Home / Featured / Navy History Matters – October 20, 2020

Navy History Matters – October 20, 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.

Navy Announces Plan to Build New Museum

On Oct. 13, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced plans to build a new National Museum of the U.S. Navy. “It is vital that the American people understand the importance of a strong and viable naval force. As a maritime nation, our future depends on it,” he said. “The new museum campus will serve as an educational, inspirational, cultural, and ceremonial center for those who have served and are serving in the Navy today. The exhibits in this advanced museum will demonstrate the critical role the Navy has played in the defense of our nation.” NHHC will serve as the lead for coordinating the construction of the new museum. The museum will be designed to bring to life the human experiences of serving in the U.S. Navy, deliver leading-edge engagement to amplify Navy priorities and operations, showcase the history and heritage of all Navy communities, and create a memorial to our heritage and the service and sacrifice of American Sailors. For more, read the article at NHHC’s website.

Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth J. Braithwaite and members of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) unveil renderings of the future National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN) during the announcement ceremony of the new NMUSN. To honor the service of American Sailors and enhance the public understanding of the Navy’s history and heritage, the Navy is creating a new NMUSN. NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage.

“The Most Terrifying Experience”: The U.S. Navy and the Pandemic of 1918

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape our day-to-day life, we are repeatedly reminded that what we are experiencing is a once-in-a-century pandemic. From the spring of 1918 through the first few months of the following year, a strain of influenza wreaked havoc worldwide, killing more than during World War I. The Spanish flu pandemic left a legacy so horrific that survivors had trouble even speaking about it. The pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and took the lives of an estimated 675,000 Americans, roughly 10 times the casualties of the “Great War.” The Navy was particularly hit hard by the pandemic. Naval personnel, crowded on ships and in Navy yards, were prime targets for the virus. Navy medical personnel put their lives on the line to treat victims of disease. For more on the Navy’s response to the pandemic of 1918, read the essay by NHHC historian Thomas Sheppard, Ph.D., at NHHC’s website.

Interior of isolation ward, Naval hospital during influenza epidemic.

Naval Academy Officially Opens New Cyber Building Named After Rear Adm. Grace Hopper

Rear Adm. Carl Lahti remembers meeting Rear Adm. Grace Hopper when he was a plebe. She gave a lecture at Mitscher Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, where she handed out pieces of nanowire after her lecture. Hopper was a computer pioneer who learned to program the first large-scale digital computer, Mark I. She also helped develop COBOL—a standardized computer language—and invented the first compiler for programming language. It was 34 years ago when Lahti listened to her lecture. Recently, the Naval Academy opened a new cybersecurity building that honors her legacy. “I would never believe today we would be dedicating a hall to her honor and her legacy,” Lahti, commandant of Naval District Washington, said. “Hopper Hall represents the future of the Navy. The building shows the commitment of the Navy to advancements in cybersecurity and cyber warfare.” For more, read the article.

Beirut Bombing

On Oct. 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck separate buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, housing U.S. Marines and French forces, killing nearly 300 American and French servicemembers. It was the single deadliest day in U.S. Marine Corps history since World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima. The Marines were in Lebanon to establish a presence in Beirut, providing the stability necessary for the Lebanese government to regain control of the capital city and train the Lebanese armed forces to become strong enough to protect itself. After some tense moments following the attacks, President Ronald Reagan ordered the Marines to withdraw to Sixth Fleet ships offshore. By Feb. 23, the Marines began movement to rejoin their supporting ships, ending 17 months of continuous operations in the country. For more, check out the Lebanon—they came in peace page at NHHC’s website.

The bombed remains of the U.S. Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport stand as a reminder of the terrorist attack in which 241 Marines lost their lives. The Marines have been deployed in Lebanon as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force following confrontation between Israeli forces and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

USS Stethem Commissioned—25 Years Ago

On Oct. 21, 1995, USS Stethem was commissioned at Port Hueneme, CA. The ship honors Steelworker Second Class Robert Dean Stethem, a Seabee diver, who was beaten, tortured, and murdered after the commercial aircraft on which he was flying was hijacked by terrorists. He was returning from an assignment in the Middle East. Stethem is buried in Arlington National Cemetery near a number of other Americans who were victims of worldwide terrorism. His namesake ship is the 13th Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. In May 1997, Stethem sailed to the Arabian Gulf for its maiden overseas deployment, serving in support of Operation Southern Watch. In April 1999, the ship departed Naval Base San Diego, CA, for its second deployment to the Arabian Gulf to conduct freedom of navigation and maritime interception operations. In June 2005, Stethem arrived at its new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan, where the ship has served on a number of readiness exercises over the years.

190718-N-DM338-0023 San Diego (July 18, 2019) The guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) arrived at its new homeport, Naval Base San Diego, July 18, following 14 years of forward-deployed service in the Indo-Pacific region operating from Japan. While in San Diego, Stethem will undergo a planned maintenance and modernization period. (U.S. Navy photo by Nicholas A. Groesch/Released)

Assistance for Victims of Typhoon Joan—50 Years Ago

On Oct. 25, 1970, amphibious assault ship Okinawa, dock landing ship Anchorage, and amphibious transport dock Duluth, with Sailors and Marines from shore establishments, completed four days of assistance following Typhoon Joan, which left more than 600 people dead and 80,000 without shelter across southern Luzon and Catanduanes Island, Philippines. CH-46 helicopters flew 70 relief sorties and delivered more than 65 tons of supplies. Navy and Marine Corps medical teams treated more than 1,000 patients following the massive hurricane. For more on the Navy’s humanitarian mission, go to NHHC’s website.

Wherever naval units were stationed in Vietnam, they instituted programs to assist the civilian population and gain their support for the allied cause. Such assistance included medical care, instruction in hygiene and sanitation, distribution of clothing, medicine, and other supplies.

Detachment Boston Established

Following the closure of the Boston Navy Yard and the disestablishment of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding’s Office, the Naval Historical Center Detachment Boston was established on Oct. 25, 1991, to maintain and repair the sail frigate USS Constitution. The origins of what is now known as NHHC Detachment Boston can be traced back to September 1897, when “Old Ironsides” returned to Boston for the 100th anniversary of her October 1797 launch. In 1954, Public Law 523 authorized the Secretary of the Navy “to repair, equip, and restore the United States ship Constitution as far as may be practicable, to her original condition, but not for active service, and thereafter to maintain the United States ship Constitution at Boston, MA.” Today, Constitution remains the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (May 18, 2015) USS Constitution enters Dry Dock 1 in Charlestown Navy Yard to commence a multi-year planned restoration period. This is Constitution’s first time in dry dock since its 1992-1996 restoration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew R. Fairchild/Released)

USS Oklahoma Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Identified

The remains of a U.S. Navy Sailor who was onboard USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor were recently identified. Navy Fireman 2nd Class Martin Young was just 29 years old when the attack took place and subsequently brought the United States into World War II. Young is scheduled to be buried next year in his home state of Kentucky. Gov. Andy Beshear said he will order flags half-staff on the day of his interment. “It took a long time to get him home, but we honor the sacrifice of Navy Fireman Martin Young no less,” Beshear said. “All of our veterans and their families have earned our respect and compassion for their service.” Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits that caused it to quickly capsize. Twenty of Oklahoma’s officers and 395 of her enlisted men were either killed or were missing because of the attack. Heroic efforts saved 32 of the Sailors trapped inside the ship. For more, read the article.

Rescue teams at work on the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), seeking crew members trapped inside, 7 December 1941. The starboard bilge keel is visible at the top of the upturned hull. Officers’ Motor Boats from Oklahoma and USS Argonne (AG-31) are in the foreground. USS Maryland (BB-46) is in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Preble Hall Podcast

In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, history professor Marcus Jones, game instructors Sebastian Bae and Mike Bond, and Midshipmen Jen Sun and Jacob Havilandolores (co-founders of the naval history wargaming society) discuss the benefits of wargames in naval education. The Preble Hall podcast, conducted by personnel at the U.S. Naval Academy 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 has recently been updated in NHHC’s DANFS index. USS Constellation was commissioned on Oct. 27, 1961, after tragedy struck the ship on Dec. 19, 1960, when a catastrophic fire caused the loss of 50 workers and $75 million in damages. In the summer of 1962, Constellation was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and, after some workup exercises, deployed to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War. Over the course of the next ten years, Constellation would be heavily involved in the war effort, deploying multiple times. In 2002, the ship supported Operation Enduring Freedom and, in 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom. On Aug. 7, 2003, Constellation’s commissioning pennant was hauled down, and her deck log closed. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on Dec. 2, 2003. Her legacy might best be remembered in the 1981 words of President Ronald Reagan: “Let friend and foe alike know that America has the muscle to back up its words, and ships like this and men like you are that muscle . . . you are America’s Flagship.”

In the South China Sea, 2 October 1974.

Today in Naval History

On Oct. 20, 1941, USS Hornet was commissioned at Norfolk, VA, with Capt. Marc A. Mitscher in command. During World War II, the ship participated in the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of Midway, and the Solomons Campaign. On Oct. 26, 1942, at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, Hornet was severely damaged by the Japanese and was abandoned. Although U.S. destroyers attempted to scuttle her, Hornet remained afloat and was sunk by Japanese destroyers early the next morning.

USS Hornet (CV-8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, 18 April 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

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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