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Naval History of California

By Holly Quick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

California, known as “The Golden State” because of the 1848 discovery of gold and its fields of golden poppies that bloom each spring, was the 31st state to enter the union in 1850.

More than 100 ships have been named after the state of California, its cities, places, and people. Seven ships bear the state’s name, including USS California (SSN 781), which was commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2011. Her motto “Silentium est Aureum” means “silence is golden,” underscoring the value of stealth in submarine warfare, and honors California’s nickname “The Golden State.”

California is home to nine Navy installations and the hometown of heroes and leaders like Aviation Radioman 3rd Class Robert K. Huntington of Los Angeles who received the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and extraordinary achievement in the Battle of Midway. California-native Capt. Roy “Butch” Voris, a World War II flying ace in the Pacific theater, was hand-picked by Adm. Chester Nimitz in 1946 to organize and lead the Blue Angels. Fleet Admiral Robert B. Carney, born in Vallejo, California, is known for his efforts to modernize the Navy. The world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), was commissioned in 1954 during his time as CNO.

One of Navy’s biggest names, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., was born in San Francisco, California and became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). As CNO, Zumwalt’s embrace of innovation resulted in a number of new programs, such as the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine and the F-14 Tomcat, all of which had lasting impacts on the warfighting readiness of the Navy.