THE PERUVIAN NAVY IN THE 20TH CENTURY
The formation of a new fleet
At the end of the conflict, small ships were acquired, including the Vilcanota (1884) and Peru (1885), on which the Naval Academy resumed its functions in 1888. The following year the Lima cruiser arrived, with a twin ship being secretly built in Germany in 1880, but held in Great Britain for the duration of the conflict. In the following years, Iquitos, Chalaco, Santa Rosa and the Constitution were incorporated into the Navy, and the recovery of the national maritime activity was also initiated.
The latter demanded a growing interest in improving safety conditions for navigation, which led to the creation of the Hydrographic Service on June 20, 1903 with the purpose of rectifying astronomical observations "the geographical position of cities and points of Importance, particularly those located on the Pacific coast and in the region washed by the rivers of the East." That commission was the precedent of the current Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation.
The first steps towards institutional reorganization
With the government of Don José Pardo and Barreda coming up, the winds began to change for the institution. There was an express desire to support her and rescue her from the ostracism in which she found herself. In this task, the Minister of Finance, Don Augusto B. Leguía, played a very important role, which encouraged the resurgence of the Navy.
Contagious by the popular opinion that resulted in donations at the national level, the government of Pardo managed to obtain a loan, contracting in England the construction of the cruisers Almirante Grau and Coronel Bolognesi; whose expected arrival, occurred in August 1907. With these two acquisitions, laid the foundation for the renaissance of the current Navy. That same year appeared the first issue of the Naval Magazine, with the purpose of serving as a forum for debate on the various issues related to maritime activities in general and naval in particular.
The Naval Missions
In 1904, the services of a French Naval Mission in charge of CDR Paul de Marguerye, had been contracted to restructure the organization and the operation of the Naval Academy, being the results totally positive. During the first government of Leguia (1908-1912) the French Naval Mission continued to work, increasing the number of its members. This is when another French officer, Lieutenant Jose A. Theron, took over the direction of the Naval Academy, and soon determined its transfer to land, initially settling in the district of Bellavista. On the other hand, several Officers were sent to study further in Argentina, the United States, Spain, France and England.
The Peruvian Naval Academy
This mission concentrated its action in the General Staff and in the Naval Academy, producing some important changes in the organization and the naval formation. At this time, and with marked influence of the naval mission, was the acquisition in France of the submersibles Lieutenant Palacios and Lieutenant Ferré, first ships of its type in South America, and the explorer Teniente Rodríguez, that would be the first Peruvian ship propelled by steam turbines. Special mention deserves the questionable and frustrated acquisition of the armored cruiser Comandante Aguirre, a ship that was obsolete at the time of its purchase in 1911, and would not arrive to Peru because the payments had not been concluded by decision of the Peruvian Government in 1914.
From 1910 onwards, in the context of technological innovations, the Navy started the radio communication activities, with satisfactory results, thus entering a new era in communications. In the organizational aspect, during the government of Guillermo Billinghurst (1912-1914), the General Command of the fleet was restructured.
However, it is important to note that this recovery process was partially stopped during the First World War. The previous addition to the economic difficulties that still crossed Peru prevented the purchase of new units that increased its diminished naval power. But despite this, an effort was made in terms of infrastructure and organization, and one of the achievements was the transfer of the Naval Academy to a new place specifically built in the district of La Punta, in Callao, as well as the creation of the General Staff of the Navy.
Conflicts with Colombia and Ecuador
In the years leading up to World War I, Peru had to face several conflicts with its neighbors around international boundaries that had not yet been defined. Given the borderline differences that were presented in the Amazon region with Colombia and Ecuador, the Peruvian government again invested in the acquisition of some river units. Most notable was the American gunboat, built in England in 1904. During his service he participated in the conflicts with Colombia in 1911 and 1932, being particularly meritorious his performance in the first of them, when under the command of LT Manuel Clavero acted in combination with the troops of Colonel Oscar R. Benavides and defeated Colombian forces in La Pedrera, on the Putumayo River, in a combat that took place on July 11th and 12th of 1911.
A large part of these problems took place in the Amazon region, but the fact is that important efforts had to be made to address this area of our territorial heritage. As part of these efforts, and within the framework of the conflict with Colombia, the newly acquired Lieutenant Rodriguez was sent from France to the Amazon. Once the crisis was over, the ship had to join the fleet in the Pacific, becoming the first Warship in crossing the Panama Canal, in 1914.
During World War I, logistical difficulties led to the state of our units being affected. This was particularly critical in the case of submersibles, whose useful life was significantly shortened.
Creation of the Ministry of the Navy and Institutional Reorganization
In 1919, during the second government of Leguia, it was necessary to continue the process of improvement of the institution, contacts were made to advise the United States Navy, and the result was contracting an American Naval Mission, whose work led to a complete overhaul of the Navy's administrative system, reorganizing the Fleet, the Naval Academy, as well as most existing units, modeled on the US naval organization.
One of the important achievements at this time, was the creation of the Ministry of the Navy by law No. 4003 of October 13th, 1920, separating it from the Ministry of War and Navy, dating from 1821, thereby achieving independence and more management of its resources. Also in the same year, the Navy's Aviators Corps had been created, a remote antecedent of the current Air Force, which, because of its importance, determined that the Ministry of the Navy and Aviation was created in 1929, with both portfolios merged until 1941, when the Ministry of Aviation was created.
From 1922, the general reorganization of the services of the Navy were in effect in terms of the administration and personnel, being the complete and integral change. In 1923 a unique body of officers was created, leaving behind the old division between those of machines and those of deck that mutually ignored the respective functions. On the other hand, in order to give more experience and opportunity in the performance of different positions to the officers, a rotating system of positions and commands was established. In that same year, the American Commander Charles Gordon Davy, considered the manager of the Contemporary Naval Academy, put in action the full reorganization of the Alma Mater.
The changes were not limited to the training part, but also to the practices at sea and training on board the units of the fleet, and for this were made for the first time from 1921 so-called Summer Cruises with participation of the midshipmen of the Naval Academy. In the field of communications, a radio equipment was installed in the Naval Academy for the first time, with reception and transmission, under the successful leadership of Lieutenant-General Manuel R. Nieto.
The use of the San Lorenzo Island for naval installations, resulted in the construction of a Naval Station that would serve as a base for the submarines that had been built in the United States, which had a boathouse within its facilities with capability of repairing medium-sized vessels.
Other improvements of the time, was the creation of the School of Naval Apprentices in 1925, predecessor of the present School of Recruits; as well as the creation in 1930 of the Naval Superior War School, which was inaugurated under the direction of Rear Admiral USN William S. Pye.
The Conflict with Colombia (1932-1933)
The years after the overthrow of President Leguia in August 1930 were characterized by great political instability in the country. The navy could not escape this reality and lived a lamentable uprising of the seamen that concluded with the execution of eight crew on the San Lorenzo island (May 1932). The situation complicated by a border conflict with the neighboring Republic of Colombia, whose immediate origins date back to the government of President Leguia, during which a border treaty was signed behind the border, resolving the pending border issues, known as the treaty of Salomón-Lozano. Towards the middle of 1932, this treaty was already in the public domain, provoking a total rejection among the inhabitants of the Department of Loreto, since it was considered that this diplomatic agreement damaged the national interests, having yielded the territory of the so-called Amazon trapeze. This led to a group of loretanos seizing the people of Leticia, already in possession of Colombia, expelling the authorities of the neighboring country. The surprise of these facts, made at first think the Peruvian authorities led by that General Luis Sánchez Cerro, then President of the Republic, that this was an act promoted by his political opponents.
The serious international situation was provoked by the protest of the Colombian government, in which Peru, determined to support its countrymen, and refused to present excuses of the case and decided to resolve through the use of the armed forces. As a precautionary measure, the government decided to mobilize the army to the north, as well as send a naval force to reinforce the contingents located in the Amazon.
Nevertheless, the Colombians had already advanced by sending an expedition to the control of General Alfredo Vásquez Cobo, composed by several armed transports, the same that concentrated in Belem of Pará. Before this, the Peruvian Naval command ordered the shipment of the cruiser Almirante Grau and the submarines R-1 and R-2 which conformed the call Advanced Force of the Atlantic.
In addition to these ships, the government decided to send more reinforcements, and for that, the Lima cruiser and the hunter-gatherer Teniente Rodríguez were chosen, which were later joined by the destroyers Almirante Villar and Admiral Guise, who were acquired from Estonia. This force had the mission, in case of war, to harass the Colombian coast in the Caribbean, to stop the Colombian maritime traffic and to attract the aviation of that country, alleviating operations in the Amazon and then penetrating the Amazon to dislodge the hostile enemy forces of Leticia. While Grau was destined to operate in the Atlantic, Bolognesi was entrusted with the mission of patrolling jointly with the R-2 and R-3 submarines on the Colombian Pacific coast. After crossing the Channel on May 4, the Peruvian naval force carried out a logistic scale in Curacao, on the 8th, then on Trinidad Island and finally arrived in Pará in Brazil on the 15th of that month, remaining there for 10 days. During this period, the tensions gave way to the threat posed by Peruvian naval forces, the will of the presidents of both countries as well as the efforts of friendly countries, and only Lima and Lieutenant Rodriguez . Once the mission was completed, the remaining ships would return to Callao, and the two new destroyers would sail to the Pacific in April 1934.
The creation and establishment of the Arsenal Naval del Callao
One of the most important works carried out at this time was the construction of a dock and naval arsenal in the north of the port of Callao, which would lead to the definitive establishment of the Naval Base of Callao, thus achieving an institutional aspiration of many years, for the benefit of the fleet and of the Navy.
The Conflict with Ecuador of 1941
After several incidents, a conflict of significant proportions between Peru and Ecuador erupted in July 1941, culminating in the occupation of part of Ecuadorian territory by Peruvian forces and the signing of the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which established the borders between the two countries. The military actions were carried out both on the coast and in the Amazon, and in both theaters participated the naval forces.
In the Pacific, the main elements of the fleet, consisting of the cruisers Almirante Grau and Coronel Bolognesi, the destroyers Guise and Villar, and the four "R" submarines, established a maritime block between Zorritos and the Jambelí Channel. The fleet's work on the opposing coast was complemented by the fleet of patrol boats operating from Tumbes controlling the area of the Esteros, managing to capture two small Ecuadorian garrisons, those of Payana and Matapalo, as well as the Ecuadorian boat Hualtaco, contributing also in the capture of Puerto Bolivar. Meanwhile, in the eastern region, the Amazon River Flotilla provided valuable logistical support during the operations to evict the invaders, participating actively and decisively in the combat in which the capture of Rocafuerte on the Napo River was achieved. It should be noted that during the blockade of the Ecuadorian coasts, the Villar chased the Ecuadorian gunner Abdón Calderón, in front of the Jambelí Channel, on July 25, 1941. This persecution, in which several shots were exchanged, concluded while the ship Ecuadorian fled to hide in the marshes.
The Peruvian Navy and World War II
As it is known, in early September 1939, after German forces invaded Poland by a "lightning war", Britain declared war on Germany, leading to a series of events that generalized the conflict in Europe and then on a world scale. Peru, at first, decided not to be involved in that conflict, but due to the orientation of the international politics of the government of President Manuel Prado identified with the Americanist interests, as well as by the evident economic and political influence of the United States, after the latter country was attacked surprisingly by Japan, Peru decided to support the Allied cause.
While it is true that our country did not take an active part in the different scenarios of the world conflict, the Peruvian War Navy played a fundamental role in the protection and defense of the coast, especially in the northern part of the country where found the Talara refinery, which was one of the energy producing areas of vital importance for the operation of allied machinery and military industry, and of course, for national consumption.
The Navy, from early 1942 until mid-1945, despite the lack of adequate resources and despite not having received all the support requested from the United States, carried out fully the missions and tasks assigned to it in the defense of the coast thanks to the preparation, effort and professionalism played by the endowments of the different units of surface, submarine and terrestrial highlighted to the north zone.
The defensive system adopted for the coast, led to the creation in 1943 of the Naval Command Force, the same that three years later it was renamed General Command of Defense Coast, base of the current Marine Infantry Force.
THE PERUVIAN NAVY IN THE PERIOD 1945 - 1969
With the end of the Second World War, the navy, relying on surplus naval inventories from the allies, was able to undertake a process of renovation of its units, whose time in service and obsolescence were evident. Thus, in 1947, efforts were made abroad for the acquisition of several ships that were progressively discharged because they were surplus of war; A frigate, renamed Lieutenant Gálvez, two minesweepers, Bondy and San Martin, two tugboats and four landing barges, and two frigates in Canada, renamed Lieutenant Ferré and Lieutenant Palacios, were first acquired in the United States. Then, in 1951, Aguirre, Castilla y Rodríguez escort destroyers were added to the squadron. In that same year, two river guns, the Marañon and the Ucayali, were built in Great Britain, as well as a floating dock, all of which until now continue to provide valuable services in the Amazon region.
Regarding the submarine weapon, in 1951 the four submarines of the type R, later renamed Casma, Pacocha, Islay and Arica, were modernized in their shipyards of origin serving until 1959; and between 1952 and 1957 four S-type or modified Mackerel submarines were built in the Electric Boat & Co. shipyards to replace their predecessors in service since the late 1920s. These new submarines, retired of the service between 1989 and the 2001, with the names of Abtao, Dos de Mayo Angamos and Iquique.
In 1958 the old cruisers Grau and Bolognesi were discharged, after 51 years of service. For this reason, and in a great national effort, between 1959 and 1960 the purchase of two British cruisers of the class Ceylon to replace them, who were renamed Admiral Grau and Coronel Bolognesi, having been rendered important services to the Navy until the beginning of the '80.
Continuing the procurement program, between the 1960s and '61s, under the Loan and Lease Act as well as the Mutual Assistance Pact, the US Congress. Authorized to his government the delivery to Peru of two destroyers type Fletcher that received the names of Guise and Villar, as well as two corvettes of the class Auk, renamed Diez Canseco and Gálvez. In 1963, an attack transport was acquired in the same country, which was incorporated under the name of Independencia. It was built and used as a school ship, on which the naval cadets carried out numerous training trips until 1988.
Subsequently, six torpedo guns were built in Britain, and several patrol boats were incorporated for the surveillance and defense of the coast, assigned to the Captaincy and Coast Guard Directorate, which saw its action strengthened when the Captains and Coast Guard Corps was created in 1969.
It is important to mention that in 1963, the Naval Aviation was reestablished under the name of Air Force Service, providing naval forces with an indispensable element of support in naval warfare.
During this stage, another aspect strengthened was the amphibious war, and this materialized with the purchase of the landing ships of Chimbote and Paita, and of the Lomas and Atico medium landing, with which the Marine Infantry was able to develop its projection capability to land. With regard to the land naval establishment, the creation of the Navy Industrial Service from the old installations of the Naval Arsenal of Callao in 1948 marked the beginning of the development of the high-ship naval industry in Peru, whose first important milestone Was the construction of the oil tanker Zorritos in 1957, the largest ship built in South America until then.