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.
Inchon Landings Begin—70 Years Ago
On Sept. 15, 1950, after preliminary naval gunfire and air bombardment, U.S. Marines, Soldiers, and Korean forces stormed the Korean shores in response to the June 25, 1950, invasion of the Republic of (South) Korea by the North Korea People’s army that sparked the beginning of the Korean War. Four days into the Inchon conflict—named Operation Chromite—Marines captured Kimpo Air Base, and by Sept. 28, U.S. and South Korean forces recaptured South Korea’s capital city Seoul. Although the initial effort was considered a success, the Korean War was marked by multiple bloody battles across the 38th parallel, and entry of Communist China into the war made fighting considerably more difficult. Notable clashes included the battles for Seoul, Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, Inchon, and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. The “Forgotten War” ceased with an armistice on July 27, 1953, which is still in place today. For more, read Assault from the Sea: The Amphibious Landing at Inchon by NHHC historian Curtis A. Utz at NHHC’s website.
Navy Museum Brings Lego Building Event, Contest Online
The National Museum of the American Sailor’s inaugural Lego brick building was so popular last year that the staff decided to bring it back. Although this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be virtual. The event is scheduled for Sept. 19 from 10 a.m.–noon and will feature demonstrations of building a Navy ship, Blue Angels plane, U.S. Navy armored vehicle, and a historic building at Naval Station Great Lakes, IL. Participants can also build their own creations and show them to the master builder via Zoom. After the event, children have a week to build their own Navy-themed creations for an online contest. For those wishing to participate in the contest, submit a registration form along with photos of the creation by Sept. 25. A schedule and registration details can be found here. Staff members from the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum are also scheduled to participate. For more, read the article in the Chicago Tribune.
From Cafeteria to Conservation Lab: NHHC’s Conservation Branch at Five Years
On his first day on the job in Richmond, VA, five years ago this month, NHHC’s Conservation Branch head, David Krop, was tasked with turning a moldy, water-damaged cafeteria into a state-of-the-art artifact conservation laboratory. “Taking stock of the situation, I realized I had an uninhabitable building footprint, no staff, limited funding, zero mechanisms to spend those funds, was located 110 miles from the Washington Navy Yard, and suddenly I had a massive headache. On the flipside, I had supportive leadership, the ability to hire four staff, and the desire to prove what was possible.” Although NHHC has operated an underwater archaeology conservation laboratory at the Washington Navy Yard for two decades, at the time the command lacked general objects conservation capability to address long-term preservation of more than 300,000 artifacts and objects. For more, read the blog by Krop at The Sextant.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
During National Hispanic Heritage Month—observed annually Sept. 15–Oct. 15—the Navy joins the nation in celebrating the contributions of Hispanic Americans. This year’s theme is “Honoring the Past: Securing the Future!” Hispanic Americans have served in the Navy throughout our nation’s history—as seamen, four-star admirals, boatswain’s mates, corpsmen, fighter pilots, physicians, nuclear engineers, and policymakers. The community has had a profound impact on our Navy and our nation through hard work, strong commitment to family, and service to the nation. For more on Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Navy, go to NHHC’s website.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day
On Sept. 18, the U.S. Navy will join the nation in observing National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The day—observed annually on the third Friday in September with an official proclamation by the President of the United States—is set aside for Americans across the nation to honor those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing. According to the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 81,900 Americans remain missing from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Middle East engagements, and other conflicts. For more, go to NHHC’s POW/MIA: You Are Not Forgotten page.
On Sept. 17, 1895, 125 years ago, the battleship Maine was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard. At the time, Maine and her sister ship Texas were considered advancements in American naval design. They were built in reaction to the acquisition of modern armored warships by several South American countries. In late 1897, Maine, along with ships of the North Atlantic Squadron, prepared for a voyage to Havana, Cuba, to “show the flag” and to protect American citizens in the event of violence in the Spanish struggle with the revolutionary forces in Cuba. On Jan. 25, 1898, Maine commanding officer Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee dropped anchor in the center of the Havana port and remained on vigilant watch for a couple of weeks. On the evening of Feb. 15, a tremendous explosion rocked the battleship, sinking it, and killing most of the crew. The incident was one catalyst for U.S. involvement in the Spanish-American War. For more on the sinking of Maine, go to NHHC’s website.
Happy Birthday, U.S. Air Force
On Sept. 18, 1947, the U.S. Air Force officially became a separate service with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947. Prior to the act, military aviation was divided among the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The Army Air Forces was formed in 1941, from the previously established Army Air Corps, in response to the growing mission Army aviators were playing and the need for a more independent command. At their height, the AAF had more than 2.4 million people, 80,000 aircraft in service, and flew more than 2.3 million missions during World War II. In 1947, many of the pilots and missions of the AAF moved to the newly formed branch of service. Since its inception, the U.S. Air Force has participated in every major combat operation and today is regarded as the most capable and most technologically advanced air force in the world. Its mission is to defend the country in the air, space, and cyberspace through the skill and bravery of American Airmen. Happy 73rd birthday, U.S. Air Force!
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Chris Cavas, former Navy Times and Defense News correspondent and dean of the Naval Press Corps, discusses the journalism profession and Navy reporting. 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.
Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
Each year on Sept. 17, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” The commemoration dates back to 1940 when it was designated on the third Sunday in May, as “I am an American Day.” It was changed in 1952 to Sept. 17 to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and to recognize all who have attained citizenship.
Webpage of the Week
In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this week’s Webpage of the Week is the Sergeant Rafael Peralta page located in the namesakes portion of NHHC’s website. On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta was heavily engaged in Operation al Fajr—also known as the second Battle of Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom—successfully clearing six houses that morning with his squad. At the seventh house, the point man in the stack opened the door to a back room and immediately came under close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. While attempting to get out of the line of fire, Peralta was severely wounded. As the insurgents fled the building, they threw a grenade that came to rest near Peralta’s head. Without hesitation, Peralta pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and saving the lives of fellow Marines who were only a few feet away. Peralta succumbed to his wounds, heroically giving his life for his fellow Marines and the country that he loved. He received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart posthumously. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Rafael Peralta proudly bears his name.
Today in Naval History
On Sept. 15, 1944, USS Pampanito and USS Sealion rescued 73 British and 54 Australian POWs who survived the sinking of Japanese freighter Rakuyo Maru on Sept. 12, about 300 miles west of Cape Bojeador, Luzon. There had been about 1,300 onboard the ship when she was torpedoed by Sealion. All of the POW’s were coated with crude oil and in poor health, suffering from malaria, malnutrition, and exposure. The prisoners, who were hidden in the bowels of the freighter, were being transported from Singapore to Japan where they were to be used as slave labor in barbaric Japanese prison camps.
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