Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Midshipman Jarvis

USS Bagley (DD-386) lead ship of the Bagley-class of destroyers.
An interesting comment from the Naval Air Cowman the other day -
Regarding Destroyers at Guadalcanal, Jarvis (DD-393) is a haunting example. She'd been "torpedoed" in what may have been an early Kamikaze attack on August 7 while defending the landing effort. Following hasty repairs at Tulagi she headed for major repairs in Australia the next night and blundered into Mikawa's cruisers and was torpedoed again during the Battle of Savo Island. Over the next few hours she was sighted by USS Blue and by a U.S. carrier search plane. Then she disappeared, and her fate was unknown until post-war study of Japanese naval records revealed that she'd been the sole target of a 30+ aircraft strike package and sunk with all hands. Robb White wrote a very fine "what if" novel about the lost ship called Silent Ship, Silent Sea; well worth the read IMO.
USS Jarvis (DD-393) was one of the eight destroyers of the Bagley-class, all of which were present at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 -
All eight Bagley-class destroyers were present at the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. They all served in the Pacific during World War II, with Jarvis, Blue, and Henley lost in combat. In 1944 Mugford suffered extensive damage from a kamikaze hit that put her out of combat for six months. Ralph Talbot later received a kamikaze hit off Okinawa. After the war, Bagley, Helm, and Patterson were decommissioned in 1945 and scrapped in 1947. Mugford and Ralph Talbot, still in commission, were targets during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests at Bikini atoll in 1946. Contaminated by radiation, they were scuttled off Kwajalein in 1948.
From damaged to sinking, the ordeal of USS Jarvis.
(The island labeled "Solomon Islands" is actually Guadalcanal.)
USS Jarvis was only one of two ships of the United States to be lost with all hands during World War II (the other was USS Pillsbury (DD-227)), there were two sets of brothers aboard the ship when she went down: John M. and Robert A. Pierpont also Lans W. and Osbern W. Wilson. (Full crew roster is here.)

All of which led me to this - USS Jarvis' namesake was James C. Jarvis, born in 1787, appointed midshipman from New York in 1799, during the Quasi-War with France. He was killed in action at the age of thirteen!
Jarvis was appointed midshipman from the state of New York in 1799. Midshipman Jarvis was killed at the age of 13 during the historic engagement between the famed frigate Constellation and the French frigate La Vengeance 2 February 1800. Sent aloft in command of the topmen to secure Constellation's unsupported mainmast, he refused to come down when warned that the mast might topple: "My post is here. I can't leave it until ordered." As the mast crashed, Jarvis was swept over the side with the falling rigging.
Honoring Jarvis for his bravery and devotion to duty, the Sixth Congress by Joint Resolution 29 March 1800 deemed his conduct "deserving of the highest praise" and his loss "a subject of national regret."
"Resolved, That the conduct of James Jarvis, a midshipman in said frigate, who gloriously preferred certain death to an abandonment of his post, is deserving of the highest praise; and that the loss of so promising an officer is a subject of national regret." Thomas Hart Benton, Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856, Vol. II, p. 471.
In 1937, the US Navy named a destroyer after James C. Jarvis. The USS Jarvis (DD-393) was sunk off Guadalcanal on August 9, 1942. In 1944, a second destroyer was named after Jarvis (DD-799). (Source)
Constellation and La Vengeance engaged in combat.
(Source)
It was one of those engagements where both sides thought they had won -
Casualties were heavy on both sides, and both vessels were in such poor condition that each commander thought he had sunk his opponent. Most of La Vengeance's rigging had been blown away; only the lower foremast, lower mizzenmast, and bowsprit were operational. Pitot set course for Curaçao and was forced to ground his vessel there to prevent her from sinking. The number of French casualties is somewhat unclear: official French accounts report 28 dead and 40 wounded, while accounts from Curaçao state that the French frigate had lost 160 men. Once Pitot reached Curaçao he was beset with further problems. La Vengeance remained out of action for months due to difficulties in acquiring support needed to repair the frigate from the Dutch officials there. A French expedition to seize the island brought the materiel needed to repair the frigate, but when asked to help attack the island Pitot refused and slipped away to Guadaloupe.
Constellation had suffered heavy damage with 15 of her crew slain and a further 25 wounded, of whom 11 later died. The ship sailed to Port Royal, Jamaica, for a refit, but Truxton could not complete the necessary repairs because of a shortage of naval stores. The ship left Jamaica a week after she arrived, with only her mainmast replaced. After escorting a convoy of 14 merchantmen back to the United States, Truxton sailed his battered frigate to Hampton Roads for a proper refit. Only after he returned to the United States did the American commodore finally learn that the La Vengeance had not been sunk. Truxton was considered a hero and received considerable praise for his actions. In response to his battle with Pitot's frigate, the American government commended Truxton with a Congressional Gold Medal depicting the battle. James C. Jarvis, a 13-year-old Midshipman who was killed when the mainmast collapsed, became famous for his bravery during the battle. (Source)
A brave ship named for a brave lad.

You should read Captain Truxtun's report on the battle here.

It's stories like this which make all your comments on our various posts so enjoyable, we learn something, you learn something.

Thanks for that!








30 comments:

  1. She never stood a chance. She had taken so much damage, that she had to get rid of both boats, and all rafts and floater nets, to keep her afloat, before setting out for Australia.

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    1. Yes, her fate was set when she took that torpedo.

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  2. Took awhile for the Navy to name a ship after the youngster, better late than never. Now the Navy is naming ships like the Lyndon B. Johnson and Gabrielle Giffords for ships in the Zumwalt and LCS classes.......how appropriate considering the way those two ship classes are turning out. Navy brass honoring politicians instead of individuals who served with courage and honor. Nicely done Sarge to illustrate a ship and sailor who deserved recognition.

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    1. Those two ship names piss me off, not to put too fine a point on it.

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    2. Yeah,, Sarge, yet another example of "progressive" decision-making by our PC "woke" "bettors" in the Flag ranks. Since I can't personally shoot the SOBs my only recompense is to thank the Almighty for the existence of Barbancourt 5-Star..

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    3. The Barbancourt is obviously for medicinal purposes, helps dull the pain.

      Teh stoopid, it burns.

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    4. Why is defense spending so high? Because it takes a lot of money to fix 24+ years of being screwed up. I pray every day that common sense will strike Washington and our armed forces and all of the bullscat and stupidity of the 3 previous administrations will go away, quickly, without the need for war to cleanse it. It would be nice to have a functional and prepared military before the next arms fete. N'est pas?

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    5. Nylon, because of what I have learned in the February 26th post, we've been naming our ships after politicians since the very beginning. It's one thing to name them after great figures in politics, like Reagan or Carl Vinson, who was instrumental in bringing about the nuclear Navy, but when we name them after unfortunate congresswomen or stray away from destroyer naming conventions for political correctness, I have a problem.

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  3. Imagine LCS taking so much ordnance impacts...

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    1. That torpedo would have atomized an LCS.

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    2. 500-1100lbs of explosive depending on the model. I’m not sure I fancy the chances of most ships taking one or more of those, below the waterline.

      I mean, contemporary warships don’t seem to have a great track-record with even above-water hits.

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  4. Midshipman Jarvis was not the only Jarvis a US ship was named after.

    From wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Jarvis_(WHEC-725))

    >>The USCGC Jarvis was named for David H. Jarvis, a hero of the United States Revenue Cutter Service. During the harsh winter of 1897–1898, Lieutenant Jarvis of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear led the Overland Relief Expedition to bring needed food to 265 whalers whose ships had been stranded in the ice off the northern coast of Alaska.<<

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  5. You're doing important work here Sarge, illuminating the path of the Fighter Pilot. Which may sound strange given the naval flavor of the post, but you guys know what i mean. The shoe clerks aka self licking turd polishers hate you, which is high praise indeed and worthy of a Congressional Gold Medal depicting the ongoing battle. The sltp's will lose, and hopefully it won't come to actual blows, but we've btdt and won so there's that...

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    1. RE: "self licking turd polishers" - now that is worthy of the Acronym Page.

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  6. Self Licking Turd Pushers WBAGNFAGB. [not a typo]

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    1. Truly grunge and rock are not the same.

      And you're right.

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  7. Once again, ship naming should go back to the days of WWII. Stop naming ships after politicians. Ships should be named after states, cities, important battles, naval (or Marine) heroes. Of which Harvey Milk was not one of. And no ship should be named after a living person, dead only, dead 30 years preferably (it takes about 30 years for all the skeletons to come out of the closet finally mostly) unless it's death in battle and proven.

    As to Jarvis, all three (midshipman, the DD named after the midshipman, and the Coastie mentioned above,) all valiant, all served and served well.

    The midshipman died doing what he was supposed to do. Dying as midshipmen in the age of sail often did. Well fought, well served, riding his charge down in flame and fury. A more modern Jarvis would have made a good fighter pilot with that attitude.

    As to the fight, I'd put the win firmly on the Constellation, as we (the USA) had little naval tradition of our own, while the French Navy, admittedly after a lot of head lopping off during La Revolution, had a long history, maybe not the best history, but a long history. The Constellation was relatively easily repairable, with minimal loss of life, and once at a first-class port she could turn and burn relatively quickly. Which she did. La Vengeance? FUBARed, huge loss of life, severe damage to the ship, long lay-up and repair time, no turn-and-burn for her, you don't beach unless you need to be hull-scraped or you're sinking. The Judges declare a Win for the USA on technical points as both fought to the end of the match and no knockout was received.

    The destroyer? Dang, she blundered (as in stumbled, fell into, came across) a world of hurt everywhere she went. She should have been scuttled after the first torpedo, except we Americans are (or used to be) cussedly determined, and in reality we needed that ship. Wonder who she saved by sucking cruisers and carrier planes onto her and off someone else. Valiant death, horrid death. To be lost without proof of lost, to not know the fate. Horrible. She and her class served very well, and lessons learned from their construction and use went into the next-gen of DDs.

    And, to get political here, almost like one should evolve surface ships from one generation to another, fix this issue, add this component, evolve, evolve, evolve. Kill the friggin mutants, and evolve responsibly. Mutants are fine for testing, and good mutations can be brought into the species, but not all, actually most mutations are deadly.

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    1. Yup, USS Constellation lived to fight another day. USS Jarvis did what destroyers do, fight hard and often die for it.

      Concur with your thoughts on ship names, wholeheartedly!

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    2. (Don McCollor)...the second WW2 destroyer named Laffey took four bombs and 8 kamikaze strikes in an hour and a half. Somehow her crew kept her afloat. She was towed, temporarily repaired, and made her own way to the west coast for repair. She served till 1975. Ships don't walk, but I bet she clanked when she rolled...

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  8. I agree wholeheartedly with the naming of recent ships (USS John P. Murtha?!).

    I had one possible quibble with the post: "USS Jarvis was only one of two ships of the United States to be lost with all hands during World War II". At least 8 US submarines disappeared in WWII with all hands missing and presumed dead, fates not known until after the war. However, they were colloquially known as "boats", not "ships, notwithstanding the USS (United States Ship) in their names. To volunteer to serve in a vessel where anything bad that happens is likely to be Very Bad Indeed, and and often unable to call for help-- well, it's a wonder any of the WWII subs were able to float at all given the weight of the stones those men had.

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    1. Excellent point Larry, when subs are lost, it's typical that the entire crew is lost and remains forever on patrol. I'm sure the author meant "surface" ship. It's unusual for the entire crew to be lost when a surface ship goes down.

      Yes, the sub crews had big ones! (Still do actually.)

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    2. Well, subs are boats, not ships... (running, ducking for cover, tripping over own feat, a person walking backwards just passed him...)

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    3. And ships are commonly called targets by the Silent Service.

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    4. (Don McCollor)...there is a poem by Constantine Guiness (MoMM1/c4) in 1943 in the introduction of Edward Beach's "Submarine" about submarine USS Trigger...'For in that far off land...There are no friends on hand...To answer a call of distress...USS Trigger (SS237) was lost in March 1945..

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)