And Forgotten Sea Battles

This site will focus on my favorite ships and sea battles, in the age between the first ironclads and the modern, 'Dreadnought'-type battleships. This is a period of naval history that is often overlooked, but I love it for the often-bizarre and sometimes graceful ship designs. The photos here are of me at two preserved ships from this time period, the Japanese battleship MIKASA in Yokosuka, Japan (1994) and the American protected cruiser OLYMPIA, in Philadelphia (1989). The Mikasa was Admiral Togo's flagship when he annihilated the forces of the Russian Empire in 1904-1905, a major event in the rise of Japan's own modern Empire; the Olympia was Dewey's flagship when he destroyed the Spanish colonial squadron in the Philippines in 1898, America's introduction to overseas commitments. Anyone who ever wondered why the two expanding nations were destined for Pearl Harbor and World War II understands the historical significance of these two ships. Strangely, after WWII the Americans were forward-thinking enough to help preserve the Mikasa, and yet the USS Oregon (a famous Spanish-American war battleship meant to be a memorial) was not saved during the war.

One hundred years ago was a very different era. It was a time when a few great powers had global hegemony while many other nations struggled to build, buy or steal the technology needed for them to have a chance at catching up. It was a time when bigoted Christian missionaries used bribes, intimidation, and murderous plots to undermine non-Christian socities and crush all other religions. Fundamentalist and racist imperialists were using political clout to call in the gunboats of their home countries whenever their underhanded attempts to overthrow native leaders failed. Xenophobic Muslim fanatics trying to turn back the clock to the glory days of the Caliphate rose up against corrupt governments and colonialist puppets, pitting suicidal tactics against superior firepower. The Balkans were in chaos, with every ethnic group trying to carve out its own little nation. South American governments were repeatedly undermined and replaced by equally irresponsible juntas or dictatorships. Corporate interests were powerful enough to influence foreign policy and bring about military interventions against uncooperative governments. The competitive, greedy business of the news media raised the call for wars by exploiting or even fabricating reports of conspiracies and atrocities. Yes, it was a very different time from what we are living through today.


The best references and sources for pictures of all ships, including obscure ones, are Conway's All the World's Warships (multiple volumes, the 1860-1905 book covering my favorite era) and a series of Jane's Fighting Ships re-issues (reprints of the 1898, 1905-6 and 1914 volumes of that series--which have contemporary information and show what was known and not known about many fleets at the time). Also of interest due to their obscure subjects are two books, the "Chinese Steam Navy" and the "Ottoman Steam Navy" (not part of a series of books however). "Epic Sea Battles" by William Koenig is an old childhood favorite.

Other links about ships and naval warfare

The Pre-Dreadnought preservation site

The Spanish American War (an excellent site with lots of photos and information on the two fleets)

The Russo-Japanese War (includes battle descriptions, maps, ship name translations)

Navies in Transition

  • Alternate History:

    The US Navy oiler Kaskaskia, World War II.

    Ship Links: A site on the World War II oiler Kaskaskia (AO-27)

    Navy Links: The Naval Construction Battalions (Seabees)

    Navy Links: A history of the Seabees in WWII

    The Japanese battleship Nagato, photographed by my grandfather serving on the USS Kaskaskia just after the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II. This was the last of Japan's once-powerful fleet of battleships still afloat. Later it (and several other captured and retired warships) would be hit by an atomic bomb to test the effects of the new weaponry on naval warfare.

    The USS Cairo, Civil War ironclad
    USS Cairo (another webpage)

    Can't explain why I picked up this interest. I'm a peaceful landlubber.

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