Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Photographing Local Ships in the Korean War

During the early 1950s, there was a saying around Atlantic Fleet headquarters that the Korean War was "Pacific Fleet's problem, not ours." The reluctance to send ships from Norfolk to Korea was based on a reasonable assumption that the fighting on the Korean Peninsula was just a small part of a coming global conflict with Communist forces, and the Atlantic Fleet wanted to be ready to fight the Soviets in European waters and the Atlantic Ocean. Despite this feeling, the Atlantic Fleet did contribute quite a number of ships to Task Forces 77 and 95 (the Navy's two battle squadrons off of Korea). It was fortunate that the Atlantic Fleet agreed to cooperate, because by 1953, the Navy as an institution was facing an issue with the American public regarding why the Navy was sending any ships to the Far East, not just Korea, in the first place.

As part of the plan to educate the American public, Admiral William Radford, then Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, and soon to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, penned an article explaining America's interests in the Far East and why the Navy sent ships there. Of interest, however, is where the Navy chose to publish the article: National Geographic. Possibly attempting to reach an audience with a more international perspective of the world, National Geographic not only agreed to publish the article, but also deployed nationally-renowned photojournalist J. Baylor Roberts to photograph the Navy in action.

Here are some of the images of locally-based ships and sailors taken by Roberts and Navy photojournalists that National Geographic published alongside Radford's article. The article and photos originally appeared in the March 1953 issue of National Geographic. 

Editor's Note: HRNM Educator Elijah Palmer contributed to this article.

Roberts took this photo of USS New Jersey (BB-62) off the North Korean coast
during the battleship's second war tour.  In the 1950s, the Navy homeported all
four Iowa-class battleships in Norfolk.
A Navy photojournalist took this photo of USS Missouri (BB-63) en route to
Korea during the battleship's second war tour.
Roberts took this photo of F9F Panther fighter-bombers from NAS Oceana-based squadron
VF-91 and NAS Alameda-based VF-94 being refueled and rearmed onboard USS Philippine Sea (CV-47).
An F9F flies across the carriers USS Essex (CV-9),  Norfolk-based Intrepid (CV-11), and
Bon Homme Richard
(CV-31) en route to Korea.
Official Navy photo of USS Wisconsin (BB-64) with USS AFDB-1 in Guam, 1952.  This was taken
after Wisconsin's first war tour in Korea.  This dry docking was at the time the heaviest ship
  AFDB-1 had ever taken on.  

No comments: