Archive for the 'Diversity' Category

Feb 24

Black History Month Highlight: Medal of Honor Recipient John Lawson

Thursday, February 24, 2011 3:13 PM

Biography and images courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

John Lawson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 June 1837. In 1864, he was a member of USS Hartford‘s crew. During the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864, while serving as a member of the ship’s berth deck ammunition party, he was seriously wounded but remained at his post and continued to supply Hartford‘s guns. For his heroism in this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. John Lawson died on 3 May 1919 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is buried at Mount Peace Cemetery, Camden, New Jersey.

An August Morning with Farragut
William Heyshand Overend
1883

Medal of Honor citation of Landsman John Lawson (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, pages 34-35):

“On board the flagship U.S.S. Hartford during successful attacks against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Wounded in the leg and thrown violently against the side of the ship when an enemy shell killed or wounded the six-man crew at the shell whip on the berth deck, LAWSON, upon regaining his composure, promptly returned to his station and, although urged to go below for treatment, steadfastly continued his duties throughout the remainder of the action.”

 

For more information on the African American experience in the United States Navy, go to THIS LINK.

Or visit the official Civil War Navy Sesquicentennial Blog HERE.

 
Feb 18

Navy TV – The Story of the Pea Island Lifesavers

Friday, February 18, 2011 6:10 PM

Watch the story of the legendary Pea Island Life Savers, an all-black lifesaving crew that accomplished one of the most daring rescues in the annals of the Life Saving Service in 1896, saving the entire crew of the three-masted schooner E.S. Newman, for which they were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal by the Coast Guard. See it here on NavyTV.

 
Feb 17

Black History Month Spotlight: Civil War MOH Recipient Robert Blake

Thursday, February 17, 2011 9:01 AM
Contraband Robert Blake (Photo#: NH 103762)
 
Robert Blake was born into slavery in Virginia. After escaping, he enlisted in the US Navy from Port Royal, Virginia and served on USS Marblehead during the Civil War. While off Legareville, Stono River, South Carolina, on 25 December 1863, Blake bravely served the rifle gun as Marblehead engaged Confederates on John’s Island. The enemy eventually abandoned its position leaving munitions behind. For his bravery in this action, Blake was awarded the Medal of Honor.
USS Marblehead engages a Confederate Battery on John’s Island, Stono River, South Carolina, 25 December 1863 (Photo#: NH 79920)

 

LCDR Richard W. Meade, commanding the Marblehead, wrote in a report to Rear Admiral John Dahlgren off Legareville commending several individual sailors in the conflict. Among the four who would eventually win the Medal of Honor was Robert Blake. LCDR Meade had this to say in his report about Blake:

“Robert Blake, a contraband, excited my admiration by the cool and brave maner in which he served the rifle gun.” (Meade to Dahlgren, ORN, 15:190-191)

Richard W. Meade

He ends his report to Dahlgren by commending everybody, including Blake, onboard the Marblehead during the tense engagement:

“I have again to commend the good conduct of everyone on board. Their courage was so well displayed that the enemy, who had doubtless counted on disabling us, were forced to retire [. . .] in confusion and ignominy.” (Meade to Dahlgren, ORN, 15:191)
 
Dec 7

Pearl Harbor through the eyes of Tai Sing Loo

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 1:00 AM

Tai Sing Loo was the official Navy photographer of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this excerpt from Air Raid: Pearl Harbor edited by Paul Stillwell, Mr. Loo provided a unique account of his experiences that day.


Tai on his famous "put put" wearing his trademark helmet.


How I Were at Pearl Harbor

By Tai Sing Loo

On the 6th of December, Saturday afternoon, I had made arrangement with [Platoon] Sergeant [Charles R.] Christenot to have all his Guard be at the Main Gate between 8:30 to 9:30 o’clock Sunday morning to have a group of picture taken in front of the new concrete entrance as a setting with the “Pearl Har­bor” for Christmas card to send home to their fam­ily.

Sunday morning I left my home for Pearl Harbor after 7:00 o’clock. I was waiting for my bus at corner Wilder Avenue and Metcalf Street.

Saw the sky full of antiaircraft gun firing up in the air, I call my friend to look up in sky, explain them how the Navy used their antiaircraft gun firing in practising, at that time I didn’t realize we were in actual war. Our bus stop at Bishop and King Streets. We heard the alarm ringing from the third story building of the Lewers & Cooke, Ltd. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 11

LCDR Eugene Valencia

Thursday, November 11, 2010 6:01 AM

United States Navy fighter squadron VF-9 served on board the carrier Essex (CV 9) during that ship’s first cruise in the South Pacific in 1943-1944. LCDR Eugene Valencia got his baptism of fire in October 1943 during strikes against Japanese forces on Wake Island and at Tarawa.

On 11 November, Essex launched an attack on Japanese shipping in Rabaul Harbor. Assigned to escort the strike group that morning, Valencia made three strafing runs on a heavy cruiser despite heavy antiaircraft fire, assisted in covering torpedo planes returning from the attack, and shot down his first enemy plane. That afternoon, while providing fighter cover for his ship, he downed two more enemy aircraft and assisted in the destruction of a third. Flamboyant, outgoing, mercurial, and intense, Commander Valencia, a Latino from Los Angeles, went on to become the Navy’s third highest scoring ace of all time.

Valencia’s combat experience illustrates the necessity of diversity. Fortunately, during World War II, the Navy had no prohibitions against Hispanics serving in combat as it did against African Americans, enabling Latinos like Valencia to excel. During that War the Navy revolutionized its written racial policy, opening every billet to African Americans by 1945. Today, as then, during war the country cannot deprive itself of the talent of all of its people if it expects to win.

 
Nov 1

Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation

Monday, November 1, 2010 12:01 AM

November marks the start of National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month and it is an especially good time to introduce Lieutenant Kenneth L. Vargas, USN, a Seabee Combat Warfare officer and a proud member of the Choctaw Nation.

He makes presentations about the contributions of Native Americans in the military and to American society because “Educating my Navy family on my culture is a great privilege for my family and me. There are many misconceptions in the general population about Native American culture, ranging from the idea that Native Americans do not pay taxes to the notion that we speak ‘Indian.’ Sharing our culture promotes acceptance and understanding of fallacies that might otherwise go unchanged.” He notes that people would be surprised to learn that “we have all ethnic groups beat in the Armed Forces participation combined!! Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared with other ethnic groups.”

His programs support the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead’s priority on celebrating and increasing diversity in the Navy; Vargas’ naval service is an example of why having diverse talents among naval personnel is critical to the Navy’s ability to complete its missions.

LT Vargas, a Bridgeport, Texas native, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington and earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career as a dental technician with the fleet marines at Camp Pendleton. As a Seabee, both officer and enlisted, he served with marines providing valuable engineering support to the war effort. He noted, “There is a special pride in serving side by side with my Marine Corps brothers; it is good ‘medicine’ for a warrior.” His most memorable tour is the one year he spent embedded with the New Iraqi Army. He remarked, “The Iraqi people have a proud tribal tradition and embraced me wholeheartedly as a brother quickly.” He describes the Navy’s Core Values as, “the greatest formula for success in life; Honor, Courage, and Commitment in every thing you do. Everything else will fall in place if you hold these three close to your heart.”

For Vargas, naval service means, “Being part of a military service that has deep time honored traditions goes hand in hand with my tribal traditions. I am a small, but integral cog in a very complex system that is our Navy, the proudest and strongest that has ever sailed the seven seas and the stars above!”

 
Oct 25

CDR. Ernest Evans, Skipper of USS Johnston (DD-557)

Monday, October 25, 2010 12:01 AM

At first light on 25 October 1944, huge geysers of water shot up near the destroyer Johnston. That ship and half a dozen other American destroyers were escorting half a dozen jeep carriers off Samar. A shaky voice on Johnston’s talk between ships radio reported “a major portion” of the Japanese fleet fifteen miles astern. Commander Ernest Evans, the skipper, burst out of his sea cabin, barking out orders: All hands general quarters! Light off all boilers for maximum speed! Make smoke!

Ernest Evans had come up the hard way, harder than most. His white paternal grandfather had married a Creek Indian woman just to gain control of her land allotment. He soon divorced her and disowned their child. That child grew up to be his father; his mother was a full blooded Cherokee. Born “into a world of low prospects and ill will,” Ernest beat what seemed impossible odds. Amid intense prejudice against Native Americans he graduated from a nearly all-white high school, joined the National Guard, transferred to the Navy enlisted service, won an appointment to the Naval Academy without political pull, and graduated with the class of 1931.

As the light grew, the pagoda-like superstructures of four Japanese battleships, eight cruisers, and eleven destroyers appeared over the horizon. Johnston’s task unit, dubbed Taffy Three, were all that stood between the Japanese force and MacArthur’s troops on shore while the rest of Halsey’s Third Fleet chased a decoy force of Japanese aircraft carriers.

Without waiting for orders, Evans gave the command to commence a torpedo run against the enemy. Johnston steered toward her target, an enemy cruiser, veering and fishtailing toward enemy shell splashes in the belief that “lightning doesn’t strike twice.” Evans closed to less than 10,000 yards before loosing a spread of torpedoes. Several of them blew the bow off the Japanese cruiser.

For more than three hours Johnston engaged the enemy. Evans’ aggressiveness, along with that of other American destroyermen and aviators from Taffy Three, led the Japanese to believe they were facing a much larger force and caused them to turn away.

The price was steep. Evans and many of his shipmates were killed as Japanese fire eventually overwhelmed Johnston, sending her to the bottom. Although severely wounded early in the battle, Evans pressed the attack until he vanished when his ship went down. For his “valiant fighting spirit,” he received the Medal of Honor.

 
Oct 19

“They Would Be Amazed”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:01 AM

“Navy admits Negroes into the WAVES:” so read the headlines following the Navy Department’s October 19, 1944, press release announcing this change.

This was indeed good news to the civic, religious, and civil rights organizations, the Afro-American sororities, Mary McLeod Bethune and others who had urged the Navy to have an integrated female reserve program since its inception. Captain Mildred McAfee, the director of the WAVES program, also advocated for their inclusion. The White House received petitions and numerous letters from whites and blacks a like arguing that not allowing blacks in the WAVES was discriminatory and inconsistent with America’s democratic values. Thomas Dewey, President Roosevelt’s Republican opponent in the 1944 election, also supported their cause. He asked the audience during a speech in a Chicago suburb why they wanted to vote for President Roosevelt when his administration had excluded blacks from the WAVES. Within weeks, the Navy announced its intention to have black WAVES.

Harriet Ida Pickens, the daughter of William Pickens who was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Frances Elizabeth Wills, a social worker were sworn into the Navy on November 13, 1944, and entered the last class of officer candidates to be trained at Smith College, Northampton, NTS in Massachusetts. Pickens’ father encouraged her to apply. Wills read the announcement in a newspaper. Having no brothers to serve, she decided to do her part for the war effort. Like those who volunteered before them, they left their jobs and lifestyles to submit to naval rules and regulations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the duration of the war plus six months. Moreover, they entered the Navy knowing its record of institutional racism against blacks. They became the Navy’s first black female officers on December 21, 1944. The Navy assigned both to the WAVES enlisted naval training station at Hunter College in Bronx, New York. Pickens taught physical fitness training and Wills administered classification tests. By the war’s end 2 black officers and 70 black enlisted served among the Navy’s 90,000 WAVES. Four blacks joined the Navy Nurse Corps and the Coast Guard’s female reserves. The Marine Corps remained all-white until 1949.

Pickens, Wills and the other black women in the sea services may not have fully appreciated the historical significance of their participation or seen the struggle for their inclusion as an important chapter in the civil rights movement during World War II. The fight to integrate the WAVES is a reminder that change is sometimes possible during an election year and a war that otherwise would not happen. Moreover, persistent agitation for change keeps the issue alive and emphasizes the activists’ determination to succeed. The diversity of the advocates committed to this cause and the various methods used strengthened their message and carried it to the right halls within the White House, the War Department, the Navy Department, and the Congress. Support from McAfee and other significant persons within the Navy and the endorsement of their cause by Dewey proved critical to effecting this policy change.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
« Older Entries Newer Entries »
 
7ads6x98y