BOSTON, Mass. – With the US Navy increasingly stretched trying to meet its commitments in both the Pacific and the Middle East, the Department of the Navy announced today that it will be re-activating its entire mothball fleet for upcoming Middle East deployments, including the USS Constitution.
According to Navy officials, the Constitution, currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of her victory over the British warship HMS Guerriere, will relieve the destroyer USS Porter, which was damaged last month in a collision in the Strait of Hormuz while playing chicken with a lighthouse.
“I cannot think of a better way to honor those who fought in the War of 1812, as well as celebrate Constitution’s past successes, than for the ship to once again sail under arms,” said Commander Matt Bonner, the 72nd commanding officer of the Constitution.
Navy officials are also hoping that the favorable publicity will help raise awareness of its core mission of protecting the freedom of the seas and remind the public about the 285 ships in the Navy’s inventory that do not involve SEALs.
One Admiral, speaking off the record, said that Navy leadership is also confident that this upcoming deployment will go better than the Constitution‘s 2011 anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.
During that deployment, the Constitution spent several hours laboriously attempting to use the wind to maneuver into firing position against several small agile motorboats full of Somali pirates, but was unable to avoid the protracted long range enfilade fire of heavy machine gun fire from the pirate boats.
“That was the day we stopped calling her ‘Old Ironsides’,” said one member of the Constitution’s crew, referring to the nickname the ship received after numerous British cannonballs bounced off her sides. “She may have stood up to a 32-pounder [cannon] back in 1812, but those .50 caliber machine guns just ripped her apart.”
The Navy’s official report on the incident said that not only did the pirates’ heavy machine gun fire easily pierce the hull from the front, almost severing a mast belowdecks, but also pierced the ship’s internal bulkheads, in some cases exiting through the captain’s cabin at the back of the ship. Additionally, several cannons were cut loose and crashed around like rampaging bulls as the ship pitched to and fro on the waves.
The pirates finally retreated after the Constitution’s foremast fell on and sank a pirate skiff that was closing to land a boarding party.
When the ship was finally able to capture a group of pirates whose engine had failed, and because no one had bothered to update the Constitution’s 1853 Navy Regulations prior to sailing, Commander Bonner promptly had them hanged from the yardarm.
Duffel Blog investigative writer Dark Laughter also contributed to this report.