Feeding a Frigate: Provisioning U.S.S. United States, 1798
United States was one of three 1,576 ton, 44-gun heavy frigates ordered by Congress in the mid-1790s. A sister to the more famous Constitution, she was completed in 1797. At the time her crew consisted of about 420 officers and men. Feeding this hungry horde required a great deal of provisions.
Fitting out for duty in 1798, United States was allocated more than 225,000 pounds of rations.
United States, 1798
|Bread, Hard||55,248 pds|
|Beef, Salt||28,392 pds|
|Pork, Salt||23,392 pds|
|Fish, Salt||9,465 pds|
|Cheese 7,089 pds|
Turnips||18,928 pds |
|Peas & Bean||14,196 pts|
While the fare sounds monotonous, it was no worse than the average American ate at the time. Based on a per capita allocation of about 3 pounds of food, the amount of comestibles loaded suggests that the ship was capable of keeping at sea about six months without resupply, save for water, which would have had to be procured from time to time.
A Little Interservice Rivalry Never Hurt National Defense . . . Right?
Traditionally there is a great deal of rivalry between the services. Most of this is just healthy competition. Of course there is a more serious aspect, given the budget battles. And sometimes it’s downright corrosive and dangerous to national security.
One of the best examples of this occurred prior to World War II, when both the Navy and the Army Air Corps were seeking a better bombsight.
In 1928 Norden Incorporated, a precision instrument manufacturer, developed the “Norden Bombsight.” The Navy promptly latched on to it, concluding a secret and illegal exclusive contract for its purchase. One clause of this contract stipulated that the Navy would be the exclusive agent for the sale of the bombsights, even to the Air Corps. This almost completely froze the Army out of the bombsight market, despite the fact that by the mid-1930s it was ordering the B-17, the effectiveness of which depended upon a reliable bombsight.
This disgraceful situation continued until well into World War II. Despite the fact that the Navy had virtually abandoned the type of mission for which the bombsight was designed, high level bombing in favor of dive bombing, until well into 1942 the Navy was still buying up about three-quarters of Norden’s production.
Aside from a great deal of waste, as a result of the Navy’s jealous hoarding of the Norden Bombsight, most Army heavy bombers shipped to Europe early in the war were equipped with inferior bombsights.