Saturday, January 23, 2010

USS LOS ANGELES Decommissioning Ceremony

From the Navy:

The Decommissioning Ceremony of the USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) submarine occurred on Janury 23, 2010 at the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, California.

The USS Los Angeles was the fourth naval ship to be named after the City of Los Angeles, and was the lead ship of her class. She was launched on April 6, 1974 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock company in Newport News, Virginia.

On May 27, 1977, she hosted President Jimmy Carter and Admiral Hyman Rickover for an at-sea demonstration of the capabilities of the nation's newest fast attack submarine.

The USS Los Angeles commenced the first Engineered Refueling Overhaul of a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine in the early 1990s.  During this overhaul, she was outfitted with the latest state-of-the-art sonar and fire control systems, as well as the Navy's newest reactor controls equipment. These extensive upgrades made her one of the most advanced submarines in the world at the time.

Her many capabilities include wartime functions of undersea warfare, surface warfare, strike warfare, mining operations, special forces delivery, reconnaissance, carrier battle group support and escort and intelligence collection.

Excerpts from the Daily Breeze newspaper article (1/23/10):

The USS Los Angeles was commissioned in 1976 to spy on enemy Soviet ships during the Cold War, spawning 44 similar models that will eventually be replaced over the next several years by the larger, more technologically advanced Virginia class of submarines.

"The Los Angeles-class subs were designed for a 30-year lifespan and so, unfortunately, it's time to start taking them apart," said Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, a Navy spokesman.

Commander Steven M. Harrison was the last Commanding Officer of the USS Los Angeles (SSN 688).

**San Pedro played an early role in the development of the Navy's submarine force. For part of this history, please see this prior post:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Early History of the San Pedro Fishermen's Fiesta

In the decades after World War II, the San Pedro Fishermen's Fiesta was a colorful extravaganza that paid tribute to the Port of Los Angeles-based fishing industry, the largest in the nation for a good part of the twentieth century.

During its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s the Fiesta attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators and was acclaimed as the third most photographed special event in the nation (behind the Tournament of Roses and the Mardi Gras). Well-known celebrities and politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Pat Brown and Richard Nixon attended.

The origin of the San Pedro Fishermen's Fiesta dates to the years preceeding the Second World War. Near the end of summer, San Pedro fishermen would take their families to nearby Catalina Island  for a "big picnic" before the start of school. Frank Canetti, a former Fiesta director, said in an interview in 1982 that as a young boy he remembered a fleet of 50 to 60 decorated boats being blessed and then sailing with crew and families for a weekend at the Island.

Although it wasn't called the "Fishermen's Fiesta," on March 26, 1938 about 100 decorated, flag-bedecked purse seiners (fishing vessels) paraded through Los Angeles Harbor. This was a celebration by the Fishermen's Co-operative Association to dedicate its new terminals and clubhouse at the Southern Pacific slip.

On Sunday, October 21, 1945 what can be called the first "formal" Fishermen's Fiesta took place in the harbor. Thousands of dockside spectators watched more than 100 brightly decorated fishing boats sail a 20-mile course past anchored warships and Cabrillo Beach, into the main channel at Wilmington, and around Rainbow Pier at Long Beach.

Occurring shortly after the end of World War II, this salute to the local fishing fleet was billed as a Victory Parade. The winner of first prize was the boat City of Naples II that carried a living replica of the famous Flag raising on Iwo Jima.  Fishing industry spokesmen proclaimed that the fishing industry at the Port of Los Angeles was an important wartime supplier of food, supplying more than 12,000,000 gallons of sardine oil to strategic war industries for example.

On October 6, 1946, the Second Annual Fishermen's Fiesta was held from 10:00 A.M. to midnight at the "World's No. 1 Fishing Port." There were no Fiestas in Los Angeles Harbor the following two years, but the nautical parade returned with a vengeance in 1949 (with four days of festivities from September 8-11).

The 1949 Fiesta featured a coronation of a “King Fisherman” and dedication of a newly built $1,500,000 fishermen’s dock christened by Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron with a splash of waters brought from the Seven Seas.

*Above image shows a photo of the fishing vessel San Antonio participating in the 1949 Fiesta.
**Stay tuned for further history of the San Pedro Fishermen's Fiesta.

Monday, January 11, 2010

San Pedro and Palos Verdes Shore Whaling History, Part 1

For several years I have been researching the history of the whaling industry at and near Los Angeles Harbor and Portuguese Bend, Palos Verdes Peninsula. Here is a preview:

Two sites near San Pedro were active in shore whaling in the years after 1860: (the former) Deadman’s Island and the Portuguese Bend area. California shore whaling, long obsolete, was a method of whaling whereby small boats rowed out by men armed with throwing harpoons, Greener harpoon guns, and “bomb lance” guns intercepted migrating whales. The boats were between twenty-six and thirty feet long, had one sail, and operated within a radius of about ten miles from shore.*

Shore whaling occurred off the coast of California from 1854 to about 1900.

In a 1925 interview, Captain John Anderson of Wilmington, described as an “old-timer in the Pacific whaling business,” recalled the old days of local shore whaling in the 1870s when as many as forty whales at one time spouted off White Point, and when three or four whales at one time were cut up for oil at the Deadman’s Island or Portuguese Bend whaling stations.

As he recounted: “Whaling ain’t what it used to be. We used to take the blubber and try it out, let the birds have the carcass and Davy Jones’s locker the bones. Now they cut the whale up for fertilizer, body and bones. They use everything but the spout.”

*The above recent image of the Portuguese Bend area in Palos Verdes southern California, near San Pedro, shows the area near where a shore whaling station operated in the early 1860s, and which was active off and on through at least 1885.