BOOK REVIEW – A Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King

Dunn_A CowardBy Steve R. Dunn, Book Guild Publishing, Sussex, England, (2014)

Reviewed by Capt. John A. Rodgaard USN (Ret.)

What is cowardice? Can cowardice be reinterpreted as an act of reasoned restraint or self-preservation? Is cowardice situational, or is it a character trait? Does it possess a moral dimension? That is, “Can a brave man also be a coward?”

These are the questions author Steve Dunn explores in his biography of Ernest Trouridge. A Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King is Dunn’s second biographical work, once more examining the life of a noted Royal Navy officer of the Victorian and Edwardian era. It is a story of a man “thought to be brave, and of great lineage who, for one instant’s decision, was forever associated with an act that many saw as that of a coward.”

Through the life of Earnest Troubridge, readers learn what happens when a single act of what many consider to be cowardice follows a naval officer throughout the remaining years of his career and beyond the grave. We glimpse into the far-reaching effects of that single act, not only for Troubridge, but for Britain and its allies, years later, as the events of the Great War of 1914 unfolded.

Troubridge came from one of Britain’s great naval families beginning with Earnest’s great grandfather, Sir Thomas Troubridge. Sir Thomas, served with Nelson as a midshipman and rose through the ranks to become one of his ‘band of brothers.’ He was considered by Nelson to be “…the most meritorious sea officer of his standing in the service.” As with Nelson, Earnest’s lineage was rooted in the English countryside of West Norfolk, an area of England that this reviewer knows intimately. Troubridge’s mother, the daughter of a wealthy Norfolk banker, Daniel Gurney, was also from another famous naval family – that of Thomas Cochrane – the ‘seawolf’ of the Napoleonic Wars.

Born in 1862, Earnest came from an aristocratic and wealthy family whose social connects included royalty. He was the product of the British ‘public school’ system. As a younger brother, his life’s profession was either the Church of England or the Royal Navy. As Dunn wrote: “He could hardly have done anything else with the example of his ancestors before him.” At the age of 13, young Earnest Charles Thomas Troubridge entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, otherwise known as HMS Britannia.

The author then portrays Troubridge’s rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy. He shows how this man of pedigree obtained high rank through influence and a promotion system that relied less on initiative and merit than being the next in line. His assignments found him mostly in the Mediterranean, but were interspersed with assignments to North America and the Pacific. The latter of the two were career changing for the man whose massive flock of hair turned silver-grey. He came to be known throughout the Fleet as the “Silver King.” The ‘most handsome officer in the Fleet’ married the bell of Halifax in 1891. His marriage appears to be a typical one for someone of Troubridge’s background. It ended with his wife’s tragic death after the birth of his fourth child, a stillborn, in 1900. He would later remarry in 1908 to a much younger woman. She was Margot Elena Gertrude Taylor, more commonly called by her family as Una. She was beautiful, intelligent and artistically gifted. Their marriage would fall apart, primarily due to Troubridge’s attitude toward a “wife’s duty” and Una having a relationship with John, aka, Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall.

Whilst the flag lieutenant of the North American Station, he became friends with one of the squadron’s captains – the future King George V. Their friendship would last for over a quarter of a century. For Troubridge, it was career enhancing.

In 1901, Troubridge became the Naval Attaché to Japan, where he witnessed the effects of modern weaponry on men and ships during the 1905 Russo-Japanese war. The author leaves the reader with the impression that the experience would play a part in Troubridge’s decision when confronted with what would have been the first clash of modern warships during the Great War.

This comes to pass in 1914 with the outbreak of the Great War. Troubridge is back in the Mediterranean as second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet as well as the commander of the First Cruiser Squadron, which consisted of four armoured cruisers. The powerful German battlecruiser Goeben and her consort the light cruiser Breslau were stationed in the Mediterranean at the time threatening French troop convoys departing Algeria for metropolitan France. The two ships proceeded to join the Austrian Fleet, they would potentially tip the naval balance of power in favor of the Triple Alliance. The author does a creditable job describing the uncertainty on the part of the British about German intentions, as well as the difficulty that the Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Milne, and his second in command, Troubridge, had in reconciling the instructions emanating out of Churchill’s Admiralty, especially the instructions to him about not engaging a “superior force” with his cruiser squadron.

Initially, Troubridge had every intention of engaging the German battlecruiser and her consort just before daylight in the hope that it could negate Goeben’s superior firepower and maneuverability. After listening to his flagships captain’s appeal as a gunnery expert that the admiral should not engage, Troubridge, keeping his own counsel, sent a signal to his superiors that he had given up the chase only hours before the expected engagement. The Germans sortied to Turkey. Troubridge faced court martial for his decision. Although he was exonerated, he would never assume command at sea again. Neither would the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Admiral Milne.

Although author captures the events leading up to the ‘decision’, I would have liked to see a map or two showing the overall situation in the Mediterranean at the time as well as a tactical plot showing the movements of the antagonists. A few additional photos of the ships would have complemented his section on the respective order of battle between the antagonists. I had hoped the author would have also included photographs of the main characters as well.

Dunn accurately explains the consequences of Troubridge’s decision. One immediate consequence was that Goeben and Breslau arrived in Constantinople, which influenced the Ottoman Empire’s decision to enter the war on the side of the Triple Alliance. There were two other farther-reaching consequences attributed to Troubridge’s decision.

The first Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s decision to engage the powerful German squadron under Vice Admiral Von Spee at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. The battle was a disaster for the Royal Navy. In a letter written before the battle, Cradock specifically stated that he would not suffer the same fate as Troubridge.

The second consequence was the decision by Commodore Henry Harwood RN to engage the Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate twenty-five years later. This decision, however, had more favorable results for the Royal Navy. In contrast to Troubridge’s missed opportunity, Harwood demonstrated that with imagination and determination, a well-trained, but inferior force can succeed in battle. Harwood’s squadron of three cruisers forced the Graf Spee to seek refuge, leading to her eventual destruction by her captain’s own hand.

Although Troubridge was never given another sea-going command, he did provide worthwhile service, co-operating with the Serbs in their war against the Austrians and their allies. He was also given command of a force on the Danube in 1915. After the war he returned to the region to supervise the Inter-Allied Danube Commission, and Mr. Dunn shows that Troubridge was an effective administrator. He returns to Britain in 1923 with tremendous accolades for his service. He returned to a broken and scandalous marriage as well as continued controversy regarding his decision not to engage the Goeben. Ironically, because of the Royal Navy’s promotional system of the day, Troubridge is promoted to full admiral. For this, the navy he served for over 40 years shuns him. He lives for a short while afterwards as a self-imposed exile in France.

Although Mr. Dunn does not unveil new information concerning Troubridge’s fateful decision, the author’s chapter “Verdict” weighs all the factors in a very concise manner. He succeeds in painting a picture of Troubridge as a man of his time and of his ‘pedigree’, “…a somewhat vain and self-obsessed character…” who ultimately failed in his most important duty as a naval officer — to fight with determination, imagination and skill.

Although a century has passed since the ‘decision’, I feel this book will resonate with serving officers, who like, Troubridge, serve in a navy that had not faced inter-state war at sea through their careers. As with Troubridge’s navy, the U.S. Navy of today lacks the collective memory of what war at sea can be. When and if that time comes, will they fight with determination, imagination and skill?


Captain Rodgaard leads the National Capital Commandary of the Naval Order of the United States.

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BOOK REVIEW – US Heavy Cruisers: 1943 – 75: Wartime and Post-war Classes

Still_Us Heavy CruisersBy Mark Stille, Osprey, New York (2014)

Reviewed by James H. McClelland, Sr.

US Heavy Cruisers: 1943 – 75 is a gold mine of information concerning the U.S. Navy’s heavy cruisers of World War II and beyond. Mark Stille, a retired navy commander who has held posts in the intelligence community, faculty positions at the Naval War College, the Joint Chief of Staff with the fleet, is currently working in the Washington D.C. area as a senior analyst. To complete this book, Stille married his knowledge and expertise with the talents of artist Paul Wright. Mr. Wright, a Falmouth School of Art alum who has spent the last 14 years developing his art and perfecting his gift while a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. His artistry has truly brought this book alive with his outstanding illustrations and paintings.

This book begins by discussing U.S. cruiser weaponry. Starting before the war with an effective weapon in the 8”/55 Mk main guns to the development of the rapid fire 8”/55 MK 16. The reader is then walked through each successive class of heavy cruisers, from a brief history and description of the last of the Treaty heavy cruisers (the unique Wichita class) through to the Des Moines class completed with the new rapid fire 8” gun too late to see war service.

Surprisingly, Stille also provides a detailed description of the Navy’s CB’s, or “Large Cruisers.” All 808 feet, 34,250 tons of her built to fill the spot between the heavy cruiser and battleship. From there, Stille compares and contrasts each class of ship with enough detail to give you a real feeling for the size, weapons, armor and power of each class of ship. As well as describing the role of the heavy cruisers in the war effort such as ship to ship sea battles early on in the war to shore bombardment, supporting of troop landings and air defense where their 5” secondary and many 20 and 40mm medium range anti-aircraft weapons protected the fast aircraft carriers and transports. Following the war, the United States Navy was left with many heavy cruisers but no natural enemies. Orders were canceled, ships put into the reserve fleet, and others sold to foreign nations or the scrap yards. The Navy simply did not need such a huge number of heavy cruisers (or battleships, aircraft carriers, or destroyers for that matter).

When the United States entered the Korean War, however, the army needed the benefit of 8” guns for ground support of which was well suited for the heavy cruiser. During the Vietnam War the heavy cruiser again played an important supportive role. During the sixties and seventies, the author explained how the heavy cruiser was found to be well suited for updates, modification and modernization to their machinery electronics and weaponry. Some ships received minor updates, while other ships received extensive rebuilds and replaced turrets and 8” guns with sophisticated missiles, new radar, and sonar for sub hunting and killing capabilities. Stille does a brilliant job describing the evolution of electronics and weapons the navy was developing for its heavy cruisers. But as these World War II heavy cruisers aged and the continued advancement of weapons and electronics as well as the changing role of the navy, it became more cost effective to build new cruisers designed specifically for new weaponry. It was here that these heavy cruisers passed into history as distant memories.

Throughout this book, you will find facts and figures, comparisons and information concerning each class of ship. Stille packed a tremendous amount of information about these fine ships, the real workhorse of the navy for over 30 years. Stille’s infinite knowledge and excellent writing skills and the beautiful paintings and illustrations of Wright bring these grand and majestic warships to life. Not only did I enjoy this book immensely it will always have a place on my reference shelf for future use.


James H. McClelland Sr. is a frequent contributor to NHBR

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BOOK REVIEW – A Handful Of Bullets: How The Murder Of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces The Peace

Ullman_A handful of bulletsBy Harlan K. Ullman, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, (2014)

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

Readers with an interest in grand strategy and a forceful and candid presentation of a wide variety of threats to the peace and well-being of the world will find a great deal of interest in this particular book. Although this is a book that deals with the lengthy origins of our contemporary troubles and repercussions of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and World War I, the book demands no particular understanding of jargon, as the author uses clear and easy-to-understand language. Even where one disagrees with his particular analysis or recommendation, one clearly understands where he is coming and recognizes the reasons why he makes the case that he does. This 214-page book (followed by an index) contains twelve chapters divided into three sections, followed by two appendices.

The first part contains three chapters that introduce the unraveling in state power that took place as a result of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Ullman examines how globalization has so far diffused power to non-state actors and individuals and reduced the comparative ability for states (and militaries) to respond effectively and how failed government, economic scarcity, ideological extremism, and environmental disaster menace the peace and safety of the world. He further argues such crises have had dangerous consequences for United States because of inexperienced and unqualified presidents, the failures due to gridlock and incompetence of our national political system, and the change of the strategic situation to one where disruption rather than destruction is the aim of our enemies.

The second portion of the book looks at the looming threats around the world relating to regional warfare, economic problems, the threat of cyber warfare, as well as other wildcard scenarios that cause foreign affairs analysts to lose sleep at night.

The third section of the book contains five chapters that examine failed government, economic scarcity, ideological extremism, and environmental disaster in detail. He comments on the failure of strategic thinking in the current United States military, which has led to massively expensive and harmful interventions that have cost lives, damaged our reputation, and expended precious resources and goodwill as a result of failing to consider the consequences of removing dictators and the difficulties of nation-building. The conclusion makes a forceful recommendation for a brains-based approach to strategy instead of focusing on attritional warfare. The two appendices recapitulate arguments from the book with an open letter to the Secretary of Defense. He also makes a case for a future maritime force that takes advantage of low-cost and flexible ships developed by other nations (like Sweden) for littoral operations, less expensive options to an all-nuclear submarine force, and the creation of a reserve force that avoids scuttling valuable carriers in the face of looming budget difficulties.

Although this is a book written primarily to shape policy and grand strategy within the United States, this book will be of potential interest to a much wider audience of people.

That being said, there are some tensions in this book that will make it provocative and offensive to many readers, which will lead few people to agree wholeheartedly with the author. For example, the author claims to be nonpartisan, but his particularly hostile criticism of advocates of small-government and his contention that our constitutional checks and balances are obsolete will strike some potential readers as progressive in nature and therefore highly partisan. The author’s defense of American freedoms and the problems of spying on American reputation are counterbalanced by the author’s vituperative rhetoric towards bloggers, which is hard not to take personally. Additionally, the author seeks both to defend the importance of morality in American behavior (especially with regards to other nations) but is immensely critical of that group of people who care most deeply and openly about questions of morality through his hostility towards evangelical Christianity and his novel reinterpretation of biblical prophecy. This sort of ambivalence between the points the author is trying to make and the offenses he causes towards potential readers limits the effectiveness of the author in making a case for specific and detailed recommendations that require drastic changes of approach and behavior within the military and political establishment of the United States. At the most fundamental level, the author’s brain-based approach to analysis and policy would be better served with an approach that was less overheated and overemotional in its rhetoric.

Nevertheless, this is a book that contains immensely thoughtful and cogent analysis about the multifarious causes of difficulty in the present world, many of which range from the fateful consequences of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914. The author’s pointed critique about the universal failure of governments to perform as desired and expected and about the catastrophic effects of partisan gridlock within the United States in particular is a much-needed counter to conspiratorial fears, and a warning that reforms to our political system are necessary to deal with the looming threats to legitimacy that governments face around the world, and here at home. Readers of an analytical bent will be pleased with the author’s desire to increase study to demonstrate facts on an objective level, rather than to allow different sides in a dispute to claim their own facts to muddy the waters and spread confusion and chaos. The author undertakes a difficult task in suggesting drastic and serious recommendations of a political and military nature, some of which will drastically change decades of behavior and others which will require constitutional amendment. Despite its flaws, this book represents a serious and mostly successful attempt to diagnose the causes of contemporary crises, give a clear eyed view of what potential futures exist, and give some thoughtful and thought-provoking recommendations as to how to best achieve those futures that are the most favorable to the United States and its people, and to the people of the world at large.

Nathan Albright is a blogger who lives in Portland, Oregon.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO

Stavridis_Accidental AdmiralBy Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2014)

Reviewed by Stephen Phillips

Admiral James Stavridis is a prolific writer who is known for countless journal articles and several books that should be in every naval officer’s collection, such as Division Officer’s Guide, Destroyer Captain, and Command at Sea. Fans and followers of the admiral’s writing knew that he would publish another volume upon the completion of his thirty-seven year career. Thus, the Naval Institute Press published The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO in October 2014.

After serving as the Commander Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Admiral Stavridis to serve as Supreme Allied Command of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), a role that is dual-hatted as Commander, U.S. European Command (EUCOM). Stavridis was the first naval officer to serve in this capacity, perhaps because he is a recognized as a strategic thinker. The aforementioned prolific author holds a doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is currently the dean.

Stavridis took the helm at an interesting time when transition was being considered in Afghanistan, when the Arab Spring gave birth to a new wave of conflicts that are still evolving, and when social media emerged as a force multiplier for sharing information, ideas, and coordinating the movements of everyone from missionaries to mujahedeen. This created the foundation for the two main themes within The Accidental Admiral. First, Stavridis provides valuable historical perspective of the major conflicts that occurred or were ongoing during his time at the helm of NATO/EUCOM. Second, he shares his views on strategic leadership to include the advantages and pitfalls that come with Twitter, Facebook, and the other tools of a more interconnected world.

Much will be written about the most recent phase of conflict in Afghanistan as the United States withdrawals over the next few months. Admiral Stavridis’ chapter on this may prove the most interesting of this entire book. He noted that while the country is often referred to as the “graveyard of empires,” the external elements operating in the country represent a coalition of over 50 nations, not an empire. Equally prescient were suggestions given by former Soviet generals who said, “Build mosques. Fill them with imams that will teach the true Islam. Then, you will win the war of ideas.” In the summer of 2009, there was a sense that things were not going well in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal who led forces in Afghanistan thought the coalition was losing. Admiral Stavridis thought the changes for success were 50/50. When asked to send options to the White House, a variation of McChrystal’s ‘medium risk’ approach was selected that included 30,000 U.S. and 10,000 NATO troops. Stavridis had to garner NATO support, doing so with agreed upon caveats and guarantees.

After discussing Afghanistan, Stavridis discusses Libya, Israel, Syria, the Balkans, and Russia. In each chapter, he places the country or region’s issues in context and relays personal interactions with their leaders. The reader can feel as if they were a member of his staff as he meets with generals and heads of state.

The second part of this book is the admiral’s reflections on leadership. His makes it clear that leadership at the strategic level may require practices different from subordinate echelons. Those in positions of national leadership can always expect to be under scrutiny. Many great leaders, Stavridis included, must respond to allegations true and imagined, on a scale that becomes distracting. For example, while relaxing in the presence of an unknown reporter, General McChrystal’s staff made inappropriate comments directed at President Obama. Published in the Rolling Stone, this lapse led to McChrystal’s dismissal. Stavridis, on the other hand, endured a long investigation into employment of military assets for personal travel and anomalies with reporting official gifts. All accusations proved to be false, but they had a negative impact on the admiral.

The best overall chapter in the Accidental Admiral on leadership describes “How Leaders Make Things Happen.” These include: “Speak with simplicity and precision,” “Prepare thoroughly for key events,” “Look at the law or regulation yourself,” and “Carve out time to read.” By itself, these sections should be assigned in any leadership course.

Fans of Admiral Stavridis’s previous works are surely going to enjoy The Accidental Admiral. For new readers, it can serve as a valuable introduction that will then pull them toward his other works.


Stephen Phillips served in the U.S. Navy as a surface warfare officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. He is the author of The Recipient’s Son, a novel about the U.S. Naval Academy published by the Naval Institute Press. Phillips also reviewed Admiral Stavridis book about command at sea Destroyer Captain.

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BOOK REVIEW – Call Me Gus – The Story of Admiral George E. R. Kinnear II, USN (Ret)

Carter_Call Me GusBy Admiral Kinnear as told to James Carter, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN (2014)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

The heart of this autographical book centers around four topics the Admiral feels are important for success: have a vision of what you want to achieve, take advantage of continuing education opportunities, spend time developing personal networks, and learn how organizations function. Kinnear never directly states that this is the purpose of his book. Rather, he lets the message he wishes to convey to slowly permeate the conscientious of the reader as they follow his progression upward through the Navy’s chain of command.

As a high school dropout, Kinnear joined the U.S. Navy in the last year of World War II. Through a remarkable set of circumstances, he would advance from E-1 to O-10. Almost immediately upon joining the Navy, Kinnear realizes the limitations his lack of a high school degree places upon his desire to enter the aviation field. The story of how he used networking to get his high school degree and be sent to college by the Navy reads like a Horatio Alger story. Yet the common core of his story is that he did what was necessary to meet U.S. Navy requirements to be a pilot.

Once Kinnear received his wings, he followed a career of advancement through multiple jobs within the Navy’s aviation community. It was path heavy on education and staff duties. Every job the Navy gave him, he used as a learning exercise. This learning is not limited to his area of his responsibility, but he continually sought to learn more about the world around him. He used his tour of duty onboard the training carrier USS Antietam (CV 36) to become proficient as both a deck and an engineering officer. Examples of how a leader leads and mentors his men are laced throughout the book.

His tale of working as a Congressional liaison officer for the Navy is a tale of how to achieve goals by developing relationships with Congressional staffers and taking the time to learn how Congress works, not how it should work. He constantly emphasized that the key to success in getting a matter resolved in Congress is to find the lowest staff person who can make it happen. He included high-level networking stories of how the Ohio class submarines received their class name, how a Nimitz carrier was authorized and de-authorized, and why the F-18 was chosen over the F-17.

The book also contained an interesting number of short stories describing encounters the Admiral had with various people of power and his impression of them. What is missing from the book is information on his family or how they coped with his absences and constant movement around the country. Overall, this is an informative read concerning some of the outside and inside forces that were impacting the Navy, both positively and negatively, during the Admirals time in the Navy. The book is well worth reading by anyone interested in the Navy of the 1950s and 1960s or making a success of their life. The fundamental fact that I took away from the book is: if one wishes to succeed in this world, one must never stop learning about the world around oneself.


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

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BOOK REVIEW – Naval Air Station Patuxent River

Chambers_Naval Air Station Patuxent RiverBy Mark A. Chambers, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2014)

Reviewed by Richard P. Hallion, Ph.D.

This pictorial history is a useful and appealing introduction to what naval aviators—specifically, test pilots, flight test engineers, test crews, and technical support staff—have accomplished over the last seventy years at one of the world’s finest and most historic flight test centers. Author Mark Chambers, a technical writer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the NASA Langley Research Center (another legendary Tidewater flight research site), has assembled an impressive collection of visual images capturing various programs and test areas through the years.

Readers will find themselves marveling at the wide range of programs and activities captured in the images he selected. While some are well known—for example, Marine Maj. Gen. Marion Carl’s late-career formal portrait (p. 17), or an air-launch of the second Douglas D-558-2 from its Boeing P2B-1S (Navy B-29) mothership during its contractor flight test program (p. 83), most are not. Casually paging through this volume, one encounters captured enemy aircraft undergoing technical evaluation, experimental V/STOL and high-speed designs, prototypes of operational fighters, attack aircraft, and maritime patrol airplanes, early efforts to develop “drone” guided missiles, and a plethora of rotary-wing craft and other, more specialized designs.

This is very much an aircraft-centric book. Although there are some photographs of people and places, the vast number of images simply show a succession of aircraft, running from the heyday of the piston-engine propeller-driven airplane through the transition into the jet age, and the transformation of aircraft design from subsonic straight-wing aircraft through early swept-and-delta wings, to the variable-geometry Grumman F-14, and on to more exotic canard, fly-by-wire, and hybrid designs made possible by the marriage of conventional aeronautical technology—the technology of structures, propulsion, controls, and applied aerodynamics—with the powerful Moore’s Law-driven computer.

Books in this series are primarily photographic histories. Chambers has done an excellent job captioning his photos, giving the reader ample information and a solid context within which to review and ponder the illustration under examination.

Where this book is less successful is in telling the story of Pax River and the legendary people tied to it. One searches in vain for images, for example, of the Test Pilot School, its students, and its classrooms, or for any indication of how the center grew over time reflecting the needs of the Cold War, and then experienced a major reorganization when Naval Air Systems Command moved from Arlington, VA to Lexington Park, MD. There are no organizational tables, charts, or data compilations on budgets, work forces, etc.

However, these are not criticisms—the publisher and author are quite “up front” about their work being a photographic history (albeit primarily one driven by aircraft images), and it is certainly a well-researched and well-presented work that anyone interested in naval flight testing will want to have on their shelf. But however satisfying it is, Chambers’ excellent introduction is just that—an introduction—that whets the appetite for its author, or someone else, to prepare a full-length detailed history of Pax River and its extraordinary contributions to aerospace.


Dr. Hallion is a retired Air Force historian with extensive service to various government agencies.


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BOOK REVIEW – HARNESSED TO THE POLE: Sledge Dogs in Service to American Explorers of the Arctic, 1853-1909

Nickerson_Harnessed to the PoleBy Sheila Nickerson, University of Alaska Press, Anchorage (2014)

Reviewed by Jan Churchill

The North Pole was the ultimate prize. Before aviation, ships could only go so far thanks to polar ice. The best way to travel, with supplies and food, was by dog sledge. However, the British Royal Navy made men, not dogs, haul sledges for Sir John Franklin’s expedition, when he was searching for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole. The Franklin Expedition with its two ships, Terror and Erebus, left England on May 19, 1845, and was last seen by a whaler in Lancaster Sound on July 26, 1845.

Many explorers from around world in the second half of the 19th century hoped to stake their claim on the Arctic by reaching the North Pole, the highest goal attainable. The greatest success came to those who recognized that the fastest way to travel was by using a team of hardworking sledge dogs driven by native men. This book reveals how critical dogs were to Arctic conquest. Besides transportation, sledge dogs drove off predators, helped in hunting, found their way through devastating storms, and provided warmth. They also faced cruel conditions, rough handling, starvation, and the possibility of being left behind if injured or too weak. The dogs were exploited and discarded, no matter how loyal they had been.   Nickerson gives a picture of the rugged, tenacious and most vital animals. Without them, the great arctic journeys would have been impossible. Nickerson recounts their stories with fascinating detail, giving these magnificent dogs the recognition they deserve.

Americans were among last to enter the effort to find Franklin and reach the geographic North Pole. American expeditions covered in this book include those of:

— Elisha Kent Kane, The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, (1853-1855)

— Isaac I. Hayes, A Voyage of Discovery Toward the North Pole, (1860 – 1861)

— Charles Francis Hall, First Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, (1860 – 1862), Second Arctic Expedition, (1864 – 1869), and North Polar, Polaris, Expedition, (1871 – 1873)

— Frederick Schwatka, Seeking the records of the Lost Franklin Expedition, (1878 – 1880)

— George Washington De Long (a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy), The Polar Expedition, (1879 – 1881)

— Adolphus Washington Greely, The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, (1881 – 1884)

— Frederick A. Cook, The Expedition That First Reached the Boreal Center, (1907 – 1909)

— Robert E. Peary, The North Pole Expedition, (1908 – 1909)

It was the Americans that came late into the Franklin search late (and increasingly intent on claiming the North Pole), who made consistent use of dogs, and began to write about their exploits. Most of the dogs came from Greenland as well as from Newfoundland and Alaska. The Greenland dog was an ancient breed tracing back to original Inuit dogs from Siberia with remains found as far back as 7000 BC. The Greenland dog is also known as the Esquimaux Dog and Greenland Husky. The Greenland dogs and the Inuits forged a bond even though the men used a whip (six yards long) as a tool for driving the dogs. Conditions were treacherous for men and dogs. Sometimes when food was scarce, dogs might be fed once a week. The dogs were named and known as individuals to their drivers.

The dogs were harnessed individually in a “fantail” hitch allowing dogs to spread out in front of a sledge in semi-circular fashion, not the two-by-two tandem more commonly used today which is suitable for narrow trails and forests. The fantail hitch enabled the dogs to work around large chunks of ice. The most spirited dog had a longer trace and was proclaimed leader.

U.S. Navy connections abound. A First Day Cover issued 1959 for “50 Years of Arctic Expeditions, 1909 – 1959” honored Robert E. Peary as the “Discoverer of the North Pole.” Peary was on leave from the U.S. Navy during explorations, but was later made a Rear Admiral. Hall’s Polaris expedition had Congressional support while Hall had to report to the Secretary of the Navy. Elisha Kent Kane was a Navy doctor traveling under orders from the U.S. Navy. Several images in the book were credited to the Naval Historical Foundation.

The background information is extremely well detailed in chapter notes. There is an extensive bibliography and index. The book is well illustrated with images on the construction of sledges, harness, and dogs. Numerous maps are used throughout.

This compelling story is a must-read for Navy historians with its fascinating details of Polar history. Utilizing new sources and original research, Nickerson provides the magnificent dogs the recognition they deserve. She portrays them as the most rugged, tenacious and significant polar travelers. Without the dogs, these explorations would have been impossible.


Jan Churchill is a retired Coast Guard aviator.

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NHF Staff Visit NHHC Collections Management Facility

By Emily Pearce, NHF Middendorf Curator

RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 1, 2014) - The U.S. Navy's collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, are being moved to the Naval History and Heritage Command's Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts.  NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 1, 2014) – The U.S. Navy’s collection of more than 300,000 artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, are being moved to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collection Management Facility (CMF). The CMF is a 300,000 square foot warehouse with facilities for administration, conservation and curation of historic artifacts. NHHC is consolidating its collection of historic artifacts, some dating back to the founding of the republic, into the facility located in Richmond Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Jim Caiella/RELEASED)

The Navy has not always done its due diligence in preserving its material heritage. The practice of collecting naval artifacts dates to the early nineteenth century under patrons such as Thomas Tingey, but these objects were not always handled with preservation practices in mind. It was not until 1961 that Admiral Arleigh Burke established a national museum to house and protect the United States Navy’s collection. Since this decision, the Navy has done its best to collect, protect, and preserve its material culture. The latest demonstration of this mission is the Naval History and Heritage Artifact Consolidation at the Defense Supply Center Richmond.

WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2014) -- Hundreds of bells from former U.S. Navy ships lay under wraps on pallets, preparing to be transferred from Naval History and Heritage Command's warehouse on the Washington Navy Yard to a more than 300,000 square-foot facility in Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

Bells from Navy Ships wait to be transferred to Richmond. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim Comerford/RELEASED)

NHF staff had the privilege of visiting the new facility earlier this month. The visit included a tour of the new space guided by Collections Manager Melanie Pereira. Ms. Pereira informed the staff of the plans and procedures for the facility and indicated designated spaces for research, conservation, and storage of artifacts. The refurbished warehouse is being outfitted with high quality shelving units, laboratory spaces, and digital tools to ensure the longevity of this massively important collection.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of our visit was witnessing the high level of care the curatorial staff employed when working with the artifacts. Every member of the team whom we were introduced to explained to us with ferocious enthusiasm what object they were working on and how each facet of the object spoke to the history of the United States Navy. Every artifact—including those donated by NHF!—is being cared for with extreme passion and expertise at the Richmond facility.

The innovative technology utilized in the building couples with the skills of the collection teams to provide a safe and stable environment for this immense collection. The Artifact Consolidation is proving to be a phenomenal benefit to the study of and preservation of naval history. Curators, conservators, and collection team members continue to develop and implement best practices within this space, giving the Navy’s collection a state-of-the-art new home.

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Ditty Bag: Thai Sterling Silver Cigarette Set

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

Thai Sterling Silver Cigarette Set

The travels of Admiral Arleigh Burke are the topic of fascination and awe for many United States Navy enthusiasts. Some of our exotic and unique collection items were products of his travels. This silver cigarette set from Thailand is no exception.


This cigarette set (NHF # 1976-639-04-D) was a gift to Admiral Burke during his 1956 visit with Mrs. Burke to Thailand. The set is comprised of four pieces: Tray, ashtray, cigarette box holder, and match box. Each piece is silver (note the tarnishing) and speaks to the high level of Thai craftsmanship.

Tray measures - 9 ¾ ‘’ x 6’’

Tray measures – 9 ¾ ‘’ x 6’’

Ashtray  measures  - 2 ¼ ‘’ x 1 ¼’’

Ashtray measures – 2 ¼ ‘’ x 1 ¼’’

Cigarette box holder measures  - 3 ¼’’ x 2 ½’’

Cigarette box holder measures – 3 ¼’’ x 2 ½’’

Match box measures  - 3 ½’’ X 2 ¾’’ x 1 ½’’

Match box measures – 3 ½’’ X 2 ¾’’ x 1 ½’’

MarkingThe reverse of each piece is marked ZN800, denoting deluxe quality silver. These pieces are beautiful, despite their tarnish, and represent the high quality of vintage, Thai silversmith work.

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

For previous releases of Ditty Bag, Please go HERE.

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Ditty Bag: Atop the Stars and Stripes

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

American Eagle Finial

This American Eagle finial, or decoration which tops a flagstaff, dates to the early twentieth century. Eagle finials are used by the Executive Office, and occasionally by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. This finial is made of brass which has visibly tarnished and flaked with age.

The Eagle sits on a base 2 inches wide with a wingspan of 9.5 inches. Its height measures 5 inches from the base to the highest point of the eagle’s frame, though only 4 inches from the base to the bird’s head.

This earlier version of the American Eagle bears a slightly different expression then the modern type. While there are several versions of eagles used currently, almost all have their wings extended wide and look slightly to the right. This eagle, surprisingly, looks left and curves the tips of his wings as if in motion.

The left-facing bird is not unique but is a definite nod to this piece’s age. Most modern finials (though not all) depict the bird heroically facing forward or slightly to the right.

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

For previous releases of Ditty Bag, Please go HERE.

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CNO Centennial – By the Numbers (1915-2015)

Washington, D.C., Jan. 31. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William D. Leahy, as he appeared before the House Naval Affairs Committee today, Leahy told the committee what Japan and Great Britain have completely upset the old 5-5-.3 ratio and unless United States increases its Navy its fleet will soon be insufficient security against attack from overseas. Rep. Carl Vinson of Ga. Chairman of the committee on the right, 1/31/38 (LOC Image # LC-DIG-hec-24000)

Washington, D.C., Jan. 31. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William D. Leahy, as he appeared before the House Naval Affairs Committee today, Leahy told the committee what Japan and Great Britain have completely upset the old 5-5-.3 ratio and unless United States increases its Navy its fleet will soon be insufficient security against attack from overseas. Rep. Carl Vinson of Ga. Chairman of the committee on the right, 1/31/38 (LOC Image # LC-DIG-hec-24000)

By Matthew T. Eng

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the creation of the Office of Chief of Naval Operations. Congressed established the office under the Naval Appropriation Act on 3 March 1915 (10 U.S.C. § 5033).

There were two main predecessors to the Chief of Naval Operations. One series of positions known as the General Board of the Navy dealt more with the threat of war, while the other highly esteemed position (Naval Aide System) dealt more with the day-to-day operations both ashore and afloat.

Governance of the Navy was still with the Secretary of the Navy – beneath him within the chain of command were the afloat commanders and chiefs of bureaus responsible for the Navy’s material requirements (Yards and Docks, etc.).

The General Board of the U.S. Navy in November, 1947. From left to right: Colonel Randolph M. Pate; Admiral Walter F. Boone; Admiral Charles H. McMorris; Admiral John H. Towers; Rear Admiral Charles B. Momsen; Captain Leon J. Huffman; Commander J.M Lee; Captain Arleigh A. Burke (USN Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The General Board of the U.S. Navy in November, 1947. From left to right: Colonel Randolph M. Pate; Admiral Walter F. Boone; Admiral Charles H. McMorris; Admiral John H. Towers; Rear Admiral Charles B. Momsen; Captain Leon J. Huffman; Commander J.M Lee; Captain Arleigh A. Burke (USN Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to 1900, SECNAV John Long created the General Board of the Navy. Their job was to advise SECNAV “to insure efficient preparation of the Fleet in case of war and for the naval defense of the coast.” The General Board remained a critical part of the Navy’s success in the two World Wars and was disbanded in 1951. Admiral of the Navy George Dewey chaired the board from 1900 to 1917.

On 1 DEC 1909, SECNAV George L. Meyer established an “aide system” of four Rear Admirals responsible for Operations, Personnel, and Inspections. Each senior officer was given the title of “Aide” who reported to and advised the Secretary. They also provided advice and information for coordination and work between the bureaus. Unfortunately, the positions only had as much authority as the SECNAV chose to delegate to them. The proceeding SECNAV, Josephus Daniels, did not approve of the job and let the positions lapse.

ADM William S. Benson, the first CNO

ADM William S. Benson, the first CNO

Despite these two positions, the command structure within the Navy at the turn of the century was difficult. To put it plainly, there were “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” A more substantial and all-encompassing position was required. There was no operational director or advisor – and little coordination between the different bureaus. Problems with coordination and cooperation existed. By the time World War I began in Europe, there grew a need for a sole uniformed advisor for the Secretary of the Navy.

The Chief of Naval Operations was created by Congress in FY1915 to fill the need for such an advisor, with Admiral William S. Benson, a former Chief of Staff for the Pacific Fleet, taking the first position. He held the much needed position through the First World War.

The CNO has a tireless job within the United States military command structure.

The Chief of Naval Operations, a four star USN Admiral, is nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. As a requirement, appointees must have experience in joint duty assignments, which includes one full tour of duty in a joint duty assignment as a flag officer. The term length is four years renewable.

The official residence of the CNO is Quarters A at the Washington Navy Yard (right across from NHF offices!). Before 1977, CNO residence was at the United States Naval Observatory in SE.

The CNO is responsible for the operating efficiency of the forces of the Navy and the shore activities assigned by SECNAV. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CNO is the principle adviser to the President and SECNAV on war, and the principle adviser and naval executive to SECNAV on the conduct of activities within the Department of the Navy. That being said, the position is administrative in nature – no operational command authority over U.S. forces is given. The Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) and the Deputy Chiefs of Naval Operations, who are collectively known as the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav), assist CNO. Policy documents are called OPNAV instructions.

Current CNO ADM Jonathan Greenert, USN is the 30th Chief of Naval Operations. His Vice CNO is ADM Michelle Howard, USN.

Four CNOs have had leadership roles within the Naval Historical Foundation:

  • FADM Ernest J. King – CNO, 2 MAR 1942 – 15 DEC 1945
    • President, 1946-1949
  • FADM William D. Leahy – CNO, 2 JAN 1937 – 1 AUG 1939
    • President, 1949-1959
  • ADM Arleigh A. Burke – CNO, 17 AUG 1955 – 1 AUG 1961
    • Chairman, 1981-1985
  • ADM James L. Holloway, III – CNO, 29 JUN 1974 – 1 JUL 1978
    • President, 1980-1998
    • Chairman, 1998-2008

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Happy 100th Anniversary, U.S. Navy Reserve!

NY Naval Militia in  Brooklyn, 1908

NY Naval Militia in Brooklyn, 1908

Tomorrow marks the centennial of Congressional legislation that created the Navy Reserve component of today’s United States Navy. While a hundred years is a significant milestone, bear in mind that 2015 also marks the 240th anniversary of the creation of the United States Navy. Given this context, the question needs to be asked: What took so long for the United States to create a naval reserve?

3g06268u Naval Militia copyIt’s a question that Naval Historical Foundation historian Dave Winkler addresses in his recently published book, Ready Then, Ready Now, Ready Always: A Centennial of Service by Citizen Sailors. In the book’s opening chapter, he notes that President Thomas Jefferson foresaw the need for a personnel augmentation contingency and proposed the Naval Militia Act of 1805. However, Congress balked at the idea of establishing and paying for naval militias at a time when there was an excess capacity of trained merchantmen within the dominant American maritime industry.

In the short term, the Navy had more than enough trained men to draw upon during the War of 1812 and the war against Mexico in 1845. During the War of 1812, American privateers operating on the high seas served as an effective force multiplier. In the long term, the Navy ran into difficulties in finding Sailors to crew its rapidly expanding fleet during the American Civil War. The Navy had to compete with the Army, which had the benefit of the Militia Act of 1792 in existence to obtain white males between the ages of 18 and 45. That the Navy did meet its manpower needs can be thanked, in part, to the racial component of the Militia Act. The Navy drew on African-Americans, many being recently freed Slaves, to fill out its crews. Some twenty percent of the Navy’s Sailors during the Civil War were black – that was double the percentage of African Americans who served in the Union Army.

Following the Civil War, the decline of the merchant marine also meant the number of merchant mariners available for naval service was also in a tailspin. As the Navy grew more technologically sophisticated, the skill sets needed to operate merchant vessels and warships were no longer interchangeable.

With Naval Attaches assigned to European capitals reporting on the creation and implementation of naval reserves in the various European navies, serious discussions began in the late 1880s on what shape an American naval reserve might take. When legislation to establish a federal naval reserve force failed in Congress, local leaders, starting in Massachusetts and New York, created Naval Militia units. (Today New York still has a naval militia!). The number of Naval Militias grew in size during the 1890s, with units forming mostly in states that fronted a major body of water.

Now available on our site.

Now available on our site.

During the Spanish-American War, Naval Militias performed coastal defense roles, manning up several Civil-War era monitors to provide harbor protection, Naval Militias from Michigan, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts also provided crews for four auxiliary cruisers that were acquired to support fleet operations off Cuba. While the four cruisers accounted well for themselves, the bureaucratic hoops involved in having the militiamen resign from their respective state militias in order to come into federal service was an experience the Navy did not care to repeat. Thus at the turn of the century, legislation was repeatedly submitted to create a naval reserve only to stall during an era following the annexation of the Philippines where there were strong anti-imperialists sentiments on Capitol Hill.

Finally, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the backdrop of the outbreak of war in Europe, was able to have language inserted into an omnibus bill that also created the office of the Chief of Naval Operations, that would enable the Navy to recruit Sailors coming off of active duty into a manpower that we now call the Navy Reserve.

Winkler’s book then details the history of the Navy Reserve starting from World War I through the present, highlighting the role the component as serve as an agent of social change to enable women and minorities an opportunity to serve the nation. The book can be obtained by going to the website HERE.

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AWARD ANNOUNCEMENT – Henry N. Barkhausen Award


The Henry N. Barkhausen Award
For Original Research in Great Lakes Maritime History

For consideration in the current calendar year, entries for must be postmarked no later than May 15

Guidelines for Entrants

Since 2001, the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History has sponsored the Henry N. Barkhausen Award program to recognize and encourage new research in the field of Great Lakes maritime history. Submissions are encouraged on any topic related to the region’s maritime history, and will be accepted from any person(s) researching that history regardless of formal training. Click for a detailed explanation of the award program.

Winners of the Barkhausen Award receive a $500 cash prize, a complimentary one-year membership in the Association and, if requested, assistance in getting their paper published. Winners will also have their lodging, registration and awards dinner fees paid to attend the Association’s annual maritime history conference to participate and/or to present his or her paper.

All sources used in a paper must be must be properly documented and a bibliography included with the paper. Either endnotes or footnotes are acceptable. Entry requirements include the ability of authors to be able to attest that submissions include original research using primary source materials or archeological findings, and have not been previously published. Examples of original source materials include unpublished manuscripts, government documents, and contemporaneous news reports. Potential entrants are encouraged to contact Steve Brisson, chair of the Association’s Research & Publication Committee, for a list of Association member institutions that may have original source materials in their collections (see contact information below).

Entries may be submitted either electronically or in hard copy format. Although book-length manuscripts will not be accepted, excerpts or abridgements of larger works may be submitted as long as the total length is 75 pages or less, including notes and bibliography. All submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter with an introduction and one-paragraph abstract of the paper, along with the name(s) and contact information of the author(s).

Electronic submissions must be in either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format, and e-mailed to Steve Brisson at Hard copy submissions, including copies of illustrative materials, must be mailed to Steve Brisson, Mackinac State Historic Parks, P.O. Box 873, Mackinac City, MI 49701. Originals of illustrative materials will not be accepted, and the Association will not assume any responsibility for loss or damage to paper submissions or illustrative materials. If an author wishes to have the hard copy of a paper or illustrative materials returned after judging, he or she should send a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope with their submission.

Address for Inquiries and Submissions


For more information on the Barkhausen Award for Original Research in Great Lakes Maritime History
or questions about the contest rules, contact:


Steve Brisson, Chief Curator
Mackinac State Historic Parks
P.O. Box 873
Mackinac City, MI  49701


All entries must be postmarked no later than May 15

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The Battleship Guns at NASA’s AMES Research Center

16"/45 Cal. MK 6 Gun at NASA's AMES Research Facility (Photo by Bob Fish)

16″/45 Cal. MK 6 Gun at NASA’s AMES Research Facility (Photo by Bob Fish)

By Matthew T. Eng

Battleship guns helped win the Second World War. What about the race to the moon?

Bob Fish, author and USS Hornet Museum trustee, recently visited NASA’s AMES Research Center in Sunnyvale, CA, to investigate the possibility of cooperation and collaboration of STEM-related programming. While there, Bob visited the Hypervelocity Flight Test Facility with their engineers.He was then guided into the original 1960’s era hyper-velocity test lab which consisted of an old projectile acceleration tube that is now rarely used. To his surprise, Bob noticed the inscription on the breach of the barrel read “US Navy.” It was in fact a Mark 6 16-inch battleship gun!

The connection between battleship guns and NASA research is over a half-century old.

The Hypervelocity Free-Flight Facilities (HFFF) inside the ballistic range complex at NASA-Ames is the only aero-ballistic range in North American with a controlled environment test section. Along with the Electric Arc Shock Tube (EAST) facility, the Hypervelocity Free-Flight Aerodynamics Facility (HFFAF) has been in operation since the 1960s, at the height of the space race.

Inscription on 16" gun barrel. (Photo by Bob Fish)

Inscription on 16″ gun barrel. (Photo by Bob Fish)

According to NASA’s official report of the facility, the HFFAF has “world-unique capabilities that enable experimental studies of real-gas aerothermal, gas dynamic, and kinetic phenomena of atmospheric entry.” Put in simpler terms, the facilities helps NASA scientist study the nature of entry, descent, and landing systems during the dangerous return trip to earth from human and robotic space exploration missions.

NASA defines the HFFAF as an “aeroballistic range” that supports a variety of aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic tests. According to NASA, the complex began operations in 1964 in support of the Apollo program. Even in NASA’s infancy, the necessity for space exploration sped up the development of test facilities that could duplicate the extreme velocities and temperatures from superorbital Earth atmospheric re-entry and entry into planetary atmospheres. HFFAF is a product of this innovation.

A drawing of the HFFAF. (NASA)

A drawing of the HFFAF. (NASA)

You can see the gun barrel at :51 seconds in the video below:

Small-scale models representing a space shuttle in return entry were launched inside the HFFAF at velocities ranging from 100 m/s to 8,000 m/s. Nearly any type of planetary atmosphere could be simulated. Sixteen shadowgraph-imaging stations were installed in the test section to study the nature of the projectile’s velocity in flight. When higher velocities up to 12,0000 m/s were tested at AMES, the HFFAF was connected to a 16-inch combustion-powered shock tunnel, like the one you see above. The tunnels generated up to 4,000 m/s counter-flow in the test section. As of today, the tube is in “stand-by” mode and is not operational. A more modernized accelerator with portholes for viewing is used today. NASA continues to do ballistic modeling of aircraft shapes and space vehicles.

16"/45 cal. on USS South Dakota

16″/45 cal. on USS South Dakota

The gun itself is a 16 inch-45 caliber Mark 6 barrel. The barrel shown in the above image was made in 1942 here at the Washington Navy Yard. Most 16”/45 guns were used on North Carolina-class and South Dakota-class battleships. The 16 inch-50 caliber Mark 7 guns used on Iowa-class battleships soon became the successor to the Mark 6. Unlike the Mark 6, the 16”/50 gun’s heavier weight and larger size did not have to alight with Treaty restrictions.

Who knew that the U.S. Navy did much more than supply astronauts and recovery ships. Special thanks to Bob Fish who gave us the information and images for the story. We look forward to hearing more about the aerospace-related STEM programs at the Hornet Museum and its utilization of the technology the Hornet education group saw at NASA-Ames!
(Source Information found at

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Oscar Night: The Best U.S. Navy Films

navy oscars

It’s Oscar night in America. The biggest stars in Hollywood will gather in Hollywood as this past year’s best films are celebrated and highlighted. In honor of the event, we thought we could have our own awards show for the best and brightest stars in films in about the United States Navy. (Disclaimer – The opinions and views about these films are the author’s own). Who makes your list? Let us know in the comment section.


Tora tora Tora

WINNER – Tora! Tora! Tora!

  • The Hunt for Red October
  • They Were Expendable
  • The Enemy Below
  • The Sand Pebbles


Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny

WINNER – Humphrey Bogart – The Caine Mutiny

  • Denzel Washington – Crimson Tide
  • Jack Lemmon – “Mister Roberts”
  • Clark Gable – Run Silent, Run Deep
  • Alec Baldwin – The Hunt for Red October



WINNER – Patricia Neal – In Harms Way

  • Gracey Kelly – The Bridges at Toko-Ri
  • Debra Winger – An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Demi Moore – A Few Good Men
  • Donna Reed – They Were Expendable


Christian Bale and Werner Herzog Rescue Dawn Movie Image (3)

WINNER – Wernor Herzog – Rescue Dawn

  • John Mctiernan – The Hunt for Red October
  • Robert Wise – The Sand Pebbles
  • Dick Powell – The Enemy Below
  • Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty

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