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.
Battle of the Atlantic: An Overview
One of the most important fronts during World War II was the Battle of the Atlantic. “In September 1939, Germany immediately sought to capitalize on Britain’s dependence on imports of food and raw materials. After the Wehrmacht attacked it in June 1941, the USSR repeatedly asserted its dire need for imported equipment and supplies. Meanwhile, the Allies had to wrestle control of the seas to support several second fronts, first in North Africa, then Italy, and finally Western Europe. The United States, British, and Canadian navies worked together to overcome losses inflicted by German U-boats and Luftwaffe bombers, but the issue remained in doubt until 1943.” For more, read the blog by NHHC historian Jon Middaugh at The Sextant.
Remembering McClelland Barclay
Artist McClelland Barclay, who died July 18, 1943, aboard LST-342 when she was sunk by a Japanese torpedo off the Solomon Islands, is the only person known to have been killed in action while pursuing a historical discipline now found at NHHC. Barclay was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1891, and studied art and design as a young man. In 1917, his poster, “Fill the Breech,” was awarded the Navy Poster Prize by the Committee on National Preparedness. After winning the award, he joined a group of artists assembled by the Navy to improve ship camouflage. In 1938, at the age of 47, McClelland received a Navy Reserve commission as an assistant naval constructor with the rank of lieutenant. In October 1940, he began producing recruiting posters at the New York Recruiting Office. For more, read the blog by NHHC’s Jay Thomas at The Sextant.
First Polaris Missile Successfully Launched
On July 20, 1960, 60 years ago in the first launch of the Polaris missile, USS George Washington successfully fired two operational Polaris missiles while submerged off Florida. After the launch, George Washington’s commanding officer sent President Dwight D. Eisenhower the message, “Polarisfrom out of the deep to target. Perfect.” Less than two hours later another missile from the submerged submarine homed in on the impact area 1,100 miles down range. George Washington returned to Cape Canaveral to embark her gold crew, and on July 30, 1960, duplicated her earlier successes by launching two more missiles while submerged. Shakedown for the gold crew ended at Groton, CT, on Aug. 30, and the submarine got underway from that port on Oct. 28 for Charleston, SC, to load her full complement of 16 Polaris missiles. There she received the Navy Unit Commendation, covering the period of June 9, 1959–July 20, 1960, after which her blue crew took over and George Washington embarked on her first patrol.
Madeline Swegle Makes History as U.S. Navy’s 1st Black Female Fighter Pilot
Lt. (j.g.) Madeline Swegle is set to become the Navy’s first African-American female tactical pilot after recently completing the required training. The chief of Naval Air Training congratulated Swegle with a “BZ,” or “Bravo Zulu,” a naval term meaning well done. “BZ to Lt. (j.g.) Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” wrote the chief of Naval Air Training in a tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!” The news comes more than four decades after women first started receiving their wings when Rosemary B. Mariner, who was the first to command an operational naval aviation squadron, earned hers back in 1974. For more, read the article at ABC News.
Black Submariners, Sailors Played Key Role for U.S. Navy in WWII
During World War II, 28 submarines were built in Manitowoc, WI—four remain on eternal patrol. In May 2019, one of the submarines that was lost was discovered near the Palawan Islands in the Philippines. USS Robalo was commissioned Sept. 28, 1943, and then was floated down the Mississippi River to begin her service to the nation. Robalo was on her third war patrol in July 1944, when the submarine was lost, probably by an enemy mine. Four of the crew managed to escape the stricken boat but were captured by the Japanese and never heard from again. At the time of Robalo’s sinking, two African-American Sailors were onboard who went down with the boat—Steward’s Mate Dave L. Williams and Officers Cook Elliot Gleaton Jr. For more on their story, read the article in the Herald Times Reporter.
F/A-18Fs Make Worldwide Debut
On July 16, 2000, 20 years ago, F/A-18Fs made their worldwide debut when two of the Super Hornets from VFA-122 flew nonstop from NAS Patuxent River, MD, to the international air show at Farnborough, UK. The Hornet is a direct descendent of the Cobra, and the Super Hornet is the next generation of the Hornet, which provides increased mission radius, endurance, and survivability above that of its predecessor. The aircraft have provided support for Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, U.S. Naval Academy Museum naval history fellow Stephen Phillips (USNA Class of 1992) discusses Midshipman Spencer, Midshipman Marcy, the Somers Mutiny, and the establishment of the Naval Academy. 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 naval wargaming at the U.S. Naval Academy, where guest Sebastian Bae discusses the topic with Dr. Marcus Jones and Museum Director Dr. Claude Berube.
Army and Navy General Hospital Flag Donated to Historical Society
The last American flag to be flown over what was once the Army and Navy General Hospital in downtown Hot Springs, AR, was recently donated to the Garland County Historical Society’s archives. “We’re honored to have it in our collection,” GCHS Executive Director Liz Robbins said. “It’s a very important part of our history that we can preserve and display and use to educate people and remind people about these important institutions that were a part of our community for so long. The flag flying over it is a symbol of the service of so many military-medical people who helped…the brave service people who were treated there, the talented people who helped rehabilitate disabled people there and helped them create better lives. The flag is a symbol of all that service, and it’s something that we think is very important.” For more on the iconic hospital, read the article in The Sentinel-Record.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to NHHC’s exploration and innovation pages. Radar and sonar rely on two fundamentally different types of wave transmissions, which are both remote sensing systems. Radar sends out electromagnetic waves, while sonar transmits acoustic waves. In both systems, waves return echoes from certain features that allow the determination of size, shape, distance, and speed of the target. Radar signals are primarily for surface and atmospheric observations because electromagnetic waves are diminished in the water. Sonar signals easily penetrate the water and are ideal for underwater navigation and detection. Leo C. Young and Dr. Alfred Hoyt Taylor made the first U.S. observations of the radio reflection phenomenon. For more on this topic, visit the page today. It contains a short history, suggested readings, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On July 14, 1952, the keel to the Navy’s first supercarrier, USS Forrestal, was laid down. The ship was commissioned on Oct. 1, 1955, at Newport News, VA. Forrestal was named after James V. Forrestal, who was Secretary of the Navy from 1944–1947 and the first Secretary of Defense. Forrestal operated in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, providing support during the Lebanon crisis in 1958. Forrestal deployed numerous times to the Mediterranean until 1966 when she received an overhaul. Ordered to the Pacific, she was sent to provide additional airpower during the Vietnam War. On July 29, 1967, tragedy struck when Forrestal suffered a catastrophic fire on her flight deck, resulting in the loss of more than 130 men and numerous aircraft. In spite of the accident, the Navy learned fire-fighting lessons still in practice today. After repairs, Forrestal returned to the Mediterranean and deployed numerous times to the region. Reclassified in 1975, she served as the host ship for the United States bicentennial celebrations in 1976 at New York City, NY. Decommissioned in September 1993, Forrestal was eventually scrapped in 2015 following unsuccessful efforts to turn her into a museum ship
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