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.
National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
On July 27, the nation honors the patriots who 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 to mark 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.
WWII@75: Underhill Sunk
On July 24, 1945, while escorting a troop convoy from Okinawa to Leyte, USS Underhill was hit by one, perhaps two, Japanese kaitens—Japanese midget suicide submarines. The explosions, which severed the ship in two at the forward fire room, flung a tremendous quantity of oily water over the still floating aft section of Underhill, knocking down men and washing some overboard. PC-803 and PC-804 quickly came to the aid of survivors in the water and on the slowly sinking aft section. Of the 238 onboard, only 125 survived. Navy patrol craft sank the destroyer escort after they rescued the survivors. Among the dead was the ship’s commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. Robert M. Newcomb, who had been with Underhill since her commissioning.
Ramage Commissioned–25 Years Ago
On July 22, 1995, USS Ramage was commissioned at Boston, MA. The ship honors Vice Adm. Lawson P. Ramage, who received the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” while in command of USS Parche. On July 31, 1944, in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy off Takao, Taiwan, Parche sank the Japanese transport Manko Maru and tanker Koei Maru and damaged two other Japanese vessels. The submarine then teamed up with her companion, USS Steelhead, to sink Japanese army cargo ship Yoshino Maru. On Jan. 7, 2007, during fighting between Ethiopians and Muslim extremists in Somalia, Ramage’s namesake ship attacked al-Qaeda forces with an AC-130 gunship at a Somali fishing village near Ras Kamboni on the Kenyan borders. The following day, Fifth Fleet moved aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower to join guided missile cruisers Anzio and Bunker Hill, Ramage, and dock landing ship Ashland in Somali waters as they searched vessels for radicals who attempted to escape from Somalia.
NUM Established 41 Years Ago
On July 23, 1979, the Secretary of the Navy established the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, and the following year, the nonprofit Naval Undersea Museum Foundation was formed to raise funds. Construction began in 1985 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, NUM operated as part of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport until 2003 and then transferred to Navy Region Northwest. The museum 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.
Constitution Authorized for Restoration
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.” Constitution’s victories at sea during the War of 1812 inspired a nation and helped mark the emergence of the United States as a world-class maritime power. Constitution is crewed by a select group of active duty U.S. Navy Sailors who share her story with visitors from around the world and continue the U.S. Navy’s tradition of service through community outreach. The legacy of “America’s Ship of State” continues thanks to the dedicated work of the restoration team at NHHC’s Detachment Boston, civilians with the responsibility for preserving “Old Ironsides.”
K-Ships vs. U-Boats
Shortly after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the war in Europe arrived in the waters along the east coast of the United States. In mid-January, the German navy launched Operation Paukenschlag, a campaign of German U-boats whose mission was to sink merchant ships carrying war supplies to Allied armies in the United Kingdom, Russia, and North Africa. In just a few weeks, the Germans sank more than 20 merchant ships carrying thousands of tons of war supplies. To counter the threat, the Navy unleashed the K-Type blimp to help in the battle against the enemy submarines. When the United States entered World War II, it only had six lighter-than-air vessels available for antisubmarine operations. Almost immediately, after merchant ships began to be attacked, the blimps were in the air. For more, read the article in Smithsonian Magazine. For more on airships and dirigibles, go to NHHC’s website.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Dr. Lori Bogle, professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy, discusses the public’s concept of honor and heroism in the lead-up to the Spanish-American War and the key figures who did and did not benefit from those perceptions. 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 Navy tattoos and the National Museum of the American Sailor where the museum’s staff discusses the exhibit.
U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ship USS Tripoli Joins the Fleet
On July 15, the Navy commissioned USS Tripoli administratively because of public health and safety restrictions on large public gatherings during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “USS Tripoli is proof of what the teamwork of all of our people—civilian, contractor and military—can accomplish together,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite. “This ship will extend the maneuverability and lethality of our fleet to confront the many challenges of a complex world, from maintaining the sea lanes to countering instability to maintaining our edge in this era of renewed great power competition.” Tripoli is the third ship to honor the force of U.S. Marines and approximately 370 Soldiers of 11 nationalities that captured the city of Derna, Libya, during the 1805 Battle of Derna. 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 Nuclear Navy is a term coined to describe vessels powered by nuclear reactors. Incorporating nuclear energy to naval vessels revolutionized naval warfare. The general idea of nuclear ships was that they would not have to make regular stops for fuel like conventional vessels, making them only limited by supplies and crew endurance. The Navy recognized the benefits of nuclear energy for propulsion purposes and began research. From its humble beginnings, the Navy has produced many of the world’s first nuclear propelled vessels, from aircraft carriers to submarines. For more, check out the page today. It contains a short history, suggested readings, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On July 21, 1944, Task Force 53, commanded by Rear Adm. Richard L. Connolly, landed the Third Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, along with the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division, on Guam. The island was declared secure on Aug. 9 though bands of enemy Japanese were long encountered after V-J Day. After Guam was recaptured from the Japanese, it was subsequently transformed into a major logistical base that would support the upcoming liberation of the Philippines. For more, read Operation Forager Continued: Landings on Guam and Tinian at NHHC’s website.
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