Top Dates in Navy’s History?

By Sandy Gall and Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

In celebration of more than 240 years of Navy readiness, we ask our fans what they think our most important dates in history are. Every moment in Navy history from the birth of our Navy in 1775 all the way up to Navy’s missile attacks against ISIL in September 2014 have played a pivotal role in shaping our Navy and our nation. Below are just a few dates you, our fans, thought were important.

For more information on Navy Birthday, check out our tool kit here:

Fan Favorites Include (in no particular order):

1) Battle of Leyte Gulf

Leyte Gulf IJN Yamashira in Surigao Strait. Oil on wood by John Hamilton. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

Leyte Gulf IJN Yamashira in Surigao Strait. Oil on wood by John Hamilton. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

On October 23, 1944, the largest naval battle in modern history, the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf begins. It ends Japan’s capacity to fight as an organized force, is the last sea battle between battleships, sees the last “crossing the T” maneuver, and are the first Kamikaze attacks.

2) Doolittle Raid

The Tokyo Raid by U.S. Army B-25 Bombers. Oil painting by John Charles Roach. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

The Tokyo Raid by U.S. Army B-25 Bombers. Oil painting by John Charles Roach. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

On April 18, 1942, in the first WWII attack on the Japanese mainland, the Doolittle Raid launches 16 Army Air Force B-25s from USS Hornet (CV 8) underway 650 miles off Japan. Of the mission’s 80 crewmen, three are lost on the mission and only four of the eight taken prisoner survive. For more on the Navy’s birthday, visit history.navy.mil.

3) Battle of Midway

The Battle of Midway. Oil painting by Robert Benney, 1943. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Release)

The Battle of Midway. Oil painting by Robert Benney, 1943. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Release)

On June 4–7, 1942 the Battle of Midway is fought for a U.S. base on a mid-Pacific atoll. Prior to the battle, Japan had general naval superiority. The loss of four Japanese carriers in the battle turns the tables, enabling the U.S. to go on the offensive on course to victory in the war. For more on the Navy’s birthday, visit history.navy.mil.

4) USS Nautilus (SSN-571)

USS Nautilus. Watercolor painting on paper by Albert K. Murray. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

USS Nautilus. Watercolor painting on paper by Albert K. Murray. (U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released)

On September 30, 1954, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), is commissioned at Groton, Conn.  On August 3, 1958, Nautilus is the first sub to pass under the North Pole. The boat serves for more than 25 years and is now a museum ship in Groton. For more on the Navy’s birthday, visit history.navy.mil.

5) Pearl Harbor

USS Neosho Sorties From Pearl Harbor by John Hamilton. (Courtesy of NHHC's Navy Art Gallery)

USS Neosho Sorties From Pearl Harbor by John Hamilton. (Courtesy of NHHC’s Navy Art Gallery)

On December 7, 1941 naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan suddenly and deliberately attack the United States of America . It was 6 a.m., when six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters toward Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor ended shortly before 10 a.m., less than two hours after it began, and the American forces paid a heavy price. Twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, 188 aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before they had a chance to take off. American dead numbered more than 2,000 with more than 1,000 military and civilians wounded. The attack which horrified a nation was the catalyst that brought America into World War II.

Want more important dates in U.S. Navy history? Click here for our top 30 dates.

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