USS Niagara IV - History

Niagara IV
(SP-246: t. 46; 1. 80'6"; b. 14'4"; dr. 4'6"; s. 12 k.; cpl. 11; a. 1 3-pdr., 1 1-pdr., 2 mg.)

The fourth Niagara (SP-246), a motor boat, was built by Matthews Boat Co., Port Clinton, Ohio, in 1913, acquired by the Navy on lease from Lawrence D. Buhl, Detroit, Mich., 9 June 1917 and commissioned the same day

She served as a motor patrol boat in the 9th Naval District until returned to her owner 20 March 1919.

Commandeered by the Navy, Plutocrat’s Maritime Plaything Went Down a Gallant Warship

Ravaged by aerial attack, the auxiliary tender, heavily burdened with a load of ammunition, depth charges, and aviation fuel, was wallowing in open water between the Solomon Islands and New Guinea on Friday, May 22, 1943. The vessel’s 136-man crew had abandoned ship. A tin fish deliberately loosed by a friendly boat set off explosions that blew the tender to pieces. The pieces sank in the South Pacific. The ship that vanished and its mercy killer both belonged to the U.S. Navy. However, while the attacking craft, though wooden-hulled, was strictly military—a Patrol Torpedo (PT) boat—the vessel destroyed was made of steel and had had a complicated career. Originally an industrialist’s yacht more accustomed to hosting big shots than serving swabbies, USS Niagara had been commissioned for the duration. Now its war was over.

Cosseted by a crew of 50 to 60, the Manvilles rode the waves aboard the pride of their motor yacht’s designers. (Maine Maritime Museum)

Work on the pleasure craft destined for combat began in July 1928, when American asbestos magnate Hiram Manville, proprietor of the Johns-Manville Company, put a down payment on a diesel yacht at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. By June 1929, when, with most of Bath’s population watching, the 267’, 1,333-ton white-hulled vessel slid from a shipyard cradle into the Kennebec River estuary, change orders had run the original $769,827 price beyond $900,000—today, in excess of $12.6 million. The first syllables of the names of father Hiram, daughter Estelle, mother Romaine, and Manville comprised their ship’s appellation—Hi-Esmaro, the same tag the family bestowed on its 150-acre estate at Pleasantville, New York.

The Swedish officer and philanthropist Count Folke Bernadotte married Manville daughter Estelle in 1928 (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

Romaine Manville christened the yacht, built for pleasure and to display status. On the boat deck beneath the bridge and chart room, the forward deck house featured a sunroom from which occupants had an unobstructed view of what lay ahead. Aft of the sunroom were the captain’s stateroom, equipped with a bath and a large wardrobe, and the wireless room. The owner’s suite, also on the boat deck, comprised a beautifully furnished double stateroom with sitting room and bath. Four other double guest staterooms each had private baths. Hi-Esmaro also had two bachelor rooms, plus accommodations for maids and valets. The main deckhouse incorporated a sedate but attractively decorated main salon and dining room paneled in solid teak. Estelle Manville, 24, had married into the Swedish royal family in 1928 replicas of that nation’s crown hung over the stateroom beds. Designed by yacht architect Henry J. Gielow, Hi-Esmaro had two Bessemer diesel engines and a sister ship, Vanda, built simultaneously for a Boston investor. A crew of 50 to 60, sometimes including a surgeon and a barber, staffed each vessel.

For ten years the Manvilles, members of the New York Yacht Club, made abundant use of Hi-Esmaro, often to travel to sailing and crew races up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

One popular entry on the yachting calendar was an annual Harvard-Yale rowing competition along Connecticut’s Thames River. The finish line was a bridge inland from Long Island Sound linking riverside towns Groton and New London, Connecticut. On June 19, 1931, Groton-born canoeist Louis Grimmer, 12, got an eyeful of the Manville yacht. He particularly admired that rakish clipper bow and the mermaid bowsprit.

Louis had been paddling with friends through the spectator fleet anchored at the finish line when guests aboard Hi-Esmaro called down to the boys, “Good morning—who is going to win?”

Harvard did, finishing the four-mile downstream course in 21:29, 13 seconds ahead of Yale. Louis Grimmer never forgot his glimpse of Hi-Esmaro. “I used to dream at night of how I would like to own a yacht, such as this, and travel the world,” he recalled later.

The Manville yacht twice crossed the Atlantic to Europe, where Hiram and Romaine visited with Estelle and her husband, Count Folke Bernadotte. Once, the Swedish royal family joined the Manvilles for a Mediterranean cruise. In spring 1939, when Crown Prince Gustav Adolph and Crown Princess Louise visited New York to open Sweden’s exhibit at the World’s Fair, Manville put the royal couple up aboard the yacht. That September, Germany invaded Poland and the Atlantic became a combat zone.

After growing massively during the Great War, the American military had shrunk, especially the Navy, tightly hemmed by arms-control treaties until resurgent international tension reversed that. In 1938, authorized U.S. Navy tonnage began to rise. By 1940 the Navy had some 2,000 ships and was eager to acquire anything afloat serviceable enough to commission for coastal patrol and similar duties. That October the government bought Hi-Esmaro from Romaine Manville for $150,000 eventually more than half of the 500-odd vessels owned by New York Yacht Club members entered active service. Work began immediately to convert Hi-Esmaro into a warship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The elegant Hi-Esmaro, rechristened USS Niagara when mustered into naval service, looked like a dinghy in comparison to proper warships such as cruisers Leander (New Zealand) at left and USS Chicago. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Connecticut canoeing enthusiast Lou Grimmer had joined the Navy. When his destroyer finished a cruise by docking in New York, he got orders to join the crew of a gunboat, USS Niagara (PG-52), as a storekeeper. “I will never forget the thrill I received when I walked down to the dock and found it was the old Hi-Esmaro,” Grimmer said later. It grieved him to watch shipyard workers transmogrifying the yacht for battle, a process that sacrificed not only most of the deluxe interior but also those beautiful lines. Assigned with other sailors to shovel clear the snowbound pier at which Niagara was berthed, Grimmer and mates reached the bow as “the workmen were in the process of removing a bosomly mermaid whom we were all attached to and we pelted them with snowballs, as if we could stop them from their assigned duties.” The yacht-turned-auxiliary-gunboat now was armed with two .50-cal. machine guns as well as two 3-inch guns. The crew totaled 136. The Navy assigned Lou Grimmer elsewhere.

Commissioned at New York in January 1941, Niagara was ordered south. At Miami and Key West, Florida, and at Guantanamo, Cuba, Navy men who were training to go to war in PT boats lived aboard the former yacht. Returning to New York for repairs, Niagara relocated to Newport, Rhode Island, to resume its dormitory role at the Naval Torpedo Station. In August 1941, assigned to the Pacific theater, Niagara departed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Anchoring there October 9, the vessel patrolled the islands until November 29, when Niagara joined a convoy escorting transports and heavy cruiser USS Northampton to Cavite, Philippines, by way of Fiji.

Eventually Niagara was sent to the South Pacific and stationed at Noumea, New Caledonia. (Photo © Usis-Dite)

At sea when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Niagara, unable to keep pace with genuine combat vessels, was ordered to Pearl to assume such supporting duties as convoy escort and service as a tender to PT squadrons. In April 1942 the gunboat sailed east to guard approaches to the Panama Canal.

Overhauled that summer at New York, Niagara returned to Newport as a school ship. However, with the war in the South Pacific gaining scope and intensity, the Navy in that theater, now thick with PT boat squadrons requiring regular refueling, needed tenders—floating resupply vessels stocking fuel and armaments and providing repair services. Shipfitters equipped Niagara with reserve fuel tanks capable of holding 50,000 gallons. In late November 1942, Niagara sailed west via the Panama Canal and the Society Islands, en route officially designated the Navy’s first Motor Torpedo Boat Tender, Auxiliary Gun, Patrol (AGP-1). The crew anchored at Noumea, New Caledonia, on January 17, 1943.

The colonial capital of French New Caledonia, Noumea offered whoever controlled its harbor domination of the Coral Sea and southern Solomon Islands. The sheltered anchorage, now a vital Allied forward naval and air base, was home to an immense armada. The streets of the port were crowded with aviators, sailors, and Marines attached to battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, repair ships, and smaller vessels.

One transient resident of Noumea was Frederick Ludwig, MD. The Michigan native, a Navy reservist, had left his medical practice in Port Huron to go on active duty. After a hurried two-week indoctrination at Great Lakes Training Center, Dr. Ludwig had sailed by Liberty ship out of San Francisco, debarking at Noumea in November 1942.

He thought it prudent to observe protocol by reporting for duty to his commanding officer clad as the Navy handbook prescribed. Pulling a rumpled, mildewed formal uniform from his seabag, Ludwig, 32, donned his heavy wool dress blues and in tropical heat sweatily quickstepped to headquarters, where a yeoman led him to a darkened room. As Ludwig was entering, a voice boomed, “Come in!” Proffering his orders with a salute to the silhouette in the shadows, the young doctor said, “Lieutenant Fred Ludwig reporting for duty, sir.”

The backlit officer stood.

“My God man, take off those blues!” he barked. “We only wear fatigues out here and never with a tie.”

There was another officer present.

“Are you the Dr. Ludwig just assigned to my hospital?” Captain Fred Conklin asked.

In the war zone, even Vice Admiral William F. Halsey eschewed finery like Navy dress uniforms. (AP Photo)

Conklin introduced Fred Ludwig to his host, Vice Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, commander of the South Pacific Theater of Operations. “We’re out here to fight a war,” Halsey said, now speaking in a warm voice. “Getting dressed up in coats and ties is a total waste of time.”

From Noumea, Halsey and subordinates were directing the American offensive in the Solomons, sometimes losing badly to Japan’s powerful fleet. Combat in the central Solomons was intense. At the Noumea hospital, Dr. Ludwig saw most of the casualties from those clashes. A case of the mosquito-borne tropical disease malaria made a patient of U.S. Marine Corps fighter ace and future South Dakota Governor Joe Foss. In 1943, Dr. Ludwig was ordered to assume the duties of medical officer aboard AGP-1, bound for the central Solomons. He busied himself stocking surgical instruments and supplies and familiarizing himself with running a commissary. To improve ventilation in the crew quarters, Ludwig oversaw the installation of screened doors, as well as wire mesh over the portholes. The Navy had not obliterated every trace of Hi-Esmaro’s former life. The officers’ mess was paneled in teak, “with linen and silver services that had belonged to Manville,” Ludwig said. “It was the only tender where the master could push a button and the entire bulkhead would fold back and expose an extra bed.” On January 27, 1943, Niagara departed Noumea with Motor Torpedo Boat Division 23, Squadron 8. After stops at Efate and Espiritu Santo, the gunboat took up station at Tulagi on February 17.

Tiny Tulagi, off the larger island of Florida, was chief port and administrative center of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, and one of the 900-mile chain’s best anchorages. At the start of the war in the Pacific, Tulagi’s coconut planters, traders, missionaries, and government officials had been in the path of Japanese forces sweeping south. A small garrison of Australian infantrymen guarded the civilians and a squadron of amphibious patrol planes and assisted what historian Samuel Eliot Morrison called a “Gilbert and Sullivan army of 15 whites, 5 Chinese and 130 native police in defending their base.”

In May 1942, the Australians evacuated Tulagi Japanese forces took over. An Allied victory that same month in the Battle of the Coral Sea stopped the Japanese advance.

By the time that Niagara reached Tulagi, the island had been recaptured and repurposed into a PT base. AGP-1 and the PT boats the former yacht supported operated at Tulagi in relative safety, though the small fleet’s anchorage was within range of shore-based aircraft using a major Japanese bastion 650 miles northwest at Rabaul, on New Georgia, and other enemy-held islands north and west.

For concealment, AGP-1’s crew moored north of the Florida Island harbor, tying up to tree trunks against the Maliali River’s high, jungle-rimmed banks. The crew settled into the cycle of tendering: making repairs, restocking torpedo boats with water, fuel, ammunition, and weapons, meanwhile providing communication services for PTs sortieing from Tulagi on nightly security patrols around Guadalcanal.

Only 10° south of the equator, Tulagi was plagued by flies, mosquitos, and a fug of humidity and stale air thickened by daily afternoon rains. Besides doctoring common but vexing tropical maladies—dysentery, ear infections, ringworm, fungus—Lieutenant Ludwig treated combat casualties.

At midmorning on Wednesday, April 7, 1943, coast watchers reported an ominous bustle at Japanese airfields on Bougainville, 380 miles northwest: many planes taking on fuel and bombs. About noon, a message confirmed that a huge Japanese air fleet was bearing down on the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area. Fighter pilots scrambled from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal to intercept more than 170 Japanese attackers. Every ship and shore battery on Florida, Guadalcanal, and Tulagi joined in the defense. Japanese bombs sank oilers USS Kanawah and USS Aaron Ward and Royal New Zealand corvette Moa and did damage to British-built four-masted schooner USS Erskine Phelps, the oldest ship on active sea duty in the U.S. Navy. When nine two-man Aichi “Val” dive bombers swept up the Maliali at tree-top level, machine gunners aboard Niagara and minesweeper USS Rail, moored outboard of the tender, opened fire. The lead Val, damaged and flaming, crashed and exploded in mangroves 1,000 yards aft of Niagara. Two Vals got through, but the fourth was hit. Trailing white smoke, the Val crashed behind hills to the north. The last of the raiders made strafing runs, but in passing through heavy fire from Niagara they too were shot up and crashed in the jungle.

A dashing young sailor named John F. Kennedy had a berth aboard Niagara while waiting for a PT boat to command. (Photo ©CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

After the attack, Dr. Ludwig treated wounded men, mainly for burns, shrapnel injuries, and stress. Niagara resumed its routine. Repair work continued at a floating drydock. At the Tulagi government wharf, supplies and replacements occasionally arrived. Waiting to take command of a PT boat, newly arrived Lieutenant (jg) John F. Kennedy briefly bunked aboard Niagara.

In May 1943, as Halsey’s South Pacific naval forces were continuing their slow progress north and west, AGP-1’s captain, Lieutenant Commander David B. Coleman, got orders to establish a base on Woodlark Island, 500 miles due west of Tulagi and 150 miles from the immense island of New Guinea. At a British agricultural station on Malaita Island, Ludwig reprovisioned, loading up on fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and beans.

The crew topped off Niagara’s hold and tanks. Early on the morning of Friday, May 22, 1943, Tulagi harbor’s anti-submarine nets opened and AGP-1, laden with 50,000 gallons of aviation fuel plus stocks of torpedoes and depth charges, passed into the sea, escorted by six PTs and bound for Woodlark Island.

By midday, Niagara had swung south of Guadalcanal and was sailing west. Dr. Ludwig was in the galley anticipating a salad from the Malaita gardens to accompany the noon meal.

Crewman Joseph Tropea, topside on watch, noticed a silhouette against the sun: a Mitsubishi 97 heavy bomber.

Tropea alerted the bridge. In a twitch, all hands were racing for their assigned stations to a chorus of “GENERAL QUARTERS…GENERAL QUARTERS…MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS.” As the Mitsubishi was closing, Captain Coleman ordered a tight turn to starboard at flank speed. As the 97 was releasing four bombs, Coleman ordered a swing hard to port. Three bombs struck water to starboard, the last near enough to disable the tender’s steering and dislodge the 3-inch gun. “We could not train it, but we could elevate it,” Tropea said. “So we kept firing to keep him from coming down on us.”

Niagara went down a true sea dog off Guadalcanal in 1943 after being attacked by Japanese bombers. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

The bomber broke off. The crew got the steering working. In less than an hour the same 97 returned, accompanied by five other warplanes. One bomb in a pattern of more than a dozen hit Niagara’s forecastle. Concussions from near misses caused more damage, including a 14-inch hole six feet below the tender’s waterline. Seawater began flooding two storerooms and a passageway. The power failed. Dead in the water and listing dangerously to port, Niagara had no recourse against attack. Engine room gangs were able to get one of the two main diesels going. Fires were burning below decks forward. Coleman, knowing the result if his stores went up, gave the order to abandon ship.

Tropea was about to leave when he saw flames in an officers’ quarters near an ammunition locker. He and a shipmate brought an extinguisher to bear. When the men ran low on flame retardant, Tropea dashed topside for another extinguisher. A bomb blast knocked him down a gangway, injuring one of his knees. He and the other man kept up their firefighting until an officer ordered them over the side. Most of the crew had already abandoned Niagara for lifeboats or PTs. Tropea, later awarded a Silver Star for valor, wrote, “I had a profound affection for that ship and I would have done anything to prevent it from going down.”

In the engine room, over the sound of bombs and 20mm fire, Seamen Tommy Knight and Cotton Wheeler got an urgent summons. “KNIGHT AND WHEELER, SECURE THE ENGINE ROOM!” the public address system blared. “IF THERE ARE ANY OTHER VOLUNTEERS, LEND KNIGHT AND WHEELER A HAND BEFORE YOU ABANDON SHIP!”

PT-110 commander Lieutenant Patrick Munroe recalled “the Japanese pilots giving us a jubilant wave before they left.” PTs 146 and 147 knifed toward the tender, closing in at either side of the stern to take off men still aboard. The tender was in grievous shape—generators out, pipelines severed, pumps smashed. The foredeck was in flames, bow to bridge.

Captain Coleman ordered a coup de grace by PT-147. The torpedo struck amidships, sending gasoline flames 100 yards high. Black smoke momentarily obscured the vessel, which buckled, bow and stern folding together before sinking beneath a billow of white smoke. Below the surface a lone depth charge detonated with a muffled boom.

Not one of Niagara’s 136 men had been killed or seriously wounded in the action. Rescue vessels landed them at Tulagi early the next morning. U.S. Navy records show that 14 years after being christened as the luxury yacht Hi-Esmaro the USS Niagara received a battle star for World War II service.

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The Navy's Biggest Betrayal

To hear the United States' most notorious naval spy tell it, were it not for his ex-wife, Barbara - the weak link his Soviet handlers had warned him about - his espionage might have continued. As it was, however, John Walker's ferreting went on far too long. A few more years and, had he been employed in a conventional job, he could have retired on a pension. Indeed, he already enjoyed a U.S. Navy pension after retiring in 1976 as a senior warrant officer.

The Navy, in which John Walker served for 20 years, was enormously damaged by his espionage. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger concluded that the Soviet Union made significant gains in naval warfare that were attributable to Walker's spying. His espionage provided Moscow "access to weapons and sensor data and naval tactics, terrorist threats, and surface, submarine, and airborne training, readiness and tactics," according to Weinberger. A quarter-century after John Walker's arrest, it is illuminating to revisit the story of his naval spy ring, both for what it reveals about espionage versus security and for how it highlights the ambitions and frailties at the heart of spying.

Building a Naval Career

John Anthony Walker Jr. was born in 1937, the middle son of a Warner Brothers film marketer and an Italian-American mother. Nicknamed "Smilin' Jack," he attended Catholic school and became an altar boy however, his childhood was traumatic. His father descended into a hell of alcoholism and lost his job. Bankrupt, the family moved near the boy's grandparents in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The entrepreneurial John Jr. secured a paper route, sold home products door to door, and worked as a movie usher, and on his 16th birthday bought a car with his savings.

In late 1955 Walker joined the Navy as a radioman and served on board a destroyer escort before joining the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59). While on shore leave in Boston during the winter of 1957, he met Barbara Crowley. They married soon afterward, and children followed, three daughters by 1960. After qualifying at submarine school, Walker was assigned to the Razorback (SS-394) for a Pacific deployment. While serving in her, Walker, then a petty officer, received his top secret cryptographic clearance and passed the Personnel Reliability Program, a psychological evaluation to ensure that only the most reliable personnel have access to nuclear weapons.

His submarine participated in surveillance missions off the Soviet port of Vladivostok and in the flotilla observing the July 1962 Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test. Walker's efficiency reports were uniformly excellent, and he was assigned to the Blue Crew of the Polaris ballistic missile submarine Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619), then under construction at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. On board the boat, Walker impressed the executive officer enough that when he was named to command the Gold Crew of the Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641), he recruited the petty officer to lead his radio room. Walker first qualified on maintenance of cryptographic equipment in early 1963. Along the way, he passed his high school general education degree exams as well as Navy promotion tests, rising through grades to chief petty officer and warrant officer. These were the makings of a fine enlisted career. Ten years in, John Walker had served with some distinction on board half a dozen vessels, was a plank owner on a pair of "boomers," had attained warrant officer rank, and had run the radio shop of a nuclear missile submarine.

Life, however, grated on Smilin' Jack. Walker disliked the impersonal nature of his big ships, and his membership in the tight-knit crews of smaller vessels was long behind him. The lengthy underwater patrols in the ballistic missile subs, during which there were just a handful of brief communications with home, tried him.

Those cruises were also hard on his family, which by now included a son, Michael Lance. Meeting the kids all over again after a patrol was difficult for everyone, and according to Walker, he discovered Barbara philandering with family members, ignoring the household, and - shades of his father - drinking more and more. Walker seems to have despised the Navy for encouraging alcoholism among Sailors and their families. He invested his savings in land outside Charleston, South Carolina, planning to build a car park to give his wife a constructive outlet. He later opened a bar on the property instead, but the marginal venture left Warrant Officer Walker strapped for cash. Casting about for some means of righting his financial boat, he drove a cab and shuttled rental cars among cities, but it was not enough.

A Second Career

Espionage became Walker's way out, though in his telling political disaffection also played a role. He suspected John F. Kennedy's assassination had been engineered by government and corporate leaders intent on preventing the President from toning down the Cold War. In his memoir, Walker recounted his intellectual evolution from 1950s John Bircher to Cold War denier. He said he began to realize the Soviets were not the aggressive adversary Americans feared. "The farce of the cold war and the absurd war machine it spawned," he commented, "was an ever-growing pathetic joke to me."

One bracing fall day in October 1967 Chief Warrant Officer Walker, then assigned as a watch officer at Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force headquarters in Norfolk, decided to correct the military balance - and balance his checkbook - by leaking top secret information to Moscow. Taking the first step, he photocopied a document at headquarters and slipped the copy in his pocket. The next day he hopped into his red 1964 MG sports car, drove to Washington, walked into the Soviet Embassy, and asked to see security personnel.

Yakov Lukasevics, an internal security specialist at the embassy, had no idea what to do with the American who came bearing documents and said he wanted to spy. The papers, however, needed to be evaluated, and so he telephoned the KGB rezident, or station chief, Boris A. Solomatin. KGB rezidenturas (stations) were wary of walk-ins, persons who spontaneously offered their services. The Soviets even used the term "well-wishers" to denote such persons. And the idea of an American striding right into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, which was under constant FBI surveillance, immediately suggested a trap.

"I have an interesting man here who walked in off the street," Lukasevics told Solomatin. "Someone must come down who speaks better English."

Another KGB man presently spoke to Walker, who identified himself and said he wanted to earn money and "make arrangements for cooperation." The KGB officer then took the documents upstairs to Solomatin. As it happened, the 43-year old rezident was a naval buff, having grown up in the Black Sea port of Odessa. Solomatin recognized that some of Walker's documents concerned U.S. submarines, vessels that particularly plagued the Soviet Fleet. Of greater importance, the National Security Agency (NSA) document Walker had purloined before leaving work listed the following month's settings for the American KL-47 encryption machine. The Soviets had already received some NSA papers from a different spy, and after comparing markings and format realized Walker's settings document, called a key list, was genuine.

On the spot Solomatin decided to take a chance. For a KGB station chief personally to meet a prospective agent was unprecedented, but Solomatin spent the next two hours talking privately with Walker. The American favorably impressed him by saying nothing about love for communism, which most phonies emphasized. This was strictly business. Walker received a few thousand dollars cash as a down payment and was smuggled off the embassy compound in a car. Thus began the Navy's most damaging spy case.

Solomatin, who had not previously paid special attention to the U.S. Navy, now boned up on the subject.
He kept a very tight rein on the Walker operation, assigning Oleg Kalugin, his deputy for political intelligence (Line PR), as the American's manager and Yuri Linkov, a naval spy, as his case officer. Kalugin spent weeks driving around the Washington area to identify and carefully record spots for "dead drops," places Walker would deposit packages of intelligence and pick up cash and instructions. During a meeting outside a northern Virginia department store within a month of Walker's embassy visit, the warrant officer handed over a bigger pile of Navy documents, and Linkov gave him the locations for his first few drops-offs plus more money. Those were the only face-to-face meetings the KGB had with John Walker for a decade. Some versions of the tale maintain that his espionage began in 1968 however, Solomatin, Kalugin, and Walker all agree that it began in October 1967 at the Soviet Embassy.

Only a handful of other KGB officials ever had anything to do with Walker. A stovepipe fed his material to the deputy chief of the First Directorate, the KGB's foreign intelligence unit, and just a couple of assistants. Awarded the Order of the Red Banner for Walker's recruitment, Solomatin was promoted to deputy chief of intelligence. In 1968, when the KGB created the Sixteenth Directorate, its counterpart to NSA, the Walker case passed from Line PR to the new agency, but the tight security surrounding it was preserved.

Whether the KGB had an immediate use for Walker's KL-47 key list is still not clear. In early January 1968, however, the spy delivered to the Soviets a KW-7 encryption machine key list that would quickly prove useful. Later that month, North Korea captured the spy ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in international waters and with it a KW-7 device along with manuals and other documents. According to historian Mitchell B. Lerner, a leading authority on the affair, within two days of seizing the Pueblo, North Korea dispatched an aircraft to Moscow containing almost 800 pounds of cargo, presumably from the spy ship. The KGB quickly dispatched a team of intelligence experts to the port of Wonsan, North Korea, where the vessel had been taken. U.S. intelligence detected transmission of an enormous fax to Moscow, presumably the texts of manuals for cryptographic equipment on board the Pueblo. Thereafter, Moscow had continued access to American naval communications until the U.S. system was entirely changed.

Life As a Spy

John Walker's trickle of intelligence meanwhile became a flood. According to Walker's account, he mostly supplied the Soviets with old key lists - much less zealously guarded - and the KGB never pressed him for current or future ones. In fact, the Soviets advised Walker to avoid future material as well as maintenance manuals. Also, their plan for clandestine drops provided for only two per year, and he claimed that the KGB never demanded more frequent exchanges, which means their take of current/future material had to be limited to a couple of months annually.

Walker also maintained that much of what he gave the Soviets concerned such obsolescent systems as the World War II - vintage KL-47, which featured a seven-rotor encryption machine similar to the German Enigma, and the KW-37, an early online, or automated, encryption system. As for the later-generation KW-7 system, Walker said he only provided the Soviets with its key lists for random future dates. Probably few commentators accept his version of what he handed over. If his claim that the KGB showed no desire for current or future keys is accurate, it puts an interesting light on Soviet gains from his espionage.

Walker nevertheless provided a huge array of other secret Navy and U.S. documents to America's Cold War adversary. These included operational orders, war plans, technical manuals, and intelligence digests. The KGB devised and furnished its spy with an electronic device that could read the KL-47's rotor wiring and gave him a miniature Minox camera. At Norfolk, he used his status as an armed forces courier to smuggle documents from headquarters to his bachelor officer quarters (BOQ) room, where he photographed them. There was such a stream of papers he had to be selective. Walker estimated that photographing just 20 of the hundreds of messages that crossed his desk during a watch would have required more than 100 rolls of film over six months, yet initially everything he left at a dead drop needed to fit inside a single soda can.

Later, while on training duty at San Diego, Walker had less access to top secret documents and had to rely on a classified library. Smuggling out material meant getting it past multiple checkpoints staffed by Marine guards. He also forged the papers required to show renewal of his security clearance. This spy enjoyed amazingly good fortune.

But John Walker's luck ran out with his family. He sometimes spent nights at the BOQ instead of the family's home. Barbara Walker had suspected her husband of sexual adventures - true, as it happened - and looked through his things. Family financial problems that had seemed insuperable were suddenly solved. Walker pointed to his moonlighting as the source of his money, but Barbara remained unconvinced. And then, within a year of her husband becoming a spy, she found a grocery bag in which Walker had secreted a pile of classified documents. Confronted with the discovery, he admitted to his espionage and took Barbara along to one of his dead drops in a dubious attempt to involve her in his crime. From the beginning, the KGB had warned Walker never to reveal anything to his wife or other family members. Though Barbara did nothing immediately, the seeds of John Walker's downfall were planted.

On the West Coast and while assigned to the combat stores ship Niagara Falls (AFS-3), the spy's journeys to drop his gleanings to the KGB became much more onerous. One 1972 drop required a flight from Vietnam to the United States, a brief cover visit home, and then rejoining his ship in Hong Kong. When Walker returned to Norfolk to work at Amphibious Force Atlantic headquarters in the summer of 1974, the problems were ameliorated, but the transfer conflicted with his desire to remain afloat and away from Barbara.

The naval spy's solution was to retire from the Navy. He believed that he could then work more effectively as a network manager, delivering to the Soviets information gathered by others. By the time he separated from the service, Walker had already begun dabbling in private investigating. Later, he took a job at Wackenhut and then opened his own firm. He also divorced Barbara, but not before again bringing her along to one of his drop sites.

Building the Ring

John Walker's network began with an old Navy friend, Senior Chief Petty Officer Jerry Whitworth, also a radioman, who had left the service but re-enlisted in the fall of 1974. He then volunteered for a billet at Diego Garcia, a previous duty station. Whitworth was active by the summer of 1975, when Walker put in for retirement. The more experienced spy forwarded many packets of Whitworth's intelligence to the KGB. Possibly the best resulted from his tour on board the Niagara Falls in the same post Walker once held. When the ship went into dry dock, Whitworth was reassigned to Naval Communications Center Alameda. There, however, he found that clandestinely photographing documents was harder. Walker bought a van, for which the Soviets reimbursed him, in which Whitworth could do his camerawork while it sat in a parking lot near work.

With Walker free to travel after his retirement and Whitworth delivering the goods, the spymaster offered the Soviets more frequent intelligence deliveries. Again the KGB specifically refused, although it invited Walker to a face-to-face meeting in Casablanca in the summer of 1977 during which his Soviet contact denounced his recruitment of a new agent. Walker agreed to annual clandestine meetings in Vienna and not to bring in any more agents. He later claimed that during one of the sidewalk encounters in the Austrian capital he was secreted away and debriefed by a group of men who included KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. Others claim that Andropov personally oversaw Walker's espionage, which was unlikely.

In late 1980, a visit to Alameda by a Naval Investigative Service (NIS) team to solve a rape case frightened Whitworth. He not only became skittish but also pecuniary, deliberately ruining a batch of his photographs in an attempt to get the KGB to pay twice. Whitworth carried off a foot-high stack of documents from his last post on board the Enterprise (CVN-65) with the intent to continue delivering his stream of classified information after leaving the Navy, which he did in October 1983. Among the materials the Soviets obtained from him were cable traffic plus photographs of, and some key lists for, the KW-7, KY-8, KG-14, KWR-37, and KL-47 cryptographic systems. Though older crypto setups predominated, the take included data on the newest U.S. secure phone system.

Aware of Whitworth's increasing reluctance to spy and despite Walker's promises to the KGB, in 1983 the spymaster solicited his son, Michael, a freshly minted yeoman on board the Nimitz (CVN-68) who worked in the ship's administration office. (In 1979 he had attempted but failed to draw in his youngest daughter, Laura Walker Snyder, who was then in the Army but pregnant and planning to leave the service.) Michael copied more than 1,500 documents for the KGB, including material on weapon systems, nuclear weapons control, command procedures, hostile identification and stealth methods, and contingency target lists. He also included such ordinary items as copies of the Nimitz ship's newspaper.

Owing money to the spymaster, Arthur L. Walker, John's older brother who was a retired Navy lieutenant commander working for a defense contractor, played the game. He produced repair records on certain warships plus damage-control manuals for another. John Walker's rationalizations aside, this "family of spies" approach to espionage was a security breach waiting to happen, since suspicion of any family member would likely result in questioning of others, and the master spy was perfectly aware that Barbara Walker harbored nothing but ill-will toward him.

End of Walker's Espionage

A most troubling aspect of the Walker affair is how it could have gone on for 18 years without authorities uncovering the leak. There is no indication that counterintelligence was even aware of, much less moving to combat, the Walker network. Norfolk FBI spy catcher Robert W. Hunter claimed he knew that an "elusive master spy . . . was out there," but no attention focused on Walker until he was given away.

John Walker's operational security finally cracked in 1984, and fissures opened at every seam. That May Jerry Whitworth, afflicted with guilt or anxious to make a deal, opened an anonymous correspondence with the FBI in San Francisco using the name "RUS" and offering dark secrets. Whitworth, however, could not bring himself to follow through, and the FBI special agents involved were unable to track him down. In the end the RUS letters would be connected to John Walker, but only after the fact.

Then Barbara Walker denounced her ex-husband to the FBI. In November, after daughter Laura convinced her to speak to authorities, Barbara told the FBI field office in Boston that she had important information, and on 29 November a special agent from Hyannis interviewed her. The spy's ex-wife told him of her growing suspicion of her husband as far back as the 1960s, his admission to spying, and her accompanying Walker to dead drops near Washington. She described actions in those deliveries that dovetailed with KGB techniques.

The agent, however, noted in his report that Barbara appeared to have been drinking when she greeted him at her door and that during the interview she drank a large glass of vodka. She was also evasive when asked why she had not reported the spying earlier. He surmised that her allegations could be the result of her alcohol abuse and ill feelings toward her ex-husband, graded her information as meriting no follow-up, and sent the report to Boston, where it was filed away.

A month later, an FBI supervisor making a routine quarterly check of inactive files noted the Barbara Walker report and forwarded it to the bureau's Norfolk office because the alleged espionage centered there. Joseph R. Wolfinger, special agent in charge at Norfolk, obtained headquarters' approval to open an investigation. On 25 February he assigned the case to Robert Hunter, who had brought the Boston report to his attention.

The pieces then quickly fell into place. Laura Walker Snyder was interviewed about her father's attempt to recruit her and added details to her mother's account, though both Laura and Barbara were recognized as having personal problems that would make them not fully credible witnesses. In early March, headquarters authorized a full field investigation, code-named Windflyer, involving its foreign counterintelligence unit. The Naval Investigative Service also came into play since Michael Walker, a suspect by then, was an active-duty Sailor. Laura Snyder telephoned her father at the behest of the FBI, which recorded the conversation in which he evinced interest in her rejoining the military or perhaps the CIA. The FBI tapped Walker's phones, and the NIS interviewed hundreds of persons who had known him and obtained a confession from Michael on board the Nimitz.

The end for John Walker finally came on 20 May when the FBI arrested him after confiscating 127 classified documents from the Nimitz that he had left at a dead drop. A search of his home turned up plentiful evidence of the spy ring, including records of payments to "D" (Jerry Whitworth), who turned himself in to authorities on 3 June. Brother Arthur was also arrested.

In exchange for limits to his charges, John Walker made a deal to discuss his espionage in detail and plead guilty, and Michael also copped a plea. Arthur Walker was tried in August and found guilty. Whitworth went before a court in the spring of 1986. At his trial John Walker retaliated for the RUS letters, which would have betrayed him, by painting his friend's participation in the starkest terms. Found guilty, Whitworth was fined $410,000 and given 365 years in prison. As for the Walkers, Arthur was sentenced to three life terms plus a $250,000 fine, John received a life term, and Michael 25 years. In February 2000 Michael Walker was released for good behavior. John and Arthur Walker, meanwhile, will be eligible for parole in 2015.

Assessing the Damage

Many observers believe the Walker spy ring created the most damaging security breach of the Cold War. Director of Naval Intelligence Rear Admiral William O. Studeman declared that no sentence a court could impose would atone for its "unprecedented damage and treachery." Secretary of the Navy John H. Lehman tried to overturn John Walker's plea agreement but was restrained by Secretary Weinberger. Oleg Kalugin, the KGB officer who had first managed Walker, wrote that his was "by far the most spectacular spy case I handled in the United States." Walker and his colleagues compromised a huge array of secrets. Jonathan Pollard, another naval spy apprehended during 1985, the Year of the Spy, gave Israel a greater quantity of documents (estimated at 1.2 million pages), but the Walker material, with its cryptographic secrets, has to be judged as the worse loss.

Soviet spy chief Boris Solomatin offered a more nuanced perspective when author Pete Earley interviewed him in Moscow nearly ten years after Walker's arrest. Refusing to compare the Walker case with that of former CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames, another high-profile spy for the Soviet Union, he observed that agents must be judged on the content of the information they deliver. Ames provided the names of Russians spying for the United States and thus affected the KGB-CIA espionage war. Ames' information "would have been used to identify traitors," he said. "That is a one-time event. But Walker's information not only provided us with ongoing intelligence, but helped us over time to understand and study how your military actually thinks." John Walker had been the Soviets' key source on Navy submarine missile forces, which Solomatin viewed as the main component of the American nuclear triad. The KGB spymaster also noted that Walker helped both superpowers avoid nuclear war by enabling Moscow to appreciate true U.S. intentions - a goal the American articulated as one of his aims.

Among the still-murky aspects of the Walker affair is the question of what impact his intelligence had on the Vietnam War. While on board the Niagara Falls, Walker served in the combat theater, so he is believed to have compromised the Navy's theater cipher settings. Oleg Kalugin maintained that the North Vietnamese benefited from the Walker intelligence. Observers claimed Moscow gave Hanoi data enabling North Vietnam to anticipate B-52 strikes and naval air operations. Solomatin, however, disputed that.

As deputy chief of the KGB's First Directorate, Solomatin himself helped decide what intelligence went to Hanoi, as well as the Soviet Union's other allies. He asserted that little was shared and it was given in the most general terms, precisely to avoid exposing the KGB's prize agent. The logic is inescapable. A CIA operation would have been run the same way.

Even without the B-52 charge, the John Walker spy ring was enormously damaging to United States security. In the history of Cold War espionage only a handful of spies operated as long as Walker (British intelligence official Kim Philby and FBI agent Robert Hanssen are the obvious comparisons), and none had comparable access to military secrets. No spy ring ever functioned as long as Walker's without the other side becoming aware of a leak. While some specific secrets compromised during the Cold War, such as information about the atomic bomb, were intrinsically more valuable than Walker's, no agent supplied such consistently high-grade intelligence over an equivalent time frame. As Boris Solomatin noted: "You Americans like to call him the ' spy of the decade.' Perhaps you are right."

Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (Basic Books, 1999).

John Barron, Breaking the Ring: The Bizarre Case of the Walker Family Spy Ring (Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1987).

Howard Blum, I Pledge Allegience . . . The True Story of the Walkers: An American Spy Family (Simon & Schuster, 1987).

Peter Earley, Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring (Bantam, 1988).

Peter Earley, "Boris Solomatin Interview," Crime Library on,
crime/terrorists_spies/spies/solomatin/1.html ? print+yes

Robert W. Hunter and Lynn Dean Hunter, Spy Hunter: Inside the FBI Investigation of the Walker Espionage Case (Naval Institute Press, 1999).

Oleg Kalugin, The First Directorate (St. Martin's Press, 1994).

Mitchell B. Lerner, The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy (University Press of Kansas, 2002).

Ronald J. Olive, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice (Naval Institute Press, 2006).

John Prados, The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and Soviet Strategic Forces (Princeton University Press, 1986).

Frank J. Rafalko, ed. A Counterintelligence Reader: vol. 3, Post World War II to the Closing of the 20th Century (National Counterintelligence Center, 2004).

John A. Walker Jr., My Life as a Spy: One of America's Most Notorious Spies Finally Tells His Story (Prometheus Books, 2008).

Naval Spies since the '70s

Aside from the depth and lengthy interval of his treason, John Walker was not unique among naval spies. Several dozen persons affiliated with the Sea Services have been arrested for espionage since the 1970s. All were men, most were Sailors (including quite a few petty officers), five were Marines, and half a dozen were civilians. Many passed along cryptographic material, but none on as massive a scale as Walker. Soviets or Russians were the recipients of stolen materials in about a third of these cases, but customers have included the Philippines, China, South Korea, South Africa, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Besides cipher keys, purloined items have included technical manuals, documents, and satellite photographs. In one episode, a Marine guard was subverted to enable the Soviets to access United States embassies.

American security has not been all that bad. In nearly a third of cases suspects were apprehended before any transmission of classified information took place. They had classified material in their possession and were considering selling it, or they succumbed to traps set by the Naval Investigative Service (NIS, known as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after 1992), the FBI, or local police. In one instance, Soviet intelligence officers were taken into custody as they collected supposed secret information. What follows are several of the more interesting cases.

The Double-Agent Commander

In 1977, as Lieutenant Commander Arthur E. Lindberg disembarked from a Soviet cruise ship in Bermuda, he passed a note to an officer suggesting he might exchange information for money. It was the first move in a year-long double-agent sting run by the FBI in which the commander served as the agency's "dangle." The KGB contacted Lindberg, and he began providing the Soviets with antisubmarine warfare data supplied to him by Navy experts. In May 1978, the FBI caught three KGB officers emptying Lindberg's dead drop in Woodbridge, New Jersey. One had diplomatic immunity and left the country the other two were eventually tried and convicted, but U.S. authorities exchanged them for five Soviet dissidents.

The Would-Be Novelist

At the Fleet Intelligence Center Europe and Atlantic at Norfolk, Intelligence Specialist Second Class Brian P. Horton worked up target packages for preplanned naval air strikes included in the Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP) - the central U.S. nuclear war plan. In 1982 Horton made a series of telephone calls to the Soviet Embassy offering to trade SIOP data for cash. Robert Kelly, an FBI counterintelligence agent who takes credit for identifying Horton, combined with the NIS to entrap him. Arrested before any data changed hands, Horton received a general court-martial in January 1983. His defense argued that he simply sought material for a spy novel, but he was found guilty and sentenced to six years at hard labor.

The Moonlighting Naval Analyst

The grandson of famous naval historian Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, Samuel Loring Morison was a civilian analyst with the Naval Intelligence Support Center (NISC) as well as a part-time editor for Jane's Fighting Ships and a member of a panel that advised the Chief of Naval Operations on the naming of vessels. Morison, however, antagonized NISC colleagues by using office time for his extracurricular activities. After a decade at the intelligence center, he left in 1984. About the same time, he leaked classified KH-11 satellite photographs of a Soviet Kiev-class aircraft carrier under construction to Jane's, which published them in Jane's Defence Weekly that July. An NIS investigation led to Morison, and an FBI search of his apartment found several hundred official documents, including two that were classified. Morison was tried in U.S. District Court for theft of government property and disclosure of classified information under the Espionage Act, although the recipients had been news media, not foreign governments, and other disclosures of satellite imagery had not been similarly prosecuted. He maintained he was dramatizing the Soviet threat to encourage greater U.S. defense spending, but was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. His appeals were rejected, including by the Supreme Court. Morison was pardoned by President William J. Clinton in January 2001.

The Spy with Total Recall

Though technically a civilian employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) - and a former Airman, not Sailor - Ronald W. Pelton is included here because his arrest was another high point in the "Year of the Spy," 1985, and his disclosures revealed an important Navy, CIA, and NSA project code-named Ivy Bells. It involved submarines placing taps on Soviet underwater telephone cables in the Sea of Okhotsk. Pelton first contacted the Soviet Embassy in Washington in 1980 and reportedly earned more than $35,000 over the next five years, not for documents but for what he could relate from his apparently excellent memory. The Pelton espionage was revealed by KGB Colonel Vitaly Yurchenko during his brief defection to the United States. Interviewed by the FBI, Pelton divulged information that led to his arrest. He was tried in 1986 and sentenced to three concurrent life terms.

The Intel Analyst Who Was a Spy

The espionage carried out by Jonathan J. Pollard, a civilian employee initially for the NISC, has led to some of the most heated controversies in the spy world, not only because he spied for Israel (some maintain this to be less culpable) but because when apprehended, Pollard was working as an intelligence analyst for the Naval Investigative Service itself, within its Anti-Terrorist Alert Center. Pollard went to work at the NIS after the discovery of his efforts to contact South African services led to the stripping of the security clearances enabling him to work at the NISC. Within a little over one year, Pollard and his wife, Anne Henderson Pollard, provided the Israelis with a huge amount of intelligence. The NIS became suspicious due to Pollard's numerous requests for material that seemed unrelated to his work. Surreptitious television surveillance of his desk showed Pollard sequestering classified materials, and surveillance disclosed more questionable activity. When stopped for questioning on 18 November 1985, he was caught with 60 classified documents. Espionage not being immediately evident, Pollard was permitted to leave, after which he and Anne initially sought help from their Israeli case officer and then asked for asylum at the Israeli Embassy, which turned them away. The couple was then arrested, their case becoming the third high point in the Year of the Spy. Both pled guilty on 4 June 1986. The next year, Pollard was sentenced to life and Anne Pollard to five years in prison. Numerous efforts have since been made to secure Pollard's release.

The Sailor Who Got Away

The parallels between Photographer's Mate Glenn M. Souther's case and John Walker's are striking. In 1980, four years after joining the Navy, Souther walked in to the Soviet Embassy in Rome, where the KGB's Boris Solomatin was then stationed, and volunteered to become a spy. At the time, Souther was assigned to the Sixth Fleet and had access to classified information. After getting an honorable discharge, he entered the naval reserve in 1982 and was assigned to the Navy Intelligence Center in Norfolk, where he again dealt with classified data. At the time, he was pursuing a college degree at Old Dominion University, where he majored in Russian. Souther's wife, meanwhile, told the NIS she believed her estranged husband was a spy, but the service dismissed the allegations. The charges also made no difference the following year when the Defense Investigative Service vetted Souther, whose security clearance was to be raised to top secret. At the end of 1984, Souther became a civilian employee at the Fleet Intelligence Center Europe and Atlantic. The naval officer who had married Souther's former wife raised questions about him during the Year of the Spy, but the NIS again dismissed them. Since Souther was a civilian, it forwarded the allegations to the FBI, and in May 1986 special agent Butch Holtz interviewed the reservist, who denied being a spy. Absent evidence, Souther could not be charged, and two weeks later he fled to Moscow. In June 1989, the Soviet press reported the suicide of a Mikhail Orlov, who was later acknowledged to be Souther. He was reportedly buried with full military honors in the uniform of a KGB major.

Amateur Builder Completes Detailed Model of U.S. Brig Niagara

We’re always interested to hear about the ship model projects our members and friends are busy working on. We recently heard from NHF member Robert Allen, who has completed a detailed model of U.S. Brig Niagara, from the War of 1812. As we come up on the 200th anniversary of the great American victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, we wanted to share some images of his detailed model, which includes her crew in action fighting the ship.

Allen spent many years building this model, started in 2004, and finally finishing up in 2011. His inspiration was the much larger, full size replica of Niagara (home port Erie, PA) completed in 1990. In fact, this full size replica was one of the ships to participate in the huge reenactment of the Battle of Lake Erie in September 2013.

The ship is made from wood, with a hull constructed of plank-on-bulkhead basswood strips.The sail set is based on a configuration of the replica Niagara during her sea trials back in the 1990’s. The sails were hand made in California but Allen rigged them all himself. There are over 150 lines on the model, and every sail’s running rigging was correctly installed, which took Allen “forever” to finish.

From what Allen had seen, most models of Niagara are static in nature, some with figures from the crew but none that attempt to represent battle action. Much of his time was spent painting the figures in detail, which are not 100% as one would have seen in 1813, but are close. Allen did the best he could with the figures available in the model industry. Ironically, the figures for Marines and Perry himself came from England!

We are always interested to hear about new ship model projects. If you’re working on something, whether it be a frigate from the age of sail, or a battleship from World War II, let us know, or share a picture of it on our Facebook page here. From time to time, we’ll try to highlight unique projects with a similar story on our blog. Thanks to Robert Allen for sharing his Niagara model with us!

Commanding officers [ edit | edit source ]

As listed in the 1991 Change of Command Pamphlet.

  • Capt. H.C. Holley (April 1967 – August 1968)
  • Capt. A.F. Huff (August 1968 – February 1970)
  • Capt. E.M. Cocke (February 1970 – October 1971)
  • Capt. C.C. Carter (October 1971 – September 1972)
  • Capt. C.R. Long (September 1972 – March 1974)
  • Capt. C.S. Christensen, Jr. (March 1974 – June 1975)
  • Capt. E.B. McDaniel (June 1975 – September 1976)
  • Capt. P.F. McCarthy (September 1976 – December 1977)
  • Capt. R.E. Schlenzig (December 1977 – December 1979)
  • Capt. B.C. Lee (December 1979 – July 1981)
  • Capt. R.R. Terry (July 1981 – January 1983)
  • Capt. J.M. Bowers (January 1983 – June 1984)
  • Capt. G.I. Beck (June 1984 – June 1986)
  • Capt. H.A. Browne, Jr, II (June 1986 – January 1988)
  • Capt. J.P. Gay (January 1988 – August 1989)
  • Capt. R.E. Houser (August 1989 – January 1991)
  • Capt. J.S. Daughtry, Jr. (February 1991 – October 1992)
  • Capt. G.C. Brown (October 1992–?)

USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3) - Service History

Niagara Falls was laid down on 22 May 1965 at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, California launched on 26 March 1966 sponsored by Mrs. Jacob Javits, wife of the senior Senator from New York delivered to the Navy at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Long Beach, California, on 20 April 1967 and commissioned on 29 April, with Captain Horace C. Holley in command.

After initial shakedown, the new combat store ship loaded 2,500 tons of stores at Naval Supply Center, Oakland, California and through September completed final acceptance trials and post-shakedown availability at San Diego.

Read more about this topic: USS Niagara Falls (AFS-3)

Famous quotes containing the words service and/or history :

&ldquo But when with moving accents thou
Shalt constant faith and service vow,
Thy Celia shall receive those charms
With open ears, and with unfolded arms. &rdquo
&mdashThomas Carew (1589�)

&ldquo Free from public debt, at peace with all the world, and with no complicated interests to consult in our intercourse with foreign powers, the present may be hailed as the epoch in our history the most favorable for the settlement of those principles in our domestic policy which shall be best calculated to give stability to our Republic and secure the blessings of freedom to our citizens. &rdquo
&mdashAndrew Jackson (1767�)

USS Niagara IV - History

First Voyage of the United States Steamship Niagara
April 24th - May 13th, 1857

The USS Niagara was provided by the United States government to assist in the Atlantic Cable expeditions of 1857 and 1858. Although the ship was built in 1855, the expedition of 1857 was the Niagara's first voyage after she was commissioned. The voyage to England to join the cable fleet is described here by the correspondent of the New York Daily Times, and is illustrated with contemporary drawings.

This page also includes original stereoscopic views of the Niagara at work, taken during the cable voyages of 1857 or 1858.

1857 Valentia, Ireland - Bay Bull Arm, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland
1858 Valentia, Ireland - Bay Bull Arm, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland

USS Niagara
Image courtesy of Cyril Malyon scan by Jim Jones

First Voyage of the United States Steamship Niagara

Log of the Passage Across the Atlantic

Arrival in the Thames

Special Correspondence of the N.Y. Daily Times.


Thursday, May 14, 1857.

We arrived at the entrance of the Thames yesterday about 8 P.M. and came to anchor, and this morning proceeded up the river to Gravesend, which we reached at 8 A.M., where we shall remain a few days until the landing place at Gravesend, where we are to take on board the Telegraphic Cable, is prepared for us. Our passage across the Atlantic was not made in so short a time as we had anticipated, the delay being partly occasioned by head winds and unfavorable weather, and partly by the defective nature of our spars and the bad quality of' the iron portion of the standing rigging. The ship, however, has answered the utmost expectations, and, under more favorable circumstances, she would have given a more satisfactory account of herself. Perhaps the better way to give a correct idea of our passage will be to inclose you an authentic log of her run from the time we left Sandy Hook until we arrived in the Thames:

April 24, at 7¾ P.M., pilot and visitors all left the ship. We parted with three cheers, and another for luck. At 8¼ P.M. stood upon our course, under sail and steam&mdashforesail, topsails and jib. At 8½, took our departure 10 miles distant from the outer buoy at Gedney's Channel. Course 25th, E. b. S, ½ S revolutions, 41 speed, 11 knots average during the night, course East, wind N. W. and S. W. distance run, 168 miles, at 38.3 revolutions lat. 40° 22' W., lon. 70° 28' N. smooth sea and light winds.

Owing to some wrong turn in a connection with our propeller when we first stood off and started the engine, we thought our cruise had come to a sudden end, or at least to an indefinite postponement. Fortunately no damage was done, and in fifteen minutes we were on our way, let off for the fright, and ever since we have been running on under sail and steam, with very light winds, as quietly as though we were in a mill-pond. Owing to the winds having been so light, we have had no chance to judge what she will do, but it is certain that she can steam up to 9 knots at the least.

26.&mdashat 8 A.M. had run 183 miles, average speed 9 knots 4 points, revolutions 29. At 12 M., 32½ revolutions, speed 8 knots, 4 points, wind very light and variable, from S. to N. W. Dist. 217, Lat. 40° 8' N, Long. 65° 55' W. To-day being the Sabbath, all hands mustered upon the spar deck, and prayers (Episcopal) were read by Capt. Hudson, and afterwards a sermon, which might have been very good for aught I know, as owing to the flapping of the sails and the working of the propeller, I only caught a word here and there. One thing I am sure of, however&mdashit was too long and a violent cold I caught over a damp deck for over one hour and a half, and the expenditure of muslin upon my nasal organ, don't make me like it any the more. Brevity has long been allowed to be the soul of wit it is equally certain that it is as fully important to the effect of a good sermon.

27.&mdashNothing has occurred out of the regular &ldquoroutine&rdquo during the last 24 hours at 7 A.M., making 13 knots with 40 revolutions. 2 A.M. 13 knots, 4 points 36 revolutions, average speed 10 knots, 4 points, wind from S. W. to N. E., variable thermometer 50. Distance 2,564, lat. 40° 39'.

28.&mdash60° 30'. From 9 P.M. 27th to 4 A.M. 28th under steam, speed 8 knots 9-10, wind variable from N. to S.S.E., lat. 41° 26', long. 50° 31', Distance 2196&mdashat 12 M. revolutions 39.2, lowest for 2½ hours 31.3. At 4 A.M. made sail fore and aft, at 6 topsails and jib split the main topsail, owing to keeping fast bunt jigger. Began to feel the influence of the Banks, in hazy weather and occasional squalls. At 2 P.M. going 13 knots close-hauled, ship rolls a little but comparatively nothing worth speaking about.

29.&mdashAt 5½ called all hands to reef topsails. Average speed during the night, 12 knots 1 point, wind 8. E. by S. half S. ran 281 miles up to 11:20 A.M., 23 hours 20 minutes in the 24 hours, 292 miles. At 4 P.M. sent up new mizen topgallant mast, crossed mizen topgallant and royal yards average revolutions 36 lat. 41° 46', lon. 49° 10' W. would have made 300 but for the decrease of the day and low steam during one hour of the night. Thermometer, 58°.

30.&mdashAt 12 M. 40 revolutions speed, 10.4 distance, 236.4 pleasant and smooth sea, and wind very light during the night under very low pressure of steam, from 5 to 10 pounds to the inch and no fire under the two after boilers not making more than 20 revolutions per minute. The machinery still working as smoothly as could be desired, and the ship working like a beauty, as she is. At 10 A.M. general muster. &ldquoThe Regulations and Rules&rdquo for the better government of the Navy read in presence of the officers and crew, and subsequently they were mustered. Lat at 12 M. 42° 7' 36" lon, 43° 29' 20". Made good distance, 254 miles. Subsequently, at 3 P.M., all the officers and passengers met at dinner in the wardroom, when everything passed off very pleasantly, and if we can draw an inference from the strong enthusiasm of all, from the Captain, and Professor Morse, down through all the different grades of officers in the ship, most surely we have every reason to believe as well as hope, that our enterprise will be successful.

We have not as yet fairly tried the ship, either under sail or steam, or with both acting together, and for a reason. It is scarcely worth while, upon an experimental cruise, to force on and break down, whether or no, &ldquoTom Collins,&rdquo and thus defeat the object for whose accomplishment we are sent out, and which if accomplished would be of more importance, not alone to the United States, but to the world at large, than the cost of a dozen such ships as this, officers, crew and all. As a matter of well-known experience, our engines will work better when they have run a while, than at the first going off. Even now, at the end of some six days' trial, we are so satisfied with her perfections that beyond a doubt she will be forced up to a greater speed than at present. We shall see. We have gone 9 (nine) knots under steam alone, and over 14 (fourteen) knots with sail and steam, and that in a very light breeze. Do not be astonished should you hear of 17, or even 18 knots.

May 1.&mdashAverage revolutions, 36.3 during the night, smooth sea and calm speed 8 k., distance 224 miles, lat. 42° 62' N., lon. 38° 21' W., wind westerly.

2,&mdashAt 10 A. M., showed our colors to an English barque bound to the Northward. At 11 squalls of wind and rain, wind northward and eastward, reduced sail to reefed topsails. At 12 M., lat 43° 53' W., lon. 32° 48', distance 261 miles, average 10.6 knots.

3&mdashAt 2 P.M. blowing quite fresh from northward and eastward, rain and slight sprinkling of snow according to present appearances shall be at least 14 or 15 days on the passage, but we have neither carried sail nor burnt coal with &ldquoenthusiasm&rdquo as they say at &ldquoLaura Keene's,&rdquo but on the contrary in the greatest moderation.

4.&mdashShowed colors to an English ship standing to the westward. Ran 240 miles, lat. 44° 30', lon. 27° 19', Heavy sea and strong gales from northward and eastward, with showers of rain and hail, came very near losing masts.

5.&mdashFrom eight to Meridian at nine, carried away the port forwards, swifter of the main rigging also the forward shroud called all hands, shortened sail, furled the topsails and foresail, and commenced setting up the main rigging, having first secured the mast with pennant tackles. At 10 A.M. carried away the fore try-sail gaff unbent the sail. Discovered that the chain parts of the shrouds were defective the links which were carried away appeared to have been only half welded. At 6 passed a ship standing to the westward, another on the starboard beam set up all the rigging under steam alone, making two to four knots wind dead ahead ship rolling very deep heavy head sea, under double reefed topsails (fore and main) and jibs at 12 M. furled sails and hauled on our course under steam.

6.&mdashAt 10½ P.M. furled all sail and commenced steaming wind East to East by North lat. at 12 M. 46° 9' long. 26° 41' 15" distance per log 106 miles.

7.&mdashWind E.N.E. course East under steam repairing engine lat. 45° 50', lon. 23° 18' 54" distance 100 miles at 12 M. hove to.

8.&mdashAt 9 AM triced up the propeller, turned reefs out of topsails, set courses, topgallant sails and jib 8 knots with propeller down, close hauled lat. 40° 52', lon. 28° 36' distance 115 miles.

9.&mdashWind fair but squally, with rain. Three sail in sight&mdashbeating them all, we under short, they under full sails lat. 47° 63', lon. 16° 8' distance 214.

10.&mdashLight wind and fair several sails in sight, one a French frigate, the Niagara, drawing ahead of all and gradually dropping them out of sight under sail. At 5:05 lowered down the propeller and started all the engines, with sails from topgallant sails. Lat. 48° 2', lon. 16° 16' light winds and pleasant several sail in company, under sail. At 4½ started engines.

11.&mdashAt 12 M., lat. 48° 55', lon. 11° 9', distance 209 under sail only from 1:30 A.M., squally with rain gave our longitude to a Danish brig at 1.30 P.M. started propeller with reefed topsails, foresail and jib. At 8 A.M., in the longitude of the Lizzard nearly, very foggy, course E.S.E. to E. by N., making 13 knots.

12.&mdashLat. at 12 M. 49° 21' Lon. 5° 19' distance 224 miles at 6.30 took a channel pilot at 3 A.M., Isle of Wight bore N. by W. at 5 A.M. Coast of France in sight at 8 AM off Beachy Head at 11 A.M. off Hastings at 7 A.M. clewed up all sail and under steam only.

13.&mdashAt 12 M. off Dungeness, distance 244 miles came to anchor at the Mouth of the Thames at 8 P M.

The Log will satisfy all those who take an interest in the performance of the noble ship of her admirable sea going qualities. We are now anxiously waiting to learn what our next move will be, and when we shall commence taking on board a cable respecting which, we are not correctly informed. I shall be able to give you more definite particular by the next steamer.

Paying out the Atlantic Telegraph Cable from the deck of the United States Steam Corvette Niagara
From the Illustrated Times of London, 15 August 1857

See also the page on the Niagara showing a souvenir anchor made from wood taken from the Niagara when the ship was scrapped in the 1880s, and the Niagara's figurehead.

These undated stereoviews of the Niagara were published by the London Stereoscopic Company, photographer unknown. The views are part of a set, each card being titled on the obverse:

"View on Board the American Steam Frigate Niagara -
Showing the Machinery Employed in Laying out the Telegraph Wire."

Thanks are due to Page and Bryan Ginns for supplying these images. Their website at shows many antique photographic treasures.

The cable coiled on the deck of the Niagara. Compare with
the image from the Illustrated London News, above.
Detail of stereoview.

Stereoscopic view courtesy of and copyright © 2007
Page and Bryan Ginns,

Another view of the cable coiled on the deck of the Niagara.
Detail of stereoview.

The Future of Photography

With the digital photography market estimated to be worth USD 110.79 billion by 2021, both the art and the use of photography continues to grow. With digital technology making photography accessible to billions across the globe, the push for continued development among leading manufacturers constantly produces higher-end products. With digital photography technology built into smartphones, computers, and other devices, the use of photography has reached an all-time high, and interest in the art and history of photography continues to evolve.

Since the time of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826, the past two hundred years have seen tremendous leaps in photography technology. From the birth and death of film to the rise of the digital era, photography has cemented its place in our modern global culture.

Further Reading on the History Of Photography

We hope you've enjoyed this history of photography. If you'd like to add any points or if you'd like to see more on this topic, please leave us a note in the comments below. In the meantime, please take a look at some of our other stories on the fascinating history of photography.

Watch the video: Strange History: A Remington Rolling Block From the USS Niagara (January 2022).