Today in History, March 22, 1820:
Stephen Decatur, Naval hero of the first and second Barbary Pirate wars, and of the War of 1812, hero and example to many of the U.S. Navy, is killed in a senseless duel.
In 1807 Commodore James Barron refused to defend his ship, Chesapeake, against British attack and was court-marshaled; Decatur sat on the court-marshal board.
Suspended from the Navy for 5 years, Barron chose to wait until after the War of 1812 to be recommissioned.
His cowardice was called, and he challenged Decatur, a former comrade, to a duel. Decatur, U. S. Navy hero, was mortally wounded. Such a shame. Decatur was a swashbuckler, a fierce fighter for his country.
Today in History, March 16, 1802:
Connections through history.
The US Congress approves legislation creating the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York…now one of the oldest military academies in the world.
The post had been created during the Revolutionary War on the Hudson River…Gen. George Washington at one time used it as his command post…and Gen. Benedict Arnold betrayed his country when he connived with the British in an attempt to give up the post.
One of the first superintendents of the USMA, Sylvanus Thayer, is credited with establishing the high standards now famous for West Point.
One of his instructors, Dennis Hart Mahan, was so impressed with Thayer, he named his child after him…Arthur Thayer Mahan.
Arthur Thayer Mahan would go on to be the author and creator of US Naval strategy in the 19th and 20th Centuries. He authored the Influence of Sea Power Upon History, which was considered a Naval Bible by the world’s navies and was read by the world’s leaders, and thus influenced the creation modern navies.
Today in History, March 9, 1862:
The Battle of Hampton Roads.
Few are able to be part of a truly history changing event.
When the Civil War began, the Union abandoned the Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia, burning everything they could in retreat.
The Confederacy took the base, and raised the sunken Union USS Merrimack. They then rebuilt her into the ironclad CSS Virginia.
The Union Navy placed an embargo on all Southern ports, including the entrance to the Southern capitol of Richmond. The South attempted to break this embargo with their new ironclad ship, sinking two Union wooden “ships of the line” in the process.
The Virginia returned to base for the night, then returned to finish off the last major embargo ship on 9 March, 1862.
She was confronted by the Union version of the ironclad…the USS Monitor. The two new iron ships battered away at each other for over three hours without seriously damaging each other, and then withdrew.
The Virginia would be scuttled at her base as the Union advanced…the Monitor would be lost at sea.
But more importantly….navies worldwide…Britain, France, Spain, the Far East, watched and realized that their wooden navies had suddenly become obsolete.
Today in History, March 3, 1776:
The Continental Navy transports a contingent of Continental Marines to Nassau, Bahamas where the Marines make their first amphibious landing. The mission was to raid and capture gunpowder and munitions stored at the British possession for use in the American Revolutionary War. The Continental Navy and Marines are of course the origins of the US Navy and US Marines.
Today in History, February 23, 1945:
After a hard fought battle, the US Marines reach the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
5 Marines and 1 US Navy Corpsman raised the US flag at the peak, and photographer Joe Rosenthal caught it on camera.
3 of the flag raisers would be dead before the Battle for Iwo Jima was won. After many deaths and the earning of 27 Medals of Honor (half posthumous), the tiny island was deemed “secure” on March 16. Then B29 Superfortress bombers and long range fighters could use the airstrip in the bombing of Japan.
The photo became famous, and inspired the US Marine Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first flag was considered too small, and a second larger flag, scrounged up from one of the landing ships, was raised to replace it.
Admiral Chester Nimitz described the battle as one “where uncommon valor was a common virtue.”