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SeaKnight_1990

Greatest Forgotten Commanders

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On 8/17/2018 at 3:42 AM, So_lt_Goes said:

My favorite was Norman Scott,  a real cruiser man. Captain of Pensacola at the start of the war, the victor of Cape Esperance  and victim (of Callaghan's incompetence) at First Guadalcanal.

I'm reading Neptune's Inferno right now and Rear Admiral Scott has quickly become one of my favourite figures of the Guadalcanal campaign.

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I would probably say the Admirals who stood up for the navy in the 1949 Revolt of the Admirals, when the idea of dissolving the navy and the marine corps was floated in favor of the Air Force's long range strategic bombers 

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I don't think VADM Bill Glassford gets enough credit for his handling of TF5 in the East Indies campaign, especially the withdrawal from the Philippines and the good old four-pipers of  DESDIV 59 at Balikpapan. No achievements of Nelsonian proportions, but the man did exceedingly well with what he had against insurmountable odds, not just in battle but in managing an impossible strategic and logistics situation.

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British Captain Frederick John Walker, the most successful anti-submarine warfare commander in the Atlantic during WW2.   His nickname was "Johnnie Walker" for the famous whiskey.

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Admiral Raymond Spruance. He would not had been suckered at the Battle of  Leyte Gulf.

Lt. Commanders Bruce McCandless (comm officer) and  Herbert E. Schonland (Damage Control Officer) of USS San Francisco during the battle of Guadalcanal. A direct hit on the bridge wounded all the officers save McCandless. Command should had devolved to Schonland, but he felt he was needed to keep the ship afloat and right side up and told McCandless to take the conn. Both won the Medal of Honor for their actions. First time I've read of 2 MOH's being given to the same ship for the same action.

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Well it's February so it seems fitting to mention Captain Robert Smalls:

Spoiler

In honor of Black History Month, I'm about to blow your mind by telling you about the most badass historical figure you never learned about in school. If you have heard of him, then you probably already know who I'm about to say. If you haven't, you're not going to believe that nobody ever told you about this guy. I'm talking about Robert Smalls.

Robert Smalls was born into slavery on a South Carolina plantation. As a youth, he was permitted to go to Charleston and work, though he was forced to send most of his wages back to his master. He began taking jobs at the docks in Charleston Harbor, and later on some of the ships that came and went from the port. By the time the Civil War came around, Smalls had become an experienced seaman, so he was assigned to steer a Confederate Navy vessel called the Planter, based out of Charleston. The crew consisted of a few white officers and a number of slaves.

Smalls went to great lengths to show the Confederates that he was trustworthy and content; they never knew that he was hatching an elaborate plan to escape from slavery and deal a blow to the Confederacy, and that he had secretly recruited most of the enslaved crew in his plot. Then one night, when the Planter had docked in Charleston with a shipment of heavy guns aboard, Smalls put his plan into action. When the officers went ashore for the evening and left the ship in the care of the enslaved crew, Smalls led them in hijacking the vessel. They made one stop at another set of docks to pick up the families of Smalls and other crew members, who waited in hiding after having been notified of the scheme in advance.

They weren't in the clear yet, though, because they still had to sail past a number of Confederate checkpoints on their way to freedom. But Smalls had a plan for that, too: he had been watching the captain and learning the hand signals he used at the checkpoints. Donning the captain's uniform and trademark straw hat, he guided the Planter past five Confederate harbor forts by impersonating the captain and displaying the correct signals. By the time anyone realized the Planter had gone missing, it was too far gone to catch. He had his crew replace the Confederate flags aboard the ship with white ones, and they were intercepted by a Union vessel who saw the white flags just before they were about to fire. The Union sailors were perplexed by the sight of an all-black crew, until Robert Smalls came forward and shouted, "Good morning, sir! I've brought you some of the old United States guns, sir!" He then asked the Union sailors to give him a United States flag to raise on the Planter.

Robert Smalls' story would be amazing if it ended there, but it doesn't. After receiving a large sum of prize money for his delivery, he entered service in the Union Navy as a pilot on several vessels, including the repurposed Planter. In this role, he removed mines that he had helped lay as a slave, and participated in a number of sea battles. During one battle, the fighting grew so intense that the captain of the Planter hid in the interior of the ship and ordered the crew to surrender. Fearing that the black crewmen would be enslaved or killed if captured, Smalls refused to surrender; instead, he took command of the ship and navigated the Planter through the Confederate onslaught to safety. Because of his bravery, Smalls was promoted to captain himself, becoming one of the highest ranking and highest paid black officers in the Civil War.

Smalls leveraged his resulting fame into social activism, throwing his support into an initiative to educate former slaves, and becoming literate himself (in most Confederate states, it was illegal to teach a black person to read). While riding a streetcar in Philadelphia, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white passenger; Smalls left the car, rather than suffer the indignity of being forced to ride on the overflow platform. When word got out that a decorated hero of the Civil War had been humiliated thusly, it prompted a backlash that led to the integration of public transportation in Pennsylvania.

But Robert Smalls STILL wasn't finished. He entered politics, serving in the South Carolina legislature before becoming one of the first black people elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1874. And he remained active in public life into the 20th century; in 1913, he prevented the lynching of two black men accused of murder in his town by warning the mayor that the local black population would burn the city to the ground if the mob was not stopped.

And the plantation where Smalls had grown up a slave? He purchased it after the war, and lived there until his death in 1915. The monument at his grave is inscribed with this quote: "My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life."

And that is the story of the great American hero Robert Smalls, known by too few people today. I hope this post inspires some folks to learn more about his impressive life.

 

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On 2/11/2019 at 12:35 AM, Landsraad said:

Well it's February so it seems fitting to mention Captain Robert Smalls:

  Hide contents

In honor of Black History Month, I'm about to blow your mind by telling you about the most badass historical figure you never learned about in school. If you have heard of him, then you probably already know who I'm about to say. If you haven't, you're not going to believe that nobody ever told you about this guy. I'm talking about Robert Smalls.

Robert Smalls was born into slavery on a South Carolina plantation. As a youth, he was permitted to go to Charleston and work, though he was forced to send most of his wages back to his master. He began taking jobs at the docks in Charleston Harbor, and later on some of the ships that came and went from the port. By the time the Civil War came around, Smalls had become an experienced seaman, so he was assigned to steer a Confederate Navy vessel called the Planter, based out of Charleston. The crew consisted of a few white officers and a number of slaves.

Smalls went to great lengths to show the Confederates that he was trustworthy and content; they never knew that he was hatching an elaborate plan to escape from slavery and deal a blow to the Confederacy, and that he had secretly recruited most of the enslaved crew in his plot. Then one night, when the Planter had docked in Charleston with a shipment of heavy guns aboard, Smalls put his plan into action. When the officers went ashore for the evening and left the ship in the care of the enslaved crew, Smalls led them in hijacking the vessel. They made one stop at another set of docks to pick up the families of Smalls and other crew members, who waited in hiding after having been notified of the scheme in advance.

They weren't in the clear yet, though, because they still had to sail past a number of Confederate checkpoints on their way to freedom. But Smalls had a plan for that, too: he had been watching the captain and learning the hand signals he used at the checkpoints. Donning the captain's uniform and trademark straw hat, he guided the Planter past five Confederate harbor forts by impersonating the captain and displaying the correct signals. By the time anyone realized the Planter had gone missing, it was too far gone to catch. He had his crew replace the Confederate flags aboard the ship with white ones, and they were intercepted by a Union vessel who saw the white flags just before they were about to fire. The Union sailors were perplexed by the sight of an all-black crew, until Robert Smalls came forward and shouted, "Good morning, sir! I've brought you some of the old United States guns, sir!" He then asked the Union sailors to give him a United States flag to raise on the Planter.

Robert Smalls' story would be amazing if it ended there, but it doesn't. After receiving a large sum of prize money for his delivery, he entered service in the Union Navy as a pilot on several vessels, including the repurposed Planter. In this role, he removed mines that he had helped lay as a slave, and participated in a number of sea battles. During one battle, the fighting grew so intense that the captain of the Planter hid in the interior of the ship and ordered the crew to surrender. Fearing that the black crewmen would be enslaved or killed if captured, Smalls refused to surrender; instead, he took command of the ship and navigated the Planter through the Confederate onslaught to safety. Because of his bravery, Smalls was promoted to captain himself, becoming one of the highest ranking and highest paid black officers in the Civil War.

Smalls leveraged his resulting fame into social activism, throwing his support into an initiative to educate former slaves, and becoming literate himself (in most Confederate states, it was illegal to teach a black person to read). While riding a streetcar in Philadelphia, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white passenger; Smalls left the car, rather than suffer the indignity of being forced to ride on the overflow platform. When word got out that a decorated hero of the Civil War had been humiliated thusly, it prompted a backlash that led to the integration of public transportation in Pennsylvania.

But Robert Smalls STILL wasn't finished. He entered politics, serving in the South Carolina legislature before becoming one of the first black people elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1874. And he remained active in public life into the 20th century; in 1913, he prevented the lynching of two black men accused of murder in his town by warning the mayor that the local black population would burn the city to the ground if the mob was not stopped.

And the plantation where Smalls had grown up a slave? He purchased it after the war, and lived there until his death in 1915. The monument at his grave is inscribed with this quote: "My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life."

And that is the story of the great American hero Robert Smalls, known by too few people today. I hope this post inspires some folks to learn more about his impressive life.

 

Landsraad,

Awesome post.  While I have actually heard the name of Smalls, I did not know the story associated with him.  Comps from me!

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