This Day in Naval History - Oct. 31


Story Number: NNS020723-41Release Date: 7/23/2002 3:59:00 PM
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From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

1803 - The frigate Philadelphia runs aground near Tripoli while pursuing an enemy vessel in shallow water. As a result, the Tripolitans send a large gunboat force and attack Philadelphia. Stuck fast and listing, she is defenseless and Capt. William Bainbridge surrenders. Under Commodore Edward Preble's orders, Lt. Stephen Decatur leads a mission to burn Philadelphia early the following year.

1863 - 52 midshipmen begin instruction at the Confederate States Naval Academy. Lt. H. W. Parker, Navy of the Confederate States (CSN), is superintendent of the "Floating Academy" housed on board CSS Patrick Henry at Drewry's Bluff on the James River.

1941 - German submarine U 562 sinks USS Reuben James (DD 245) as she escorted Convoy HX 156, killing 115 of her crew. Reuben James is the first U.S. ship lost to enemy action in World War II.

1956 - The U.S. Navy lands seven men in an R4D Skytrain on the ice at the South Pole. They are the first men to stand on the South Pole since Capt. Robert F. Scott in 1912.

1966 - While serving as boat captain and patrol officer on board River Patrol Boat (PBR) 105 in Vietnam, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class James E. Williams and his crew are taken under fire, facing a superior number of enemy vessels. Williams leads his men to sink 65 enemy craft and inflict numerous casualties among the enemy. He is awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) is named in his honor.

1972 - While participating in a daring operation against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam, Engineman 1st Class Michael E. Thornton and Lt. Thomas R. Norris come under fire from a numerically superior force. Calling in for support and engaging the enemy, Norris is wounded by enemy fire. Learning that his lieutenant is down, Thornton bravely rushes through a hail of fire, fights off two enemy soldiers, and succeeds in removing Norris. Inflating Norris' lifejacket, Thornton then tows him seaward for approximately two hours until they are picked up by support craft. Thornton is later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

 
 
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