This Day in Naval History - March 19

Story Number: NNS011215-20Release Date: 12/15/2001 6:28:00 PM
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From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

1898 - USS Oregon departs San Francisco for the 14,000 mile trip around South America to join more U.S. ships off Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

1918 - Ensign Stephen Potter is the first American to shoot down an enemy seaplane, a German plane off the German coast during World War I.

1924 - Curtis D. Wilbur takes office as the 43rd Secretary of the Navy, where he gains his greatest achievements in enlarging and modernizing the fleet, and establishing a naval air force that would become an overwhelming force during World War II.

1942 - Secretary of Navy James V. Forrestal places the newly-established construction battalions, later called Seabees, under the command of officers with the Civil Engineer Corps who are trained in the skills required for the performance of construction work.

1944 - TBF and FM-2 aircraft from Composite Squadron (VC 6) onboard USS Block Island (CVE 21) sink German submarine U 1059 west-southwest of Dakar.

1945 - Submarine USS Balao (SS 285) attacks a Japanese convoy and sinks one troopship and three fishing vessels and damages another off the Yangtze estuary about 90 miles north-northwest of Shanghi.

1945 - As Fast Carrier Task Force 58 planes bomb Kure and Kobe Harbors, Japanese aircraft single out the US Navy carriers for attack. USS Wasp (CV 18), USS Essex (CV 9), and USS Franklin (CV 13) are hit. After struck by a second bomb, Franklin suffers subsequent explosions on the flight and hangar decks. Heroic work by her crew, assisted by nearby ships, bring the fires and flooding under control. For their actions during this occasion, both Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. OCallaghan and Lt.j.g. Donald A. Gary receive the Medal of Honor.

1969 - While serving with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, at Phu Loc 6 in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class David R. Ray is killed in action while providing medical aid to injured Marines during an enemy attack on his unit. Petty Officer Ray is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in that action.

1994 - USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) is commissioned at Long Beach, Calif., where then-Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton was the keynote speaker. The Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer is currently homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

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