#MilitaryMonday

An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island.  Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil. Photo: US Navy

An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island. Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil.
Photo: US Navy

A weekly feature honoring the armed forces of the United States and its Allies.

1898, the cruiser Charleston (C 2) captures the island of Guam, its Spanish colonial government unaware that their country is at war with the United States. The island was taken by the United States without incident and the Charleston went down in history as the ship that raised the American flag on Guam.

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898. Credit: US Navy

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898.
Credit: US Navy

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship's guns during the Spanish-American War.  U.S. Navy photo

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War.
U.S. Navy photo

Charleston at Manila. US Navy photo

Charleston at Manila.
US Navy photo

The US Navy’s Last Ships

I talk a lot about US Navy’s firsts and there have been A LOT, but with the TNT premiere of The Last Ship on Sunday night, I thought I’d pay homage to Navy’s “lasts!”

  • The LAST SHIP in commission from the War of 1812: USS Constitution. Currently, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat is undergoing restoration, but it’s still open for visitors.
BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship's second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship's three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship’s second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship’s three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

  • The LAST SHIP commissioned as a battleship: USS Wisconsin (BB 64). While it’s true USS Missouri (BB 63) was the last battleship in commission, Wisconsin, was not only the last of the four commissioned Iowa-class battlewagons to be commissioned when they were first built, she was the last of the four to be recommissioned for service in the late 80s and early 90s.  She was decommissioned for the final time in 1991 after serving in Desert Storm.
USS Wisconsin (BB-64)  Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP to sink at the Battle of Midway: USS Yorktown (CV 5). It might be said that by the time Yorktown participated in the Battle of Midway, she was already on borrowed time having fought so valiantly at Coral Sea only three weeks earlier where she sustained significant damage.  But her crew and shipyard workers at Pearl Harbor returned the ship to sea in time for the pivotal Battle of Midway. Yorktown played a key role in the victory that spelled the beginning of the end of Japanese aggression in the Pacific, but as she was repairing damage from the second battle a Japanese sub launched a salvo of torpedoes at her and the accompanying destroyer USS Hamman, which quickly sank.  Yorktown, struck twice by the subs torpedoes and further damaged as the sinking Hamman’s depth charges ignited, remained stubbornly afloat for another 18 hours before finally rolling over and sinking. Yorktown earned three battle stars for her World War II service; two of them being for the significant part she had played in stopping Japanese expansion and turning the tide of the war at Coral Sea and at Midway.
Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937.  U.S. Navy Photograph.

Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937. U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class to deploy: USS Kauffman (FFG 59).  She was commissioned in February 1987 and left Norfolk for her last deployment in January 2015. After she returns home from serving and protecting her country, she will become the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of ships to retire.
NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City's celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

  • The LAST SHIP to be named for a Medal of Honor recipient: USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Named to honor Lt. Michael Murphy’s heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, the ship recently returned home from its maiden deployment. The ship and crew of more than 300 Sailors conducted goodwill activities with partner nations and various presence operations such as Oceania Maritime Security Initiative in the Pacific Ocean during its seven month deployment.
  • The LAST SHIP to be commissioned in memory of the sacrifice and loss of 9/11: USS Somerset (LPD 25). Joining her sister ships, USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24), Somerset joined the fleet on March 1, 2014.  Her mission is to embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.
GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder's sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder’s sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

  • The LAST SHIP to test the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D): USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). In August 2014, the X-47B unmanned aircraft conducted its first night time deck handling and taxi tests and completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy's unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by  Liz Wolter)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

  • The LAST SHIP to have Admiral Chester Nimitz as its Commanding Officer: USS Augusta (CA31). In 1933, long before he became Chief of Naval Operations in 1945, he commanded USS Augusta, the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
(CA-31)  Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945.  Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007.  U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

(CA-31) Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945. Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007. U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

  • The LAST SHIP to launch U.S. Army bombers: USS Hornet (CV 8). Conceived in January 1942 in the wake of the devastating Japanese surprise attack on Oahu, the Doolittle Raid or the “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. In the joint operation, 16 Army B-25 Mitchell Bombers launched April 18, 1942 from the deck of Hornet to conductair raids on Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagoya, against negligible opposition.
“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

  • The LAST SHIP to have a treaty signed on its decks: USS Missouri (BB63). Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, signed the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative, on board USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945 thus marking the formal end of World War II.
General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri's 16-inch gun turret # 2.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri’s 16-inch gun turret # 2. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

  • The LAST SHIP to fight in the American Revolution: USS Alliance. On March 10, 1783, more than a month after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution, the 36-gun Continental frigate Alliance, commanded by Capt. John Barry, departs Havana with companion ship Due de Lauzun carrying money for Congress. South of Cape Canaveral, Fla., she sights three enemy warships closing in. To protect Due de Lauzen, Barry places Alliance between the vessel and HMS Sybil. After being damaged in battle, Sybil disengages.
USS Alliance

USS Alliance

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#MilitaryMonday: The Evolution of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)

Aircraft carriers are often revered as the “powerhouse of the fleet” because of their size, strength, capabilities and importance to our national security. For nearly 100 years, the aircraft carrier has continued to evolve alongside the technological advancements of America’s Navy.

The U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1), was converted from the collier USS Jupiter (AC 3) and recommissioned March 20, 1922. Lagley had a displacement of 11,500 tons and measured 542 feet in length. She could travel at a speed of 15.5 knots (17.8 mph) and boasted a crew of 468 personnel. Though Langley was not the first ship with an installed flight deck or the first ship from which an airplane had taken off, her service marked the birth of the era of the carrier. She was also the sight of the first carrier catapult when her commanding officer, Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting, was catapulted from her deck.

Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79) – US Navy CVN 21 Future Carrier Program, United States of America.

Gerald R Ford Class (CVN 78/79) – US Navy CVN 21 Future Carrier Program, United States of America.

In his book “U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History,” Norman Friedman noted that the Langley did not have a hangar deck in the modern sense because aircraft were not stowed ready for flight. They were actually assembled on the upper deck, loaded into the single elevator, and then hoisted onto the flight deck. She was also equipped with two lift cranes, two flight-deck catapults, and carried 36 aircraft. And according to Norman Polmar in his book “Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and its Influence on World Events”, the arresting gear on Langley consisted of “wires running fore and aft suspended about 10 inches above the deck” to which the hook of an aircraft would attach to slow the landing. He added that this system of fore-and-aft wires was used on U.S. carriers until 1929 when the Navy began developing a hydraulic arresting gear that could handle high-speed aircraft landings.

In 1927 the Lexington class aircraft carriers, USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Saratoga (CV 3), were commissioned. Originally designed as battlecruisers, these carriers were much more efficient than Langley. At 888 feet in length and with a displacement of 37,000 tons, the Lexington class carriers traveled at a speed of 33.3 knots (38.3 mph) — more than double the speed of Langley. According to Siegfried Breyer’s “Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970,” the Lexington class carriers featured a new bow called the bulbous bow which reduced water resistance by an average of six percent, supported the forecastle and reduced bending stress on the hull. A proper hangar, two elevators and one aircraft catapult housed and handled the 78 aircraft that Lexington class carriers were designed to carry. By 1942, these carriers accommodated 2,791 personnel.

How US Navy carriers have evolved over time in this infographic.

How US Navy carriers have evolved over time in this infographic.

USS Ranger (CV 4), commissioned in 1934, was the first ship of the U.S. Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an aircraft carrier. She had a displacement of 14,500 tons, measured 769 feet in length, traveled at a speed of 29.3 knots (33.7 mph), and supported a complement of 2,461 personnel as built. At her maximum, she carried 86 aircraft and was equipped with three elevators and three catapults.

Immediately following Ranger was the Yorktown class, whose lead ship, USS Yorktown (CV 5), was commissioned in 1937. USS Enterprise (CV 6) and USS Hornet (CV 8) were also part of this class. The fast and versatile Yorktown class carriers had a displacement of 20,100 tons, measurement of 809 feet in length, traveling speed of 32.5 knots (37.4 miles per hour), and a complement of 2,919 personnel. They carried up to 90 aircraft and were equipped with three elevators and two flight deck catapults. Yorktown was actually the first carrier to use hydraulic catapults. The Yorktown class carriers suffered heavy losses during World War II, but its sole survivor — Enterprise — went on to become the most decorated U.S. ship of the war.

First commissioned in 1942 with the USS Essex (CV 9), Essex class carriers included an impressive fleet of 24 ships and served as the core of the U.S. Navy’s combat strength during World War II. Better design features made Essex class carriers more resilient and efficient. For example, simultaneous launch and recovery operations became possible when Essex class USS Antietam (CVA 36) made her debut as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier. Additional features of Essex class carriers included bigger hangar space; better machinery arrangement and armor protection; a portside deck edge elevator [originating from her predecessor, USS Wasp (CV 7)]; advanced radio and radar equipment; and the incorporation of the “long-hull” or “Ticonderoga class” Essexes. The long-hull Essexes were constructed with a lengthened bow above the waterline which provided deck space for two quadruple 40mm mounts. The flight decks were also shortened forward to provide better arcs of fire. Continuous improvements to the Essex class carriers enabled them to serve through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and assist in the space program until 1973.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. (Photo: USN)

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. (Photo: USN)

In 1943, the smaller and faster Independence class carriers followed the Essex class, but design plans had been underway for a carrier with an armored flight deck that could accommodate more planes than any other carrier yet. So when USS Midway (CV 41) was commissioned in 1945, it was no surprise that it became one of the longest-lasting carrier designs in history. Midway class ships retained their strength at the hangar deck level and the armored flight deck was part of the superstructure. The original design of the Midway class supported up to 130 aircraft, but coordinating that many planes would be ineffective and problematic. All three Midway class ships underwent modernizations in the 1950s and were fitted with angled decks, steam catapults and mirrored landing systems that allowed them to accommodate the new, heavier naval jets.

The 1950s marked the development of the U.S. Navy’s “supercarriers” beginning with USS Forrestal (CVA 59), commissioned in 1955. Ships in this class measured 1,036 feet in length with a displacement of 56,000 tons and a fully integrated angled deck. They could carry up to 90 aircraft and had the most spacious hangar and flight decks. The Forrestal class was succeeded by Kitty Hawk class supercarriers with only minor changes, followed by the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), commissioned in 1961. At 1,101 feet in length, she is still the longest naval vessel in the world.

Following Enterprise was USS Kennedy (CV 67) which was originally designed to be the fourth Kitty Hawk class supercarrier, but because so many modifications were made during construction, she formed her own class.

The USS George H.W. Bush, shown here in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2014.

The USS George H.W. Bush, shown here in the Straits of Hormuz in April 2014.

Finally, the Nimitz class supercarriers are a group of 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently in service. These carriers use the catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) system for faster launching and recovery. Additionally, the flight deck is angled at nine degrees to allow for simultaneous launch and recovery. Nimitz class carriers utilize only two nuclear reactors compared to the eight on Enterprise. According to Norman Polmar’s “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet”, this improvement allows Nimitz class carriers to carry 90 percent more fuel and 50 percent more ordnance compared to the original Forrestal class.

The aircraft carrier continues to evolve as the needs of the U.S. Navy change, and the next evolution of the carrier will be revealed when the Ford class carrier makes its scheduled debut in 2016. With a displacement of more than 90,000 tons, length of 1,092 feet, speeds capable of more than 30 knots (35 miles per hour), and the ability to support 4,297 personnel, she doesn’t seem much different than her predecessors. However, enhancements in the designs will allow her to operate even more efficiently. According to the U.S. Navy Fact File on Gerald R. Ford class carriers, “each ship in the new class will save more than $4 billion in total ownership costs during its 50-year service life, compared to the Nimitz-class.” Furthermore, the ship will be able to operate with fewer crew members, require less maintenance, and allow for 25 percent more sorties per day.

On the Web: 

List of aircraft carriers of the United States Navy

Aircraft Carrier – The US Navy Aircraft Carriers

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#ThrowbackThursday: 30 Jan 1944 – USS North Carolina (BB 55) sinks Japanese transport

On January 30, 1944, USS North Carolina (BB 55) sank Japanese transport Eiko Maru off the west coast of Roi.

Also on this date, USS Burns (DD 588) sank Japanese transport Akibasan Maru and guardboat Nichiei Maru off Ujae while SBDs and F6Fs from USS Enterprise (CV 6), USS Yorktown (CV 10), USS Bunker Hill (CV 17) and USS Belleau Wood (CVL 24) attacked Japanese shipping in Marshall Islands and sank auxiliary submarine chasers Cha 18 and Cha 21 and guardboat No.6 Shonan Maru at Kwajalein.

At Mille, Japanese vessels sunk were: Cha 14, Cha 19, Cha 28. Additionally, Japanese cargo vessel Katasura Maru was damaged at Eniwetok and USS Phelps (DD 360) helps sink the vessel.

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USS North Carolina (BB-55)
Anchored off the Puget Sound Navy Yard,
Washington, 24 September 1944.
She is painted in what may be a variant of Camouflage Measure 32, Design 18D. U.S. Navy Photograph, NHHC Photo.

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USS North Carolina (BB-55). Fires her after 16″/45 guns in June 1941, during her shakedown cruise. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-13511 (Color).

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USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). At sea while participating in strikes on the Palau Islands, 27 March 1944. She is painted in camouflage Measure 33, Design 6A. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-1560.

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USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24). Underway on 22 December 1943. NHHC Photograph Collection: NH 97269.

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USS Yorktown (CV-10). Underway circa mid-1943, possibly during her shakedown cruise in the late spring. Planes on deck include F6F “Hellcat” fighters and SB2C “Helldiver” scout-bombers. Note this carrier’s unique longitudinal black flight deck stripe. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-14379 (Color)

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USS Enterprise (CV-6). En route to New York to take part in the Navy Day Fleet Review, October 1945. She is steaming in company with a light carrier (CVL) — in the right distance– and another warship. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-6576 (Color).

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USS Phelps (DD-360). Off the Charleston Navy Yard, South Carolina, about November 1944.
She is painted in camouflage Measure 32, Design 3d. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives, 19-N-73964.

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USS Burns (DD 580) , taken from Naval Air Station, Weeksville, 17 July 1943. National Archives photograph: 80-G-76604. Note, on 30 January 1945, Burns sank Japanese guardboat No.2 Hokoku Maru off Ojae.

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Guadalcanal Invasion, August 1942. Ordnancemen of Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6) load a 500 pound demolition bomb on an SBD scout bomber on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CV-6), during the first day of strikes on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, 7 August 1942. Note aircraft’s landing gear and bomb crutch; also bomb cart and hoist. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-10458.

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USS Enterprise (CV-6). F6F “Hellcat” fighters taxiing forward on the flight deck, during training exercises, 2 July 1943. Another F6F is in flight overhead, with its landing gear and tail hook extended. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-74510.

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USS North Carolina (BB-55)
Photographed during her shakedown cruise, May 1941.
The battleship is framed by an escorting destroyer’s deck, 5″/38 gun barrel and a crewman.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

On the Web:

USS North Carolina

USS Enterprise

USS Bunker Hill

USS Belleau Wood

USS Yorktown

USS Phelps

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