Navy birthday celebrated at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel

Jim Neuman, Navy Region Hawaii historian, was the keynote speaker at a ceremony Oct. 10 at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, marking the Navy’s 237th birthday.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth
Contributing Writer

A ceremony marking the Navy’s 237th birthday took place Oct. 10 at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel.

Sailors took their seats as a Navy brass quintet played tunes such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “The Colonel Bogey March.” After a color guard paraded the colors, Lt. Richard Tiff, Chaplain Corps, led those assembled in a invocation.

“We pause today to remember 237 years of naval history,” he said. “Our Navy started as the Continental Navy that confronted the British navy, then the most powerful navy in the world. We have fought off pirates in the Mediterranean, German U-boats in the Atlantic, and the might of the Empire of Japan in the Pacific.”

After Tiff’s invocation, a short video highlighting the history, innovation and accomplishments of the Navy was shown, with particular emphasis given to the War of 1812.

The importance of the War of 1812 in making the Navy what it is today was also emphasized by the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Jim Neuman, Navy Region Hawaii historian. Faced with aggressive provocations from the British navy, the U.S. was forced to take action.

“On June 18, 1812 the newly formed United States, not even 25 years old and wholly unprepared financially or militarily, declared war on Great Britain, the greatest naval power on earth,” Neuman said.

The odds for the U.S. did not seem good. “The American Navy had maybe 20 ships in our arsenal to the 600 ships of the royal navy,” explained Neuman. “But we had six frigates, and they were the fastest, strongest, finest ships of their type on the ocean. The crews were strong, professional and determined Sailors, and they were not afraid to fight a superior foe.”

The war ended in 1815 with no obvious victor. But the United States had put up a good fight, and the conflict had a major effect on shaping the U.S. Navy.

“This was truly when the United States Navy came of age,” said Neuman. “It was here that the Navy truly began to build the legacy of achievement, courage, honor and commitment that we celebrate today.”

Neuman also stressed how much history there is here in the Pacific.

“As Sailors in Hawaii, you have history all around you,” he said. The pivotal Battle of Midway in 1942 was won first in the dry docks over at the shipyard, when ship fitters, and carpenters and electricians worked around the clock to get the damaged USS Yorktown fit for battle in record time so that her aircrews could participate at Midway.

Neuman said, “History is the USS Missouri, right out there on Battleship Row…. History is the USS Arizona Memorial, a terrible moment in our history, represented in the design of the memorial as it slopes down over the wreckage of that great ship, and the crew who are still buried in her. But then the memorial slopes up above the shrine room and the sculpture of the tree of life symbolizing hope for the future, if we have learned the lesson of the need for eternal vigilance.”

The ceremony ended with a video presentation by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, who sent a birthday message.

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Category: News