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.
Bougainville Combat Narrative Published
Recently published to NHHC’s website, Bougainville Operations and the Battle of Cape St. George: Solomon Islands Campaign, Vol. XIII, is a specially annotated World War II-era combat narrative that begins in the aftermath of American landings at Cape Torokina on Bougainville Island in the Northern Solomons and the Allied naval victory in the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay. The landing formed part of Operation Cartwheel, the isolation and reduction of the Japanese bastion at Rabaul on the island of New Britain. American forces captured Cape Torokina in order to construct airfields within close bombing range of Rabaul. Despite the victories on land and sea, formidable Japanese forces remained in the area. Japanese sea power in the form of naval aircraft and heavy cruisers converged on Rabaul to turn back the American advances. Throughout November, U.S. naval forces defended the landing zone at Torokina, kept open vital lines of communication to the beachhead, struck the Japanese in their fortress, and confronted their naval forces at sea in the battle of Cape St. George. This combat narrative has never been published or made available to the public. Special thanks to NHHC historians S. Matthew Cheser and Peter Luebke, Ph.D., who edited this edition.
Ronald Reagan Holds Coral Sea Remembrance Ceremony
On July 26, Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan held a wreath-laying ceremony in commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a year after the wreckage of USS Lexington was discovered. The ceremony marked the 77th anniversary of the battle and was the first time a commemoration was held and wreath was laid at the exact site where Lexington sank. “Being able to navigate directly over the top of the USS Lexington, taking that moment of silence, puts in to perspective what was below us. Just imagining the potential challenges they were facing that day—it was extremely humbling,” said Lt. Nicholas Fessler, Ronald Reagan’s assistant security officer, whose great-grandfather was a Lexington survivor. “You know about it from a naval history standpoint, but you really don’t know what it means to the country of Australia and the significance our role in the Battle of the Coral Sea played in ensuring their freedom and securities as well.” To learn more, read the article.
Navy Commissions Guided-Missile Destroyer Paul Ignatius
The Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Paul Ignatius, during a ceremony at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL, July 27. The ship is named in honor of Paul Robert Ignatius, who served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he served as Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Logistics) 1964–1967, and Secretary of the Navy 1967–1969. “The future USS Paul Ignatius stands as proof of what the teamwork of all our people—civilian, contractor and military—can accomplish together,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “From the start of the acquisition process, to the keel laying and christening, to today’s commissioning and the many missions she will fulfill going forward, this destroyer enhances our capabilities for air, undersea, surface, strike and ballistic missile defense.” To learn more, read the article at DVIDS and watch the ceremony at Navy Live.
Happy Birthday, U.S. Coast Guard
On Aug. 4, the U.S. Coast Guard celebrates its 229th birthday. Established in 1790 by President George Washington to enforce tariffs, the U.S. Coast Guard has become a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to the safety, security, and stewardship of the nation’s waters. The Coast Guard is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security and is considered the nation’s premier maritime law enforcement community that serves to save lives, protect the environment, and defend the homeland. Happy birthday, U.S. Coast Guard!
Knox Assigned Officer in Charge of Naval Records and Library
On Aug. 1, 1921, Capt. Dudley Wright Knox was assigned to duty as officer in charge of the Office of Naval Records and Library, which consisted of the Library, the Old Records Section, and the World War Section. On Oct. 20, 1921, he was transferred to the retired list, but he continued to serve on active duty as officer in charge of the Office of Naval Records and Library, and curator for the Navy Department. During World War II, Knox was assigned additional duty as the deputy director of Naval History and, on Nov. 2, 1945, he was advanced to the rank of commodore. He was relieved of all active duty on June 26, 1946. To learn more about the origins of the Naval History and Heritage Command, go to NHHC’s website.
The Naval History of Georgia
The state of Georgia has a rich, fascinating history, especially its naval history. There are at least 37 ships named for the “Peach State,” its cities, places, and people. USS Carl Vinson is named after Congressman Carl Vinson—Georgia native—who served more than 50 years in the House of Representatives. USS Jimmy Carter is named after another famous Georgia native who served as a submarine officer in the Navy before becoming the 39th president of the United States in 1977. Rear Adm. Martha Herb—born in Atlanta—was one of the first women officers to graduate from the Naval School of Diving and Salvage. Adm. David L. McDonald, born in Maysville, GA, was the 17th chief of naval operations, 1963–1967. To learn more, read the blog. If Georgia is not your home state, check out NHHC’s state infographics collection. It includes all 50 states plus Puerto Rico.
Nautical Terms and Naval Expressions: Seamanship Edition Part 3
Seamanship is the foundation of a Sailor’s life at sea. Whether it is basic navigation, line handling, or just knowing your way around a ship, basic seamanship plays a role in keeping Sailors safe, oriented, and organized. This edition of basic seamanship explores some of the positions that make up a bridge watch team. While at sea, the officer of the deck (OOD) is stationed on the ship’s bridge and is in charge of the ship’s navigation and safety. The OOD, usually aided by a junior officer of the deck (JOOD), supervises and conducts training for junior officers and enlisted personnel on the bridge watch team. The quartermaster of the watch maintains the deck log and assists the OOD in navigational matters. To learn more about the bridge watch team, read the blog.
G-2 Sank at Her Moorings 100 Years Ago
On July 30, 1919, 100 years ago, during an inspection by a six-man maintenance crew, the submarine USS G-2 suddenly flooded and sank at her moorings in Two Tree Channel near Niantic Bay off the Connecticut coast. She went down 13 1/2 fathoms, drowning three of the inspection crew. The submarine had been decommissioned on April 2, 1919, and was designated as a target for testing depth charges and ordnance nets. After she sank, it was determined that she was too deep and too old to salvage. The submarine was struck from the Navy List on Sept. 11, 1919.
Wreckage of French Submarine Found
The wreckage of a French submarine was found almost 30 miles from the vessel’s homeport of Toulon, France, more than 50 years after she went missing. On Jan. 27, 1968, La Minerve vanished with 52 crewmembers onboard when it was conducting exercises with a maritime patrol aircraft. Immediately after it went missing, search crews failed to find the submarine. However, a renewed search using advanced sonar and drone technologies led to Minerve’s discovery half a century later. “It’s a success, a relief and a technical feat,” Florence Parly, the armed forces minister, tweeted. “I am thinking of the families who have waited for so long for this moment.” Herve Fauve, son of the boat’s commander, said, “It’s a relief, a huge emotion.” To learn more, read the article in USA Today. To learn more about underwater archaeology, go to NHHC’s website.
WWII Battle Holds Key Lessons for Modern Warfare
From August 1942 through February 1943, U.S. forces sought to capture and then defend Guadalcanal from the Japanese. A planned amphibious landing turned quickly into a series of massive air and naval battles. The Guadalcanal campaign marked a major turning point in the Pacific during World War II, but it also revealed important lessons about the nature of warfare itself. Specifically, Guadalcanal showed how the old saying “the best defense is a good offense” can be rephrased to “a strong defense can become an effective offensive weapon.” Of those who have studied the campaign, Guadalcanal teaches enduring lessons about the importance of integrating planning, training, and technology to generate options that confuse the enemy. To learn more, read the op-ed by Dr. Benjamin M. Jensen and Brig. Gen. William J. Bowers at the Navy Times.
NHHC Webpage of the Week
On Aug. 3, 1958, USS Nautilus became the first submarine to cross the “top” of the world when the boat passed under the Arctic polar ice pack at the North Pole during Operation Sunshine. In commemoration of the feat, this week’s Webpage of the Week is the Nautilus page under NHHC’s notable ships. On the page is a short history of the boat’s accomplishments, additional reading resources, and selected imagery available for download. Learn more about the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and the pride of the U.S. Navy submarine force that is now a unique museum ship at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT.
Today in Naval History
On July 30, 1945, Japanese submarine I-58 sank USS Indianapolis northeast of Leyte. Of the 1,195 crew, only 316 survived. Due to communications and other errors, her loss went unnoticed until a passing aircraft saw survivors on Aug. 2. Before the ship was sank, Indianapolis successfully delivered atomic bomb components to Tinian that were used to end World War II. To learn more about the ship’s sinking, her discovery in August 2017, and much, much more, check out the sinking of USS Indianapolis page on NHHC’s disasters and phenomena page.
Downloadable version of the above information is available here.