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The Fort Fisher Campaigns
(See page 843, August, 1951, Proceedings)
Professor W. H. Russell, U. S. Naval Academy.—Sincere thanks for giving us the excellent analysis of The Fort Fisher Campaigns, 1864-1865 by Capt. Joseph E. King, U.S.A. (Ret.), in the August, 1951 Proceedings. It focussed deserved attention upon °ur 19th century Navy’s experiments with amphibious techniques. That is particularly appropriate when one recalls that the Proceedings was the first professional magazine to emphasize amphibious doctrine during the pioneer period from 1879 to 1890.
Perhaps Mr. King’s effort and the June article by Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, U.S.N. (Ret.), mark a return to the days when young Navy officers like Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan, Lieutenant Commander A. D. Brown, Lieutenants T. B. M. Mason, C. T. Hutchins, C. G. Calkins, Dennis H. Mahan, and Ensign William L. Rodgers, were making contributions to the Proceedings that gave later amphibious development a firm foundation.
Mr. King’s analysis of the second Fort Fisher action (January, 1865) is also noteworthy for the attention it directs toward an operation which—even more than Gallipoli—foreshadowed the problems of amphibious warfare. In that connection, it is interesting to speculate on why the Fort Fisher action has been so long ignored. As Mr. King said, his paper, “in its essential Points, could have been written eighty years ago. . . Why wasn’t it?
The answer seems to lie in Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter’s official Fort Fisher report which states that seamen assaulting the fort’s sea face were repulsed because the “Marines ... failed to do .. . their duty....” Admiral Porter’s prestige, and the eye-witness character of his report, effectively checked fuller analysis of the action.
One who looks behind Porter’s categorical statement discovers the factor that makes Fort Fisher such a rich field for amphibious analysis. The January attack on Fort Fisher actually consisted of two separate but coordinated assaults from the sea. The first was what our British friends call a combined operation. Porter’s fleet ferried troops ashore and provided naval gunfire support, then army forces under Terry took over and stormed the position. It was an unqualified success. The second phase of the operation was, in all its essential elements, what we have learned to call an amphibious operation; a naval landing force, integral with the fleet and supported by naval gunfire, went ashore in its own boats and attacked from beaches swept by enemy fire. This amphibious action is one of the major disasters in our naval history.
Mr. King’s excellent analysis of the operation’s combined phase suggests a solution to this paradox.
The fleet landed Terry’s men well beyond the range of defending artillery. During naval gunfire preparation for the assault, Terry pushed forward a line of riflemen who dug pits and prepared to keep the defenders from manning their battered parapets. When the storm troops were formed and ready, naval gunfire lifted and the riflemen began a heavy supporting fire. Under cover of that rifle fire, waiting columns rushed forward to win a foothold on the defensive perimeter. So the successful combined assault was made in three stages; naval gunfire support, close
rifle support, infantry assault with the bayonet.
Admiral Porter planned a similar action for the amphibious phase. Fleet elements took the fort’s sea face under heavy fire, and Porter assigned to his fleet riflemen (the Marines) the job of covering the final rush by an assault force of seamen. However, Porter’s execution was less skillful than Terry’s. The seamen shock troops had to land on a beach within rifle shot of the defensive works, which could not be swept by naval guns, while the assault columns formed. Therefore, placing the rifle support in position before the seamen landed was mandatory. Porter failed to take that step.
In 1865 Navy doctrine required each ship contributing to a landing to send ashore its quota of men in the ship’s own boats. Since no boats were assigned to Marine units afloat, the Marine riflemen in the second P'ort Fisher operation were scattered among all the boats sent away. So each boat carried a unit of assault seamen, plus a few of the Marines who were supposed to cover them.
Naval gunfire lifted at about the time boats hit the beach. Marines drawn from several ships were then to form a provisional company, deploy, advance, dig in, and take the defenders under fire. At the same time, seamen from many ships were to form a provisional battalion, deploy in assault columns, and wait patiently for supporting rifle fire to take effect. Porter’s plan might have worked if the defenders had cooperated by withholding fire until this time-consuming organization was complete.
But the defenders refused to play their assigned role. The forming seamen came under fire before their rifle supports had time to take position. As frequently happens when inexperienced troops come under such fire, the massed seamen grew restive. Their only escape lay ahead, so they rushed the fort in a disorderly wave—totally unsupported by a base of fire. The result reflected adversely upon none at the beach.
From our point of view, then, it is not an emotional question of who faltered under withering fire. The disaster merely serves to emphasize the fact that most combat failures result from faulty doctrine or planning. In this case, faulty boating of the rifle support element produced an inevitable result. It may comfort those who worked so long and hard for adequate assault boats and sound boat doctrine to know that, even in the dawn of our own amphibious experience, the boating problem was paramount.
This amphibious phase of the Fort Fisher operation supports Mr. King’s remark that, “Impressions about the great days of one’s youth often lie. . . .” (see his footnote 15).
During the Mexican War Porter had taken part in a similar amphibious operation at Tabasco in which Commodore M. C. Perry, U.S.N., relied heavily on a well-trained fleet landing force. Porter disapproved of Perry’s reliance on ground troops—even those drawn from the fleet. He grew impatient with their slow land advance, pushed upriver in the vessel he commanded, and seized the objective before the footmen arrived.1
Perhaps Porter’s dramatic success at Tabasco was the root of his error at Fort Fisher—an error which, despite his brilliant use of naval gunfire, delayed amphibious development in the United States for at least a generation.
Scurvy the Killer
(See page 1029, October, 1951, Proceedings)
Chief Boatswain C. M. Robinett, U. S. Navy (Retired).—Admiral Lucius W. Johnson’s “A Million Seamen Were Slain,” in the October, 1951, Proceedings, is the finest sketch of the history of scurvy which it has been my privilege to read. We have all heard the classic remark that everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Similarly, everyone has heard of scurvy, but until now no one has bothered to assemble into a coherent whole the historical facts regarding this vicious disabling and killing disease.
The ten thousand men estimated by Richard Hawkins to have died from scurvy were all English seamen, and this was for a period of only twenty years. How many Spanish and Portuguese were wiped out during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by scorbutic affections can only be conjectured, but the number must have been appalling.
Regarding the health conditions in the six
1 See Richard S. West, Jr., The Second. Admiral, A Life of David Dixon Porter (New York, 1937).
English ships at Flores on the day of the famous fight of the Revenge, Sir Walter Raleigh, a contemporary, writes that “the one half part of the men of every ship [was] sick and utterly unserviceable. For in the Revenge there were ninety diseased; in the Ronavenlure, not so many in health as could handle her mainsail.” In view of this situation, the magnificent performance of Grenville’s ship, the Revenge, is all the more remarkable. It may be observed, however, that, although Lord Howard’s actions in this affair did not fire the imaginations of poets, his decision to avoid battle because half his complement were already casualties from scurvy was quite possibly a wise one.
A recommendation as to the use of citrus fruits in treating scurvy, which antedates that of John Woodall in 1617, was made by Sir Richard Hawkins in 1593. He writes: “That which I have seen most fruitfull for this sicknesse [scurvy] is sower oranges and lemmons. . . .” (observations of Sir Richard Hawkins, in The Hawkins’ Voyages , p. 141. Another reference to the antiscorbutic properties of citrus is contained on p. 163, ibid.). It may also be of interest to note that m 1626, in his “Accidence for Young Seamen,” Captain John Smith advises ship commanders to include among their provisions 11 the iuyce of Lemons for the Scurvey.” One might add that had all commanders been as considerate of their men’s health as Smith suggested they should be, the mortality rate at sea during the seventeenth century would have been appreciably reduced.
Admiral Johnson has noted that scurvy is still not uncommon, despite the widespread knowledge of its causes and prevention. An instance of a recent case of scurvy on land has been related to me by Dr. Charles D. O’Malley of Stanford University, Professor of History and writer on early modern medicine. Dr. O’Malley stated that a few years ago a retired sea captain living in San Francisco came down with a severe case of scurvy simply because he had much too definite ideas about what constituted a proper diet for an old salt. Captain Louis H. Roddis (MC), U.S.N., states on p. 19 of his excellent work, A Short History of Nautical Medicine (1941), that in the case of a human subsisting on a ration completely lacking in Vitamin C the symptoms of scurvy may appear in as short a time as two weeks. Obviously the lesson is that it can happen even to any one of us.
Mediterranean Geopolitics and the Battle of Lepanto
(See page 138, February, 1951, Proceedings)
Lieutenant (S.C.) Aldo Fraccaroli, Italian Naval Reserve.—In Lieut. Leon B. Blair’s article I noted this phrase: “The Battle of Lepanto, 1571 A.D., was between the Turkish fleet under Barbarossa, and the combined fleets of the Christian world.”
This is not quite true: indeed the Turkish fleet was under the command of All Mu’edh- dhim Zadeh, who was killed in that battle.
Barbarossa died 25 years before Lepanto, exactly in 1546, in Constantinople, aged more than 80. He was so nicknamed by the Italians for his red beard—this being the meaning of “Barbarossa,” but his real name was Khair ed-din. According to other explanations, the nickname “Barbarossa” was the corruption of another name of that famous pirate and admiral, viz Baba Urug, or Baba Arouj.
Anyhow, Barbarossa, winner of several sea fights as C-in-C, Turkish fleet, was not the admiral of the Crescent at Lepanto.
It may be also interesting to observe that only some Christian powers sent ships and men against the Turks: they were chiefly Venice (121 warships and 41,000 men), the Pope (12 ships, 5,300 men), Savoy, Genoa and Malta—whose forces fought under their own flags; and Spain (51 ships, 15,900 men), together with some lesser Italian princes—• Doria, Grimaldi, etc.—who fought under the flag of the King of Spain.
In the battle of Lepanto, no ship or man of the King of France participated: only 28 years earlier, in 1543, Francis I, “Most Christian King” of France, formed a naval alliance with the Turks, whose C-in-C, Navy, was just Barbarossa.
(See page 499, May, 1951, Proceedings)
Douglas H. Robinson, M.D.—Liz, shown on page 501, could just possibly have been the vessel listed in the War Loss Section of the 1919 Jane’s Fighting Ships as HMS Arno which was lost by collision off
the Dardanelles in 1918. Other than this HMS Arno is something of a mystery, but from her,, photograph looks to have been Italian built. I can find no other mention of any- foreign-built destroyer serving in the Royal Navy during 1914-18, though a number of ships being built in Britain for foreign governments were, of course, seized.
The Lis in which Commander Rodrigues served in 1923 must have been a different vessel,; if the Liz of 1914 became the HMS Arno.
Possibly Commander Rodrigues himself could recall some further detail to throw light on this minor mystery.
In reply to Dr. Robinson’s inquiry Commander Rodrigues writes
The Portuguese destroyer Liz referred to in my article was built in Italy in 1914 and entered the list of men-of-war on February 19th, 1915. She was ceded to England in the same year and was lost in 1918.
The assumption of Dr. Robinson that the Portuguese destroyer Liz and the English Arno are one and the same boat, seems to be correct. As regards the Portuguese torpedo-boat Lis, this was a torpedo-boat of the Austrian Navy, built between 1913-1915 by Ganz Danubius Co., Porto Re, Fiume, and was delivered to Portugal in
September 1920, and assigned for patrol service. This boat appears in Jane’s Fighting Ships, issue of 1923, together with her sister ships Ave, Sado and Mondego, with a photograph dated 1921. She was dropped from the active service of the Portuguese Navy on September 6, 1934.
M. M. Sarmento Rodrigues Commander, P.N.
Blow Me Down!
(See page 857, August, 1951, Proceedings) Clyde M. Leavitt.—I have read with interest Lt. Hayler’s article on ship handling.
On Page 859 reference is made to a condition with the wind abeam, and it is stated that the best way to stop the motion of the bow when it once begins to fall off is to go ahead on the lee, or on both engines, and use the rudder to bring the bow around. I agree with the statement except that if the vessel is makihg but little way through the water there will probably be a considerable drift to leeward of the vessel as a whole, although the heading of the ship may not change very greatly due to the action of the wind.
At the Pascagoula plant of the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation, we have con-
structed on the order of one hundred of the Maritime Commission C3 and similar design cargo vessels. C3 ships are 492'-0"X69'-6" X42'-6'/ and have 8500 horsepower on a single screw. When our vessels are returning from sea trials they frequently encounter winds blowing perpendicular to the dock to which they are to come alongside. In addition, they are in something approaching extreme light condition, say 12' forward and 16' aft, and are thus very susceptible to the influence of abeam wind when operating with bare steerage way or less.
Our trial Master uses a very simple and successful method of preventing a ship’s bow from falling away from the wind. The enclosed sketch shows a portion of our outfitting dock area with a vessel of C3 size shown in three successive positions as it approaches one of the outfitting piers. The wind is indicated as blowing from the SSE, i.e., about normal to the final position of the longitudinal axis of the ship. As the bow of the vessel enters the dock the port anchor is let go and a very moderate scope is paid out so that the anchor is dragged over the bottom at slow speed. The action of the anchor is astonishingly eSective in preventing the bow from falling off to leeward under the action of the wind. If the ship’s bow does tend to fall away and the ship drifts over the anchor, an athwartships component is at once developed, which tends to move the bow back into position. In addition to this, the sternward component due to the drag of the anchor provides some additional resistance to ahead motion of the vessel and, besides being an efficient brake to excessive ahead motion of the vessel, makes it possible to swing the stern to port or starboard with greater facility than would otherwise be the case.
After the ship is secured alongside the pier the anchor is simply hove in by means of the anchor windlass. I realize that Lt. Hayler’s article does not pretend to completely cover ship handling in narrow or congested waterways, and it may be that letting an anchor go as described above is not considered good form in the Navy; however, this procedure has proven so very satisfactory to us that you may consider that the foregoing would be °f interest to some of the members of the U. S. Naval Institute.
Let’s Keep Calling
Lieutenant Commander Robert E. Pearce, U. S. Navy.—-The Navy’s social calling system, as tradition demands and as books on naval etiquette faithfully insist, requires that calls shall be made on the Commanding Officer and his family, the Heads of various Departments, and the Seniors in your Department. Juniors in your Department shall in turn call on you. These calls should be made between 1700 and 1900 and should last exactly twenty minutes. All calls made should be returned within ten days to two weeks. Calls on Saturday and Sunday are frowned on, though not prohibited. Except when calling on the Commanding Officer1 it is considered improper to make prior arrangements for a call. Of course, rules surrounding a custom are not invariable, but the above statements comprise a consensus from several books on the subject and reflect Naval Officers’ understanding of the custom.
The idea of making formal social calls soon after arriving at a new duty station is good. The only serious objection to it is the time at which they are supposed to be made. Doubtless the original selection of calling times was made when (1) all officers’ families had the services of at least two domestics; (2) all officers lived on the naval reservation in government furnished and maintained quarters near each other; (3) all officers who had children employed a competent full time nurse; (4) all officers and their ladies were dressed properly to receive guests of any rank on any day at any time within the stated limits; and (5) all officers at all times had a well-appointed and amply furnished wine cellar or cabinet.
Let’s face it. It just ain’t so! Perhaps there was once a time when we lived like this, and most of us either nostalgically or wistfully dream of those days. But times have changed. Take the present day Lieutenant Commander. He is a family man about thirty years old, with two or three children. He enjoys a modestly comfortable, though hardly lavish, salary. His wife has a “cleaning girl” once a week, who doubles as a baby tender while the lady of the house enjoys her freedom by shopping (not necessarily purchasing) in the city. At 1600 the freedom
abruptly ends, and dinner must be prepared. While it’s entirely possible that he lives in government quarters, chances are that he is renting a five room bungalow or has bought one within ten miles of the station. His normal working hours are from 0800 to 1630, although he frequently works later. He may be a coach or member of an athletic team engaged in scheduled activities after working hours.
Books on naval etiquette continue to describe idyllic scenes like this: The eager young officer comes bounding home after a day’s creative work and sees his beautiful wife with a bandana covering her hair. “But, darling,” he exclaims in distress, “you’re not dressed! Everyone in the Navy is dressed to receive callers in the afternoon.” Also to be found in recent print is the instruction always to hand your cards to the butler when he answers the door! Can anyone, off-hand, recall seeing a butler in a naval officer’s home in the last ten years?
Let’s be realistic. A Navy couple is about to make a call. Jean doesn’t want to ask the neighbors to watch her three children in the late afternoon when dinner must be prepared. Yet it’s very difficult to hire a sitter (a term unknown when calling times were established) for only an hour or two between the end of school hours and dinner. One has been engaged, however, and Jean is frantically trying to dress and organize a little food for the children’s supper later. John comes rushing home after a training flight that stayed out longer than expected. He must quickly shower and shave, then pick up the sitter some three miles across town. First, though, son Jimmy’s football must be patched in order to keep peace in the family. Finally, through sheer stamina and courage, both principals are dressed and ready to drive ten miles out in the country to call on the Operations Officer. As they drive up, they see a car backing out of the driveway. 'I'he Operations Officer and his wife are just leaving for a call themselves.
Then there is the couple on the receiving end. Their porch railing has been needing paint for some time now, and Dick has been able to get away from the station a little early. He is in his shorts and sneakers, applying paint equally to the railing and himself.
Mary has been folding clothes getting ready for tomorrow’s ironing, and a pineapple upside-down cake is on the stove. Dinner must be served soon. Dick gets that well- known chill running down his spine as he sees the Captain and his wife pull into the driveway. Mary hides all the clothes in the closet, turns the stove off (the cake sticks as a result), and tries to hold the callers at bay, while Dick wildly dashes through the back door into the bedroom, simultaneously wiping paint off his face and changing shoes. About the time he has furnished highballs (with soda surreptitiously borrowed from next door), the children troop in with the universal plea, “Mommy, I’m hungry,” and dip their grimy hands in the peanuts. So ends the call.
Can something be done about it? Certainly a custom cannot be changed merely by criticizing it. A suggestion is for a Commanding Officer once he has reported to a new unit, to announce that he will be delighted to receive callers from 2000 to 2130 on, say, Mondays and Thursdays. If he has children, he might invite his officers to bring their children when they call on Sunday afternoons. These calls need not last more than the traditional twenty minutes; a call need be no less formal simply because of a change in time.
The King and the Mouse
Captain Albert O. Momm, U. S. Navy.— It was early in 1939, and almost all of the U.S. Fleet was having its annual combined maneuvers in the Bay of Gonaives, anchoring each night off Gonaives. The Bay was divided into many operating areas. To get to the area assigned to the four newest aircraft carriers participating in these exercises, we had to proceed generally diagonally northwest from our anchorage. The task force commander, who later became one of our outstanding leaders, gave strict orders that, in proceeding to and from the operating areas, we were not to cut diagonally across the area assigned to any other force, but to proceed generally along the edges of assigned rectangular areas.
This day the U.S.S. Yorktown and Enterprise proceeded to our designated areas and conducted exercises independently of the
other two carriers, which carried the flag of the task force commander. Upon completion °f the day’s exercises, we sighted the task force commander, and joined up with him in accordance with signals. Being late in the day, and presumably all forces having completed their exercises, our four imposing carriers proceeded in column directly across the individual operating areas to our anchorage, m violation of the order previously given by the same commander. My ship, the York- town, was fourth in column.
f had had the afternoon watch as officer- of-the-deck and had just finished writing up my entries in the ship’s log. As I proceeded forward on the flight deck toward my stateroom, I could see the three carriers in column ahead; in addition, on the starboard bow, on a crossing course, was a single 4-stack Hush- deck destroyer “making knots.” This unusual sight, of a World War I destroyer steaming alone at 25 knots, immediately indicated something unusual; and a quick glance around pointed up a division of the then-current 5-inch gun destroyers carrying out radical maneuvers on the horizon.
Suddenly there was a flash from the distant ships, and an instant later a perfect straddle of plummeting 5-inch projectiles contained the “luckless” target. It was a combined salvo dropped on a radio-controlled ship!
I turned to look back at our four majestic carriers, now almost threatened by collision with the diminutive target ship. Then, without a signal of any kind—there were no rapid tactical communications by voice then—the four carriers were seen to execute the most perfect simultaneous ships’ turn- away from the little flush-decker!! The four ships formed perfect line abreast and relinquished the area to the deserving, without
the exchange of a single signal between ships! This incident inspired the following poem
from the pens of the Yorktown bards:
The fleet was busy working in the Caribbean one day;
The ships were given playgrounds, and ’twas there that each must play.
Just like a giant circus having four and twenty rings;
Each ring was miles of ocean—so the guns could have their fling.
The circus was in motion; every ring was in full play;
Some were shooting, some were flying, scores of captains getting gray.
They’d been doing it for hours, and the sun was dropping down;
The show was almost over—but we hadn’t seen the clown.
Wait! Just look at yon horizon—there is something I can see,
Drawing near, behind our targets, where no man- of-war should be.
They look like ships, but couldn’t be—their tops are out of plumb,
They’re shaped like “L,” they look like hell; how can they be so dumb?
We’ll start this run and get it off; let’s finish up the day;
The sights are on the target, and we’re tired of this play.
The salvo’s off, let’s watch the splash, and give them “Up” or “Down.”
Then lo—behold, the shells start dropping all around the clown.
’Twas just a slight diversion to complete a busy- day,
Those funny ships then got the word, and turned the other way.
A whispered snatch of fable—“When a mouse looked at a King”;
When “Looks could kill,” and nearly did—within a circus ring.