Category: Community

U.S. 6th Fleet’s 70th Anniversary

The U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet reached its 70th anniversary Feb. 12, 2020. Its current commanding officer, Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, shares her reflections below, accompanied by a selection of images representing 6th Fleet’s ongoing missions in the Europe and Africa areas of operation.

U.S. 6th Fleet Turns 70

By Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti
Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet
Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO

Greetings from USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the U.S. 6th Fleet, underway in the Mediterranean Sea!

Today marks a great day in our Navy’s history.  Seventy years ago, on Feb. 12, 1950, the Navy formally established 6th Fleet, building on the storied legacy of U.S. Navy ships that have sailed on the Mediterranean Sea since the early 19th Century. From 1801, with the dispatch of USS Constitution and her sister ships to defeat the Barbary pirates, through today, American sea power has operated throughout this strategic region, which in ancient times was viewed as the center of the world. 

For the past 70 years, 6th Fleet has been a stabilizing force across the region through both our persistent presence and our ability to deliver effects across the full spectrum of maritime operations.

While standing on the bridge wing looking out at the busy waters of the Med, I took a moment to reflect on the strategic environment that led the Navy to establish 6th Fleet 70 years ago, especially in context of Great Power competition we see today.

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 7, 2019) Musician 1st Class Joe Schoonmaker, a trombone player assigned to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band “Topside”, performs at the Novos Amigos school while the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in Mindelo Cabo Verde, Aug. 7, 2019. Carson City is deployed to the Gulf of Guinea to demonstrate progress through partnerships and U.S. commitment to West African countries through small boat maintenance assistance, maritime law enforcement engagement, and medical and community relations outreach. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

The 6th Fleet Command History report from 1950 to 1958 gives us a window into the thought process at the time: “As the war ended and the U.S. sought peace treaties and rapid disarmament, it became increasingly apparent in the Mediterranean, as elsewhere, that Russia, our wartime ally, was to become the main threat to our security and order in the world.”

Although the Navy had hoped to draw down its presence at the end of World War II, our leaders quickly saw the need to keep a maritime force in these waters to protect U.S. interests, support U.S. policies, and serve as a strong southern flank to NATO forces in in Western Europe. Naval Forces Mediterranean was created to deliver this forward operating presence. This new force became Commander 6th Task Fleet, and ultimately, Commander 6th Fleet, and in its NATO hat, Striking and Support Forces SOUTH.

PANTICOSA, Spain (Feb. 4, 2020) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 (EODMU 8), assigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Force Europe-Africa/Task Force (CTF) 68, conduct in-water safety checks as part of annual bi-lateral altitude and ice dive training in the Pyrenees Mountains with dives from the Spanish Navy Center for Diving (Centro de Buceo de la Armada, CBA) February 4. CTF 68 provides explosive ordnance operations, naval construction, expeditionary security, and theater security efforts in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katie Cox/Released)

The stakes were high. As Adm. Forrest Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, said in 1950: “The survival of this country depends upon letting the world know we have the power and the ability to use it if the occasion demands.” 

Given that context, it wasn’t surprising to learn that our mission today is not all that different from the mission of the Fleet back then, which was “a twofold mission for peace: first and foremost, to maintain at all times a high degree of readiness and combat effectiveness; and secondly to spread and foster good will between the Mediterranean nations and our own.”

The Command History notes that Time magazine referred to 6th Fleet as President Eisenhower’s “steel-grey stabilizer.” Sailors were commonly called “ambassadors in blue.” These descriptions remain accurate today.

Maritime threats know no boundaries, and 6th Fleet’s 360 degree view of the world enhances our ability to operate seamlessly across the maritime domain with our Allies and partners alike.

For the past 70 years, 6th Fleet has been a stabilizing force across the region through both our persistent presence and our ability to deliver effects across the full spectrum of maritime operations. On the short list, we’ve cleared mines from the Suez, conducted Non-combatant Evacuation Operations, supported earthquake and other disaster relief efforts, and worked with and as part of NATO to support the resolution of the crisis in Kosovo, as well as in operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. More recently, we established Aegis Ashore Romania to contribute to the defense of Europe from Ballistic Missile threats from the south, conducted strikes into Syria in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its own people, returned to the arctic with USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group operating in Norway’s Vestfjord, and worked with 5th Fleet to conduct a combined exercise in the waters off East Africa and the Indian Ocean. 


MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Aug. 27, 2019) The Ohio-class fleet guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) transits the Mediterranean Sea, Aug. 27, 2019. Florida, the third of four SSGN platforms, is capable of conducting clandestine strike operations, joint special operation forces operations, battle space preparation and information operations, SSGN/SSN consort operations, carrier and expeditionary strike group operations, battle management and experimentation of future submarine payloads. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Nelson/Released)

Maritime threats know no boundaries, and 6th Fleet’s 360-degree view of the world enhances our ability to operate seamlessly across the maritime domain with our Allies and partners alike.

And although we’ve adapted our operations and exercises to address the changing security environment of the past 70 years, one thing has remained constant: the inherent flexibility of the Navy-Marine Corps team to deliver combat ready forces, when needed and where needed, providing credible deterrence and response options for our national leaders.

Like those who came before us, 6th Fleet continues to serve as part of America’s Away Team, using the tools of naval power and presence across the region to deter, defend, and when required, fight and win far from America’s shores. 

As Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, recently said: “Mission one for every Sailor is a ready Navy…a Navy ready to fight today. That readiness translates into deterrence, into economic security, and preserves our defensive margin.”

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (May 9, 2018) Algerian National Navy sailors prepare to board the Tunisian navy MNT Khaireddine A700 while participating in visit, board, search and seizure training during exercise Phoenix Express 2018, May 9. Phoenix Express is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, and is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

For the past 70 years, 6th Fleet has made readiness our mission.  We’ve translated that readiness and delivered on our motto: “Power for Peace.” Working alongside our capable Joint Force and our Allies and partners, we are ready today, and will be for the next 70 years–and beyond.

To all who have served in 6th Fleet in the past, to all who are serving today, and to our families and friends that make it all possible…from Mount Whitney, Happy Birthday!  I am confident that those standing in our shoes in 2070 will look back with pride on all we have accomplished together. “Power for Peace.”

USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) Naming Ceremony

On Jan. 20, 2020 —the holiday marking the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.— the U.S. Navy officially names its newest aircraft carrier, the future USS Doris Miller (CVN 81).

Doris “Dorie” Miller saved the lives of his shipmates and then valiantly fought attacking Japanese forces during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, bravery for which he was awarded the Navy Cross—the first African American to receive this honor. Almost two years after his valor at Pearl Harbor, Miller gave his life for his country when his ship was sunk during battle.

USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) will be the first aircraft carrier named for an enlisted Sailor and the first named for an African American.

Join the Navy in celebrating the future USS Doris Miller and the life of this Navy hero. Below you will find:

  • A biographical video feature honoring Miller’s life and legacy
  • Interviews with a Navy historian about Dorie Miller’s actions, legacy and contributions to civil rights for all
  • An infographic of Miller’s life and other content

“Naming CVN 81 for Dorie Miller casts long overdue recognition to a true American hero and icon. It also honors the contributions of African Americans and enlisted Sailors for the first time in the history of American aircraft carriers. The Sailors who will put the USS Doris Miller to sea will be the fortunate ones, as heirs to the mightiest of Navy legends who epitomized the kind of fighting Sailor we need today.” –Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith

The Life of Doris “Dorie” Miller

Doris Miller, known as “Dorie” to shipmates and friends, was a U.S. Navy Sailor recognized for his bravery during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was the first African American recipient of the Navy Cross.

Miller grew up on his family’s farm in Waco, Texas, and played football in high school before enlisting as a ship’s mess attendant in the U.S. Navy in 1939. In 1940, Miller was transferred to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and reported for duty onboard USS West Virginia (BB 48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion.

Miller was below decks December 7, 1941, when the first Japanese torpedo struck USS West Virginia (BB 48). His battle station in the magazine damaged, Miller was ordered to the bridge, where he helped carry the ship’s mortally wounded captain to safety. Miller then loaded and fired an anti-aircraft machine gun—a weapon that, as an African American in a segregated military, he had not been trained to operate. Miller stayed behind once the order to abandon ship was passed to help evacuate shipmates and save the lives of Sailors in the burning water.

For his extraordinary courage, Miller was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. Newspapers around the country cited his example as an argument for civil rights and equality.

“This marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race, and I’m sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.” — Admiral Chester Nimitz

200117-N-NO101-151 WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2020) In this file photo taken May 27, 1942, Adm. Chester Nimitz awards the Navy Cross medal to Mess Attendant 2nd Class Doris Miller for his actions aboard the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The award was presented to Miller aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Miller died in 1943 when a torpedo sank USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. On June 30, 1973, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Miller (FF 1091) in his honor.

Today, we are proud to continue honoring Miller’s heroic legacy by naming the U.S. Navy’s newest aircraft carrier Doris Miller (CVN 81). Read more about the life of Doris Miller here.

Historical Perspective

Learn more about Doris Miller from historian Dr. Virginia Akers of Naval History and Heritage Command, in the following interviews.

Actions During Attack of Dec. 7, 1941:

Social Context, Award of Navy Cross:

Initial Reception by African American Community:

Symbol of Hope, Legacy for All:

News Articles

Navy Will Name Future Ford Class Aircraft Carrier After WWII Hero Doris Miller

WASHINGTON (NNS) — Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly will name a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier in honor of World War II hero Ship’s Cook Third Class Doris Miller during a ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Jan. 20.  Read More

Masters-at-Arms: Protecting the Fleet

By Master Chief Master-at-Arms Melissa Old

It’s been a difficult few weeks for the U.S. Navy family. We have lost three young Sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola, another at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and two civilians at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The question has been asked: What is the Navy doing to protect our Sailors and Navy civilians? The answer is force protection.

Force protection (FPCON) entails the measures the Navy takes to protect Sailors and civilians, deter threats, and defend Navy installations and equipment. There are five FPCON levels every Sailor learns at boot camp. These dictate the posture as our security forces stand their watch and any additional measures put in place, from more watches to closure of a base. But the security of the U.S. Navy is not as simple as declaring an FPCON level.

The safety of Navy bases and personnel is our highest priority, and there are extensive programs, detailed processes and procedures to protect Sailors, civilian employees, family members, facilities and equipment. This protection is accomplished through the planned and integrated application of training, qualifications, law enforcement, anti-terrorism activities, physical security, and operations security.

Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Nichole Lowery instructs Sailors during a sunrise yoga session on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as a part of Suicide Prevention Month. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Liaghat/Released)

The professionals who execute Navy force protection are the masters-at-arms (MAs). An MA is a security specialist who performs antiterrorism, physical security and basic law enforcement duties. Each master-at-arms goes through various force protection training courses, from engaging ship-born threats to active-shooter scenarios. This extensive training and preparation gives our MAs (and other Navy security personnel) the knowledge to counter possible threats and neutralize them. MAs also train with base police and local police departments to ensure Sailors and law enforcement understand procedures so we can work together to quickly respond to any threat.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 14, 2012) Master-at-Arms 1st Class Nicholas Fessler, left, instructs Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Christy Nevarez how to perform a security pat-down during a non-combatant evacuation drill aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam D. Wainwright/Released)

Each year, senior leadership looks at all the training completed and revises the curriculum based on new information or situations that have come up throughout the year. Lessons learned become new procedures, which are then taught and practiced until they become second nature.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Bowie, a mess deck master-at-arms, adjusts holiday decorations after a meal aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alora R. Blosch)

It’s too soon to know what changes may come from the events of the past few weeks, but  I can tell you this:

We are armed, qualified, and trained to provide security and safety for our people. As these threats evolve, we as a community will counter them. It is our mission to protect those who serve, and the U.S. Navy security forces have the watch.

Unity in Tragedy: Statement From Commander of Navy Region Southeast

By Rear Adm. Gary Mayes

I just came from the funeral procession, and the remains of our three fallen Shipmates are currently on their way to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Friday’s senseless act of violence took these young men from us, physically wounded eight others, and scarred the hearts of countless more.

On behalf of the entire Navy, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the Sailors whose lives were taken during this heinous act.

In painful times like these, we also see the true strength and character of our interagency partnerships. Naval Security Forces responded to the scene immediately; within minutes the Escambia County first responders arrived, and they worked together seamlessly in this crisis, just as they trained. This team hones skills they hoped they would never have to use, but when called upon they responded with such expertise and determination that they most certainly saved the lives of many others. The “whole of community” response continues, and the Navy will continue to work closely with local, county, state and federal law enforcement in support of the FBI’s investigation into this tragic incident.

For the Navy, our primary focus remains on taking care of the families and friends of the victims, as well as ensuring the Service members, civilians, and the families of NAS Pensacola receive the support that they need. The Navy chaplains are available for pastoral care, an Emergency Family Assistance Center has been established at the Fleet and Family Service Center, and additional counselors are available to help the team already here in Pensacola.

I urge anyone who feels they need a little extra support to reach out and get the help they need to process this event and rebuild and strengthen your personal resiliency. Asking for help is a sign of strength, and we are strongest as a team.

The installation is currently open only to mission essential personnel, and as it shifts back to routine access tomorrow morning, know that the security forces are doing what needs to be done to make NAS Pensacola and bases and installations around the world as safe as possible. We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to investigate, review and guard against future vulnerabilities and to safeguard the security of our service members and their families. Their safety is paramount.

The citizens of Pensacola have been incredibly generous with their thoughts and prayers, which are foundational and continue to make a huge difference during the process of healing and recovery. On behalf of Navy leadership, I would again like to thank the hard work and dedication of everyone here and the entire community.

Then and Now: Century of Service Shows Need for Shipyard Investment at Pearl Harbor

By Capt. Greg Burton, Commander, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & IMF

They rushed to put out hundreds of fires around Pearl Harbor, organized an ammunition-passing party, worked on disabled engines and cut men out of the hulls of sunken ships. These workers saved dozens of lives and were charged with resurrecting the fleet that brought peace to a world that was burning. Just six months after the initial bombing of Pearl Harbor, the battered and bloodied USS Yorktown aircraft carrier limped back to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Coral Sea. Once again, these heroes answered the call. I’m not talking about sailors or soldiers. I’m talking about tradesmen who loved and served their country.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard workers helped turn the tide of the war at Midway and also repaired and maintained the ships that would sail triumphantly into Tokyo Bay. This support continued through the Korea conflict, Vietnam War, Cold War, Gulf War and in combat operations in support of ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Along the way, they prioritized environmental stewardship and safety programs and supported the Navy in its transition to nuclear propulsion.

As in years past, today’s shipyard workers possess the grit, determination and capacity unique to and necessary for sustaining the most powerful Navy in the world.

Next month, Lionsgate will release Midway, a new movie that will highlight epic stories from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard’s 111-year history. One story is repairing the USS Yorktown (CV-5).

The USS Yorktown saw its first major battle after the Japanese Imperial Navy sent an invasion force through the Coral Sea and the U.S. Navy moved to intercept. The enemy hit Yorktown with a bomb that exploded on the fourth deck. Later, a near miss landed close enough to open up her hull. Following orders, the crippled Yorktown returned to Pearl Harbor trailing an oil slick 10 miles long.

Yorktown’s skipper prepared an action report detailing the carrier’s damage for Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief. U.S. Pacific Fleet. It would be a preliminary estimate of the necessary repairs for returning the carrier to the high seas. An effort that put the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard workforce in the history books.

The sobering report detailed a 551-pound armor-piercing bomb plunging through the flight deck and penetrating 50 feet into the ship before exploding above the forward-engine room. It destroyed six compartments, the lighting systems on three decks and took out her radar and refrigeration systems. The bomb also damaged the gears controlling an elevator while the near misses opened seams in her hull and ruptured the fuel-oil compartments.

Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch speculated that repairs would take 90 days. Adm. Nimitz didn’t have 90 days.

Thanks to the intelligence work by Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort and his team at Station HYPO (also located at the shipyard in Building 1) the Navy broke the Japanese Imperial code and intercepted plans detailing a pending Japanese attack at Midway. Adm. Nimitz had already started sending battle groups and air wings to Midway. The question in his mind was whether shipyard workers could repair the Yorktown in time for that battle.

After Yorktown eased into Dry Dock 1 with the caisson closing behind the ship and the pumps draining out the water, Adm. Nimitz in waders trudged through about a foot of water to inspect the ship. After staring at the burst seams and hull damage, Adm. Nimitz turned to the technicians and said, “We must have this ship back in three days.” After a long silence, a repair expert replied, “Yes, sir.”

Within minutes, repairmen swarmed the dry dock. Eventually, 1,400 of them would work around the clock for almost 72 straight hours to get the job done. To meet the vast electricity needs for the repairs, the Navy contacted the Hawaiian Electric Company who supported the massive effort with a series of rolling blackouts throughout the island.

Workers made only the most urgent repairs. Instead of fixing all of the hull’s ruptured seams, they welded a massive steel plate over the damaged section. Yorktown arrived at 11 a.m. on May 28 and on the morning of May 30, with shipyard workers still onboard mending the ship, Yorktown steamed out of Pearl Harbor and sped to one of the most decisive battles in history.

Through this monumental repair effort, which deserves to be honored and glorified on the silver screen, those workers who completed this nearly-impossible task cemented Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard as a national strategic asset; and today’s shipyard workers are still writing history today. People are our Navy’s and our nation’s greatest asset and we have amazing people. They develop innovative solutions to challenging problems and maintain the most powerful Navy in the world. They are the force behind the fleet!

As we recount and honor the shipyard’s past, we must look to its future.  Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard’s strategic importance cannot be overstated due to its proximity to Indo-Pacific area of operation. A frank assessment of the shipyard reveals a need to invest in its dry docks, infrastructure, and capital equipment – much of which predates Yorktown’s 1942 docking.

Dry Dock 1 is the location of the “Yorktown miracle.” In 1913, it imploded under faulty piling and a bad foundation, but after painstaking redesign and reconstruction, it rose again. On December 7, 1941, it was the overhaul site for the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), as well as USS Cassin (DD-372) and USS Downes (DD-375) with both destroyers sustaining severe damage from Japanese bombs. In August 2019, Dry Dock 1 turned 100 years old. It is still capable of docking all ships and submarines homeported at Pearl Harbor, however, the Navy is taking a proactive approach with the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) to ensure the Navy can use facilities like Dry Dock 1 well into the future. This is necessary to support new ships and submarines such as Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and new variants of Virginia-class fast-attack submarines.

Since 1937, Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard workers have used this hydraulic steam press for metal forming operations. Today it must be serviced after each use. The proposed $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program would replace aged capital equipment in addition to repairing and upgrading dry docks while optimizing shipyard layouts to improve productivity and throughput. (PHNSY & IMF photo by Amanda Cartagena-Urena)

Just as the shipyard was so important to national defense then, it remains so today and investment in infrastructure is critical to allow us to keep our ships in the fight. According to Adm. Nimitz, the enemy’s failure to destroy the shipyard’s dry dock facilities and other critical infrastructure during the Pearl Harbor attack shortened the War in the Pacific by two years. That drives home the point that investing in the modernization of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is of supreme importance to our nation’s security as we look to a new Great Power Competition.

The Navy’s four shipyards are more than a century old. Designed and laid out to build ships of wood, sail, and coal, their mission has changed over time; now, used to repair our nation’s most complex ships – nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines.  SIOP is a once-in-a-century undertaking that will deliver modern facilities to maintain today’s and tomorrow’s fleet and will help ensure the on-time and on-cost delivery of submarines and carriers. 

SIOP focuses on repairing and upgrading our dry docks, optimizing the layout of the shipyards to improve productivity and throughput, and replacing aged capital equipment.  The Navy estimates this work will take about 20 years and cost $21 billion across the four public shipyards, phasing the work so we can continue to support the ongoing maintenance needs of the fleet. 

Executing SIOP allows us to continue to keep our ships in the fight, strengthens naval power and increases our capabilities while recovering 300,000 workdays per year through improved productivity. 

What an opportunity we have to shape the future while honoring our legacy and supporting current mission success. We are the force behind the Navy the nation needs!

Since 1942, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard’s electrical shop has used this bridge crane. While some parts have been replaced, all original beams, gears, and tracks remain. The proposed Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program is a once-in-a-century undertaking that will deliver modern equipment and facilities to maintain today’s and tomorrow’s fleet. (PHNSY & IMF photo by Amanda Cartagena-Urena)

Then and Now: Midway and Submarine Force

By Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

“When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet on 31 December 1941, our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come. It was to the submarine force that I looked to carry the load. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of great peril.” — Adm. Chester Nimitz, Commander, U.S. Pacific

Midway, a feature-length film scheduled for release on November 8, tells the story of the Sailors who fought so bravely in June 1942 to thwart the Japanese attack at Midway.  This retelling comes at a critical time for our Navy and our nation. Seeing the Battle of Midway on the big screen serves as a reminder of the critical importance of a strong and combat ready Navy to the security of our Nation. 

As you walk the historic submarine piers of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, you see visceral reminders of the beginning of the war and its conclusion – the memorial to USS Arizona (BB-39), which was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the battleship USS Missouri (BB-61), on which the peace agreement was signed in Tokyo Harbor to end the war. Adm. Nimitz also walked on these piers during WWII and witnessed both the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack and the unparalleled industriousness of our Navy and civilian work force as they recovered from that attack, rebuilt our Navy, and set sail to take the fight to the enemy at the Battle of Midway.   

In May 1942, the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168), under the command of Lt. Cmdr. William Brockman Jr., departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for her first war patrol. Her mission was to search for the Japanese fleet sailing for Midway, and she succeeded.  USS Nautilus assisted in leading U.S. aircraft directly to the Japanese carrier Hiryu and harassing the enemy while our aircraft ravaged the Japanese Fleet. USS Nautilus survived 42 depth charges, several of her torpedoes failed to detonate, and Japanese aircraft and ships spotted her multiple times, forcing Nautilus to dive and evade multiple times. Yet, despite these challenges, the crew’s efforts were critical to the success of the battle and resulted in Brockman receiving the Navy Cross for the Battle of Midway.  

USS Nautilus (SS-168) underway, March 1933. (U.S. National Archives photo.)

U.S. submarines would go on to take the fight to the Japanese across the Pacific, wreaking havoc on the critical maritime supply routes that supported their industry, and ravaging their warships. Although submarines only made up only 2% of our entire Navy during WWII, they sank 30% of Japanese warships and 55% of Japanese merchant ships.  

But this wartime effort was not without significant sacrifice. The U.S. submarine force experienced some of the highest casualty rates of any force in WWII. A foundational part of our training as submariners is the study of this legacy of sacrifice and commitment in the face of the enemy. In this training, we make it a point to ensure that today’s submariners recognize that even though we eventually achieved victory, we were not ready for unrestricted submarine warfare when we entered the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our weapons were erratic, our tactics unrefined, and our training inadequate to the task. Yes, we eventually overcame each of these obstacles to halt the Japanese advance and set the conditions for victory in the Pacific, but there is no guarantee that the pace of future combat operations will forgive such a lack of foresight and preparation. We have to be ready to deploy and sustain high-end combat operations with little or no warning – and today we exercise that every single day in our Submarine Force. 

USS Tang (SS 306) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, Dec.2, 1943. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.)

Last month, we celebrated the return of USS Olympia (SSN 717), our oldest Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, from her final deployment. Olympia completed a circumnavigation of the earth, transiting both the Panama Canal and Suez Canal, and conducting operations in the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. Shortly after USS Olympia’s successful return, we welcomed home one of our newest Virginia class fast attack submarines, USS Illinois (SSN 786), who returned to Pearl Harbor from her first deployment. She was the first Block II Virginia-class submarine to ever deploy to the Indo-Pacific region, during which, the crew completed a full spectrum of operations to support the highest priority tasking.

USS Illinois (SSN 786) departs Groton, Connecticut to conduct sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat.)

We are in an era of great power competition. Utilizing the strength, determination, and lessons learned from those brave submariners before us, we will continue to be first to the fight, just like at Midway. We are trained, equipped, and ready to fight tonight because we have not forgotten our past.  

Editor’s Note: The four-part “Then and Now” NavyLive blog series is presented so interested audience members have an idea of what’s changed, and what has not, since the famed Battle of Midway. As the nation faces the Great Power Competition, “Midway” is an authentic representation of the Pacific in the opening months of WWII and can help people understand the value we provide today, and honors the toughness, initiative, integrity and accountability that are Sailors’ core attributes. The movie reflects the extraordinary determination and courage of those who fought in WWII, and showcases how the Navy team worked together then, as we do today.

USS Constitution Marks 10 Years as America’s Ship of State

By Mass Comm. Spec. 2nd Class Casey Scoular, USS Constitution Public Affairs

This year marks USS Constitution’s 222nd birthday—the big triple-two. Our ship was launched into Boston Harbor on Oct. 21, 1797, making her the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. 

This year also marks another big milestone: October heralds the 10th anniversary of Constitution’s designation as America’s Ship of State.

On Oct. 28, 2009, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act; section 1022 designates USS Constitution as America’s Ship of State.

BOSTON (July 1, 2019) Sailors assigned to USS Constitution furl the mizzen topsail during weekly sail training. Constitution’s crew members conduct weekly training to learn and retain sailing information. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casey Scoular/Released)

But why? With so many titles and accomplishments, ranging from “Old Ironsides” to “the Eagle of the Seas” to “Boston’s only undefeated team” (33-0), why add “America’s Ship of State” to the mix? What exactly does a ship of state do?

Before we get into that, let’s look at how USS Constitution earned her awesome reputation.

At the start of her national service, USS Constitution protected America’s merchants during the Quasi War with France and had a few at-sea Ws under her belt by the time she finished mopping up corsairs during the first Barbary War.

Her record at this time is 17-0; however, her greatest test was still to come: the powerful British royal navy.

The British were fighting Napoleonic France at sea and needed men for their navy. So they decided to start taking our Navy Sailors and forcibly drafting them into the Royal Navy. Not cool! The United States was fed up with this practice and the trade restrictions imposed against neutrals, so we declared war on Britain. So began the War of 1812.

“Constitution vs. Guerierre.” George Ropes, Jr. 1813 Oil on Panel, USS Constitution Museum Collection

At the outset of the war, we were looking at David-and-Goliath odds. The American people feared they would be back under British rule again because Britain had the best navy in the world. After the British naval victories over the French, Spanish, and Dutch navies during the Napoleonic Wars, the royal navy was seen as invincible.

But Isaac Hull and the crew of USS Constitution changed that. 

USS Constitution faced HMS Guerriere in August of 1812 and defeated her in our Navy’s first frigate-to-frigate battle at sea. She earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during that fight, when cannonballs were seen bouncing harmlessly off the side of her tough live-oak hull. Huzzah!

The American people welcomed Capt. Isaac Hull and his crew back to Boston as heroes.

Constitution’s victory had given the American people the hope they so desperately needed and proved that the royal navy could be beaten.

Constitution delivered more victories, defeating another British frigate, HMS Java.

The royal navy’s confidence was shaken, and the British admiralty commanded captains to not engage American frigates unless in squadron force (two or more against one).

USS Constitution answered the challenge, simultaneously defeating both HMS Cyane and HMS Levant in the last phase of the war.

In 1815, the National Intelligencer, a famous newspaper of the day, hailed Constitution as a symbol of the up-and-coming United States:

“Let us keep Old Ironsides at home, she has literally become the nation’s ship and should thus be preserved in honorable pomp, as a glorious monument of her own and our other naval victories.”

Constitution became a symbol of the American people and our ability to triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds. 

War of 1812 Constitution Anniversary Stamp USS Constitution, attributed to Michele Felice Corne, 1803. USS Constitution Museum Collection, U.S. Navy Loan

In the late 1820s, Constitution was awaiting repairs. Incorrectly believing the ship was destined for the scrapyard, physician-poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (father of the eventual Supreme Court justice) wrote a poem in 1830 that implored the government not to destroy this symbol of the United States.

His poem, titled “Old Ironsides” motivated the citizens of Boston as well as the nation to demand Constitution’s immediate repair.

Aye tear her tattered ensign down

Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

And burst the cannon’s roar;—

The meteor of the ocean air

Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Constitution was repaired and put back into service. Her 1844-46 world cruise exhibited the American flag around the world.

Now claiming the title of 32-0, she would claim one last victory at sea. On Nov. 3, 1853, while combating the slave trade, she captured an American slaving vessel, H.N. Gambrill, cementing her score at 33-0.

In 1860, USS Constitution evacuated the midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis to Newport, Rhode Island, in fear that the Confederates would capture the city and the beloved ship.

She served as a training ship from the 1860s until the 1880s, when she was taken off the active duty roster and resigned to service in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Detail of the only known photograph of USS Constitution under sail, taken by Army Private Hendrickson, summer 1881, Hampton Roads, Virginia. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

In 1896, President Kennedy’s grandfather, Rep. John Fitzgerald, successfully campaigned to have Constitution moved back to Boston for her 100th birthday.

Again, the citizens of Boston and the United States wanted Constitution to be honored and revered for her service.

During the early portion of the 20th century, Old Ironsides was in Boston and began falling into disrepair. The Navy said it would restore her, but it could not fund the full extent of the work needed.

Unsurprisingly, there was a huge outpouring of support, and people from all over the United States contributed funds to the restoration. School children from across the country even donated their pennies to see Constitution restored.

The “Pennies Campaign” was a huge success, and from 1931-1934, Constitution traveled around the country on a national cruise to thank the citizens of the nation for their donations.

As far away from Boston as Bellingham, Washington, huge crowds of people came to see her. In the Puget Sound area alone, she attracted a crowd of more than 500,000 people.

She even served during WWII, as a receiving barracks for troops transitioning between duty stations.

In 1976, during bicentennial celebrations, she hosted Queen Elizabeth II while on her tour around the country. By now, of course, our two countries had long been close allies.

Constitution represents the United States, from our ingenuity and fierce fighting spirit to our warm hospitality and friendship.

She has done so much for our country and the people of our country have expressed so many times how much they love ‘Old Ironsides’.

So to the question of why call her our Ship of State, I think the better question is: What took us so long?

But if you’re still wondering what exactly a Ship of State does, here’s what the aforementioned Defense Authorization Act states on the matter:

“It is the sense of Congress that the President, Vice President, executive branch officials, and members of Congress should use the USS Constitution for the conducting of pertinent matters of state, such as hosting visiting heads of state, signing legislation relating to the Armed Forces, and signing maritime related treaties.”

USS Constitution is tugged through Boston Harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise. Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship’s 222nd. birthday and the Navy’s 244th birthday. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer/Released)

USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) Commissioning Ceremony

Welcome to Navy Live blog coverage of USS Indianapolis’ (LCS 17) commissioning ceremony.

Live video from the Oct. 26 ceremony in Burns Harbor, Indiana, is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. local time (CDT).

The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments as well as open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

Lisa W. Hershman, deputy chief management officer for the Department of Defense, will deliver the principal address. Jill Donnelly, wife of former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Donnelly gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

“This Freedom-variant littoral combat ship will continue the proud legacy created by ships previously bearing the name Indianapolis,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The crew will carry on the tradition of service to confront the many challenges of today’s complex world. To the men and women who will ring in the first watch, you carry with you the fighting spirit of incredible bravery and sense of duty that is inherently recognized with the name Indianapolis.”

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).

The future USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) is launched April 18 in Wisconsin.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at (703) 697-5342. For more information about the Littoral Combat Ship class: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=1650&ct=4

USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) Commissioning Ceremony

Welcome to Navy Live blog coverage of USS Indianapolis’ (LCS 17) commissioning ceremony.

Live video from the Oct. 26 ceremony in Burns Harbor, Indiana, is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. local time (CDT).

The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments as well as open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

Lisa W. Hershman, deputy chief management officer for the Department of Defense, will deliver the principal address. Jill Donnelly, wife of former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Donnelly gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

“This Freedom-variant littoral combat ship will continue the proud legacy created by ships previously bearing the name Indianapolis,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “The crew will carry on the tradition of service to confront the many challenges of today’s complex world. To the men and women who will ring in the first watch, you carry with you the fighting spirit of incredible bravery and sense of duty that is inherently recognized with the name Indianapolis.”

The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).

The future USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) is launched April 18 in Wisconsin.

Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at (703) 697-5342. For more information about the Littoral Combat Ship class: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=1650&ct=4

Happy 244th Birthday, U.S. Navy!

Oct. 13 is the 244th birthday of the United States Navy. As the Navy grows ever more capable with new ships and technologies, we continue to rely on our Sailors, working side by side with the U.S. Marines to protect America’s people, partners and interests around the world.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has a birthday message to the Navy, stressing this year’s birthday celebration theme “No Higher Honor,” which commemorates the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest sea battle in modern history.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, who is joined by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger has the following birthday message to the fleet:

Transcript of their remarks:

CNO: THE NAVY’S WATCH TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE SEAS WITH HONOR, COURAGE, AND COMMITMENT BEGAN 244 YEARS AGO. AS WE CELEBRATE ACROSS THE FLEET, WE RENEW OUR COMMITMENT TO BE READY; TO REMEMBER THOSE WHO FORGED OUR LEGACY; AND TO HONOR OUR FAMILIES AND LOVED ONES WHO STAND BESIDE US.

CMC: WE CELEBRATE WITH YOU AS SAILORS AND MARINES REMAIN READY IN EVERY FLEET AND OPERATE TOGETHER AS AN INTEGRATED NAVAL FORCE.

CNO: WITH 290 SHIPS, ABOUT A THIRD OF WHICH ARE UNDERWAY TODAY, YOUR NAVY AND MARINE CORPS ARE AMERICA’S AWAY TEAM. WE ENABLE PROSPERITY 24/7/365 – AT HOME AND ABROAD – BY ENSURING PEACE, STABILITY AND SECURITY. 

CMC: HAPPY 244TH BIRTHDAY NAVY.

CNO: SEE YOU IN THE FLEET, SHIPMATES.