History is a human endeavor. As such, it is complex, inherently limited, and evolving. What has counted as “history” and how “history” has been investigated have changed greatly since Herodotus. Historians and philosophers debate the purpose of history, how it should be conducted, and indeed what even counts as history. What history actually is has no clear answer, doubtless the debate on history’s essence will continue, but history certainly has a number of elements which must be present in order for an investigation of the past to be considered “history.” History deals with the past. History aims at truth. History attempts to explain past events. These are just a few examples of some of history’s core characteristics. Aside from the question of what history is, philosophers and historians also attempt to explain the importance of history. Answers to this question are also varied. Some historians argue that history has no real importance, relegating history to hobby status. Other historians view history as integral to human existence. These two questions, what is history and why is it important, are essential to a proper understanding and appreciation of history.
By Hill Goodspeed, National Naval Aviation Museum
Before January 20, 1914, when the Navy’s aviation establishment arrived at a recently closed, hurricane ravaged navy yard in Pensacola, Florida, the small collection of men and assorted flying machines had lived a vagabond existence since Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson received orders to report for flight training under the tutelage of aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss in December 1910.
They had flown from lake waters in Curtiss’ native Hammondsport, New York, the sandy landscape of North Island in San Diego, over the Caribbean waters off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and from an encampment at Greenbury Point across the Severn River from the U.S. Naval Academy. Such was the ad hoc nature of the latter location that it was located in proximity to the midshipman rifle range, forcing the aviators and mechanics to frequently vacate the premises lest they become an unwitting target for a fledgling marksman!
The members of the Chambers Board, which convened in Washington D.C. in late 1913, recognized that naval aviation, with the potential for employment on a wider scale in naval operations, required a permanent home, an aeronautic station not only for use in training, but more also to serve as a veritable laboratory for the study of naval aviation.
The record-altitude flights and experimental work lay in the future on that January day, the conditions that greeted the aviators as they arrived on board the battleship Mississippi and collier Orion proving disconcerting.
“We have done some hustling since arrival for the yard is a wreck and the beach we have to use for hangars [full of] drift wood…and all kinds of junk; the whole place is in scandalous condition, and I surely have a job on my hands,” Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Mustin wrote upon arriving. “It looks as if it had been abandoned 50 years ago and since then had been used as a dump. However, there are fine possibilities in the place.”
Once ashore, the aviation personnel assembled their aircraft and began erecting canvas tent hangars along the shore to protect them from the Florida sun. Less than two weeks after arriving, using the natural runway that the waters of Pensacola Bay provided, a prime reason for the location’s selection by the Chambers Board, Lieutenant John Towers, the officer-in-charge of the flight school, and Ensign Godfrey DeC. Chevalier took to the skies in two seaplanes.
A local newspaper likened the airplanes to “giant buzzards” as they made the first of hundreds of thousands of flights launched from what would become known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.”
From the Naval History and Heritage Command
The Battle of Ad-Dawrah may not have the branding of other naval warfare conflicts, like Midway or Leyte Gulf, but it was a shining moment for the naval surface force 24 years ago when USS Nicholas (FFG 47) and other frigates did their part in showering the enemy with “thunder and lightning” during the early days of Desert Storm.
Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, to the condemnation of the United Nations. After five months of sanctions that severed Iraq’s economic lifelines and a maritime interception campaign with 115 U.S. and 50 allied warships, it was time for Desert Shield to become Desert Storm.
For most Americans, the operation began on the evening of January 16th when President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation announcing the commencement of hostilities. In the Middle East, where it was already early the next morning, Operation Desert Storm was underway led by Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, in charge of all coalition forces, while then-Vice Adm. Stanley Arthur commanded the largest build-up of naval personnel and ships since World War II.
The war at sea was integral to the liberation of Kuwait. While continuing their high-tempo maritime interception mission, U.S. and coalition warships conducted a wide variety of contingency actions, from Tomahawk Land Attack Missile launches to naval gunfire support.
Almost immediately, Iraqi troops began setting off explosives previously placed around Kuwaiti oil fields. Iraqi troops had staked out observation posts on nine of 11 oil platforms in the Dorrah oilfield, about 40 miles off the Kuwaiti coast. From the platforms, they could gather intelligence on U.S. and allied aircraft and ship movements.
Navy surface forces made an impact early in Desert Storm, when USS Nicholas (FFG 47) and the Kuwaiti fast attack craft Istiqlal (P 5702) conducted the first surface engagement of the war on Jan. 18, 1991. Supporting combat search and rescue operations for the air campaign, Nicholas and her helicopters scouted the Dorrah oilfield.
In a daring night-time operation, well within range of Iraqi Silkworm missiles and near Iraqi combatant ships and aircraft armed with Exocet ship-killer missiles, Nicholas and Istiqlal attacked the enemy positions.
Nicholas crept to within a mile of the southernmost platforms under cover of darkness. Armed for air-to-surface combat, embarked Army AHIP helicopters, and joined by Nicholas‘ own SH-60 Seahawk helicopter from HSL-44, headed north –toward the enemy’s “back door.” Once in range, the helicopters launched a volley of precision-guided missiles that destroyed enemy positions on the two northernmost platforms. Seconds later, as six Iraqi soldiers attempted to escape to a waiting small craft, ammunition stockpiled on the platforms exploded, illuminating the night sky.
Nicholas and her Kuwaiti counterpart came within range of their objectives. While Iraqis on the other platforms were staring at their neighbors’ flaming fortifications, the two ships opened fire, quickly neutralizing the remaining platforms. No enemy troops returned fire during the lightning-fast operation.
An Arabic-speaking crewman called out over the ship’s loudspeaker that anyone who wished to surrender should raise his hands. A monitor in Nicholas‘ combat information center displayed a flickering infrared image of an Iraqi waving weakly. Several hours later, the first 23 enemy prisoners of war were taken as teams boarded the platforms to destroy the remaining fortifications. Five Iraqis were killed during the engagement.
Searchers found caches of shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles– an unpleasant surprise for the Seahawk pilots who had flown near the platforms during the past two days. Navy demolition teams destroyed the remaining weapons and long-range radio equipment.
As Navy A-6 Intruders pounded Iraqi minelayers on Jan. 22, Nicholas and her Seahawks were again busy in the northern Persian Gulf. As the northernmost allied ship, Nicholas launched her helicopters to attack Iraqi patrol boats operating less than a mile from the Kuwaiti coast. In the battle that followed, Seahawk gunners sank or heavily damaged all four enemy craft. The following day, A-6s hit the mark again, disabling an Iraqi tanker used to gather intelligence, an enemy hovercraft and another Iraqi patrol boat.
The frigate proved its capability to operate close to the shore as it provided security for merchant convoys and replenishment groups, yet bringing its “thunder and lightning” to multiply fleet force resources.
USS Nicholas, the star of the Battle of Ad-Dawrah, was decommissioned March 17, 2014. In fact, when the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Ad-Dawrah rolls around in January 2016, there will be no Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates in the U.S. Navy – earlier this month USS Kauffman (FFG 59) departed for what will be the final deployment for the ship and for the class. A decommissioning is scheduled for sometime in September.
Still the value of the surface force’s ability to control the seas, so ably demonstrated by Nicholas at Ad-Dawrah, is not lost on today’s Navy leaders.
“A shift is now under way within the surface force. It is not subtle, and it is not accidental,” wrote Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, in an article for the Jan. 2015 edition of Proceedings Magazine. “The surface force is taking the offensive, to give the operational commander options to employ naval combat power in any anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environment.”
“The surface fleet will always defend the high-value and mission-essential units; that is in our core doctrine. However, the emergence of sophisticated sea-denial strategies has driven a need to shift to an offensive imperative to control the seas. Increasing surface-force lethality—particularly in our offensive weapons and the concept of operations for surface action groups (SAGs)—will provide more strike options to joint-force commanders, provide another method to seize the initiative, and add battlespace complexity to an adversary’s calculus,” he wrote.
After the Cold War, Rowden said no navy could challenge or dominate the United States.
“No power could match us at sea, and that dominance allowed the Navy to focus on projecting power ashore. The balance between sea control and power projection tipped strongly in favor of the latter, and the surface force evolved accordingly. Our proficiency in land-attack and maritime-security operations reached new heights, while foundational skills in antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and antisurface warfare (ASUW) slowly began to erode,” Rowden wrote.
Called “distributed lethality” Rowden believes the surface force must develop and build stronger, more varied offensive capability in its ships, adding more power in more places and sailing together in formations known as “hunter-killer surface action groups.”
“If U.S. naval power is to reclaim maritime battlespace dominance in contemporary and future anti-A2/AD environments,” said Rowden in the Proceedings article, “the surface Navy must counter rapidly evolving missile, air, submarine, and surface threats that will challenge our ability to sail where we want, when we want.”
*Check out the Navy Live Blog for a post from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Adm. John Miller about the importance of partnerships in his AOR during Desert Storm and today.
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
As a Union gunboat, the Southern-named USS Hatteras had a successful career in chasing down blockade runners during the early days of the Civil War.
But her greatest victory came 121 years after she was sunk on Jan. 11, 1863. That was when the U.S. District Court determined the U.S. Navy was the legal guardian of the steam side-wheeler’s wreck site, saving her from commercial salvaging companies and private treasure hunters who had filed an admiralty suit in 1978.
Artifacts from the ship, used as evidence in the case, were returned to the U.S. Navy, where they are part of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s collection administered by its Underwater Archaeology Branch. The wreck is also protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act.
After the court decision, the Navy, through NHHC, partnered with the Texas Historical Commission and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to monitor the site and make sure no oil rigs are placed in the vicinity. A survey was done in 2007 to determine the impact of hurricanes. After Hurricane Ike in 2008, sport divers reported seeing more of the ship’s mechanical works exposed.
In 2012, Hatteras made history again as one of the first offshore test subjects of a 3-dimensional sonar scan.
Scanning the Side-Wheeler
The Hatteras survey was a partnership with the Texas Historical Commission, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Maritime Heritage Program, NOAA’s Office of Coastal Study (OCS), ExplorOcean, Northwest Hydro, staff from NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) aboard its research vessel Manta, and the educational organization OceanGate Foundation, among others.
Heather G. Brown, an underwater archaeologist with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, was on site for the survey, which took two days in September. The purpose of the survey was to try and get a good idea of how much of the site remained exposed after recent hurricane activity, as well as an opportunity to test new scanning equipment, Brown said.
One innovative aspect about the BlueView system is that provides a large amount of very accurate data very quickly, even in dark water, and the level of detail it provides is much greater than side-scan sonar or multibeam echo sounder, Brown explained. Divers descended nearly 60 feet to place the Teledyne BlueView 3D scanner’s tripod at various locations around Hatteras.
“The heavy iron machinery was still left, although the wood was gone. There may be some preserved in the sand but it hasn’t been excavated to see if any planking is left,” Brown said.
The pictures showed the iron sidewheels on the ship and the iron shaft that connected the two wheels on either side of the ship’s narrow deck. Trawling nets that have snagged on the exposed machinery have scattered some of it around the wreck site. Click here for a video of the scan.
“Our main focus right now is to educate the public about what’s there so they can respect it as part of their heritage,” Brown said. “We want people to understand why this is important and why there is a need to preserve it.”
Built in 1861 by Harlan and Hollingsworth of Wilmington, Del., the side-wheel steamer called Saint Marys was purchased that year by the U.S. Navy for $110,000 and up-armored with four 32-pound guns and one 20-pound gun. That builder’s plate is among the artifacts taken from USS Hatteras and is now on loan from NHHC to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas.
There’s no mention as to why the refitted gunboat would be renamed after a city from one of the Southern states that had recently ceded from the Union. But whatever the reason, the 210-foot by 18-foot gunboat did her part as a member of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Key West, Fla., in November 1861. Her captain was Cmdr. George F. Emmons, who led Hatteras into capturing and burning seven small blockade runners carrying supplies such as cotton and turpentine. They also burned railroad terminals, other facilities and captured half of a small garrison and its commander.
During early 1862, Hatteras and her crew cruised off the coast of Louisiana, where the gunboat stymied the blockade runners’ trade route, capturing several. After a successful first year, Emmons was relieved by Cmdr. Homer Blake in Nov. 1862.
The Union had prevented commerce flowing from Galveston to Mexico with its Western Gulf Squadron, under the command of the Navy’s first rear admiral, David G. Farragut. But a Confederate uprising during the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1863, allowed Gen. John B. Magruder’s troops to re-take Galveston. In the process, USS Harriet Lane was captured, along with two barques and a schooner. USS Westfield, which had become grounded, was scuttled to prevent capture.
Although the Confederates had retaken Galveston, the Union blockade continued to control commerce at the harbor. Members of the South Atlantic Squadron, including the gunboat Hatteras, were diverted to Galveston to shore up the Galveston fleet.
Mid-afternoon on Jan. 11, a new ship was sighted on the horizon. USS Hatteras pulled away from the rest of the squadron to investigate. It was CSS Alabama. Built in secrecy in Great Britain, the 220-by-31.8-foot sloop-of-war had a bit of a Clipper look with her square rigging, which her skipper, Capt. Raphael Semmes, played to his advantage. Hatteras trailed the ship for four hours and 20 miles out from the safety of Galveston Harbor. With a Union Jack flag flying, the cruiser claimed at first to be “Britannic Majesty’s Ship Petrel.”
Blake remained suspicious, however, and announced he was sending a boarding party to check her credentials. As soon as the boat left Hatteras, Semmes struck the Union Jack and raised the Confederate Stars and Bars, announcing it was CSS Alabama, then blasting Hatteras broadside with its 32-pound cannons.
For 13 minutes, both ships fired away at each other at close range, but then a shell burst in Hatteras’ engine room, killing two men and blasting apart the iron plates on her hull. As Hatteras began to sink Blake ordered the guns flooded to prevent explosions and sent a shot across Alabama’s bow to acknowledge defeat.
Alabama sent boats to help Hatteras’ crew and her captain off the ship while the Hatteras boarding party got away and made it back to the squadron. Alabama took her prisoners to Port Royal, Jamaica, where they were later freed.
The following day, USS Brooklyn found the wreck of Hatteras still upright. With the topmast poking above the water, Hatteras’ commissioning pennant still waved.
Artifacts from USS Hatteras taken in the mid-1970s and now with the Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
By John Thackrah, Executive Director, Military Sealift Command
Today marks the creation of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service in 1918 to carry cargo during World War I. Sealift capabilities played a key role in our nation’s defense then, and are still crucial to our Navy and DOD’s ability to operate forward – where it matters, when it matters.
Post-World War II, our nation consolidated its sealift transport services into a single entity in 1949 – the Military Sea Transportation Service, later re-named Military Sealift Command.
Fast forward to 2015, and MSC has grown from a handful of missions to more than 20. Our command is a critical part of our Navy, efficiently and cost-effectively operating some of our fleet’s most innovative ships. The growing number and diversity of our ships honors the spirit of our forerunners, and highlights the trust we’ve earned over decades.
Take our mobile landing platform, for instance. The first ship in the class, USNS Montford Point, demonstrated during last year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise and again during the Pacific Horizon 14 exercise that it can meet the growing needs of our Marine Corps for sea-basing assets.
Montford Point and its sister ship, USNS John Glenn, have two primary capabilities: transfer of equipment, personnel and sustainment at-sea, and delivery of vehicles and equipment ashore. In tandem with sealift vessels like USNS Bob Hope and high-speed transport ships like the joint high-speed vessels, MLPs allow large-scale logistics movements from sea to shore, which reduces reliance on foreign ports.
Another exciting set of ships is the afloat forward staging base variant of the MLP. Unlike Montford Point, AFSBs like the recently launched USNS Lewis B. Puller add a flight deck, equipment storage and repair spaces. The variant can provide a base of operations for everything from counter-piracy/smuggling, maritime security and mine clearing to humanitarian aid and disaster relief. We expect that Lewis B. Puller will undergo at-sea testing prior to its delivery this year.
Finally, our joint high-speed vessels spent 2014 proving their versatility in real-world operations and exercises. USNS Spearhead, the first ship in the class, completed the first leg of its maiden deployment to U.S. 6th Fleet last May, and deployed again to U.S. 4th Fleet after a short pit-stop in Little Creek, Virginia. These are hard-working ships – just a few weeks ago, Spearhead departed Virginia and is currently operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
Our Navy and Marine Corps team has been actively discussing and testing what these ships can do, and we’ve discovered that they are useful for missions beyond their original design. In November, USNS Choctaw County participated in Bold Alligator 2014 and conducted proof-of-concept testing that included small boat launches and helicopter operations.
I am confident that as we continue to explore other mission sets that include theater security cooperation, non-combatant evacuations and counter-illicit trafficking detection and monitoring, the JHSV will continue to prove itself as a valuable fleet asset worldwide.
Bottom line, MSC is grateful for the expanding responsibilities entrusted to us, and ready to hit the ground running in 2015.
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
The director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program will host a ceremony Jan. 9 at Naval Reactors’ Washington Navy Yard headquarters celebrating one of the first major milestones of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.
Adm. John M. Richardson, joined by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, and the Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, will honor the 60th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear-powered warship, USS Nautilus (SSN 571), getting underway on nuclear power. It was on Jan. 17, 1955 at 11 a.m. when Nautilus Commanding Officer Cmdr. Eugene Wilkinson announced “UNDERWAY ON NUCLEAR POWER.”
In addition to being an engineering marvel, Nautilus was the first in a long line of nuclear-powered ships to serve the U.S. Navy with an outstanding record of more than 155,000 million miles safely steamed on nuclear power. Just as important, she represented a huge leap in American energy security, increasing strategic independence, sustainability, and operational capability.
Getting Nautilus “underway on nuclear power” was a remarkable accomplishment that began with the concept of harnessing the power of splitting uranium atoms in 1939 by scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory. That concept became reality when then-Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, an engineering officer, signed onto the project in 1946. Just six years later, on June 14, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed the keel of the first nuclear-powered submarine.
It was Jan. 21, 1954 when Nautilus was launched at Electric Boat Shipyard, Groton, Conn. The boat was commissioned a few months later, Sept. 30. For a video of the 60th anniversary of the commissioning, please click here.
Nautilus’ career was a record-setting one, including being the first submarine to cross the North Pole – under the ice – on Aug. 3, 1958. After 25 years and four refuelings, Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980. Two years later, the first nuclear-powered submarine was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
After undergoing historic ship conversion in 1986, USS Nautilus continues to serve her country at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton.
Editors Note: On Jan. 9 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that SSN 795, a Virginia-class attack submarine, will bear the name USS Hyman G. Rickover.
Mabus named the submarine to honor U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the man credited for developing USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. For more information click here.
By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
Today marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was settled at Chalmette Plantation, where Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s troops scored a final victory for the United States.
Less known, however, is the naval skirmish three weeks prior that set up Jackson’s victory. During the Battle of Lake Borgne, American Sailors and Marines, with just a few gun boats, slowed the approach of 8,000 British troops advancing toward New Orleans. Armed with the knowledge the British were coming, Jackson was able to prepare and amass his troops for the greatest land battle victory during the War of 1812. All thanks to the intuition of Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson.
Patterson was born on Long Island in 1786 and like so many Americans at the time, descended from loyal British subjects. His uncle had been a royal governor of what is now St. John’s Island in Canada. Patterson started his career in the Navy in 1799, fought the French, was taken captive during the Quasi Wars, and led raids against pirates blocking New Orleans. He was later a prisoner of the Barbary pirates in Tripoli until the American victory in 1805.
Stationed in New Orleans, by 1812 Patterson was highly experienced in combat and leadership. He was ready for the British, who had won battles in the Great Lakes, burned Washington, and were now ready to invade the South.
But where? The British had already sent ships to the Gulf of Mexico. Jackson believed it would be Mobile, Ala., and he insisted Commodore Patterson, now the Commander of New Orleans, to send whatever he had to protect Mobile from attack. Patterson repeatedly refused Jackson, convinced the British would attack New Orleans.
In the meantime, the British Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station, Vice Adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane, had anchored in the Gulf of Mexico with a large armada of ships holding 8,000 soldiers and sailors ready to invade.
Patterson had little with which to respond. As the Master Commandant, he had written to the Secretary of the Navy many times asking for ships that could stand a chance in combat against the British fleet. Patterson wrote the year before in December 1813 that none of his ships could even depart from the Gulf of Mexico without “falling into enemy hands.”
The British had HMS Seahorse, which carried 22 nine-pounder guns. Cochrane also had ships like Armide and Sophie, which contained two six-pounder bow guns and 16 32-pounder carronades, which were giant short-range cast iron cannons.
Patterson had five gunboats, a schooner and two sloops of war, USS Alligator and USS Tickler. The squadron had fewer than 250 Sailors, armed with 16 long guns, 14 carronades, two howitzers and 12 swivel guns. The gun boats were often referred to as “Jefferson-class” tug boats, because they were built during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson who believed all America needed was a coastal patrol force, not a blue-water navy. The “Jefferson-class” gun boats didn’t even have names. They had numbers — Numbers 156, 163, 5, 23, and 162.
But now the British were anchored in the Gulf of Mexico. Vice Adm. Cochrane decided the easiest way to New Orleans would be through Lake Borgne, where Patterson’s squadron was patrolling and reporting back to Jackson about the British logistics and movements.
Finally, on Dec. 12, 1814, 1,200 British sailors and marines began their approach to Lake Borgne. After 36 hours of rowing, the invaders faced a hail of grape shot. Patterson had calculated correctly that even without ships to match the Royal Navy, his gunboats could harass any landing party as they rowed ashore, blocking the entrance of Lake Borgne, the gateway to New Orleans.
But outmanned and outgunned, the British captured all the American gunboats on Dec. 14. The British then made a tactical error. Rather than pressing forward, they were allowed time to rest.
Jackson heard about a British encampment just seven miles from New Orleans and exclaimed: “By the Eternal they shall not sleep on our soil.”
So during the night of Dec. 23, the Americans attacked the British with troops by land and with USS Carolina and Louisiana, stationed in the Mississippi River, bombarding their encampment. Heavily outnumbered, the Americans were forced to retreat.
The British realized their advance would not be as easy as they thought, and again, hesitated, allowing even more time for Jackson to shore up his forces and prepare their defense. Under bombardment and constant attack, the British tried to advance into New Orleans for the next two weeks until the culmination of the battle on Jan. 8, 1815.
The Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium on Dec., 24, 1814, just one day after Jackson’s assault on the British. But neither side knew the treaty had been signed until after the battle was over two weeks later. After Jan. 8, the British, in one last effort after losing New Orleans, tried to take Mobile again, but then withdrew upon hearing of the treaty. It would formally end all hostilities between the two nations.
Patterson himself commanded naval batteries on the Mississippi during the Battle of New Orleans. He, as well as his Sailors and Marines fought alongside Jackson’s Soldiers during the last week in December and the first week in January. Jackson would go on to give high praise to Patterson, who would be promoted to captain. Patterson would later take command of USS Constitution, and serve in the Navy for another 24 years.
And old Hickory himself, a national hero, would ride his 1815 victory to become the nation’s seventh president in 1829.
The penultimate battle of the War of 1812
Today in 1815 marks the final victory over the British that ended the War of 1812. It was Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s Army that carried that ball over the goal line for the win. But they crossed that end zone because the U.S. Navy got the ball to within the 10-yard line.
How so, you might ask? The British planned to attack New Orleans weeks prior to Jan. 8, 1815, but a small contingent of American gunboats kept the Red Coats from coming ashore from the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Borgne, allowing Jackson the time to amass more men to prepare for their attack.
A history teacher named Jimmy Driftwood back in the 1936 wrote a little ditty called the Battle of New Orleans to get his history students interested in the War of 1812, using a popular American folk tune called “The 8th of January.” Singer Johnny Horton turned into a 1959 hit.
But since that song was about the land battle that kept the British out of New Orleans, with our apologies to Driftwood, here’s the Navy version, based on the same tune, on how a handful of Navy boats held off the Royal Navy, and helped set the stage for the bigger victory three weeks later on Jan. 8, 1815.
By Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, Commander, Navy Medicine Education and Training Command and Director, U.S. Navy Nurse Corps
January 6 commemorates the 72nd anniversary of one of the most tragic, yet heroic and triumphant moments in Navy Nurse Corps history. On that date in 1942, 11 Navy Nurses and three civilian nurses were taken prisoner by Japanese forces in the Philippines. During their 37-month imprisonment these nurses – known as the “Band of Angels” – continued to care for the sick and injured despite the fact they suffered from their own malnutrition and disease. They were liberated in February 1945.
Throughout World War II, Navy Nurses served at 40 naval hospitals, 176 dispensaries, and on board 12 hospital ships. They earned over 300 military awards and honors for their efforts.
From the proud and humble beginnings of the first Navy Nurses, “The Sacred Twenty” to today’s force of more 4,000, Navy Nurses are committed to duty and heroic sacrifice in the service of our country. Navy Nurses have set the highest standards for our profession since its inception, and we continue to carry the banner of that proud legacy.
Today, we continue this proud tradition of selfless service at home and around the globe, at military treatment facilities (MTFs), ambulatory care centers, research facilities, education and training commands, and a broad range of operational settings. Navy Nurses are also at the forefront of joint operations, serving alongside health care providers from our sister services and with allied forces medical teams. Paying homage to the “Band of Angels,” I would be remiss if I did not highlight our continued presence and commitment to our mission in the Pacific, where Navy Nurses are on call and ready to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, as well as annual partnership missions like Pacific Partnership. We are a team of professionals who serve with one overall mission: to provide the best possible care for our patients.
This charge to care both on and off the battlefield is truly a calling, not just a career. It’s a calling to deliver competent and compassionate nursing care whenever and wherever we are needed. For many patients, the first person they see when they open their eyes after surgery, illness, or an injury is their Navy Nurse. No matter where they are serving, Navy Nurses stand ready at bedsides around the globe and are a vital force in any setting.
I am humbled by our Navy Nurses who are recognized for bravery, heroism, and leadership throughout our naval history. From the proud and modest beginnings of the first Navy Nurses and the “Band of Angels” to today’s force of nurses, our professional Nurse Corps waves the banner of our Navy legacy – providing caring, compassionate, and competent care, anytime, anywhere.