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.
What So Proudly We Hail
Every morning at 8 a.m., Sailors around the world stand at attention and salute the U.S. flag while the “Star-Spangled Banner” is played. The stars and stripes of this nation represent patriotism, freedom, pride, and prosperity. To our allies, our national flag represents a friend. Our national ensign has taken on many different looks over the course of our nation’s history. It is widely believed that Betsy Ross created the first flag—the most famous with five-point stars in a circular pattern against a blue field—at the request of George Washington. For more on our nation’s flag, read the blog by MC2 Mutis A. Capizzi at The Sextant.
On June 16, 1990, 30 years ago, USS Monterey was commissioned at Mayport, FL. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser is named for the Battle of Monterey that was fought Sept. 21–24, 1846, during the Mexican-American War. Three previous Navy ships have been named Monterey. A screw tug, which served around Mare Island and San Francisco Bay from 1863–1892, Monitor No. 6, which served during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, and the World War II aircraft carrier, which earned 11 battle stars. On April 7, 2018, the Syrian regime launched a chemical attack on its own people, killing at least 45 and sickening hundreds of others. In response—on the night of April 13—U.S., British, and French forces attacked the Syrian chemical arsenal infrastructure, successfully hitting three facilities. The allies fired 105 missiles at the facilities. Monterey and guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon launched a combined 37 Tomahawk land-attack missiles while steaming in the Red Sea.
Wreck of Patrol Boat Commanded by JFK Discovered
The wreck of the patrol boat commanded by President John F. Kennedy during World War II has been discovered in New York’s Harlem River. According to reports from the New York Times, remnants of PT-59 have been dredged up as part of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority project to build a sea wall to prevent flooding in a Manhattan trainyard. The boat was sold after the war ended, and it was used as a charter boat for anglers and later as a houseboat on the Harlem River. PT-59 was abandoned in the mid-1970s and eventually sank. Kennedy was the skipper of PT-59 in late 1943 and 1944 following his command of PT-109. While in command of PT-109, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroics in the rescue of the crew of the boat and a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in the accident that took place on Aug. 1, 1943. For more, read the article.
The American Revolution and Naval Irregular Warfare
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Cmdr. Steve Wendelin discusses aspects of naval irregular warfare during the American Revolution. The Preble Hall podcast, conducted by personnel at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, MD, interviews historians, practitioners, military personnel, and other experts on a variety of naval history topics from ancient history to more current events. Also loaded recently is the U.S. Navy, the American colonization society, and Liberia, where doctoral candidate Roger Bailey discusses the U.S. Navy and its role in the colonization of Liberia (1819–1860). Bailey is this year’s North Atlantic Society for Oceanic History winner of the Reynolds Prize for best graduate paper.
Ohio Pearl Harbor Veteran Turns 100 with a Grin
Adone “Cal” Calderone did not hesitate when asked what the secret to reaching 100 years old is. “Good wine,” he said with a big ole’ grin. Calderone is Stark County’s last known living Pearl Harbor survivor. He celebrated his birthday recently with about a dozen family members and friends. “It feels good to be 100,” the former chief petty officer said as he stepped off the front porch to greet folks in the street. “It’s so nice, very nice.” Calderone was a 21-year-old Sailor serving on USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Eight torpedoes and four bombs hit his ship. Calderone was trapped after the bombing, wounded, and was briefly hospitalized. “I took some shrapnel to the face,” Calderone recalled while pointing to a small scar near his left cheek. “They (the doctors) wanted to keep me longer. I wanted to get back out there.” For more, read the article in Stars & Stripes.
Bill Would Create Commemorative Coin in Support of National WWII Memorial
Two congressional representatives introduced a bill to authorize the U.S. Treasury to mint coins to contribute to the upkeep of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. The National World War II Commemorative Coin Act would establish coins representing the dedication and sacrifice of WWII veterans. All proceeds from the sale of the coins would go to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, which is a nonprofit that helps maintain the memorial, provides commemorations, and conducts educational programs throughout the year. The National Park Service provides care and maintenance for all the memorials on the National Mall, but organizers want to be able to support an already overburdened NPS and take care of critical projects now before they become a problem later. For more, read the article in Navy Times.
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.
Senator Calls to Replace Civil War Statue with Carl Brashear Statue
Kentucky State Senator Chris McDaniel prefiled a bill to replace a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis with one of Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear. Brashear, who grew up on a farm in Kentucky as part of a sharecropper family, was the first African-American master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy, despite having had his left leg amputated in 1966. He was also the first African American to attend and graduate from the U.S. Diving and Salvage training school and the first African-American U.S. Navy diver in 1954. Under the proposed bill, the statue of Davis would be sent to either the Kentucky Historical Society or Jefferson Davis Park. For more, read the article.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to NHHC’s exploration and innovation pages. Higgins Boats, owned by entrepreneur Andrew J. Higgins, designed and produced a unique assembly of amphibious boats capable of delivering multitudes of troops and equipment safely and efficiently from ship to shore, eliminating the need for conventional harbors. His vessels included amphibious LCTs (landing, craft, tank), LCPLs (landing, craft personnel, large), and LCMs (landing, craft, mechanized) along with motor torpedo boats (PTs), supply vessels, and other specialized watercraft. He was best known for designing and manufacturing thousands of LCVPs (land craft, vehicle, personnel), a special craft designed to carry infantry troops and jeeps to shore. Higgins boats were used in most of the American amphibious operations in the Pacific and European theaters during World War II.
Today in Naval History
On June 16, 1965, 55 years ago, the U.S. Navy scheduled the reactivation of USS Repose, which was the first hospital ship active for the Vietnam War. Living up to her nickname, “Angel of the Orient,” Repose was permanently deployed to Southeast Asia beginning in October 1966. The 721-bed floating hospital operated mainly in the I Corps Area, which included Da Nang, Chu Lai, Phu Bai, Dong Ha, and Quang Tri. After treating more than 9,000 battle casualties and admitting more than 24,000 patients for inpatient care in Southeast Asian waters, Repose departed the Vietnam theater on March 14, 1970, for the United States, where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve. The ship earned nine battle stars for her service during the Vietnam War.
Download your copy of this week’s Navy History Matters here.