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 Wendy Arevalo, Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach Division
Japanese Formally Surrender
On Sept. 2, 1945, the instrument of formal surrender of Japan to the Allied powers was signed aboard battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor—officially ending World War II. On the heels of the successful Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns, the Allies had planned to invade the Japanese homeland, but the operation would have been extremely costly, and the American people were increasingly becoming “war weary,” after years of continuous battles and the loss of so many American lives. After the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan, the U.S. Navy undertook extraordinary efforts to bring American Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen home. Operation Magic Carpet was the post–World War II operation that repatriated more than eight million American military personnel from the European, Pacific, and Asian theaters. After the war, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and reconstruction of the Japanese nation. From 1945–52, U.S. forces, led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms.
First Woman to Command a U.S. Navy Nuclear Aircraft Carrier
Navy Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt was appointed commanding officer of USS Abraham Lincoln earlier this month, making her the first woman to command a nuclear aircraft carrier in U.S. Navy history. Bauernschmidt previously served as the carrier’s executive officer from 2016–19. She relieved Capt. Walt “Sarge” Slaughter of his duties on Aug. 19 during a change of command ceremony in San Diego. Bauernschmidt, a helicopter pilot, served as commanding officer of Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron 70, aboard USS George H. W. Bush in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She also commanded the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego in 2020. Bauernschmidt graduated from the Naval Academy in 1994—the first year women were allowed to serve aboard combatant vessels. She also has a master’s degree from the Naval War College and is a nuclear power school graduate. Visit the NHHC website to learn more about women in the U.S. Navy. To learn more about Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, read the article or her biography here.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, host Steve Phillips talks to NHHC historian John Sherwood, Ph.D., about the Brown Water Navy in Vietnam. Be sure to check out Sherwood's book War in the Shallows for more on the U.S. Navy’s coastal and riverine forces. 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.
9/11 Commemoration Toolkit & New Sextant Article
Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach division recently added a 9/11 commemoration toolkit to the NHHC homepage to assist Navy commands in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. The toolkit includes a communication plan—with talking points and messaging guidance—visual resources, oral histories, photos of artifacts, and links to three memorial websites. For further reading on the events of 9/11, check out NHHC’s blog, The Sextant. We recently added a new piece that details the experiences of two U.S. Navy officers—Lt. Cmdr. David Tarantino and Capt. David Thomas—who put themselves in harm’s way to assist others injured when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. The piece is entitled “Heroism at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.” For additional 9/11 photos, blogs/articles, and narrative accounts on the 9/11 terrorist attacks click here.
Historic Former U.S. Naval Bases and Stations: Mare Island and Terminal Island
This week, NHHC added a new section to our website that includes profiles of Historic Former U.S. Naval Bases and Stations. These histories are part of an ongoing initiative to capture the history of former significant Navy bases. Mare Island Naval Shipyard, in Mare Island, CA, was established in 1854 to support the naval defense of the new Pacific Coast territories won from Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Cmdr. David Glasgow Farragut was appointed to oversee construction of the base and served as its commanding officer from 1854–58. Mare Island slowly grew from a small dock and repair facility to one of the busiest naval shipyards in the world in World War II. In 1913, The Navy began using the port of San Pedro, CA, as the unofficial home for its H-class submarines. Both USS H-1, and USS H-2 operated there, along with submarine tenders USS Cheyenne and USS Alert (AS-4). In 1917, San Pedro Submarine Base was officially established. In 1919, San Pedro, CA became the homeport of the Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet. The Pacific Fleet’s battleships operated out of the San Pedro Bay until 1940, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred them to Pearl Harbor, HI. Naval Air Base San Pedro also operated on Terminal Island beginning in the mid-1930s and throughout World War II. To learn more, check out The Navy at San Pedro and Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
Last Flight of a Naval Airship—Aug. 31, 1962
On Aug. 31, 1962, the last flight of a Navy airship departed and landed at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, NJ. It was made by the ZPG-3W–type airship—the largest non-rigid airship ever constructed. Four ZPG-3Ws—specifically designed for airborne early warning—were delivered to NAS Lakehurst in 1958. These 403-foot long airships included a 40-foot-wide radar antenna that rotated inside its helium-filled envelope. They were also the first non-rigid airships to have controls similar to those of an airplane. Unfortunately, a fatal accident occurred with the first ZPG-3W at sea in 1960, and a change in the early-warning mission left less-capableZPG-2 airships as the Navy’s only lighter than air (LTA) long-endurance aircraft. In June 21, 1961, the Secretary of the Navy announced the service was going to terminate the its LTR program. The Navy continued to use two airships for research and development assignments until the end of August 1962. For more on Airships & Dirigibles, visit NHHC’s website.
Webpage of the Week
This week’s Webpage of the Week covers Operation Crossroads. In July 1946, amid rising tensions with the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy began testing the effects of atomic bombs on naval vessels at Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. The vessels used in the testing were captured German and Japanese warships and older/surplus U.S. Navy ships. The Navy worked in conjunction with Army engineers at the Manhattan Project to plan three tests of atomic bombs—Able, Baker, and Charlie. In February 1946, Commodore Ben H. Wyatt, commander of Kwajalein Naval Air Base in the Marshall Islands, informed the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll of the planned testing and the islanders voted to leave their homes temporarily, with the reassurance that they would be able to return once testing was complete. In March 1946, the U.S. Navy relocated the Bikini inhabitants to Rongerik Atoll, also in the Marshall Islands. The first two tests were conducted on a target fleet of 95 ships. A B-29 bomber dropped the first bomb, which detonated at an altitude of 520 feet above the target fleet and sank five ships. In Test Baker, a bomb was detonated 90 feet underwater, sinking eight ships, including the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. The detonation caused most of the target fleet to be bathed in radioactive water spray. With the exception of 12 target vessels, the target fleet remained too radiologically contaminated to be inspected for several weeks. The Navy towed eight ships and two submarines to Hawaii for further radiological inspection. The remaining contaminated ships were towed to nearby Kwajalein Atoll for possible decontamination or scuttled in the lagoon of Bikini Atoll. Due to concerns about radiological contamination and safety, Test Charlie was cancelled. To learn more about Operation Crossroads, go to the Cold War Era section under Wars, Conflicts, and Operations on the NHHC website.
Today in Naval History
On Aug. 31, 1911, 100 years ago, USS Utah was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with Capt. William S. Benson in command. After her shakedown cruise, she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, where she operated mostly off the U.S. East Coast and Cuba. During World War I, she served in the Atlantic protecting convoys. In 1931, she was converted to a radio-controlled target ship and was redesignated AG-16. Utah spent the rest of her career in that role, with additional duties as an anti-aircraft gunnery training ship beginning in the mid-1930s. On Dec. 7, 1941, while moored at Pearl Harbor, Utah was hit by a Japanese aerial torpedo attack, rolled over, and sank. A few years later, her hull was partially righted and moved closer to Ford Island where she remains today.
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.
- Boats-Ships--Littoral Combat
- Medal of Honor
- Boats-Ships--Nuclear Powered
- Boats-Ships--Aircraft Carriers
- Historical Summary
- Civil War 1861-1865
- Mexican War 1846-1848
- World War I 1917-1918
- Korean Conflict 1950-1954
- World War II 1939-1945
- Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV)
- Image (gif, jpg, tiff)