Sunday, July 25, 2021


 25 July 2021: Well, July is almost done and August and what follows is looming. Where does the time fly to!

Bermuda has long been a favorite vacation/honeymoon spot for Americans and it is likely that most who go there have little idea of the history of this little island some 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina. From Military History Now, the following edited report.



BERMUDA does not exactly loom large in the annals of military history. When most people think of the small, mid-Atlantic, British territory, they mostly imagine pink sand beaches, cruise ships and the picturesque streets of the capital Hamilton.   

Yet despite its diminutive size and reputation as a tourist destination, almost from the time it was first permanently settled in the 17th Century, the island of Bermuda has been involved in a number of conflicts between major world powers. [Ed: there are several others offered in this article, but we don’t have room to discuss them all; here are some significant ones that had an early impact on the United States.]

The American War of Independence

In 1775 the rebellion of Britain’s American colonies was fully underway. But from the very outset of the rebellion, colonial forces suffered from a critical shortage of gunpowder. Continental Army supreme commander George Washington hoped to secure a stockpile from Bermuda’s merchants, with whom American colonists had been trading for years. British policy however was to cut off all trade with the American colonies. Reeling from the embargo, islanders hatched a plan to seize gunpowder from a lightly guarded magazine in St. George’s and sell it to the rebels. In the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 1775, a group of locals under the command of a Bermudan official and  militia colonel named Henry Tucker, broke into the arsenal and stole 100 barrels of gunpowder. The casks were rolled down the hill to waiting dinghies, then rowed out to two waiting American ships. The stolen powder would prove critical to the fledgling rebellion. Despite aiding in the establishment of American independence, Bermuda remains to this day connected to Great Britain. The island’s archives still preserve a letter of thanks from General George Washington to the people of Bermuda for their assistance in 1775.


The War of 1812

A generation after the War of Independence, Britain and America found themselves embroiled in yet another conflict. Situated just 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina, Bermuda was on the front lines of the contest. Indeed, during the War of 1812, the Admiralty moved the headquarters of its Western Atlantic Fleet from Halifax to Bermuda. A large dockyard was also built there. Britain also constructed a string of fortifications on Bermuda in the event the United States tried to seize the island. In fact, so impregnable were the defences there, Bermuda became known as the “Gibraltar of the West.” The famous summer of 1814 British invasion of Maryland and subsequent capture and burning of Washington D.C., along with the siege of Baltimore (later immortalized in the Star-Spangled Banner) were launched from Bermuda.

Similarly, the spoils of war were brought back to Bermuda when the task force returned. Part of the booty included two large paintings of King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte. These paintings, which were captured by Continental forces during the Revolutionary War, were found in a warehouse close to what would later be the White House. Both can now be found in the Bermudian legislature, which after Westminster is the oldest parliament chamber in the Western Hemisphere. To this day, the paintings flank the Bermudan Speaker’s chair. 

The U.S. Civil War

Bermuda also played a role in America’s Civil War. A key part of the Union strategy was to blockade major Confederate ports to deprive the Rebellion of its economic lifeblood – cotton – while preventing the South from obtaining vital supplies. To penetrate the Union cordon, Confederate shipyards produced streamlined, steam-powered vessels that became known as Blockade Runners. The vessels, their holds crammed with goods, used their speed and the cover of darkness to slip past Federal warships. Many would make port in Bermuda to unload cotton and take on supplies for the Confederate war effort. In fact, Bermuda became such a hotbed of trade with the South, the Union eventually parked a warship off the entrance to St. George’s harbour. Unable to effectively close a foreign port, goods and wealth continued to flow in and out of Bermuda.


So friends, when you visit Bermuda on holiday, think of the history there and pay a visit to the excellent museum of the island's history - which of course, is maritime history.

Until next time, 

                             Fair Winds, 

                                   Old Salt

Sunday, July 18, 2021


 18 July 2021: In the interest of keeping our audience informed, this Brunswick GA article from Sunday 18 July is worth a look. We have offered news on the Golden Ray wreck almost since it occurred and will continue to do so until the salvage folks finish their monumental task.



The towering crane being used to saw apart an overturned cargo ship along the Georgia coast has paused work for maintenance and repairs.

Salvage crews have removed nearly two-thirds of the Golden Ray in five giant chunks since demolition began in November. The remaining 227 feet (70 meters) of the shipwreck will be cut into three huge pieces.

lifting a section from wreck

 But first, the towering crane used to straddle the shipwreck and tear through its hull with 400 feet (122 meters) of anchor chain has to undergo maintenance. The giant pulleys that help to force the chain through the hull like a dull saw are being lowered for inspection and replacement as needed, The Brunswick News reported.

Thousands of feet of wiring inside the crane are also being checked, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the multi-agency command overseeing the demolition.

"They’re going through the whole system to inspect for wear and tear and to recommend any needed repairs,” said Himes, who estimated the maintenance work could wrap by the end of the coming week.

The South Korean-owned Golden Ray capsized with more than 4,200 automobiles in its cargo decks shortly after departing the Port of Brunswick on Sept. 8, 2019. Investigators later concluded the ship tipped over because unstable loading had left its center of gravity too high.

The entire crew was rescued safely, but the ship was deemed a total loss. Demolition began in November and progress has been slower than officials predicted. Dismantling of the ship reached the halfway mark with removal of the fourth section in April. The fifth and latest chunk was cut away in early July.

Himes said cutting will resume once inspections and maintenance on the crane are complete.

The demolition and cleanup are being closely watched by environmental groups. A large fire sparked by a worker's cutting torch broke out inside the shipwreck in May, sending thick black smoke into the air. The flames were doused with boat-mounted water canons and no one was injured.

Fire slows progress

A large amount of oil and fuel leaked into St. Simons Sound when the latest section of the ship was removed. Some of the leaked fuel escaped a containment barrier around the wreck. Crews cleaned up the spill with oil skimmers and absorbent boom.




Truly a mess by any standards, but they are making progress in getting this situation resolved. More as it develops.

 Until next time,

                                      Fair Winds, 

                                           Old Salt

Monday, July 12, 2021


 12 July 2021: We hope all of you who celebrate American Independence Day had a satisfying experience and enjoyed all the usual delights: fireworks, cookouts with family and friends, and "chillin'" on the beach! And speaking of fireworks, here's a story, edited down from an online publication called 1945.



Patriotic action movies would have you believe military units regularly perform like well-oiled fighting machines. But sometimes reality is closer to Bill Murray’s Stripes.

Such at least was the case of the William D. Porter, whose mishaps were famously immortalized in an article by Kit Bonner.

Named after a swashbuckling Union Civil War captain, the Porter was one of 175 Fletcher-class destroyers built during World War II. Destroyers, dubbed “tin cans” because of their lack of armor, were relatively small but fast warships often tasked with protecting convoys and larger warships. Fletcher-class destroyers boasted ten torpedo tubes, depth charge projectors, and five radar-guided 5” dual-purpose guns allowing them to ably combat aircraft, submarines and surface warships.

The “Willy D’s” shakedown cruise in the summer of 1943 proceeded uneventfully under Lt. Commander Wilfred Walter. That November, she was then assigned to a secret task force charged with escorting President Franklin D. Roosevelt aboard the battleship USS Iowa to conferences in Cairo and Tehran.

FDR was accompanied by Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and the chiefs of the Army, Army Air Force and Navy (Admiral Ernest King). Their meetings with Churchill, Chiang Kai-Shek and Stalin would shape the postwar geopolitical order.

German U-Boats were then exacting a terrifying toll from U.S. convoys in the Atlantic, so the taskforce had to maintain strict radio silence to keep the Kriegsmarine in the dark.

As Porter slipped from her quay in Norfolk, Virginia on November 12, things immediately began to go wrong. Her crew failed to properly raise the anchor, which went rattling across the deck of a neighboring destroyer, tearing away railings and lifeboats.

The following day, Iowa, Porter and two other ships were underway in the Atlantic when an underwater explosion shattered the calm. The taskforce began evasive maneuvers in response to the apparent submarine attack.

But Porter then signaled it was a false alarm: one of her depth charges had accidentally rolled off deck and detonated—because nobody had secured the charge’s safety.

Then a violent wave slammed into the destroyer, sweeping a man overboard, who was tragically never rescued, and flooding one of her boilers. The Porter fell behind and broke radio silence to update the Iowa on her repairs—eliciting an irate message from Admiral King.

Then on November 14, Roosevelt—who had been Secretary of the Navy during World War I—asked to observe an air defense drill. Balloons were released, and gunners on the Iowa and Porter began blasting them out of sky. 

IOWA's 16" guns in action

 Captain Wilfred decided to follow up with a torpedo drill, in which the Porter practiced mock attacks on the Iowa—with the torpedoes’ primer charges removed.

Two mock torpedo launches went smoothly. But upon the third firing command at 2:36 PM, a 24-foot-long Mark 15 torpedo leapt from the Porter and surged towards the Iowa.

Torpedoes were tricky to land on target and often unreliable—but just one or two lucky hits sometimes sank even huge battleships and carriers.

The torpedo needed only a few minutes to traverse the 6,000 yards separating the Porter from the Iowa. But Wilfred, reluctant to break radio silence again, insisted on conveying the disastrous news using a signal lamp.

Unfortunately, the signalman garbled the messages twice. Finally, Wilfred radioed “Lion, lion! Turn right!” (“Lion” was Iowa’s codename.) When the Iowa’s operator responded in confusion, the captain clarified “Torpedo in the water!”

Iowa turned hard to port and accelerated to flank speed. Though the 825 pounds of HBX explosive in the torpedo might leave the Iowa at the bottom of the sea in a few minutes given a lucky hit, Roosevelt instructed the Secret Servicemen pushing his wheelchair to position him with a view. The former Navy Secretary wanted to see the action.

USS Iowa fires a 16" gun

Finally at 2:40, the torpedo struck the Iowa’s wake and detonated a safe distance away.

The taskforce’s commander had had enough. He ordered the Porter to report to Bermuda. There, the Navy held an inquiry to evaluate why exactly things had gone so spectacularly wrong. Gross incompetence? A plot to kill Roosevelt?

Eventually, Chief Torpedoman Lawton Dawson admitted to having forgotten to remove the primer from the torpedo. The inexperienced seaman [ed: A Chief Torpedoman is not what we would think of as "inexperienced!"] was sentenced to fourteen years hard labor, but Roosevelt intervened to wave his sentence.

As FDR was a Democrat, legend has it Navy ships henceforth greeted the Porter with “Don’t shoot! We’re Republicans!” 


Had the torpedo struck USS Iowa, things might have come out differently near the end of WWII! And, as an old Fletcher Class destroyerman, I can say sometimes things go "sideways" and rarely do they end well! 

Until next time, 

                                 Fair Winds,

                                     Old Salt