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.
SECNAV Names Future Vessels
On Jan. 15, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced the Navy would name three future vessels after ships that are steeped in naval history and two others after a Medal of Honor recipient and a Native American tribe. USS Chesapeake will join the future Constellation-class frigates honoring one of the first six Navy frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. The submarine force will welcome the third USS Silversides. Amphibious transport dock USS Pittsburgh will be the fifth to bear the name of the Keystone State. Earlier versions of Pittsburgh and Silversides served gallantly during World War II. USS Robert E. Simanek will honor Marine Pfc. Robert Ernest Simanek, who received the nation’s highest honor during the Korean War, and the future USNS Lenni Lenape honors the American northeastern tribe. For more, read the U.S. Navy release.
Ensure History is Recorded: Submit Your Command Operations Report
The year 2020 can be described in many ways, and you can help tell your story of the unprecedented year by submitting your command operations report to NHHC. Per CNO Instruction 5750.12K CH-1 and NAVADMIN 336/20, the deadline to summarize and submit operations, activities, and exercises is March 1. Every command with 25 people or more is required to submit a COR. Smaller commands can have their superior commands submit on their behalf. “The CORs are vital in documenting our history. You have to think about the value and worth of these records one, ten, a hundred years from today. Reports could help corroborate a veteran’s claim with Veterans Affairs or provide insight to future generations of Sailors and commanders,” said Amara Pugens, an NHHC archivist. Time is running out quickly. To learn how to submit a COR, read the article at NHHC’s website.
First Ballistic Submarine Completes First Operational Voyage
On Jan. 21, 1961, 60 years ago, USS George Washington completed the first operational voyage as a fleet ballistic missile submarine, staying submerged 66 days before returning to Groton, CT, where the gold crew assumed responsibility of the boat’s second patrol. At the completion of the second patrol, George Washington made way to Holy Loch, Scotland, in April 1961. For the next few years, the submarine conducted classified deterrent patrols near the Soviet coastline, rotating the two crews. Four years after her departure from Groton, George Washington had steamed more than 100,000 miles. After overhaul in 1965, the submarine resumed patrols with the Pacific Fleet, and for nearly 20 years acted as a deterrent to global war embodying her motto, “First in Peace.” George Washington was decommissioned on Jan. 24, 1985. The submarine’s sail, or conning tower, was saved and is on display at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton.
Wisconsin Keel Laid—80 Years Ago
On Jan. 25, 1941, the keel to USS Wisconsin was laid at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Commissioned on April 16, 1944, Wisconsin was one of the largest and last battleships built. During World War II, she operated in Pacific waters, participating in an array of engagements—notably the Battle of Iwo Jima, Battle of Okinawa, and the bombardment of Japan. Wisconsin also participated in the Korean War and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Having served with distinction in three wars, Wisconsin was decommissioned at Norfolk Naval Station on Sept. 30, 1991. On Dec. 14, 2009, the Navy officially transferred the battleship to the city of Norfolk, where she now serves as a museum battleship berthed adjacent to the Nauticus National Maritime Center.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, retired Navy Capt. Michael Schneider talks about his book, Merchant Ships in World War II: The Maritime Commission’s Emergency Shipbuilding Program. Schneider gave this lecture in November 2018 as part of the museum’s Shifley Lecture Series at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. The Preble Hall podcast, conducted by personnel at the USNA 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.
Exploring Newport’s Naval History
Newport, RI, and the U.S. Navy have a bond that dates back centuries. Once known as “Navy Town,” there’s a sort of “Flying Dutchman” aspect to the relationship now. The Navy still has a major presence in the area, but it has been drastically scaled down. “The Navy has been part of the fabric of Newport going very far back into the 19th century,” said John B. Hattendorf, former director of the Naval War College Museum and the college’s Ernest J. King Professor Emeritus of Maritime History. Today, he adds, “you’ve got the world of Bellevue Avenue and the local world and the Navy world co-existing.” Several heroes of the American Revolution have roots in Newport, including Capt. Stephen Decatur Sr., born in the former residence that now houses the Perro Salado restaurant, and Capt. Christopher Raymond Perry, who lived at 31 Walnut St. Both bore sons who would become naval heroes during the War of 1812—Stephen Decatur Jr. and Oliver Hazard Perry, the latter of whom is commemorated with a statue in Eisenhower Park. For more, read the article.
Eisenhower, JFK Rode This Oceanport Boat
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower first set foot on the Naval War College’s exclusive boat, he noticed something was missing. Someone had removed the boat’s .50 caliber machine gun, much to the dismay of the commander-in-chief. He ordered that the machine gun be put back on the boat. Although the weapon is long gone from what was once known in the Navy as the Admiral’s Barge, the 50-foot wooden cutter stands out at the Oceanport Landing Marina along the Shrewsbury River. Joe Ruffini, a Navy veteran, saved it from the grave in 2015 when he bought it at an auction and refurbished it. “A lot of people are fascinated by it,” he said. “I would be willing to bet just about anything that this is the most photographed boat on the river. Anytime we take it out, you always see people snapping pictures.” From 1957 to 2015, the Naval War College hosted dignitaries on the boat, including Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Harry Kissinger. For more on the boat, read the article.
Navy Enlistment Helped Spark Football Legend’s Career
Although Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger ultimately became a famous college football athlete, he got his start serving two years at sea as a yeoman in the late 1960s. Using the GI Bill he earned serving during the Vietnam War, Ruettiger enrolled in Indiana’s Holy Cross College in 1972 and then at the University of Notre Dame in 1974, playing in the Orange Bowl in 1975 and the Gator Bowl in 1976—the year he graduated. Despite being a smaller player—5 feet, 6 inches tall and 165 pounds—he played defensive end on Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team because of his devotion and motivation. His claim to fame was on Nov. 8, 1975, against Georgia Institute of Technology when on the final play of the game he sacked Georgia Tech quarterback Rudy Allen. His teammates were overwhelmed with joy as they carried him off the field. His story inspired the 1993 movie “Rudy” that was based on Ruettiger’s short football career. For more, read the article at DOD’s website.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s webpage of the week is new to NHHC’s notable ships pages. USS Tautog was commissioned on July 3, 1940, and after brief training off Long Island, NY, was underway for her shakedown cruise in Caribbean waters. Upon redeployment to New London, CT, in November, Tautog operated off the eastern seaboard until February 1941. Late in April of that year, she steamed to Hawaii with two other submarines. After brief stops on the U.S. west coast, the group of submarines arrived at Pearl Harbor on June 6, where Tautog operated until mid-October. On Oct. 21, Tautog and USS Threshersecretly launched a simulated war patrol in the area of Midway before returning to Pearl Harbor on Dec 5. Two days later on an early Sunday morning, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Within minutes of the first explosion, Tautog’s gun crew kicked into action, splashing a Japanese torpedo plane. Over the course of World War II, Tautog earned 14 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation. According to Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee figures, “The Terrible T” sank 26 Japanese vessels, accounting for 72, 606 tons of enemy shipping. Check out the page today. It contains a short history, suggested reading, audio interviews with crewmembers, articles, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On Jan. 19, 1943, USS Swordfish sank the 4,122-ton army cargo ship Myoho Maru, which was part of the Japanese Solomons reinforcement convoy, while USS Greenling damaged a Japanese cargo ship north of Rabaul. Swordfish earned eight battle stars for her service during World War II. On Swordfish’s 13th war patrol, the submarine was ordered to patrol the Nansei Shoto area until completion of scheduled air strikes. She acknowledged receipt of the orders on Jan. 3, but no further communication was ever received from her. On Feb. 15, after repeated attempts to contact her by radio had failed, she was reported as presumed lost, the victim of unknown causes. Greenling conducted 12 war patrols, earned 10 battle stars, and received a Presidential Unit Citation for her outstanding war service.
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