veterans and their families admire PCF 1. (NHF Photo)

Swift boat veterans and their families admire PCF 1. (NHF Photo)

The Swift Boat Sailors Association is one of the most active and engaging veteran organizations in the country. For a group of men that comprised a small but heroic part of the Navy’s fighting force during the Vietnam War, they are utilizing the Internet and social media to spread their voice and connect with past shipmates in a way many similar organizations could only dream of. One of their allies in cultivating their story online is Suzanne Edwards, the website author of the Swift Boat Sailors Memorial. We had a chance to chat with her about her ongoing project and cooperation with the Swift Boat Sailors Association. “I wanted to work with the veterans association and create something that is both informative and interesting to the sailors who lived through it and those who can use that information in the future,” Edwards said during their brief conversation. She plans to use technology to develop and curate photos, video clips, and selected stories for the site while actively seeking user participation in the future growth of the site. Please visit The Swift Boat Sailors Memorial page if you would like to donate your personal stories or photographs from the war.

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A Story of Two Commanders: Ballard Debuts WWII Documentary in D.C.

Wreck of U-166 (OET/Nautiluslive.org)

Wreck of U-166 (OET/Nautiluslive.org)

In 1942, Nazi Germany attacked the United States.

There was no grand event to set off the conflict like Pearl Harbor. There was only blood, oil, and sunken metal. The fate of the world did not rest in the hands of intrepid commanders with stars on their uniform. For a time, that responsibility was given to a select few brave individuals commanding warships to seek and destroy the Nazi threat.

Operation Drumbeat, 1942 (U.S. Navy Photo 80-G-43376)

Operation Drumbeat, 1942 (U.S. Navy Photo 80-G-43376)

America was no longer isolated. Following the attack at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the possibility of avoiding conflict against the Axis Powers grew thin. Now with their adversaries clearly defined by their own Congressional and Presidential decree, Nazi Germany saw the opportunity to strike – fast and hard. Like bloodthirsty wolves, a pack of U-boats brought the war to American waters. For citizens of the United States, especially those in cities along its coastline, it was a time of fear. For the German Navy, it was their “happy time.” This period during the second Battle of the Atlantic is more commonly known as Operation Drumbeat. Others call it like it was: the American Shooting Season.

Between January and August 1942, Nazi submarines caught the United States off guard in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, sinking hundreds of ships carrying vital materiel to the Allied war effort. For their efforts, Nazi Germany only lost twenty-two U-boats. Of these, the vast majority was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. Only one met its end in the Gulf of Mexico, the Type IXC submarine U-166.

The ship entered the Gulf of Mexico in July 1942 to lay mines along the Mississippi Delta, sinking several vessels along the way from its transit from Trinidad. The final ship sunk by U-166 was the SS Robert E. Lee, a steam passenger ship. Unfortunately, for the U-boat, the vessel was not alone. Nearby on escort was the U.S. Navy patrol craft PC-566, commanded by then Lieutenant Hebert G. Claudius. He and the crew of PC-566 dropped a series of depth charges that they felt were sufficient enough to kill the German vessel. To him, a small field of floating debris and oil slick was enough evidence to confirm their victory. The U.S. Navy did not see it that way, and credited the actual kill of U-166 to a Coast Guard patrol craft two days later. The Navy subsequently gave Claudius an “F” rating for his action and relieved him of command.

He retired as a Navy Commander and died in 1981 without ever knowing the truth about his war action.

U-166 now lies 1,450 meters below the Gulf, discovered by archaeologists of C&C Technologies in 2001 in the same spot claimed by Claudius. Was it enough to clear his name and give him and his crew the credit they deserved? The evidence was clearly there in the Gulf of Mexico. All that was needed were the right group of individuals to help uncover the truth.

These exploits in the Gulf of Mexico were the focus of Tuesday evening’s event at the U.S. Navy Memorial’s Naval Heritage Center. Guests at the event were given a special sneak peak screening of NOVA/National Geographic’s newest documentary, “Nazi Attack on America,” which featured Ocean Exploration Trust president and founder Dr. Bob Ballard, himself a former Commander in the Navy Reserve. The documentary debuted last night. Along with the screening of the documentary, Dr. Ballard and several of his staff gave a broad explanation of their current 2015 season of exploration aboard E/V Nautilus and its ongoing projects with STEM education and telepresence technology.

U-166 (OET/Nautiluslive.org)

U-166 (OET/Nautiluslive.org)

Two Commanders separated in time and place but aligned in their pursuit to discover the truth. It was a night to celebrate the achievements of individuals working together as a cohesive unit, separated by more than seventy years, Dr. Bob Ballard and his team of brilliant scientists at the Ocean Exploration Trust helped undo an error made by the United States Navy in 1942.

Hebert G. Claudius used every man aboard PC-566 to sink the German U-Boat. The weaponry he used were depth charges, a crude yet effective piece of anti-submarine warfare. Dr. Ballard did not use weapons of war to uncover the truth behind the sinking of U-166. His crewmembers, which he calls the “Corps of Exploration,” are an elite group of scientists, engineers, communicators, educators, and students. “I’m going to use my technology to take on a detective story,” Ballard said in the documentary. For Ballard, who admitted once that he wanted to be Captain Nemo as a boy, he is truly living out his wildest dreams.

With Ballard in command of the expedition, the documentary goes into the process by which E/V Nautilus found several of the U-boat’s victims, only to discover the wreck of their aggressor only miles away from the wreckage of its last “kill,” the SS Robert E. Lee.

 Dr. Bob Ballard (President, OET), Kirk Wolfinger (Executive Producer), Clara Smart (OET Mapping Specialist), Paula Apsell (Sr. Executive Producer, NOVA), and Allison Fundis (OET VP of Education & Outreach)

Dr. Bob Ballard (President, OET), Kirk Wolfinger (Executive Producer), Clara Smart (OET Mapping Specialist), Paula Apsell (Sr. Executive Producer, NOVA), and Allison Fundis (OET VP of Education & Outreach)

Would Ballard and Nautilus help Commander Claudius clear his name? Admittedly, the production team (and E/V Nautilus) was unaware of what they would find once they got out there. “We were just hoping that something would come of the expedition,” said NOVA Sr. Executive Produce Paula Apsell in a Q&A session after the film screening. “We were fortunate with what Bob and his team found.”

Clara Smart, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island who was in attendance at the 5 May event, mapped the entire wreckage of U-166 with high-resolution images taken by their Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) Hercules. Once they reached the wreck site, Ballard’s team noticed something odd about how she sat on the sea floor. The bow was completely blown apart from the ship 140 meters away. The exploration members were sure this could not have occurred from damage caused by a depth charge, whose offensive purpose is to fracture the hulls of submarines.

With the expert use of the composite images collected from their ROVs and the help from a military historian, Ballard and OET were able to deduce that Claudius and PC-566 did in fact sink U-166 using depth charges. Given the explosion blast and the nature of conventional depth charges, it was discovered that a well-placed barrel fell onto the deck of the ship, which proceeded to drag it down to the necessary depth before exploding just below the explosive torpedoes.

Hebert G. Claudius, Jr. and Admiral Jonathan Greenert, USN (Stripes.com)

Hebert G. Claudius, Jr. and Admiral Jonathan Greenert, USN (Stripes.com)

A ceremony was held at the Pentagon on 18 December 2014 with Hebert G. Claudius, Jr., the son of Commander Claudius and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, USN and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The low-key event recognized the success and official credit of the kill to Claudius and PC-566. For his efforts, his son accepted the Legion of Merit with a Combat “V” for Valor. Dr. Ballard was in attendance at the ceremony. He jokingly mused in the Q&A session afterwards that he was once “the superior officer to Admiral Greenert aboard NR-1 […] although I think he ended up doing a little bit better.”

For a man who has discovered everything from the Titanic to the origins of life in deep-sea vents, he is incredibly humble about his role in shaping the way we see naval history today. Science and technology contributions to the field of naval history are endless, like the ocean they explore. Dr. Ballard is living proof of this. If the earth is 70% water, the Navy has responsibility to protect it, and Ballard and the Nautilus to preserve and study it.

For more information about the NOVA documentary, please go here. Dr. Ballard’s team aboard E/V Nautilus is available to view 24/7 at www.nautiluslive.org. Please stay tuned for some exciting collaborations the Naval Historical Foundation is currently undergoing with the Ocean Exploration Trust.

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Hidden Treasures in PLANE Sight: NHHC Photo Archivists Tour the Udvar-Hazy Center

NHHC Photo Archivists Jonathan Roscoe, David Colamaria, and Lisa Crunk get the celeb treatment at the Udvar-Hazy Center Photo by Matthew Eng/NHf/Released)

NHHC Photo Archivists Jonathan Roscoe, David Colamaria, and Lisa Crunk get the celeb treatment at the Udvar-Hazy Center Photo by Matthew Eng/NHf/Released)

By Matthew Eng

I had the chance yesterday to accompany the three photo archivists of the Naval History and Heritage Command on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Museum technician Pat Robinson gave us a fantastic tour of the various departments and divisions located inside the Udvar-Hazy Center. We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by Roger Conner, the Air and Space Museum’s curator of vertical flight, unmanned aircraft systems, instruments & avionics.

The highlight of our visit was the special ground floor tour of the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. The birds-eye view from the glass above where visitors view the facility does not do it justice. The smell of engine oil around the room is intoxicating. It is a feeling of progress and a heavy respect for innovation. There is a real energy to the place that one cannot describe without being there. There are no engines humming, but you can feel the weight of history behind each artifact. It is truly a special experience being up close and personal to some of history’s greatest aircraft.

Some may view the museum’s restoration hangar as an aviation graveyard, but I see it differently. It is a place where the airplanes of yesteryear are put back together. It reminds me of the work being done at the Monitor Center and Conservation Lab in Newport News. Although the machines driving Monitor pale in comparison to the Glenn L. Martin twin-engines being restored inside the hangar in Chantilly, the similarities and respect for history are identical. To me, it is resurrection. The work done inside hangar is methodical and highly detailed. For a historian and lover of military history, the ability to see tangible history that most only read about in black and white is vital. It is why these museums must exist. To me, the facility is the aircraft equivalent of Graceland, and we got a behind the scenes tour of its Jungle Room.

"Flak-Bait" fuselage inside the Restoration Hangar Phoo

“Flak-Bait” fuselage inside the Restoration Hangar

One of the most recent projects inside the hangar is the full restoration of one of the Army Air Force’s most famous plane of World War II, the B26 Marauder “Flak-Bait.” “Flak-Bait” flew an impressive 202 missions in the European theater, and is so named for its many brushes with death. “Despite that,” Robinson said, “the aircraft never lost a single crew member.” The evidence was seen everywhere – bullet holes and flak marks pepper the entire aircraft.

We could not leave the room without seeing the other primary aircraft restoration project inside the Restoration Hanger, the Sikorsky JRS-1 amphibious aircraft. Originally designed by Igor Sikorsky for commercial use by Pan American World Airways (S-43), the United States Navy purchased 17 of the aircraft between 1937 and 1939 to be used for photo reconnaissance and observation.

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The JRS-1 now located inside the restoration hanger is the only aircraft in the Smithsonian’s collection that was actually stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Pat took the time to flip through photographs to show where exactly the aircraft was during the attack. According to the Smithsonian website, ten JRS-1s were at the base at the time of the attack, all of which survived.  They were immediately put into service after the attack, flying missions to search for the Japanese fleet. The planes were equipped with depth charges on their wings to deploy against enemy submarines.

Robinson and the rest of the crew at Udvar-Hazy are working to restore the aircraft to its original paint scheme. The silver-blue hue of the original paint scheme is clearly seen along the seaplane’s fuselage. The vertical green of the tail and cheery red along the engine cowlings are still visible. Robinson noted that this particular JRS-1 (designed 1-J-1) belonged to the unit commander. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is currently looking for any photographs of the Navy’s JRS-1 aircraft. Contemporary photos of the airplane, especially in color, will help specialists working in the hangar restore the plane to what it looked like just before World War II began.

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