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
Leadership, Creativity, Military Innovation, and Future Warfighting
NHHC recently published an oral history of retired Adm. James R. Hogg, who served as the director of the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group (SSG) from 1995 to 2013. This oral history, based on a series of interviews by the Naval War College's Dara Baker and edited by former SSG deputy William G. Glenney, IV, is scoped toward capturing the leadership and mentoring approaches and techniques Hogg used to establish the SSG “Process of Innovation” as he guided 18 SSGs to successful mission accomplishment and professionally developed more than 400 military officers, of whom more than 47 attained flag- or general-officer rank, and over 100 civilians. Hogg’s leadership and professional abilities were the single most important factor in the SSG’s record of sustained success in meeting the CNO’s needs for 18 years and defining the U.S. Navy of the future. For more, download a free 508-compliant PDF of the transcript at NHHC’s website.
Mexican-American War—175 Years Ago
On July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the Pacific Squadron, landed a party of 140 Sailors and 85 Marines under Capt. William Mervine in sloop Cyane to occupy Monterey, in the Mexican province of California. Two days later, Cmdr. John B. Montgomery and his detachment of Marines and Sailors from the sloop-of-war Portsmouth raised the U.S. flag over Yerba Buena (San Francisco), CA. The Mexican-American War, which ended on Feb. 2, 1848, with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, was the first U.S. armed conflict fought primarily on foreign soil that matched an expansionist-minded United States against a militarily unprepared Mexico. As a result, Mexico agreed to extend the southern border of Texas to the Rio Grande River, and ceded present-day California, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada, as well as parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming, to the United States.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, Bill Fowler, who is a professor emeritus of History at Northeastern University, talks about all the ways in which you can be a maritime historian and why people should care about the history of America and the sea. 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.
Kentucky Commissioned—30 Years Ago
On July 13, 1991, USS Kentucky was commissioned at Groton, CT. She is the third Navy vessel to be named after the Bluegrass State, and the 12th submarine of the Ohio-class of ballistic missile submarines. The submarine launched her first test Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile during her demonstration and shakedown operations off Port Canaveral, FL. Originally assigned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, GA, Kentucky shifted her homeport to Naval Submarine Base Bangor, WA, in November 2002. Kentucky was honored by U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in 2009 as the recipient of the Omaha Trophy for excellence in strategic deterrence. She also received the Battle Efficiency Award (Battle "E") for Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 17. In April 2015, Kentucky completed a 39-month engineered refueling overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, successfully finishing sea trials on April 16, 2015.
Ponce Commissioned—50 Years Ago
On July 10, 1971, USS Ponce was commissioned. The final Austin-class amphibious transport dock was named after a city in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, the European discoverer of Florida, and the first governor of Puerto Rico. Ponce set out for her first deployment in January 1973, during a voyage to the Mediterranean, where she operated as part of Amphibious Squadron 2 with Sixth Fleet. On April 30, 1980, President James E. Carter, Jr., ordered the Navy to divert ships scheduled for exercise Solid Shield 80 in the Atlantic and Caribbean to assist the Coast Guard in rescuing Cuban refugees who had fled that country in dangerously overcrowded boats through the Florida Straits for the United States. Ponce charted a course for those waters in June and, during three weeks of patrols, rescued 640 people. She received the Humanitarian Service Medal for her part in rescuing the migrants. Later in her service to the nation, Ponce supported the Marines in Lebanon in 1984, Operation Allied Force in 1999, Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and several humanitarian missions.
Edward C. Kalbfus: First Director of Naval History
On July 12, 1944, retired Adm. Edward C. Kalbfus was detached from the General Board and became the first director of Naval History. His orders were to coordinate the various programs underway, including Professor Robert Albion’s project to document the administrative aspects of World War II and Cmdr. Samuel Eliot Morison’s history of the war’s naval operations. Early in 1945, Kalbfus issued a series of directives related to the writing of administrative histories. In one measure, he requested that major fleet and shore-based commands submit narratives of their wartime experiences. At the end of the war, the Office of Naval History began writing, based on the administrative histories, and in 1959, the 1,042-page volume titled Administration of the Navy Department in World War II was completed. For more, see Guide to United States Naval Administrative Histories of World War II.
Records of the Union and Confederate Navies
On July 7, 1884, the project to gather, edit, and publish Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion had begun under the direction of James R. Soley, librarian of the Navy Department. The final volume was published in 1922. The completed records became part of a director of Naval History directive in 1945 to publish day-to-day war diary and progress reports maintained during World War I and World War II. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion was included to provide background of prewar functions and purposes for those not familiar with its existence.
CNO Visits Constitution, Naturalizes Sailors as U.S. Citizens
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday recently visited frigate Constitution, located inside Boston National Historical Park as part of the Charlestown Navy Yard, MA, to conduct a naturalization ceremony and engage with Sailors. Gilday spoke on the importance of citizenship and the historic ship. “The United States is and will forever be a nation of immigrants,” he said. “Your stories—and the cultures, customs, and traditions you bring to America—exemplify that we have more to unite us than to divide us. To our newest citizens, congratulations! How fitting it is to celebrate your naturalization in Boston, the birthplace of the American Revolution, on the deck of Constitution, a warship that sailed and fought to secure the blessings of liberty, when our nation was in its infancy.” Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, actively defending sea lanes from 1797 to 1855. Constitution was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opponents. The ship earned the nickname of “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812, when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s oak hull. For more, read the U.S. Navy press release.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week is from NHHC’s Exploration and Innovation pages. Although radio detection and ranging (radar) and sound navigation and ranging (sonar) rely on two fundamentally different types of wave transmissions, both are remote sensing systems. Leo C. Young and Dr. Alfred Hoyt Taylor made the first U.S. observations of the radio reflection phenomenon and, eight years after the initial discovery, scientists noted that the reflections of radio waves from aircraft could also be detected. Research led to the first U.S. radar, the XAF, which was permanently installed on USS New York in 1939. By the time the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, 20 radar units had been installed on selected ships. The radar units helped contribute to U.S. Navy World War II victories at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of Midway, and during the Guadalcanal campaign. Development of the modern sonar began in the 1920s, when advancements in applying underwater sound to practical needs became abundantly clear. During this time and with advances in electronics, depth sounding by ships and echo ranging on submarines was developed. Thomas Edison and other scientists became involved in the research of passive listening devices. Other researchers explored the physics of oceanography on which later work would be based. For more, check out the Radar and Sonar page today. It contains a short history, suggested reading, and selected imagery.
Today in Naval History
On July 6, 1747, John Paul Jones was born in a humble gardener's cottage in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. Jones went to sea as a youth, and was a merchant shipmaster by the age of 21. Having taken up residence in Virginia, he volunteered early in the American Revolution to serve in his adopted country's infant Navy and raised the Continental ensign on board the flagship of the Navy's first fleet with his own hands. He took the war to the enemy's homeland with daring raids along the British coast and the famous victory of frigate Bonhomme Richard over HMS Serapis. After Bonhomme Richard began taking on water and fires broke out on board, the British commanding officer asked Jones if he had struck his flag. Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight!” In the end, it was the British captain who surrendered. Jones is remembered for his indomitable will and his unwillingness to consider surrender when the slightest hope of victory still burned. Throughout his naval career, Jones promoted professional standards and training.
- Relief Efforts--Humanitarian Aid-Rescue
- Theater of Operations--Pacific
- Boats-Ships--Support Ships
- Historical Summary
- Civil War 1861-1865
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- War of 1812 1812-1815
- World War I 1917-1918
- World War II 1939-1945
- Revolutionary War 1775-1783
- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)
- Image (gif, jpg, tiff)