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.
USS Cole Terrorist Attack
On Oct. 12, 2000, 20 years ago, al Qaeda terrorists detonated an explosive-laden boat directly against the port side of destroyer USS Cole in Aden Harbor, Yemen, killing 17 Sailors and wounding 37 more. The blast tore a hole forty by sixty feet in the ship’s hull. In the aftermath of the explosion, the crew of Cole fought tirelessly to free shipmates trapped by the twisted wreckage and to limit flooding that threatened to sink the ship. The crew’s prompt actions to isolate damaged electrical systems and contain fuel oil ruptures prevented catastrophic fires that could have engulfed the ship and cost the lives of countless others. Drawing upon training and discipline, the crew heroically conducted more than 96 hours of sustained damage control in conditions of extreme heat and uncertainty. By their sacrifice and bravery, the crew gallantly saved the ship. For more, check out the revamped USS Cole: Determined Warrior page at NHHC’s website. Award citations for the crew, a new infographic, a special page honoring those lost, and much more have been added.
Naval School Opens—175 Years Ago
On Oct. 10, 1845, the Naval School opened on Army post Fort Severn in Annapolis, MD, with 50 midshipmen and seven professors. The curriculum included mathematics, navigation, gunnery, steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French. In 1850, the Naval School became the United States Naval Academy. A new curriculum went into effect requiring midshipmen to study at USNA for four years and to train aboard ships each summer. As the U.S. Navy grew over the years, USNA expanded. The campus of ten acres increased to 338. The original student body of 50 midshipmen grew to a brigade size of 4,000. Congress authorized USNA to begin awarding bachelor of science degrees in 1933. USNA later replaced the curriculum taken by all midshipmen with the present core curriculum and added 18 major fields of study, a wide variety of elective courses, and advanced study and research opportunities. For more, check out “Ex Scientia Tridens”: The U.S. Naval Academy at 175 at NHHC’s website.
Adm. Carlisle A. H. Trost, 23rd Chief of Naval Operations, Passes Away
Adm. Carlisle A. H. Trost, who served as the 23rd Chief of Naval Operations from June 1986 to June 1990, has passed away. He was 90 years old. “Admiral Trost was the epitome of a hard-charging Navy officer, yet was always a true gentleman and people person,” said retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, director of NHHC. “I had the privilege to be one of his Intelligence briefers in 1986–1987 during the high-water mark of Soviet navy operations during the Cold War. I marveled at his ability to instantly grasp the long-range strategic and operational implications of any intelligence report on anything in the world.” During his time as CNO, the Middle East was a hot spot due to the ongoing Iran–Iraq War. Less than a year into his tenure, an Iraqi aircraft fired two missiles that hit USS Stark, killing 37. Beginning in 1987, the Navy supported Operation Earnest Will, escorting Kuwaiti-owned tankers to ensure their safe passage in the Gulf. For more on Trost’s life and career, read the blog by Director Cox at The Sextant.
USS Paul Hamilton Commemorates the Battle of Leyte Gulf
On Sept. 27, as USS Paul Hamilton transited the waters of the Surigao Strait, the crew paused to honor those who served in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The World War II battle was at the time the largest naval battle in world history with nearly 400 ships and more than 200,000 Sailors involved. The October 1944 U.S. victory was key in securing the Philippines from the Japanese. The battle destroyed the strategic threat posed by the Imperial Japanese navy. The Battle off Samar would prove to be the most dramatic naval engagement of the Leyte campaign. “The Sailors of Leyte…remind us that our singular charge and highest priority is to be combat ready and battle-minded, so that when called upon we can respond in the same manner as those who covered themselves in glory here,” said Cmdr. Mark W. Lawrence, commanding officer of Paul Hamilton. For more, read the U.S. Navy release.
Medal of Honor Recipient Albert David
By the time the war in Europe broke out, Lt. Albert David had already served for more than 20 years in the Navy. He was in the Fleet Reserve when Germany invaded Poland, and he was subsequently called to active duty. He spent a few years working stateside until May 1943 when he received orders to serve on the newly commissioned USS Pillsbury, a destroyer that escorted Atlantic Ocean convoys into Casablanca, Morocco, and Gibraltar. On June 4, 1944, Pillsbury was operating off Cape Blanco, French West Africa, when it located German submarine U-505 and forced it to surface. David led a team from Pillsbury to board the German submarine. Though it was flooding and could explode at any moment, he directed the initial salvage operations and later ensured the submarine was seaworthy for transport to the United States. This capture of the enemy vessel was the first since 1815. Before David could be presented with the nation’s highest honor, he died on Sept. 17, 1945, in Norfolk, VA. For his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” he posthumously received the Medal of Honor. For more, read the article.
Baseball Legend, WWII Vet Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra is best known for his 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, winning ten World Series championships and being inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. He put his career on hold in 1943 when he enlisted in the Navy. Berra was a gunner’s mate assigned to USS Bayfield, where he was responsible for the operation and maintenance of weapons and other ordnance equipment. On June 6, 1944, Bayfield was on Utah Beach, France, for the D-Day landings. During the invasion, Berra said he “sprayed bullets and rockets across the heavily fortified beach fronts before the troops landed.” He was wounded during the invasion and later received the Purple Heart. After World War II, he continued to serve. In 1950, he participated in a campaign with the Treasury Department to promote U.S. savings bonds, and in 2009, he received the Lone Sailor Award. In 2010, Berra received the Audie Murphy Award for his Navy service. For more, read the article.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Naval Academy History Professor Fred Herrod, who retired this summer after a career that spanned nearly five decades, discusses the USNA Class of 1846, the early faculty and buildings of the Academy, and the USNA Special Collections & Archives. 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.
The Reason This U.S. Navy Destroyer Flies a Pirate Flag
Observers noticed recently that USS Kidd was flying the Jolly Roger pirate flag while sailing close to port. Not all destroyers can get away with flying a flag associated with lawlessness, but there is special meaning behind Kidd flying the flag. In December 1941, Rear Adm. Isaac Kidd, the ship’s namesake, was commander of Battleship Division One at Pearl Harbor, HI, when the Japanese attacked. He was onboard USS Arizona taking charge of his battleships when it sank, killing most of the ship’s crew and Kidd. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously “…for conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and complete disregard of his own life.” When Kidd was at the Naval Academy, he was given the nickname “Cap” referring to Captain Kidd, an 18th century Scottish pirate. The first ship named for Kidd in 1943 adopted the pirate theme for the ship, and the tradition continues nearly eight decades later. For more, read the article in Popular Mechanics.
Webpage of the Week
In preparation for the 245th birthday of the U.S. Navy on Oct. 13, this week’s Webpage of the Week is the Navy Birthday toolkit. On this page, you will find information and commemoration resources to help prepare for this year’s celebration. Included are Navy logos, digital resources, Navy history, imagery, and archived content. This year’s theme is “Victory at Sea,” which encompasses the Navy’s efforts in battle during World War II in the Pacific. Since 1775, through today, American Sailors have stood the watch with honor, courage, and commitment. On the 20th anniversary of the attack on USS Cole, we remember those lost and honor the Sailors who heroically saved lives and saved their ship. Cole’s Sailors left a legacy of what warfighters do in the face of adversity: persevere, fight, and win. Make your event special. Use the resources NHHC has to offer, and celebrate the world’s greatest Navy!
Today in Naval History
On Oct. 6, 1962, USS Bainbridge, the first nuclear-powered frigate, was commissioned. In 1964, the ship was part of Operation Sea Orbit, the first nuclear-powered task group to go on a world cruise without refueling. The task group included USS Enterprise and USS Long Beach. The ships conducted antiair and antisubmarine exercises with the French and in early June steamed rapidly to the eastern Mediterranean to demonstrate their ability to respond to a crisis.
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