Stand aside! I’m Coming through at 31 Knots!

WTIs aboard USS Bunker Hill

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 7, 2017) Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) steams along San Celemente Island during a Mark 45 5-inch gun fire exercise while conducting a group sail training unit exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ignacio D. Perez/Released)

How the Arleigh Burke class destroyers got their name

Arleigh Burke class destroyers are named in honor of Admiral Arleigh “31 knot” Burke. In 1991 with Admiral Burke himself present at age 90, the USS Arleigh Burke, the first ship of the class, was launched.

Burke earned his nickname, given by Admiral William F. Halsey, from the following radio message broadcast to US troop transports who were in danger of being intercepted by Japanese warships in World War Two in the New Guinea campaign.

“Stand aside! Stand aside! I’m coming through at 31 knots,”

radioed Mr. Burke, then a Captain, radioed darkened American troop transports as his squadron, named Little Beavers for a comic strip character, steamed up the slot at boiler bursting speed to attack a Japanese task force off Bougainville on the night of Nov. 1, 1943.

In a widely heralded action, the squadron covered the landing of thousands of American troops while attacking enemy vessels and aircraft. When the battle of Empress Augusta Bay ended the next day, the Japanese toil was horrendous. A cruiser and four destroyers lay on the bottom, and two cruisers and a pair of destroyers had limped away heavily damaged.

Later that month, the squadron engaged another Japanese task force off Cape St. George, New Ireland, and sank three destroyers without taking a hit. In 22 engagements from November 1943 to February 1944, the Navy said, Captain Burke’s squadron was credited with sinking one cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine and nine smaller ships, as well as downing approximately 30 aircraft.

Burke became famous for his daring exploits as Commander of Destroyer Squadron 23 in the Pacific in 1943 and 1944. After the war he went all the way up the ladder. In 1955 he was named Chief of Naval Operations by President Eisenhower.”

[lines in quotes from Burke’s obituary in the New York Times in 1996]

The post has a tenure of two years and he served six years for a total of 3 terms. President Kennedy asked him to serve a 4th term as CNO but he felt he should retire to make way for others.


BLACK SEA (May 14, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) and the Bulgarian navy frigate Drazki 41 maneuver during a passing exercise.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Spratt/Released)

Sterett-Dewey Surface Action Group Deployment

no doubt Admiral Burke would raise an eyebrow at this

REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE (May 16, 2017) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Sazanami (DD 113), left, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) are moored together at the International Maritime Defense Exhibition 2017 (IMDEX-17). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released)



Admiral Mitscher and his chief of staff Arleigh Burke arrive on board Enterprise after flagship Bunker Hill was badly damaged from two kamikaze attacks. The attacks set the ship’s island afire, and killed or wounded a number of Mitscher’s senior staff. Among the dead was Dr. Ray Hege, the physician Admiral Nimitz had assigned to watch over the frail health of Admiral Mitscher. (US Navy photo & caption)







US Navy on patrol in the Pacific

While many things in Washington DC are in a state of confusion, it is good to know that our US Navy is on patrol in the Pacific Ocean where the US and its allies have critical economic and political interests.



PACIFIC OCEAN (May 16, 2017) An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 prepares to make an arrested landing aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito/Released)



PACIFIC OCEAN (May 12, 2017) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 “Black Knights” prepares to land on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the western Pacific Ocean.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito/Released)



PACIFIC OCEAN (May 11, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) participates in a strait transit simulation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul L. Archer/Released)



PACIFIC OCEAN (May 11, 2017) Ships from the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier strike Group participate in a simulated strait transit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul L. Archer/Released)


PACIFIC OCEAN (May 16, 2017) Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rebecca Sunderland/Released)



WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (May 18, 2017) Sailors assigned to the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 inspect an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The ship is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, providing a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jamal McNeill/Released)


Sterett-Dewey Surface Action Group DeploymentSOUTH CHINA SEA (May 15, 2017) Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is welcomed aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) by Sterett’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Claudine Caluori, during Sterett’s anchorage off the coast of Singapore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released)




Elder Brother of the Trinity

9 August 1941.  Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House aboard USS Augusta with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When asked by a senior official of the French government in a hurried meeting in June of 1941 what uniform he was wearing, Churchill explained to the amazement of this man that he was wearing the uniform of the Elder Brother of the Trinity. Churchill insisted on speaking in French but his skills in that language were not on par with his skills using the English language which often caused confusion. His actual words describing his uniform were: “Frère Aîné de la Trinité” which translates as “Elder Brother of the Trinity.”

Another view of Churchill in the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House taken aboard HMS Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference.

Churchill often wore the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House, an organization chartered by the British Crown in 1514 to oversea harbour pilots and aids to navigation. He was made an Honorary Elder Brother upon being appointed to the cabinet position of First Lord of the Admiralty in 1913.


Trinity House in London. Chartered in 1514 by Henry VIII, the organization has had multifarious functions related to navigation and pilotage over the centuries.

The official website of Trinity House describes the organization thus:

“Today, it maintains In their capacity as Master Mariners, the duties of the Elder Brethren began with the examination and regulation of Pilotage (initially restricted to the River Thames area), and have grown to take on other powers and responsibilities, including the siting and erecting of various aids to navigation (such as lighthouses, buoys, beacons and light-vessels), attendance at Admiralty Court to advise on maritime disputes and affairs, and of course to govern the multi-faceted Corporation of Trinity House, including the administration of the Corporation’s charitable function – the financing and upkeep of the UK’s largest-endowed maritime charity.”


Source: Churchill by Roy Jenkins


Another view of Churchill in his uniform as an Elder Brother of Trinity House while sitting next to President Roosevelt during the Atlantic Conference. As an aside, if you look closely at FDR’s feet you will see the steel braces he had to strap onto his legs to stand. With these braces holding him up, and with one or two of his military aides or children providing support, he pretended to walk.

This photograph was taken during the Sunday service with equal numbers of Royal Navy and US Navy personnel on 12 August 1941 held aboard HMS Prince of Wales. 

(Left to right, behind FDR and Churchill, are Admiral Ernest King, USN, then Commander-in-Chief US Fleet, US Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshal, General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral “Betty” Stark, USN Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral of the Fleet  Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (the professional head of the Royal Navy with the First Lord of the Admiralty, a member of Parliament, having the ultimate authority. This was reorganized in decades after the war. (photo USNA)


Eisenhower Explains Operation Torch

American troops on board a landing craft heading for the beaches at Oran in Algeria during Operation 'Torch', November 1942. A 12661 Part of ADMIRALTY OFFICIAL COLLECTION Hudson, F A (Lt) Royal Navy official photographer

American troops on board a landing craft heading for the beaches at Oran in Algeria during Operation ‘Torch’, November 1942. 

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, Admiralty Official Collection. Photograph by Lt. F.A. Hudson, Royal Navy official photographer)

Wrote General Eisenhower after the war:

“The situation was vague, the amount of resources unknown, the final objective indeterminate and the only firm factor in the whole business [were] our instructions to attack.”


Everything about Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa, was a muddle. The Americans and the British had only a vague idea of what they were doing. Training and rehearsal had been minimal across the board. The Allies had very little experience in amphibious landings and those they had attempted heretofore had not worked.
With only scant training, young sailors found themselves dumped aboard warships for the first time in their lives. Army soldiers had never trained for this type of assault and many had not yet received even the rudiments of combat training. The only trained amphibious force in the US military were the US Marines but they were consumed by the war in the Pacific.

Inter-allied communications were inadequate. Merchant ships carrying important cargo or troops were not adequately protected from air attack which everyone seems to have forgotten about. Few of the merchant ships were combat loaded. Planning was hurried, inadequate and in the classic military phrase, the Allied invasion known as Torch can be characterized as “order, counter-order, disorder.”

The Anglo-American forces prevailed largely because of the actions of the British Royal Navy and US Navy warships. Both navies performed at a high standard given how haphazard the entire affair was. Captains took initiative and closed the beaches to fire at French shore batteries and/or machine guns firing on Allied troops. Heavy ships moved in to provide cover for destroyers being targeted by coastal batteries and undertook the barrages themselves.

(This type of gunfire support from Allied naval ships was also critical during the Normandy landings. On occasion, Allied destroyers were so close they were dueling with German artillery batteries).


General Eisenhower’s postwar summation of Torch is apt: “The situation was vague, the amount of resources unknown, the final objective indeterminate and the only firm factor in the whole business [were] our instructions to attack.”




7 December 1941

Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor

“A date which will live in infamy”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his speech to the Congress of the United States requesting a declaration of war against Japan.

“I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

(The source of this quote cannot be found but it is attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor)


The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians



Pearl Harbor under attack

Official US Navy photograph.

While attributed to many including film found in a Brownie camera in the footlocker of sailor long after the war this and the other photographs in set are official US Navy photos released into the public domain decades ago).


RN Ships Sunk Java Sea WW2 destroyed by illegal scavenging

HMS Exeter one of the heroes of the Battle of the Rio Plata coming dockside at Plymouth in February 1940. The ship was badly damaged during the engagement in December of 1939.

The ships which have been destroyed by salvage are war graves and this is an international crime. All naval ships mentioned were sunk in February/March 1942 during the Battle of the Java Sea or the following Battle of the Sundra Strait.

Ten allied ships were sunk in these engagements and more than 3,000 Allied sailors perished. Those who were captured by the Japanese were tortured, starved, beaten and some beheaded. These ships formed the naval arm of the combined ABDA Command–American, British, Dutch, Australian–led by Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Operating with limited intelligence on Japanese fleet movements, without air cover, outnumbered and outgunned, Doorman and the allied ships under his command fought with great bravery and ferocity against the Japanese invaders.

Three of the sunken ships–all sunk at the Battle of the Sundra Straits— are HMS Exeter, one of the trio of ships which had thrashed the Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the Rio Plata in December of 1939, USS Houston, an American  treaty cruiser which was a favorite ship of President Roosevelt and one he used on several occasions, and HMAS Perth, an Australian light cruiser who went down at the side of the USS Houston in a point blank duel with Japanese warships.


Admiral Karel Doorman, seen here as a Lt. Commander in an official photo taken in 1930,  was killed on 28 February 1942, aboard his flagship De Ruyter, which was sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea. He was a brave man and a gallant naval warrior.

These war graves were disturbed and the ships salvaged and sold for scrap with the full knowledge of the different levels of the Indonesian government, either provincial or national. It is outrageous and offensive that the government of Indonesia has allowed this to happen and has done nothing.

Thank you to my special correspondent in New Orleans, Bob Warren, for bringing this to my attention.

From the Guardian of London

Source: British second world war ships in Java Sea destroyed by illegal scavenging

Exclusive: 3D mapping report of sea off Indonesia, seen by the Guardian, shows large holes in the seabed where ships used to be

US PT Boats WW2

PT was the US Navy abbreviation of “patrol torpedo” boats in World War Two.



Navy Gunners firing their 50 caliber guns, send their bright stream of tracers aloft at a Zero as another Zero dives in flames into the lagoon.

Numerous prototypes for patrol torpedo boats were designed and built with each one having its on flaws. Nonetheless, they were easy and quick to build but were hell to be on in a heavy seaway. Their hulls had a very difficult time taking the pounding they received in rough weather. While the plywood they were made of was itself made from mahogany and braced with solid mahogany, PT boats could exceed a speed of 40 knots.

(Drawing, Charcoal on Board; by Griffith Baily Coale; 1942. Courtesy of the US Navy History and Heritage Command)

PT boats underway off Attu Island during occupation.

US Navy PT boats underway off Attu Island during the Japanese occupation.

Japanese troops landed on Attu and Kiska 3 June 1942. These are part of the Aleutian Islands which came into possession of the United States after we bought Alaska from the Tsar of Russia in 1867. We bought the entire state for $7.2mm. Secretary of State Seward was ridiculed over paying such a ridiculously large amount of money for what was assumed to be nothing more than a frozen wilderness. I think we got the better of the deal.

Given the remoteness of the islands and the forbidding climate, it took more than a year of planning and transporting supplies before US and Canadian troops re-took the islands from the Japanese.


Photograph above from the US National Archives shows PT boats returning to base after operations off Leyte Island in the Philippines in December 1944. Note twin mounted .50 cal. machine guns. On 20 October 1944, US troops had landed on Leyte. This commenced the American campaign to drive the Japanese out of the Philippines. The fighting was intense and and US troops took heavy casualties.


US Navy PT Boats make high speed runs, during maneuvers off The Panama Canal Zone, circa 1943.

(photo and caption courtesy of US Navy History and Heritage Command)


Admiralties Operations, March-April 1944. PT boats bombarding Pityilu Island, Seeadler Harbor, prior to landings there by the Army’s First Cavalry Division, 30 March 1944. Note 37mm & 20mm guns on these boats. (Photo and caption courtesy of US Navy History and Heritage Command)

“Admiralties Operations” above is a reference to part of the larger New Guinea campaign to regain control of these islands from the Japanese. The Admiralty Islands had originally been a colony of Imperial Germany. After Germany’s defeat in World War One, the League of Nations gave Australia a mandate to rule the islands. The Admiralty Islands are an archipelago group of 18 islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, to the north of New Guinea in the South Pacific Ocean.


PT boats in New Guinea. Zero hour nears as darkness descends on New Guinea. Boats of the PT squadron warm up as they prepare to roar out on another dangerous mission.

In the beginning of the naval war in the Pacific, the US Navy had not achieved the mastery of fighting at night which had been achieved by the Imperial Japanese Navy and until new fighting doctrines were developed, the US Navy suffered significant losses in night battles with the Japanese especially in a series of engagements off Guadalcanal.



U.S. Navy PT boats crossing the English Channel on D-Day, 6 June 1944  during the Normandy Invasion, as twelve B-17 bombers pass overhead. Note the twin .50 caliber machine guns on the boat from which the photograph was taken.

(caption and photo courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

Although the vast majority of US Navy PT boats were deployed in the Pacific, a handful were sent to Europe as seen in the photo above. I have never understood why the US Navy felt the need to do this. We must have felt we just wanted a handful of our own PT boats instead of having a squadron of Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boats assigned to the US fleet.


 A ship in New York Harbor loaded with Elco 80 foot Patrol Torpedo Boats (PT Boats). 

Photo taken in 1942 and courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum

Approximately 600 PT boats were built for the US Navy, almost all of them either built by the Elco Company or Higgins in New Orleans.