Posts filed under ‘Naval History’
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The crew of USS Constitution – the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world – celebrated the ship’s 211th birthday and recognized the performance of her Sailors Oct. 21.
More than 100 people attended the celebration, including her crew, staff members of the USS Constitution Museum and invited guests for the annual “Grog Ceremony” on her decks. The party also included a birthday cake and the presentation of the Berenson Award, the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Leadership Award, and Millerick Award.
In his remarks, USS Constitution Commanding Officer Cmdr. William A. Bullard III spoke of the ship’s history, legacy and role in today’s Navy and world.
“More than 211 years ago today the Unites States Navy, in a very real sense, let down its anchor right here in Boston, and that anchor is this ship,” he said. “Without that anchor holding that chain to the ground, that ship will drift off and drift into danger. For 211 years this ship has been the Unites States Navy’s anchor. It has kept us grounded and rooted in our tradition and in our heritage that has made us great.”
In an active service career that spanned more than half a century, USS Constitution served in the Barbary Wars, Quasi-War with France, the War of 1812 and the African Slave Trade Patrol. She fought in 33 engagements and emerged victorious in each.
“Every Sailor alive today who served or who has served in the United States Navy traces his or her professional heritage right here to these decks. If not for this ship, many of us including our guests, would not be here in the nation that we know today,” Bullard said.
The Berenson Award is given annually to the junior crew member who best exemplifies the spirit and ideals of the ship’s crew during her sailing days and has consistently demonstrated the highest standards of conduct, loyalty and dedication to the pride of the ship.
During the ceremony, crew member Postal Clerk 3rd Class Karl Hendrickson received the award.
“Known for giving historically detailed and entertaining tours, he represented USS Constitution, as well as the Navy, proudly and professionally,” the award citation noted. “Postal Clerk 3rd Class Karl Hendrickson was consistently hand-selected to give tours to senior military officers and high-ranking government officials, instilling in them a sense of pride in our Navy, USS Constitution and our country.”
Master-At-Arms 1st Class(SW) Manoj Ram was named the 2008 recipient of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Leadership Award.
According to his citation, “Petty Officer Ram was chosen by his peers as the Sailor who consistently displayed the finest leadership qualities and earned the highest respect and trust of all crew members.”
The Millerick Award is presented annually to the National Historical Center, Detachment Boston (NHC Det. Boston) civilian worker who in the past year demonstrated a mastery of craftsmanship of American ship-building heritage. It recognizes his outstanding service to the preservation of USS Constitution.
This year’s recipient was John Hinckley, as voted by his peers at NHC Det. Boston.
“For my crew, for those of us who love USS Constitution so much, I charge you to keep this ceremony up, let’s not keep it a secret,” Bullard concluded. “Let’s make sure that the Navy, the city of Boston and the country indeed know that this is going on. This is far too important and far too significant of an event to be kept to ourselves.”
Brian M. Brooks (NNS)
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Beach jumper veterans from around the United States gathered at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado Nov. 7 for the 5th Annual Beach Jumpers Reunion.
Beach jumpers were U.S. Navy special warfare units in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, specializing in deception and psychological warfare, according to a former radioman who was part of the group.
“We were changed because we grew up with the experience of war,” said former Beach Jumpers Unit 1 member, Capt. Carl Kilhoffer.
It’s important to recognize beach jumpers, who quietly contributed to the security of our country, added Kilhoffer. “We knew the reality of severe injury and even death was a possibility for us. A possibility because we saw shipmates leave us forever.”
During the reunion, two wreaths were laid to honor beach jumper veterans who died serving their country in Vietnam.
“It hurts sometimes,” said James Franklin, former first class operations specialist and beach jumper, gazing at names engraved into the granite memorial. “It brings back a lot of memories. I know a lot of them on these plaques. It’s something that you won’t forget.”
“We were the unmentionables,” said Franklin. “We were in country (Vietnam) from ’64 to ’68 and it wasn’t supposed to be known. I had to prove to the [Veterans Administration] that I was overseas because the military has no record of our activity.”
Back then the beach jumpers were even more secretive than the U.S. Navy SEALs, added Franklin.
“We don’t get credit for what we did because we can’t talk about it,” he said. “But that was part of the game. We’re finding out now… we can talk about some of it, but we don’t know how much we can talk about so some of us are still tight-lipped.
“My kids didn’t even know what I was doing. My wife, before she died, would tell you that all she knew is that I wore camouflage makeup and stuff. She didn’t know what I did. She just knew I went overseas. It was hard for me.”
But they could get out anytime they wanted to, he said.
“It was strictly volunteer. You could say tomorrow I want out and…within 24-48 hours you were transferred out.”
“I think they deserve a lot more credit for what they did,” said Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 2nd Class Frank Mcanally, currently assigned to Navy Information Operations Command, San Diego, who served as an escort during the reunion. “The things that they did were great, and I applaud them for their actions.”
During the event, attendees viewed static photo displays, had lunch at Naval Air Station North Island and received a tour of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 41.
“I haven’t seen some of these guys in 40 years,” said Homer Ramsey, a former third class radioman and beach jumper. “It’s just great to reunite with them after all these years.”
Jason Zuidema (NNS)
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Military Sealift Command (MSC) oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) identified two sunken vessels during a joint, at-sea capabilities demonstration in Ukrainian territorial waters.
German coastal submarine U-18 was the first target the oceanographers identified using underwater video capabilities with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
The second ship is believed to be RUS Prut, a Russian minelayer that sank during World War I in 1914.
“The sea floor is a resting place for brave sailors, regardless of the country they come from,” said Dr. Serge A. Gulyar, head of the Underwater Physiology Department at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, who participated in the search.
The ship’s civilian oceanographers used equipment such as a side-scan sonar, multi-beam sonar and ROVs to locate the vessels. The sonars use sound pulses on the ocean’s floor to locate possible shipwrecks. The ROV is deployed underwater to verify the sonars’ findings.
“It was interesting using all of the state-of-the-art equipment,” said Gulyar. “As a physiologist, it was nice learning about all the technical parts of the underwater exploration.”
Civilian surveyors from the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), a team of civilian oceanographers from the U.S.-base Institute of Exploration (IFE) and Ukrainian sailors, historians and surveyors headed the joint, at-sea demonstration.
“I am happy with the amount of work that we were able to accomplish during this survey,” said IFE Chief Scientist Katy Croff. “During this exploration we discovered many sonar targets that we hope to investigate and identify during future projects.”
MSC operates more than 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
NAVOCEANO employs approximately 1,100 civilian, military and contract personnel and is responsible for providing oceanographic products and services to all elements within the U.S. Department of Defense.
Jenniffer Rivera (NNS)
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is a US Navy Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS destroyer. It is jointly named after Admirals John Sidney McCain and John S. McCain jr.
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There is something about the naval service that the civilian simply doesn’t understand. That the men who go down to the sea in ships man the far distant pickets during peace-watching, listening for those perturbations in the political environment that may mean a future threat to the homeland. They are the first to hear the crackling of peace.
And when the clouds of war roll out of the horizon, it is they in their iron watch towers who bear and blunt the first shocks of malevolence.
In the meantime, they watch and wait, peering into the distance-usually unnoticed, often unappreciated in the times of peace. Not until the drums of war roll throughout the land do they get their due. But these men and women care less about this, because their reward is not the accolades, but the service itself.
This great, gray, sleek ship… the men who bend back and mind to serve her…and the spirits of the two men for whom it is named…will be the newest spike in the floating steel veil that protects the land. And as we look at the pristine vessel it looks rather like some great predatory cat, doesn’t it? Crouched down, ears laid back in stalk- we know that its presence and its implied menace will more likely mean peace than war. But some day this ship may have to be in a fight. There will be the loud clang of “BATTLE STATIONS!!! ALL HANDS TO BATTLE STATIONS!!!”, and smoke, and missiles, and noise and that fierce coordinated focus that only comes to men in a battle.
The two McCain’s – John Sidney, Sr., and John Sidney, Jr., served both in the clamor of battle and the long days of keeping the peace. They sacrificed just as the crews of this ship will sacrifice, in peace and war. For that is the lot, and the privilege of the sailor. To serve.
Who these two men are is often obscured by the stars that studded their shoulder boards, and by the lofty commands they held at the ends of their careers. And this too short treatise is to present them not as Admirals and military luminaries, but rather I think how they would be remembered-as human beings. Leaders who were made, not born.
They were men who worked hard, studied their fellow man, made mistakes, learned, and tried again. Most importantly, these two men always told the truth – especially to themselves-because they knew that’s the only thing you can count on. As far as I can find out, they never quit, and they never laid down a responsibility, or tried to transfer blame to another pair of shoulders.
Doing this was no easier for those two men than they are for the rest of us. They just learned and accepted the reality that there is no way around doing you job. No magic, no special internal muses…just hard work and keeping an eye on those twin saboteurs of doing a job right- fear and irresponsibility.
It is an accident that the McCain’s even went to sea. Because in their Mississippi family, the eldest son always took over the family land, “Teoc”, and the second son went into the army. In fact, a McCain served on George Washington’s staff. Another served in the Civil War, was badly wounded, and came home to Teoc to die. Yet another was a three-star general in World War I- the Adjutant General of the Army. Still another was one of the last battle cavalry officers and served with “Black Jack” Pershing on his raid into Mexico trying to catch the elusive “Cucaracha”, Pancho Villa, and also became a general.
Trouble was, John Sidney McCain, Sr. was the third son. The second, Bill, was already at West Point, so “Sidney”, as most of his friends called him, went to “Ole Miss”, presumably to become a doctor, or lawyer or something useful. Still, he itched to put on the West Point gray. Bill approved and suggested he go up to the big city, Jackson, to take some entrance exams they were offering for the U.S. Naval Academy as practice for the rigorous West Point tests.
He did so well on the tests he got an appointment to Annapolis, and decided to go to the sea in ships. It changed McCain history. Since then, at least five McCain’s and blood kin have gone to Annapolis, and several others have joined the enlisted ranks. Nary an Army man in all that time.
John Sidney McCain, Sr. graduated in 1906 and joined a different Navy. A service of iron dreadnoughts belching black coal smoke, of swinging hammocks, and of under slung bows still evolving away from the ancient tactic of stabbing other ships beneath the waterline.
He was ordered out to the old Asiatic Station of song and legend, to serve on many classic ships now long gone to scrap yard and history- the battleship OHIO, the cruiser BALTIMORE, the destroyer CHAUNCEY, and the gunboat PANAY, whose “accidental” sinking by Japanese aircraft two decades later was to be one of the malevolent tidal events that inexorably pulled the United States towards the maelstrom of the Second World War.
Young McCain served on the battleship CONNECTICUT in Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, 16 battleships sent around the globe in 1907 to show the world the power of this muscular new nation in the Western Hemisphere. He escorted convoys through the teeth of the German “Unterwasserboots” in The Great War. More battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and gunboats- learning the ways of the sea, and the men who sail on it in ships of iron.
Almost unnoticeable in this formidable list of men-of-war assignments is a duty which became instrumental in forming his ideas of leadership. That duty was as Director of Machinist Mates School in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1912-1914. It is likely that it was here, as well as on those hard steel decks, that he understood that the career enlisted man is the heart of any Navy. A fact that must never be forgotten if an officer is to truly “lead”. His son, John S. McCain Jr.-second part of this story- was later to put that into a phrase that has become a One Commandment Bible of naval leadership.
In the 1930’s with the rapid expansion of the naval arm-the marriage of ship and warplane-the Navy had a bit of a dilemma. Plenty of naval officers were trained as pilots, but few trained for sea command. The Navy Department decided to look for experienced commanders who might be willing to go to the naval flight school in Pensacola. One of those asked was Sidney McCain, now a Captain- a more serious rank in the small and parochial Navy before World War II.
So Captain McCain went down to Florida with a bunch of kids to learn how to strafe and dive bomb, and land on a pitching carrier deck- at the age of 50. Still a record. And in September, 1936, at the age of 52, some admiral or captain pinned the golden wings above his left breast pocket, 52!
Now an aviator, he commanded two naval air stations and the carrier RANGER, and in February 1941- the Second World War already mauling Europe- he was made Rear Admiral and put in command of the new combined scouting forces and fleet wings on the West Coast. When the Japanese made their terrible miscalculation in attacking Pearl Harbor, his command was the umbrella against the expected attack on the mainland.
May 1942, he took over command of all land-based naval aircraft in the South Pacific. His planes fought the battle of Guadalcanal and helped dent the Japanese effort to “finish off” the Americans in the Pacific.
After a stint back in Washington as Chief of Naval Aeronautics, where he got a third star, it was back to the war in later summer, 1944, as Commander of the Second Fast Carrier Force Pacific and Task Group 38.1. Three months later, he took over Task Force 38, Halsey’s cavalry.
McCain, say the various accounts, became a sort of Jeb Stuart/George Patton of the ocean, dashing from flash point to flash point, attacking, attacking, and attacking. He was awarded the Navy Cross for putting his forces between the battered cruisers HOUSTON and CANBERRA, and a hornet’s nest of Japanese fighters trying to finish off the crippled ships.
In October, he was ordered to take his worn down men and planes for a rest, when a Japanese armada launched a thrust at the American invasion force in the Philippines. Halsey had been drawn Northward by a feint, and the landing troops were protected by only a light force under Admiral Sprague. McCain raced back to help, but his carriers were too far away for his beloved pilots to make it back to the carriers after the strike. He pressed onward, hoping for another hundred miles, but the reports from the beach told of increasing peril and cries for help.
Admiral McCain went down to his cabin to think a few moments. Then came up and said, “Turn into the wind”. The order that precedes an aircraft launch. His aircraft and Sprague’s heroic actions caught the Japanese force flatfooted, and the invasion was saved.
First Battle Between Ironclad Warships
When the American Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, southern state militias took over federal armories and forts on their territory.
A week into the war, Virginia militia closed in on the Navy Yard at Gosport (today’s Portsmouth) on the southside of the Hampton Roads waterway. Union forces at the Navy Yard hastily destroyed their depots and set fire to the ships in drydock. They evacuated the Yard on April 20.
Building the CSS Virginia
Confederate forces entered the next day. Among the wreckage they found the frigate USS Merrimack. It was damaged, but not beyond repair.
They reconfigured the wooden frigate into an ironclad warship. The top decks were removed and replaced with an iron-covered casemate structure with ten guns. the freeboard was also covered with iron plates. An iron ram was installed at the prow.
The ship was commissioned as the CSS Virginia in February 1862. Captain Franklin Buchanan was appointed her commander.
The USS Monitor
Meanwhile the Union built its own ironclad vessel in New York. The USS Monitor was a unique design with a very low freeboard and a revolving iron turret mounting two 11-inch guns. The ship, built specifically as a response to the Confederate ironclad project, was launched on January 30, 1862.
On March 6 the Monitor departed New York in tow. Her destination: The confluence of the James River and Elizabeth River into Chesapeake Bay, known collectively as Hampton Roads, Virginia. Confederate held Norfolk sat on the southern side of Hampton Roads. The Union held cities of Hampton and Newport News were on the northern side.
USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3) is the fourth ship in the history of the U.S. Navy named for Kearsarge Mountain in New Hampshire. Previous ships named KEARSARGE include a Civil War-era sloop of war famous for defeating CSS ALABAMA; a turn-of-the-century battleship that sailed as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet;” and an aircraft carrier, known internationally for its part in the Project Mercury space program. KEARSARGE is only one of two United States ship names mandated by Congress to be used more than once.
USS KEARSARGE is the third ship of the Wasp class multipurpose amphibious assault ships. Her primary mission is the embarkation, deployment, landing and support of a Marine landing force.
USS KEARSARGE and her sister ships are the first ships specifically designed to accommodate Air Cushion Landing Craft (LCAC) for fast troop movement over the beach and Harrier II (AV-8B) V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing) jets, which provide close-in air support for the assault force.
Launched on March 26, 1992, she was christened KEARSARGE on Saturday, May 16, 1992, at Ingalls Shipbuilding by Mrs. Alma Powell, wife of General Colin L. Powell, USA former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. USS KEARSARGE joined the fleet October 16, 1993 during commissioning ceremonies in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is home ported in Norfolk, Virginia.
KEARSARGE departed for her maiden deployment on March 22, 1995. KEARSARGE served as the primary platform for the rescue of Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady after he was shot down over Bosnia.
After the deployment, KEARSARGE served as the primary Navy unit participating in the 1995 New York City Veteran’s Day activities, which marked our nation’s final tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II.
KEARSARGE began her second deployment on April 15, 1997. She relieved USS Nassau (LHA 4) on station off the coast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in support of Operation Guardian Retrieval on May 2, 1997. KEARSARGE was later directed to Freetown, Sierra Leone to conduct Noncombatant Evacuation Operations in support of Operation Noble Obelisk. On May 31, she began evacuating American citizens and foreign nationals from Sierra Leone. During the four-day operation, KEARSARGE evacuated more than 2,500 Americans and foreign nationals from more than 40 countries.
On April 17, 1999, KEARSARGE embarked on its third deployment. Performing a turnover with the NASSAU ARG while underway, KEARSARGE made best speed to the Adriatic Sea where she performed various operations off the coast of Kosovo, including Operation Noble Anvil/Allied Force and establishment of Camp Hope in Fier, Albania. On June 7, Operation Joint Guardian began. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable (SOC), was offloaded June 10 across Litokhoron Beach, Greece, for movement to Skopje, Macedonia. These U.S. Marines were the first peacekeeping force to enter Kosovo. Immediately following, KEARSARGE was ordered to Izmit, Turkey to provide support after the nation experienced a devastating earthquake that killed 12,000 people.
On April 25, 2001, KEARSARGE began its fourth deployment, where the ship hosted the annual USO Gala in Naples, Italy, participated in several large amphibious operations (Trident D’Or, Alexander the Great and Albanian PHIBLIEX), and provided support to the President of the United States during the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. On September 11, 2001, KEARSARGE was underway in the Mediterranean Sea as the World Trade Centers and Pentagon were attacked by terrorists. During this deployment, KEARSARGE visited 12 ports in seven different countries. KEARSARGE returned home on October 15, 2001.
On January 8, 2002, KEARSARGE entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a four-month Planned Maintenance Availability that ended on April 25th that year. In July, KEARSARGE made a port visit to Boston to participate in the annual Harborfest celebration over the 4th of July. On October 10th, KEARSARGE participated in a unique exercise in the Gulf of Mexico to prove a new capability of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship – to support mine sweeping capabilities.
On January 12, 2003, with only 72 hours notice, KEARSARGE was deployed, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was the ship’s fifth deployment. Serving as the Flagship for Rear Admiral Nowakowski, Commander, Amphibious Task Force East, and Brigadier General Richard Natonski, Commanding General Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade (2D MEB) and Landing Force East, KEARSARGE carried more than 1,700 Marines from the 2D MEB to the Northern Arabian Gulf. KEARSARGE later became the Flagship for Commodore Gregg Jackson, Commander Amphibious Squadron Eight.
On February 14th, KEARSARGE began off-loading the 2D MEB at Kuwait Naval Base. They joined up with Marines from the 1 MEB to become Task Force Tarawa. On March 20th hostilities commenced, the name of the engagement was changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Task Force Tarawa crossed in Iraq and went to war. KEARSARGE remained off the coast of Iraq flying combat re-supply missions employing the CH-53E helicopters attached to the Condors of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron Four Sixty-Four (HMH 464).
On the way home from that history combat deployment, KEARSARGE also provided support to the President of the United States during his visits to Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt and Aqaba, Jordan during his summits with Arab leaders. Additionally, KEARSARGE was diverted from its homecoming track to the western coast of Africa to support Operation Shinning Express. KEARSARGE returned home on June 30, 2003.
In June 2004, following a four-month shipyard avalability, KEARSARGE surge deployed to the Arabian Gulf to transport elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. KEARSARGE returned home in August 2004.
KEARSARGE embarked on its seventh deployment on March 25, 2005 as the flagship for the KEARSARGE Expeditionary Strike Group, consisting of KEARSARGE, the guided missile cruiser USS NORMANDY (CG 60), the amphibious transport ship USS PONCE (LPD 15), the guided missile destroyer USS GONZALEZ (DDG 66), the guided missile frigate USS KAUFFMAN (FFG 59), the attack submarine USS SCRANTON (SSN 756) and the dock landing ship USS ASHLAND (LSD 48), and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
USS KEARSARGE has been awarded the Golden Anchor for Retention Excellence, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Service Award, the CNO Environmental Safety Award, the Admiral Flatley Memorial Award, Department of Energy / Department of the Navy Energy Efficient Awards, the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award and the Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic Safety Award.
Additionally, KEARSARGE has qualified for the following medals and unit awards: Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards), Battle Efficiency “E” Award (five awards), National Defense Service Medal (two awards), Kosovo campaign Medal (with bronze star), Armed Forces Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (five awards), the NATO Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon
USS Kearsarge, a 27,100-ton Ticonderoga class aircraft carrier, was built at the New York Navy Yard. She was commissioned in March 1946 and spent her first year of service in training operations in the western Atlantic and Caribbean.
During the later 1940s, Kearsarge made two trips to Europe, the first a summer 1947 midshipmen training cruise and the second a mid-1948 deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. In early 1950, the carrier was transferred to the west coast, where she decommissioned in June for extensive modernization work.
Recommissioned in February 1952, Kearsarge now had a stronger flight deck, new island and many other changes to her appearance and capabilities. She made a Korean War combat cruise in September 1952 – February 1953, during which time she was reclassified as an attack aircraft carrier and redesignated CVA-33.
From mid-1953 to 1958, Kearsarge had regular tours of duty with the Seventh Fleet in the Far East. Her 1955 deployment included supporting the Nationalist Chinese evacuation of the Tachen Islands. The carrier was again modernized in 1956-57, receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed “hurricane” bow to better equip her to operate high-performance aircraft. Kearsarge was assigned a new role in October 1958, becoming an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) support aircraft carrier, with the new designation CVS-33. In that capacity, she operated ASW fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters to protect the fleet against the threat of hostile underwater attack.
Regular Seventh Fleet deployments continued through the late 1950s and the 1960s, including indirect involvement in the Vietnam Conflict.
In 1962 and 1963, Kearsarge carried out a new mission, serving as recovery ship for the orbital flights of astronauts Walter Schirra and Gordon Cooper.
Made redundant by the general fleet drawdown of the late 1960s and early 1970s, USS Kearsarge was decommissioned in February 1970. Following three years in the Reserve Fleet, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in May 1973 and sold for scrapping in February 1974.
The Mohican class sloop USS Kearsarge was the first of four US Navy warships to carry that name. The latest USS Kearsarge is the amphibious carrier designated LHD 3. Find a poster or framed print of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) at The PatriArt Gallery
USS Kearsarge, a 1550-ton Mohican class steam sloop of war, was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, under the 1861 Civil War emergency shipbuilding program. She was commissioned in January 1862 and almost immediately deployed to European waters, where she spent nearly three years searching for Confederate raiders. In June 1864, while under the command of Captain John Winslow, Kearsarge found CSS Alabama at Cherbourg, France, where she had gone for repairs after a devastating cruise at the expense of the United States’ merchant marine. On 19 June, the two ships, nearly equals in size and power, fought a battle off Cherbourg that became one of the Civil War’s most memorable naval actions. In about an hour, Kearsarge‘s superior gunnery completely defeated her opponent, which soon sank.
After searching off Europe for the Confederate cruiser Florida, Kearsarge went to the Caribbean, then to Boston, where she received repairs before returning to Europe in April 1865 to try to intercept the ironclad CSS Stonewall. With the end of the Civil War, she remained in the area until mid-1866, when she was placed out of commission.
Kearsarge returned to active service in January 1868 and was sent to the the Pacific coast of South America. During 1869, she cruised across the ocean as far as Australia, then returned to Peru. The next year, Kearsarge sailed north to Hawaii, then moved on to Mare Island, California, where she decommissioned in October 1870. In 1873-78, she was back in commission, cruising in Asiatic waters until September 1877, then transiting the Suez Canal to return to the U.S. East coast, where she decommissioned in early 1878.
Two more tours of duty awaited Kearsarge during the next decade and a half. She operated in the North Atlantic and Caribbean areas in 1879-83, then went back to Europe and Africa until late 1886. From 1888 onwards, she was stationed in the West Indies and Central American areas. While en route from Haiti to Nicaragua on 2 February, she was wrecked on Roncador Reef. An effort to salvage her proved fruitless, and USS Kearsarge was stricken from the Navy List later in the year.
Captain Raphael Semmes was one of the Confederacy’s most dashing and celebrated figures. Read a concise but thorough review of Semmes’ Civil War career at the Southern Maryland News