Home / Featured / Navy History Matters- August 25, 2020

Navy History Matters- August 25, 2020

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.

WWII@75: Pacific Fleet Enters Japanese Waters

U.S. and British warships anchored in Sagami Wan, outside of Tokyo Bay, Japan, on the day the Allied ships entered Japanese waters, 27 August 1945. Photographed from USS South Dakota (BB-57) as the sun set behind Mount Fuji’s distinctive cone. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

On Aug. 27, 1945, units of the Pacific Fleet entered Japanese waters for the first time during World War II to prepare for the formal Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay. Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito made the decision to surrender unconditionally on Aug. 10, and his recorded announcement to the Japanese people was broadcasted four days later. The decision came after the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on Aug. 8, and the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war in Europe had ended on May 7, 1945, when Adolph Hitler’s successor, Adm. Karl Dönitz, authorized the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s armed forces. Victory in Europe, or V-E Day, is observed on May 8, and Victory in Japan, or V-J Day, is commemorated Aug. 14. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the deadliest war in human history.

Floyd Welch, Survivor of Pearl Harbor, Dies at 99

U.S. Navy veteran Floyd Welch, attends the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park Dedication Ceremony in New Haven, Conn. Welch, one of the last survivors of the battle of Pearl Harbor, died at his home in East Lyme, Conn., on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. He was 99. Welch was serving aboard the USS Maryland on Dec. 7, 1941, when the U.S. fleet came under attack by Japan. (Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

Floyd Welch, who was credited with saving lives in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, died peacefully at his home in East Lyme, CT. He was 99 years old. Welch was born in February 1921 and served onboard USS Maryland for the entirety of World War II. On the fateful morning of the attacks, Welch was coming out of the shower when he heard the first alarm and later loud explosions. When he got on the deck, he saw raging fires and the overturned USS Oklahoma, which was moored next to Maryland. He helped pull survivors of Oklahoma from the water, and he and others—while still under attack—climbed onto Oklahoma, where they heard tapping from the men trapped inside. In all, it is believed they saved an additional 33 men by cutting holes through Oklahoma’s steel plates. “His was just a remarkable story of bravery, discipline and dedication,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “He lived the word ‘hero’ in his actions, not just words and gave it real meaning. He was a hero, not just in his dedication and bravery, but also in the result of his actions, which was to save lives.” For more, read the article at Military.com.

USS Albany Continues Submarine Battle Flag Tradition

Cmdr. Mathias Vorachek, the commanding officer of USS Albany (SSN 753) holds a submarine battle flag created by his crew during a recent deployment. The flag, which consists of patches stitched together, represents different accomplishments or memories made by the crew. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alfred Coffield)

USS Albany, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, VA, participated in a longstanding submarine tradition during its recent deployment. The crew honored the deployment by creating a submarine flag consisting of patches stitched together, each one representing a different accomplishment. “The Albany battle flag is significant to the crew as not only a method to commemorate the ship’s twelfth deployment in her 30-year service history, but it provides us a lasting connection to our World War II submariners and their victories in combat,” said Cmdr. Mathias Vorachek, commanding officer of the boat. Beginning in WWII, flags became an unofficial record of the number of enemy ships sank. While today’s flags have taken on new meaning, Sailors continue the practice to honor their predecessors. Sailors on the submarine also named their watch sections after some of the well-known WWII submarines—Tang, Barb, and Wahoo. For more, read the article at DVIDS.

Women’s Equality Day

In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The day was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the amendment. The observance has grown to include focusing attention on women’s continued efforts toward gaining full equality. This year’s poster, provided by DEOMI, is the sixth in a series of posters commemorating the 75th Anniversary of World War II. DEOMI chose to feature women “chippers” on the poster design. These women performed some of the toughest work on the American homefront during the war. In honor of the 100th anniversary, today at 6 p.m., Dr. Kathryn Sullivan—the first American woman to walk in space and dive to the deepest part of the ocean—is scheduled to speak for the Naval Postgraduate School’s Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture Series. For more on the virtual lecture, read the U.S. Navy release.

PSNM Moved to current Home

On Aug. 25, 2007, after years in various locations around Bremerton, WA, and with several name changes, the Puget Sound Navy Museum opened doors at its current home in historic Building 50. It became an official U.S. Navy museum in March 2008. Building 50 provides 6,049 square feet of exhibition space and 4,170 square feet of collections storage. The museum now has more than 18,000 objects in its collection. Visitors can explore the naval history of the region and experience life as a Sailor through exhibits about the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, USS John C. Stennis, special operations submarines, and more. The Navy built historic Building 50 on the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1896. It underwent a city-funded $6 million renovation prior to the PSNM move. For more, read the history of PSNM

Operation Torch 2020 Preserves WWII Memorials

U.S. Africa Command Directorate for Intelligence at RAF Molesworth and the American Battle Monuments Commission collaborated to conduct Operation Torch 2020, a memorial cleanup at six U.S. military World War II sites across England, Aug. 15. The joint operation provided 50 servicemembers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and their families the opportunity to preserve the legacies of the greatest generation. At each of the locations, the participants learned about the memorials, and then everyone participated in scrubbing concrete, replacing flags, and filling vases with fresh flowers. The operation was carried out on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day, or V-J Day—the day Japan surrendered to the Allies ending WWII. “I think being stationed out here it’s very important to give back to not only the Americans that were out here before, but also the British community,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sebastian Botero. For more, read the article at DVIDS.

Champion, Scout, Ardent Decommission After Distinguished Service

200818-N-OA516-1050 SAN DIEGO (Aug.18, 2020) Special Warfare Boat Operator 1st Class Nick Fajardo, a member of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, comes in for a landing during the decommissioning ceremony for the Mine Countermeasure ship USS Champion (MCM 4). Champion was decommissioned after nearly 30 years of distinguished service. Commissioned Feb. 8, 1991, Champion served in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Seventh Fleet and U.S. Pacific Fleet supporting international operations including assisting in the evacuation of ethnic Albanians from war-torn Kosovo in 1999. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin C. Leitner/Released)

During ceremonies last week in San Diego, CA, the U.S. Navy decommissioned three Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships and recognized their nearly 30 years of distinguished service. The ceremonies were shared virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with ship plank owners and former crewmembers. “It was an honor to be with you today as we close this chapter in naval history,” said Rear Adm. Phillip E. Sobeck. “It was a distinct privilege to work alongside some of the finest mine-countermeasure Sailors in our Navy.” Champion spent most of her service homeported in Ingleside, TX, and San Diego. Scout provided support in Kosovo, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Hurricane Katrina. Ardent participated in Operation Desert Fox and provided support in the wake of the USS Cole terrorist attack. For more, read the U.S. Navy release.

Preble Hall Podcast

In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Cmdr. BJ Armstrong discusses the career of Adm. William Sims in this Shifley Lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in 2015. Armstrong teaches in the History Department and currently serves as associate chair. 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.

Webpage of the Week

Handling Mine cases. Trucking mine spheres from the bulk stores to the assembly shed.

This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to the exploration and innovation pages. Naval mine warfare dates back to the American Revolution when David Bushnell, while a student at Yale, discovered that gunpowder could be exploded while underwater. In 1777, a portion of the British fleet was stationed at the Delaware River off Philadelphia. Gen. George Washington authorized Bushnell to attempt to destroy some of them by use of the newly invented sea mine. The mine consisted of a charge of gunpowder in a keg, which was supported by a float on the surface. In the keg with the gunpowder was a gunlock rigged so that light impact would release the hammer of the gunlock and explode the gunpowder. Although the device failed to damage any British ships, the invention sparked considerable excitement among the Continental Navy and even the British. For more, check out the page, which has a short history, suggested reading, articles, blogs, and selected imagery.

Today in History

In a near-vertical position, after her tail rose out-of-control while she was moored at the high mast at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, shortly after 1:30 PM on 25 August 1927. This incident, which resulted from the sudden arrival of a cold air front that lifted the airship’s tail, causing it to rise before she could swing around the mast parallel to the new wind direction. Los Angeles suffered only minor damage, but the affair demonstrated the risks involved with high mooring masts. Courtesy of Richard K. Smith, author of the book The Airships Akron & Macon, 1974. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

On Aug. 25, 1927, the airship USS Los Angeles rose to a near-vertical position due to the sudden arrival of a cold air front that lifted the airship’s tail, causing it to rise before she could swing around the mast parallel to the new wind direction. Los Angeles suffered minor damage, but the affair demonstrated the risks involved with high mooring masts. Although the accident revealed the vulnerability of lighter-than-air flight, Los Angeles was the most successful airship of the time. Germany built the airship and gave it to the United States as compensation for the loss of two airships during World War I. Los Angeles was in operation more than seven years and made more than 330 flights. For more on airships & dirigibles, visit NHHC’s website.

For more dates in naval history, including your selected span of dates, see Year at a Glance at NHHC’s website. Be sure to check this page regularly, as content is updated frequently.

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