Monday, February 05, 2007

From Nautilus (1804) through Seawolf (2007)

Christening <> Rarely have commissioned ships borne the name of four predecessors. On such occasions, we can almost be certain of some connection to the USMC. Such was the case with six (6) ships of the United States Navy christened USS Somers, honoring Master Commandant Richard Somers. Somers had commanded the schooner Nautilus (the first of 6 Navy ships with that name) during operations against Tripoli on 18 May 1804. On 4 September 1804, Somers assumed command of fire ship Intrepid which had been fitted to be sailed into Tripoli harbor and exploded among the enemy fleet. Somers and his brave volunteers were killed in a premature explosion. Score one for the terrorists.

Soon, the USS New York (LPD-21) will become the fifth ship in a series of combatants with the name USS New York. The last was a nuclear powered attack submarine, USS New York City (SSN 696), which was decommissioned in 1997.

Missioning <> "It would be fitting if the first mission this ship would go on is to make sure that bin Laden is taken out, his terrorist organization is taken out," said Glenn Clement, a paint foreman. "He came in through the back door and knocked our towers down and (the New York) is coming right through the front door, and we want them to know that."

The latest USS New York will be able to deliver 699 US Marines (66 officers, 633 enlisted and a surge total up to 800 total), launch and recover 4 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or 2 MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft, as well as 2 LCACs (air cushion) or one LCU (conventional), and 14 EFVs, among her other capabilities.

Baiting <> New York Gov. George E. Pataki had written Navy Secretary England requesting the name New York in honor of 9-11 victims. In his letter, Gov. Pataki noted that he understood that the names of states are presently reserved for submarines, but asked for special consideration. His request was approved in 2002. The USS New York's motto is Never Forget, a slogan among New Yorkers since Sept. 11. It was built with 24 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center. Score one for the coalition.

The latest USS New York will be a natural target for Islamist terrorists based upon her name alone. The only other ship that would have demanded a higher terrorist target priority was the USS America (CV-66), an aircraft carrier decommissioned 1996. The Navy's purposeful sinking of the CV-66 denied a symbolic target of opportunity to the terrorist menace. Score two for the coalition.

Now the bait -the 24,900-ton USS New York is not going to be a decommissioned sitting duck like the USS America. The USS New York will be very capable of defending herself from air, sea and even submarine attacks. She will have twin 30 mm Bushmaster IIs (chain guns) for surface threats and two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers for air defense.

What about the submarine threat - Iran's, for instance? The New York will carry a crew of 28 officers, and 333 enlisted. She will probably be among the smallest vessels ever to sail with a nuclear submarine escort of her own at critical times. Perhaps, the 4th submarine to be called USS Seawolf, SSN-21 will accompany her on score three for the coalition and beyond.


At 07 February, 2007 00:27, Blogger reddog said...

What is a Master Commandant? I've never heard the term used.

I've never heard of Somers either, even though I'm familiar with the exploits of Decatur in Tripoli.

Thanks on both counts.

At 07 February, 2007 04:04, Blogger Vigilis said...

Reddog, excellent questions relating to some fascinating history. Somers has two connections to the present US NAVAL ACADEMY.

First, there is a monument to him on academy grounds. Secondly, President Tyler's War Secretary's (John Canfield Spencer) son was one of those lawfully hanged for mutiny by the captain of the naval training brig (2nd ship named for SOMERS). Embarrassment over the hangings finally led to establishment of the US Naval Academy that had already been funded by Congress. There is a famous "Somers Lithograph" from 1843, showing the 3 mutineers hanging from a yardarm under the US flag.

"Master Commandant" was America's equivalent of the Royal Navy rank of "Master and Commander". Around 1837, the rank was renamed to the more familiar "Commander".

Sailing masters, among the oldest of warrant ranks, moved into officers country during the nineteenth century. When legislation was passed in 1794 to establish the Federal Navy under the new Constitution, the rank of sailing master was established as the senior warrant officer.

Some "masters" were appointed to command ships, with the rank of "master commandant"; this rank became that of commander in 1837. Warrant masters continued in service until 1883, when they became lieutenants (junior grade).

At 07 February, 2007 12:16, Blogger reddog said...


I didn't know any of that stuff and it's good stuff.

Why did the embarrassment over the mutiny and subsequent hanging of the Secretaries son cause the Naval Academy to be established? Was it midshipmen who incited the mutiny?

At 07 February, 2007 19:59, Blogger Vigilis said...

Reddog, midshipmen Spencer was hanged without court-martial on-board the USS Somers. A subsequent naval court of inquiry which investigated the mutiny and executions exonerated SOMER's captain, Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, but the public would never let him forget his discipline.

Spencer's defense was that he "had been pretending piracy".

Wikipedia has a good recap of the facts and attending circumstances with many illuminating links. You may find answers to your questions and even some you may not have thought about here:


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