Jump to content
Game-Labs Forum

Powderhorn's History Corner


Recommended Posts

So, I myself study history, with naval history being a sort of hobby subset.  When I get the chance to write about it, I do, which has taken me to some interesting places, and let me uncover some interesting things I would not have come across otherwise.


I wanted to open this thread up to share some of the things I've bookmarked over the years, or referenced in papers myself.  Different things I put up here (assuming the administrative staff is OK with this idea) may not be related to each other, but all fall under the category of "Naval History," either in broad or narrow scope, modern or ancient.


The first thing I wanted to list up was a gentleman's thesis paper from John H. Booth, LCDR, USNR on "Naval Militias."  The abstract reads as follows:



This historical study chronicles the rise and fall of the Naval Militia in the United States.  It traces the successes and failures of the Naval Militia throughout its evolution from the Revolutionary War until today [1979].


Beginning with the development of State Navies during the Revolutionary War, the study examines the important role that naval militias played, and why they declined over the years due to their high costs, the antipathy that professional naval officers expressed toward them, and the changing nature of naval warfare.  The study looks at the role o the Volunteer Navy during the Civil War, and the events afterwards that lead to the movement to develop an organized Naval Militia in various states.  The study examines and analyzes the legislative developments that lead to the formation of a federal Naval Reserve, ad how the formation of such a reserve eclipsed the Naval Militia in importance.


The study ends with comments and prospects for the use of naval militias in the future concluding, that the Naval Militia may still have some utilitarian value. 








  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This coming weekend marks the anniversary of one of my favorite naval battles. The following is from Captain James Bloom, a historian who writes "Today in Naval History."

1-2 NOVEMBER 1944


                         USS BORIE vs. U-405


     One of the most effective weapons against German U-boats of WWII was the escort carrier hunter-killer group.  These teamed destroyers with small deck aircraft carriers, whose F4F Wildcats and other aircraft could scout beyond the horizon to catch U-boats on the surface.  On Halloween afternoon, 1944, the USS CARD (CVE-11) hunter-killer group was operating near the Azores in the southern North Atlantic.  LTJG W.S. Fowler, patrolling 20 miles north in his torpedo bomber, spotted two German subs on the surface, a "milchkuhe" (“milk cow”) refueling an attack boat, U-91.  He and a buddy used their 500# bombs to sink the supply sub, U-584, however U-91 got away. CARD's commander, CAPT Arnold J. Isbell, dispatched USS BORIE (DD-215)to pursue the escaping sub.  This WWI-era flush deck destroyer was the oldest warship in the group and her skipper, LT Charles H. Hutchins, the most junior.  But the aggressive reputation of BORIE's crew had caught Isbell's attention.  Her irascible officers were renown even for throwing dishes and flatware about the wardroom with impressive accuracy.

In spite of a brewing tempest,BORIE rang up a flank bell and charged off in search of her quarry.  About midnight, after hours of murderous pounding in the 15-20 foot seas, she was rewarded with two radar contacts.  Hutchins opened fire on the closest, U-256, and drove her under.  Several passes over the site with depth charges convinced Hutchins that no mortal sub could have survived.  He radioed, "Scratch one pig boat--Am searching for more," and rushed after the second contact.   (In truth, U-256 had survived and did successfully limp home).

About 0200 Hutchins' radar re-acquired the second sub, U-405, still running on the surface.  She may well have been experiencing mechanical problems, because crewmen were exposed on her deck and in the ensuing attack she made no attempt to submerge.  In fact it was the Germans who opened with a few wild shots whenBORIE's searchlight cut the darkness.  For the next hour the sub and destroyer traded potshots as they circled.  Green water crashing over the fo'csle made it difficult to serve the guns, and, too, each antagonist disappeared regularly in the trough.  Nevertheless BORIE'smachine gunners effectively cleared the U-boat's deck.  Their work was no less inspired by the offensive appearance of the Germans who sported long hair and colorful bandannas--an affront to the propriety of the salty Americans.  Then at nearly the same time BORIE took a shell in the radio room and U-405 had her deck gun disabled.  Hutchins now ordered his helm hard aport in an attempt to ram.  However a similar turn by the U-boat caused the two to collide at a sharp angle.  With the grating of metal on metal, BORIE's keel rode high onto the sub's starboard bow and wedged fast.

With the two combatants stuck fast and grinding together in the 20-foot swell, the tenor of the battle shifted to that more common in the age of sail.  Sailors from each side began spilling onto the decks and small arms fire erupted over the howling wind.  Those Americans who could not find a tommy-gun or rifle began hurling whatever they could at the Germans.  A signalman fired a flare pistol whose white-hot phosphorus ignited the sub's conning tower.  FN1 D.F. Southwick landed his sheath knife in the belly of an enemy sailor who was running for a gun.  BMC Walter C. Kruz knocked another German overboard with a spent 4" shell casing.  Canned goods, pots, pans, dishes, cutlery and even potatoes became weapons.  When another German was seen dashing for a gun mount, a BORIE sailor felled him with a wrench.  The dazed German grabbed his head, staggered, then fell overboard.

Below BORIE's decks the scene was equally chaotic.  The collision had gashed the aging destroyer's hull plates, and the "black gang" was struggling amid rising water to keep the turbines alive.  The forward engine room had to be abandoned and those in the after room worked in chest-deep water.  Engineering officer LT Morrison R. Brown remained at the throttle until seawater reached his neck.  Meanwhile, Motor Machinist Mate Irving R. Saum dove repeatedly into the oily, black water before he succeeded in closing a valve in the pumping system.  Then after ten minutes, the two antagonists heaved apart in the pitching seas.  Again they began circling, each intending to fight to the death.  U-405 next attempted to ram the destroyer, but a pair of depth charges straddled the sub and crushed her hull.

BORIE's sailors had no time for the sub's survivors as they were now in a desperate fight to save themselves.  Seawater continued to pour through breeches in her hull despite the labors of damage control parties.  When her radiomen attempted to power the spare generator, they found the fuel hopelessly contaminated with seawater.  Lower and lower BORIE settled, until she was awash from amidships aft.  With the coming of the cold, rainy dawn her boilers flooded and she went dead in the water.  The future now looked bleak for BORIE's exhausted sailors, who found themselves alone and sinking in heavy squalls, with no radio!  However an enterprising group of sailors pooled the fluid from their cigarette lighters which, supplemented by alcohol from the Pharmacist's Mate, powered the generator long enough to send a terse distress call followed by a continuous "V" signal.  This brought the destroyers GOFF (DD-247) andBARRY (DD-248) who took off BORIE'sindefatigable crew before their gallant ship went under.


Watch for more "Today in Naval History"  8 NOV 11


CAPT James Bloom



Department of the Navy, Naval History Division.  Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol 1 "A-B".  Washington, DC: GPO, 1959, p. 142.


Maher, William and James E. Wise, Jr.  "Stand By for a Ram! Part I."  Naval History, Vol 7 (2), Summer 1993, pp. 24-28.


Maher, William and James E. Wise, Jr.  "Stand By for a Ram! Part II."  Naval History, Vol 7 (3), Fall 1993, pp. 40-45.


Morison, Samuel Eliot.  History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol 10  The Atlantic Battle Won.  Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1956, pp. 162-68.


Parkin, Robert Sinclair.  Blood of the Sea:  American Destroyers Lost in World War II.  New York, NY: Sarpedon, 1995, pp. 177-84.


Roscoe, Theodore.  United States Destroyer Operations in World War II.  Annapolis, MD: USNI Press, 1953, pp. 289-91.


ADDITIONAL NOTES:  At the outset of WWII BORIE was out-dated, being a left-over CLEMSON-class destroyer built during WWI and launched in 1919.  She was not considered worthy of front-line destroyer service and spent the war as a convoy escort.  In spite of this and as a result of her actions this day, she received the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest award that can be given a ship or unit.  She lost 27 sailors in this action.  Within eight months of her loss the Navy commissioned another BORIE, DD-704, who went on to see combat in WWII and Korea.

BORIE was named for Adolph Edward Borie, who served as Secretary of the Navy for a short three months from March to June 1869 under President Grant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

I am always fascinated by maps, as they represent how the world "is" to people.  A map I came across recently is N. America and the Caribbean from the British in 1776.  It is VERY detailed, VERY high resolution, and you can even download it.  If you zoom in, you'll see Native tribes throughout, as they were true political entities.


The map is a post-French and Indian / Seven Years War survey.  That it was published as the colonies were breaking away is a small irony.


You can find the map here.


The map was found with a very powerful website that links to a number of digitized archives, Old Maps Online, which lets you search for maps by region and date range.  They have an eponymous Android app, that I've found to be very nice while on the road.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm just gonna leave this here: :P


The Infamous Toilet Paper Letter

(Posted by Ron Martini on his Submarine Message Board on 3/26/2004)

I have had the pleasure of reading a new book, hopefully to be published soon, entitled; "Full Fathom Five." The book is written by the daughter of James Coe, who was the CO of S-39, Skipjack and was lost on the Cisco's first patrol.

Lt. Cmdr Coe was CO of the USS Skipjack when he wrote his famous "toilet paper" letter to the Mare Island Supply Office. Read it and then the new material follows which the author graciously gave me permission to post.


June 11, 1942

From: Commanding Officer

To: Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California

Via: Commander Submarines, Southwest Pacific

Subject: Toilet Paper

Reference: (a) USS HOLLAND (5148) USS SKIPJACK req. 70-42 of 30 July 1941.

SO NYMI Canceled invoice No. 272836

Enclosure: (1) Copy of cancelled Invoice

(2) Sample of material requested.

1. This vessel submitted a requisition for 150 rolls of toilet paper on July 30, 1941, to USS HOLLAND. The material was ordered by HOLLAND from the Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, for delivery to USS SKIPJACK.

2. The Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, on November 26, 1941, cancelled Mare Island Invoice No. 272836 with the stamped notation "Cancelled---cannot identify." This cancelled invoice was received by SKIPJACK on June 10, 1942.

3. During the 11 ¾ months elapsing from the time of ordering the toilet paper and the present date, the SKIPJACK personnel, despite their best efforts to await delivery of subject material, have been unable to wait on numerous occasions, and the situation is now quite acute, especially during depth charge attack by the "back-stabbers."

4. Enclosure (2) is a sample of the desired material provided for the information of the Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island. The Commanding Officer, USS SKIPJACK cannot help but wonder what is being used in Mare Island in place of this unidentifiable material, once well known to this command.

5. SKIPJACK personnel during this period have become accustomed to use of "ersatz," i.e., the vast amount of incoming non-essential paper work, and in so doing feel that the wish of the Bureau of Ships for the reduction of paper work is being complied with, thus effectively killing two birds with one stone.

6. It is believed by this command that the stamped notation "cannot identify" was possible error, and that this is simply a case of shortage of strategic war material, the SKIPJACK probably being low on the priority list.

7. In order to cooperate in our war effort at a small local sacrifice, the SKIPJACK desires no further action be taken until the end of the current war, which has created a situation aptly described as "war is hell."

J.W. Coe

Here is the rest of the story:

The letter was given to the Yeoman, telling him to type it up. Once typed and upon reflection, the Yeoman went looking for help in the form of the XO. The XO shared it with the OD and they proceeded to the CO's cabin and asked if he really wanted it sent. His reply, "I wrote it, didn't I?"

As a side note, twelve days later, on June 22, 1942 J.W. Coe was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the S-39.

The "toilet paper" letter reached Mare Island Supply Depot. A member of that office remembers that all officers in the Supply Department "had to stand at attention for three days because of that letter." By then, the letter had been copied and was spreading throughout the fleet and even to the President's son who was aboard the USS Wasp.

As the boat came in from her next patrol, Jim and crew saw toilet-paper streamers blowing from the lights along the pier and pyramids of toilet paper stacked seven feet high on the dock. Two men were carrying a long dowel with toilet paper rolls on it with yards of paper streaming behind them as a band played coming up after the roll holders. Band members wore toilet paper neckties in place of their Navy neckerchiefs. The wind-section had toilet paper pushed up inside their instruments and when they blew, white streamers unfurled from trumpets and horns. 
As was the custom for returning boats to be greeted at the pier with cases of fresh fruit/veggies and ice cream, the Skipjack was first greeted thereafter with her own distinctive tribute-cartons and cartons of toilet paper.

This letter became famous in submarine history books and found its way to the movie ("Operation Petticoat"), and eventually coming to rest (copy) at the Navy Supply School at Pensacola, Florida. There, it still hangs on the wall under a banner that reads, "Don't let this happen to you!" Even John Roosevelt insured his father got a copy of the letter.

The original is at Bowfin Museum in Hawaii.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...