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Short Rounds

Rhode Island Sweeps the Seas

At some time or other during American Rev eleven states supported their own maritime forces, only New Jersey and Delaware failing to send some ships to sea.

Most state navy vessels, of which there were several hundred, hardly merit the term "ship," being oared gunboats or floating barges or armed cutters, but some were larger.

The most famous of the state navy vessels was the Katy, a 70-foot merchant sloop built before the outbreak of the Revolution.  She was chartered by the Rhode Island Committee of Safety in June of 1775, armed with ten 4-pounder cannon and sent to sea under Abraham Whipple, later the senior-most American naval officer during the Revolution, to patrol local waters in order to prevent depredations by British warships.  Purchased by the state in October of that year,  the following month she ferried volunteers for the new Continental Navy to Philadelphia.  In December, she was taken into Continental service under the name Providence; and was technically the first ship to join the Continental Navy In February of 1776, "up-armed" to 12 guns and commanded by John Hazard, Providence joined Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron to raid the Bahamas, helping capture Nassau on March 4th, in the Navy’s first overseas amphibious campaign.  Returning with the squadron to New England waters, over the following months Providence assisted in the capture of several British ships.  On May 10, 1776, Capt. John Paul Jones assumed command.

Under Jones’ command, Providence engaged in escort and transportation duties, supporting George Washington’s army in the New York City area.  In mid-August Jones took Providence on an independent cruise.  In a voyage that ended in Narragansett Bay in early October, Providence took or sank nearly a dozen British vessels, worth thousands in prize money, while eluding superior enemy frigates on several occasions.  Jones was then transferred to the larger Alfred, and Providence was entrusted to Capt. Hoysted Hacker.  In a week’s voyage (November 11-19), Alfred and Providence took three valuable prizes, before the latter, troubled by leaks, returned to Newport.  That December Providence joined other American vessels in retreating up the Providence River, after the British seized Newport.

In February 1777 Providence, under Lt. Jonathan Pitcher, ran the British blockade of Narragansett Bay to take a prize off Cape Breton.  Shortly returned to state control, for the balance of 1777, Providence, under Capt. J. P. Rathburn, performed routine duties up and down the East Coast.  In mid-January 1778, operating alone, she again raided Nassau, spiking the guns at the fort, taking a 16-gun British vessel, liberating five American vessels previously taken by the British, freeing 30 American prisoners-of-war, and capturing nearly a ton of valuable gunpowder, bringing all safely back to New Bedford on January 30th.  There followed months in port, due to the British blockade.  However, in the Spring of 1779 Providence eluded the blockade and cruised New England and New York waters, taking the 12-gun brig HMS Diligent with two broadsides on May 7th.

That summer, Providence joined Commo. Dudley Saltonstall’s expedition to Penobscot Bay, I what is now Maine, becoming part of what was the largest fleet to sail under the American flag until the Civil War.  Unfortunately, the expedition was trapped up river by superior British forces  After being blockaded for some weeks, Providence shared the fate of the other vessels, being burned by her crew on August 14th to prevent capture.

During her short career, Providence seems to have engaged in some 40 combat actions.

 

Uncle Sam's Nieces & Nephews Go to School

In April of 1944 Congress passed the Servicemen's Adjustment Act, popularly known as the "G. I. Bill of Rights."  The measure had several objectives.  One was to reward the millions of young men and women who had interrupted their lives to fight the Axis.  The second was a bit subtler, to insure that all those suddenly discharged men and women didn't flood the job market, creating an economic disaster.

The G.I. Bill provided honorably discharged personnel who had been on active duty for at least 90 days from Sept 16, 1940, with:

  • Educational & Training Grants: Assistance in completing their education or in taking job training.
  • Loans:  Federally underwritten credit to help buy a new home, and to start a farm or a business.
  • Unemployment Insurance: $20 a week for one year, which came to be known as the "52/20 Club"
  • Job Placement Assistance

Of these programs, the one that had the most noticeable effect was the home loan provision.  Because it mandated that loans could only be used for the purchase of newly constructed homes, it sparked the massive suburbanization that swept the country in the post-war period. 

But it was the educational benefit that probably had the greatest impact on the nation.  All eligible veterans were entitled to one year of fully paid educational benefits, plus an additional year for each year of their service, up to a total of 48 months, with a maximum of $500 a year for tuition, books, fees, and other training costs.  Unmarried veterans in an approved educational program were entitled to $50 a month in subsistence allowance, which was raised to $65 in 1946, and $75 in 1948, with appropriate additions for dependants.. 

 Until the program was ended in mid-1956, more than half of America's approximately 15.5 million World War II veterans, took advantage of the educational benefits of the G.I. Bill,  for a total of 7.8 million men and women.

  • 2.23 million went to college
  • 3.48 million attended technical institutes and schools
  • 1.4 million participated in on-the-job-training programs, often run by unions or industry
  • 690,000 underwent agricultural training

The total cost of the educational part of the G.I. Bill was $14.5 billion, about $1,860 per veteran.

The payoff from this investment was enormous. As millions of men and women who would never have gone to college completed their education, to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists, helping to fuel the economic boom that began in the late '40s and continued for nearly three decades.

BookNote:  For further reading, see Glenn Altschuler's and Stuart Blumin's The GI Bill: The New Deal for Veterans (Pivotal Moments in American History)

 


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