Archive for March, 2019

Medal of Honor Day

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Since 1991, we have celebrated Medal of Honor Day On March 25.  On November 15, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-564 into place securing March 25th as the day in which we honor those who went above and beyond. When did the Medal of Honor originate?

1861– President Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Navy Medal of Valor
1862– President Lincoln awarded the U.S. Army Medal of Honor
1863– The Medal of Honor was made a permanent military decoration to all members who served. Since its creation, more than 3,400 men and one woman have received the Medal of Honor.

March 25th was chosen as the official day to honor the 23 men who received the first official Medal of Honor on March 25, 1863. The first award was given to the men of the Great Locomotive Chase in April of 1862. During the chase, Union soldiers commandeered a train and did as much damage as possible to the railroad line that the Confederates relied upon.

The law signed by President Bush, reads in part “Whereas the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to members of the armed forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty…Whereas public awareness of the importance of the Medal of Honor has declined in recent years; and Whereas the designation of National Medal of Honor Day will focus the efforts of national, State, and local organizations striving to foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.”

Some Interesting Facts
Since 1863, only one woman has ever won the award. A medical doctor named Mary Edwards Walker. Mary had volunteered with the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Having crossed enemy lines in order to treat civilians, Mary was captured by Confederate troops in the summer of 1864. She was later released and received the Medal of Honor from President Andrew Johnson on November 11, 1865.

Only one president has received the award, President Theodore Roosevelt. His son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., earned one in World War II, making them the only father-son pair to win the prestigious award. President Roosevelt’s award was given posthumously by President Bill Clinton in 2001. The Medal was awarded to Roosevelt for his actions during the Spanish-American War with his regiment known as the Rough Riders.

The youngest recipient of the award in the 20th century was Jack Lucas, a marine who fought in Iwo Jima. He was only 17 when it was awarded.

The award is not named the Congressional Medal of Honor. Its official name is simply Medal of Honor. Many confuse the title in part because when being awarded the President says, “in the name of Congress.”

Submariners and the Medal of Honor
Since its creation, only a small number of Submariners have been awarded the prestigious medal. Their stories can be found on display in our permanent Medal of Honor Gallery here at the museum. The courageous men held within the gallery are:

Henry Breault- Torpedoman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. 0-5
Howard Walter Gilmore- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Growler
John Philip Cromwell- Captain, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Sculpin
Samuel David Dealey- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Harder
Lawson Paterson Ramage- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S Parche
Richard Hetherington O’Kane- Commander, U.S Navy, U.S.S. Tang
Eugene Bennett Fluckey- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S Barb
George Levick Street III- Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Tirante

Submarines in Art

Submarines have fascinated the world for centuries. The idea of underwater travel has been apart of most of record history. In 1776, the Turtle became the first submersible to perform an attack on another vessel. During the Civil War, the H.L Hunley sank the Housatonic. As diesel power grew, so did submarines. They became an essential part of the Navy, providing defense to the American coastlines and shipping lanes during WWI. During WWII, submarines sank one-third of the Imperial Navy. The 1950’s saw the birth of nuclear-powered submarines and a complete change to how the submarine force operated. The submarine force is also known as the silent service – the inner working of the force is a secret, classified to those who aren’t part of the crew. Artists over the years have tried to capture this secretive force, “drawn to its sleek yet hidden ship.” They try to capture the mystery of submarines in their work, giving us a glimpse under the water. Below you will find a collection of artworks from the NHHC Collection.

CSS H.L Hunley

Description: Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper; R.G. Skerrett; 1902; Framed Dimensions 20H X 25W
Accession #: 45-125-P

A man stands in front of the USS Hunley

H L Hunley, a small hand-powered submarine, was built privately at Mobile, Alabama, in 1863, based on plans furnished by Horace Lawson Hunley, James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson. Her construction was sponsored by Mr. Hunley and superintended by Confederate officers W. A. Alexander and G. E. Dixon. Following trails in Mobile Bay, she was transported to Charleston, South Carolina, in August 1863 to serve in the defense of that port. On February 17, 1864, she was part of blockade duty off Charleston, approached the steam sloop of war USS HOUSATONIC and detonated a spar torpedo against her side. The Federal ship sank rapidly, becoming the first warship to be lost to a submarine attack. However, H L HUNLEY did not return from this mission, and was presumed lost with all hands. Her fate remained a mystery for over 131 years, until May 1995, when a search led by author Clive Cussler located her wreck. In August 2000, following extensive preliminary work, H L HUNLEY was raised and taken to a conservation facility at the former Charleston Naval Base.

USS Barracuda in Drydock at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire

Description: Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper; by Vernon Howe Bailey; 1941; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-165-CB

A submarine at dry dock with scaffolding and work crews along the side

After thirteen years of service beginning in 1924, USS BARRACUDA was decommissioned in 1937 and placed in the reserves. The submarine was recommissioned in 1940. The submarine is seen in a drydock at the Portsmouth Navy Yard before it left the Yard in March of 1941 to join Submarine Division 71 operating in the New England area. Established by the Federal Government in 1800, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) launched its first product, the 74-gun warship USS Washington, in 1815. During World War I, the PNSY workforce expanded to nearly 5,000. At this time, PNSY took on a new and important role—the construction of submarines—in addition to the overhaul and repair of surface vessels. World War II saw the civilian employment rolls swell to over 25,000. Over the course of World War II over 70 submarines were constructed at PNSY, with a record four submarines launched on one day. Following World War II, PNSY was the Navy’s center for submarine design and development. PNSY continued to build submarines until 1969, when the last submarine built in a public shipyard, the nuclear powered USS Sand Lance, was launched. Today the Shipyard continues the tradition of excellence and service to the Navy and the nation by supplying the U.S Navy’s submarine fleet with high quality, affordable, overhaul, refueling and modernization work.

All Hands Below, USS Dorado

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Georges Schreiber; 1943; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-159-IU as a Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

Sailors at a table relaxing they are next to two torpedoes

Relieving the tension of hours below surface, crewmen on board a U.S. Navy submarine play a round of cards while a shipmate kibitzes from his bunk. While pondering his cards, each player also listens for the call to battle stations. In the foreground, the bulbous warheads of twin torpedoes seem to peer balefully in quest of targets.

USS Nautilus 

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Albert K. Murray; C. 1957; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-195-HL

Men in a small boat approach a submarine on the surface

On 17 January 1955 U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571) signaled the attainment of the long-anticipated goal of “underway with nuclear power.” Nautilus is called the first “true submarine” because it was capable of operating for long periods without frequent contact with the surface and air of the above world

Loading Fish, USS Seacat

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Salvatore Indiviglia; 1960; Framed Dimensions 29H X 42W
Accession #: 88-161-UI

A crew on the deck of a submarine are maneuvering a torpedo

Sailors gently lower 4000 pounds of torpedoes into the submarine Seacat (SS 399) in July 1960. In this era of Cold War tensions, Seacat helped keep watch of the United States southern coast and in the Caribbean. A torpedo, or “fish”, is being loaded into USS Seacat (SS-399) in preparation for an exercise off Naval Station, Key West. The men pull and strain, hold and release their lines so that the 4000 pound bomb is safely lowered below.

Trident, The Black Knight

Description: Painting, Oil on Masonite; by John Charles Roach; 1984; Framed Dimensions 34H X 44W
Accession #: 88-163-CU

A submarine is tied up to pier that is in a building

USS Michigan (SSBN-727) rests quietly at the US Naval Base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1988, waiting to be replenished for sea.

These artists were able to provide a glimpse of the submarine force through a medium many might not expect.

To check out the rest of the collection visit the View From the Periscope exhibit page at

Do you have a favorite piece of submarine art?


Return of the Union Jack

On February 21, 2019, the Navy put out a press release announcing its decision to begin displaying the union jack instead of the first Navy jack aboard Navy ships. Beginning on June 4, the date of the Battle of Midway, all US Navy ships will return to flying the union jack. In its press releases Adm. John Richardson stated that “Make no mistake: we have entered a new era of competition. We must recommit to the core attributes that made us successful at Midway: integrity, accountability, initiative and toughness. For more than 240 years, the union jack, flying proudly from jackstaffs aboard U.S. Navy warships, has symbolized these strengths.” He also comments that “The union jack is deeply connected to our heritage and our rise as a global nation with a global Navy.” Once the union jack is returned to flying, the navy will re-establish the custom in where the commissioned ship in active service the longest total period in active service having will display the first Navy jack until its decommissioning This is other than the USS Constitution. Beginning on June 4th, this would mean the USS Blue Ridge (LLC 19). But for those not in the Navy, what is the union jack and what is its history. Below you will find excerpts from the Naval History and Heritage Command on the topic.

Midshipman 4th Class Nicholas D. Brockert raises the Union Jack aboard Yard Patrol Craft 691 (YP-691).

Midshipman 4th Class Nicholas D. Brockert raises the union jack aboard yard patrol craft 691 (YP-691), after mooring in Philadelphia, 24 March 2006. YP-691 was one of six YPs on a three-day training cruise designed to provide midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy hands-on underway training in navigation, ship handling, and seamanship (U.S. Navy photo by Airman Cale Hanie).

A jack is a flag corresponding in appearance to the union or canton of the national ensign. In the United States Navy, it is a blue flag containing a star for each state. For countries whose colors have no canton, the jack is simply a small national ensign. On a sailing vessel, the jack is hoisted at the jack-staff shipped at the bowsprit cap when at anchor or in port.
The United States Navy originated as the Continental Navy, established early in the American Revolution by the Continental Congress by a resolution of 13 October 1775. There is a widespread belief that ships of the Continental Navy flew a jack consisting of alternating red and white stripes, having the image of a rattlesnake stretched out across it, with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” That belief, however, rests on no firm base of historical evidence.
It is well documented that the rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” were used together on several flags during the War of Independence. The only question in doubt is whether the Continental Navy actually used a red and white striped flag with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” as its jack. The evidence is inconclusive. There is reason to believe that the Continental Navy jack was simply a red and white striped flag with no other adornment.

A view of the first navy jack flying on the Nautilus overlooking the Thames River

The rattlesnake emerged as a symbol of the English colonies of North America about the time of the Seven Years War, when it appeared in newspaper prints with the motto “Join or Die.” By the time of the War of Independence, the rattlesnake, frequently used in conjunction with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” was a common symbol for the United States, its independent spirit, and its resistance to tyranny.
Two American military units of the Revolution are known to have used the rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto: Proctor’s Independent Battalion, of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and Sullivan’s Life Guard during the Rhode Island campaign of 1777. The rattlesnake and the motto also appeared on military accoutrements, such as drums, and on state paper currency, during the Revolution.
The Union Jack
The union jack, comprising the national ensign’s blue field and white stars, was first adopted on 14 June 1777. At this time, the jack’s blue field only displayed the 13 stars representing the union of the original 13 American colonies. The number of stars on the jack was periodically updated as the United States expanded. The 50-star jack in use until 10 September 2002—and again after 21 February 2019—was adopted on 4 July 1960 after Hawaii became the nation’s 50th state.
The Rattlesnake Jack and the Modern Navy
As part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution, by an instruction dated 1 August 1975 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.3) the Secretary of the Navy directed the use of the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack during the period 13 October 1975 (the bicentennial of the legislation that created the Continental Navy, which the Navy recognizes as the Navy’s birthday), and 31 December 1976.
By an instruction dated 18 August 1980 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.4), the Secretary of the Navy directed that the commissioned ship in active status having the longest total period in active status to display the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive status.
With the implementation of that instruction, those ships included:
1981–82: USS Dixie (AD-14), commissioned in 1940
1982–93: USS Prairie (AD-15), commissioned in 1940
1993–93: USS Orion (AS-18), commissioned in 1943 (six months)
1993–94: USS Yosemite (AD-19), commissioned in 1944
1994–95: USS Jason (AR-8), commissioned in 1944
1995–95: USS Mauna Kea (AE-22), commissioned in 1957 (one week)
1995–98: USS Independence (CV-62), commissioned in 1959
1998–2009: USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), commissioned in 1961
By an instruction dated 31 May 2002 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.6), the Secretary of the Navy directed the use of the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism.
On 21 February 2019, to signify the Navy and the nation entering a new era of competition, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson directed the fleet, via NAVADMIN 039/19, to return to the previous practice of flying the union jack effective 4 June 2019. The date for reintroduction of the union jack commemorates the greatest naval battle in history: The Battle of Midway, which began 4 June 1942.