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The Naval History of Illinois

By Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

The great state of Illinois enjoys a wealth of naval history!

At least 40 ships have been named after the state, its cities, places, and people. Two ships have been named after the state itself. The first was a battleship commissioned in 1901 that was part of Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, which circumnavigated the world in 1907. It wasn’t until 2016 that a second vessel named after Illinois joined the U.S. Navy’s fleet—the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786).

Illinois is also home to several people who made history in the U.S. Navy. In 1944, William S. White, a native of Chicago, Ill., became part of the “Golden Thirteen”, the Navy’s first African-American commissioned officers. John P. Cromwell, a native of Henry, Ill., and James B. Stockdale, a native of Abingdon, Ill., were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during World War II and the Vietnam War, respectively.

Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago, Ill., opened in 1911 and trained one million of the four million Sailors who served in World War II. It is now home to Recruit Training Command, the Navy’s only boot camp.

Check out our infographic for more information on the Sailors, ships, and places in Illinois with ties to naval history and heritage!