Tag Archives: Navy

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

Being a flying boat has some advantages and during WWII the PBY-5A Catalina put them to good use. She was versatile and served a number of roles. This model does a good job of showing her off but they really need to be seen in person to be appreciated.

Around 3,300 were built for the war and they served in almost every theater. She was first introduced in 1936 and remained in service with the US Navy until 1957 but the Brazilian navy kept them in service until 1979. Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and even the Soviet Union all used them during their lifetime. Today some still fly and act as firefighting platforms all over the world.

The Catalina had a crew of ten and had two 1,200 horsepower engines. She could reach 195 miles per hour and had a range of about 2,520 miles. Armed with machine guns and capable of carrying 4,000lbs of bombs she could always manage to hold her own.

Her biggest role was as a submarine hunter in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic theater. They would escort convoys and when called upon would take the fight straight to the enemy subs. As patrol craft, few planes are in her league.  They helped the Royal Navy track the Bismark in 1941, leading the sinking of the massive ship. The helped spoil a surprise Japanese landing in Malaya on December 7, 1941, and most notably took part in the Battle of Midway, spotting the location of the Japanese carriers in the early hours of the battle. Scenes like these were repeated many times during the war where the Catalina’s always seemed to be on point.


Book Review: This People’s Navy: The Making of American Sea Power

This People’s Navy: The Making of American Sea Power


It seems odd to call a book that clocks in around 460 pages as short, but when you consider the subject of the book it seems like barely enough. Hagan, however, does a very good job in making the story of the US Navy compelling and interesting.

From its birth during the American Revolution to the eve of the Gulf War, the mission and methods of the Navy have changed. From coastal defense and commerce raiding to the carrier based projection of power that it is today, Hagan takes you on a history course that weaves its way around a changing mission and a changing world taking into account the politics and technological advancements of the various ages.

Certainly not a swashbuckling adventure, he also does a fine job of capturing the personalities that at times seemed to move the Navy forward on their own shoulders. From John Paul Jones to Teddy Roosevelt, they are represented in the book.

While a good survey of the topic it should also be said that there simply is no room for the kind of details that the hard-core historians would call for. As a single volume it is effective but serves merely to whet the appetite and if nothing else the stage is set for you to delve deeper into any of the epochs of the storied history.

Of course, now it has been over twenty years since it was published and the world and role of the of the Navy have changed yet again, but if the lessons of this book are adhered to, the Navy should have no problem adjusting and moving forward.

If you have any interest in the subject, this book will be well worth the read.



The Do’s and Don’ts of a Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship, Do’s and Don’ts

The picture above is a US Naval Hospital Ship that was in use during the Vietnam War. The idea of the hospital ship goes all the way back to Ancient Greece and the Athenian Navy. Rome also had at least one hospital ship in their fleet. So they have been around forever.

The modern incarnation of the hospital ship came about during the Crimean War. The British had several steamships that were equipped with facilities comparable to hospitals of the day. Their decedents would be seen through both World Wars and up to today.

Most countries with a Navy have some sort of hospital ship or something designated in that class.  Today there are also several civilian groups that outfit and maintain hospital ships for humanitarian relief.

Treaties Covering The Rules


The Hague Convention X of 1907 covers what designates a hospital ship under article four.

  • The ship must be clearly marked and lighted as a hospital ship.
  • The ship must give medical assistance to wounded personnel of all nationalities.
  • It must not be used for any military purpose.
  • The ship must not interfere with or hamper enemy combatant vessels.
  • Belligerents, as designated by the Hague Convention, can search any hospital ship to investigate violations of the above restrictions.
  • Belligerents will establish the location of a hospital ship.

In 1994 the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea further refined the rules for hospital ships and laid out the rules under which action may be taken against the ships. A non-complying ship may only be fired upon under the following circumstances:

  • Diversion or capture is not feasible.
  • No other method to exercise is available.
  • The violations are grave enough to allow the ship to be classified as a military objective.
  • And if fired upon, the damage and casualties will not be disproportionate to the military advantage.


Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides


Yep a twofer today and no this is not a post about a wheelchair-bound detective. (Does anyone actually get that joke?) This is about The USS Constitution or “Old Ironsides” as she was called. In the top picture above, on the plaque is a piece of copper from its hull.

No, that copper is not why it was called Ironsides. Stay tuned for that.

The Constitution was launched in 1797 and was one of the first frigates in the fledgling United States Navy. Named by President Washington for our guiding document, it became the centerpiece of small yet tenacious presence on the ocean.

She was armed with 30 24 pound cannon, 15 on each side, 22 32 pound cannon, 11 on each side, as well as 4 smaller “chase” cannons. She was armed for war and during the War of 1812 she would end up becoming a legend.

On 19 August 1812 the Constitution faced off against the HMS Guerriere, a slightly smaller vessel but with a veteran crew. As the battle was joined several of the Guerriere’s cannonballs bounced off the sides of the ship doing no damage but causing one of the American sailors to shout out, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” The name sort of stuck after that. The battle would end with the Constitution victorious and more victories would follow.

She would stay in service until 1853 when she was converted into a training ship where she served as a classroom and barracks for the Naval Academy until 1871 when she was retired, eventually becoming a museum ship, and something you can still visit today and as she never lost her commission, should time get really bad, maybe Old Ironsides will be called on again.

What Makes a Tomcat Go?

An f-14 Tomcat Engine

What Makes a Tomcat Go?

Why these of course.

The Grumman f-14 Tomcat has been one of the most iconic Navy fighters of the modern age. Sure they are long in the tooth and are pretty much passed by now, but thanks to Top Gun they will always have a special place in our collective hearts, and that above is what made them go.

The Pratt & Whitney TF30 was first put into production in 1964 and were being built up until 1986 and while they functioned well in other aircraft, in the F-14 that had some issues with compression stalls at high angles of attack when the throttles were moved aggressively.

In other aircraft these stalls were able to be compensated for, but in the Tomcat, because the two engines were so widely spaced apart it could cause the plane to go into a spin that was VERY difficult to recover from. Just ask Goose. The major issues were finally resolved in a new version of the engine that started seeing service in the F-14A in the late 80’s.

The engine was used in the following aircraft models:

  •  F-111 (General Dynamics)
  •  F-111C (General Dynamics)
  • EF-111A Raven (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111B (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111K  (General Dynamics)
  • F-14A Tomcat  (General Dynamics)
  • LTV A-7A/B/C Corsair II

If you are curious you can find out some more about the engine at the Pratt & Whitney site here.

Brown Water Navy

Brown Water Navy

Brown Water Navy


The Vietnam War was fought in every nook and cranny of the country, from the mountains to the cities and most especially on the rivers. The waterways that spread across the country served as highways for the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong. They could use the ships to move men and supplies faster and  quieter than  over land. In response to this the United States dusted off a concept that had seen little use since the Civil War. The brown-water navy. These were Naval ships designed to operate on the rivers and along the coasts that would extend the reach of the US Navy where ever it was needed.

The concept of the brown-water navy came into its own during the Civil War when the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and other major rivers became the fronts in the conflict and the entire coast of the Confederacy became fair game. Outside of the river and coastal regions, the “blue-water” navy ruled supreme.

The boats in the picture above are PFC (Patrol Craft Fast) class Swift Boats. 50 feet long and made of aluminum these boats formed the base of the brown-water navy in Vietnam. This was a joint venture between the US Army and Navy. It operated in groups of three to five boats. Their missions consisted of patrols, interdiction and inserting special operation forces into their target areas.

Towards the end the focus of the war shifted as the United States military looked to get out.  The South Vietnamese military was to take on the bulk of the fighting.  Besides training and land based equipment, this also included the transfer of several Swift Boats. With the fall of the south many of the surviving boats ended up in the service of the communist regime.

A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

Scrap from a Japanese bomb used at Pearl Harbor

A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941. We all know the date. We all know what happened at Pearl Harbor. This picture is of a piece of a bomb that was dropped by a Japanese airplane that morning.

The build up to the war between the US and Japan was a slow burn. That burn was brought to a boil when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. Japan needed space and China had it. The story of what happened to the Chinese people during the occupation is for another time. While the US had many interests in China, it was not prepared to go to war, yet.

Fast forward almost a decade and we see Germany making taking over much of Europe, but being very, very careful to not bring the US into the war even though they were ostensibly supporting the Allies through the Lend Lease act. Germany, however had allies of their own, namely Japan.


This is where things get a little difficult. There are those that believe that the US, and President Roosevelt, took steps to goad Japan into war, which because of their alliances, would force Germany into direct conflict with the US.

Acting through a series of laws and executive orders, exports of many items classified as war materials were banned for export The president was granted the authority to make exceptions to this law and he did, choosing to provide material to the Allies.  He refused to allow Japan access to those resources. Not long after the administration seized Japanese assets in the US and cut off their supply of oil.

Cut off from these much-needed imports meant they needed to find the material somewhere. The rest of the Pacific Rim would do. All this happened in an environment where the Japanese tried seeking diplomatic solutions, but war with the US looked more and more like a possibility.

The hope was that a strong enough blow would stun the US into inaction. This would give Japan time to expand its holdings and replace much of what the embargoes were disallowing. Once done they would then try to negotiate a peace with the US.


On December 7, 1941 they attacked the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor and struck a crippling blow. The biggest mistake was that while they decimated the fleet, they missed the aircraft carriers that were not in port that day. While stunned, America maintained the capacity to strike back.

Japan, declared war, the US declared war on Japan, and right on cue Germany declared war on the US. Roosevelt got just what he wanted.

That little piece of metal is a souvenir that we get to keep from that day, a day which will live in infamy.

To learn more about the historic sites located at Pearl Harbor, click here.







Hot Racking

Ah the US Navy. So many young people join up expecting to see the word, new and exotic places and people. However there may be something left out of most of the “travel brochures.” In the photo above you see racks, also known as bunks from a US Navy warship, in this an aircraft carrier.  Three beds in a fairly small space. See during you time stationed aboard the ships that tiny space is your home and your personal space. The beds lift for storage for your personal items and you have the little curtains, so maybe not so bad right?


Or maybe not.

See on some ships, smaller ones for sure, submarines for certain, that bed you see. Well, odds are good you share that with at least one, maybe two other people. Not at the same time of course.

It is called hot racking (or hot bunking) and it is the process where multiple people share a single berth. While one person is on watch (working) someone is sleeping in the bed. When when the shift is over the one returns to the rack that is probably still warm from the person that just got up to go and enjoy their day of work. Wash, rinse repeat, for six months. Yes, that also means that you could be sharing a bed with someone who you have never actually met. What would your mother say?

Don’t feel bad though. They do the same sort of things in prisons sometimes.


The Confederate Navy

The Confederate States of America started life in a pretty good position. Having just broken away from the United States it pretty much had a template for a central government, a government infrastructure to start with and even a decent economy. Building an army to defend all of it was not even much of a challenge as tens of thousands of men flocked to the colors. There was however one area that they were going to lag far behind, they needed a navy.

In February 1861 the Confederate Navy had 30 ships of which only 13 were actually considered seaworthy. This was compared to the US that had over 90 ships in their fleet. They would never really catch up so they relied on technology and tactics to make up the lost ground.

The Confederate Navy would pioneer the use of ironclads and submarines and even a rough version of the torpedo (mines).  As the United States Navy attempted to control the rivers and coast of the Confederacy and implement a blockade against them the rebels fought the best they could, but soon focused their naval efforts on two fronts.

Running the blockade with war supplies, luxury items and other sundries was their lifeline and the navy was tasked helping to make that possible. Then of course were the privateers who became the living embodiment of the struggle on the seas as they made the US economy bleed.

Eventually the Confederate Navy would number over a hundred ships with names such as Virginia, Alabama and the infamous CSS Shenandoah who fought on after the war only surrendering her colors in November 1865, five full months after the war had ended.


Darn the Mines! Move in a forward direction!



What you are seeing in this picture is a water mine, or as they referred to at the time, a “torpedo”. You can see the anchor and the chain, the barrel that was loaded with explosive and the trigger. A ship would bump against the trigger and detonate the mine. This one was taken from Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

In August of 1864 Mobile, Alabama remained one of the last ports in the Confederacy and outside of the trickle of blockade runners, its last line to the outside world. Mobile Bay was defended by three forts that could pound and attacking fleet into mincemeat. If that wasn’t enough the bay was seeded with mines (torpedoes).  This would not dissuade the Federal forces.
Led by Rear Admiral David Farragut the US Navy, in a joint assault with the US Army, moved to close the bay. They were met by a CSA fleet and a general battle was commenced under the eyes of the three powerful forts. Having to contend with both the enemy fleet, forts and torpedoes Farragut issued his orders. Only one ship, the Tecumseh, fell victim to the mines, but they were still responsible for one of the lasting anecdotes of the war.
It was during this battle that Farragut reportedly told his officer, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Now, there is some doubt that he actually said it. He probably said something like it, but a lot of these famous sayings, especially ones that happen in the middle of a battle, tend to become more legend than reality. As a way to rally troops or motivate your co-workers, this saying is great in saying just go and do what you need to do, and deal with the consequences later.
The naval battle lasted about three hours. After after a number of weeks the forts all fell one by one. By the end of August 1864 Mobile Bay was securely in the hands of the Federals. The city of Mobile itself would be spared until the end o the war, but as a supply port it was out of the war.