WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Adm. Viktor Chirkov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation Navy, visited three U.S. Navy museums July 15-18 to learn more about its history as part of a larger official visit to the U.S. Navy. He began his history visit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy where he was hosted by Capt. Henry J. Hendrix, director of the Navy's History and Heritage Command (NHHC), which is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of the U.S. Navy's art, artifacts, and objects. The nine U.S. Navy museums report to NHHC, with the original one located at the Washington Navy Yard.
"The National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN) was created by Admiral Arleigh Burke," Hendrix explained to the Russian admiral as the group entered the museum. It was established to both capture and promote the great history of the U. S. Navy.
The Russian commander-in-chief asked about the industrial nature of building in which the museum is housed.
"It was a shipyard factory building and then became a museum?" Chirkov asked.
"The entire Washington Navy Yard was the Washington Gun Factory," explained Hendrix, pointing out the large overhead cranes. "This was just one of the many factory buildings where large guns were assembled. These cranes can still work, so when we have to move large objects we test them and then use them."
Chirkov was then led on a whirlwind tour of the museum's exhibits and learned much about the history of the U.S. Navy.
The first stop was the museum's newest exhibit "Don't Give Up the Ship" which opened in June. The exhibit details the support the U.S. Navy leant the U.S. Army during the war of 1812's lake battles. The director called the admiral's attention to one of the main artifacts of the exhibit, the Chambers Gun.
"This is one of the most interesting pieces in our collection," Hendrix explained. "It was the secret weapon of the War of 1812. They would pack 24 bullets into each of its seven barrels, and once the trigger was pulled, it would fire off up to 145 shot [in about two minutes]. The gunner would be up on the fighting top firing down on the opposing ship. Once you cleared the enemy's gun deck, you would board."
Hendrix explained that NHHC holds many firearms, most in working order.
"We try to retain a working copy of all arms back to the beginning of our Navy," Hendrix said. "We still have muskets from the American Revolution that are fire-able. Every now and then we have a scientist or engineer who wishes to test them to determine their muzzle velocity and firing characteristics."
Hendrix led Chirkov through exhibits featuring the U.S. Navy during World War II, a period when the United States fought to clear the Atlantic Ocean of German submarines in order to convoy supplies to the Allies, including the then-Soviet Union. Chirkov, a former commander of an Udaloy-class anti-submarine destroyer, was particularly interested in reviewing the display on commercial shipping losses, as well as German submarine attrition rates.
One of the citations on display showed that the Soviet Union honored 183 American Sailors, "For Outstanding Military Activities Which Facilitated the Sailing of Transports with War Supplies to Ports of The Soviet Union During the War Against the Common Enemy of the USSR and the USA...--and for the Valor and Gallantry They Displayed." Sailors and Coast Guardsmen were awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War, First and Second Class; Order of the Red Star; Medal for Valor; Medal of Ushakov; and Medal for Combat Merits. U.S. Navy also had a lend-lease program with the Soviet Navy where 34 minesweepers were transferred for their use in protecting their coasts from U-boat laid mines.
Chirkov remarked that Russia's Naval Museum is set to move to new quarters.
"In St. Petersburg they just renovated the old Navy barracks and so now we are moving the naval museum from its old building into the new building," Chirkov told Hendrix, who responded by wishing that the new museum reflected the great history of the Russian navy since its founding by Peter the Great in 1696.
The next day, Chirkov visited Annapolis, Md. to gain a better idea of how the U.S. Naval Academy prepares the next generation of Navy and Marine Corps officers. As part of the visit, he toured the John Paul Jones Crypt and the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.
According to Tim Disher, the U.S. Naval Academy's Director of International Programs, the admiral was, "impressed and was quite inquisitive about the Rogers Ship Model Collection, the largest collection of 17th- and 18th-century ship models on public display in North America." Disher added that there was "lively interaction with the Russian language faculty and Russian language-proficient midshipmen."
At Naval Air Station Pensacola on Thursday, Chirkov's first stop was to the National Naval Aviation Museum, where he took particular interest in the large flying boats once flown by the U.S. Navy.
"This is real history," he commented when looking at the PB2Y-5R Coronado that carried members of Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz's staff to Tokyo Bay for the signing of the surrender ending World War II. Appreciating the tremendous number of school age children who were in the museum on a hot summer day, Chirkov said, "Museums are important in teaching the lessons of history that are generally not taught in schools."
For more information on the Navy History and Heritage Command's museums visit www.history.navy.mil.