Thursday, February 24, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: USMC Memorial Sculpture

---John Pentangelo, Curator/Registrar

1. The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal
 On February 23, 1945 Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped his famous photograph of five United States Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag on top of Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The iconic photograph came to represent the hard-fought victories of American servicemen in World War II and the warrior ethos of the United States Marine Corps as well. When world famous sculptor Felix de Weldon (1907-2003) began designing the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, he chose the Flag Raising at Iwo Jima as his subject for the massive bronze sculpture unveiled in 1954.

2. Felix de Weldon's Plaster Model of the USMC Memorial
The Naval War College enjoyed a decades long friendship with Felix de Weldon who lived and worked at Beacon Rock, Newport. Consequently, the artist donated many of his plaster sculptures to the museum, including the portrait busts of eleven College presidents. One of three cast models of the "Iwo Jima" statue in the museum collection was presented on November 12, 1973 and has resided in Spruance Hall since that time. As commander of the 5th Fleet, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (President of the Naval War College, 1946-48) directed the campaign that saw Iwo Jima captured.

The undated plaster sculpture, is 42" high and painted green. After suffering some damage throughout the years, the statue was restored by a conservator and returned to Spruance Hall in 2000.

3. Detail of the de Weldon Model

1.     Courtesy of the National Archives
2, 3. Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Friday, February 18, 2011

Latest Lecture Examines the Naval War College After WWII

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

Dr. Hal M. Friedman gave a presentation discussing his latest book Digesting History: The U.S. Naval War College, the Lessons of World War Two, and Future Naval Warfare, 1945-1947. The book brings into focus the presidency of Admiral Raymond Spruance, what he inherited and the changes he brought, during the critical years prior to the formulation of the U.S. policy of containment, a transition from a "hot" war to the new "cold" war.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into the Second World War, the command structure changed in the Pacific. Admiral William Pye had been the Battleship commander at the time of the attack and he was the temporary replacement to Admiral Husband E. Kimmel as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and served until the arrival of Admiral Nimitz on 31 December 1941. Over the next ten months, Pye served as the commander of Task Force One, made up of the remaining battleships of the fleet, patrolling between Hawaii and the California coast.

NWC Press Managing Editor Pel Boyer (l.) and Hal Friedman
In October 1942, he was relieved and came to Newport to be the President of the Naval War College and Commander, Naval Operating Base, Newport, Rhode Island. Pye and others realized that there was a need to re-vamp the curriculum used; but, there was a war going on and it was not deemed a high priority as the College trained officers for burgeoning staff needs.

Spruance’s arrival saw a shift in the curriculum and a re-focusing that was more in line with the Joint Chiefs of Staff war plans. Spruance did not see war in the Pacific changing and had expectations of keeping the fleet at sea and a need to refine afloat logistics training. The advent of new technologies, specifically nuclear and jet propulsion, and how such would affect planning were topics for research and bases for future war gaming.

Dr. Friedman originally envisioned this book as a finite study of Spruance’s time at the Naval War College. As such, it was published as the Naval War College Historical Monograph Series 17. Now, however, as this work has been completed, Friedman has made this work the foundation of a trilogy looking at post-World War II and the change in doctrine that transpired as we sought to fight a limited war of containment. The book is available for sale by the Government Printing Office’s online bookstore, at

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Bone Ship Model of HMS Confiance

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

Bone ship model of HMS Confiance

Ship models date back to ancient times and have often been seen as symbols of status and power. Artisans of these ships took great pains to make their models as accurate and detailed as possible and used the finest materials that they could acquire. This week’s artifact in spotlight is a beautiful and highly detailed model of the British frigate HMS Confiance made almost entirely of bone.  The model measures over two feet long and more than a foot in height. The extremely detailed bone model is made up of hundreds of pieces of bone that have been fastened together to form the hull, masts, and spars. Anyone who views the model will not argue that the intricate carving of equipment, armament, rigging, and spar deck details are a wonder to behold. A ship's boat, figurehead, helm, hatch combings, gun carriages, deadeyes, blocks, fife rails, and a capstan are just some examples of the model maker's skill.

Detail of the open spar deck on the HMS Confiance model

There have been nine vessels named Confiance in the British Royal Navy but it is believed that this model represents the 36-gun frigate that served as the British flagship at the Battle of Plattsburgh (also known as the Battle of  Lake Champlain) on September 11, 1814. She was constructed at the Île aux Noix shipyard in Quebec and commanded by Captain George Downie. During the War of 1812, the frigate was quickly launched to aid the land-based British forces that were marching towards Plattsburgh, NY. The attack on American defenses at the lakeside town was undertaken to regain naval superiority of Lake Champlain. On the morning of September 11th as the final assault began, the British fleet sailed into Cumberland Bay, Lake Champlain and spotted the American fleet lead by Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough on his flagship USS Saratoga. Though Confiance had the advantage of long range guns that might have allowed her to fire at her adversary at a safe distance, Downie had been ordered to stay close to British land forces and thus moved the flagship in closer to the American fleet.

Macdonough’s fleet was ready to meet Downie and sailed into line, making it impossible for the British to advance without sailing right into a broadside. The ships began firing upon one another and within the first fifteen minutes of the engagement, a shot from Saratoga struck one of Confiance's guns. The impact threw the gun off its carriage and killed Captain Downie.  After two and a half hours, Confiance stuck her colors in surrender. The naval battle resulted in an American victory when the British troops on land retreated. After the battle, Confiance was towed  to Whitehall, NY where she was eventually purchased by the United States Navy but never put into service.

The model was donated to the museum in 1986 by Captain and Mrs. Jacob V. Heimark.

Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: USS Maine Fixture and Memorial Tablet

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

USS Maine entering Havana Harbor on 25 January 1898

On February 15, 1898 the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor killing over 250 crewmen. The event sparked the Spanish-American War.  Two artifacts from the famous warship are the subject of this week's spotlight. The first is a metal fixture recovered from the remains of the ship. It served as a valve or gauge and contains two glass tubes and a nozzle. The fixture was donated to the museum by Charles Slocum of Newport, RI in 1987. The second artifact is a commemorative plaque from 1913 cast from metal recovered from Maine. It depicts the Greek goddess Athena with a shield in her left hand and the right outstretched over the sinking battleship. Athena's shield bears the words Patriotism and Devotion surrounding an eagle, American shield, and laurel. It was donated to the museum in 1993 by Charles Wooley of Rochester, VT.

3. Unknown Fixture Recovered from Maine
The USS Maine was launched November 18, 1889 from New York Navy Yard. She was the first of four ships in the US Navy to hold that name. Maine was designated a second-class battleship. After a few years serving in the North Atlantic including a number of stops at Newport, Maine was sent to Havana to protect American citizens in the event of violence between the Spanish and the revolutionary forces of Cuba. The USS Maine arrived in Havana Harbor January 25, 1898 and spent over three weeks anchored there without incident. On February 15th the explosion destroyed the entire forward section of the ship. This area contained coal storage, the forward magazine, and the enlisted men’s bunks. Survivors were quickly taken aboard the steamer City of Washington and the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. Though the survivors were treated with respect by the Spanish, public opinion quickly turned hostile in the United States when an inquiry concluded a mine or external explosive charge had caused the disaster. Newspaper reports of the incident enraged the American public. President McKinley issued an order to blockade Cuba on the 21st of April which was quickly followed by a declaration of war by the Spanish on the 23rd. The United States responded by also declaring war on April 25th with a clause that backdated the declaration to the 21st, thus beginning the Spanish-American War.

On August 5, 1910 Congress authorized the raising of the USS Maine. A second board of inquiry also concluded that an external explosion near the forward magazine caused the disaster. The USS Maine’s hulk was finally floated on February 2, 1912 and it was towed out to sea. On March 16th she was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico with a ceremony and full military honors. Today, despite several investigations throughout the last century, there is still debate as to whether an external explosion or some kind of internal accident caused the horrible event.

4. The Wreck of USS Maine, c. 1898

 For more information on this topic visit the Naval History and Heritage Command Website.

2,3. Images courtesy of the Naval War College Museum
1,4. Images courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command

“Bull” Halsey Revisited During Recent 8 Bells Lecture

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

L to R: John Kennedy, John Wukovits, and Richard Amaral
Mention the name of Admiral Bull Halsey and you will surely be able to evoke an opinion of the man and his accomplishments during World War II. As pointed out by John Wukovits, the Eight Bells lecturer on 28 January, Halsey does not fare well with many historian or people who view history through contemporary, political correctness. Yet, “Bull” Halsey was definitely a man of his time.

Admiral “Bull” Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy’s Most Controversial Commander is the latest book by John Wukovits about World War II in the Pacific. In his presentation, Mr. Wukovits went to great links to emphasize that Halsey’s performance during the war was really a story in two parts. The first part was from 1941 to early-1944. This part was highly successful. The second part was in 1944 until the end of the war. This phase met with mixed success and is often the time cited by his many critics.

Halsey had several facets that made him the right man for the job. He was aggressive and optimistic and, after putting his team together, was able to delegate responsibilities to its members. Additionally he understood the value of the American press and public relations. He even had a staff member assigned to maximize that exposure. Yet, above all characteristics attributed to Halsey by those who served with him was the simple fact that he took care of his people.

Wukovits speaks with NWC Archivist Dr. Evelyn Cherpak
More a reactive commander than a reflective leader, his rashness led to errors in judgment as he single-mindedly pursued the enemy. He was in the war from the beginning to the end and the people back home loved him. Even when he ran his forces through a hurricane and later when he divided his forces to pursue a Japanese force, both incidences leading to the loss of many ships and great loss of life, his star barely dimmed with the public.

The museum is pleased to announce more lectures in February and March. Please see the list below and check the facebook page for more information.

February 10 – Digesting History by Hal M. Friedman

March 3 – Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned it in Afghanistan and Iraq by Dwight Zimmerman and John Gresham.

March 10 – Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea: Expeditionary Operations in World Politics by CDR James Kraska.

 March 29 – The Great Wall at Sea: China’s Navy in the Twenty-first Century by Bernard "Bud" Cole.

The format of the Eight Bells Lecture Series has the author speaking about 40-45 minutes on the topic of his book and the facts leading to its publication. The last 15-20 minutes are given over for audience members to ask questions on the topic. For those who are able to remain after the allotted hour can stay and discuss the book further and have the book signed. Copies of the books are on sale in the Naval War College Foundation Gift Shop. As always, this event is a brown-bag affair which is free and open to the public. For those without Department of Defense ID cards, please call the Museum at least one work day in advance at 841-2101 to make reservations for any of these events or to visit the Museum.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Artifact Spotlight: Painting of The Frigate Constellation vs L'Insurgente, 1928

---Joshua Howard, Curatorial Volunteer

On February 9, 1799 in the waters off Nevis, USS Constellation engaged and defeated the French frigate L’Insurgente. The capture of L’Insurgente was the first ship-to-ship victory in United States naval history. This week’s artifact spotlight is an oil on canvas painting of the engagement painted by maritime artist Charles Robert Patterson. This painting is part of a set of four scenes of important  naval engagements commissioned by Edward Berwind in 1928, The others include the battles between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis, USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, and the frigate United States and HMS Macedonian. The set was generously donated to the Naval War College Museum in 1963 by Charles E. Dunlap.

Constellation vs L'Insurgente by Charles Patterson
Constellation, one of the first six frigates built for the United States Navy, was launched on September 7, 1797 in Baltimore, Maryland. In December 1798, the 36-gun frigate under the command of Thomas Truxtun, set sail for the Caribbean with the mission to patrol and protect United States shipping from foreign threat during the nation's Quasi-War with France. On the morning of February  9, 1799, Constellation sighted  the French frigate, L’Insurgente during a severe storm and gave chase.  The battle that ensued lasted over an hour before the French vessel struck her colors and surrendered. As depicted in the painting, Constellation sustained major damage to her rigging and sails. L’Insurgente had focused its guns in this area as it was standard French procedure to disable a vessel in this manner. Constellation had more success aiming for the hull of her adversary. This tactic was designed to dismount enemy guns and cause the maximum damage to crew.  Constellation's crew suffered two deaths and a handful of injuries while L’Insurgente suffered 29 dead and approximately 70 wounded. The prize was brought to St. Kitts where she later became part of the United States Navy as the USS Insurgent.

Charles Robert Patterson was an English painter born on July 18, 1878 in England. He was a son of a shipbuilder and always held a deep fascination with the sea. In 1892, he went to sea as a cabin boy and spent approximately 14 years at sea on various vessels. Between voyages, Patterson spent time studying art and moving around the United States. In 1920, he became a United States citizen and travelled aboard a number US Navy vessels witnessing battle maneuvers. His works were part of a revival of the Age of Sail in art. During his life, he created hundreds of works related to maritime and naval themes. Patterson died in 1958 and his cremated remains were scattered from the deck of a US naval vessel.

Constellation was involved in a number of other engagements throughout her illustrious career. In 1845, she was ordered to the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth Virginia. In 1853, she was broken up and a new sloop-of-war bearing her name was launched the following year.

Image courtesy of the Naval War College Museum