Compiled by 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.
In his latest H-Gram, NHHC Director Sam Cox, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of World War II and the conclusion of war in the Pacific theater of operations, covers some of the final sacrifices made by U.S. Navy personnel in July and August 1945, including the loss of USS Underhill, USS Callaghan, and USS Indianapolis. Also included is the story of USS Borie, which had the last radar picket casualties of the war. For more, read H-Gram 051 at the Director’s Corner.
75th Anniversary of the Sinking of USS Indianapolis
The loss of USS Indianapolis was a tragic moment following the completion of a secret mission that directly contributed to the end of World War II. After a successful high-speed run to deliver atomic bomb components to Tinian, the decorated Portland-class cruiser continued to Guam. Indianapolis was en route from Guam to Leyte when she was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-58 on July 30, 1945. Various resources, available on NHHC’s website, document the history of Indianapolis, the Sailors who served aboard her, the rescue and aftermath of the tragedy, and the discovery of the ship’s wreck on Aug. 19, 2017. Today Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet asking for a moment of silence on July 29, between 11:03 and 11:15 a.m. EDT, to honor the 75th anniversary of the sinking.
Honoring John Lewis
The public continues to pay its respects to the civil rights leader and late congressman, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, as his body lies in state at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, this week. Lewis, who served as the representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District for more than 30 years, died July 17, at the age of 80 following a six-month battle with cancer. Lewis’ legacy will continue to live on in the Navy. In 2016, the newest class of fleet replenishment ships was named the John Lewis class. For more on his life, read the article in the NY Times.
On July 30, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the act establishing WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). During World War II, more than 80,000 officers and enlisted women served in the WAVES. World War II marked the Navy’s first female doctor, lawyer, bacteriologist, and computer specialist. Grace Hopper helped develop the Mark I computer as a member of a team assigned to the Harvard University Computation Laboratory during World War II.
EXORD 9981: Truman Ends Segregation in Armed Forces
July 26 marked the anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9981. Issued in 1948, this order gave the military services the guidance they needed to integrate their service members for years to come. At just a little more than 400 words, it established that there shall be “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” For more, read the blog at The Sextant. For more on the African-American experience in the U.S. Navy, go to NHHC’s website.
Remembering Those Lost in USS Forrestal Fire
On 29 July 1967, USS Forrestal (CVA/CV-59) suffered a catastrophic fire during flight operations while on Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam. Wracked by eight high-order explosions of thin-shelled Korean War–vintage bombs and a number of smaller weapons explosions, the world’s first supercarrier was mere minutes away from the bottom of the Gulf of Tonkin. In its wake, the fire claimed 134 Sailors and Airmen and seriously injured or burned another 161.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Professor Jorit Wintjes of the University of Wurzburg discusses the history of Prussian wargames and how wargames are developed in the modern era for military professionals. 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.
Released of Declassified USS Thresher Documents
USNI reports that the Navy plans to release declassified documents from the investigation into the USS Thresher disaster as early as September. The release is in response to a U.S. District Court order that the Navy start releasing unclassified documents related to the sinking. Thresher was officially declared lost in April 1963. A Court of Inquiry at the time, after studying pictures and other data, stated that the loss of Thresher was in all probability due to a silver-brazed piping joint welding failure that flooded the engine room with water. All 129 men serving aboard the sub were lost.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is an updated ship history on NHHC’s DANFS index. Named in honor of counties in Arkansas and Kentucky, USS Crittenden was commissioned on Jan. 17, 1945, at San Pedro, CA. In the week following her commissioning, Crittenden’s crew loaded provisions and conducted training. On Jan. 20, 1945, the attack transport underwent deperming, and then two days later, the ship got underway for Los Angeles Harbor, where she participated in pre-shakedown exercises. After a series of exercises off the U.S. west coast and Hawaii, Crittenden set sail for the Marshall Islands and then later the Caroline Islands. Although attacks from the Japanese were in her proximity, Crittenden was not attacked before the Japanese surrendered later that year. On Feb. 16, 1946, Crittenden stood out from San Pedro on Feb. 16, 1946, to join Joint Task Force 1 for the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. The ship was decommissioned later that year. For more, read the history authored by NHHC historian Jeremiah D. Foster.
Today in Naval History
On July 28, 1945, USS Callaghan was the last ship sunk by a Japanese kamikaze attack when she hit a radar picket station approximately 50 miles southwest of Okinawa. USS Prichett was also damaged by a near hit from a kamikaze as she assisted the destroyer. The kamikaze that hits USS Callaghan was carrying Willow (a primary training biplane), revealing the desperation level of the Japanese. USS Callaghan is named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient, Rear Adm. Daniel J. Callaghan, who died during the naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Nov. 12–13, 1942.
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