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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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