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.
Compiled by Brent Hunt, Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach Division
National Vietnam War Veterans Day
On March 29, the nation will observe National Vietnam War Veterans Day as we continue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Every facet of the Navy we know today supported the Vietnam War effort. Navy Sailors were at sea, along the rivers and coastal waters, in the air, and on land. Modern carrier battle groups launched air strikes from Yankee and Dixie stations in the South China Sea, destroyers and cruisers provided gunfire support, and the Navy was crucial in maintaining the U.S. logistical chain across the Pacific. In addition to combat operations, Navy personnel were involved in multiple training, advisory, infrastructure, and civil affairs programs. Today, our bilateral relationship with Vietnam demonstrates our support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. Through hard work and mutual respect, we are now close partners. NHHC has developed a commemoration toolkit for Vietnam War Veterans Day to help celebrate the heroes of the war.
Martin Assumes Command of Seventh Fleet—70 Years Ago
On March 28, 1951, Vice Adm. Harold M. Martin assumed command of Seventh Fleet, which at the time was conducting Korean War combat operations. He held that vital position into 1952. Later he served as commander of the Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Martin also served as commander of First Fleet during some of 1953. He retired from active duty at the rank of admiral in February 1956. Martin, a Michigan native, began his naval career when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1918. During World War I, he served on the destroyer Winslow. Following the conclusion of the “Great War,” Martin was assigned to the battleship Nevada until 1921. He then received flight training and was designated a naval aviator. During World War II, he took command of Carrier Division 23 in March 1945, leading escort carriers against enemy forces during the Battle of Okinawa. After the war, he commanded two fleet air wings, two carrier divisions, and was chief of Naval Air Technical Training prior to taking the position as commander of Seventh Fleet.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, the U.S. Naval Academy's History Department hosted the annual Bancroft lecture, named after Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, who was a historian and founder of the academy. This year, Dr. Vincent Brown of Harvard University was the lecturer. Brown is a professor of African and African-American studies, and founding director of the history design studio at Harvard University. His research, writing, teaching, and other creative endeavors are focused on the political dimensions of cultural practice in the African diaspora, with a particular emphasis on the early modern Atlantic world. 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.
Tyson Became First Female Executive Officer—25 Years Ago
On March 29, 1996, Cmdr. Nora W. Tyson became the first female naval flight officer to assume duties as executive officer of an operational squadron, VQ-4. Later, Tyson served as the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet (July 2015–September 2017), making her the first woman to lead a numbered U.S. Navy fleet. Prior to serving as fleet commander, she served as deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and as vice director of the Joint Staff in Washington, DC. She was the first woman to command a carrier strike group, leading 80 combat aircraft and 13 ships, including her flagship, USS George H.W. Bush, on its maiden deployment—a combat deployment to the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Arabian Sea/Gulf areas of operations. She also served as commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73, as navigator on USS Enterprise, and as commanding officer of USS Bataan. Tyson led the Navy’s initial response to disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as well as two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tyson retired from U.S. naval service at the rank of vice admiral in 2017. For more on women in the U.S. Navy, go to NHHC’s website.
National Medal of Honor Day
On Nov. 15, 1990, Public Law 101-564 was approved by Congress, designating March 25 as National Medal of Honor Day. The day is significant as it commemorates the date in 1863 on which the first Medals of Honor were presented to six of the 22 men known as Andrews’ Raiders for their participation in the Great Locomotive Chase during the Civil War. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Honor is our country’s oldest continuously awarded decoration, even though its appearance and award criteria have changed since it was created for enlisted men by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on Dec. 16, 1861. Legislation in 1915 made naval officers eligible for the award. Although originally awarded for both combat and noncombat heroism, the Medal of Honor today is presented for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, during combat operations against an enemy of the United States. Medal of Honor Day was established to honor the recipients and to raise public awareness on the importance of the nation’s highest honor.
Dewey Commissioned Admiral of the Navy
On March 24, 1903, Adm. George Dewey was commissioned Admiral of the Navy—the only person to hold the rank. Upon his death on Jan. 16, 1917, Congress deactivated the rank. Over the course of his illustrious career, Dewey earned the Civil War Medal; the Spanish Campaign Medal; the Philippine Campaign Medal; and the Dewey Medal (commemorating the Battle of Manila Bay). A destroyer, USS Dewey, was named to honor him. Built by the Bath Iron Works Corporation of Bath, ME, the ship was launched on July 28, 1934, under the sponsorship of Ann M. Dewey, great-grandniece of Dewey. Dewey was placed in commission at the Boston Navy Yard on Oct. 4, 1934, and earned 13 battle stars for operations in Pacific waters during World War II.
Repairs Underway to Save Destroyer The Sullivans
After losing 87 percent of its revenue due to COVID-19 closures and cancellations, the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park in New York has had a tough time keeping the park from going under. Now, it has to worry about keeping one of its star attractions afloat. Personnel recently discovered the destroyer USS The Sullivans has been taking on water and is listing at its berth. Emergency repairs are underway to pump out the water and plug the holes. “Seventy-eight years is a long time to keep these ships in condition to be floating, especially when we want to use them as a museum piece and an educational tool,” said Paul Marzello Sr., president and chief executive of the park. The ship, commissioned in 1943, was named to honor the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, IA, who were killed in action while aboard USS Juneau during the 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Their namesake ship earned nine battle stars for her World War II service. She earned two more for her service during the Korean War. The Sullivans was donated to the park in 1977. For more, read the article.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is new to NHHC’s notable ships. Gato-class submarine USS Growler was commissioned on March 20, 1942, with Lt. Cmdr. Howard W. Gilmore in command. For the first couple of months, Growler conducted intensive training off the Connecticut coast that was hampered by continuous mechanical problems and subsequent repairs. On May 1, 1942, Growler was underway for Pacific waters, arriving at Pearl Harbor on May 31. After almost three weeks of training and special availability, Growler steamed for Midway, conducting daily training dives and drills while enroute to her assigned area of operations. On Feb. 7, 1943, Growler spotted a small enemy ship near the Bismarck Islands. As Growler made her torpedo tubes ready for a surface attack, Japanese ship Hayasaki spotted Growler and reversed course to attack, making ready to ram. Gilmore ordered left full rudder, sounded the collision alarm, and rammed the enemy vessel at a speed of 17 knots. After impact, Hayasaki opened fire with her machine guns, killing two and mortally wounding Gilmore. Realizing he would endanger the submarine and crew due to his inability to get below deck, Gilmore uttered the legendary words, “Take her down.” For more on this legendary World War II boat, check out the page today. It contains a short history, suggested reading, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On March 23, 1917, USS New Mexico was launched. She was the first dreadnought-type battleship with turboelectric drive, and at the time, this was hailed as one of the most important achievements of the scientific age. Before the deployment of New Mexico, ships used a direct-drive steam turbine. Direct drive turbines were very efficient at faster speeds, but at slow speeds they wasted energy because the propeller turned too quickly. The newly designed turboelectric drive used only one turbine, and rather than driving the propeller shaft, it turned one or two electric generators. The electricity was then routed to electric motors mounted to the propeller shaft heads. Using this method, the turbine would turn at a constant, highly efficient rotation rate, while the electric motors would turn at the most efficient speed to turn the propellers. For full backing power, the electric motors were simply reversed, which eliminated the need for several pieces of equipment and steam piping.
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.
- Medal of Honor
- Historical Summary
- World War I 1917-1918
- World War II 1939-1945
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Vietnam Conflict 1962-1975
- Image (gif, jpg, tiff)