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 (

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

06/25/2011 - USS Slater and Scouting

Over the last year the USS SLATER Professional Staff and Volunteers have expanded our offerings to Scout Groups. These are not hard and fast offerings, but are flexible to meet requirements. At this stage we're willing to try new and different things and we welcome feedback and new ideas.

Recently the SLATER has shifted from a one size fits all approach to overnights and tours, to a flexible menu of age specific tours.

  • Scout participation with events and reunion ceremonies
  • Morning Colors, Flag raising ceremonies
  • Merit Badge - Citizenship in the Nation
  • Merit Badge - American Heritage
  • Urban Hikes from USS SLATER
  • Coordination and Interface with other Albany Organizations (i.e. Visitor Center)
  • Training - Basic Seamanship, Knots, Rope work.

Besides on-board activities, the USS SLATER Professional Staff and volunteers are also offering free out-reach activities at scouting events (Pow-wow, Round Tables, Camporees, Scout Meetings).

This is a blog about the USS SLATER. Follow this link ( for up to date information about a visit to the USS SLATER. You can also contact the USS Slater at this contact link.

American Heritage Merit Badge

There are SLATER Volunteers who are counselors for this Merit Badge. As of June, 2011, some of the specific American Heritage Merit Badge requirements that are relevant to the USS SLATER are:
  • 1. Read the Declaration of Independence..... A few blocks away from the USS SLATER the Declaration of Independence was 1st read to the Citizens of Albany on 7/19/1776.

  • 2.C. With your counselor's approval, interview two veterans of the U.S. military.... There are quite a few veterans who volunteer on the USS SLATER. These interviews can be arranged.

  • 4.A. Explain what is meant by the National Register of Historic Places. .... The USS SLATER is on the National Register of Historic Places. Within a short walk there are at least a dozen other sites that are also listed on the National Register. During 2011 we are actively applying for status as a National Landmark.

  • 4.B. Research an event of historical importance that took place in or near your area. If possible, visit the place. Tell your counselor about the event and how it affected local history. Describe how the area looked then and what it now looks like. .... Albany is a top tier historic city. There are scores of historic events that took place within a short distance of the USS SLATER's mooring site. Henry Hudson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt all visited downtown Albany.

  • 4.D. Take an active part in a program about an event or person in American history. Report to your counselor about the program, the part you took, and the subject. .... During the year the SLATER hosts ceremonies and veteran reunion events. SLATER staff can arrange active scout participation at these events.

  • 4.E. Visit a historic trail or walk in your area. After your visit, share with your counselor what you have learned. Discuss the importance of this location and explain why you think it might qualify for National Register listing. .... As noted Albany is rich in historic significance. SLATER Volunteers also give guides walks of downtown Albany.

  • 5.A. Watch two motion pictures (with the approval and permission of your counselor and parent) that are set in some period of American history. .... The SLATER has several WWII Era movies in our library that can be aired during overnight visits. We can also provide a list of movies that are relevant to the USS SLATER, the US Navy and to Albany.

  • 6. Discuss with your counselor the career opportunities in American heritage. Pick one that interests you and explain how to prepare for this career. .... There are several professionals employed at the USS SLATER. These professionals deal with the Restoration Effort, Educational Effort, Archivists, and Administration.

There are Slater Volunteers who are counselors for this Merit Badge. As of June, 2011, some of the specific Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge requirements that are relevant to the USS Slater are:
  • 2.a. Visit a place that is listed as a National Historic Landmark or that is on the National Register of Historic Places...... The USS SLATER is on the National Register of Historic Places. Within a short walk there are at least a dozen other sites that are also listed on the National Register. During 2011 we are actively applying for status as a National Landmark.

  • 2.b. Tour your state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol. .... The NY State Capital is within walking distance of the USS SLATER. Guided tours of the NY State Capital are available during the week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

06/19/2011 - Father's Day and National Maritime Day

It was a very fine day, and a very busy one. I started at 0900 (9:00 am) with my Albany 3-1/2 Mile walk, and ended at 1830 (6:30 pm) giving presentations on Mount 31 (the 3" Gun Mount on the Forecastle, pointy front end of the ship).

Today, no one joined me on my downtown walk. But, I did run into a few visitors along the way. On a Sunday Morning there are few places open in downtown Albany so I gave each group a little tour. I gave a brief over view of the Visitor Center, Albany Pump Station, and the Quackenbush House to one group. I saw the 2nd group a little later and gave an overview of the Empire State Plaza and the NY State Capital. A little later I saw both groups aboard the Slater.

The highlight of my day was giving a tour to a family that brought their family patriarch to tour the ship. He was a WWII Merchant Mariner. If he was 18 when he served he would be 88 today. He had a little trouble speaking, but managed to walk the full tour. It was very appropriate to give this tour on June 19th (it was both Father's Day and National Maritime Day). Here's a link to a slide show about the local observance of National Maritime Day in the Albany Times Union.

When our WWII visitor was serving in 1941, President Roosevelt made a few comments about National Maritime Day:

I am glad of an opportunity to send a Maritime Day message to the American people. Today, as never before in our history, our Merchant Marine is vital to our national welfare. I do not mean vital merely in the conventional sense that it makes an important contribution but in the stranger sense that it is a crucially decisive factor in our continued existence as a free people.

If we are going to keep away from our shores the forces that have convulsed the Old World and now menace the New, the job will be done in large measure by the ships and the sailors of the Merchant Marine and by the working men who build the ships and supply them. If they fail, the whole effort fails. And earnest, hardworking Americans, who spend the best part of their lives providing for the security and happiness of those they love, know that precious security and happiness depend exactly on the success of that effort.

I know the effort will not fail; that more and faster ships will be built, manned by trained American seamen, and that they will carry through the open waters of the Seven Seas implements that will help destroy the menace to free peoples everywhere.

Very sincerely yours, - (Signed) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT....."

During World War II, Over 1,500 ships were sunk, with 1 in 8 mariners losing their ship. Casualties were kept secret during the war to avoid providing information to the enemy and to keep mariners at sea (source: US Merchant Marine made victory possible).

USS Slater - Covered in Ice during North Atlantic Convoy

During the tour our WWII Merchant Mariner noted that he started the War serving on Panamanian Flagged Ship. After December 7th the ship was re-flagged as a United States Ship. I managed to dig out a this relevant link: Yank Sailors on Foreign Flag Ships.

He also noted that he made a Murmansk Run in March of 1942. For a Merchant Mariner 1942 was probably the worst year, and the Murmansk Convoy was the worst place to be. Here is a Wikipedia link on Arctic convoys. There were three Murmansk Convoys in March of 1942: PQ12, PQ13 and PQ14. None of these convoys were pleasure cruises, but the worst was probably PQ13. There are a few detail stories about this convoy. One is the story of the loss of the British Ship SS Induna. Chapter II of the History of the Naval Armed Guard Afloat (OP-414)
covers PQ13 in detail.

Monday, June 6, 2011

06/05/2011 - Handy Billy, twenty three and a half days

Pretty nice day. Not hot, unfortunately not very busy. I gave two small tours of the USS Slater, and I stated the day with one walking tour of Albany.

On one of the tours someone donated a Handy Billy. We got into a discussion about Handy Billy as a emergency naval fire pump or a block and tackle. It appears that it's both. A couple of interesting links:

We also discussed American Public opinion leading to WWII. I noted the startling contrast of two important speeches both delivered on September 11, 1941 (3 months before America's entry into WWII). One speech was by Charles Lindbergh, delivered to an American First Group in Des Moines, Iowa. The other was Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chat to the Nation, regarding the USS Greer Incident (A Destroyer in the North Atlantic).

Often on tours I discuss the productivity of the American Shipbuilding Industry in World War II. One extreme case is the Liberty Ship, the SS Robert E Perry, which was built in 4 and a half days. This was done for publicity. The high volume standard for Liberty Ships was a month (detailed on this web site). The Kaiser Richmond Shipyard wasn't the only yard producing Liberty Ships. Other yards took a little longer. As noted in this excellent article:
"...The Liberty ships were built to a standardized, mass produced design the 250,000 parts were pre-fabricated throughout the country in 250-ton sections and welded together in about 70 days. 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, a 3cylinder, reciprocating steam engine, fed by two oil-burning boilers produced 2,500 hp and a speed of 11 knots. the 5 holds could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo, plus airplanes, tanks, and locomotives lashed to its deck. Liberty could carry 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition. ..."

The shipbuilding record for a Destroyer Escort is the USS Fieberling (DE-640), built by the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, San Francisco (Union Iron Works). It took nine days from laying the keel to launch, and 23.5 days for complete delivery (reference Hull #5407 for details). The National Register of Historic Places application for the Union Iron Works shipyard noted that: "....C. C. Bloch, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Chairman of the Navy Board for Production Awards specifically cited the destroyer-escort USS Fieberling, delivered by UIW on April 11, 1944, only 23.5 days after keel laying, as “one of the country’s outstanding production records and a world record for this type of ship.....”

This is a little off topic, but I wanted to pass a few references along. On one tour a visitor noted that he volunteered at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. The museum holds the records of the Lake Champlain Transport Company and I noted during the tour that I did a little research on a past president of the company, Le Grand B. Cannon (bio is available here). He was also a Colonel during the Civil War and published two very interesting books: Personal reminiscences of the rebellion, 1861-1866; and Recollections of the ironclads: Monitor and Merrimack. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.