Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April's routine repairs

In the month of April 1943, while stationed in Espirito Santo, in addition to major repairs to Alchiba, plane crash and bomb damage to Adhara, repairs to Tappahannock, bomb damage to and the overhaul of American Legion, Dad's ship, the Vestal, continued to tackle numerous "routine not alongside repairs" to various vessels of the fleet. In relative order of service and repair, these ships included: Enterprise, PC 479, Constant, Androit, SC 700, HelenaHonolulu, San Diego, YP-515, Bougainville, plus the Shore Station and various shop jobs on ships in the harbor.

Source: USS Vestal War Diary, April 1943

The Battle of Chancellorsville, 1863

When Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker crossed the Rappahannock on this date in 1863, he placed his Army of the Potomac on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s vulnerable flank. His advance would signal the beginning of the 7-day Battle of Chancellorsville.

Rather than retreat before Hooker's sizable Federal force, (130,000 Federals to Lee's 60,000) Lee opted to risk an attack against Hooker while he was still within the thick wilderness. Late the following day, Lee and his Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson conceived one of the boldest plans of the war. Jackson, with 30,000 Confederates, would follow a circuitous route to the Union right and from there conduct an attack on that exposed flank.

Jackson, having completed his legendary circuit around the enemy, unleashed his men in an overwhelming attack on Hooker's right flank and rear on May 2. His attack stunned the Union XI corps and threatened Hooker’s position, pushing the Northern army back more than 2 miles.

Tragically, the victorious Confederate attack ended with the mortal wounding of Stonewall Jackson, mistakenly fired on by his own men. Jackson, with 8 other Confederate horsemen, were riding forward through the dense woods and thickets on the night of May 2. Returning towards the Confederate lines, his party came under fire from combat-weary Confederates. Jackson was struck by 3 different balls. As he was being evacuated, his litter bearers stumbled and dropped the general twice, further worsening his loss of blood. Later that night, Jackson’s left arm was amputated, and he was subsequently evacuated to Guinea Station, where he died of pneumonia eight days later.

On May 3, 1863, the Confederates resumed their offensive and drove Hooker’s larger army back to a new defensive line nearer the fords. Swinging east, Lee then defeated a separate Federal force near Salem Church, just west of Fredericksburg, that had threatened his rear. Lee went to the fight in person to ensure final success on the 4th, then returned to Chancellorsville to mop up Hooker's defeated army.  With nowhere else to go, on May 6th, Hooker recrossed the Rappahannock River from where he had come 6 days earlier.

Having been outnumbered more than 2 to 1, Lee's victory at Chancellorsville is widely considered to be his greatest. The campaign had cost him about 13,000 casualties, but his enemy about 18,000. However, none of the losses on either side would resonate as loudly and long as the death of Stonewall Jackson. As Jackson lay dying, Lee sent a message, saying "Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I my right." On his death bed, remaining spiritually strong, although he was growing physically weaker, the godly warrior said, "It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday."

Source: Civil War TrustWikipedia


During Chancellorsville Campaign, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg was readying his Army of Tennessee in the area around Tullahoma, Tennessee. To view my blog about Great Grandfather Nathan Oakes and the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment of Bragg's army, please visit: http://32ndmississippi.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dad qualifies as Diver, Second Class

On this date in 1943, my dad, Frank Dolan, already a Metalsmith, First Class (M1c), qualified as a Diver, Second Class. Since his repair ship, Vestal, had a full allowance of divers at this time, he was not detailed to any diving duties, although from time to time, he will work on the diving crew.

Source: Frank L Dolan's Service Records

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Repairs to USS Adhara

On today's date in 1943, Dad's repair ship, Vestal, began emergency repairs to the cargo ship, USS Adhara.

While at Guadalcanal on April 7, Adhara was among several ships subjected to a Japanese air attack. At least 4 enemy planes dropped as many as 8 bombs, several of which exploded alongside Adhara, their fragments puncturing her hull in 3 places. According to the official report, the force of the explosions caused the ship to "lift bodily out of the water," and to damage cargo and 8 personnel. 1 CB temporarily attached to the ship was killed and buried at sea. She was also strafed by machine gun fire.

At Espiritu Santo, Vestal's weldors provided emergency patching to the bomb-damaged hull, working on her until at least the 17th. Then the stricken ship steamed to Australia for more repairs until it could sail for the West Coast in July for an overhaul.

Launched on October 27, 1942, Adhara served as a member of Service Squadron 8, transporting cargo and passengers between ports. After her overhaul in 1943, she served throughout the Pacific, participating in the Battle of Okinawa in May 1945. After Japan's surrender in August 1945, she returned to the States. Adhara was decommissioned on December 7 of that year, and like so many of her sister ships, she eventually was sold for scrap in 1971.

Adhara distinguished herself with 2 Battle Stars for her WWII service.

USS Adhara, after repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard, 1943
Source: NavSource Online

Source: Vestal War Diary, April 1943; Adhara War Diary, May 1943

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Repairs to the USS Tappahannock

On today's date in 1943, Dad's repair ship, Vestal, began repairs to the fleet oiler Tappahannock for damage it received in a Japanese air attack on April 7. Vestal also repaired damage from an earlier accident on April 1, when a seaplane from the Enterprise crashed into the oiler's mainmast, damaging its radar tower and antenna. Vestal will work on this ship into June.

Tappahannock was one of many ships supporting operations in the Guadalcanal area as the American forces fought to consolidate their hold on the bitterly contested Solomon Islands. On April 6, Tappahannock was transferring fuel and oil off Guadalcanal, when Japanese aircraft attacked, dropping a few bombs astern of the ship, but causing no damage. The actual damage to the ship would come the next day.

On April 7, Allied ships in the harbor received an order to get underway immediately. The Japanese were making a final thrust against the U.S. Navy in the Solomons, and an attack was imminent. Tappahannock sailed into a portion of this enemy attack force, becoming the main target of Japanese dive bombers. The first enemy bomb hit near the bridge. Tappahannock's gunners concentrated their fire on the attacking plane, sending it into the water. As the ship fought to get underway again, a second plane concentrated its fire on the ship but was driven off.

As the Tappahannock's engineers were getting the ship underway for a third time, she faced a third attacker, which came in directly astern. The Japanese pilot misjudged his target's speed and ended up dropping his bomb very near the ship without damaging it. A fourth enemy plane followed and was hit from the ship's fire, tearing pieces from the plane and sending it into the water, its bomb exploding off the oiler's starboard side. The fifth and final enemy plane crossed the ship, dropping its bomb alongside, causing some denting to the ship's hull plating. As suddenly as it had begun, the attack was over.

The stricken oiler then sailed to Espiritu Santo so that repair crews from Vestal could repair her topside damage and patch her hull below the waterline. After repairs had been completed, Tappahannock resumed active service supporting American forces to strengthen their hold on the Solomon Islands.

For the remainder of the war, Tappahannock conducted vital fueling duties for the Fleet as it fought westward and northward against the Japanese empire. She supported operations from the Gilbert Islands to Okinawa. Later, she supported the actions to take other Japanese Islands, and aided the fast carriers in their raids on the Bonins, Philippines, and Formosa. For the remainder of the war, Tappahannock supported the fast carrier task forces in the Pacific, including action against the Japanese homeland.

In 1950, Tappahannock was decommissioned, but she was brought back into action in the face of the Korean threat from 1950-1955. She was decommissioned again in 1955, but almost immediately returned to service from 1956-1957. She would see service once more, from 1966-1970, this time to support the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Tappahannock was decommissioned for the last time in 1970 and was disposed of in 1987.

USS Tappahannock refueling USS Bonhomme Richard & USS Missouri, July 1945
Source: NavSource Online

Launched in 1942, Tappahannock was one of just a few WWII ships that saw a long lifetime of active and distinguished service. She received 9 Battle Stars for World War II service and 9 for service in the Vietnam War.

Source: Vestal War Diary, April 1943; Wikipedia

Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, Britain's Iron Lady, dead at 87

Source:  ABC News.com

Baroness Thatcher, the first woman to lead a Western democracy, died peacefully following a stroke this morning. She was 87. The "Iron Lady" led Great Britain as prime minister from 1979 to 1990. She was a champion of small government and the free-market. And with her friend Ronald Reagan, she stood against the Soviet Union, bringing an end to the Cold War.

President Reagan called her the "best man in England." Not one to be outdone, she referred to him as "the second most important man in my life."

Thatcher's words frequently rose to the level of memorable. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“In politics, If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”
“Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.”
“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
“There are significant differences between the American and European version of capitalism. The American tradition emphasizes the need for limited government, light regulations, low taxes and maximum labour-market flexibility. Its success has been shown above all in the ability to create new jobs, in which it is consistently more successful than Europe.”
“No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions; he had money as well.”
“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?'”
“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” 
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
My father always said that... and I think I am fine.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

Promoted to Metalsmith, 1st Class

On this date in 1943, my dad, Frank Dolan, was appointed Metalsmith Welder, 1st Class. From repair ships like the Vestal on which he served, Dad and other metalsmiths routinely repaired and constructed metal equipment aboard various ships. They maintained and repaired ventilating and drainage systems, tested and replaced watertight gaskets, heat-treated and case-hardened metals, and cut, welded, and riveted metal parts. Of course, metalsmiths also worked with damage repair parties on battle-damaged ships and other naval craft, which in wartime was their primary task.