Submarines in Art

Submarines have fascinated the world for centuries. The idea of underwater travel has been apart of most of record history. In 1776, the Turtle became the first submersible to perform an attack on another vessel. During the Civil War, the H.L Hunley sank the Housatonic. As diesel power grew, so did submarines. They became an essential part of the Navy, providing defense to the American coastlines and shipping lanes during WWI. During WWII, submarines sank one-third of the Imperial Navy. The 1950’s saw the birth of nuclear-powered submarines and a complete change to how the submarine force operated. The submarine force is also known as the silent service – the inner working of the force is a secret, classified to those who aren’t part of the crew. Artists over the years have tried to capture this secretive force, “drawn to its sleek yet hidden ship.” They try to capture the mystery of submarines in their work, giving us a glimpse under the water. Below you will find a collection of artworks from the NHHC Collection.

CSS H.L Hunley

Description: Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper; R.G. Skerrett; 1902; Framed Dimensions 20H X 25W
Accession #: 45-125-P

A man stands in front of the USS Hunley

H L Hunley, a small hand-powered submarine, was built privately at Mobile, Alabama, in 1863, based on plans furnished by Horace Lawson Hunley, James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson. Her construction was sponsored by Mr. Hunley and superintended by Confederate officers W. A. Alexander and G. E. Dixon. Following trails in Mobile Bay, she was transported to Charleston, South Carolina, in August 1863 to serve in the defense of that port. On February 17, 1864, she was part of blockade duty off Charleston, approached the steam sloop of war USS HOUSATONIC and detonated a spar torpedo against her side. The Federal ship sank rapidly, becoming the first warship to be lost to a submarine attack. However, H L HUNLEY did not return from this mission, and was presumed lost with all hands. Her fate remained a mystery for over 131 years, until May 1995, when a search led by author Clive Cussler located her wreck. In August 2000, following extensive preliminary work, H L HUNLEY was raised and taken to a conservation facility at the former Charleston Naval Base.

USS Barracuda in Drydock at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire

Description: Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper; by Vernon Howe Bailey; 1941; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-165-CB

A submarine at dry dock with scaffolding and work crews along the side

After thirteen years of service beginning in 1924, USS BARRACUDA was decommissioned in 1937 and placed in the reserves. The submarine was recommissioned in 1940. The submarine is seen in a drydock at the Portsmouth Navy Yard before it left the Yard in March of 1941 to join Submarine Division 71 operating in the New England area. Established by the Federal Government in 1800, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) launched its first product, the 74-gun warship USS Washington, in 1815. During World War I, the PNSY workforce expanded to nearly 5,000. At this time, PNSY took on a new and important role—the construction of submarines—in addition to the overhaul and repair of surface vessels. World War II saw the civilian employment rolls swell to over 25,000. Over the course of World War II over 70 submarines were constructed at PNSY, with a record four submarines launched on one day. Following World War II, PNSY was the Navy’s center for submarine design and development. PNSY continued to build submarines until 1969, when the last submarine built in a public shipyard, the nuclear powered USS Sand Lance, was launched. Today the Shipyard continues the tradition of excellence and service to the Navy and the nation by supplying the U.S Navy’s submarine fleet with high quality, affordable, overhaul, refueling and modernization work.

All Hands Below, USS Dorado

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Georges Schreiber; 1943; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-159-IU as a Gift of Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

Sailors at a table relaxing they are next to two torpedoes

Relieving the tension of hours below surface, crewmen on board a U.S. Navy submarine play a round of cards while a shipmate kibitzes from his bunk. While pondering his cards, each player also listens for the call to battle stations. In the foreground, the bulbous warheads of twin torpedoes seem to peer balefully in quest of targets.

USS Nautilus 

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Albert K. Murray; C. 1957; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W
Accession #: 88-195-HL

Men in a small boat approach a submarine on the surface

On 17 January 1955 U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571) signaled the attainment of the long-anticipated goal of “underway with nuclear power.” Nautilus is called the first “true submarine” because it was capable of operating for long periods without frequent contact with the surface and air of the above world

Loading Fish, USS Seacat

Description: Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Salvatore Indiviglia; 1960; Framed Dimensions 29H X 42W
Accession #: 88-161-UI

A crew on the deck of a submarine are maneuvering a torpedo

Sailors gently lower 4000 pounds of torpedoes into the submarine Seacat (SS 399) in July 1960. In this era of Cold War tensions, Seacat helped keep watch of the United States southern coast and in the Caribbean. A torpedo, or “fish”, is being loaded into USS Seacat (SS-399) in preparation for an exercise off Naval Station, Key West. The men pull and strain, hold and release their lines so that the 4000 pound bomb is safely lowered below.

Trident, The Black Knight

Description: Painting, Oil on Masonite; by John Charles Roach; 1984; Framed Dimensions 34H X 44W
Accession #: 88-163-CU

A submarine is tied up to pier that is in a building

USS Michigan (SSBN-727) rests quietly at the US Naval Base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1988, waiting to be replenished for sea.

These artists were able to provide a glimpse of the submarine force through a medium many might not expect.

To check out the rest of the collection visit the View From the Periscope exhibit page at

Do you have a favorite piece of submarine art?


Return of the Union Jack

On February 21, 2019, the Navy put out a press release announcing its decision to begin displaying the union jack instead of the first Navy jack aboard Navy ships. Beginning on June 4, the date of the Battle of Midway, all US Navy ships will return to flying the union jack. In its press releases Adm. John Richardson stated that “Make no mistake: we have entered a new era of competition. We must recommit to the core attributes that made us successful at Midway: integrity, accountability, initiative and toughness. For more than 240 years, the union jack, flying proudly from jackstaffs aboard U.S. Navy warships, has symbolized these strengths.” He also comments that “The union jack is deeply connected to our heritage and our rise as a global nation with a global Navy.” Once the union jack is returned to flying, the navy will re-establish the custom in where the commissioned ship in active service the longest total period in active service having will display the first Navy jack until its decommissioning This is other than the USS Constitution. Beginning on June 4th, this would mean the USS Blue Ridge (LLC 19). But for those not in the Navy, what is the union jack and what is its history. Below you will find excerpts from the Naval History and Heritage Command on the topic.

Midshipman 4th Class Nicholas D. Brockert raises the Union Jack aboard Yard Patrol Craft 691 (YP-691).

Midshipman 4th Class Nicholas D. Brockert raises the union jack aboard yard patrol craft 691 (YP-691), after mooring in Philadelphia, 24 March 2006. YP-691 was one of six YPs on a three-day training cruise designed to provide midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy hands-on underway training in navigation, ship handling, and seamanship (U.S. Navy photo by Airman Cale Hanie).

A jack is a flag corresponding in appearance to the union or canton of the national ensign. In the United States Navy, it is a blue flag containing a star for each state. For countries whose colors have no canton, the jack is simply a small national ensign. On a sailing vessel, the jack is hoisted at the jack-staff shipped at the bowsprit cap when at anchor or in port.
The United States Navy originated as the Continental Navy, established early in the American Revolution by the Continental Congress by a resolution of 13 October 1775. There is a widespread belief that ships of the Continental Navy flew a jack consisting of alternating red and white stripes, having the image of a rattlesnake stretched out across it, with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.” That belief, however, rests on no firm base of historical evidence.
It is well documented that the rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” were used together on several flags during the War of Independence. The only question in doubt is whether the Continental Navy actually used a red and white striped flag with a rattlesnake and the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” as its jack. The evidence is inconclusive. There is reason to believe that the Continental Navy jack was simply a red and white striped flag with no other adornment.

A view of the first navy jack flying on the Nautilus overlooking the Thames River

The rattlesnake emerged as a symbol of the English colonies of North America about the time of the Seven Years War, when it appeared in newspaper prints with the motto “Join or Die.” By the time of the War of Independence, the rattlesnake, frequently used in conjunction with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me,” was a common symbol for the United States, its independent spirit, and its resistance to tyranny.
Two American military units of the Revolution are known to have used the rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto: Proctor’s Independent Battalion, of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and Sullivan’s Life Guard during the Rhode Island campaign of 1777. The rattlesnake and the motto also appeared on military accoutrements, such as drums, and on state paper currency, during the Revolution.
The Union Jack
The union jack, comprising the national ensign’s blue field and white stars, was first adopted on 14 June 1777. At this time, the jack’s blue field only displayed the 13 stars representing the union of the original 13 American colonies. The number of stars on the jack was periodically updated as the United States expanded. The 50-star jack in use until 10 September 2002—and again after 21 February 2019—was adopted on 4 July 1960 after Hawaii became the nation’s 50th state.
The Rattlesnake Jack and the Modern Navy
As part of the commemoration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution, by an instruction dated 1 August 1975 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.3) the Secretary of the Navy directed the use of the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack during the period 13 October 1975 (the bicentennial of the legislation that created the Continental Navy, which the Navy recognizes as the Navy’s birthday), and 31 December 1976.
By an instruction dated 18 August 1980 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.4), the Secretary of the Navy directed that the commissioned ship in active status having the longest total period in active status to display the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive status.
With the implementation of that instruction, those ships included:
1981–82: USS Dixie (AD-14), commissioned in 1940
1982–93: USS Prairie (AD-15), commissioned in 1940
1993–93: USS Orion (AS-18), commissioned in 1943 (six months)
1993–94: USS Yosemite (AD-19), commissioned in 1944
1994–95: USS Jason (AR-8), commissioned in 1944
1995–95: USS Mauna Kea (AE-22), commissioned in 1957 (one week)
1995–98: USS Independence (CV-62), commissioned in 1959
1998–2009: USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), commissioned in 1961
By an instruction dated 31 May 2002 (SECNAV Instruction 10520.6), the Secretary of the Navy directed the use of the rattlesnake jack in place of the union jack for the duration of the Global War on Terrorism.
On 21 February 2019, to signify the Navy and the nation entering a new era of competition, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson directed the fleet, via NAVADMIN 039/19, to return to the previous practice of flying the union jack effective 4 June 2019. The date for reintroduction of the union jack commemorates the greatest naval battle in history: The Battle of Midway, which began 4 June 1942.

Pete Tzomes and the Centennial Seven

In May of 1983, Pete Tzomes made history by becoming the first African American to command a submarine. His journey to the submarine force was like many others. Inspired by a midshipman who visited his middle school, Tzomes set his sights on the Navy after graduation. However, this was the late 50’s, and Tzomes was discouraged from his preferred career choice. At that time, African Americans were not lining the halls of the Naval Academy. Becoming a Naval officer was so unheard of that his guidance counselor advised him to think of a different career choice. After not receiving an appointment to the academy in his senior year of high school, Tzomes enrolled in Oneonta State University, and took the test a second time. Due to his excellent grades, he was selected to attend as a qualified alternate.

It was in 1963 that the civil rights movement was hitting its peak. It was the year of Dr. Martlin Luther King Jr and the march on Washington. Riots were exploding across the country demanding justice and racial equality. 1963 was also the year that Pete Tzomes began his career at the U.S. Naval Academy. Wanting to become a Marine pilot, it was not race that would stand in his way, but rather his height. Too short to enter the pilot program, Tzomes applied for the nuclear power program. He became the second African American accepted and the first in submarines.
Tzomes recalls his first submarine and the subject of race. He says that, “On my first submarine there were two blacks, a first-class steward and a first class torpedoman. They looked at me with pride. You could see it in the way they interacted with me. They were proud that there was a black officer that they can call ‘sir.” After serving aboard submarines for a few years, he began to appreciate his decision to become a submariner. Serving aboard multiple ships and several special ops missions, he set his sights on being able to command a fast attack submarine. He knew what achieving that goal would mean. He was well aware that he would be the first and what that meant for the future of African Americans in the submarine force. However, race was not what truly drove him. He wanted to command a fast attack. He wanted to be the one in charge. It just so happened that he was black. In November of 1979, he reported to the USS Cavalla, as an executive officer. He served about her for three years, knowing that a good tour could land him his dream position.
In 1983, Tzomes became the commanding officer of the USS Houston. When the ship switched homeports and moved to San Diego, he recalls the hero’s welcome he received. “I’ll never forget, it was 9 or 10 o’clock at night. I was just beaming. There were several folks from the black community in San Diego that made it a point. They were on the waterfront to greet me. It’s kind of hard to describe. That just made me feel special.”
Word of Tzomes’ command spread, inspiring young black sailors to reach for their highest potentials. As the centennial of the submarine force grew close, the group of commanding officers had grown. There were now seven. Seven men who did not let race define them or their careers. Seven men who saw themselves not as black commanding officers but commanding officers who had done something special. It was this realization that led to the phrase “centennial seven” to describe the men who had achieved something great. Joining Tzomes in the honor are Rear Adm. Bruce Grooms, Rear Adm. Tony Watson, Capt. Will Bundy, Vice Adm. Mel Williams, Capt. Joe Peterson, and Adm. Cecil Haney. Today, the seven first African American commanding officers take time out of their schedules to mentor young sailors and inspire them. While the submarine force has come a long way from the 1963 service that Tzomes entered into, there is always room for growth. However, Tzomes points out it is important to see just how far they have come and to be extremely proud of it.

See the source image

BALTIMORE (Feb. 21, 2009) Members of the Navy’s Centennial Seven pose with U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen. Capt. Pete Tzomes, left, Rear Adm. Tony Watson, Capt. Will Bundy, Vice Adm. Mel Williams, Capt. Bill Peterson, Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, Rear Adm. Bruce Grooms, Cmdr. Rich Bryant, Cmdr. Roger Isom. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Karen Eifert/Released)

As stories are shared this Black History Month, it’s important to remember just how far we have come and share the stories of those who paved the way. Without them and their courage and perseverance, things may have taken a lot longer to change.

USS South Dakota- SSN 790

On February 2, 2019, the U.S. Navy welcomed its newest submarine – USS South Dakota. SSN 790 is the seventeenth Virginia- class submarine to join the fleet. The newest member of the fleet features a redesigned bow, having two large-diameter Virginia Payload tubes instead of the 12 individual vertical launch system. Each of these VPT’s can launch six Tomahawk cruise missiles. The traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that have infrared digital cameras on telescoping arms.

SSN 790 is the third ship to bear the South Dakota name. The first was a cruiser that was used between 1904 and 1912. The second ship was BB-57, a battleship that was commissioned in 1942. She played a vital role in blocking Japanese forces from entering Guadalcanal. During her service, she earned 13 battle stars and was present in Toyoko Bay when Japan formally surrender on Sept 2, 1945. A few of the WWII veterans who served aboard BB-57 were invited to the commissioning of SSN 790.

Mr. Richard Hackley, a USS South Dakota (BB 57) and WWII veteran, passes the long glass to Lt. Benjamin McFarland, the first Officer of the Deck, during the commissioning ceremony of USS South Dakota (SSN 790) Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Richardson

The commissioning fell during the arctic blast that had been making its way across the country that week, creating for bitter conditions while outdoors. This did not keep the spectators away, with many flying in from South Dakota to witness the commissioning.

Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Richardson

Ship’s Sponsor Deanie Dempsey gives the order, “Man our ship and bring her to life!” during the commissioning ceremony Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Richardson

During the weekend of festivities, those invited to the commissioning were able to take a tour of the Navy’s newest submarine. One highlight is being able to see the heavily decorated dining hall onboard that pays tribute to its namesake state.

A look inside the Navy’s newest submarine shows how the dining hall has paid tribute to the ship’s namesake.

Welcome to the fleet USS South Dakota!

USS Tunny

While our museum houses some impressive and large artifacts, some of our exhibits are physically a part of the building itself. When you walk through the halls, you may notice some murals depicting different moments in the submarine force. These images are just as fascinating as the physical items stored around them. Over the next few months, we will look at these murals and the stories they tell.

In the main walkway, is a black and white image of the USS Tunny (SSG-282.) The image shows the submarine launching a Regulus cruise missile, which was the precursor to the first generation of the Polaris missiles.  USS Tunny was a Gato-class submarine and one of the first nuclear deterrent submarines that served in World War II and Vietnam.  During her service, she received nine battle stars and two Presidential Unit Citations.

A Presidential Unit Citation for a Failed Attack—USS Tunny‘s Second War Patrol, 9 April 1943

H-Gram 018, Attachment 3
Samuel J. Cox, Director NHHC
April 2018 


USS Tunny (SS-282) was awarded the first of two Presidential Unit Citations for her second war patrol—from 24 March to 23 April 1943. Up until that point in the war, the U.S. submarine force had largely under-performed. Two primary reasons were the difficulty of finding targets in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and malfunctioning torpedoes; although, in some cases, lack of experience and aggressiveness in some submarine skippers was determined to be a factor. However, in Lieutenant Commander John A. Scott, Tunny had a truly aggressive and capable skipper. Tunny also had another advantage in that by early 1943, U.S. Navy codebreakers at Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) had broken—and were copying with great regularity—the Japanese “Maru” code. Although not as sophisticated as the Japanese JN-25 series navy general operating codes, the Maru code nevertheless contained extremely valuable intelligence about Japanese ship movements. Lieutenant Commander Jasper Holmes had the lead for FRUPAC for sanitizing and passing communications intelligence-derived data to Commander, Submarine Force Pacific (COMSUBPAC) in a way that would not compromise the sensitive source. The ad-hoc process actually worked very well. As U.S. submarines were increasingly provided with the sanitized intelligence, their opportunities to sink Japanese ships also increased. The faulty torpedoes, however, were still a problem. (In H-Gram 008/H-008-3 “Torpedo Versus Torpedo,” I discussed these problems in detail.)

Tunny departed Pearl Harbor on 18 March 1943 for her second war patrol. After a brief stop at Midway Island she commenced transit on March 24 toward Japanese-held Wake Island. While conducting reconnaissance around Wake Island, Tunny sank the Japanese cargo ship Suwa Maru, firing two torpedoes for one hit. Tunny then survived being depth-charged and bombed twice. She moved on from Wake, and based on intelligence, located and sank the cargo ship Toyo Maru on April 2—firing three torpedoes for one hit. Lieutenant Commander Scott had a good shot at the cargo ship, but not the escorting destroyer 1,000 yards behind. He boldly sank the Toyo Maru anyway. Tunny then survived two sustained depth charge attacks. On 4 April, Tunny sank the cargo ship Kosei Maru—two for two on torpedoes. She then endured yet another sustained depth charge attack from escorting destroyers.

Lieutenant Commander Scott was among those submarine skippers who had come to believe, based on hard experience, that war-shot torpedoes ran deeper than the depth for which they were actually set. Since U.S. torpedoes were intended to pass under a ship and explode via magnetic influence, this was a serious problem. Although the Bureau of Ordnance continued to place the blame for poor results on the skippers rather than the torpedoes, some skippers like Scott were compensating by setting their torpedoes to run shallow. For the first part of this war patrol, Scott was having decent success with this technique, having sunk three ships in three attempts. What Scott didn’t know for sure—although he and other skippers suspected—was that the magnetic exploders were also unreliable. After that problem was discovered and fixed—by de-activating the magnetic exploder—it was learned that the contact exploders were unreliable too.

On April 8, the Intelligence analysts and code-breakers at FRUPAC decrypted a Maru code message that indicated a convoy including three aircraft carriers was due to arrive at the Japanese stronghold of Truk Island on early morning of April 10. Tunny was vectored to intercept. Scott planned to make a night surface attack, with his decks awash, making use of Tunny’s new “SJ” radar, which the Japanese had no means to detect. As described in the introduction, Scott’s initial set-up was textbook perfect, and although it was disrupted by the untimely appearance of three motor torpedo boats which forced him to attack submerged, it was still a great tactical set up. All four of the stern torpedoes fired at the lead smaller carrier were heard to explode, and three of the six fired at the larger carrier were heard to explode. Yet another sustained Japanese counter-attack by depth charges kept Tunny from getting visual or other confirmation of the hits.

Commander, Submarine Force Pacific would describe Scott’s attack as “an illustrious example of professional competence and military aggressiveness.” And it was—except for the torpedoes. In this case, setting them to run shallow backfired. The carriers were larger than the previous targets Scott had attacked, and the combination of shallow depth and larger magnetic signature caused the magnetic exploders to detonate prematurely—approximately 50 yards from their targets. These malfunctions were confirmed by subsequent intercept and decryption of Japanese communications that identified the small escort carrier Taiyo as having suffered minor damage as a result of the premature detonation of torpedoes. Analysis of this failure was a major factor in Admiral Nimitz’ decision to order the deactivation of the magnetic exploders in June 1943.

Tunny’s attack on the three carriers off Truk is also a great case study in how the “fog of war” becomes the “fog of history.” The identity of the three carriers is still in doubt, with the exception of the Taiyo. Accounts that identify the carriers by name state they were JunyoHiyo, and Taiyo. This, however, would not match Scott’s description of one large and two small carriers. Junyo and Hiyo were sisters, and although not full-size fleet carriers, were much larger than Taiyo. The small escort carrier Taiyo—and her sisters Chuyo and Unyo—proved to be a bad design, and the Japanese used them as aircraft-transport ferries rather than operational aircraft carriers. The three generally made runs between Japan and Truk ferrying aircraft. Japanese records show that Taiyo departed Yokosuka, Japan on April 4, in company with her sister Chuyo and escorts en route to Truk via Saipan. A U.S. submarine reported sighting the Junyo and Hiyo at Saipan at the same time Japanese records show Taiyo and Chuyo there. This misidentification made its way into official reports, and later histories. Japanese records also confirm that Taiyo and Unyo were present during Tunny’s attack, and would account for Scott’s sighting of two small carriers. The Junyo and Hiyo, as well as the Fleet Carrier Zuikaku and the smaller Zuiho, were at or near Truk at the time of the attack after having flown off their air groups to Rabaul and the Bougainville area of the northern Solomon to participate in Operation I-GO (see H-018-2). However, Japanese records do not indicate which, if any, of those other carriers were present during Tunny’s attack. On the other hand, the records of Zuikaku, Zuiho, Hiyo, Taiyo, and Unyo all eventually wound up on the bottom of the ocean. Only Junyo survived the war—sort of—as a badly damaged derelict in port, having been hit by three torpedoes from a “wolf pack” of three U.S. submarines. Unyo would be sunk by USS Sailfish (SS-192) on 4 December 1943, also near Truk. The true identity of the “large” carrier may never be known.

Tunny’s adventure was not yet over. On April 11, Tunny sighted the Japanese submarine I-9 on the surface near Truk. Tunny fired her three remaining forward torpedoes at the I-9; however, the Japanese submarine maneuvered to avoid them and counter-fired. Two torpedoes narrowly missed Tunny. She was then unsuccessful in trying to maneuver to sink a Japanese destroyer with her last torpedoes. The Japanese destroyer attacked first, and Tunnywas pounded yet again by depth charges, sustaining minor damage. She then concluded her patrol at Midway, and would receive a Presidential Unit Citation for her second war patrol. Lieutenant Commander Scott was awarded a Navy Cross.

Tunny would survive nine war patrols, and the fifth, also under the command of Scott, would earn her a second Presidential Unit Citation and a second Navy Cross for Scott. Among the highlights was Tunny’s duel with the Japanese submarine I-42. Although details are sketchy, it appears both submarines were aware of the other, and both maneuvered for about 90 minutes at relatively close range (under 2,000 yards) trying to gain a firing advantage over the other. Tunny won, and sank the I-42 with two torpedoes. Later in the patrol, Tunny fired six torpedoes at the Japanese super-battleship Musashi. The torpedoes passed under an escorting destroyer, which alertly signaled the Musashi, which was able to avoid all but one torpedo, which hit in her bow. The destroyer than counter-attacked down the torpedo wakes and subjected Tunny to yet another beating. The damage didn’t really faze the huge battleship, but she was out of action for a month for repairs.

Tunny continued her distinguished service after World War II. She was re-commissioned during the Korean War but did not serve there. Instead she was extensively modernized and converted to carry the Regulus land-attack surface-to-surface missile (with hangar for two missiles, and a launcher.) Tunny was re-designated as SSG-282. The drawback to the Regulus was that the submarine had to be surfaced to fire the missile. In 1966, Tunny was converted yet again into a troop-carrying submarine, with a deck shelter for small amphibious vehicles, and re-designated APSS-282. Tunny then conducted special operations and supported Marine amphibious operations along the coast of Vietnam. Tunny finally met her end as an exercise target, by a torpedo fired by the USS Volador(SS-490) in 1970.

A Most Solemn And Significant Event- USS Nautilus is Launched Jan 21, 1954

On January 21, 2954, Nautilus was launched changing the how the submarine force would operate forever. At 10:57am, she slipped into the waters of the Thames as the sun broke through the clouds of the early morning. Complied in the archives of President Eisenhower, is a brochure complied of that fateful day. The brochure belonged to First Lady Mamie Eisenhower who served as the ship’s sponsor, breaking the bottle of champagne over its bow as it moved into the water. Within the program are paragraphs describing how historic Nautilus was.

The First Lady and Nautilus×491.jpg

Beyond the fancies of fiction
“When Jules Berne wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1869, he imagined a true submersible which operated beneath the surface of the sea for indefinite periods, independent of the earth’s surface and atmosphere. His ship he named ‘Nautilus’ after the first practical submarine, one built by Robert Fulton in 1800. Now the sagacity and vision of the United States Navy, the Atomic Energy Commission and American industry have developed a ship which goes beyond even the fanciful creation of Jules Verne. Today’s “Nautilus’ opens the way to the world of the future.”
“…a most solemn and significant event”
“January 21, 1954 lives in history as the launching day of the world’s first atomic powered vessel, the submarine ‘Nautilus.’ Powered by the silent, invisible, airless “burning” of nuclear fuel, the ‘Nautilus’ will cruise submerged faster, farther, longer than any previous craft in history. Some 30,000 persons gathered in the shipyard of our Electric Boat Division, Groton, Connecticut, to witness this momentous occasion. That many came from great distances is a signal tribute to the scientists, engineers and craftsmen who worked to create this masterpiece of the shipbuilder’s art…..None of us who watched this unique and historic ship slide down the ways into the waters of the Thames River could doubt that we were participants in a most solemn and significant event, not only of our time but of all time.” – John Jay Hopkins, Chairman and President of General Dynamics Corporation

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN addressed the crowd saying:

See the source image

Admiral Robert B Carney

“As an American I feel an intense pride in the vision, the brains, the ingenuity, the sweat, and the teamwork that went into the creating of the ‘Nautilus’.”

See the source image

Nautilus shortly after she entered the Thames River on January 21, 1954

It would take one year, seven months and seven days from the day her Keel was laid, for Nautilus to take her first ceremonial steps into the water. That September she would be commissioned and on January 17, 1955, Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson USN would signal the message, “Underway on Nuclear Power.”

Launching of the Nautilus
The brochure in the Eisenhower Archives can be viewed at the following link

Holiday Menus through the Years

We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Now that we are full of ham, lasagna, fish or whatever your family has as a traditional Christmas meal, lets take a look at how the Navy has celebrated Christmas dinner over the years.

Navy Christmas


Holiday Menus from the Steam Era to the Nuclear Age

Christmas dinner at Naval Air Station (NAS) Anacostia, D.C., 25 December 1918

Christmas dinner at NAS Anacostia, Washington, DC, 25 December 1918 (NH86787)

In the Navy, the period between Christmas and New Year can be a poignant, introspective time, particularly during deployments and operations far from homeport and family. Recognizing this, the service has always strived to emphasize the joyous side of the holidays, not least through dinners that have drawn on everything that storerooms, reefers, and local markets have had to offer. A sampling of command menus from NHHC’s collections from the 1910s through the 1950s, from the mess spaces and wardrooms of the aging coastal monitor to those of the Cold War destroyer, follows.

U.S.S. Monterey, A Merry Christmas 1918.

USS Monterey (Monitor No. 6). In service since 1893, Monterey was serving as a station ship at the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, submarine base in 1918. Her crew was offered a choice of three entrees, including local red snapper.

Commander Yangtze Patrol Force, United States Asiatic Fleet, New Years Day Menu, January 1 1922.

USS Isabel (SP-521). As flagship of the U.S. Navy Yangtze Patrol Force, Isabel’s New Year’s Day menu fittingly included roast Chinese duck.

Photo #: NH 92174  USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6)

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) off Guaymas, Mexico, 26 December 1915. Note Christmas tree mounted on her forecastle (NH 92174).

Cover - Christmas Day, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Destroyer Division Twenty-Five, U.S.S. Case (285), Villefranche, France, December 25 1926.

USS Case (DD-285). Villefranche, on the French Riviera, was a regular port call for Navy ships during the 1920s and 1930s. However, Case’s Christmas Day menu is solidly American.

U.S.S. Colorado, San Pedro, California: Programme for Christmas Day 1926, Franklin D. Karns, Commanding, Louis P. Davis, Executive Officer.

USS Colorado (BB-45). On Christmas Day, 1926, Colorado was in port San Pedro (Los Angeles), California.

Photo #: NH 83973  Lieutenant and Mrs. Arleigh A. Burke, USN

Christmas card of 1930s vintage from future CNO Admiral Arleigh A. Burke and Mrs. Burke, featuring depictions of then-Lieutenant Burke at the camera, Mrs. Burke with accordion, and their great dane dog. The card was drawn by Mrs. Burke (NH 83973).

Joyeux Noel 1937, Squadron - 40 T, U.S.S. Raleigh, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Alpes-Maritimes, France.

USS Raleigh (CL-7). Another Villefranche port call: In contrast to USS Case above, Raleigh couched her entire dinner in French.

Cover - Children's Christmas Party On Board the United States Ship Oklahoma At Anchor in San Pedro Harbor, California, December 25, 1937.

USS Oklahoma (BB-37). The children’s Christmas party was an early community relations event—an all-day affair that included two church services, baptisms, caroling, puppet shows, and a midday feast.

U.S.S. Bridge  Christmas Menu 1939

USS Bridge (AF-1). Commissioned in 1917, Bridge spent most of her active service before and during World War II in the Pacific. However, the inadvertent pun in this image of Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, from the ship’s tour in the Atlantic during the 1920s, was likely too good to resist using on a holiday menu.

Merry Christmas 1940, U.S.S. Mississippi, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii.

USS Mississippi (BB-41). Although home-ported in San Pedro, California at the time, Mississippi spent Christmas 1940 in Hawaii, where this expansive dinner was served. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor a year later, Mississippi was on patrol service in the North Atlantic.

Cover - Christmas Greetings, U.S.S. Astoria, Long Beach, California, 1937.

USS Astoria (CA-34). Commissioned four years previously, Astoria was a “treaty cruiser,” constructed under the limitations of the London Naval Treaty. She was lost at the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August 1942.

Cover - Christmas , U.S.S. Cushing (376), Pearl Harbor, T.H. [Territory of Hawaii], 1939.

USS Cushing (DD-376). Despite being home-ported in exotic Pearl Harbor in 1939, Cushing’s Christmas dinner was as unremarkable as its menu card.

Photo #: 80-G-K-14451 "WAVES play Santa"

WAVES of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts help wrap Christmas presents for Navy and Marine Corps convalescents at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland, circa 1944. Admiring a package is Yeoman Second Class Ann G. Fee (80-G-K-14451).

U. S. Naval Station, New Orleans - Algiers- La [Louisiana], Merry Christmas 1942.

Naval Station New Orleans, Algiers, Louisiana. Despite being printed and mimeographed on base, creative talent is still apparent on this menu. Note that the two senior enlisted commissary billets are actually filled by retired chief petty officers.

U. S. Naval Training Station, San Diego, California. Merry Christmas.

U.S. Naval Training Station, San Diego, California. The station’s commanding officer added an encouraging note to this 1943 menu. Although World War II’s duration was still uncertain, its outcome was no longer in doubt.

Cover - Christmas Dinner, U.S. Navy Receiving Station, Boston Massachusetts, 1942; photo caption: Fargo Barracks.

U.S. Navy Receiving Station, Boston, Massachusetts. Countering the intimidating facade of the receiving station barracks, the command’s chief commissary steward organized a veritable feast for the new Sailors being processed here.

Christmas 1945, U.S.S. Santa Fe.

USS Santa Fe (CL-60). At the time of the first peacetime Christmas in six years, Santa Fe was engaged in “Magic Carpet” operations, ferrying servicemembers from Pacific bases to the U.S. west coast to be discharged.

Photo #: 80-G-424639  USS Missouri (BB-63)

Teleman First Class Howard Bursley, USNR, carries bags of Christmas mail received onboard USS Missouri (BB-63) during operations off the Korean coast, 18 December 1950 (80-G-424639).

USS Iowa - 1955 New Year's dinner menu

USS Iowa (BB-61). In January 1955, Iowa was still flagship of Commander, Battleship-Cruiser Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, but was to detach shortly for an extended Mediterranean cruise with Sixth Fleet. This menu was produced in the ship’s print shop.

Seasons Greetings, U.S.S. Barry DD-933 [1956].

USS Barry (DD-933). Barry was commissioned in September 1956, three months before this holiday dinner. At the time it was being served and prepared, the ship was still being fitted out at Boston Naval Shipyard. Nonetheless, the meal was extensive and included a challenge to most cooks: enough Yorkshire pudding for the entire crew.

And from The Navy Times :

The Year: 1917, about eight months after the United States entered World War I.

The Ship: The “Bulldog of the Navy” Oregon, a pre-dreadnought, Indiana-class battleship commissioned in 1896. Old school.

Menu - Relishes: Ripe olives, Celery, Green onions, Radishes; Soup: Oyster soup; Entrees: Spiced sugar cured ham; Roasts: Roast young Tom turkeys, Cranberry sauce, Giblet gravy, Chestnut dressing; Vegetables: Candied sweet potatoes, Poatato croquettes; Salad: Fruit salad; Des[s]ert: Fruit cake, Hard sauce, Lemon meringue pie, Assorted candies, Assorted nuts, Cluster raisins, Ice cream, Candy canes; Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee - George H. Upton, Chief Commissary Stweard, United States Navy.

Menu – Relishes: Ripe olives, Celery, Green onions, Radishes; Soup: Oyster soup; Entrees: Spiced sugar cured ham; Roasts: Roast young Tom turkeys, Cranberry sauce, Giblet gravy, Chestnut dressing; Vegetables: Candied sweet potatoes, Poatato croquettes; Salad: Fruit salad; Des[s]ert: Fruit cake, Hard sauce, Lemon meringue pie, Assorted candies, Assorted nuts, Cluster raisins, Ice cream, Candy canes; Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee – George H. Upton, Chief Commissary Stweard, United States Navy.

The Ship:  1941-The humble Bridge, the lead storeship (AF-1!) of her class, serving proudly through World War I and World War II.

Christmas Dinner 25 December 1941: Tomato Madrilene, Crisp Saltines, Ripe Olives, Sweet Mixed Pickles, Roast Young Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Oyster Dressing, Baked Spiced Ham, Giblet Gravy, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Peas, Radishes, Cauliflower Au Gratin, Hearts of Celery, Combination Salad, Thousand Island Dressing, Parkerhouse Rolls, Butter, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Mince Pie, Apple Pie, Candy, Fruit Cake, Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts, Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee.

Christmas Dinner 25 December 1941: Tomato Madrilene, Crisp Saltines, Ripe Olives, Sweet Mixed Pickles, Roast Young Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Oyster Dressing, Baked Spiced Ham, Giblet Gravy, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Peas, Radishes, Cauliflower Au Gratin, Hearts of Celery, Combination Salad, Thousand Island Dressing, Parkerhouse Rolls, Butter, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Mince Pie, Apple Pie, Candy, Fruit Cake, Ice Cream, Mixed Nuts, Cigars, Cigarettes, Coffee.

The Year: 1982.

The Ship: The Cavalla, a Sturgeon-class submarine

Christmas Dinner Menu, 25 December 1982, Roast Prime Rib of Beef, Natural Beef Au Jus, Yorkshire Pudding, Rice Pilaf, Almondine String Beans, Glazed Baby Carrots, Shrimp Cocktail, Assorted Relish Tray, Cheese Cubes, Waldorf Salad, German Chocolate Cake, Fruitcake, Hot Dinner Rolls, Mixed Nuts, Candy, Coffee, Tea, Milk, Iced Drinks.

Boat Highlight-USS Hartford SSN 768

The USS Hartford was commissioned on December 10, 1994 in Groton, CT. She is the second ship to be named after the city of Harford. SSN 768 is a Los Angeles class submarine. She is 360 feet long with a beam of 33 feet and a draft of 29 feet. Designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, Hartford is equipped to handle special operations, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, strike warfare and anti-ship warfare. This October, USS Hartford was honored with being named the best ship in the Atlantic Fleet. Still stationed in Naval Base New London, she has participated in the last two ICEX exercises and has just recently completed an unplanned deployment shortly after returning from the Arctic. Upon winning the award, The Day newspaper wrote:

Groton — Embroidered on the crew’s blue ball caps, next to the submarine’s motto, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” is a small trophy, a nod to the coveted award they’ve received.

But other than that small insignia, the crew does not intend to boast about their boat being selected as the best all-around warship in the Navy’s Atlantic fleet — not a surprise from sailors who signed up to be part of the silent service.

Figure 1 Crew members of the USS Hartford (SSN 768) listen Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, during the pier-side ceremony awarding the Hartford the 2017 Battenberg Cup Award at the Naval Submarine Station in Groton. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

The crew took it in stride “because they know that tomorrow requires the same amount of effort as today and even more than yesterday,” the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Matthew Fanning, 42, said by email this week.

During a pier-side ceremony at the Naval Submarine Base on Saturday, the crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford was presented with a plaque, signifying it is the recipient of the 2017 Battenberg Cup, a trophy with a storied history dating to 1905 that initially started as a U.S.–British rivalry.

“There is no question that Hartford deserves the Battenberg Cup for our efforts, but I know there are many captains that can say the same and they would not be lying,” Fanning said. “Our Navy has ships at sea today and every day keeping our country safe and on each one there is a crew working tirelessly to help one another succeed. It is humbling to accept this award knowing how many other crews are also worthy of it.”

The story of the cup began in 1905, when Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg, a commander of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, made goodwill port visits to Annapolis, Md., Washington, D.C., and New York City. He sent the cup to the commander of the U.S. North Atlantic Fleet and decreed that the ship possessing it could be challenged to a rowing cutter race by its British or American counterpart any time the two ships met.

The racing was interrupted during World War II, and it wasn’t until 1978 that the Navy assigned the cup a new significance: to serve as a symbol of excellence.

Today, nearly 100 surface ships, aircraft carriers and submarines are eligible for the award. The Hartford was selected “based on outstanding crew achievements and an exceptional level of operational effectiveness,” the Navy said. It is the fifth submarine to take home the honor.

Master Chief Nathan Chappelle, 35, the chief of the boat, attributed the achievement to the crew’s ability to “flex” and “roll with the punches,” but also to Fanning’s leadership and “his ability to keep the crew informed when less than desirable things happen.”

The Hartford has participated in the past two Ice Exercises, known as ICEX,  which test the Navy’s ability to operate in the Arctic. The five-week exercise is held every two years. During this year’s exercise, the Hartford tested its ability to shoot and recover torpedoes beneath Arctic sea ice. Another submarine was supposed to participate in the exercise but had issues, so the Hartford “got called up,” Chappelle said.

Figure 2 EAUFORT SEA (March 11, 2018) A field team from Ice Camp Skate prepares to attach a brow aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) in support of Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Michael H. Lee/Released)

After the boat returned from the Arctic, it was sent on an unexpected two-month “surge” deployment, he added, “which threw a wrench in our schedule.”

At the start of the year, Hartford received the Battle “E” Award as the best ship in its squadron, and that likely “played into our contention” for the Battenberg Cup, Chappelle said.

Logistics proved too tricky to bring the 3-foot-tall, steel-plated trophy from the Norfolk, Va., offices of Vice Adm. Charles “Chas” Richards, commander of the Atlantic submarine force, to Groton, so instead the crew was presented with a plaque. Plus, there’s no room for a trophy of that size aboard a submarine, where space is precious.

The crew members were a bit disappointed they didn’t get to see the trophy in person. They’d hoped to revel in Stanley Cup-like celebrations. But the boat’s leadership tempered those expectations.

The Hartford was out to sea when Fanning, the commanding officer, got the message that his boat was the winner. He immediately got on the boat’s general announcement system to relay the news to the crew. He’d been telling them they were the best for a long time but now the Navy had seen fit to agree with him, he said. He told them how proud he was, and that he appreciated their hard work whether they receive awards or not. He signed off with “Damn the torpedoes!”

Admittedly, some of the younger submariners had to ask, “What is this thing we just won?”

Yeoman 2nd Class Taylor Gilbert, 22, who’s been on the Hartford for three years, described it this way: “We’d been busting our butts, working really hard, like we always do. At first a lot of guys were like, ‘That’s awesome but what is it, really?'”

The award “showed off how much the crew has come together over the years,” Gilbert said.

It wasn’t that long ago that sailors begrudged getting orders to the Hartford, which was commissioned in 1994. In 2009, the submarine collided with a Navy amphibious ship, the USS New Orleans (LPD 18), in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. The Navy found the crew of the Hartford to be at fault.

Now, it’s the most sought-after submarine assignment on the East Coast, Gilbert said.–FL7eDL1oKHNu-Qnu9Ja8LbghsJk


Congratulations USS Hartford on your accomplishment!

Pearl Harbor Day- From Those Who Were There

 A Sailor’s Account of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Excerpt from Oral History of Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Lee Soucy, crewman aboard USS Utah (AG-16) on 7 December 1941.  Oral History from the NHHC website

I had just had breakfast and was looking out a porthole in sick bay when someone said, “What the hell are all those planes doing up there on a Sunday? ” Someone else said, “It must be those crazy Marines. They’d be the only ones out maneuvering on a Sunday.” When I looked up in the sky I saw five or six planes starting their descent. Then when the first bombs dropped on the hangers at Ford Island, I thought, “Those guys are missing us by a mile.” Inasmuch as practice bombing was a daily occurrence to us, it was not too unusual for planes to drop bombs, but the time and place were quite out of line. We could not imagine bombing practice in port. It occurred to me and to most of the others that someone had really goofed this time and put live bombs on those planes by mistake.

In any event, even after I saw a huge fireball and cloud of black smoke rise from the hangers on Ford Island and heard explosions, it did not occur to me that these were enemy planes. It was too incredible! Simply beyond imagination! “What a SNAFU,” I moaned.

As I watched the explosions on Ford Island in amazement and disbelief, I felt the ship lurch. We didn’t know it then, but we were being bombed and torpedoed by planes approaching from the opposite (port) side.

The bugler and bosun’s mate were on the fantail ready to raise the colors at 8 o’clock. In a matter of seconds, the bugler sounded “General Quarters.” I grabbed my first aid bag and headed for my battle station amidship.

A number of the ship’s tremors are vaguely imprinted in my mind, but I remember one jolt quite vividly. As I was running down the passageway toward my battle station, another torpedo or bomb hit and shook the ship severely. I was knocked off balance and through the log room door. I got up a little dazed and immediately darted down the ladder below the armored deck. I forgot my first aid kit.

By then the ship was already listing. There were a few men down below who looked dumbfounded and wondered out loud, “What’s going on?” I felt around my shoulder in great alarm. No first aid kit! Being out of uniform is one thing, but being at a battle station without proper equipment is more than embarrassing.

After a minute or two below the armored deck, we heard another bugle call, then the bosun’s whistle followed by the boatswain’s chant, “Abandon ship…Abandon ship.”

We scampered up the ladder. As I raced toward the open side of the deck, an officer stood by a stack of life preservers and tossed the jackets at us as we ran by. When I reached the open deck, the ship was listing precipitously. I thought about the huge amount of ammunition we had on board and that it would surely blow up soon. I wanted to get away from the ship fast, so I discarded my life jacket. I didn’t want a Mae West slowing me down.

Another thing that jolted my memory was how rough the beach on Ford Island was. The day previous, I had been part of a fire and rescue party dispatched to fight a small fire on Ford Island. The fire was out by the time we got there but I remember distinctly the rugged beach, so I tied double knots in my shoes whereas just about everyone else kicked their’s off.

I was tensely poised for a running dive off the partially exposed hull when the ship lunged again and threw me off balance. I ended up with my bottom sliding across and down the barnacle encrusted bottom of the ship.

When the ship had jolted, I thought we had been hit by another bomb or torpedo, but later it was determined that the mooring lines snapped which caused the 21,000-ton ship to jerk so violently as she keeled over.

Nevertheless, after I bobbed up to the surface of the water to get my bearings, I spotted a motor launch with a coxswain fishing men out of the water with his boot hook. I started to swim toward the launch. After a few strokes, a hail of bullets hit the water a few feet in front of me in line with the launch. As the strafer banked, I noticed the big red insignias on his wing tips. Until then, I really had not known who attacked us. At some point, I had heard someone shout, “Where did those Germans come from?” I quickly decided that a boat full of men would be a more likely strafing target than a lone swimmer, so I changed course and hightailed it for Ford Island.

I reached the beach exhausted and as I tried to catch my breath, another pharmacist’s mate, Gordon Sumner, from the Utah, stumbled out of the water. I remember how elated I was to see him. There is no doubt in my mind that bewilderment, if not misery, loves company. I remember I felt guilty that I had not made any effort to recover my first aid kit. Sumner had his wrapped around his shoulders.

The USS Oglala capsized at Pearl Harbor after being hit by Japanese aircraft, December 7, 1941. Smoke billows from other damaged and destroyed American ships in the background. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (296007).


A Civilian’s letters home about Pearl Harbor

From , Beth Slingerland wrote letters to her mother and father about watching the attack from the hills overlooking the Naval Base.

Honolulu, [Territory of Hawaii]

Sunday Morning
Between 8-9 Am.
Under Attack by an Enemy – Japan

Dearest Mother and Dad,

How can I write at such a time? I have to do something because I can see the smoke pouring up into the air from Pearl Harbor and the sound of the guns and the bombs bursting in the water right before us keeps me in such a nervous state that I must do something. John is at Pearl Harbor. He left early this morning because he was supposed to go today—they have been rushing so. I know they have hit places there because I see so much, much smoke.

The guns began some time ago but I thought they were our own usual gun fire. Then I just got nervous and went out to take a better look to discover all the smoke and just then great spouts of water began rising out of the ocean. . . . The great spouts rose all about some of our battle ships. . . . I turned on the radio just in time to hear that we were under attack by “the Enemy”. All I can think of is John down there where they are [attacking.] How do people face bravely the fact that their husbands are in places where they may be killed any day and I can’t get any news, of course, and I do not know how long it will be before I shall know anything. I love him so I can’t look into the future without him.

Another attack came and I watched it. My only comfort is being up here where I can see so much. Eight Japanese planes flew over the house on to Waikiki and out to sea. Their big red circles showed up so plainly. Lots of planes were high and the anti-aircraft tracer bullets are all over Pearl Harbor. . . . I can see our ships guarding the entrance to the Honolulu Harbor. At times the bombs fall about these ships. Right now things are more quiet but I can still feel the jar of the big guns. . . . I can see lots of smoke in back of the big hangers at [Hickam] Field. . . . Where I sit to write this I can look out all over the sea so I watch and write at the same time. No planes are in the sky right now. . . . What I thought were submarines seem to be cruisers and destroyers. The water is breaking high over them.

…More enemy planes have come since I wrote last. . . . Big fires burst out below and are still raging with great flames shooting up into the air. . . . We hear planes and then we see the tracer smoke puffs of the anti aircraft being fired from Pearl Harbor.


…[At] about four-thirty or five…I heard the familiar sound of John’s [shoes] coming up our driveway and I do not ever remember hearing anything more welcome.

[John’s] experience had been very horrible and I imagine it will be a long time before he is back to his old self again. He heard the unusual explosions coming from Ford Island way, went out to see what was up and beheld the Japanese planes flying no more than 50 feet off the ground coming right before him. The [USS Oglala] was blown up right before his eyes and the men worked hard to get all the men off before she turned over on her side and sank. They were not entirely successful. . . . Then [the Japanese] got three battle ships and three cruisers, and some destroyers. John cannot bear the thought of seeing our beautiful big ships sent to the bottom with just funnels sticking out of the water. Later in the morning he was called to try to move the huge crane…just as more Japanese planes came. He ran to as much cover as he could find but it wasn’t enough for from the rear of the planes flying low they machine gunned at him and one young man. The bullets so close lent wings to their feet and they threw themselves over some sort of a high iron wall…so that they were between that and some cement. A piece of shrapnel came through a hole and scraped his side but not seriously, thank goodness. . . . He dug the shrapnel out of the cement after all was quiet and brought it home. I had no idea how jagged and heavy they would be.

They fought fires and did all kinds of things all day. The last big raid came at about twelve o’clock. His praise for the boys on the USS Pennsylvania knows no bounds. He said that they were at their posts so quick that he cannot even know now how they managed to do it. They had their [anti-aircraft guns] at work almost immediately.

Envelope from Beth’s letter postmarked December 8, 1941

George Herbert Walker Bush, 1924-2018

From Naval History and Heritage Command Website:

Upon hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack, while a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, George Bush decided he wanted to join the Navy to become an aviator. Six months later, after graduation, he enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday and began pre-flight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After completing the 10-month course, he was commissioned as an ensign in the US Naval Reserve on 9 June 1943, several days before his 19th birthday, making him one of the youngest naval aviators.


After finishing flight training, he was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as photographic officer in September 1943. As part of Air Group 51, his squadron was based on USS San Jacinto in the spring of 1944. San Jacinto was part of Task Force 58 that participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June. On 19 June, the task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. During the return of his aircraft from the mission, Ensign Bush’s aircraft made a forced water landing. The destroyer, USS Clarence K. Bronson, rescued the crew, but the plane was lost. On 25 July, Ensign Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship.

After Bush was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on 1 August, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. On 2 September 1944, Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chi Chi Jima. For this mission his crew included Radioman Second Class John Delaney, and Lieutenant Junior Grade William White, USNR, who substituted for Bush’s regular gunner. During their attack, four TBM Avengers from VT-51 encountered intense antiaircraft fire. While starting the attack, Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught on fire. He completed his attack and released the bombs over his target scoring several damaging hits. With his engine on fire, Bush flew several miles from the island, where he and one other crew member on the TBM Avenger bailed out of the aircraft. However, the other man’s chute did not open and he fell to his death. It was never determined which man bailed out with Bush. Both Delaney and White were killed in action. While Bush anxiously waited four hours in his inflated raft, several fighters circled protectively overhead until he was rescued by the lifeguard submarine, USS Finback. During the month he remained on Finback, Bush participated in the rescue of other pilots.

Subsequently, Bush returned to San Jacinto in November 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines. When San Jacinto returned to Guam, the squadron, which had suffered 50 percent casualties of its pilots, was replaced and sent to the United States. Throughout 1944, he had flown 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded San Jacinto.

Because of his valuable combat experience, Bush was reassigned to Norfolk and put in a training wing for new torpedo pilots. Later, he was assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, VT-153. With the surrender of Japan, he was honorably discharged in September 1945 and then entered Yale University.
Former Lieutenant George Herbert Walker Bush,
US Naval Reserve Transcript of Naval Service

12 June 1924 Born in Milton, Massachusetts
13 June 1942 Enlisted in US Naval Reserve
5 August 1942 Reported for Active Duty
8 June 1943 Honorably Discharged
9 June 1943 Ensign, US Naval Reserve and continued on Active Duty
1 August 1944 Lieutenant (junior grade)
18 September 1945 Released from Active Duty under honorable conditions
16 November 1948 Lieutenant
24 October 1955 Resignation accepted under honorable conditions
US Naval Air Station, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (Instrn) June 1943 – August 1943
Naval Air Operational Training Command Carrier Qualification Training Unit US Naval Air Station, Glenview, Ill. (Instrn) August 1943 – August 1943
Air Force, US Atlantic Fleet, US Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. (Instrn) August 1943 – September 1943
Carrier Aircraft Service 21 (Instrn) September 1943 – September 1943
Torpedo Squadron 51 (Naval Aviator) September 1943 – December 1943
Air Force, US Atlantic Fleet, US Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. December 1944 – February 1945
Torpedo Squadron 97 February 1945 – March 1945
Torpedo Squadron 153(Naval Aviator) March 1945 – September 1945
Headquarters, FIFTH Naval District September 1945 – September 1945

PERSONAL DECORATIONS Distinguished Flying Cross.
Air Medal with two gold stars in lieu of subsequent awards
Presidential Unit Citation awarded USS San Jacinto (CVL-30)

The Navy's tribute to former President George H.W. Bush on his passing, Nov. 30, 2018.

The Navy’s tribute to former President George H.W. Bush on his passing, Nov. 30, 2018. U.S. Navy graphic