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July 24, 2006

A series of fortuitous events.

Or how a retired artilleryman found himself traveling to Mexico to help repatriate a US WWII Fletcher-class destroyer back to the United States.

"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth."

No, that's going a bit *too* far back I think. This is a blog post, not a Bill Whittle essay. Hmmmm.

So, what do Jonah Goldberg, torpedoes, Destroyers, Mexico, and I have in common?

During the March Upcountry, the campaign was being followed on the National Review Online blog, "The Corner," a blog started by Jonah. I was emailing Jonah comments and observations on what was going on, and Jonah started posting some of them. And he called me his "Military Guy," just as Dusty was doing at the same time, earning the sobriquet of "Airpower Guy." (Now the tagline for the blog makes more sense, eh? Well, except for the Sugarbuttons part, but that's a different story). SWWBO was impressed, blogs were new, and suddenly "Argghhh!" appeared on Blogspot. Okay. What's that got to do with me, Mexico, and a destroyer?

Robert Whitehead, inventor of the locomotion torpedo

Well, first, I have to thank Robert Whitehead. Why? He invented the locomotive torpedo in 1868. When Admiral Farragut said "Damn the torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!" on August 5, 1864 at the Battle of Mobile Bay, what he was referring to was, to modern sensibilities, a type of floating mine made out of beer and wine casks.

Now they are a tad more complex.

Navies jumped on this idea - lots of small, fast boats, carrying weapons capable of sinking the big warships. What's not to like? Especially if you can't *afford* those big capital ships yourself? (Lest anyone think that was a quaint, outmoded idea... can you say Boghammer, or talk to the crew of the USS Cole?)

HMS Lightning, the Royal Navy's first torpedo boat.

*That* offended the Battleship Admirals of the Royal Navy, who didn't like the thought of little boats commanded by Ensigns sinking the floating fortresses commanded by Captains and carrying Admirals. Ships commanded by Lieutenant Commanders, perhaps, but not Ensigns! Field Grade, at least!

So in 1886 they developed a new class of ship. Fast, lightly armored, carrying lots of fast-firing weapons and, *koff*, torpedoes. They were intended to deal with the deadly little mosquitoes. And these they grandiosely titled "Torpedo Boat Catchers."

But wait! That was waaaay too passive sounding, so it quickly changed to "Torpedo Boat Destroyers." This was later shortened to "Destroyers." Staff Officers in the halls of power aren't much different now, wanting to change "Happy" to "Glad" and score that medal (see Norman Polmar's article "Perverting the System" in the July 2006 issue of Proceedings)!

Now you know how Destroyers got their designation.

I'll spare you the horrible details of Destroyer Development, despite how much fun I've had reading about it.

Fast forward to 1941, and the next event. December 7. Pearl Harbor. WWII. And now the US is going to go on a shipbuilding binge without parallel in modern history And we're going to need modern destroyers to escort and scout and sub-hunt and bombard shores, etc. Lot's of them.

While we went into the war with several classes of Destroyer, the workhorses of the war were the Fletchers. And this story will revolve around the last of the "High Bridge" Fletchers, DD-574, the USS John Rodgers. The Rodgers received more battle stars from her service in World War II than any other surviving destroyer from that war. Which is one of the reasons we want to keep her out of the hands of the breakers.

After the war, she found herself at loose ends and in storage, when she got a new lease on life - in the Mexican Navy. The ship was transferred to Mexico 1 May 1968. She served in the Mexican Navy as BAM Cuitláhuac, named after Cuitláhuac (?–1520), the second-to-last Aztec emperor of the Mexica.

<i>BAM Cuitláhuac</i>, the ex-<i>USS John Rodgers</i>, DD-574

The Cuitláhuac was retired by the Mexican Navy 16 July 2002—bringing to an end the 60-year history of the Fletchers.

Enter Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee, and Ward Brewer of Beauchamp Tower Corporation (BTC). More details on BTC and Ward's plans for coastal disaster response ships and how all *that* ties to this in a later post.... Ward collects warships like I collect rifles. Obviously, Ward isn't an employee of the government... Ward is also not a fan of the MSM. He wanted the story of the repatriation of the Rodgers to be told by milbloggers, and asked Bob for a recommendation. Bob recommended me.

The Cuitláhuac was transferred to the ownership of U.S.-based nonprofit Beauchamp Tower Corporation on December 7, 2005. She will be moved back to the United States in 2006 and restored, with it ultimately becoming a World War II Pacific Theater Museum.

She starts her tow back the US 1 August, with an expected arrival at Mobile around 15 August.

And I'm going to cover it. We leave Wednesday for the Mexican Navy base at Lázaro Cardenas del Rio to do the final inspection and rig her for tow.

I'm the Project Scribe. And, since I'm the Armorer, I'm also the guy who's going to secure her guns so that the State Department will rest comfortably that we aren't going to be engaging in any piracy while we schlep her back to Mobile, Alabama, not all that far from where she was launched, the Consolidated Steel Corporation shipyards of Orange, Texas.

She'll be met at the International Limit by a Coast Guard cutter and escorted to her temporary home while Customs and the ATFE do their jobs. Several of her former crew will meet her there, going out on the cutter to greet their old ship upon her return.

Now, ain't this just cool? I don't make any money blogging - but this is a nice perk!

Follow the story day by day as it unfolds. I'm also shilling for links to the posts documenting the return of the Rodgers. Mr. Ward Brewer, the leader of our merry band, wants this story to be spread by the blogosphere, and is eschewing the MSM (we are bringing a documentary film crew).

If you'd like to be on the distro list for the posts related to this project, drop me a line at johnbethd*at* and I'll add you to the distro. That's anyone, not just milbloggers!

i'm also looking for bloggers near Mobile, Alabama who would be able to be there 15-18 August when the Rodgers is expected to arrive. You could score a trip out on the Coast Guard cutter with her former crew members who are going out to meet her when she arrives.

John | Permalink | Comments (40) | Historical Stuff
» MilBlogs links with: Repatriating the USS John Rodgers (DD-574) to the US.
» BLACKFIVE links with: Bloggers Save Destroyer!
» Confederate Yankee links with: Yo ho, yo ho...
» The Indepundit links with: Saving a Piece of History
» CDR Salamander links with: Green Salamander, defined
» Not Exactly Rocket Science links with: What an awesome trip....
» The Wood Shed links with: Reclaiming a Piece of History: DD-574
» EagleSpeak links with: An Army guy goes messing about in boats
» TechnoChitlins links with: History comes to my back yard
» TechnoChitlins links with: History comes to my back yard
» Confederate Yankee links with: The Longest Trip Home
» Murdoc Online links with: Linkzookery
» The Coalition of the Swilling links with: An Adventure at Sea
» Varifrank links with: A Fletcher Comes Home
» MilBlogs links with: USS John Rodgers/BAM Cúitlahuac
» The Gantry Launchpad links with: When Johnny comes sailing home again, hurrah!
» The Gantry Launchpad links with: When Johnny comes sailing home again, hurrah!