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The Naval History of Arkansas

By Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

Though Arkansas lacks a coastline, make no mistake that the “Natural State” has made its mark in U.S. naval history.

Arkansas was admitted to the Union in 1836, and the first U.S. Navy vessel to bear its name was commissioned in 1863. The screw steamer Arkansas I served as a supply ship for Union warships during the Civil War. The fifth naval vessel to bear the name will be the future Virginia-class attack submarine USS Arkansas (SSN 800), expected to join the fleet in 2023. In all, at least 30 ships have been named after the city, people, and places of Arkansas.

Quite a few notable Navy veterans hail from Arkansas. Jimmy Thach, a naval aviator and World War II flying ace born in Pine Bluff, Ark., developed the “Thach Weave” fighter combat tactic during World War II, giving American fighters better survivability against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Medal of Honor recipient Nathan G. Gordon, another naval aviator who served during World War II, was born in Morrilton, Ark. He flew a PBY Catalina nicknamed “Arkansas Traveler” and rescued 15 survivors of a downed U.S. Army Air Forces B-25.

While there may not be any naval installations in Arkansas, there is a Navy Operational Support Center located in Little Rock that provides services for U.S. Navy Reserve personnel in the area.

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