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By John Kennedy, U.S. Naval War College Museum
Nov. 23, 2012

Author Chipp Reid spoke about his latest book, "Intrepid Sailors: The Legacy of Preble’s Boys and the Tripoli Campaign," at the Eight Bells Lecture on Nov. 8 at the Naval War College Museum. About 30 braved some nasty weather to attend.

Following the previous week’s presentation by retired Rear Adm. Terry McKnight that looked at piracy off the Somali coastline, Reid’s book harkened back to the days of the Barbary pirates to hear about developments of the U.S. Navy. Locally, as we drive around the area, we see street names that call to mind the events of this campaign: Perry, Decatur, Bainbridge, Lawrence, Intrepid and Constitution.

Their namesakes and others are to be found in the pages of Reid’s book as he offers great insights into the lives and personalities of these early American officers and presents some of the key events that established the reputation of the Navy as a force with which to be reckoned.

Not all of the events that transpired were glorious. Capt. William Bainbridge’s loss of the 38-gun Philadelphia, the secondmost powerful ship in Preble’s squadron, was a dark day for the Navy. The treatment of the captured crew spoke to the brutality of the bashaw and further cemented Bainbridge’s reputation as an unlucky officer. While the crew met with short rations and forced labor, Bainbridge started a letter writing campaign to salvage his reputation.

On the brighter side, the actions of Stephen Decatur and his crew of volunteers were commendable as they were able to slip into the harbor at Tripoli and took over the Philadelphia. After setting fire to the frigate and barely escaping the engulfing flames, they escaped the harbor.

On Nov. 15, the lecture series hosted retired Coast Guard Capt. Robert Workman who spoke about his new book, Float Planes and Flying Boats. Workman has over 8,000 hours experience in a variety of aircraft, including helicopters, fixed wing, and even the last of the flying boats.

Starting in 2011 to mark the centennial of naval aviation, this lecture series has hosted numerous lectures on aviation, Navy and Marine Corps, Army Air Corps and Air Force. With this presentation, the emphasis was on the development of the air arm of the U.S. Coast Guard. Yet, this lecture was more than just the Coast Guard story since, from the earliest days, Coast Guard and naval aviation were closely tied by training and aircraft types. This book adds greatly to the story of the earliest pioneers of aviation, their courage and vision, and their sacrifices to get us to the place we are today. It is an excellent story and a valuable reference resource due to the many photographs and extensive documentation.

The next lecture will be Nov. 29 on the book, "A Plain Sailorman in China," by Bruce Swanson with Vance
Morrison. As Swanson died prior to the completion of the book, Morrison will present this story about the first naval attaché to China, Cmdr. I.V. Gillis.

For more information or reservations, please contact the Naval War College Museum at 841-2101.

Posted by Dan Marciniak