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
Unknown Soldier Arrived at WNY—100 Years Ago
On Nov. 9, 1921, cruiser Olympia arrived at the Washington Navy Yard from France carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier of World War I for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Since his interment, the Unknown Soldier has become a powerful symbol—for remembrance, solidarity, understanding, and reflection. On Feb. 4, 1921, the journey of the Unknown Soldier began when Congress “approved the burial of an unidentified American Soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.” Almost eight months after the congressional resolution, Olympia departed from her homeport in Philadelphia and began the long voyage to the French coast. After a ceremonial visit to Plymouth, England, on Oct. 17, Olympia arrived at Le Havre, France, six days later. Destroyer Reuben James was also in La Havre. On Oct. 25, after much fanfare, an Army detail bearing the Unknown Soldier approached Olympia where they were relieved by six Sailors and two Marines, who secured the Unknown Soldier onboard the ship. In company with six French naval vessels, Olympia made the treacherous, 14-day passage across the Atlantic Ocean. For more, check out The Return of the Unknown Soldier page at NHHC’s website. It contains an essay, Final Voyage Home, by NHHC’s Wesley R. Schwenk. In addition, NHHC is scheduled to host a 100th Anniversary Symposium and Commemoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy today. Doors open at 11:45 a.m.
Happy Birthday Marine Corps
On Nov. 10, 1775, the Continental Congress established two battalions of Marines who would be “able to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress.” After 246 years of partnership with the U.S. Navy, the bond between the two services has never been stronger—from fighting for our country’s independence during the American Revolution to raising the American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima, “until every battle is won.” The Navy is proud to have the U.S. Marines as a partner, and we wish the Devil Dogs a happy birthday. For more on the Navy and Marine Corps team, visit NHHC’s website.
Happy Veterans Day
Originally celebrated as Armistice Day to honor World War I veterans, Veterans Day is observed annually to honor all military veterans and recognize the sacrifices they have made for this country. Today, more than 18 million veterans have proudly worn the uniform of the nation. Veterans Day provides Americans the opportunity to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of this country, and willingness to serve. For more, check out the History of Veterans Day infographic. In addition, NHHC’s Resources for Veterans page provides links to a plethora of information, including guidance for those who are attempting to locate records related to their military service.
First Blue Angels Pilots Were Combat-Seasoned, Many More Have Followed the Same Path
When the Blue Angels perform their final demonstration flight of the 2021 season, spectators will have the opportunity to get another look at the team's F/A-18E Super Hornets. While they are new to the Blue Angels, they are not to the fleet. On Nov. 6, 2002, near Baghdad, Iraq, a pair of naval aviators dropped the first ordnance from an F/A-18E on an enemy target. One of the pilots was Lt. Eric Doyle, who 15 years later assumed command of the Blue Angels and later led the team that supported the team's transition to the Super Hornet. It’s a tradition that runs through the 75-year history of the Blue Angels. When the team formed in 1946, it first flight leader, Lt. Cmdr. Roy M. “Butch” Voris, ensured the first pilots were all combat-seasoned aviators. Although not all have followed in the footsteps of the first Blue Angels, many have, either before joining the team or when returning to frontline squadrons following their tours as demonstration pilots. Their stories add another dimension to the rich history of the oldest flight demonstration squadron in the U.S. military, one of heroism and sacrifice. For more, read the article by National Naval Aviation Museum’s Hill Goodspeed.
On Nov. 10, 1959, USS Triton was commissioned at Groton, CT, with Capt. Edward L. Beach in command. On Feb. 15, 1960, Triton got underway and arrived in the middle of the south Atlantic on Feb. 24, ready to make a historic voyage. Having remained submerged since departing the U.S. East Coast, the submarine continued south toward Cape Horn, rounded the tip of South America, and headed west across the Pacific. After transiting the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagos and then crossing the Indian Ocean, Triton rounded the Cape of Good Hope, arriving off the St. Peter and Paul Rocks on April 10—60 days and 21 hours after departing the mid-ocean landmark. She arrived back at Groton on May 10, having completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the Earth. Triton’s historic trip around the planet under the waves proved invaluable politically to the United States during the Cold War. From an operational standpoint, the trip demonstrated the superior endurance and capabilities of the first generation of nuclear-powered submarines. The voyage also provided an unprecedented amount of oceanographic data. Triton received the Presidential Unit Citation, and the commander received the Legion of Merit from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
World War I Ends
On Nov. 11, 1918, the armistice that was signed between Germany and the Allied nations went into effect, marking the end of World War I. During the “Great War,” 4.7 million American families sent their sons and daughters off to fight the war, and resources of the entire nation were brought to bear on the effort. The exact number of people killed and wounded in World War I will never be known, particularly those who were killed on the Eastern Front before Czarist Russia collapsed and the Bolshevik government sued for peace. Estimates vary widely depending on the source, but somewhere on the order of nine to ten million military personnel died during the war and another seven to eight million civilians perished. The United States suffered 53,402 combat deaths, the vast majority of them U.S. Army personnel killed in the final three months of the war. The most significant contribution of the U.S. Navy during the war was to escort and transport two million U.S. Soldiers to France, the great majority in the last six months of the war, with almost no loss to German submarines. This was accomplished with the significant assistance of the British Royal Navy. By July 1918, U.S. troops were arriving in France at a rate of about 10,000 per day, roughly half in U.S. shipping and half in other Allied shipping. Although the U.S. Army had significant success on the battlefield against the now-diminished German forces, it was the German High Command's realization that there was nothing it could do to stem the tide of an overwhelming number of U.S. troops that caused the Germans to sue for an armistice.
New “Service and Sacrifice” Sculpture to be Unveiled at U.S. Navy Memorial on Veteran's Day
A bronze sculpture will be unveiled at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC, this Veterans Day that honors all the men and women of the sea services, past present and future, and all military working dog teams. The sculpture is the first monument in the nation’s capital to honor military working dogs. Sculptor Susan Bahary said her work features Petty Officer 1st Class John Douangdara, the lead dog handler for SEAL Team Six and his military working dog Bart, who were lost in August 2011 along with 29 other service members when their CH-47 Chinook was shot down in Afghanistan. The sculpture, dubbed “Service and Sacrifice,” was commissioned by the U.S. War Dogs Association National Headquarters and will become a permanent part of the Navy Memorial Visitor’s Center alongside the Jack London Plaque Wall, the stories of service exhibit, and American Sailor exhibit. For more, read the article.
Preble Hall Podcast
In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, U.S. Naval Academy associate professor Marcus O. Jones continues with his interview of retired Navy Capt. Peter M. Swartz. They talk about his career and unique insight into strategic planning in the U.S. Navy in the late and immediate post–Cold War periods. This podcast is a continuation of the interview posted on Oct. 7. (NHHC previously published a fascinating oral history interview with Capt. Swartz.) 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.
Webpage of the Week
On Nov. 13, 1942, all five Sullivan brothers were lost when USS Juneau was destroyed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In commemoration of this tragic event, this week’s Webpage of the Week is The Sullivan Brothers, located in the Disasters and Phenomena section of NHHC’s website. On this page are links to a number of resources, including blogs, transcripts of the brothers’ service, U.S. Navy policy regarding family members serving together at sea, Juneau and Guadalcanal information, digital resources about the battle, and information on ships named in honor of the Sullivans. Check out this page today and learn more about this heartbreaking event.
Today in Naval History
On Nov. 9, 1950, Task Force 77 made its first attack on Yalu River bridges during the Korean War. In the first engagement between MiG-15 and F9F jets, Lt. Cmdr. William T. Amen, commanding officer of VF-111 based onboard USS Philippine Sea, shot down a MiG, becoming the first Navy pilot to shoot down a jet aircraft. Amen received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic actions. The citation stated that as squadron commander, he participated in 35 strike missions over enemy territory. Gold Stars in lieu of four additional Air Medals were also presented to him for participation in five missions, each against North Korean and Chinese forces. For more naval aviation firsts, visit NHHC’s website.
- Ceremonies. Celebrations, Commemorations
- Theater of Operations--Atlantic
- Marine Corps-USMC
- Disasters and Phenomena
- Theater of Operations--Pacific
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Cold War
- World War I 1917-1918
- Korean Conflict 1950-1954
- World War II 1939-1945
- SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land Teams)
- Image (gif, jpg, tiff)