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.
CNO Honors 2019 Naval History Essay Contest Winners
On July 17, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson presented awards to the winners of the 2019 CNO Naval History Essay Contest at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy on the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC. Out of 141 submissions, the judging panel chose five awardees. NHHC Director Sam Cox opened the ceremony welcoming the winners and guests to the event. “This is the third year we have done the CNO’s history essay contest,” said Cox. “Since this contest has started, it has been a tremendous success due to the sheer number of entrants each year.” Awards in the category of Professional Historian were presented to first- and third-place winner, Cmdr. Joel Holwitt, Ph.D., and second-place winner, Salvatore R. Mercogliano, Ph.D. Awards in the category of Rising Historian were presented to first-place winner, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Vandenengel; second-place winner, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan P. Hilger; and third-place winner, Lt. Philip D. Mayer, JAGC. Both of the first-place essays will be published in Naval History Magazine and all winners’ essays—first- through third-place in both categories—will be published on NHHC’s website. To learn more, read the article by MC2 Mutis A. Capizzi.
In his recent H-Gram, NHHC Director Sam Cox covers a number of topics in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of World War II to include the Japanese-German “Yanagi” submarine supply missions, and the attack by the U.S. submarine Parche on a Japanese convoy resulting in a Medal of Honor for Cmdr. Lawson “Red” Ramage. In addition, the Port Chicago naval magazine explosion and the highly successful U.S. landings on Tinian round out WWII topics. The July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon landing, including an examination of Neil Armstrong’s U.S. Navy service, and the sinking of U.S. minesweeper Richard Bulkeley on July 12, 1919, during the dangerous cleanup of the North Sea Barrage are also discussed. To learn more about any of these topics, read H-Gram 033 at the Director’s Corner.
Last US Warship Sunk by German Sub During WWII Discovered off Maine Coast
The last U.S. Navy warship sunk by a German submarine during World War II has been discovered a few miles off the Maine coast. It was originally determined to be a boiler explosion that caused the ship’s April 23, 1945, sinking, but in 2001, the Navy overturned its initial ruling after declassified German documents determined Eagle (PE-56) had been hit by a torpedo. The sinking was changed to a combat loss and each member of Eagle’s crew was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for their service. “History was rewritten,” said Robert Neyland, branch head of NHHC’s underwater archaeology. “The discovery is invaluable recognition for the crew of Eagle for having their ship shot at beneath them.” The sinking killed 49 of the 62 crew members onboard. This fall, the Smithsonian Channel will air its documentary “Hunt for Eagle 56,” which chronicles the discovery of the ship. To learn more, read the articles at BBC News and Fox News.
Supreme Court Justice, WWII Vet John Paul Stevens Dies
Retired Supreme Court Justice and World War II veteran John Paul Stevens died on July 16 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was 99 years old. Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Richard Nixon in 1975 and served 35 years until he retired at 90 years old. Stevens was born in Chicago, IL, on April 20, 1920, and lived an interesting young life, having met celebrities such as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh at the family hotel, and attending the ballpark when Babe Ruth hit his famous “called shot” home run during the 1932 World Series. During WWII, Stevens served in the U.S. Navy in communications intelligence. He was a member of the code-breaking team that broke the message on the flight schedule of Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, leading to Yamamoto’s death in April 1943. To learn more about his Navy career, read an H-Gram special edition: the Passing of John Paul Stevens by NHHC Director Sam Cox at NHHC’s website.
National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
On July 27, the nation honors the patriots that defended the Korean peninsula against the spread of Communism in what became the first major conflict of the Cold War. National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day is celebrated each year on the day—July 27, 1953—when North Korea, China, and the United Nations signed an armistice suspending all hostilities. Often called the “Forgotten War,” the three-year conflict claimed the lives of more than 36,000 Americans. To learn more about the Korean War, go to NHHC’s website. In addition, check out the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s exhibit Korea 1950–53: the Navy in the Forgotten War, located in the Cold War Gallery.
Baltimore Marines, Sailors Guard American Delegation 150 Years Ago
During the first Sino-Japanese War, a party of about 50 Marines and Sailors were sent from the cruiser USS Baltimore to guard the American delegation at Seoul, Korea, July 24, 1894. Since the outbreak of the war (1894–95), Baltimore cruised the waters between China and Japan observing the conflict and protecting American interests. The war started between the two countries primarily for supremacy in Korea. For centuries, China and Japan had been jockeying for control of the Korean peninsula. The war was a decisive victory for Japan and a humiliating loss for the Chinese. China had to recognize the total independence of Korea (an independence Japan refused to recognize), pay a heavy indemnity, recognize Formosa and the Pescadores, and the cession of the entire Liaotung Peninsula, to include, Port Arthur, as part of the treaty. To learn more, read an essay by COD’s Adam Bisno, The U.S. Navy and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, at NHHC’s website.
NUM Established 40 Years Ago
On July 23, 1979, 40 years ago, the Secretary of the Navy established the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, and the following year, the non-profit Naval Undersea Museum Foundation was formed to raise funds. Beginning in 1985, construction began on the 68,000-square-foot building and concluded in 1994 with the completion of the Jack Murdock Auditorium. Prior to becoming a museum under the authority of the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2006, the NUM operated as part of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport until 2003 and then transferred to Navy Region Northwest. The NUM achieved accreditation in 2001 and reaccreditation in 2011 from the American Alliance of Museums. The museum houses more than 39,000 artifacts related to the submarine force and underwater operations.
Patuxent Launched 25 Years Ago
On July 23, 1994, 25 years ago, USNS Patuxent was launched at New Orleans, LA. She is the third ship named for the river in the state of Maryland that is an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay. Retired Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) is the ship’s sponsor. Patuxent is one of three fleet replenishment oilers built with double hulls in compliance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, although government-owned ships currently are exempt from the act. Hull separation is 6 feet at the sides and 6 feet 6 inches at the bottom, reducing the ships liquid cargo capacity by about 21,000 barrels from that of the single-hull ships in the class. Patuxent entered non-commissioned U.S. Navy service under the control of the Military Sealift Command with a primarily civilian crew on June 21, 1995. On May 4, 2017, Patuxent returned from a six-month Middle East deployment where they transferred more than 19 million gallons of fuel and 2,035 pallets of logistical supplies to U.S. Navy and Allied ships in the region.
U.S. Servicemembers Killed during Battle of Tarawa Returned to U.S.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that the remains of at least 22 servicemembers killed during the Battle of Tarawa have returned to the United States during an Honorable Carry Ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, HI, July 17. History Flight, a partner organization with DPAA, recently recovered the unidentified remains from the Republic of Kiribati. The remains will be accessioned into DPAA’s laboratory facility in Hawaii to begin the identification process. “Today, we welcome home more than 20 American servicemen still unaccounted for from the Battle of Tarawa during World War II,” said Acting Secretary of Defense Richard V. Spencer. “We do not forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and it is our duty and obligation to return our missing home to their families and the nation. Thank you to everyone who took part in this repatriation.” To learn more, read the U.S. Navy release.
Oklahoma Man Seeks to Honor Muskogee Medal of Honor Recipient
A retired dentist from Oklahoma is trying to get a memorial for a Muskogee man who received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his bravery during World War II. Stephen Reagan wants Cmdr. Ernest Edwin Evans to be more than a distant memory to people of Evans’ hometown. Evans died during the Battle off Samar on Oct. 25, 1944, while in command of USS Johnston. He was just 36 years old. “I got interested in what a hero he was and wondered how Muskogee had honored him,” said Reagan. “I’ve been to Muskogee a few times and realized there’s nothing. I thought, ‘Boy, I would like to help Muskogee honor him.’ He deserves it. He’s a native son of Muskogee who went to (Central) high school there. He needs to be honored.” Reagan already has a bust of Evans, but it is yet to be cast. He would like to get a granite pedestal for the bust and place the memorial in a nice public place. To learn more, read the article in The Ada News.
South Dakota Sailors Ride Across South Dakota on Commemorative Motorcycle
Ten U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to USS South Dakota took turns riding a commemorative USS South Dakota Harley-Davidson Street Glide motorcycle across the state of South Dakota, recently. The bike honors the history of the World War II battleship South Dakota and commemorates the recently commissioned submarine South Dakota. “We spent Saturday in Sioux Falls, and the guys had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the bike all day, and then we went to a great event for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, “Hot Harley Nights.” On Sunday, we started the trek across the state,” said Cmdr. Craig Litty. “It’s awesome.” Local Harley-Davidson dealers, who are the bike’s sponsor, said they would ensure it is maintained over the next 30 years. To learn more, read the article at DRGNews.com.
NHHC Webpage of the Week
Sixty-five years ago, on July 23, 1954, Public Law 523 authorized the Secretary of the Navy “to repair, equip, and restore the United States ship Constitution, as far as may be practicable, to her original condition, but not for active service, and thereafter to maintain the United States ship Constitution at Boston, MA.” In commemoration of this event, this week’s Webpage of the Week is USS Constitution America’s Ship of State. Explore the page that is all about “Old Ironsides” to include: ship history and imagery; USS Constitution in the War of 1812; contact list and visitor information; media kit; resources for model builders and researchers; Around the World Cruise, 1844–46; and additional links. Discover all this page has to offer today, and learn more about the ship that inspired a nation.
Today in Naval History
On July 23, 1948, during the Arab-Israeli War, USS Putnam evacuated a United Nations team from Haifa, Israel, becoming the first U.S. Navy ship to fly the UN flag. Putnam was one of three destroyers assigned to UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in an attempt to maintain peace between Arab and Israeli forces. When a truce temporarily broke down, the evacuation took place. Although the UN brokered two cease-fires, fighting continued into 1949. The Arab states and Israel did not reach a formal armistice until February of that year.
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.
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