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.
H-Gram 050: 70th Anniversary of the Korean War–The Initial Naval Actions
In his latest H-Gram, NHHC Director Sam Cox covers the first two months of naval action of the Korean War from the North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 to shortly before the amphibious landings of UN forces at Inchon that September. “Before dawn on Sunday morning, June 25, 1950, Communist North Korea launched a massive surprise attack across the border into South Korea, smashing through the inadequate South Korean defenses. Within three days, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) had captured the South Korean capital of Seoul and kept on going south, with little to stop it, while also overrunning the airfields that might have been of use to the U.S. Air Force. The attack not only took the South Koreans by surprise, it caught the United States unprepared for war.” For more, read H-Gram 050 at the Director’s Corner.
161 Days Consecutively Operating at Sea, Dwight D. Eisenhower and San Jacinto Break U.S. Navy Record
As of June 25, 2020, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS San Jacinto have been continuously at sea for 161 days, setting a new record for the U.S. Navy. Both ships departed their homeport of Norfolk, VA, on Jan. 17 for a training exercise and a follow-on deployment to U.S. Sixth and Fifth Fleets area of operations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dwight D. Eisenhower and her accompanying strike group have remained at sea to minimize the crews’ exposure to the virus. In 2002, USS Theodore Roosevelt operated for 160 straight days in support of the post-9/11 response, and again Theodore Roosevelt held the previous record of 153 days during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980. “Our ships remain undeterred in the face of adversity, and this monumental feat will only make our crews and the Navy stronger,” said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike’s commanding officer. “I’m so proud of the young men and women I see on the deck plates each and every day. Their dedication to the mission is what makes our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen.” For more, read the U.S. Navy release.
U.S. Fifth Fleet Recommissioned–25 Years Ago
On July 1, 1995, U.S. Fifth Fleet was recommissioned at NSA Bahrain—Vice Adm. John S. Redd commanding—to command the afloat units that rotationally deploy or surge from the United States and ships that are based in the Gulf for longer periods. Ships rotationally deploy to the U.S. Fifth Fleet from the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets. Fifth Fleet shares a command and headquarters with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Fifth Fleet was established March 15, 1943, where it operated in the Pacific against Japanese forces during World War II. It was disestablished Jan. 1, 1947. Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance was Fifth Fleet’s first commander.
Naval Transportation Service Established
On July 3, 1920, 100 years ago, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert E. Coontz established the Naval Transportation Service—now the Military Sealift Command—while concurrently abolishing the Naval Overseas Transportation Service. NOTS was established Jan. 9, 1918, to transport cargo during World War I. During World War II, four different government agencies controlled sea transportation. In 1949, Military Sea Transportation Service became the single managing agency for the Department of Defense’s ocean transportation needs. MSTS served during the Korean War and Vietnam War. MSTS was renamed Military Sealift Command during the Vietnam War. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, MSC distinguished itself as the largest source of defense transportation of any nation involved. MSC ships delivered more than 12 million tons of wheeled and tracked vehicles, helicopters, ammunition, and dry goods. MSC also participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Whirlwind Commissioned–25 Years Ago
On July 1, 1995, USS Whirlwind was commissioned in Memphis, TN. The 11th Cyclone-class patrol craft is the second to be named Whirlwind. The first was a wooden-hulled, triple-screw steam yacht that served from 1917–1919. The primary mission of Whirlwind is coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance—an important aspect of littoral operations outlined in the Navy’s strategy, “Forward…From the Sea.” Different crews are embarked onboard for six to seven months. Whirlwind is currently homeported in Manama, Bahrain.
Historical Section, Library Incorporated
On July 1, 1919, the Secretary of the Navy ordered that the Historical Section and the Departmental Library be incorporated under the Director of Naval Intelligence and the Chief of Operations. The secretary’s order coincided with passage of the first legislative appropriation “for collecting world war records.” The order was timely, as several previous directives had expanded the activities of the Historical Section where overlapping Office of Naval Records and Library functions seemed inevitable. Since both activities at the time were under a single head, the separation between “old” and “current” records was recognized and accepted as marking the respective spheres of the original Office of Naval Records and the newer Historical Section.
WWII Letters Digital Collection Complete
Over the past few years, volunteers and staff of the State Historical Society of Missouri have been working to digitize a collection of World War II letters. In 2016, the society began a project to provide online access to the letters written by more than 3,000 enlisted men and women from nearly all 50 states. The collection was the result of an effort in September 1945 by Kansas City radio broadcaster Ted Malone who asked his audience to send letters from their loved ones who served in the war for a book. One collection of letters is from Jean Schwarting Andersen, who served as a member of the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) during the war. Her letters offer numerous details on her experience as a WAVE and a glimpse of the world of military women during WWII. To access the letters, go to digital.shsmo.org. For more on the collection, read the article.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Dr. Jorit Wintjes of the University of Wurzberg discusses Tiberius’s campaign into Germany (4 AD–5 AD) in part two of a four-part series about Rome. He discusses Julius Caesar’s navy in Gaul and the invasion of Britain in episode 33. 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 raising the Monitor, a 2014 USNAM lecture by Capt. Bobbie Scholley, USN (Ret), a Navy diver.
Navy Accepts Delivery of Future USS Oakland
On June 26, the Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Oakland during a ceremony held at Austal USA in Mobile, AL. The future Oakland is the third U.S. Navy ship to honor the northern California city. The first Oakland was commissioned in 1918, and was used to transport cargo. In 1943, the second Oakland was commissioned. Though in service for less than seven years, the ship was key to many antiaircraft missions in the Western Pacific—Marshall Islands, Pagan Island, Guam, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa. After the war, Oakland performed two duty patrols off the coast of China before she was decommissioned in 1949. “This is a great day for the Navy and our country with the delivery of the future USS Oakland,” said LCS program manager Capt. Mike Taylor. “This ship will play an essential role in in carrying out our nation’s future maritime strategy.” For more, read the U.S. Navy release.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to NHHC’s exploration and innovation pages. The Navy’s use of torpedoes dates back to 1775 when David Bushnell discovered that gunpowder could explode underwater. The torpedo is a direct descendant of the mine. Robert Fulton continued Bushnell’s work when he developed floating mines that were anchored to the ocean’s floor. In 1866, Robert Whitehead designed the first “automobile” torpedo that was self-propelled. It was designed to attack the enemy rather than wait for the adversary. His torpedo design was the point from which all other concept designs would begin. The first Whitehead torpedo used a two-cylinder, compressed air engine capable of traveling up to 6.5 knots for a distance of 200 yards. For more on this topic, visit the page for a short history, suggested readings, artifact information, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On June 30, 1815, in the last naval action of the War of 1812, the sloop of war, USS Peacock, commanded by Capt. Lewis Warrington, came across the British cruiser HMS Nautilus in the Straits of Sunda. The cruiser’s crew informed Warrington of the Treaty of Ghent. Suspicious, he wanted Nautilus to strike colors. Nautilus refused to comply, so Peacock broadsided her, killing or wounding 15. When he boarded the vessel, Warrington discovered the treaty was true and released HMS Nautilus. Peacock’s crew repaired the British ship.
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