By Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
On Friday, Oct. 13, I have the special privilege of being part of the Lone Sailor statue dedication with the National Park Service and Navy Memorial Foundation at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. There, we will reflect on our history, honor our heritage and celebrate the Navy’s legacy embodied in the Lone Sailor statue as we say happy birthday to the U.S. Navy.
Our Navy was born as the Continental Navy in 1775 even before our nation was created and before our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, which all Sailors are sworn to protect and defend.
In the early days of our Navy, in the fight for independence, John Paul Jones sailed across the Atlantic, taking the fight directly to the British. And in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked Commodore Edward Preble to lead a squadron into the Mediterranean and to the shores of Tripoli to quell pirates.
Today, namesakes of Jones and Preble – the guided-missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) and USS Preble (DDG 88) – are homeported in Pearl Harbor, along with other great surface ships and submarines. Our ships and submarines deploy forward with United States Navy Sailors at the helm and on the deckplates.
After the Revolutionary and First Barbary wars, the U.S. Navy was reborn during the War of 1812, when Sailors and Marines arguably saved our nation and preserved liberty and democracy.
In the War of 1812 President James Madison turned to the Navy. He put our six humble frigates against the entire Royal Navy of almost 1,000 ships, including 175 ships rated at 64 or more guns. By comparison USS Constitution, a heavy frigate, rated only 44 guns.
To put that contest in a broader perspective, the Royal Navy had 40 ships alone on the North American station, home-ported out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, just north of our border. And when our nation desperately needed just the smallest bit of good news, Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” under the command of Capt. Isaac Hull, defeated HMS Guerriere, in one of our most famous single ship-vs.-ship engagements.
Bold decision-making led to victory.
Throughout our nation’s history – and in all of our conflicts – Sailors with integrity who were and are bold decision-makers have risen to the challenge in a crisis to win battles, defend freedom and preserve peace.
That is seapower in action, protecting and promoting security, stability and prosperity.
While we tend to reflect on our Navy’s origins on our birthday, we must also think of all the Sailors who have served and who continue to serve. The Lone Sailor also stands for and represents Sailors in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and all conflicts and actions in our nation’s history.
Now the Lone Sailor statue will look out over Pearl Harbor, standing watch, “seeing” the USS Arizona Memorial, which represents all ships and Sailors lost Dec. 7, 1941, “listening” to the many voices and many languages of international visitors and “remembering” 75 years ago as our military fought to shape our nation and our world – bringing freedom and democracy to Europe and Japan.
Today, our Navy continues to deploy to protect and promote American interests and values around the world. We continue to stand together with our allies against those who would challenge our freedom. And we continue to live by our core values: Honor, Courage and Commitment.
Happy birthday, U.S. Navy!