Dolphins Branch Out into Underwater Archaeology
Navy SEALs get a lot of accolades, but Navy dolphins are nothing to sneeze at, either. In April, a pair of U.S. Navy–trained bottlenoses succeeded in making an amazing undersea find off Coronado Island, California: a rare torpedo relic from the 19th century.
The Howell torpedo represented the cutting edge of weapon technology in the 1880s; it was the first torpedo capable of tracking a target without leaving a telltale wake. The 11-foot, flywheel-driven brass torpedo sped at 25 knots to a range of 400 yards. Though it was a milestone invention, the Howell was surpassed by another company’s torpedo that managed not only to replicate but improve on the Howell’s breakthrough innovations.
Until the recent dolphin discovery, only two of the historically important yet extremely scarce Howell torpedoes were believed to still be in existence—one at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, the other at the Naval War College Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.
Though they can now add “underwater archaeologist” to their résumés, the dolphins who made the find are trained to find mines—submerged threats that can exist undetected by expensive high-tech equipment but can’t avoid the animals’ phenomenal sensitivity. “Dolphins naturally possess the most sophisticated sonar known to man,” Braden Duryee, an official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, told the Los Angeles Times.
The dolphins are part of the Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) based at Point Loma in San Diego. In addition to mine detection and clearance, NMMP animal teams are trained for harbor protection, ship protection, and equipment recovery; they have served in combat zones from Vietnam to Iraq.
A dolphin on a dive-and-search mission is trained to surface and tap the bow of the boat with its snout if it has found anything. If the search has come up with nothing, the dolphin taps the stern instead. Two dolphins, one named “Ten” and another named “Spetz,” verified the discovery within a week of each other, leading Navy divers to take a look.
The rare object was in two pieces. Now retrieved from the ocean floor, they will be shipped to the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard.
Vietnam-Era Sailors Honored at Arlington
With an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Navy on 2 May honored four sailors from a Vietnam War helicopter crew.
The remains of Lieutenant Dennis W. Peterson, the pilot of a helicopter that crashed in North Vietnam, were positively identified on 30 March. He was the last to be accounted for among the doomed aircraft’s crew, which also included Ensign Donald P. Frye and Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson and Donald P. McGrane.
On 19 July 1967, the four servicemen took off from the USS Hornet (CV-12) on board an SH-3A Sea King helicopter, on a search-and-rescue mission looking for a downed pilot in Ha Nam Province. A concealed enemy 37-mm gun targeted the helicopter as it flew in. Hit by antiaircraft gunfire, the helicopter lost control, caught fire, and crashed, killing all four on board.
In October 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated five boxes of remains to U.S. officials. In 2009 the remains within the boxes were identified as those of Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.
In 1993 a joint U.S./S.R.V. team conducted an investigation in Ha Nam Province. The team interviewed local villagers who identified possible burial sites linked to the 1967 crash. One local claimed to have buried two of the crewmen near the wreckage, but indicated that both graves had later been exhumed.
Between 1994 and 2000, three joint U.S./S.R.V. excavations recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew’s SH-3A helicopter. In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site, recovering additional remains. Analysis from the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory subsequently designated these newer finds as the co-mingled remains of all four crewmen—including Peterson.
As the crew was interred in its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, Commander Anthony Roach, former commander of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, said, “Taking care of our sailors and taking care of our family members is important today, just as it was back in 1967.”
For their actions, the crew was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. Peterson was awarded the Silver Star.
“He deserved it. I don’t know how else to say it,” said Kirsten Peterson, Lieutenant Peterson’s daughter. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice. We sacrificed. His grandkids sacrificed, so it was overdue. Full honors means a lot.”
Knox Award to Honor Naval History Excellence
The Naval Historical Foundation has announced the establishment of the Commodore Dudley W. Knox Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing an individual for a body of work in the field of U.S. naval history.
Commodore Dudley Wright Knox (1877–1960) was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval War College. He had a distinguished career as a naval officer, with service in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Great White Fleet voyage, and World War I. But it was his abilities as a historian, librarian, and archivist that earned him respect and admiration amongst his peers and later generations.
Transferred to the Retired List of the Navy in 1921, Knox served as officer in charge, Office of Naval Records and Library, and as curator for the Navy Department. The publication of his clarion call, Our Vanishing Naval History, in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in January 1926 led to the establishment of the Naval Historical Foundation. Knox would serve as secretary and then vice president of the organization for decades and was its sixth president at the time of his passing in 1960.
For a quarter of a century, his leadership inspired diligence, efficiency, and initiative while he guided, improved, and expanded the Navy’s archival and historical operations. His publications include The Eclipse of American Sea Power (1922), A History of the United States Navy (1936), and multi-volume collections of documents on naval operations in the Quasi-War with France and the Barbary Wars.
The USS Knox (FF-1052) was named for him, as was the headquarters building for the Naval History and Heritage Command.
With the new Knox Award, the Naval Historical Foundation will annually honor an individual who has made “Knox-like” contributions to the field of naval history through a combination of scholarship and community building.
Those who have a candidate for consideration for the 2013 inaugural prize may visit www.navyhistory.org/commodore-dudley-w-knox-naval-history-award/ and submit a nomination online. Elements of the submission will include the nominee’s name, institutional affiliations, and an essay describing the nominee’s contributions to U.S. naval history.
The nominating essay should include a description of the nominee’s career in government, academia, and/or the private sector. A discussion of the nominee’s educational milestones and influence on naval historiography and others in the field should be highlighted. Coverage should include an assessment of the nominee’s service to the Navy, the historical profession, and the public at large.
The deadline for 2013 submissions is 15 July.
New Leadership at Naval Aviation Museum Foundation
The Naval Aviation Museum Foundation has announced the selection of retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant General Duane D. Thiessen as its new president and chief executive officer. General Thiessen replaces retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Gerald L. Hoewing, who is transitioning to president emeritus.General Thiessen is a graduate of the Naval Command and Staff College and Naval War College. He completed numerous deployments in the Mediterranean and Okinawa, and was an instructor at Marine Aviation and Tactics Squadron One. He commanded at the squadron, aircraft-group, and air-wing levels. He served as commander of U.S. Marine Forces in Korea and as deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Programs and Resources. His final military assignment was Commander Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific, before he retired from the Marine Corps in 2012 after 38 years of service.
A special selection committee narrowed the field of candidates. The recommendation to hire General Thiessen was unanimously approved by the foundation’s board of directors.