Updated: Aug 11
January 2nd - Machine Gun Battery's Commission
This month’s facts are a little different: for January, we are going to focus on historical January events.
In January of 1943, the Machine Gun Battery entered commission. By January of the following year, the Dahlgren Main Battery had ten major caliber guns (e.g. 16-inch) and seventeen smaller caliber guns. This led to the establishment of a Gunner’s Mate School in January of 1944 for training prospective fleet gunners in operations, maintenance, and safely handling the ammunition for all caliber guns on Navy ships.
Image: U. S. Navy Photo
January 9th - VT Radio Proximity Fuse's First Use in Combat
Last week we mentioned that, in January of 1943, the Machine Gun Battery entered commission. That same month and year, the VT radio proximity fuse was first used in combat.
Developed and tested at Dahlgren, its use allowed the U. S. Army to more effectively defend Bastogne, Belgium, and Gen. George Patton declared that it “won the Battle of the Bulge for us” in December 1944 – January 1945.
Image: (U. S. Navy Photo)
January 16th - Operation Desert Storm and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)
On this day in 1991, Operation Desert Storm launched, and soon after, J Department developed Identification Friend or Foe (IFF). Marines needed a method to identify friendly forces, and they needed it in two weeks. Over 100 Dahlgren and White Oak employees worked to analyze the problem and designed, built, and tested a solution - a small box with electric circuits and a large shrouded lens to emit a light. Allied pilots and ground troops would recognize the light, but enemy forces would overlook it. A small team deployed to Saudi Arabia and installed 310 IFF devices on Marine vehicles. The device was replaced by a commercial product that was more sophisticated, but the Dahlgren device was there quickly.
Would you like to see an IFF device in person? Come visit the museum Fridays through Sundays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Image: Identification Friend or Foe Device
January 23rd - A History of the 5 U.S. Navy Ticonderogas, the Last with the AEGIS System
On this day, in 1983, the AEGIS combat system entered service as the USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was commissioned.
The U.S. Navy has actually had five ships named Ticonderoga, after the 1775 capture of Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary War.
The first USS Ticonderoga was built as a merchant steamer in 1814, purchased by the Navy, and then converted to a 17-gun schooner and used in service from 1814 to 1825. During the Battle of Plattsburgh, when firing matches proved defective, Midshipman Hiram Paulding used his pistol to discharge a cannon. The wooden schooner’s remains were rediscovered in 1958 and are on public display in Whitehall, New York.
The next USS Ticonderoga was a screw sloop-of-war in commission from 1863 to 1881. During the Civil War she protected Union commerce in the West Indies, hunted Confederate commerce raiders off the New England coast, and participated in the first and second battles to take Fort Fisher in North Carolina. In December of 1878, the Ticonderoga embarked upon a two-year cruise around the world, sailing from Hampton Roads and finishing the journey in San Francisco after steaming in excess of 36,000 miles without a mishap. Her bell is on display at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan.
The third USS Ticonderoga was originally built in Germany in 1914 as a steamer, the Camilla Rickmers. United States Customs officials seized her in 1917 and turned her over to the Navy, who fitted her out as an animal transport as part of the Naval Overseas Transporation Service for World War I and renamed her Ticonderoga. In September of 1918, while carrying Army cargo bound for Europe, she developed engine trouble and dropped behind the rest of the convoy. She was then attacked by the German submarine SM U-152. After a two-hour battle, the Ticonderoga slipped beneath the sea. Only 24 of the 237 sailors and soldiers on board survived.
Another USS Ticonderoga (CV/CVA/CVS-14), commissioned in 1944, operated in several Pacific Theater campaigns during World War II, earning five battle stars. Thanks to the quick thinking of her captain, she survived severe damage sustained during kamikaze attacks in 1945. After modernization as an attack carrier (CVA) and later an antisubmarine carrier (CVS), the Ticonderoga was very active in the Vietnam War, earning several awards. Later in her career, she participated in the recovery of Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 and recovered Skylab 2 astronauts. The Ticonderoga was decommissioned in 1973 and sold for scrap in 1975.
The fifth USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) was a guided missile cruiser, the lead ship of the Ticonderoga class, and the first to incorporate the AEGIS combat system, which allowed her to track and engage aerial targets more effectively than ever before. Her award-winning service career began in 1983, which included participation in Operation Desert Storm as part of Battle Force Zulu. In the 1990s and 2000s, Ticonderoga ran counternarcotics missions. Despite attempts by the Navy to offer her as a museum donation after her decommissioning, the Ticonderoga was scheduled for scrapping in 2020.
Would you like to see a model of the fifth USS Ticonderoga – with the AEGIS system – in person? Come visit the museum Fridays through Sundays, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Image: USS Ticonderoga, 1990. (U.S. Navy Photo)
January 30th - The Tomahawk
In January of 1972, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird ordered the development of the Strategic Cruise Missile, which was ultimately renamed Tomahawk.
This missile provided a greater ability to attack land targets from a ship or submarine without having to come so close to shore. It was first launched from a surface vessel, the USS Merrill, on March 19, 1980, and was first used in combat in 1991 during the Gulf War. Various labs across the United States worked on the Tomahawk, including Dahlgren, which handled the Software Support Activity because of its computer capabilities. Dahlgren was also involved in developing special, vertical missile launchers that were built into a ship’s internal structure, as opposed to the previous launchers that took up valuable deck space.
Image: (U.S. Navy Photo)