Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Who was Captain Howard Kay?
The question has come up as to why we have a Kay Hall Gym, Bldg. 1801.  It has been suggested that since you cannot easily find anything about him on Google, he must not be relevant today and we should re-name the building.  That can set a dangerous precedent.  Read on to learn how Captain Kay’s command in Newport marked a major turning point in local naval history.  His change of command following his tour as the first commander of Naval Education and Training Center (NETC) drew 2,500 attendees.  For his “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his time at Naval Officer Training Center (NOTC) and then Naval Education and Training Center (NETC) between 29 March 1974 and 22 June 1978, he was presented with the Legion of Merit (a gold star in lieu of a second award).
Naval Officer Training Center (NOTC) on Coddington Point was one of the major commands on  the Naval Station.  Started in 1951 to provide additional officers for service during the Korean War, by 1973, it had graduated over 71,000 new ensigns.  1973 was an important year for the history of the Navy in Newport as there was fear that it could all go away with the Shore Establishment Realignment taking place in the Navy.  In the end, all ships and approximately 35,000 naval personnel would disappear from Newport.  For the local area, that was translated into a payroll loss of about $77 million annually.  The major activities that remained were Naval Underwater Systems Center (NUSC), the Naval War College (NWC), and NOTC. 
            Economies had to be made and were made base-wide.  For NOTC that meant the merging of the all-male Officer Candidate School with the Woman Officers School (WOS) and the Nurse Indoctrination Program (NIP) becoming a part of the Officer Indoctrination School (OIS), also a part of the Training Center.  The effective date of this integration was June 23, 1973, and the first graduation was held on June 29.  The first joint male-female class, however, had a graduation date of November 2, 1973.  Captain Fran McKee, Commanding Officer of the Naval Security Group Activity at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, was the principal speaker at the graduation ceremonies, the first time a woman had been so honored.   
Additional economies saw the Public Works Center, Naval Station, Naval Supply Center, and the Fleet Training Center were all subsumed under the leadership of the Commander, NOTC.  Smaller commands, such as the personnel from the Naval Base staff, Navy Law Center, and the Consolidated Civilian Personnel Officer, all shifted to NOTC.
            Into this turmoil taking place in 1973 was the arrival of Captain Howard N. Kay.  He relieved Captain Robert L. Scott as Commander, Naval Officer Training Center on July 27. 
            Captain Kay was a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a 1948 graduate of the U.S. naval Academy.  His first three duty stations after commissioning were as Public Information Officer at Naval Ordinance Laboratory, White Oak, Maryland; Amphibious Training Command, Atlantic; and Naval Forces, Far East.  In his first sea tour, he was Operations Officer on USS George K. MacKenzie (DD 836).  Next he had command of USS PC 1254 and, following that tour, became Commander, Mine Division 111. 
            After a tour at Service School Command, Grate Lakes, he served as Officer in charge of the Mobile Training Unit in Massawa, Ethiopia.  His next command was USS Esteem (MSO 438).  Following a tour in command of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in his home state, he had two consecutive sea tours, first as Executive Officer, USS Johnson (DD 821) and then as Commanding Officer, USS Wilhoite (DER 397).  In 1965, he became Head, Civil, Military Affairs Section, Southeast Asia, on the staff of Commander in Chief, Pacific.  This was followed by another command tour on USS Carpenter  (DD 825).  Prior to his arrival in Newport, he  Chief, South Asia-MAP Branch in the Plans and Policy Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
            On March 29, in Building 1801, presently known as Kay Hall, a special “consolidation” ceremony was held.  RADM Richard E. Rumble, Navy Base commander and commandant of the First Naval District in Boston, read the official order disestablishing the Naval Base as a command.  This was followed by Captain John F. Drake, Naval Station commanding officer reading his order to disestablish his command.  Next was Captain Kay who read his order to disestablish NOTC.  Captain Kay then read his orders to establish the new command, Naval Education and Training Center (NETC) with him as the first commander of NETC.  Principal speaker at the ceremony was RADM Dean L. Axene, deputy chief of Naval Education and Training, NETC’s senior command. 
            With this consolidation, NETC had the dual mission of firstly providing a source for training US. Navy enlisted, officers, and U.S. and foreign officer candidates, and secondly providing appropriate logistical support for over twenty tenant and supported activities.  This aspect of the mission continued to grow in 1974 with the arrival of Surface Warfare Officers (SWOS) and the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS). 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Artifact: Model of L'Hermione

Hermione entering Newport harbor on July 8, 2015

Last summer, Newport was fortunate to host a visit from Hermione, a replica of the French frigate that carried the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States during the American Revolution. She arrived on July 8 and was here to celebrate the 235th anniversary of the arrival of French troops under Rochambeau. The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America presented this beautiful model to the Naval War College Museum, and we are delighted to add it to our permanent collection. The model is thirty-five inches long and is the only one in our collection that is shown under sail.

Model of Hermione presented by
the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America
Shipwright Henri Chevillard oversaw construction of the original Hermione in Rochefort from 1778 to 1779. The Marquis de Lafayette traveled to Boston aboard Hermione in 1780 to deliver the good news that French reinforcements were on their way and to serve under General Washington. Hermione hosted more famous visitors in May 1781 when Washington and Lafayette invited the Continental Congress to dine with them on board her. She was first and foremost a warship, however, and participated in several battles including an attack on a convoy near Louisbourg. Hermione returned to France after the surrender at Yorktown, but she wasn’t through fighting the British. The frigate saw action again during the early years of the French Revolution. She was lost on September 20, 1793, after running aground off Le Croisic near St. Nazaire.

Construction of the replica began in 1997 and utilized traditional building methods and materials whenever possible. Hermione left Port de Barques on April 18 and arrived at Yorktown, Virginia on June 5. She then sailed up the east coast visiting eleven other ports in the United States and Canada. Her stay in Newport from July 8-9 was timed to coincide with the 235th anniversary of the arrival of Rochambeau’s troops during the war.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Incidental Superpower

        Two of the three authors of U.S. Foreign Policy and Defense Strategy: The Evolution of an Incidental Superpower spoke at the Eight Bells Lecture held on October 29 in the Brett Hall Lounge.  One of the presenters was Derek Reveron, Professor of National Security Affairs and the EMC Informationist Chair at the U.S. Naval War College.  The other was Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College.
         The rise of U.S. dominance on the world stage since World War II found its basis in the decisions made conducting foreign policy, a defense strategy, and commercial activities with partners around the world.  Following the war, the US promoted de-colonization and was generous to allies and the vanquished alike.  Unlike in previous wars when victors extracted compensation from the defeated in the form of resources or territory, the United States sought to rebuild infrastructures and supply foodstuffs.  Economically, this was good business and there was a direct benefit to the businessmen and farmers in the U.S.   
          The U.S. economy, unlike those of Europe and Asia, was in high gear after the war and largely unscathed.  As a result, the post-war systems that were put in place were heavily influenced by the U.S. and, as described in the lecture, (the systems) spoke with an American accent.  To this day, the U.S. dollar is the global reserve currency. 
          But, are the systems and alliances put in place over sixty-five years ago becoming sclerotic?  Most definitely, some are becoming bloated and are no longer as responsive as when first implemented.  Additionally, the reasons for having some of the systems no longer exist and Americans are beginning to question their value, especially when the beneficiaries of the efforts by the United States are military and economic competitors.  Some commentators cite the changing nature of war and conflict as a reason for a re-evaluation of present policies, strategies, and military philosophy.  Others foresee a neo-isolationism evolving.
            This book and others are for sale in the Naval War College Foundation Store located in Brett Hall, first floor.

John W. Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach

Let the Tours Begin

          The long anticipated opening of the Naval War College Museum is set for January 4, 2016.  Closed for the last six months for renovations and a major update to the environmental management system, there will also be a new look  Built in 1820, Founders Hall was never intended to house museum artifacts and art.  Humidity during the summer months resulted in moisture and mold.  Trying to correct one problem often led to another challenge to health and safety.  Leaks, asbestos, and obsolete equipment had to be fixed or removed.  But now, the journey is almost over as the contractors have met each challenge and kept to their timeline. 
            During the time the museum was closed, the staff has been busy preparing for the re-opening.  Previous exhibits have been updated to better tell the story of the Navy in Narragansett Bay.  This has entailed putting up new panels and arranging artifacts to offer a better understanding of the developmental timeline involved. 
            The temporary gallery will open with DEEP FREEZE! The Seabees in Antarctica, 1955-1956.  Beginning in 1955, Operation Deep Freeze was the codename of a series of missions to Antarctica.  The exhibit will feature twenty-eight works of art by two Navy artists as well as uniforms and other artifacts and memorabilia on loan from other naval museums. There is a strong connection between Narragansett Bay and Operation Deep Freeze as, following the return of the first mission, VX-6 was relocated to Naval Air Station Quonset Point and co-located with Naval Construction Battalion 200 which had the responsibility for the construction of any facilities required in Antarctica.
            The most exciting piece that we will have on display once we open will be the “Life Mask” of Admiral Lord Nelson.  Cast from Nelson’s face in 1798, it is one of only four known to exist.  The year 1798 is significant for Nelson as he fights the Battle of the Nile where he suffers a near-fatal head wound.  While recovering from his wound, he is entertained in Naples by Sir William and Lady Hamilton.  Additionally, in that year, he is created Baron of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe.  The “Life Mask” was made during this time as a way for a painter to have a “snapshot” of the features of his subject. 
            So, all in all, we have a lot to show you when you visit the Naval War College Museum in January.  For more information or to schedule group tours, please contact the museum at 841-4052/2101.

John W. Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach

Thursday, November 19, 2015

New Arrival: The Face of Nelson

Earlier this year, we were thrilled to be chosen as one of the venues to display the 1798 Nelson life mask, an artifact on loan from the National Museum of the Royal Navy. It is currently on a multi-year tour of the United States, and after months of anticipation, the mask recently arrived in Newport.

One of only four known to exist, the life mask of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson is believed to have been made in late 1798 when he was in Naples following his victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile. Sculptors of that era often made plaster masks of their subjects as a way to study their facial features. The creator of this mask is believed to be the Honorable Anne Seymour Damer (1749-1828). She and Nelson lived in the same building in Naples while the admiral recuperated from wounds suffered in battle. In 1827, she produced a celebrated bronze bust of the admiral. It is likely that this mask was a study piece for that bust.

We do not know exactly when the Damer mask first came to the United States. The writing on the back reads, “‘MASK OF ADMARAL [sic] LORD NELSON taken from life, at NAPLES 1798 shortly before he was killed in the battle of Trafalgar. Presented to Mr W.A. Coukiler by Haden Patrick Smith January 23 1867”.

Nelson enjoyed a thirty-four year career in the Royal Navy and fought in dozens of battles along the way. He is most well-known for his victories at the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar. His defeat of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar ensured that Great Britain’s enemies would never again mount a serious challenge for control of the seas during the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson’s greatest victory also cost him his life, as he succumbed after being shot by a French musketeer at the height of the battle. His performance of his duties earned high praise from Alfred Thayer Mahan who called him “the embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain.”

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Artifact Spotlight: USS Lexington (CV 16) photo album

Captain Thomas H. Robbins must have felt a deep sense of gratification when he stepped down as commanding officer of USS Lexington (CV 16). Having assumed command in January 1945, he directed the ship’s operations during the last months of the war with Japan and witnessed the surrender in Tokyo Bay. When he was recalled to the United States in November following his promotion to rear admiral, his crew presented him with a personalized photo album as a going away gift. Luckily for us, this album recently found its way to the Naval War College Museum as part of a donation made by the daughter of Rear Admiral Robbins. It contains a wealth of photographs that document Lexington’s activities during the final battles of the war in the Pacific as well as peace time operations in Japan immediately following the surrender. Few, if any, of these photos have been published, and we are thrilled to have it as one of the newest additions to our collection.
The Japanese battleship Ise appears in the upper left corner of this photo. After the loss of four carriers at Midway in 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy converted Ise to a hybrid battleship-aircraft carrier to make up for the losses. Lexington teamed up with other carriers from Task Force 58 to sink her on July 28, 1945.
Refueling at sea is a difficult procedure even under the best of conditions. The risk of an accident grows even greater when it has to be done in stormy weather. Here, USS Ault (DD 698) conducts underway replenishment with Lexington.
Lexington’s pilots took this dramatic photograph showing one of their first overflights of Japanese prisoner of war camps in late August 1945. They immediately began round-the-clock flights to drop food, medicine, clothing, and even a letter from Robbins informing them that the war was over.
Lexington’s scoreboard at the end of the war shows the incredible amount of damage she did to Japan’s air and naval forces.

This donation is especially valuable given Rear Admiral Robbins’ close connection with the Naval War College. He graduated as a student in 1937 and returned in 1953 to serve as chief of staff. Robbins went on to become acting President before receiving his own appointment to the Presidency in 1956.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alfred Thayer Mahan and the Battle of Valcour Island

If there is such a thing as a “good”defeat, the Battle of Valcour Island may be an example. The summer of 1776 found American forces in the Lake Champlain Valley in full retreat. Following an unsuccessful invasion of Canada the year before, two expeditions led by Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgonery returned to the colonies devastated by casualties, disease, and lack of supplies. Not far behind them were fresh British reinforcements recently landed at Quebec. The lake being the natural invasion route for an army moving south from Canada, Arnold recognized that in order to prevent an immediate disaster, he had to quickly build a fleet that was strong enough to slow the British advance, if not stop it outright. He established a ship yard at Skenesborough (present-day Whitehall, NY) and started building a fleet from scratch as fast as his labor and supplies would allow.

The British commander, General Sir Guy Carleton, hoped to capture Fort Ticonderoga at the southern end of the lake before winter arrived and use it as a base from which to push further south, eventually cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies. Before he could advance, though, Carleton had to clear Lake Champlain of enemy resistance so that supplies for his army could flow freely from Canada. Like their American counterparts, the British spent much of the summer building a fleet, a task made all the more difficult by the remote location of their base at Saint-Jean. It was not until October 9 that the collection of gunboats, schooners, and large ships set sail in search of the Americans. Two days later, they found the rebel fleet anchored in a defensive position between the western shore and Valcour Island. When it was over, eleven of the fifteen vessels under Arnold’s command had been destroyed or captured versus only a handful of gunboats lost for the British.

Map of Lake Champlain showing the Battle of Valcour Island
William Faden, 1776

The remnants of the American army fled to Fort Ticonderoga while the British advanced as far as Crown Point, just fifteen miles away. But even as they did so, snow was already visible on the Adirondack mountain tops. Carleton decided that it was too late in the year to continue his offensive, so he returned to Canada and entered winter quarters. The army set out once again the following spring under the command of Lieutenant General John Burgoyne and made it as far as Saratoga before suffering defeat , again largely due to the actions of Benedict Arnold. Burgoyne’s surrender convinced King Louis XVI of France to openly support the Americans, an alliance which eventually resulted in another British capitulation four years later at Yorktown.

Continental Navy gunboat Philadelphia, sunk on October 11, 1776
Model by Frank Niziolek
Gift to the Naval War College Foundation

Historians of the American Revolution credit Arnold’s fleet with saving the Revolution through its sacrifice. In doing so, many use quotes from Alfred Thayer Mahan’s Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence. Published in 1913, this book was a revised version of a chapter that Mahan wrote in 1898 for William Laird Clowe’s multivolume history of the Royal Navy. Mahan’s description of Valcour Island as a “strife of pigmies for the prize of a continent”[1] is a favorite of contemporary writers, as is his argument that no other fleet in history “lived to better purpose or died more gloriously, for [the American fleet] had saved the Lake for that year.”[2]

Alfred Thayer Mahan, c.1904
Library of Congress

While Mahan certainly believed that Arnold’s ships prevented the early collapse of the Revolution, his ideas went even further than that. In the introduction to Major Operations, he observed that wars have a fearful tendency to spread beyond their original boundaries. After starting with the series of crises then unfolding in the Balkans, Mahan took up the American Revolution as an earlier example of a war that began as a limited conflict but ultimately involved multiple European powers fighting in many parts of the world. The purpose of Major Operations was to highlight the global nature of the conflict and impress upon American readers “the vast extent of the struggle to which our own Declaration of Independence was but the prelude.”[3] It is instructive to take one of the aforementioned quotes and present it in a fuller context:

The little American navy on Champlain was wiped out; but never had any force, big or small, lived to better purpose or died more gloriously, for it had saved the Lake for that year. Whatever deductions may be made for blunders, and for circumstances of every character which made the British campaign of 1777 abortive and disastrous, thus leading directly to the American alliance with France in 1778 [italics added for emphasis], the delay, with all that it involved, was obtained by the Lake campaign of 1776.[4]

Mahan’s main point about the Battle of Valcour Island was not merely that it contributed to the surrender of Burgoyne’s army, but rather that a naval battle brought about the conditions that resulted in the French alliance. Writing in the years just before World War I, Mahan argued for maintaining a strong navy in order to keep foreign conflicts from spreading to U.S. shores. But as he observed, navies could embroil nations in war just as easily as they could prevent them. His thoughts on the Revolution are best summed up in one sentence from the chapter on Lake Champlain:

That the war spread from America to Europe, from the English Channel to the Baltic, from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, from the West Indies to the Mississippi, and ultimately involved the waters of the remote peninsula of Hindustan, is traceable, through Saratoga, to the rude flotilla which in 1776 anticipated its enemy in the possession of Lake Champlain.[5]

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

[1] Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1913), 18
[2] Ibid., 25
[3] Ibid., 3-4
[4] Ibid., 25
[5] Ibid., 7

Friday, October 2, 2015

ISIS as a Proto-state
It is difficult for the majority of people in the United States to understand how ISIS could appeal to such a wide audience, drawing adherents from the West, from multiple countries in the Middle East, and Africa.  Yesterday, October 1, at the Eight Bells Lecture held in Brett Hall and sponsored by the Naval War College Museum, Mr. Haider Mullick provided an overview of the topic and gave perspective to the mayhem and brutality of the entity known as ISIS.
Mr. Mullick is presently a PhD candidate at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.  In addition, he is a senior lecturer at the Naval Post Graduate School and adjunct professor at the Naval War College where he teaches a course on ISIS/Modern terrorism.  As president of Red Teaming Associates, he has worked with various think-tanks and also advised the Department of Defense on US-Middle East relations as a senior advisor.
Organizing his lecture around four key points, Mullick described: firstly  the broad appeal of ISIS, as well as the weaknesses; secondly,  understanding the many moving parts in the Middle East; thirdly, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his rise and ultimate death in 2006, and his legacy; and finally, how U.S. involvement has contributed to the present state of affairs in the region. 

The genesis of ISIS began with Zarqawi.  To follow his life is to see the blossoming of a radical philosophy that has continued to grow even after his death.  He learned to fight with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  Then, gaining funding, he exported his terror to his home country Jordan.  His big opportunity to expand his influence came with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the exploitation of Arab-Kurdish and Sunni-Shiite tensions.  The organizational structure, the infrastructure built upon captured wealth and territory, the use of social media promoting the ISIS agenda and recruiting, and establishment of municipal administrations providing basic services and food to the local population are all remnants of his vision for establishing a modern caliphate.

ISIS is an example of “crowd-sourcing” terrorism; but, above all, it is a military campaign that values action and victory over discussion.  To defeat ISIS will require a coalition of seemingly unlikely partners and, although all wars end, the disenfranchised will continue to struggle and be a fertile field for continued strife.

The next Eight Bells Lecture will be held on October 22 with “The role of Los Alamos in the Atomic Age it Introduced to History” by Dr. Ron Barks.  For more information, call 841-4052/2101.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cushing Road’s Namesake

Is it not a sad state of affairs that the man described by Theodore Roosevelt as “next to Farragut on the hero roll of American naval history” is unknown to most naval personnel, let alone the wider public. We celebrate Farragut with his paraphrased quote “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” but who was Lieutenant William Cushing and what did he do to deserve Roosevelt’s admiration? Why is the road in front of the Naval War College named Cushing?

At this year’s inaugural Eight Bells Lecture held on September 10, Mr. Jamie Malanowski presented his book Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War. The book has a depth that humanizes its main character. Cushing is described as youngster fond of practical jokes, unused to discipline, both academic and deportment. His large, extended family is described and there is an emphasis on his brothers, detailing the martial tradition and their service to the Union during the war. One brother, Alonzo, was a graduate of the Military Academy and would ultimately be awarded the Medal of Honor for his conduct during the Battle of Gettysburg where he lost his life in the defense of Cemetery Ridge. Another brother, Howard, would survive the Civil War only to be killed fighting the Apache chief Cochise in Arizona.

Will Cushing, for his part, was forced to resign from the U.S. Naval Academy. With the on-coming Civil War, however, he was able to get his commission. What followed was a meteoric rise in fame and rank. He became the youngest person to attain lieutenant, lieutenant commander, and commander. His exploits were legendary. He was one of the thirty army and navy officers to receive the “Thanks of Congress” for his exploits. Ultimately, he would be awarded $56,000 in prize money.

The lecture was held in the lounge on the first floor of Brett Hall, where all lectures will be held until the completion of the Naval War College Museum’s repairs. Once the museum re-opens, visitors will be able to see a model of the CSS Albemarle, the Confederate ironclad that Cushing sank using a spar torpedo. The unsung story of William Cushing is one that should be re-counted and passed along as a part of the Navy’s heritage. This book goes a long way to bringing the story back to the public’s consciousness.

Next, on September 22, the Eight Bells Lecture Series will have Naval Documents of the American Revolution Volume 12, American Theater: April 1, 1778-May 31, 1778; European Theater: April 1, 1778-May 31, 1778 presented by Dr. Dennis Conrad, one of the editors. For more information, contact the Naval War College Museum at 841-2101/4052.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Souvenirs from USS Niagara

Wooden fragment from USS Niagara
Gift of Mr. Robert J. Powel

Gavel made from USS Niagara wood
Gift to the Naval War College Foundation by Mrs. Verna Vtipil

If you took a vacation this summer, chances are you couldn’t resist at least a quick look in one of the gift shops you passed along the way. How many of us have boxes full of souvenirs from parks, museums, and historic sites? For many, the trip just isn’t complete until we find something to take home that will serve as a reminder of the famous places we’ve visited.

Before the modern historic preservation movement, attitudes about taking souvenirs from historic locations were much more relaxed than they are today. In the 1800s, visitors to Mt. Vernon were known to chip off a piece of wood to take home with them. Today, most historic sites have outlawed relic-hunting without a permit, but at the time it was considered perfectly acceptable for casual tourists.

This penchant for souvenir-taking also extended to the realm of naval history. Pictured above are a wood fragment and a gavel made of wood from USS Niagara, the ship to which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry transferred his flag during the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. Niagara won fame for her role in the battle and became a receiving ship for the naval station at Presque Isle, Pennsylvania, after the war. When the station closed in 1820, nobody came forward with a plan to save the historic ship, and it was allowed to sink at its anchorage in Misery Bay. The centennial celebration of the battle brought about renewed interest in Perry’s ship, and it was finally decided to raise and restore Niagara in 1913. While her keel was sturdy enough to be rebuilt, the remaining parts could not be reused. They could, however, be turned into commemorative items and sold to a public that was eager to own an actual piece of the famous ship.

Stern view of USS Niagara after being raised from Misery Bay in 1913
"Perry's Victory Centennial Souvenir: The Niagara Keepsake," p. 18
Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

Niagara was not the only warship to be partially cannibalized for souvenirs. Other famous vessels such as USS Constitution, USS Constellation, and USS Hartford had portions of their original structures taken for the souvenir market. Each time one of them underwent a restoration, collectors received a new supply of wood to be fashioned into canes, jewelry boxes, paperweights, and other decorative objects. In an era when museums were few in number, these mementos gave ordinary people a way to form a personal connection with their nation’s past.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"The Mosquito Fleet" in World War II

PT 511 crew
Although PT boats are usually associated with the Pacific Theater of Operations during WWII, they served all over the world including in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean Oceans. Today is the anniversary of a last ditch effort by the German Navy to reinforce their garrison in Le Havre during WWII, a port overlooking the D-Day beaches that had been cut off by the Allied advance after June 6. On the night of August 26, a small group of landing craft and R-boats approached Le Havre with ammunition and supplies. HMS Retalick, a Royal Navy frigate, detected the convoy and guided three PT boats into the area to launch an attack. PT 511, PT 514, and PT 520 approached and fired six torpedoes without being discovered. They sank two artillery ferries, AF-98 and AF 108, before the German escorts found them and returned fire. The PTs withdrew through heavy fire without sustaining any casualties.

Most of the men on those PT boats probably received their training just up the road from the Naval War College in Melville, RI. The Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons Training Center (MTBSTC) was established in February 1942 to train officers and enlisted personnel in all aspects of PT boat operations. The men lived in Quonset huts and trained aboard ten boats assigned to MTB Squadron Four. By March 1945, 1,800 officers and more than 11,000 enlisted men had graduated from the training program.

Gift of Gift of Mr. W. Ogden Ross and Mr. Leighton C. Wood
Gift to the Naval War College Foundation by Mr. Anthony S. Marchetti
The Navy nicknamed its PT Boats “The Mosquito Fleet,” and hence many of the MTB Squadron unit insignia featured mosquitos in their design. Much like WWII bomber nose art, these insignia helped to build unit pride while also providing a way for squadron members to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Navy in a world where uniformity was the norm. The insignia for Squadrons 21 and 43 demonstrate the creativity that artists brought to this task. Squadron 21 saw service in the South Pacific during the war, while Squadron 43 was decommissioned and its boats transferred to the Soviet Union as part of lend lease. The MTBSTC closed in 1945, although the Navy continued to operate a fuel depot in Melville until 1973.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

On This Day in History: Beginning of the New Steel Navy

Seventeen years after the Civil War ended, the U.S. Navy still looked very much like the fleet that had been built to blockade the Southern ports and chase down Confederate commerce raiders. The Navy in 1882 consisted of fourteen ironclads (mostly Civil War-era monitors) and a few wooden sailing vessels. The most powerfully armed among them mounted nothing larger than a five-inch smoothbore gun. One popular journalist of the era commented that the country had no more need for its weak navy “than a peaceable giant would have for a stuffed club or a tin sword.”

This lack of modernization was partly a byproduct of an ongoing debate about what the postbellum Navy’s role should be and what types of ships, if any, should be built. Many Americans who had lived through the Civil War wanted nothing more to do with military conflict, and some felt that strong coastal fortifications would be enough to protect America’s coasts without getting entangled in foreign affairs.

Beginning in 1881, Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt convened a naval advisory board to try to address the lamentable state of the Navy. The fifteen members of the board felt that the Navy should begin a new construction program, but they disagreed over whether the new ships should be sail or steam-driven, what kind of armament they should carry, and whether their hulls should be made of iron or steel.

Print by Frederick Cozzens depicting Atlanta, Chicago, Yorktown, and Boston
Gift of Mr. Edward A. Sherman III
Though they never reached full consensus, the board recommended that Congress set aside $29 million for the construction of sixty-eight new vessels. The House Naval Affairs Committee rejected this proposal as too costly. In any event, the assassination of President James Garfield put all plans on hold, and incoming President Chester A. Arthur replaced Hunt with his own pick for Secretary of the Navy, William E. Chandler. Chandler was also a proponent of modernization and successfully lobbied Congress to move forward with a drastically scaled back construction program.

Model of protected cruiser ChicagoScale: 1/8" = 1'
On loan from Curator of Ship Models, Naval Sea Systems Command
On August 5, 1882, Congress authorized the construction of two steel warships without appropriating any funds for them, insisting that the money come from somewhere else within the existing budget. This tepid response marked the beginning of an era that naval historians refer to as the New Navy. It would be one more year before another appropriations bill passed that set aside money for new construction, and this time for four ships: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Dolphin, known as the ABCD ships. Though construction was delayed by numerous setbacks, these first four ships of the new era announced to the rest of the world that the United States was intent on becoming a modern naval power.

Alfred Thayer Mahan, a two-time former President of the Naval War College and author of several important works on naval strategy, commanded Chicago from 1893-1895. During that period he sailed to Europe to make official visits as part of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. Mahan was widely respected among the European elite for his seminal work, The Influence of Seapower upon History, 1660-1783, and received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge while visiting the United Kingdom. His writing formed the basis for much of the early curriculum at the Naval War College where students set about trying to formulate the tactics and strategies that the ABCD ships and their successors would be called upon to implement.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Friday, July 31, 2015

Historical Paraphrasing – Battle of Mobile Bay


Commander T.A.M. Craven, commanding the monitor Tecumseh, was in the lead as four monitors formed a single column to the right of the wooden ships entering Mobile Bay.  The lead wooden ship was Brooklyn, Captain James Alden commanding.  This was the vanguard of Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s Western Gulf Squadron as they attempted to run into Mobile Bay, passing through the Confederate torpedo field blocking the way, on August 5, 1864.
At 0647, Tecumseh’s guns opened fire but the wooden ships had to endure the enemy’s fire for one-half hour before being able to bring their broadsides to bear with any effect.  Knowing the wooden ships would have to withstand the initial attack, Rear Admiral Farragut, ordered the ships to be formed into a double column and then lashed in pairs.  His flagship, USS Hartford, Fleet-Captain Percival Drayton commanding, was tied to Metacomet with Lieutenant Commander James E. Jouett commanding. 

Farragut took a position in the port main rigging, a few ratlins up, so he could view everything around him while still being able to converse with Drayton and Jouett.  As the battle progress and visibility was obscured due to smoke, Farragut would ascend the rigging as required.

It was 0730 when Commander Craven made his fatal error.  In his haste to engage the Confederate ship Tennessee, he chose to pass to the west of the buoy marking the eastern end of the torpedo line.  Tecumseh struck a mine and, within two minutes, sank with the loss of one hundred and thirteen men.  Brooklyn, seeing what had happened to Tecumseh, began to slow causing the following ships to converge and creating a state of confusion.
Realizing that his plan could turn into a disaster very quickly, Farragut asked what was the trouble.  The answer came back, “Torpedoes!”  To which Farragut uttered his famous response, “Damn the torpedoes!  Four bell! Captain Drayton, go ahead!  Jouett, full speed!”

This response, of course, has been shortened and paraphrased over time to “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” 
by John Kennedy, Director of Education
picture showing Farragut "Lashed to the Shrouds" from Library of Congress Collection


Monday, July 27, 2015

Artifact in the Spotlight: Beginnings of the Coast Guard

The Revenue Cutter Service was established by Congress on August 4, 1790.  Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and prevent smuggling. The service received its present name, U.S. Coast Guard, in 1915 under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life-Saving Service, thereby providing the nation with a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws. (Artifact in the Naval War College Museum collection)

by John Kennedy
Director of Education

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

From Hero to Penury

On July 18, 1779, Commodore Abraham Whipple’s squadron, consisting of Continental frigates Providence, Queen of France and sloop Ranger, captured the largest value of prize vessels during the American Revolution.  Having left from Boston one month prior, they sailed east toward the Newfoundland Banks where they met and captured 11 British vessels sailing from Jamaica, later valued in excess of one million dollars.
Abraham Whipple was born September 26, 1733, in Providence, Rhode Island, to Noah and Mary (Dexter) Whipple.  Taking to the sea at an early age, Whipple learned seamanship and navigation and quickly established himself as a captain plying the West Indies trade routes.  But it was during the French and Indian War (1754-1763) that his courage and daring gained him success as a privateer operating against French vessel.  During the period 1759-1760, he is credited with capturing thirty-three prizes, a number that attests to his skill and daring.
As a ship captain, his reputation continued to grow; however, it was in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War that Whipple stepped up and became one of the early leaders of the cause for freedom.  It was on the night of June 9, 1772 when the HMS Gaspee ran aground.  Whipple led a group of fifty men to capture the vessel and burn it to the waterline, shedding what was arguably the first blood shed in the revolutionary cause. 
Upon the creation of the Rhode Island Navy, Whipple became its first commodore.  In the sloop Katy, he immediately sought out the enemy.  His first effort was in Narragansett Bay when he engaged the tender Diana, capturing and sending her into Providence. 
Appointed to the rank of captain in the Continental Navy by the naval committee on December 22, 1775,  his commission as captain of the Providence was not signed by John Hancock until October 10, 1776. 
Shortly after his success off of the Newfoundland Banks, however, his luck ran out.  Sent to augment the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina, which was being besieged by the British, Commodore Whipple and his squadron were outmanned and outgunned and ultimately captured when the city fell. 
He, as the commander of naval forces, was placed on a parole of honor by British Vice Admiral Arbuthnot and, as he was not quickly exchanged, he saw little action during the remainder of the Revolutionary War.
Upon returning to his farm in Cranston, RI, Whipple is unable to pay debt that had accumulated during his absence as Congress refused to disburse back pay to the captain who had captured over a million dollars’ worth of trade.  When pay was finally forthcoming, he had to sell the securities at an eighty percent discount.  In 1788 he moved with his wife to the Northwest Territory, present day Ohio, where he is forced to apply to Congress for a pension.  He was awarded a pension of $30 dollars per month, considered half-pay for a captain at the time.
He died in Marietta, Ohio, May 19, 1819, at the age of eighty-six.
By John Kennedy, Director of Education

The WAVES Arrive

            It was on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act establishing the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).  Initially established as a subset of the Naval Reserves as the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), the acronym WAVES stuck.  The word “Emergency” had been inserted into the name to give an implicit understanding that women would not be allowed to continue following the war’s conclusion.  Despite the negative reception that was initially received by the women, from society at large  unprepared to accept women in a military role and by males in general, the women served well in any role given, even though their participation was severely restricted to opportunities in the continental United States. 
            It was not until the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act (Public Law 625) on June 12, 1948, that women achieved a permanent, regular status in the Navy.  Women were still excluded, however, from vessels that might see combat.

            During the World War II, the accession programs for women entering the Volunteer Reserve had been the V9 WAVE Officer Candidate Volunteer Program and the V10 WAVE Enlisted Rating Volunteer Program.  With the transition to regular status, the programs were renamed to W9 Women’s Officer Training and W10 Women’s Enlisted Training programs.
            Newport, Rhode Island, a town of many naval firsts (first Naval Training Station, first War College) soon added a new first by establishing the first indoctrination unit for women naval officers in the United States.  It was advertised as the “Annapolis for Women.”

The Women Officers Quarters (WOQ) was Building 113 and was located across from the garage on Perry Street, the site of the recently demolished Building 444.  They ate at the Commissioned Officers’ Mess (Closed) in Building 108, which is now the parking lot across from Brett Hall.  Their average mess bill was $42.00.  As outlined in the 1951 Officer Indoctrination Unit (W) Handbook, “Faultless grooming shall be observed at all time” and “Religion, politics, men and women are not discussed at the mess table.”
Captain Joy Bright Hancock was promoted to the rank of captain in July 1946 and appointed to lead the WAVES.  She was one of the first eight women to be commissioned in the regular Navy and then continued to lead in the position of Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Women until 1953.  In the OIU (W) Handbook, Captain Hancock listed four rules for a successful woman naval officer: (1) Know and obey the regulations; (2) Know your enlisted personnel and discharge unceasingly your responsibilities to them; (3) When assigned, give that assignment everything you possess, be the job routine or difficult; and (4) Bring only credit to your service by your personal appearance and your conduct.  She stated, “The easiest way to live up to this fourth rule is to remember always that you are a lady – for a lady in the truest sense of the word is a woman whose habits, manners, and sentiments are those characteristic of the highest degree of refinement.” 
Congratulations to the WAVES and their proud history, as well as those who have followed.
Posted by John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bennington - A Hard-luck History

            Located in the southwest corner of Vermont, Bennington was the site of a battle that took place in 1777 as a part of the larger Saratoga campaign that led to the surrender of General John Burgoyne.
            The Navy commissioned its Bennington on June 20, 1891.  It was Gunboat No. 4 and was part of a new class of steel-hulled gunboats.  On July 21, 1905, she experienced a boiler explosion and sank with the loss of one officer and 65 men being killed.  All of those who survived suffered some injury.  Although refloated, her condition precluded repairs and she was scrapped.
            The second Bennington commissioned was USS Bennington (CV-20).  Following sea trials in December 1944, she saw extensive action in the Pacific during the final phases of World War II.  After the war, Bennington was decommissioned and mothballed as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.  Four years later, she was modernized to be able to accept the new jet aircraft and placed in active service with the new designation of an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-20). 
            While on a training cruise in 1953, Bennington suffered an explosion in her number 1 fireroom.  While the fire claimed the lives of eleven men, the damage control team was able to minimize damage. 
            The following year, USS Bennington was conducting carrier qualifications for the embarked Air Group 181.  On the morning of May 26 as she began to launch aircraft, a series of explosion rocked the ship as the port side catapult accumulator burst and released vaporized lubricating oil which then detonated, enveloping the wardroom and crew’s mess.  While the crew fought the fire and tried to save their ship, they were able to launch all aircraft.  Ninety-one men were killed outright and twelve would die later from their injuries.  Over 203 were injured. 
Eighty-two casualties were brought to the Naval Hospital in Newport, many in serious and critical condition.  They had been brought by helicopter to the hospital pier and by ambulance the rest of the way.  Local civilian physicians and nurses augmented naval medical personnel from the base and the fleet.  Over 1600 blood donors were received on the first call.  Many of the lives that were saved were the result of helicopters evacuating the wounded to shore facilities for rapid treatment and  the long hours of dedicated care by medical personnel. 
            Bennington went through extensive repairs and, while in the yards, received an angled flight deck for improved air operations and an enclosed hurricane bow for protection in heavy weather.
            In 1995, the Bennington became the first aircraft carrier to be sold for scrap outside the United States.  There has not been another naval vessel named Bennington.
            On May 26, 2004, a bronze plaque was located at Fort Adams State Park to memorialize the event and the crewmembers who died.

John Kennedy
Director of Education 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day

On this Flag Day, we’d like to highlight a flag in our collection that was used for a very special purpose during World War II. American air crew members who flew missions over foreign countries often carried small pieces of fabric known as “blood chits”. They identified the service member as a friendly soldier or airman and were meant to be given to local civilians in the event of a bail out or forced landing. Blood chits carried messages asking locals to help the downed service member return to friendly lines and often promised a reward for doing so.

Blood chit carried by Lieutenant William L. Mullin, USNR
Gift to the Naval War College Foundation by Mrs. Marcia Mullin

This is an example of a blood chit carried by air crews who flew in the China-Burma-India theater. It belonged to Lieutenant William L. Mullin, USNR, who served as an Air Combat Intelligence Officer on the staff of Commander, Aircraft, Seventh Fleet, and performed temporary duty with Patrol Bombing Squadron 33. The translations are in Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Kachin, Libu, and Urdu. They read, “This foreign person (American) has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and provide him with medical care.” Each chit also had a serial number that could be used to identify the individual who carried it.

A Chinese soldier points to the blood chit on the back of this American pilot’s jacket

The first Americans to use blood chits were the Flying Tigers of the 1st American Volunteer Group which began operating in China soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initially they sewed the chits to the backs of their jackets and identified themselves as Allied airmen by displaying both the American and Nationalist Chinese flags. China was in the middle of a civil war at the same time it was fighting the Japanese, however, and some areas of the country were ruled by Communist forces. The Flying Tigers soon realized that the Nationalist flag would not be a welcome sight if they had to bail out over Communist territory, so they began sewing the flags to the insides of their jackets or carrying them in their pockets instead.

Blood chits were simple, effective tools for helping downed airmen reach friendly lines. They proved to be quite popular with American air crews, and the U.S. military eventually used them in all theaters of the war.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On This Day in History: Secretary of the Navy Orders Construction of Naval Torpedo Station

Illustration of Naval Torpedo Station, 1876

On this day in 1869, Secretary of the Navy Adolph E. Borie ordered the construction of the Naval Torpedo Station (NTS) on Goat Island in Newport. The NTS was the first U.S. Navy installation dedicated to manufacturing torpedoes, experimenting with new designs, and instructing personnel in their use. It provided the bulk of the Navy’s torpedoes through two world wars and operated continuously until closing in 1951, although its research and development activities continue today at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

During the Civil War, twenty-eight ships sank from contacting torpedoes. These weapons fell into two categories: stationary floating torpedoes (mines in today’s parlance) and spar torpedoes. The latter consisted of an explosive charge secured to the end of a long pole that jutted out over the bow of the vessel that carried it. The attacker had to ram the torpedo into the side of an enemy ship and then manually detonate the explosive with a trigger mechanism. While effective if properly delivered, they required the crew to expose themselves to enemy fire as well as the explosive force of the torpedo itself.

Fish torpedo (above) and Howell torpedo (below)

The Navy established the NTS to develop new torpedoes that were both more deadly and put the operator at less risk. Much of the early work at the NTS built upon the success of a British designer named Robert Whitehead who, in 1866, produced the world’s first “automobile torpedo.” Whitehead’s design could be launched from a ship and carried an eighteen pound charge for 700 yards at six knots. By 1871, the NTS debuted an improved version of the Whitehead torpedo known as the Fish. Another design known as the Howell torpedo became the first self-propelled weapon issued to the U.S. Navy in 1889.

Initially, NTS designers worked on both automobile torpedoes and mines. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over responsibility for mines between 1871 and the start of World War I as part of their mission to provide for the fixed defenses of America’s harbors. This left NTS free to concentrate on self-propelled designs at a time when the Navy was undergoing the most radical transformation in its history. The old wooden warships of the Civil War navy were gradually being replaced by new steel ships that carried their guns in turrets and could operate under steam or sail. While rifled guns still ruled the day in battle, improvements in torpedo design made them a greater threat to capital ships. They became especially dangerous when they were mounted on small, fast-moving vessels called torpedo boats that could dart in close to launch their weapons and moved too quickly to be targeted by the guns of their quarry.

Drawing by J.O. Davidson, 1888
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper
January 26, 1889

During the early years of its existence, students at the Naval War College spent a great deal of time studying the question of how best to employ torpedoes. When a reporter from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper visited the school in 1888, he noted that the classes used war games to try to predict the impact of new technology on naval tactics and strategy:

“While the cruisers and torpedo-boats of the new navy are developing at the ship-yards, the officers who are to manoeuvre these engines of modern warfare in the future are equipping themselves with practical experiments, and seeing service by means of imaginary combats on the chart and blackboard.”

Future innovations such as submarines and aircraft would further disrupt conventional thinking about the best ways to use torpedoes. From 1869 to 1951, the NTS served as the premier facility for manufacturing and experimenting with these weapons.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum