Surface Line Week 2018 Comes to a Close

After two weeks packed full with rigorous competition, the 37th Surface Line Week 2018 came to a close today, Aug. 17. Surface Line Week (SLW) Pacific is an annual event during which members of the Surface Navy, including Sailors, Marines, Department of the Navy civilians, and federal employees, can connect and participate in a myriad of different professional and athletic events. The competition drew participants from almost 30 commands in the San Diego area to compete in over 30 events.

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Chief Boatswain’s Mate Derek Earhart, assigned to USS Independence (LCS-2) participates in a BOSN olympics during the 37th annual Surface Line Week at Admiral Prout Field Naval Base San Diego. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nancy C. diBenedetto)

This year also carried a deep military significance: the centennial celebration of the United States victory in World War I. To honor this important anniversary, this year’s SLW theme was “Celebrating 100 years of Sea Supremacy” since our very own ships played a pivotal role in securing an Allied victory back in 1918.

The competition included professional skills challenges such as welding, shiphandling, valve packing, marksmanship, and various culinary competitions, while the athletic events included softball, volleyball, powerlifting, crossfit events, a 5K race, and much more. Events such as these are essential to the morale of each individual command, but also to the Surface Warfare community overall.

The athletic events provided healthy competition and a chance for all of the current and former athletes to show off their skills. The team sports helped build camaraderie among coworkers, while other athletic events allowed individuals to display their dedication to their fitness, an extremely important tenet of our Navy values.

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Damage Controlman 3rd Class Kiyana Perrymond and Machinery Repairman 3rd Class Jose Longoria, assigned to the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), participated in a damage control pipe patching event during the 37th Annual Surface Line Week at Naval Base San Diego. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nancy C. diBenedetto)

The professional events delivered a public opportunity for competitors to showcase what they learned and perfected throughout their careers. For example, the Damage Control Olympics allowed Sailors to troubleshoot and fix a problem, such as a hole in a pipe, in an efficient and timely manner. In the context of the competition, no lives were in danger; however, the skills put to the test in this event preserve and enhance the crew’s ability to carry out their mission and save their fellow crew members’ lives.

“This is a very special event. 30 ships across 40 something events is a pretty spectacular competition,” said Capt. Chris Engdahl, Chief of Staff, Naval Surface Force Pacific. “You get professional, tactical, and training-wise better and better, and are surrounded by folks who have met milestones that we all want to meet and want to achieve.”

SLW allows all Surface Warriors across the San Diego waterfront an opportunity to compete with their current shipmates, against former shipmates. It also gives the entire community a chance to come together and celebrate all of their diligent and dedicated work over the preceding year.

“We are here to close out two weeks of hard fought competition, sports events, professional development events, and just to build camaraderie amongst different commands and personnel. We are celebrating some of the awards today,” said Yeoman First Class Darrell Lamber, the Master of Ceremonies at the awards ceremony today.

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Sailors sail on San Diego Bay during Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet’s (SURFPAC) annual Surface Line Week sailboat regatta. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison)

Some of the more unique events included a cake decorating competition and a Navy heritage tattoo competition. The cake decorating competition was open to anyone, including those not within the Culinary Specialist rate; however, rules mandated that the cake had to be baked and decorated within the command’s very own galley. All cakes were encouraged to reflect Navy colors and Navy pride themes.

The tattoo competition was for those who had already formalized their Navy pride by way of permanent ink. Sailors were not encouraged to go out and add any tattoos to their bodies. Acceptable entries included any tattoos of Navy style anchors, King Neptune, ships, pigs, roosters, or nautical stars with the intent of upholding the longstanding tradition of nautical tattoos that is part of our Navy’s heritage and identity.

These two weeks of competition brought out the Navy pride and spirit in all of the competitors and their supporters. All commands gave a valiant effort in this year’s competition. To see photos, videos, and a list of the individual winners, head over to the Surface Line Week Facebook page. Overall winners will be announced next week at the Surface Warfare Ball. 

Great job to all who participated and we look forward to next year’s event!

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U.S. Navy Ensign Arthur Metra, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), commands a simulated ship during Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet’s (SURFPAC) annual Surface Line Week ship handling competition at Naval Base San Diego, California, Aug. 9, 2018. Surface Line Week is a longstanding tradition to showcase professional and athletic skills while enhancing camaraderie and team building among the surface force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison)
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A Civil War Battle Remembered by USS Mobile Bay (CG 53)

USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) is one of the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, named after the Civil War-era battle of Mobile Bay led by Adm. David Farragut on August 5, 1864. This strategic naval battle was the pinnacle of Farragut’s career, and resulted in the famous Naval quote “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Torpedoes meant something different in the 1860s, referring to submerged mines rather than today’s rocket-shaped self-propelled bombs typically associated with submarines. In the Confederate-controlled port of Mobile Bay, Ala., these torpedoes were strategically placed to deter and slow down the invading Yankee fleet. Since the port of New Orleans was lost in 1862, Mobile Bay was the last remaining port that blockade runners could access to support the Confederate Army. Farragut’s forces intended to interrupt the flow of these supplies.

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Adm. Farragut’s forces steam into the mouth of Mobile Bay in this artist’s rendition of the naval battle. 

On the morning of August 5, 154 years ago, Farragut’s 18-ship force steamed into the mouth of Mobile Bay, Ala., and was immediately met with fire from the Confederate forces. The iron-hulled monitor, USS Tecumseh, sank, and the fleet fell into confusion. It was then that Adm. Farragut’s rallying cry of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” regrouped the ships. (It is worth mentioning that the authenticity of this quote has been debated by historians, but the quote has nevertheless maintained its infamy in Naval lore.) The Yankee fleet made quick work of the smaller Confederate ships in the bay, and after the ironclad CSS Tennessee sustained heavy damages and Confederate flag officer Adm. Franklin Buchanan surrendered, the battle for the bay was over. Although the city of Mobile was still in the hands of the Confederacy, the port of Mobile Bay belonged to the Yankee force and was no longer available to blockade runners. Nearly three weeks later, the Yankee forces took control of the two forts in Mobile.

The Battle of Mobile Bay lifted the morale of the North, and in the spring of the following year, the Civil War came to a conclusion.

Today, the legacy of the brave Sailors that fought at the Battle of Mobile Bay continues on in the hands of the crew of USS Mobile Bay. Primarily an air-defense ship, Mobile Bay also has mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare capabilities that make it a lethal, highly adaptable platform. Last year, Mobile Bay successfully completed a missile exercise testing the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system in preparation for its upcoming 2018 deployment.

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USS Mobile Bay successfully executed a missile exercise in support of AEGIS Baseline 9 testing last year. (DVIDS.net)

Lieutenant Erick Samayoa, the training officer onboard Mobile Bay, said in an interview with KUSI News, “we’re ready to answer any calls the the country wants us to take.”

“The crew of Mobile Bay are resilient, hardworking Sailors who embody our motto ‘Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead.’ We are ready to complete the tasks our nation asks of us, and uphold the traditions of the Sailors who, centuries before us, completed their mission successfully amidst the numerous challenges facing them,” said Captain James Storm, commanding officer of USS Mobile Bay.

Hooyah, Sailors of Mobile Bay!

Navy Boatswain’s Mate Lingo: “It’s A Zoo!”

Mariners have always had their own language at sea: port, starboard, foc’sle, stern, bow, mast, etc. We call bathrooms “heads” and walls “bulkheads,” and the floor is a “deck.” We don’t go outside; we go “topside.” A rope is a “line,” stairs are called “ladderwells,” and the kitchen is a “galley.” These terms come from the days of early seafaring, and have become an important part of our Naval heritage.

But some of the at-sea phraseology is less about heritage and more about practicality. When you’re navigating at sea, precision and clarity are critical. You’ll never hear someone on the bridge say “let’s turn left” or “let’s head over there.” Instead you’ll hear something more like, “Left standard rudder, steady on course 180.” What’s that translate to? Turn the helm to the left until the rudder is 15 degrees off center and keep that turn until the ship is pointed due south and then straighten out on that course. It might sound like a foreign language, but it’s brevity and clarity that everyone in the pilot house knows.

Whether for heritage or practicality, nearly everything at sea has a different name or way of speaking than it does on land, and it can sometimes be a bit much for a “landlubber,” or a non-seagoing person. Making sense of the way Sailors speak requires an understanding of ship life in general, and sometimes even Sailors use memory aids to help learn the equipment. That’s where the animals come in.

Animals on a warship, you say? For the boatswain’s mates of the ship (those who handle all deck-related tasks aboard), the ship is a menagerie of different animals. Let’s take a look at some of the slang used to describe their equipment.

Wildcat

Rafael Peralta completes underway
That portion of an anchor windless that engages the links of the anchor chain so the anchor can be heaved in. (DVIDS.net)

Pelican Hook

Pelican hook
A hinged hook held closed by a ring used to provide instantaneous release of the anchor chain. So called because it looks like a pelican’s beak. (DVIDS.net)

Frog’s Feet

USS San Diego (LPD 22) Phuket Thailand Arrival
An attachment on the deck of the foc’sle (or foremost part of the ship’s topside deck) typically painted white, responsible for holding the chain attached to the pelican hook in place. So called because they look like feet along the deck. (DVIDS.net)

Mousing

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A thin line on the tip of the pelican hook that secures the bail to the hook. Used as an added safety precaution to ensure the pelican hook does not accidentally release. Mousing is also employed on other lines as added reinforcement to keep them together. (DVIDS.net)

Bull Nose

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An opening on the very front of the ship, where lines may exit the bow for certain anchoring evolutions. (DVIDS.net)

Monkey’s Fist

USS Carney
A type of knot, so named because it looks somewhat like a small bunched fist/paw. It is tied at the end of a rope to serve as a weight, making it easier to throw. Now, heaving lines have rubber balls at the end instead of rope monkey’s fists. This does not stop the boatswain’s mates from making monkey’s fists for a variety of other uses! (DVIDS.net)
2009_Giant-monkeys-fist A more traditional monkey’s fist. Instructions on how to make your own monkey’s fist can be found here.

Turtle Back and Gator Back

USS Bunker Hill (CG 52)
A turtle back is a flat covering placed over the chainpipe used to prevent water from entering the chain locker. A gator back is a steel mesh covering placed over the chainpipe used as an added safety precaution for personnel. You can see examples of both in the above photo, to the bottom left. (DVIDS.net)

Elephant Feet

USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) Departs the Azores
The bits, or twin steel cylinders used to wrap and secure lines. (DVIDS.net)

Bird’s Nest

USS Mobile Bay in Singapore
A way of coiling excess line after securing mooring lines to the bits. So called because once completed, it looks like a bird’s nest. (DVIDS.net)

Global Mine Warfare Commander’s Perspective on RIMPAC 2018: Capable, Adaptive, Partners

Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy technicians, Leading Seaman Sabol (left) and Leading Hand Bates, prepare to deploy an Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) for a nighttime mine hunting mission in Southern California during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, July 23. (DVIDS)

This year is the 26th occurrence of the world’s largest naval exercise, Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), which provides opportunities for twenty-five nations to come together as partners, to build capability, and integrate as a flexible, adaptive force to maintain sea lines of communication and security of the oceans. RIMPAC is based in Hawaii. However, the Southern California (SOCAL) portion of RIMPAC is a critical component to the exercise.  RIMPAC SOCAL provides a venue for the U.S. and partner nations to conduct mine clearance operations in sea lanes, international waterways, and in ports in a complex and challenging operational environment.

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U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch, left, commander, Task Force (CTF) 177, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center shakes hands with an officer from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force assigned to a subordinate unit of CTF 177 during a visit to Naval Base Point Loma July 17.

During RIMPAC in the SOCAL operations area, I served as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 177, the RIMPAC Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC). The task force was comprised of service members from the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), and the United States.

Twenty-six units and approximately 1,100 personnel conducted advanced mine warfare operations including mine countermeasures throughout the exercise. Units that were part of CTF 177 included: Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 3, Mine Countermeasures Division (MCMDIV) 31, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team – West (MSRT-W), the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Squadron, USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705), HMCS Yellowknife (MM 706), and USS Ardent (MCM 12).

 

This year also marked a few notable firsts. It was the first time the RNZN served as the undersea mine countermeasures commander (UMCMC), the first employment of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) in a Fleet exercise, and the first time the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team – West (MSRT-W) participated in the SOCAL area of operations during RIMPAC. 

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Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 1st Class Alejandro Vega, assigned to the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, operates an Advanced Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) console aboard an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California area of operations. (DVIDS)

Our team’s responsibility within the RIMPAC exercise construct was to work together as partners to maintain open sea lines of communication to provide security and free trade in an area challenged by a belligerent state actor. In the history of naval warfare, this isn’t a new concept. Sea Power and Sea Control have, and will remain, core tenets of both national and international power.

This is why our ability to maintain free and open common areas on the world’s waterways with our partners is critical to ensuring we meet the objectives of our National Defense Strategy and our Navy’s mission.

As Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), I am responsible for leading our command in its mission to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains. Further, our team is also engaged in the maintenance of sea lines of communication in my responsibility as the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander. This responsibility stems from the CNO and Fleet Forces Commanders’ guidance for our team to maintain an on call MIW Battle Staff to support the Navy’s numbered fleet commanders.

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A bottlenose dolphin in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), part of the MK 7 Marine Mammal System, searches for an exercise sea mine alongside marine mammal trainers. (Navy.mil)

Maintaining MIW capability is a task that requires a great deal of training, planning, and resources both within the U.S. Navy, and in close coordination with our international partners. SMWDC’s MIW Division provides advanced tactical training to mine countermeasures (MCM) ships, as well as advanced training to Sailors in the MIW community. For instance, SMWDC leads MCM Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercises to keep our teams ready around the globe. We also ensure our staff stays sharp through exercises like this year’s Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) where we led a 16-nation MIW force.

In the face of increasing challenges posed by our adversaries in the maritime domain, we must “Own the Fight” as our senior leaders have tasked us to do. As part of that effort, SMWDC will expand its Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) program to include MIW WTIs who will be the young, tactical experts in the Surface Warfare community, and future of the MIW force.

As our National Defense Strategy provides us guidance to strengthen and attract alliances, I can think of no better position to be in than as the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander. With operational touch points across the globe, my team is integrated into the fabric of the Navy wherever and whenever we are called upon to be.

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Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Lt. Cmdr. Ben Martin, undersea mine countermeasures commander for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California area of operations, briefs RNZN Commodore Tony Millar, maritime component commander and representative of the Chief of Navy (New Zealand), left, and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander, Mine Warfare Task Force, right, during a visit onboard Naval Base Point Loma, July 17. (DVIDS)

In a challenging security environment, however, there is nothing more important than the trust we build with our partners through exercises like RIMPAC. You cannot surge trust – it has to be built already when you need it.

I am immensely proud of the work our RIMPAC Mine Warfare Task Force completed during the exercise to achieve national and international training objectives, and I am confident that the strong partnerships and increased capability we developed will ensure our mutual security and prosperity.

For more information about RIMPAC 2018, check out these stories:

RIMPAC Mine Warfare Operations Underway

USS Pearl Harbor Hosts MCM Dive Operations

Royal New Zealand Navy Divers Conducting Pouncer Operations

USS Harpers Ferry Conducts Operations To Support Rim of the Pacific Exercise

USS Sentry (MCM 3) Completes Advanced Tactical Training Exercise in 5th Fleet

Maritime Security Response Team–West, Canadian EOD Train to Mitigate Threats

Commander, Task Force 177 visits Undersea Mine Countermeasures Commander

Navy’s Mine Warfare Battle Staff Leads 16-Nation MIW Force in BALTOPS 2018

2018 National Defense Strategy

The Constitution of the United States of America

Secretary of the Navy Vision

Chief of Naval Operations: The Future Navy

Readying The Fleet To Own The Fight

A Legacy from the Sea: San Diego’s Naval Beginnings

Part of what makes San Diego “America’s Finest City” is that it is home to one of the largest fleet concentration areas in the world, home to not only ships, but aircraft, training commands, strategic commands, and a naval hospital older than the base itself. Along the same line, the maritime history of San Diego’s naval presence actually extends far back into the seventeenth century, when Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived by sea into the Southern California harbor now named San Diego Bay.

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Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Spaniard Sebastian Viscaino led an expedition into the bay in 1602 and named it San Diego after Saint Didacus of Alcalá, the saint with the celebrated feast date closest to the day of their arrival in California. After establishing their presence in San Diego, the Spanish went on to build missionaries across California. Franciscan Friars, alongside Spanish military members, undertook the mission of converting Native Americans living in the region to Christianity in an attempt to secure them as loyal subjects of the Spanish crown. These land-based expeditions proceeded with difficulty; initially, more than half of the missionaries and military died from scurvy and infection. However, the arrival of more Spanish ships brought more supplies, more military personnel, and more hope for survival and success. When it was said and done, it took the Spanish more than a century to establish a solid presence in California.

Father Junípero Serra formally established Mission San Diego on July 16, 1769, on a site overlooking the bay. Five years later, the mission was moved east, to the site now known as Mission Valley. San Diego would become another military campsite a few years later – this time home to the United States Navy.

In a bid for statehood, Texas launched the Mexican-American War and brought the first US warship into San Diego harbor. On July 29, 1846, USS Cyane sailed into the bay and flew the Stars and Stripes over San Diego, officially marking that day as the defining moment of San Diego’s transition from Spanish and Mexican rule to that of the United States.

In the years following California becoming part of the United States (1848), the city of San Diego began a long-term plan to get the U.S. Navy to build infrastructure in the area that would lead to a permanent major naval base.

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USS California (ACR 6), which would later become USS San Diego (CA 6).

By 1904, city leadership convinced the Navy officials to place a coal depot in San Diego Bay to service the small but growing number of warships on the West Coast. Two years later, they were able to get a wireless radio station built on Point Loma.

In 1908, the President Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet visited San Diego during its historic circumnavigation of the globe.

This same year, the city began dredging the shallow harbor to enable larger ships to enter San Diego Bay.

In 1910, Glenn Curtiss opened a flying school on North Island. By 1911, he had successfully hoisted his hydroplane on and off the cruiser Pennsylvania. Thus San Diego’s designation as the birthplace of naval aviation.

In 1914, the Navy renamed the cruiser USS California (ACR 6) as USS San Diego (CA 6). The warship served as the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, raising San Diego’s visibility.

In 1915, San Diego officials let the visiting Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, know that the Navy could obtain lots of land with little or no cost to expand.

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U.S. Destroyer Base at 32nd Street, circa 1940s.

In 1919, Congress approved the plan for a naval training station, a naval hospital, a naval repair base, and a fleet landing in San Diego. The Navy began almost immediately began transferring destroyers to San Diego because of concerns about Japan’s expansionism.

In 1922, the Navy formally created the U.S. Destroyer Base at 32nd Street.

Since the renaming of the cruiser California as San Diego in 1914, there have been three other ships that bear the name San Diego.

The first armored cruiser bearing the city’s name suffered an explosion to the port side On the July 19, 1918 while steaming northeast of the Fire Island Lightship in New York. The ship sank in 28 minutes and reports later suggested that it had been sunk by a mine laid by a German U-boat.

For more than a decade following the incident, the Navy did not have a ship bearing the name San Diego. Then, in 1942, the second USS San Diego (CL 53) was commissioned. The ship supported the first American offensive of World War II: the invasion of the Solomon Islands at Guadalcanal. San Diego became one of the most decorated U.S. ships of the war, being awarded 18 battle stars. After the ship’s stalwart service, she was decommissioned in 1946 during the post-war era in which the Navy significantly reduced the number of ships in the fleet.

The third USS San Diego (AFS 6) was commissioned as a Mars-class combat stores ship in 1968. She served the U.S. Atlantic Fleet until 1993, when she was decommissioned and redesignated as a United States Naval Ship and assigned to Military Sealift Command. She served as USNS San Diego (T-AFS 6) until 1997.

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USS San Diego (LPD 22), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

In 2012, the most recent USS San Diego (LPD 22) was commissioned as a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock in her namesake city. This ship is markedly different than its predecessors, with mission capabilities tailored to amphibious operations. San Diego can carry 14 Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, 699 troops, and launch and recover four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft. San Diego can reach speeds in excess of 22 knots, and carries up to 360 Sailors as part of her crew. In 2014, the ship operated with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group in the Fifth Fleet area of operations.

In the future years, we should expect that the Navy will continually demonstrate honor toward and gratitude for the great partnership with the city by having a USS San Diego in the fleet proudly representing the name around the world.   

Mine Warfare: A History of Power and Effectiveness

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USS Terror (CM 5) enters the water after being christened June 1941.

July 15 marked the 76th anniversary of the commissioning of the Navy’s first purpose-built minelayer USS Terror (CM 5) in 1942. Prior to USS Terror, mines were laid using a variety of vessels. The need for this designated minelayer showed the utility of sea minefields.

Sea mines have arguably been one of the most efficient and prolific weapons in naval history, and one of the most controversial. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and can be dispersed in exceedingly large numbers and across great distances. They have shaped the battle space and blocked waterways during every major U.S. conflict since the American Revolution. But one aspect of mine warfare is often overlooked: method in which these mines were laid.

Sea mines were first used by the United States during the American Revolution. In 1777, Captain David Bushnell, of the Continental Army, created the first sea mine by hurling powder kegs into the Delaware River to strike and explode against the British warships at anchor near Philadelphia. These mines were extremely primitive and proved to be extremely dangerous, but failed to block the British forces. They were not stationary which meant the threat only lasted a few moments.

By the Civil War, sea mines had matured into a reliable weapon used for coastal defenses. These mines or “torpedoes” were placed underwater and armed by hand. They waited for unsuspecting ships to make the slightest contact with them, triggering an underwater explosion meant to rupture the ship’s hull. They were more commonly used by the Confederate Forces, and sunk a total of twenty-seven Federal ships. Though as deadly as these mines were, they did not always stop the Union Navy. The Confederates laid approximately 90 torpedoes in defense of Mobile Bay.

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The Battle of Mobile Bay, 5-12 August 1864

During the famous battle in 1864, USS Tecumseh struck a mine and was sunk. After seeing his lead ship destroyed, Rear Admiral David Farragut made a risky decision to continue with the assault, delivering the renowned order, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” He captured Mobile Bay and scored a major victory for the Union. Farragut correctly assumed that the remaining mines had become inert after being submerged underwater for too long. This Union success showed the need to maintain a minefield by laying fresh mines.

In World War I the Allied Forces developed a contact mine that would detonate when the steel hull of the ship would touch a copper wire antenna attached to the mine. These mines were highly volatile, and therefore; required constant “re-seeding”. The U.S. Navy assembled a squadron of short-range minelayers that dropped mines around the clock. This massive logistic effort successfully sank six German U-Boats during the last month of the War, limiting the range capability of Kaiser’s Navy.

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Mines circa 1909. These later developed into contact mines and influence mines in World War II.

World War II featured two types of mines – the first being the iconic contact moored mines – the black metal sphere covered with horns, suspended underwater by an anchor chain. Like its predecessors, this contact mine would detonate after making contact with a ship. The second mine – considerably more sophisticated – was the influence mine. It rested on the ocean floor and was activated by sensors that detected magnetic disturbances caused by metal ships passing above, or by the sound of the ship’s machinery. 

During the War, the United States and the United Kingdom produced more than 300,000 sea mines that were used in the waters surrounding Europe and in the Pacific. A total of 1,700 enemy ships were sunk by the explosive devices, crippling supply lines into both Japan and Germany. USS Terror (CM-5) was instrumental during this campaign in both Africa and the Pacific. Prior to her commissioning, minelayers were small crafts with limited ocean-going endurance. USS Terror’s speed, size, and ability to transport massive amounts of munitions made her the perfect hub for mine warfare operations. She also demonstrated the need for a mobile mine warfare headquarters. On January 22, 1945, she became the flagship for the newly commissioned Commander, Minecraft U.S Pacific Fleet.

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USS Terror (CM 5) as flagship for Commander, Minecraft U.S. Pacific Fleet

As flagship, she coordinating all mining and de-mining efforts in the Pacific Theater, until being struck by a kamikaze on May 1, 1945. Though she was relieved as flagship, her accomplishments proved to be a huge military success that ultimately helped the Allies win the War and shaped the mine warfare command structure in place today.

Guest Blog written by MCMRON 3.

Information in this article is derived from the following sources:

July 1975 Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC) Technical Report on Mine Warfare History and Technology. (http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a017318.pdf)

USS Terror (CM-5) Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Terror_(CM-5))

America’s Birthday

This Fourth of July, you may be celebrating the Nation’s freedom with fireworks, picnics, and parades. If so, you will be celebrating as the Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams intended.4thofjuly

Thomas Jefferson penned those words in the spring of 1826 after falling gravely ill. He was referring to the Declaration of Independence, which had been signed 49 years earlier in Philadelphia.

John Adams remarked that Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Along with their compatriots in the Revolutionary War, these men faced incredible odds and created the foundation for a country established on the principles of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Amidst the celebration, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the facts surrounding July 4, 1776 – the day our great country was considered born.

  • The Continental Congress actually voted on the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. July 4, 1776 is the day the Declaration was adopted by the Continental Congress, with the actual signing ceremony occurring on August 2, 1776.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. It was edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
  • Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826; 50 years after Independence Day.
  • The first anniversary drew fireworks, a 13-shot cannon salute, and jubilee in Philadelphia. However, it wasn’t until the War of 1812 that the date was widely celebrated across the Nation.
  • Dating back to 1785, Bristol, Rhode Island is home to the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration.
  • In 1776, there were an estimated 2.5 million people living in America. As of July 2014, there were approximately 318.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th a state holiday, and Congress declared Independence Day a federal holiday in 1941.

Across the United States, Americans joyfully celebrate the anniversary of our first Independence Day. Fireworks burst in the sky, red-white-and-blue banners hang from porches, and Old Glory waves proudly all over the country. Meanwhile, Sailors remain vigilant in supporting operations at sea around the globe. They continue to build upon a maritime legacy that began in the early years of American independence, as Navy ships were commissioned to protect American merchant vessels from attack as they sailed to grow the Nation’s economic growth.

Maybe more than any time in history, our Nation’s continued security and prosperity demands a strong U.S. Navy.

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160101-N-DE001-270 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Jan. 1, 2016) Fireworks explode behind the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG65) as seen from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan provides 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 Adrienne Powers/Released)

This need harkens back to our founders having the insight to recognize the United States as a maritime nation and the importance of maritime forces, including the requirement in our Constitution that Congress “maintain a Navy.”

Founding Father John Adams noted in 1776 that he was, “well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.” And while so much has changed through the years – ships, aircraft, people, and definitely the world – the Navy’s enduring mission has remained clear. We maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

So on this Fourth of July, the Surface Force celebrates America’s birthday through tradition – by providing a global presence, safeguarding key transit lanes so commerce, goods, and information can flow unfettered by maritime threats. Seapower has been, and will continue to be, the critical foundation of national power and prosperity and international prestige for the United States of America.

Happy Birthday, America!