From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
1796 - In his Eighth Annual Message to Congress, President George Washington urges Congress to increase naval strength.
1941 - In one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Japanese attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and nearby military airfields and installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and remove the U.S. Navy’s battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empires southward expansion. The U.S. is brought into the World War II as a full combatant.
1941 - As the Japanese attacked Midway Island, 1st Lt. George H. Cannon, USMC remained at his post until all of his wounded men were evacuated, though severely wounded himself. Because of his dedication to his men, Cannon died due loss of blood from his wounds. For his "distinguished conduct in the line of his profession", Cannon is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Lt. Cannon is the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in WW II.
1941 - Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, commanding officer of USS West Virginia (BB 48), evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Bennion posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - Ensign Francis C. Flaherty remained in his turret, holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see the escape, thereby sacrificing his own life. For devotion to duty and courage during the Pearl Harbor attack, Flaherty is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Glenn Fuqua rushed to the quarterdeck of USS Arizona, where a large bomb hit and penetrated several decks. The explosion started a severe fire and also stunned and knocked him down. Upon coming to, he began to direct the firefighting and rescue efforts. A tremendous explosion forward appeared to make the ship rise out of the water, shudder and settle down by the bow. Flames enveloped the forward part of the ship and spread as wounded men poured out of the ship to the quarterdeck. Despite the mayhem, Fuqua kept calm under pressure and continued to direct the firefighting efforts so that the wounded could be taken from the ship, and in so doing inspired everyone who saw him. Realizing that the ship could not be saved and that he was the senior surviving officer aboard, he ordered the crew to abandon ship. Fuqua remained on the quarterdeck until satisfied that all personnel that could be had been saved, after which he left the ship with the last boatload. Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - Chief Boatswain Edwin Joseph Hill, while leading his men of the line-handling details of USS Nevada to the quays, cast off the lines and swam back to this ship. Later, while on the forecastle attempting to let go the anchors, he was blown overboard and killed by the explosion of several bombs. Chief Hill is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.
1941 - Ensign Herbert C. Jones organized and led a party in supplying ammunition to the antiaircraft battery of the USS California after the mechanical hoists were put out of action. Jones was then fatally wounded by a nearby bomb explosion and when two men attempt to take him from the area which was on fire, he refused to let them, saying, in words to the effect, “Leave me alone! I am done for. Get out of here before the magazines go off.” Ensign Jones is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - Rear Adm. Isaac C. Kidd immediately went to the bridge and as the commander of Battleship Division One, he courageously performed his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until his flagship, USS Arizona, blew up from magazine explosions and he is killed by a direct bomb hit on the bridge. Admiral Kidd is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - As the mechanized ammunition hoists are put of action in USS California, Chief Radioman Thomas James Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assists in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he is overcome by smoke and fire, resulting in his death. Chief Reeves posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - As his station in the forward dynamo room aboard the USS Nevada became almost untenable due to smoke, steam, and heat, Lt. Cmdr. Donald Kirby Ross forced his men to leave the station and performed all the duties himself until blinded and unconscious. Upon being rescued and resuscitated, he returned and secured the forward dynamo room and proceeded to the aft dynamo room where he was again rendered unconscious by exhaustion. Again he recovered consciousness and returned to his station where he remained until directed to abandon it. Machinist Mate [Later Lt. Cmdr.] Ross is awarded the Medal of Honor.
1941 - Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John William Finn manned a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on an instruction stand in an exposed section of the parking ramp, under heavy enemy machine-gun strafing fire. While painfully wounded, he continued to man the gun and return the enemy’s fire with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks. He was at last persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention after being specifically ordered to do so. After receiving first-aid, the chief returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. Chief (later Lieutenant) Finn earned the Medal of Honor that day for his extraordinary heroism, distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor.
”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln
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