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Navy History Matters – June 18, 2019

Compiled by Brent Hunt, Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach Division

Welcome to Navy History Matters—our weekly compilation of articles, commentaries, and blogs related to history and heritage. Every week we’ll gather the top-interest items from a variety of media and social media sources and then link you to related content at NHHC’s website (history.navy.mil), your authoritative source for Navy history.

NHHC Director Delivers Remarks at USS Missouri Stamp Launch Ceremony

Naval History and Heritage Command’s Director Sam Cox spoke at the launch of a USS Missouri commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service during a ceremony aboard the battleship in Pearl Harbor, June 11. The ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of “Mighty Mo” on June 11, 1944. At the ceremony, Director Cox delivered remarks and thanked the USPS for honoring the ship and the sacrifice of the crew. “When this stamp was conceived, the creators came to the Naval History and Heritage Command seeking photos, drawings, schematics, documents, details of radars, guns, camouflage, and flags of USS Missouri as she was when she was commissioned 75 years ago today. As a result, not only is this stamp a beautiful work of art, it is also accurate. I applaud the Postal Service for their due diligence.” To learn more, read the blog.

WWII@75: Battle of the Philippine Sea

On June 19, 1944, 75 years ago, the largest aircraft carrier action of World War II began as Allied forces continued their push across the Pacific. Following the buildup of the U.S. Navy’s fast carrier forces in the central Pacific, the American drive into the strategic Marshall Islands chain, and the foreseeable U.S. victory on Saipan, Japanese naval leadership believed that the time had come for decisive large-scale fleet action. Previous attempts either had failed or had come up short of a victory that would change the war in favor of Japan. Task Force 58 clashed with the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Carrier Division 3 in a series of engagements fought out in the air, several hundred miles west of Saipan. By the evening of June 20, Task Force 58’s aircraft broke the back of Japanese naval aviation and the Japanese combined fleet’s carrier forces by sending hundreds of enemy aircraft into the water. To learn more, visit the new Battle of the Philippine Sea page on NHHC’s WWII 1944 page. Also, read “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” by NHHC historian Guy J. Nasuti.

WWI@100: German Navy Scuttles Fleet

On June 21, 1919, 100 years ago, the German navy scuttled its own fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland. One of the conditions of the Armistice—signed Nov. 11, 1918, ending World War I fighting—was that the Germans were to surrender their entire fleet immediately. By Nov. 27, all of Germany’s 74 ships, as required by the agreement, had arrived in Scapa Flow for internment pending a formal treaty of peace. Once there, about 20,000 men were sent back to Germany gradually, leaving a small number aboard to act as caretakers. With the Treaty of Versailles delayed until the end of June 1919, the Allies remained divided on the fate of the ships. Many in the German navy felt they had not been defeated and were looking for an opportunity to scuttle the ships. On the morning of June 21, the Germans had their chance when the British fleet left Scapa Flow for exercises. To learn what happened, read the essay by COD’s Adam Bisno at NHHC’s website.

Navy Christens LCS Minneapolis-Saint Paul

The Navy christened its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship during a ceremony at Marinette, WI, June 15. The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul is designed for operation in near-shore environments yet is capable of open-ocean operation. The ship is the second named in honor of Minnesota’s twin cities and will be homeported in Mayport, FL. “The christening of the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul marks an important step toward this great ship’s entry into the fleet,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The dedication and skilled work of our industry partners have ensured this ship will represent the great city of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and serve our Navy and Marine Corps team for decades to come.” To learn more, read the U.S. Navy release and the article at Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

Time Captured: Raising the Flag on Mt. Suribachi

had a lot to be proud of during his career as a reporter-photographer that spanned more than 50 years. Although the Army first rejected him due to his poor eyesight, his name is forever etched in World War II history. As an Associated Press reporter, he was assigned to cover the war in the Pacific. In February 1945, the U.S. Marines were poised to invade the Japanese-occupied island of Iwo Jima. More than 70,000 U.S. Marines landed on the island in the first days of battle against Japanese forces who had set up their garrisons on top of the island’s mountaintops. After days of brutal fighting, the Marines reached the top of Mt. Suribachi. While there, an American flag was raised and documented by a Marine photographer. Learning that a second flag was to be raised, Rosenthal got ready for the shot. To learn more, read the article at Green Publishing, Inc.

How Many U.S. Landings on the Moon?

An entire generation remembers July 20, 1969, when images of Neil Armstrong showed him stepping from the Apollo 11 lunar module to the moon’s surface. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The United States would go on to complete six more crewed missions to the moon, landing 12 astronauts from 1969–1972. The only mission that failed was Apollo 13, which suffered catastrophic power and oxygen failures. Although millions watched as the Apollo 13 astronauts made their way back heroically, public interest faded after the first three Apollo missions. By the time Apollo 14 was ready for the moon, the prevailing attitude was, “The moon? Been there, done that.” With each new mission, though, the astronauts learned more and performed tasks that were increasingly daring and fascinating. To learn more, read the article at History. To learn more about the Navy’s role in space exploration, go to NHHC’s website.

Found Item is 75-Year-Old Anzio Beach Landing Map

You never know what you might find at a garage sale. Scott Nieman found his treasure while visiting the eastern shore of Maryland several years ago. “One of my hobbies is finding old first edition books, or autographed books; things like that,” explained Nieman, who works at NAS Patuxent River. “And that day, I found three old books I was interested in.” When he got home, Nieman opened one of the books; “The Bradford History ‘Of Plimouth Plantation” published in 1898, and inside was an old map. Turns out the map was dated Jan. 10, 1944, and it shows the beachhead where Allied troops landed just 12 days later near Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. In the far right corner of the map were the words “Secret Shingle.” It was a beachhead map for Operation Shingle, and the book may have been the property of Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison. To learn more, read the article in the Tester.

Senator Wants Ship Named for Navy Cryptologist Shannon Kent

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, announced on June 13 that he was putting an amendment into the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to have a ship named in honor of Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent. Kent, a native of Oswego, NY, was killed along with three other Americans on Jan. 16 by an Islamic State suicide bomber at a restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij. Kent, who was supporting special operators as a linguist, was the first female U.S. servicemember killed in Syria since the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State began in late 2014. “After her tragic death, one of her commanding officers said Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent deserves to be honored in a manner befitting of her noble service to our country and enduring contributions to the United States Navy,” Schumer said from the floor of the Senate. “I could not agree more.” To learn more, read the article in Stars & Stripes. To learn more about ship naming in the United States Navy, go to NHHC’s website.

Zippo Lighters—A Symbol in Vietnam

“U.S.S. Caliente” and “Vietnam 66–67” were just some of the phrases etched on Zippo lighters during the Vietnam War. Thousands of Sailors, Marines, and Soldiers bought and kept them on their person during the war. The lighters were practical on the open water and in the field because they could withstand the windiest of conditions. “We made our lighters from brass and during World War II, brass was rationed so we made them from steel. The steel rusted and we had to use a different kind of finish to prevent the lighters from rusting,” said Shirley Evers, archives manager for Zippo. “What we learned later is that this type of finish made it very easy to customize the lighters themselves and that was the first kind of trench art.” During the Vietnam War, servicemembers found street vendors who could engrave the lighters. Lighting a cigarette wasn’t the only reason to have a Zippo; the lighters were also used to remove leeches from the body and during search and destroy missions. After the war, they served as a personal keepsake of the experience. To learn more, read the article at Connecting Vets.

American Eagle Day

American Eagle Day is celebrated annually on June 20 to commemorate one of America’s most recognizable national symbols. On June 20, 1782, the American bald eagle—once an endangered species—was added officially to the Seal of the United States. President Bill Clinton first proclaimed American Eagle Day in 1995, and since then 41 states have made the day an official observance. Bald eagles hold significant value in many Native American cultures and religions, as they signify freedom, strength, wisdom, honesty, and power. The U.S. Navy seal and the U.S. Navy flag both depict the American bald eagle.

NHHC Webpage of the Week

This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to NHHC’s World War II 1944 page. Operation Forager: The Battle of Saipan—an in-depth essay written by COD’s Adam Bisno—provides a depiction of the battle that began on June 15, 1944, and ended on July 9 with the United States securing the island that was only 1,200 nautical miles south of Tokyo. The essay explains all phases of the operation, including the background, planning, initial landings, concurrent action in the Philippine Sea, the aftermath, and the heavy price of the battle. Check out this page today and learn more about this significant battle in the Pacific.

Today in Naval History

On June 18, 1812, 207 years ago, the United States declared war on Great Britain for impressment of American Sailors and interference with commerce. The War of 1812, often known as the second war of independence, matched a young nation with a newly reestablished U.S. Navy against one of the most dominant countries in the world that possessed the powerful Royal Navy. The United States did suffer some costly defeats over the course of the war, such as the capture and burning of Washington, DC, but there were also many victories. American troops were able to repel British invasions in New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s triumph at the Battle of Lake Erie, and USS Constitution’s unmatched success on the open seas fostered widespread patriotism and pride in the country. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on Feb. 17, 1815, ended the war, and it encouraged the spirit of American expansionism for most of the 19th century.

For more dates in naval history, including your selected span of dates, see Year at a Glance at NHHC’s website. Be sure to check this page regularly, as content is updated frequently.

Downloadable version of the above information is available here.