Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

More on the USS SLATER (

Friday, February 15, 2008

Convoy Math: Saving Lives

There are numerous benefits associated with convoys. A big one was the slim possibility of rescue. In February 1943, the Battle of the Atlantic was fiercely contested. The North Atlantic Convoys sailed north to skirt Labrador, Greenland and Iceland because the air patrols provided a measure of protection. In February these waters are near freezing. If the survivors of a torpedoed ship were not picked up quickly they died. Consider the contrast between two ships sunk a few weeks apart.

On February 3, a troop ship (SS Dorchester) carrying 904 men was torpedoed within 100 miles of Greenland. On board the Dorchester were four chaplains, who gave their lives so others had a fighting chance against the cold. While six hundred and seventy five persons were lost, thanks to efforts of sailors on the convoy escorts (i.e. Charles W. David, Jr.) there were 229 survivors. One of the Four Chaplains was Rev. Clark V. Poling. Before the war he was the minister of the 1st Reform Church of Schenectady (about 15 miles from the USS Slater, Albany NY). An audio rendition of the story is available from The American Storyteller! The official report on the Dorchester sinking is also posted on the web.

A few weeks later (2/15/1943) the tanker SS Atlantic Sun was having engine trouble and straggled from convoy ON-165. It was sunk by by U-607. Without the benefit of convoy protection it appeared that the ship was loss with all hands. Two years later, near the war end, a sole survivor (William Golobich) was found as a German POW. He related a remarkable story in this newspaper account.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Convoy Math: Truck Load Equivalents

On some tours I try to translate the crisis faced by Great Britian in 1940-1941 into 21st century terms. I have found that translating British Shipping Losses into Truck Load Equivalents usually gets the point across. Here's the math:

In the 1st quarter of 1941, when FDR made his four freedoms speech, the British were lossing ships which had the equivalent cargo capacity of 10,860 Trucks EACH MONTH. By the time the American congress passed the Lend lease act (that initiated the Destroyer Escort Program) the monthly average rose to 13,724.

Another important column on the worksheet details the production of of new ships. Great Britian relied on International Trade to keep it's people feed and it's war machinery functioning. Basically, if U-Boats continued to sink merchant ships faster than they could be built then the British would be forced to surrender. In a speech to the House of Commons in the spring of 1941, Winston Churchill noted that if the trend continued this could happen in 1942 "....But when all is said and done, the only way in which we can get through the year 1942 without a very sensible contraction of our war efforts is by another gigantic building of merchant ships in the United States similar to that prodigy of output accomplished by the Americans in 1918." This element of the Battle of the Atlantic was referred to as the tonnage war. The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels published a detailed article on this topic (Der Tonnagekrieg) in the Das Reich Weekly news magazine (21 June 1942).

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union, 1941

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Eighth State of the Union Address is considered one of the most important speeches in American history. It was labeled the "Four Freedoms Speech". This speech detailed FDR's vision for American - British cooperation in 1941 and for a post-War World.

It's important to note that FDR gave this speech eleven months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (December 7). And, it was nearly six months before Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In January 1941 both America and the Soviet Union were still at peace with Nazi Germany (the Soviet Union had a treaty that sub-divided Europe). Earlier in the war, Nazi Germany conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands and France. When FDR gave the "Four Freedom speech" England stood alone, was nearly broke, and was desperate for help.

This December 1940 article in Time Magazine captures the tone: "England the Verdun of World War II". Near the end, the article has a citation: "Last week Major General James E. Chaney of the U. S. Army Air Corps unsealed his lips to U. S. reporters after telling his superiors in Washington what he saw as an official observer in Britain between Oct. 10 and Nov. 20. .......... But of the air war's latest industry-and port-blasting phase he said nothing except to list as Britain's urgent needs: 100 more destroyers, bases in Eire, merchant ships, credits—the things of which Britain must have more & more as her own production is reduced."

The period between January 1941 and December 7, 1941 saw the birth of the Destroyer Escort Class of ships. Before December 7th they were referred to as British Destroyer Escorts (BDE). Shortly after the "Four Freedom speech", FDR submitted the Lend-Lease Program to Congress. Latter in the year, the BDE program was an important element of Lend-Lease. However, instead of a 100 Destroyers (recommended by General Chaney, in the earlier citation), the Lend-Lease Program called for 1,000 Destroyer Escorts. Following December 7, 1941 the majority of the BDEs became American Navy DEs.

Click the player button & follow the written text. FDR's words are highlighted in Green (in times font).

Listen to "FDR's 8th State of the Union Message:"

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Seventy-seventh Congress:

I address you, the Members of the Seventy-seventh Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union. I use the word "unprecedented," because at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today.

Since the permanent formation of our Government under the Constitution, in 1789, most of the periods of crisis in our history have related to our domestic affairs. Fortunately, only one of these—the four-year War Between the States—ever threatened our national unity. Today, thank God, one hundred and thirty million Americans, in forty-eight States, have forgotten points of the compass in our national unity.

It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often had been disturbed by events in other Continents. We had even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case had a serious threat been raised against our national safety or our continued independence.

What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times maintained clear, definite opposition, to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for ourselves or for any other part of the Americas. That determination of ours, extending over all these years, was proved, for example, during the quarter century of wars following the French Revolution. While the Napoleonic struggles did threaten interests of the United States because of the French foothold in the West Indies and in Louisiana, and while we engaged in the War of 1812 to vindicate our right to peaceful trade, it is nevertheless clear that neither France nor Great Britain, nor any other nation, was aiming at domination of the whole world. In like fashion from 1815 to 1914— ninety-nine years— no single war in Europe or in Asia constituted a real threat against our future or against the future of any other American nation. Except in the Maximilian interlude in Mexico, no foreign power sought to establish itself in this Hemisphere; and the strength of the British fleet in the Atlantic has been a friendly strength. It is still a friendly strength.

Even when the World War broke out in 1914, it seemed to contain only small threat of danger to our own American future. But, as time went on, the American people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic nations might mean to our own democracy. We need not overemphasize imperfections in the Peace of Versailles. We need not harp on failure of the democracies to deal with problems of world reconstruction. We should remember that the Peace of 1919 was far less unjust than the kind of "pacification" which began even before Munich, and which is being carried on under the new order of tyranny that seeks to spread over every continent today. The American people have unalterably set their faces against that tyranny.

Every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being' directly assailed in every part of the world—assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace. During sixteen long months this assault has blotted out the whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number of independent nations, great and small. The assailants are still on the march, threatening other nations, great and small.

Therefore, as your President, performing my constitutional duty to "give to the Congress information of the state of the Union," I find it, unhappily, necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders. Armed defense of democratic existence is now being gallantly waged in four continents. If that defense fails, all the population and all the resources of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia will be dominated by the conquerors. Let us remember that the total of those populations and their resources in those four continents greatly exceeds the sum total of the population and the resources of the whole of the Western Hemisphere-many times over.

In times like these it is immature—and incidentally, untrue—for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed, and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world. No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion -or even good business.

Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

As a nation, we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed. We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the "ism" of appeasement. We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests. I have recently pointed out how quickly the tempo of modern warfare could bring into our very midst the physical attack which we must eventually expect if the dictator nations win this war.

There is much loose talk of our immunity from immediate and direct invasion from across the seas. Obviously, as long as the British Navy retains its power, no such danger exists. Even if there were no British Navy, it is not probable that any enemy would be stupid enough to attack us by landing troops in the United States from across thousands of miles of ocean, until it had acquired strategic bases from which to operate.

But we learn much from the lessons of the past years in Europe-particularly the lesson of Norway, whose essential seaports were captured by treachery and surprise built up over a series of years. The first phase of the invasion of this Hemisphere would not be the landing of regular troops. The necessary strategic points would be occupied by secret agents and their dupes- and great numbers of them are already here, and in Latin America. As long as the aggressor nations maintain the offensive, they-not we—will choose the time and the place and the method of their attack.

That is why the future of all the American Republics is today in serious danger. That is why this Annual Message to the Congress is unique in our history. That is why every member of the Executive Branch of the Government and every member of the Congress faces great responsibility and great accountability. The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily-almost exclusively—to meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency. Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and dignity of all nations, large and small. And the justice of morality must and will win in the end.

Our national policy is this:

First, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to all-inclusive national defense.

Second, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to full support of all those resolute peoples, everywhere, who are resisting aggression and are thereby keeping war away from our Hemisphere. By this support, we express our determination that the democratic cause shall prevail; and we strengthen the defense and the security of our own nation.

Third, by an impressive expression of the public will and without regard to partisanship, we are committed to the proposition that principles of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors and sponsored by appeasers. We know that enduring peace cannot be bought at the cost of other people's freedom.

In the recent national election there was no substantial difference between the two great parties in respect to that national policy. No issue was fought out on this line before the American electorate. Today it is abundantly evident that American citizens everywhere are demanding and supporting speedy and complete action in recognition of obvious danger.

Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our armament production. Leaders of industry and labor have responded to our summons. Goals of speed have been set. In some cases these goals are being reached ahead of time; in some cases we are on schedule; in other cases there are slight but not serious delays; and in some cases—and I am sorry to say very important cases—we are all concerned by the slowness of the accomplishment of our plans.

The Army and Navy, however, have made substantial progress during the past year. Actual experience is improving and speeding up our methods of production with every passing day. And today's best is not good enough for tomorrow. I am not satisfied with the progress thus far made. The men in charge of the program represent the best in training, in ability, and in patriotism. They are not satisfied with the progress thus far made. None of us will be satisfied until the job is done. No matter whether the original goal was set too high or too low, our objective is quicker and better results.

To give you two illustrations:

We are behind schedule in turning out finished airplanes; we are working day and night to solve the innumerable problems and to catch up.

We are ahead of schedule in building warships but we are working to get even further ahead of that schedule.

To change a whole nation from a basis of peacetime production of implements of peace to a basis of wartime production of implements of war is no small task. And the greatest difficulty comes at the beginning of the program, when new tools, new plant facilities, new assembly lines, and new ship ways must first be constructed before the actual materiel begins to flow steadily and speedily from them.

The Congress, of course, must rightly keep itself informed at all times of the progress of the program. However, there is certain information, as the Congress itself will readily recognize, which, in the interests of our own security and those of the nations that we are supporting, must of needs be kept in confidence. New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for our safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased new appropriations and authorizations to carry on what we have begun.

I also ask this Congress for authority and for funds sufficient to manufacture additional munitions and war supplies of many kinds, to be turned over to those nations which are now in actual war with aggressor nations. Our most useful and immediate role is to act as an arsenal for them as well as for ourselves. They do not need man power, but they do need billions of dollars worth of the weapons of defense.

The time is near when they will not be able to pay for them all in ready cash. We cannot, and we will not, tell them that they must surrender, merely because of present inability to pay for the weapons which we know they must have. I do not recommend that we make them a loan of dollars with which to pay for these weapons—a loan to be repaid in dollars. I recommend that we make it possible for those nations to continue to obtain war materials in the United States, fitting their orders into our own program. Nearly all their materiel would, if the time ever came, be useful for our own defense.

Taking counsel of expert military and naval authorities, considering what is best for our own security, we are free to decide how much should be kept here and how much should be sent abroad to our friends who by their determined and heroic resistance are giving us time in which to make ready our own defense. For what we send abroad, we shall be repaid within a reasonable time following the close of hostilities, in similar materials, or, at our option, in other goods of many kinds, which they can produce and which we need.

Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world. We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. This is our purpose and our pledge."

In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators that they will regard as a breach of international law or as an act of war our aid to the democracies which dare to resist their aggression. Such aid is not an act of war, even if a dictator should unilaterally proclaim it so to be. When the dictators, if the dictators, are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act of war on our part. They did not wait for Norway or Belgium or the Netherlands to commit an act of war. Their only interest is in a new one-way international law, which lacks mutuality in its observance, and, therefore, becomes an instrument of oppression.

The happiness of future generations of Americans may well depend upon how effective and how immediate we can make our aid felt. No one can tell the exact character of the emergency situations that we may be called upon to meet. The Nation's hands must not be tied when the Nation's life is in danger. We must all prepare to make the sacrifices that the emergency-almost as serious as war itself—demands. Whatever stands in the way of speed and efficiency in defense preparations must give way to the national need.

A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups. A free nation has the right to look to the leaders of business, of labor, and of agriculture to take the lead in stimulating effort, not among other groups but within their own groups. The best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example, and, if that fails, to use the sovereignty of Government to save Government.
As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things worth fighting for.

The Nation takes great satisfaction and much strength from the things which have been done to make its people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic life in America. Those things have toughened the fibre of our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect. Certainly this is no time for any of us to stop thinking about the social and economic problems which are the root cause of the social revolution which is today a supreme factor in the world. For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple.

They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples:

We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part of the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my Budget Message I shall recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation.

If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause. In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear. Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change—in a perpetual peaceful revolution—a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions—without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society. This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

Audio Source: Internet Archive - 100 Best Speeches.
Written Source: Wikisource
Churchill FDR Background (National Archives)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Torpedo Attack (DDR-742, DD-875)

Recently I exchanged letters with an old shipmate from the Frank Knox (DDR-742). He asked if I had seen the picture of the USS Frank Knox being torpedoed (And I had)? In 1971 the Frank Knox was sold to the Greek Navy as the HS Themistoklis (D-210). Twenty years later, on September 12, 1991 the Frank Knox was used as a torpedo target and it was sunk by the Greek submarine Nereus (S-111).

The video of the USS Frank Knox sinking is available in this link, and on youtube (as part of a larger video on Greek Submarine torpedo firings). On the youtube video the Frank Knox segment starts around the 4 minute mark. The other ship detailed in the youtube video appears to be a Knox Class Destroyer Escort. I believe that it is the USS Trippe (DE-1075), recommissioned in the Greek Navy as the HS Thraki (F-457). It appears that the submarine which launched the torpedo that sinks the Thraki is the Greek submarine Oceanos (S-118). Both the Nereus (S-111) and the Oceanos (S-118) are Type 209 submarines build in West Germany.

My other ship the USS Henry W Tucker was sold to Brazil in 1973. When it was ultimately decommissioned in 1994 it was also used as a torpedo target. While there wasn't a video of this sinking there is a detailed account of the sinking on the reunion website.

Good Bye - USS Frank Knox (DDR-740) and USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875).