Thursday, May 30, 2013

USS Gunboat 135-Ship Model

Editor's Note: HRNM summer intern Brian Sagedy composed this article.

Shown here is the museum model of USS Gunboat 135. It is located in the museum’s War of 1812 gallery.   Built by Tom Hershey, he formerly worked for Department of the Navy as a master ship model builder. Specifically, his job was to build models of proposed new Navy ships and also built models as a hobby.
Gunboats were to be the mainstay of the U.S. Navy from 1803 to 1812.  Rather than spend money on frigates and sloops, President Thomas Jefferson believed that gunboats were more economical to build and maintain.  He also believed that it fit his agrarian outlook of the United States.  This outlook was decidedly against a large, permanent fleet. 
Congress authorized the construction of over 180 gunboats beginning in February 1803.  They were built at various points along the Atlantic Coast and Lakes Ontario and Champlain. Naval officers oversaw construction of the gunboats, and Naval agents dispersed funds and supplies. Most gunboats were form 45’ to 70’ in length, 16’ to 18’ in beam, and sloop- or schooner-rigged and were designed more for fighting not for sailing. They relied on sails or oars for propulsion in the water.
Master ship designer Josiah Fox designed 135 and workers in Philadelphia constructed her.  She was a small galley fitted with a sloop rig and two guns. The type of guns varied, between two 24-pounders and/or 32-pounder smooth bore cannons.  The gunboat's hull dimensions were sixty feet on deck, sixteen feet, six inches at the beam, and six feet, six inches in depth. 
Once finished, the Navy stored 135 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, since gunboats deteriorated quickly once put into service. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton in 1809 reported to Congress saying, “the sails, and standing and running rigging, at present belonging to those laid up will, probably, at the end of one year, be so much injured as to be unfit for use.” Naval officers and men aboard them disliked gunboats. They were sluggish in their movements and utterly useless except in perfectly calm waters.
The Navy commissioned the vessel for the upcoming war with Britain and assigned her to join the gunboat flotilla already present in Hampton Roads. During the War of 1812's Battle of Craney Island , the Navy’s sixteen gunboats placed themselves across the Elizabeth River, with 135 anchoring the line on the far right side. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

USS Franklin (CV-13) Going to War, 1944

Shown here is the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) on May 4, 1944 in the Elizabeth River. Steaming upstream towards downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth, the warship had just completed her final check up at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  She then headed to the Panama Canal and the Pacific Theater. 

Leaving Norfolk Naval Shipyard, February 21, 1944
Launched at Newport News Shipbuilding on October 14, 1943, the Navy commissioned the carrier on January 4, 1944. Franklin spent the next four months conducting shakedown cruises off the Virgina coast and in the West Indies.  After each of these cruises,  the carrier returned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard to fix any flaws discovered during the operation. 

Franklin's combat operations in the Pacific theatre are among the most legendary war cruises in U.S. Naval history.  After she arrived in the Pacific, the carrier participated in several strikes against Japanese-held islands including Guam, Formosa, and the Philippines throughout 1944.   She sustained four major hits from Japanese aircraft during these operations.  It was only on the fourth strike that the carrier returned to a shipyard for repairs. Returned to action on March 3, 1945, Franklin participated in strikes against the Japanese home islands. 

Another view of Franklin in the Elizabeth River on February 21,
1944.  This time the ship is passing downtown Norfolk.
Here she suffered her fifth hit.  According to the ship veteran's website, "On 19 March 1945, off Shikoku, the Franklin was struck by two bombs which passed through the flight deck and detonated in the hangar.  A terrific conflagration fed by gasoline in aircraft fuel tanks, together with detonations of a large number of heavy bombs and rockets loaded on aircraft, demolished a major part of the flight deck and wrecked the hangar and gallery deck spaces.  Flooding from fire-fighting water caused a heavy list.  All machinery spaces were evacuated because of smoke and heat and all power failed.  This is the worst damage which any United States warship has survived."

Franklin's official damage report can be read at our parent command's web site here.

In large part to due her ship's company's company's heroic damage control, Franklin not only made it back to the United States, but made it all the way to New York City for repairs. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ship-of-the-Line USS Pennsylvania, Ship Model

Shown here is the museum’s model of the giant ship-of-the-line Pennsylvania. The museum has had the model for many years and it was one of our earliest acquisitions. The ship model company Arthur G. Henning, Inc. of Mount Vernon, New York built the model in 1970. 
The model impressively shows the ship’s massive battery of guns and her large hull. It size is a show stopper for museum visitors.  One cannot help but notice the battlion of guns, the size of the model, and the detail of the ship’s rigging. As a result, the model is one of the more popular artifacts at the museum.
Unfortunately, the model does not fully present the vision of the ship's deigner Samuel Humphries. Like many builders of large warships before him, Humphries wanted Pennsylvania to have a bold artistic presence to accompany her massive broadsides. The first issue is the ship’s figurehead.  On the model is the bust of woman with a crown and has the appearance of Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra. According to Humphries’ original drawings, not only was the figure not a woman but rather a bust of the Greek demi-god/hero Hercules. 
The second issue is the stern art.  On the model, there are a series of human figures, a ship, and what looks like the Acropolis.  These are all correct, but it is incomplete. 

Picture of Cleopatra on th ship model at left and a drawing
of Hercules on the right as Samuel Humphries intended.
According to Humphries' original drawing of Pennsylvania’s stern, in the middle are two representations of war: the brute strength of Hercules with his club in hand and several modern weapons of war surrounding him.  On the starboard side is the goddess Athena, who represented skill and wisdom in war.  Her hand is on the Acropolis, which was her main temple in Athens, Greece.  She is surrounded tools used to plan war. 
On both sides of the ship, Humphries intended for there to be a series of aquatic creatures from Greek myths such as sea nymphs and mermaids.  He also intended for there to be an eagle on an American shield, which is a classic representation of the United States. 

A comparison between the art on the
 model and what Humphries intended.

 The actual ship was impressive. Rated at 120-guns and displacing over 3,000-tons, the ship was the largest sailing warship ever constructed for the U.S. Navy. Her designer, Samuel Humphries, drew inspiration for the design from the Spanish battleship and Battle of Trafalgar-veteran Santisima Trinidad and the British battleship Royal Sovereign.  The Navy intended her to be the ultimate blockade buster, should another European war occur.
The ship's size, however, was the cause of many issues. To build just the hull of a ship of the size cost the taxpayers over $800,000 (1830’s dollars).  The annual budget for the entire Department of the Navy during this time period was about $4,000,000 a year.  The consequences for Pennsylvania and other new ships was lengthy build times.
The ship was not only expensive to build, she was expensive to operate.  If the Navy had sent her into battle, it would have taken 3,000 sailors to man all of her weapons and sails.  The battleship made one voyage: Philadelphia to the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Here, workers put her in the new constructed Dry Dock Number 1 and placed copper on her hull.  She never sailed again.  The Navy burned her in 1861 to prevent capture during the evacuation of Gosport. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The "Flying Dreadnought" at NAS Norfolk, 1937

In the immediate years following World War II, the United States Air Force threatened the Navy with the deployment of the B-36 "Peacemaker," a large, six engine long range bomber.  The existence of such a weapon led many within the Department of Defense to question the Navy's request for large aircraft carriers.  Unfortunately, there was one factoid lost in debate.  The Navy attempted to deploy its own long range bomber in the mid-1930s.  Navy officials envisioned squadrons of large, flying boats capable of bombing enemy bases and fleets at long distances.  They subsequently began accepting proposals to meet this requirement.

Life magazine's 1937 photo of the XPBS-1's
tail, while the plane was at NAS Norfolk.
The Sikorsky Aero Engineering Company designed and manufactured a four engine, 124-foot wingspan plane.  The aircraft had a range of over 5,000 miles and a bomb load of 8,000 lbs (approximately the same bomb load as a B-17 "Flying Fortress").

Labeled the XPBS-1, this monster aircraft landed in the waters next to Naval Air Station Norfolk in 1937.  While there, Naval officers and engineers from the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics inspected the aircraft.  Life magazine sent a team of reporters and photographers down to NAS Norfolk to inspect the aircraft for themselves, taking the above photograph. 

While Sikorsky designated the plane the "Excalibur," Life labeled the plane "The Flying Dreadnought."  After seeing the "Flying Dreadnought" and Consolidated Aircraft's XPB2Y-2 (XPBS-1's main competition)Flying Magazine went one step further and asked, "Will the Aircraft Replace the Battleship?"  The answer of course would of course be "yes."  It would not, however, happen with monster-sized flying boats.  In the end, the XPBS-1 lost out.  The Navy chose the XPB2Y-2 as its long range flying boat. 

Civilian aviation magazines seemed to favor the XPBS-1.  Even after the Navy awarded the contract to Consolidated, Flying Magazine wrote that "Sikorsky is already at work designing an aircraft 2 and 1/2 times larger than the XPBS-1." 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ship's Company USS Colorado (BB-45), 1927

A visitor recently shared with the museum this photograph of the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) and her ship's company. Norfolk photographer Frank Conway took the picture while the ship made a rare port call at Naval Operating Base Norfolk. It is rare in the respect that Colorado mostly operated out of New York City before permanently transferring to the Pacific Fleet in the late 1920's.  We believe Conway took the image in 1927, when the Fleet assembled in Hampton Roads for a naval review.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Japanese Military Officers at the Jamestown Exposition

Duke Abruzzi with
Vice Admiral Ijuin at
the Jamestown Exposition

Shown here is a postcard from the museum's collection of General Baron Kuroki Tamemoto and others saluting U.S. Marines at the Jamestown Exposition on May 13, 1907.  The Exposition's management designated that date as "Jamestown Day," celebrating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.  Management arranged for a massive international military review with dignitaries from around the world to witness.  Among other personalities present were Japan's Vice Admiral Matsuji Ijuin (Japan's leading ordnance expert), Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of Abruzzi (renown explorer and mountain climber), Major General Frederick Grant (son of Ulysses S. Grant) and Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas).

Though there were other admirals, dukes, and generals from other nations, the Americans gave Kuroki the center stage. A national hero in Japan for his leadership of Japanese ground forces during the Russo-Japanese War, Kuroki was nearing the end of his long service in uniform.  Despite his public status, Kuroki was not a political favorite among his superiors.  They denied him a coveted promotion to field marshal.   This did not, however, stop the management of the Exposition from introducing the general as a field marshal.

Japanese-American relations had been rough in the first years of the 20th century.  Kouroki's visit to the United States was a goodwill tour to follow up on to the "Gentleman's Agreement" of 1907. Travelling from Seattle to Norfolk, reporters frequently asked Kuroki about the relationship between the two rising world powers.  Kouroki did not feel that Japan and the United States were on the brink of war.  Nonetheless, he avoided potential trouble spots such as San Fransisco, the site of frequent Japanese-American discrimination.

Another view of General Kuroki review of U.S. Marines at the Jamestown
Exposition.  Though shown in full military dress, Kuroki frequently wore
Western-stlye business suits and hats during his tour of the United States.

Monday, May 6, 2013

USS Albermarle (AV-5) and USS Wichita (CA-45) in an Icelandic Storm, 1942

Shown here is a painting of the sea plane tender USS Albermarle (AV-5) and the heavy cruiser USS Wichita (CA-45) as they ride out a major winter storm in the port city of  Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, in January of 1942.  The painting currently hangs in the museum's Battle of the Atlantic gallery.

The two Norfolk-based ships were part of a task force sent to Iceland to reinforce the American military presence there.  Notice the wind blowing off the mountains and the high sea state.  When Albermarle and Wichita arrived in Iceland, the temperature was hovering around freezing.  This might not have been so awful.  Unfortunately, they also encountered a storm with gale force winds topping 120 mph that lasted for four days.  The wind drove both ships from their anchors, resulting in ship collisions. 
Photograph of Wichita as seen from
 Albermarle during the same storm, 1942.

The realistic depiction of the harsh environment was the work of painter Rudolf Claudus.  Rudolf was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and served in their navy during World War I as an engineer.  After the war, Claudus pursued a career as an artist. 

He held no grudge against his former adversary and befriended many Italian, British, and American naval officers. Seeing his skills as a maritime artist, these officers commissioned Claudus to produce works of famous ships from their respective navies.  President Franklin Roosevelt even asked Claudus to produce a series of works depicting the early American Navy during the American Revolution and War of 1812. 

During World War II,  Claudus returned to Europe and developed an "eyewitness"and "realistic" artistic approach.  While producing works on the Italian Navy at war, he showed Italians sailors drenched in water with torn uniforms.  After the war, he went back to work painting warships.  He received commissions from many heads of state from around the world, including President John F. Kennedy.  One author commented that Claudus could paint any ship as if he was looking right at it, even though he only had a set of building plans to work with.