By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
Kansas’ status as a landlocked state doesn’t stop it from having rich ties to naval history and heritage. At least five Sailors from Kansas have received the Medal of Honor for their acts of valor while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Naval heroes from Kansas include Capt. Donald Kirby Ross, a Beverly native who recieved the Medal of Honor for his heroism while serving on USS Nevada (BB 36) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. USS Ross (DDG 71) was named in his honor. Another hero was Admiral Harry D. Felt. Born in Topeka, Felt commanded an air group aboard USS Saratoga CV 3) during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons before he became commander in chief of U.S. Pacific Command in 1958.
At least 40 ships have also been named for the state of Kansas, its cities, places and people, going as far back as the Civil War in 1861, when Kansas I (Gunboat) was launched at Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Today, Kansas’ most recognizable connection to the Navy is the perhaps the ship named after one of her most famous son’s. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), is named after America’s 34th president and a resident of Abilene, Kansas. The ship is one of America’s 10 Nimitz class aircraft carriers currently in service.
In terms of installations, Naval Air Station (NAS) Olathe was built in 1942 to handle the influx of pilots needed during WWII. Before being decommissioned in 1970, NAS Olathe contained five hangars and could house 6,400 personnel. Additionally, Navy Operational Support Center Wichita provides administrative and training support for Navy Reserve personnel.
Check out this infographic for more information on Sailors, ships, and places in Kansas with ties to naval history and heritage!