Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Ivy Mike Day

Happy Ivy Mike Day – or welcome to the Thermonuclear Age Day! October 31st (November 1st locally across the international date line) 1952 was the day the United States exploded the first fusion device.

The actual “Mike” shot was part of the two tests code named “Ivy” test series; the other shot was called “King”. The “King” shot was notable for two reasons, the first being it was a very large fission explosion (500 kiloton yield) in fact it was the largest nuclear detonation to date and the other notable was that an Air Force Pilot was lost when his aircraft ran out of fuel while it was surveying the mushroom cloud.

But the “Mike” shot was used to confirm that a fission reaction could be used to trigger a much more devastating explosion using fusion material. The actual “weapon” was actually a huge building that housed all the apparatus needed for the fusion fuel which was cryogenic deuterium. The primary was a tried and proved TX-5 boosted fission bomb. The two fuels were separated by a rod of plutonium used as a spark plug to ignite the super cooled deuterium.

The mushroom cloud climbs to the heavens. Picture courtesy of the

The resulting explosion vaporized the test island creating a crater more than a mile wide and over 150 feet deep. The Mushroom cloud would grow to a height of more than 25 miles and a crown width of more than 100 miles. Radioactive coral debris fell on ships more than 35 miles away and the remaining Islands that made up the Enewetak Atoll were highly radioactive as well. The explosion was sensed by seismographs all the way in Berkley California where the “Father” of the “Super” as it was called, monitored the test. That being the famed nuclear physicist Edward Teller.

The photo's at left (from the book "Dark Sun, The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" by Richard Rhodes) shows the damage to the Enewetak Atoll. The island of Elugelab is shown before and after the shot.

The yield of the Ivy Mike shot was 10.4 Mega Tons. This was 1000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Japan. It is important to state again that this device was not a weapon; it really was more of a test of a concept than anything. In fact the planned “King” shot was designed as a backup for fusion weapons in case they did not work. In reality the “Super” would be proven and three years later the Air Force would be hauling around a 41,000 pound H-bomb in their B-36 Peacemaker aircraft. The new aircraft was huge in order to carry the huge weapon.

More importantly however and as an aside to weapons development is that the fusion device proved that man could create the same energy created by the Sun. This opened the door to the promise and hope of fusion energy. If only man could contain that reaction and convert it to pure energy is the hope.

An auspicious occasion indeed.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stray Voltage - #3

October Moon
I am packing today a shipment off to the Czech Republic for my next trip over there next week. Something like 300 network patch cables, DVI video lines and serial cables along with video and LAN switches that we need for the prototype installation. We get to hook everything up next week and then in following weeks we will go back and do software installation and testing (debug). I will fly there at least 4 more times before the end of the year.
Of course all that flying has triggered Airline reward levels, I went to Silver on one and I am now Gold level on another. I do try to stay on one more than the other but I do most of the domestic legs on one airline (Delta by the way) and the international flights on the other (US Air). I am hoping for an upgrade but I never hold my breath. The 8+ hour flights in Economy are pure hell.


I will be out of town for Election Day so I vote today. I have to take a half day off work and motor to the far end of the County I live in, find parking in what is one of the highest crime areas in our County and then walk over to and into the County Courthouse. The voter services counter therein assures me I can cast an absentee ballot.
I am generally against absentee voting or mail in voting but when you have to present yourself in person to an “Election Official” (not a Party Hack) I feel better that my vote will actually be counted and not stolen in some way. Like not checking ID's.
Having once run for elected office, I have waited for the tally of votes that are conducted by people who are involved sometimes not because of their desire to do good things for their community but for Party reasons. The great idea of fair elections in this country is a myth. There are so many ways to steel an election. Mail in Ballots and absentee voting are ripe for corporation as is the registration process. Run for elected office sometime and you will see every pitfall in the process.


Boy did they step into a large cow pile! Now, to be fair I am one that does listen to a lot of NPR programming. I am a fan of the both Morning Edition and All Things Considered and the Click and Clack show (officially known as Car Talk) and a Home Gardening show that is produced locally on the Philly NPR station (WHYY). Another locally produced show that I like is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. No one interviews better than Terry, no one is prepared for the subject in a segment like Terry and she has a nice voice too. Never seen her nor do I care to.
I do have a problem with NPR.
It leans way left folks, way left. I am not against that because knowing it allows me to filter it out. But, taking our tax money to operate is a different matter. If their programming was so popular it could and should stand on its own in the free marketplace.
By taking public money they have a responsibility to be middle of the road, nether left or right. And this is where the Bullshit hits the fan, the CEO of NPR when she made her public statement on the Firing of Juan Williams stated that journalistic standards had been violated. Well then, why are they not out firing more people? There are plenty of examples of NPR Commentators, Reporters and Analysis violating the most basic of journalistic ethos’s. Just the Facts! But no, they only wanted Juan out because he was on Fox News.
I do hope the threats of defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are not simply rhetoric thrown out in the heat of the moment, the whole idea of Publicly Funded TV and Radio needs to be aired out and debated. At the very least the minimum “journalistic standards” that are a joke right now at NPR and PBS can be established which gives the FCC something real to regulate for a change.

Dumping on the Volt

That would be the Chevrolet Volt. This is the Obama mandated People-Mobile, the “Green” Car. Where do I start! The reviews I have read all pan the car as having very little utility. It is a 2-person vehicle even though there are 4-doors it has only a little more room than the Toyota Prius which is the front runner in the class although more for Lefty-Prestige more than anything. It will cost somewhere around $40,000 bucks which is a small fortune. The Federal Government has a tax credit that you get if you buy one to the tune of $7,000 bucks which reduces the original ownership costs down into the range where it competes with the Nissan Leaf which will debut this year as well.
Originally the Volt was to be an all electric with the onboard gas engine was to be used to re-charge the battery. The projected MPG for the Volt in this configuration was to be 240 miles. Which would have been great.
But, let’s not dance the streets too soon. It seems the gas engine will be linked to the drive wheels and be used not just to charge the battery but also as secondary dirve for the car itself. And the MPG in this configuration? A whopping 37mpg!!
Yeah that’s right, my Daughters 2005 Chevy Malibu gets better mileage than that.
This is a crying shame, all the emphasis on “Green”, going electric and not using evil Gasoline. But what do you expect from a Government Owned and operated corporation. Just remember if you buy one of these things that what you got was built by a corporation and works who think this is “close enough for government work”.

Enemies List

Yeah our President has one. PresBO does not mince words when he complains about people who oppose his proposals for “Change” to our country. They are his enemies, plain and simple. And here recently he has tried to enlist Hispanics into that mindset as well. In comments he made on Univision, which is a Spanish language TV network, PressBO actually told Hispanics to punish their “enemies” and reward their “friends” with their votes on the 2nd of November.

Funny how he can call fellow Americans “enemies” but not call the Taliban or al Quida.

Rewriting History in Real Time

That is what PresBO has been trying to do and now Nancy Pelosi (Wicked Witch of the West) trying to do. In recent coments Nancy has made she claims that the "ditch" was so deep that they have had to "save and create" so many more jobs to make up for what was lost during the past Administration. Too bad we have proof, the job loss started when she took over running things in the House.

Graph stolen from John Lott's Website (called John Lott's website).

Too bad for us this woman will keep her job in congress. She as much as PresBO are responsible for the huge turn Left this country has taken.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tribute to the passing of a Giant of a Man, Captain Tony Schneider

A friend back in Albuquerque called to tell me about the passing of a true hero who had a profound impact on my life. Here is the obit as it ran in the Albuquerque Journal:

SCHNEIDER -- Tony Schneider, 92, passed away October 16, 2010. Those who wish to express condolences may do so at: Tony's care has been entrusted to: Daniels Family Funeral Services 7601 Wyoming Blvd, NE Albuquerque, NM 87109 (505) 821-0010

Plain and simple it hides a huge Man and true hero, recalled to active duty in God’s own Navy.

Let me explain. I knew him as Captain TF Schneider, Naval Science Instructor. For three years he was one of two men in my High School Junior ROTC program that were Naval Science Instructors. The one was a crusty Senior Chief that came out of Submarines (SSBN’s). He was our “Military” instructor and taught us infantry drill, marching and standing in formation. We actually carried old rifles (1903 Springfield’s with lead poured down the bore) which today would make todays Public School Administrators crap their pants. But the Senior Chief was good for a cup of coffee and great modern sea stories.

That's me in the middle of the top row, circa 1973.

The real “Naval Science” was taught by the Captain. An unassuming man who preached to us Naval History, Sea Power and seamanship of all things, way out in the desert west of Albuquerque. But preach he did, three days a week we took his lectures; the other two day’s were given up to the Senior Chief. We saw everyone of the Victory at Sea movies, the good Captain had lectures designed around each episode. He was a former Naval Aviator and the oldest sea story we ever got out of him went all the way back to the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. He was assigned to the USS Enterprise and flew his first combat air patrol on that day, searching for the Japanese fleet.

This is the Captain as I remember him, always the teacher, always the role model. Couldn't have asked for better.

After graduation I was one of the many that joined the Navy right out of High School. I was more than prepared thanks to both the Captain and the Senior Chief. After maybe 4 or 5 weeks into Basic training I was sent off to take the Basic Test Battery to determine what kind of school or job specialty I was to get as I was at that point in time undesignated. Once the scores came back I was sent again to see the Career Councilor to pick that Rating and to fill out my “Dream sheet” as it’s called. This is the list of preferred duty stations.

I had high test scores and was told I could go into any job the Navy had. So, I did some figuring. I wanted aviation; I wanted to work on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier. But deep in my mind the gears were turning. I remembered the lessons taught by that unassuming Captain. The Big lesson he taught was of how in two consecutive World War’s, the Free world had been brought to its knees because of Submarines.

But, deeper inside was a more subtle lesson, that Anti-Submarine Warfare (or ASW) had turned back the Submarine menace and allowed not just the Naval Forces free reign on the oceans but the commercial shipping which in both war’s allowed beleaguered nations to continue the Fight.

It was also the lack of any ASW that gave our Navy’s submarines free reign in the Pacific. A force that represented only 2% of the entire Navy accounted for 55% of Japan’s maritime losses (from “Silent Victory” by Clay Blair, Jr.). An astonishing figure that was allowed because Japan fielded only a token ASW force.

So it was ASW for me and in Naval Aviation there were only two ratings that were supposed to be devoted to ASW, AX and AW. The first of these is the Electronics Technician that specialized in ASW equipment, the latter is Operator of ASW equipment, he flies in the aircraft. The former worked the Flight Deck.

I filled out the various paper work requesting the AX as first priority and AW as the second. Of course the Career Councilor laughed at me saying that both schools took months to get into, the waiting list was 6-months long. He prepared me for the Aviation Boatswain’s Mate job which would have been ok since it would have gotten me to a flight deck.

But luck was with me and I was sent from Boot Camp to “A” School to learn Aviation Electronics and to further specialize in ASW equipments. I was assigned to VS-31 and their mission was Anti Submarine Warfare. Carrier based ASW.

There were other lessons learned in those steel portable buildings that were used for the NJROTC program at my high school. Lessons like getting the job done at all costs, watching out for you shipmate and that we were all serving in the finest Naval Force the world had ever seen.

All from this unassuming Captain. And who was he really?

Well, from Wikipedia (yes he has a Wikipedia entry) he was Dive Bomber Pilot (the Douglass Dauntless SBD) who flew from not just the Enterprise but also from the USS Yorktown, the USS Lexington and from Henderson Field on the Island of Guadalcanal. He was shot down once, ran another aircraft out of fuel looking for the enemy during the fighting at Midway Island and participated in the sinking of the largest battleship ever built, the Japanese Battleship Yamato. He supported the invasions of not just Guadalcanal but also, the defense of Wake Island, the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He also flew combat mission to the main Island of Japan and was there for the surrender as Commanding Officer of Bombing Squadron 9.

This unassuming Man was awarded the Navy Cross twice and the Distinguished Flying Cross three times.

And somehow ended up in Albuquerque teaching High School Naval Science, how lucky were we!

Fair Winds and Following Sea’s Captain Schneider. You had a profound influence on my life, one I am sure you are only now becoming aware of. I missed my chance back in the summer to reconnect with you and I will regret that forever, or until we meet again in that great Ready Room of the Heavens. Rest in Peace.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Boeing versus Airbus - I Rant

It’s no secret around here that I do not like EADS/Airbus (not necessarily their products) and most especially in their competition with Boeing for the future of Big Wing Tankers in the USAF (known as the KC-X program).

I have been doing some reading more and more lately on the posturing between the two companies both trying to use the press and various public meetings (Associations and Conferences) to game the KC-X in their direction. It is understandable given the shear amount of money at stake.

For many years I would not book a flight on an Airline that had Airbus products in their inventory. I did not want to take the risk of wanting to get home and riding on an Airbus aircraft. Now this was not an irrational fear, it was based on how aircraft are certified in the US versus Europe and in the general philosophy in who or what runs the cockpit and what actually fly’s the aircraft. But, with all the consolidation that has occurred in the Airline business the fleets have not become mixed (except for Southwest but they don’t fly to Europe). These issues are not why I am not an Airbus advocate in regards to the KC-X program. They are more personal and subject of another post.

But what is it that really gets me going about this? Why do I have such animosity towards Airbus? Well, it’s because they are over here competing against US companies using our system against those very companies and all the while shielded by virtue of how they are organized and their business motives in the first place.

Let me try to explain.

Boeing is a “for profit” business. At the end of the day, they have to turn a profit. They owe that money back to grow the company, to expand their capabilities, conduct R&D and build new and upgrade their existing facilities (I am sure they are getting that Green Agenda shoved up their Ass too). And they also have to post a dividend to their investors. If they don’t do these things, especially this last item, they go out of business.

They are first and foremost a business proposition whose first rule is to make more money than it takes them to operate.

EADS/Airbus on the other hand is not such a company. Their first priority as pushed by their ownership is Jobs. That’s right, Jobs. You see, EADS/Airbus is what we call here a GSE – Government Sponsored Enterprise. As such the partner governments participate simply to put people to work. They actually negotiate in which country parts of the aircraft are built to keep folks in work or when they expand they negotiate a pro-rated share between themselves.

You see the “Investors” in EADS/Airbus are governments that do not care if the company itself makes a profit. In fact when the company is losing money on a project the governments all get together and decide on how to split the bill to make up the loss.

In the long and twisted development of the Airbus A380 the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, the company either miss-managed the program or vastly underestimated the complexity of building an aircraft of this dimension (most likely IMHO). To the tune of $3-Billion Dollars (which increased the per aircraft price by 25%). That is a huge number by any standards. But, the governments which all share in the EADS/Airbus consortium coughed up that overrun in order to keep the Job’s created by building that huge aircraft.

And that is not the only case, the A340 was heavily subsidized and so was the A330 aircraft which is the offering that EADS has in the KC-X competition (to the tune of $5 Billion on that airframe alone). More recently, their new Military Airlifter the A400M is also way over budget and getting extra influx of overrun money. And Here!

And that’s not all folks. As part of it’s overhead expense that Boeing has to deal with is the cost of Health Care and Retirement or Pension payouts which EADS/Airbus does not have on its ledger. You see, in all 4 of the countries in the Airbus consortium the government provides both the Health Care and the Pension for the employees of the Airbus company.

How is this fair to Boeing, to the USAF or even to the USA?

Oh many will say that Boeing gets plenty of subsidies in the way of US Military contracts or offsets in local and state income taxes. But these are stalking horse arguments. While the parent company holds domain over the entire company, the Commercial and Military parts are operated as separate cost centers. Each has to perform on its own independent of the other. So, the Commercial Airplane Company gets no benefit by the Military side winning contracts. As for the deferral of taxes at the local and state level, I can’t see how that would amount to enough to even argue about especially since most of this is granted as Tax Credits which come out on a year to year basis AT THE END OF THE EACH YEAR. Not a lump sum payout as is enjoyed by EADS/Airbus.

No it’s not fair by any measure.

My personal feelings are that the US Government should not allow competition between US manufacturers and offerings from the EADS/Airbus consortium unless they are penalized for these disparities or at the very least; the US Company is given a leg up in some way.

Not sure how this will play out in the KC-X program however the USAF is in that most unenviable position of being between a very big Rock and an even bigger Hard Place. Almost no room to get it right. Read more Here it is a Report by the Lexington Institute on the impact Airbus has on the US Aircraft manufacturing business.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend in West (by God) Virginia

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Well, between trips to the Czech Republic and Norway I do get time for domestic activity. A couple of weekends ago the Good Mrs Taylor and I ventured down to West (by God) Virginia to help move the Daughter from Marlington to Elkins. Her year with AmeriCorps doing work with the US Forest Service is over and she is doing a second year with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It's good experience for her but they pay really sucks, but the tuition benefit really helps.

Anyway, after we filled the two cars with her "stuff" we attended the annual "Autumn Harvest Festival and Road Kill Cook-off". Now, Marlington is a quaint little town tucked up in the Black Mountain range at the heart of Pocahontas County in the Monongahela National Forest. It is beautiful country populated with friendly salt of the earth people. I am glad my Daughter got to spend a year in such a fine place, the experience of living in a small American village will make a huge difference in her life, she just does not know it yet.

On to the Pictures!!

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

This is downtown Marlington during the great festival itself. I read that there were more than 18,000 people here for the day including one of the candidates for Governor who showed up on a motorcycle and glad handed folks. I was in line for some road kill when he arrived, being in the opposite party as he I gave him no mind.

There were many vendors there hawking everything from pastries, taco's, paintings, antiques and even tie dyed shirts.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Also Quilts, lots of quilts. I am guessing this is what the women folk around these parts do in their spare time based on the huge variety of quilts that were for sale. They were all works of art and I am sure took a lot of time to produce.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Wood products a plenty too from bird houses with and without the NASCAR paint to slap wood furniture. Lots of wood stuff. I am guessing that while the women are Quilting the men are in the shops working with their Wood!!

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

And since we are in West (by God) Virginia you have to have something that shoots!! Here we have mashmallow shooters, just for the kids since the grownups here about are all carrying the kids should too!!

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Now on to the food, the Road Kill. Now this stuff was given out in very small sample size cups. You paid on price (I think it was just $12.00 an adult) and you could visit and sample any of the stands that had Road Kill. You received tickets too that you used to "vote" for the best beast chow.

This place got into the theme they presented even the cooks and handy-men dishing the chow were dressed up for the part, very classy.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off
From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off
From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

This place was offering a wild Boar Stew and the stock was prepared with sassafras root, here is proof!!

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off
From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

The pancake at this place was really good but the venison sausage was tasteless.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

All in all the Road Kill was interesting. Besides the Venison and Boar there was some Bear, Frog Legs and some Pheasant (although by the time we got in line they had shifted over to handing out plain ole chicken). After the Eats were done we loaded up into the two cars and headed out
of town towards Elkins which lies less than 90 miles north of Marlington. Now, usually a ride that short would take no more than 2-hours but Amanda had other plans!!

Here you can see Amanda briefing the Ole Man on our route. She had a Fores Service map that was to die for. I had one of the free DOT maps handed out at the road side rest. Can you say Map Envy!!

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Here are a couple of shots from on top of the Black Mountains. In the one picture I am pretty certain you can see Virginia way out there in the distance.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off
From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

This is the Ranger Station that Amanda worked out of for most of her year down here.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

While driving up Rte. 92 we happened upon this huge metal object out there in the woods.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Upon closer inspection, yeah its the very large radio telescope at Green Bank. More on this place in a future post. It is an immence structure all built on a wheeled track that allows them to not only aim the telescope in elevation but also in azmiuth as well. And when I say huge, the dish is 100 meters by 110 meters (that's 330 feet by 360 feet).

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

The Good Wife got a kick out of the little Alien sign, they do lease out time on this beast to SETI and that is what they are all about.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

Windmills were all the rage as well. These were really close to the road which ran on the top of the ridge line in the mountian complex north of Elkins.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off
We saw these on our drive north back to PA.

You can see another stand accross the valley.

From Autumn Harvest and Road Kill Cook-Off

All in all a nice weekend. I love the moto that they used for the state, "the Wild and Wonderful" and both are true.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Breaking Barriers

It is 14 October 1947, in the still cool morning at Muroc Army Airfield the modified B-29 is positioned over the loading pit (a large trench in the ground that allows for the attaching of the test article onto the aircraft belly) it's payload ready. Strapped to the belly of the "mother" or carrier aircraft is the experimental aircraft dubbed "Glamorous Glennis", the Bell Aerospace X-1 aircraft. Painted all in orange (easier to be found in case it crashed out on the desert), shaped like a 50 caliper bullet and equipped with a rocket motor built by Robert Goddard himself the small crowd gathered once again to attempt what up till now had been impossible. Or at least possible and living to tell about it.

Going faster than the speed of sound. Breaking what was known as the Sound Barrier had been attempted many times before, mainly by accident and always in failure, fatal failure in fact.
A Bell X-1 aircraft being loaded onto a B-29/B-50
carrier aircraft. Circa 1951. (NASA Photo)
Not today.

In amongst the crowd that had gathered that October morning was a gregarious Air Force Test Pilot. A war veteran having fought in the skies over France in the P-51 Mustang. He was shot out of the sky once and evaded capture for several months, assisting the French Reistance in the process. Once back in Allied hands he was re-instated to flight status and eventually shot down 11 enemy aircraft including 1 ME-262 Jet aircraft. As an Air Force Captain and Test Pilot Chuck Yeager had earned a reputation of being both through in flight test and evaluation but also of having no fear.

It was Yeager's turn in the X-1. He would not fail.

Today is the anniversary of that milestone; controlled and sustained flight above the speed of sound. Most people know of this event only from the Book and movie named "The Right Stuff". The movie accurately depicts the dangers of early flight testing at what was Muroc Army Airfield. Today it is called Edwards Air Force Base home of Flight Testing for the USAF and NASA which operates the Dryden Flight Research Center from the same dry lake bed.
Edwards AFB and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on the edge of Rogers Dry Lake.

From this testing we learned so much that has advanced flying that today more than 10 million people will be in the air flying point to point, today in one day. Maybe only Electricity, indoor plumbing and the motor car are the only other items that have advanced the human condition more than manned flight. And much of the success of understanding the bounds of flight have come from that one flight in October 1947.

Not so much the raw intelligence gathered from the flight data, but from the Man and Men who came later, in subsequent flights of other "X-Planes", who would not back down at the unknown.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

USN Birthday

Today is the anniversary of the “Commissioning” of the US Navy. Creation of the Navy was by vote of the Continental Congress on this day in 1775, to create a “Navy Committee” and to include the equipping of two ships and a crew for each (up to 80 men each). Back then the size of the ship was determined by the number and size of the guns emplaced on each. These ships were to carry 10 guns each. The entire lot was under the command of General George Washington who had previously commissioned three schooners to serve under his command as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. So, in a sense the “Birth” of the Navy happened before proclamation by the Congress.

Almost lost in the discussion of this day is the name of that first ship. That would be the “Alfred” named in honor of Alfred the Great. Yeah, we were pretty imaginative back then, seems this particular Alfred was the King of Wessex. The “Alfred” was actually purchased by the Naval Committee of the Continental Congress and fitted as a man-of-war. Previously the “Alfred” had been known simply as the Black Prince a merchant ship owned by the Willing, Morris & Co. based in Philadelphia.

The First ship in the Navy, USS Alfred.

As the Black Prince the ship had made two voyages to England. On the return of the last trip the Black Prince brought with it information regarding a pair of unarmed Brigs that were heavily loaded with armaments to be used by British land forces. It was this intelligence that really triggered the commission of the Navy by the Continental Congress. Shortly after this, the Black Prince was procured and converted to serve as the Alfred.

By the end of the month of October Congress would requisition additional ships carrying more guns (up to 36), all of these early ships were commissioned to serve from companies or individuals that actually owned the ships. The commission was basically a lease program where the Continental Congress rented the ship out for the duration of the war, unless the ship was actually lost in battle. In this case the Congress paid for the ship outright.

Once in hands of the Continental Navy the ship was outfitted with its complement of Guns and armament. After November of 1775, Marines became available and were loaded onboard as well, giving each ship a naval infantry capability.

Born in this time were many famous ship names, the Lexington, the Ranger, the Enterprise and of course the Constitution (still serving today oh by the way). Also, one of particular importance to me was the USS Independence.

The original USS Independence was a commissioned brigantine that served off New England but was captured by the Royal Navy in early 1777. The next Independence was a 10-gun sloop commissioned by Congress in 1777 which was lost in 1778. Then there was the first “ship of the line” in 1814 named the USS Independence. “Ships of the line” were called that because of the battle tactic of lining the ships up broadside to the enemy and then opening fire. Ships built for this kind of warfare were built to take a pounding and to dish out a pounding. This Independence carried 90 guns.
Ship of the Line USS Independence.

She would later be re-rated to 54-guns and be re-classified as a Frigate and serve on and off for 98 years. She was finally burned (or fired in appropriate terms of the day) to recover metal scraps in September of 1915 .

The next USS Independence was a steamer that was built in 1918 and served until the end of WWI when she was decommissioned and placed in storage. It would be re-commissioned in 1930 as first the “City of Norfolk” as a merchant ship serving in the US Merchant Marine fleet. Later in 1941 it would be converted into an armored troop ship and commissioned into the Navy as the USS Neville (AP-16).

In August of 1942 the CVL-22 was launched as the USS Independence, a light Aircraft Carrier. This ship was the first of a new class of carriers built on converted cruiser hulls making them fast and maneuverable compared to the Heavy Carriers that were the state of the art in that day. This Independence would serve in eight battles as part of the many fast carrier strike forces the Navy put to sea. In the end of its service life this hull was used as a target vessel for Atomic bomb tests during the Operation Crossroads test series. This Independence survived two blasts without sinking and was towed to San Francisco for analysis and testing. She was extremely radioactive but still sea worthy. After the testing she was decommissioned and scuttled in 1951.

Replacing her in name would be the CVA-62, the USS Independence that I would serve aboard. Launched in May of 1958 this USS Independence would serve for 40 years being de-commissioned in 1998. I would serve onboard this Indy (as we called her) from early 1976 to the middle of 1978 (my Air Wing being moved to the newly commissioned USS Dwight D. Eisenhower) making two deployments to the Mediterranean.

For me this ship was home and played an important role in my young Navy life.

Today the USS Independence (LCS-2) that serves in the Navy is a Littoral combat Ship sporting a trimaran hull design that is supposed to be capable of making 40 knots. The Littoral Combat ship concept is based on being able to bring the substantial naval power into the shallow or inshore areas.

When I think of the Navy Birthday I think of my time on the Indy, celebrating with surf and turf (a traditional menu in the General mess) and powdered eggs. I loved those days.

“Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive.” - George Washington

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Christopher Columbus - No Love Here

We are not big fans here in the Swamp of Christopher Columbus. By that I mean Me in particular. Despite being of partial Spanish decent I do not take any enjoyment in that Columbus stumbled onto the so called “New World”.

Map of the New World by Munster, Circa 1550 AD. Stolen from the Hargrett Library web site (

The discovery by Columbus was more of an accident than anything and the advent of Europeans in large numbers to the America’s was a huge travesty since they came looking mainly for plunder of one nature or another. Even the puritanical Puritans on the Mayflower did not arrive on North American shores without at least some debt that required the plunder of the New World as retribution. And my Mothers People were never the same again.

Now, the so called New World was a tad backward compared with the European model. The natives did not use the wheel in too many things, they did not work with hard metals, they did not know how to forge iron but they did work in gold and silver into jewelry. There is no doubt about their IQ as we pretty much use their calendar today and some of their time tables were accurate right up to when computers became available to calculate large numbers. They had no knowledge of gun powder or fire arms of any kind, their disputes were handled on a more personal nature. As a result large scale warfare almost never happened unlike in Europe where warfare was a way of life for many peoples.

The Natives did know their environment and despite large numbers of population they did not degrade or deplete too much of the earth around them. The population of the Natives of the New World has always been in dispute, somewhere between 30 and 60 million. Since they were not immune to diseases native to Europe and Africa there were large die off’s of Natives spurred by first contact. In most cases the disease spread ahead of the European’s who observed and recorded what they say and wrote the history of the America’s. The Natives depleted by the disease were recorded as not being here at all.

And that folks is my rub. Most history of the Natives of the America’s has been written by those who came here and had no background on the culture and society that was present on “discovery”.

Many names for the People’s are derived not from their own name but from what the Spanish, French or English took to calling them. Ask the Navajo, the Sioux or the Blackfeet what they were called before their contact with Europeans. I know where my Mothers’ people get their name. The Apache’s did not call themselves Apache, that name was derived from the Zuni Indian word that the Spanish called the people. Seems the Apache did not care too much for the Spanish on their horses, wearing all that armor, pushing religion on everyone they came upon. So the Apache fought the Spanish, attacking them where ever they came together. And the Apache roamed almost the entire southwest so there was a lot of contact, none of it good. The word Apache is the word for Enemy which is what the Spanish called the people.

So, I guess I have an identity crisis in full bloom here. The Spanish is shamed by their involvement with the Apache side. And I can’t even tell you how much conflict there is from my Father’s side of the ledger.

So, I skip celebrating the Italian who came here for the Spanish crown and the Holy Roman Empire. IMHO his only positive contribution to the World at large was in being brave enough to continue west on the ocean in hopes the world was not flat.

BT: Jimmy T sends.