While at the Inner Harbor last month, we had some of our members from the U.S. Naval Armed Guard Detachment who also helped participate and explain the Naval Armed Guard in WWII. In the gallery below, you can see them standing at some of their possible gun duty stations. These crew members are part of the NAVHISDET, short for “Naval Historical Detachment” formed back in the 1990’s to help the Armed Guard veterans restore the Navy facilities aboard the ship. The NAVHISDET is comprised mainly of re-enactors and history buffs from up and down the east coast and as far away as Iowa. The men are portraying typical 1940’s era sailors assigned to the Armed Guard branch of the Navy. We have members who are in their 80's and some that are in their teens, who are members of NAVHISDET and Project Liberty Ship. Normally the group helps with living history cruises interpreting the life and roles of the navy men who served on board the merchant ships of WW2, man the “working” gun stations and perform honor guard duties. They also help with the displays in the ship’s US Navy Armed Guard museum located of the port side of the #2 hold tween deck.
Over the years both the veterans and NAVHISDET crew restored the various guns aboard the ship. These stations include on the stern: One 5”38 dual purpose gun (originally she had a WW 1 era 5”51), two dual purpose 3”50 guns and two 20mm anti-aircraft guns. On the flying bridge are four 20mm anti-aircraft guns and the forward gun deck holds two 20mm anti-aircraft guns and one 3”50 dual purpose gun. Of the 12 gun stations on board the two aft 20mm and entire forward gun deck are built to simulate gun fire through use of various gas systems.
One last shot from this month. The crew are always interacting with the public and explaining very specific parts of WWII history aboard Liberty Ships.
Just in case we have not given you enough information...
The U.S. Navy Armed Guard was a service branch of the United States Navy and was
responsible for defending U.S. and Allied merchant ships from attack by enemy aircraft,
submarines and surface ships during World War II. Starting in February 1941 with war
overseas, the U. S. Navy began reforming the Armed Guard to provide gun crews for
duty aboard the country's merchant ships, just as it had done in World War I when crews
were assigned to some 384 U.S. merchant vessels. The first crews were assigned to
ships on April 15, 1941. Due to short supplies most of the armament initially consisted of
.30 and .50 caliber machine guns, World War 1 era deck guns and sometimes painted
telephone poles. It was not until 1945 when the supply of more standard 20 mm
cannon and 3”/50 AA and 5”/38 dual purpose guns could be supplied to all of the
Armed Guard crews, since that weaponry was provided to the capital ships first.
We've got SOOO much more to tell you about but we'll save that for another blog. For
now, here are some shots of the NAVHISDET during Living History cruises in the past...
Until next blog, "Fair winds and following seas..."
Project Liberty Ship, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization engaged in the preservation and operation of the historic ship JOHN W. BROWN as a living memorial museum. Gifts to Project Liberty Ship are tax deductible