Friday, May 26, 2023


 26 May 2023:  Well, we've done it again! Missed a week in posting... sorry about that folks - with the warmer weather and more stuff to get done, the blog just kept getting postponed. But here we are now and in a (in our opinion) fitting acknowledgement of our U.S. Memorial Day weekend, we have a special article on some who gave all. That's what Memorial Day is all about anyway. Other countries call it "Remembrance Day" or similar, but most nations with a military acknowledge the sacrifice one way or another. Most Americans are familiar with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the the U.S. into the fray in 1941; and many have possibly heard of the USS Arizona battleship sunk and now a memorial. Few,however, know the story of USS Oklahoma which was also sunk with significant loss of life. Herewith, her story from the on line magazine 1945.



USS Oklahoma, a Short History: Today there is a memorial at Pearl Harbor to honor the 1,177 U.S. sailors and Marines killed in action aboard the USS Arizona (BB-39), which was hit by four Japanese aerial bombs on December 7, 1941. A lesser-known memorial was dedicated in 2007 to pay tribute to the other U.S. Navy battleship that was sunk and unable to return to duty after the Japanese sneak attack on Hawaii.

The USS Oklahoma Memorial is now a fixture on Ford Island, the result of a campaign mounted by some in the Sooner State. Cmdr. Tucker McHugh, U.S. Navy (Retired) was among those who lead the efforts to build a permanent memorial to USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which was hit by eight torpedoes at the very start of the attack on that sunny Sunday morning 80 years ago. In less than 12 minutes, she rolled over until masts actually touched the bottom, trapping hundreds of men inside and under the war.

Of those trapped inside only 32 crew members were rescued, while 415 sailors and 14 Marines died during or after the attack.

The Career of the USS Oklahoma

The Nevada-class battleship was built by New York Shipbuilding Corporation and was commissioned in 1916. As part of the first U.S. Navy class of oil-burning dreadnoughts, the warship had a greater range than previous battleships.

BB-37 served in the latter stages of the First World War as part of Battleship Division Six, which protected Allied convoys traveling across the Atlantic. After the end of the war, USS Oklahoma served in both the United States Battle Fleet and Scouting Fleet. Modernized between 1927 and 1929, she had a greatly altered appearance but notably improved battleworthiness. The battle wagon was deployed to Spain during that nation’s Civil War in July 1936 to rescue American citizens and refugees.

She rejoined the Battle Fleet in the Pacific later that year.

In 1940, USS Oklahoma‘s base was shifted from the U.S. West Coast to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and she was among the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. She had returned late from a training mission on the night of December 5, and there was only a single position on battleship row. Moored outboard of USS Maryland (BB-46), Oklahoma was exposed to the bay – making her among the most exposed warships when the attack began. 

USS Oklahoma December 7th 1941


The battleship was hit by a number of Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedoes that tore open her port side. She capsized at 8:08 am HST, just 12 minutes after the first torpedo hit.

Along with USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma was among two of those eight battleships not to return to service. However, in 1943, the battleship was the subject of a massive salvage undertaking, involving turning her upright, patching her damages and refloating her. She was drydocked late in the year to be stripped of guns and other equipment and repaired sufficiently to make her relatively watertight. Too old and badly damaged to be worth returning to service, instead USS Oklahoma was formally decommissioned in September 1944. She was sold for scrapping in December 1946, but sank while under tow from Hawaii to California in May 1947

Remembering Oklahoma

While other battleships had been memorialized after the war, such was not the case with BB-37.

“We thought, ‘That’s not right that the USS Oklahoma does not have any kind of memorial,'” Cmdr. McHugh told The Journal Record newspaper. “The fact that 429 men on the USS Oklahoma died that day … and there was nothing to honor them individually with their names on anything. That was just not right. That was not going to stand, so that’s why we built the memorial.”

Tucker, along with retired Rear Adm. Gregory Slavonic, Oklahoma City architect Don Beck and a handful of other Oklahomans, were able to raise $1.5 million in private donations, which resulted in a lasting tribute to the USS Oklahoma’s fallen heroes. The black granite and white marble memorial was dedicated on December 7, 2007. The names of those who lost their lives on the ship are engraved in black granite on 429 individual white marble columns, each of which is 7 feet tall and weighs 120 pounds.

“There are rows of these standards representing each individual that lost their life,” added architect Beck. “You can walk between these rows, and the idea is you can walk among the lost souls and get a feeling of what it’s like to see 429 who gave their lives.” 


A fitting post for Memorial Day. And while we wish you all a pleasant weekend, please remember it's not all about beaches and cookouts; it's a day of remembrance for those who gave all for the country.

Until next time,

                                     Fair Winds.

                                            Old Salt

Thursday, May 11, 2023


 11 May 2023:

Hello faithful readers! Sorry for the delay in this week's edition of Maritime Maunder. We have been very busy traveling and changing from winter to spring/summer quarters. But, here we are and with what we thought was a fascinating bit of useless information about Florida - and no, it's not a shipwreck find, but something quite unexpected! From ABC news:


Divers find underwater hospital, cemetery off coast of Key West

The 19th century hospital was used to treat patients with yellow fever.

The archeological remains of a 19th century hospital and cemetery have been found on a submerged island near Garden Key, the second-largest island in the Dry Tortugas National Park near Key West, Florida. The hospital served as a 19th century quarantine and cemetery for yellow fever patients between 1890 and 1900, according to the National Parks Service.


Historical records indicate that dozens of people, mostly U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Jefferson, may have been buried at the cemetery, according to the NPS.

Dozens of people were interred in the Fort Jefferson Post Cemetery -- most of them were military members serving or imprisoned at the Fort. Some civilians may have been buried there as well, historians said.

Only one grave has been identified, according to the NPS. A headstone in the underwater cemetery reads the name John Greer, who died while working at Fort Jefferson on Nov. 5, 1861.

The details surrounding Greer's death are unclear, but his grave was prominently marked with a large slab of greywacke, the same material used to construct the first floor of Fort Jefferson, according to the NPS. It is inscribed with his name and date of death.

Historians are continuing to look for more information on Greer and other individuals interred on the now submerged island.

Fort Jefferson was mostly known for its use as a military prison during the American Civil War, but the islands and waters surrounding the fort were also used as a naval coaling outpost, lighthouse station, naval hospital, quarantine facility and safe harbor and military training, historians said.

The risk of deadly communicable diseases, particularly the mosquito-borne yellow fever, drastically increased as the population of Fort Jefferson increased with military personnel, prisoners, enslaved people, engineers, support staff, laborers and their families, according to the NPS. Major outbreaks of disease on the island killed dozens throughout the 1860s and 1870s.

As the population on Garden Key increased, several of the islands nearby were equipped with small structures for use as quarantine hospitals in the 1860s.

"The transfer of sick and dying patients to these small islands, isolated from the congested Fort Jefferson, likely saved hundreds from a similar fate," the NPS said.

The use of many of the quarantine hospitals on the surrounding islands ceased after Fort Jefferson was abandoned in 1873, but the U.S. Marine Hospital Service required the development of an isolation hospital on one of the keys toward the end of the 19th century.

The discovery, conducted in August 2022 by several organizations, highlights the untold stories in Dry Tortugas National Park, "both above and below the water," Josh Marano, maritime archeologist for the south Florida national parks and project director for the survey, said in a statement.

an unidentified grave marker
 "Although much of the history of Fort Jefferson focuses on the fortification itself and some of its infamous prisoners, we are actively working to tell the stories of the enslaved people, women, children and civilian laborers," Marano said.

The findings also highlight the impacts of climate change on resources in the Dry Tortugas, the NPS said.

The facilities were originally built on dry land, but dynamic conditions caused many of the islands to move over time, and climate change and major storm events have even caused some islands to settle and erode beneath the waves.


Who would have imagined that! I am sure there will be more to discover here and if the news is reported, we will bring it to you here on Maritime Maunder!

Until next time,

                                        Fair Winds,

                                               Old Salt

Monday, May 1, 2023


 1 May 2023: 

Well, here we are on month #5 in the [no longer] new year! And while our subject today is not coincidental with today's date, it was marked a few days ago and is of significant enough in history to report it here. From Fox and the Naval History &  Heritage Command:


The fledgling United States Marine Corps proved its dauntless courage with a "miracle" victory in the Battle of Derna on the shores of Tripoli in North Africa on April 27, 1805.

The successful attack against overwhelming numbers on the port city in present-day Libya, a stronghold of pirates who spent years attacking United States ships at sea, was the climactic battle of the First Barbary War (1801-05). 

The victory is immortalized in a patriotic American anthem.

"From the Halls of Montezuma/To the Shores of Tripoli/We fight our country's battles/In the air, on land and sea," proclaims the rousing opening lyrics of "The Marines' Hymn" (the original 19th-century opening line, pre-air power, was "on the land as on the sea"). 

Writes the Office of the Historian of the U.S. Department of State, "Prior to independence, American colonists had enjoyed the protection of the British Navy." 

 "However, once the United States declared independence, British diplomats were quick to inform the Barbary States that U.S. ships were open to attack." [ed: and they were encouraged by the British to do so.]

The pirates demanded tribute from foreign nations for safe passage through the Mediterranean. 

American ships became a common target, inciting anger among U.S. citizens. 

President Thomas Jefferson sent a fleet to the Mediterranean to combat the pirates in 1801. 

Among other indignities, 297 crewmen of the U.S. frigate Philadelphia were captured and taken prisoner after the ship ran aground off Tripoli in 1803.

 The Battle of Derna ended with Marines raising the American flag over a captured foreign stronghold for the first time in their history — an act of resolve for which the Corps would later be immortalized in a famous photograph during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

The victory at Derna forced Barbary pirate leaders to the negotiation table, ending the war two months later with the Treaty of Tripoli. 

plaque still in place in Derna commemorating the battle


The battle followed one of the most incredible efforts in the history of American warfare. 

Marine Corps Lt. Presley O'Bannon, joined by former Army captain and consul William Eaton, led a small band of Marines and an international mercenary force on a 400-mile march from Alexandria, Egypt, to attack the pirate port. 

They were "able to assemble a mixed force of some 400 men, composed of 38 Greek mercenaries, 25 mostly European artillerists, 90 men … 190 camels and their drivers, a small force of Arab cavalry, and eight U.S. Marines," writes the Naval History and Heritage Command "This force began its march in Egypt on March 8, 1805, and after six weeks of mutiny, hunger, thirst, Arab intransigence and religious tension, arrived on April 25 before Derna, the easternmost fortified town under Tripolitan control."

The march "with a mercenary army that continued to have serious threats of mutiny, lack of food, and no water was a miracle itself," Kater Miller, a curator for the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, told Fox News Digital.

Another incredible feat followed.

The 400-mile march "with a mercenary army that continued to have serious threats of mutiny, lack of food, and no water was a miracle itself." — Marine Corps historian Kater Miller 

Derna was defended by a much larger force of 945 cavalry and 1,250 foot soldiers. But the Marine-led assault enjoyed the support of U.S. Navy warships offshore, in one of the first joint-force attacks in U.S. military history. [ed: navy ship stood to offshore of Derna and performed an early example of "shore bombardment"]

"Eaton … called on Governor Mustapha Bey to surrender, a summons that was contemptuously rejected," states the Naval History and Heritage Command.

"Assaulting a fortified coastal city, with a handful of Marines, bolstered by a mercenary army against numerically superior defenders was a tremendous gamble," said Miller. 

The high-stakes gamble yielded big rewards. 

The attack deposed longtime Tripolitania dynastic leader Yusuf Karamanliand and led to the Treaty of Tripoli in June. 

Among other outcomes, the crew of the Philadelphia was released.

The attack also earned praise for the Marines from Karamanli's own brother. 

"Lieutenant Presley O’ Bannon, commanding the Marines, performed so heroically in the battle that Hamet Karamanli presented him with an elaborately designed sword that now serves as the pattern for the swords carried by Marine officers," Miller said. 

O'Bannon sword [ed: Marine officer swords are still made on this model]

The sword is housed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia today. 

"The Navy-Marine Corps team worked together to achieve their objective for the first time since the Corps' reconstitution (in 1798)," said Miller. 

"The assault was successful because of intrepid leadership, U.S. Navy support, and tenacity."


Quite an amazing campaign - march and battle! And for any who might like further information on what is referred to as the "First Barbary War" there is a book called The Greater the Honor available through Amazon or written by your humble scribe. 

Until next time,

                                                        Fair winds, 

                                                                Old Salt