Naval Institute Proceedings is marking the anniversary of Praying Mantis, the U.S. Navy’s largest surface battle since World War II, by publishing in its April issue an interview of mine with the Roberts’ first chief engineer, Gordan Van Hook. USNI’s other magazine, Naval History, published a brief retelling of the Roberts story in its March issue. As well, the Naval Institute Press chose this week to release a Kindle version of No Higher Honor, my book about the Roberts.
Many of the sailors who helped save the Roberts marked the anniversary with a weekend reunion in Jacksonville, Fla. The frigate is homeported at Naval Station Mayport, and the current captain and crew threw open their ship to the visiting former sailors. For many of the several dozen Roberts shipmates in attendance, it was the first time they had been aboard in more than two decades. “The ship seems a lot smaller than I remember,” was the comment I heard most as the former sailors walked around the ship, finding their racks and old duty stations. But by Sunday night, when the friends and former shipmates compared notes on the Sammy B mine-blast survivors’ Facebook group, more than one had posted, “This is the best weekend of my life.”
A 15-foot marble obelisk is made to be seen, which makes the current location of the Newkirk Viaduct Monument unfortunate.
One of the oldest public artworks in a city famous for them, the spike of white marble stands in the trash-strewn shadow of the 49th Street Bridge, a four-lane roadway in the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Kingsessing. To find it, hike along the bridge’s weedy sidewalk and lean over the concrete railing. Or catch a glimpse from a passing train: the obelisk sits along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor right-of-way, by tracks that also serve SEPTA’s Airport Line.
Neither view gives the 18381839 monument its due. Designed by one of America’s foremost architects, the obelisk carries detailed inscriptions on all four sides: the names of four railroad companies and dozens of their executives and engineers. Now worn by time and obscured by graffiti, the chiseled letters still bear witness to an achievement of vast importance: the completion of a rail link from the young nation’s largest metropolis to the burgeoning cities to the south.
Once upon a time the Newkirk Viaduct Monument stood proudly near the foot of its eponymous bridge near the western bank of the Schuylkill River. Now it sits in obscurity about a quarter-mile inland. What happened?
In West Philly, Saint Bernard Street is less a street name than a collective noun.
It is the designation given to six discrete segments of pavement, all between 49th and 50th Street yet strewn across more than two miles of urban grid. Perhaps because of its fragmented nature, St. Bernard has made relatively little imprint upon the records of a city suffused with history and with people and organizations who labor to document it.
But let us consider just its longest segment — the three blocks of South St. Bernard Street bounded by Florence and Chester Avenues, in the neighborhood of Cedar Park — and inquire: what can the Web tell us about it?
If you happen to seek the book elsewhere, kindly remember that you’re looking for the “No Higher Honor” by me and not the one by Condoleeza Rice. (No, I’m not mad that her 2011 memoir used the title; my book was hardly the first book by the name.) Also, you’re looking for the 2013 paperback edition, not the 2006 hardcover, which Amazon generally insists upon selling at truly ridiculous prices. (By the way, mine is far from the only book to attain such crazy valuations; here’s a 2011 article about the phenomenon, which seems to be linked to various booksellers’ computers comparing each other’s prices rapidly and repeatedly.)
Anyway, I’m grateful to the Naval Institute Press for reissuing No Higher Honor, and to Paul X. Rinn for encouraging them to do so. I occasionally hear from sailors whose ships or schools have made the book mandatory reading; this new edition will make it easier for everyone to get a copy of their own.
Hi, all. Just a note to say that I’m slowly rebuilding the site after some hacker erased it. No, foolishly, I didn’t have a mirror backup. But I do have the text, images, and media, and so I will have it all back online eventually.
Meanwhile, I am also taking the opportunity to move navybook.com to a new ISP and shift it from handcoded HTML to WordPress.
Thanks for visiting, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, kindly check back soon.