Ordeal At Vella Lavella

Six thousand miles southwest of San Francisco lie the Solomon Islands, scene of perhaps the bitterest fighting ever waged by Americans at war. Here, in 1942-43, the United States and its allies battled the empire of Japan for mastery of the South Pacific. Read more »

The Inspired Leak

The leak was known of old. It can afflict either a ship or a government, it invariably means that something invisible has gone wrong, and in certain cases it ends in disaster. It is instructive to reflect on the differences between the leak as known to mariners and the leak as known to politicians, political scientists, and newspaper correspondents. Read more »

The Greats Wine Flu Epidemic Of 1918

In the last week of October, 1918, 2,700 Americans died “over there” in battle against the kaiser’s army. The same week 21,000 Americans died of influenza in the United States. Read more »

The Battle Of Lake Erie

"With half the western world at stake, See Perry on the middle lake.” —Nineteenth-century ballad

In the late summer of 1812 a Great Lakes merchant captain named Daniel Dobbins arrived in Washington. He had had a dreadful time getting there, and his journey could not have been made more pleasant by the fact that he was bringing some very bad news with him. Read more »

“I Am Not A Very Timid Type …”

The American public, reeling from a series of defeats at the onset of World War II, was thrilled by the dramatic announcement that, on April 18, 1942, a flight B-25 medium bombers had successfully struck Tokyo and other targets on the Japanese mainland. To keep the enemy off-balance rigid security was imposed on the details of the surprise carrier-launched raid. “Shangn-La,” a smiling President Franklin D. Roosevelt replied when asked where the attack had originated.

 

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The Strange Mission Of The Lanikai

“My God! What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be dead!” the Admiral told Lanikai's skipper when she finally sailed into port

On March 18, 1941;, eighty-two days out of Manila, all sails set, rigging taut, a small, green, weathered schooner entered the port of Fremantle, Western Australia. Atop her afterdeck house a small-caliber, slimbarrelled cannon sat on a brass pedestal. Faded, tattered Philippine and United States flags whipped from her spanker gaff. Above them, at the main peak, floated a wisp of bunting that the intrigued onlookers aboard the Allied warships present thought might be a man-o-warsnian’s commission pennant. Read more »

Lincoln Saves A Reformer

The Navy and contractor Smith accused each other of fraud. The Navy won—until the President took a hand

The way of the reformer is hard. The way ofthat idealistic David who slings his polished stones at the Goliath of military bureaucracy is trebly hard. He needs a firm heart and strong friends. Franklin W. Smith, the principal in a celebrated naval court-martial during the Civil War, found one such just and farseeing advocate in Abraham Lincoln. Read more »

Sam Orkin’s Navy

The curious sight above takes us back to the recruiting and Liberty Bond drives of World War I, to a time when the engines of war were as popular as “preparedness” itself. These gentlemen have just launched a miraculous working model of the then-powerful dreadnought U.S.S. Pennsylvania . They belong to no military-industrial complex except the toy business, and they plan to do their patriotic bit by exhibiting their stuff in stores all over the country. Read more »

Memo To: Oliver Wendell Holmes From: The Friends Of Old Ironsides Subject: Help!

It was a bright day for the Republic, that afternoon of May 15, 1815, when the U.S.S. Constitution victoriously dropped anchor oil the Battery at New York. Of all the gala homecomings that Castle Clinton’s low brown walls would witness in the next century and a half, none would be charged with more patriotic fervor. Read more »

Ordeal In The Arctic

As the debate about rescuing them droned on and on, Lieutenant Greely’s men were dying one by one

On Friday, September 14, 1883, black headlines filled the morning editions of American newspapers. The sturdy sealing ship Proteus, veteran of the Arctic seas, had been crushed in the pack ice of the Far North and sunk.

 
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