Chief of Naval Operations
Adm. Mike Gilday and Mrs. Linda Gilday
It’s a busy time with the Coronavirus and stressful as well, but my wife, Linda, and I want to take this opportunity to recognize the countless women who serve in the U.S. Navy – active and reserve, uniform and civilian – as well as those who serve as military spouses on the front lines at home.
These are challenging times right now for all of us, but there is no doubt that women have, and will continue to make history in exciting ways. As March comes to an end, we want to recognize Women’s History Month as well as the amazing work being done by so many. Each of us is making history in some small way right now.
The Navy is full of trailblazers who paved a way for the more than 67,000 women who serve as part of our active force today. These spouses, mothers, daughters, sisters, and coworkers serve in every rank – from seaman to admiral… and in most every job – from naval aviators to deep-sea divers. Right now there are female doctors, nurses, and corpsmen deployed aboard the USNS Mercy and Comfort as part of the Navy’s broader response to the coronavirus epidemic. There are also many women who are acting at home as nurses to their own families.
Thousands of women also serve our Navy team as military spouses, supportive family members, government civilians and reservists. We know the sacrifices you are making and what you bring to the Navy team. While some receive public recognition, many do not. And we encourage ALL Navy leaders to take note of these accomplishments!
To the women who forged ahead and broke through that glass ceiling – thank you. And to the women who serve selflessly with little fanfare day-in and day-out – we appreciate all that you do.
We all have important roles to play in service to the Navy, and to our Nation. Your work matters – whether it’s at home, in an office or aboard ships at sea… It matters, and we thank you. We also would love to see your amazing stories right now – so join our conversation at: #NavyWomenMakingHistory.
This is the U.S. Navy blog site for the 2020 deployment of Navy hospital ships USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) to provide medical support to Americans in regions significantly affected by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Navy medical professionals on both ships will assist local health care providers by offering care to persons who do not have the virus, freeing local hospitals and clinics to treat COVID-19 patients.
Visit here frequently to see the latest video content, imagery, news articles and other information about these ships and their Navy crew members as they serve Americans during this deployment.
The operation is led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with U.S. Northern Command, Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Navy. The Navy is committed to providing Defense Support of Civil Authorities by increasing medical capacity and collaboration for medical assistance in two areas of the country that have seen tremendous impact from the coronabvirus pandemic.
This blog is the official site for information and updates on Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19). Visit frequently to learn about the latest policies, leadership messages and guidance on how to protect yourself, your family and your Shipmates.
Below you’ll find, in chronological order, video messages and statements from Navy leaders, Navy news articles, links to NAVADMINs and ALNAVs, and other resources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
This support continued through the Korea
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
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.
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.
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
Thanks to the intelligence work by Cmdr.
Joseph Rochefort and his team at Station
(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.
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
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
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!
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.”