For those of you unfamiliar with the FRA, the following is a statement about their organization. “The FRA is a congressionally chartered, non-profit organization that represents the interests of the Sea Service community before the U.S. Congress. The Association is named after the Navy’s program for personnel transferring to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve after 20 or more years of active duty, but less than 30 years for retirement purposes and its membership is comprised of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines.”
At such an occasion as the Navy Birthday, October 13, 1775, a guest of honor, or keynote speaker is part of the evening’s activities. On this occasion, the keynote speaker was Rear Admiral (RADM) Bonnie B. Potter. She is retired from the Navy, but she was one of the groundbreakers, pushing through the “glass ceiling” back when women were still excluded from many positions within the military construct. She became the first female “Flag” medical physician in any branch of the service in 1997 when she was promoted to RDML, referring to Rear Admiral Lower Half, or a “1 Star.” Flag rank refers to any Admiral or General officer rank. RADM is the Navy acronym for Rear Admiral Upper Half, or what might be more easily referred to as a “2 Star.” Admiral Potter lives with her husband in Auburn, California where they raise alpacas.
During her speech, Admiral Potter told a story about the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, the USS Constitution. I had heard this story before, but I so enjoyed it again that I thought you might enjoy it too. It must be noted that this story has had a number of variations.
The USS Constitution, as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers). However, what follows is supposed to have been recorded in the ship’s logbook.
“On July 27, 1798, the USS Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.
The mission of the USS Constitution was to destroy and harass English shipping.
Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England. In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.
By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.
The USS Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.”
Ah well! Such is some of the legend and lore of the United States Navy. It is a long and colorful history – all 237 years. Happy Birthday!