National Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th through October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage month. Around the museum are panels explaining some of the contributions that Hispanics have made to the Navy throughout the years. Here are just two of the stories.

Do you know the phrase “Damn the Torpedoes?” Used in countless submarine movies, the origin of the phrase cannot be found at a writer’s table. It dates back to the Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay. David G. Farragut

Figure 1 Admiral Farragut https://www.loc.gov/item/brh2003002790/PP/

was born in 1801 to a Spanish merchant captain who had served in the American Revolution and War of 1812. At a young age he was sent to live with Captain David Porter in order to learn a trade. By the time he was 9, Farragut joined the Navy, and by 12 served in the War of 1812. During the war he served under Porter aboard the frigate Essex. The Essex captured so many British vessels that Farragut was put in charge of one the captured ships. Despite growing up in the South, David chose to side with the Union once the Civil War broke out. In 1862, as commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, he took the city and port of New Orleans. The Union would create the new rank of Rear Admiral for Farragut as a reward for these actions. Farragut’s greatest contribution during the Civil War came during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Mobile Bay became a major Confederate port on the Gulf of Mexico after the fall of New Orleans, thus making it of special significance to Farragut. While Farragut’s force consisted of 18 warships and the Confederacy only had four, those four included the CSS Tennessee which was said to be the most powerful ironclad afloat. Not only was the Tennessee a concern, but the Union forces were also up against two powerful Confederate batteries inside of forts Morgan and Gaines.

Figure 2 Admiral Farragut and Captain Drayton on deck of U.S. frigate Hartford https://www.loc.gov/item/2013646181

On the morning of August 5, 1964, Union forces headed into the mouth of Mobile Bay and faced heavy fire. Within minutes, the USS Tecumseh was sunk by torpedoes placed in the water by the Confederacy and the fleet fell into confusion. It was during this confusion that Farragut rallied his men by saying, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!.” While the authenticity of the quote has been questioned over the years, it has become one of the most famous quotes in U.S. military history. The smaller Confederate ships were quickly taken out and the Tennessee was eventually overwhelmed and surrendered after facing heavy damage. Union troops laid siege to the forts within several weeks. While Confederate forces would remain in control of the city of Mobile, the port was no longer able to receive the needed supplies the South would need to help maintain the war. The capture of the Bay was a morale booster and was the first in a line of victories for the Union that culminated with the successful reelection of Abraham Lincoln that fall. In December 1864, Farragut was promoted to Vice Admiral and in 1866, promoted to Admiral. He stayed in active duty until his death in 1870. He is buried in Brooklyn, New York.

Figure 3 Statue of Farragut in New York City

 

Captain Marion F. Ramirez de Arellano was the Navy’s first Hispanic submarine commanding officer and commanded the USS Balao in three war patrols. During his service he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit and a bronze star. Ramirez de Arellano was born in Puerto Rico in 1913, where he would spend most of his childhood with the exception of a brief period when his family lived in Georgia. Theodore Roosevelt Jr, would appoint Ramirez de Arellano to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1931 during his term as Governor on the Island. Upon his graduation, Ramirez de Arellano was assigned to the USS Ranger, the first ship to be designed and built as an aircraft carrier. During his time on The Ranger, he served as a Gunnery Officer. In 1937 he made the decision to join the submarine force and headed to Groton for Submarine School. In 1938, he was assigned as a Division officer on the USS Pickerel. The Pickerel was training near the Philippines when on December 8, 1941, Japanese ordered an attack. Pearl Harbor was not the only surprise attack initiated by Japanese forces during WWII. Nine hours later and over the international date line, Japanese forces began an air strike in the Philippines that would wipe out air support at Clark Field and nearby fighter base Iba Field. With the exception of the few aircrafts that had been deployed, the entire Far East Air Unit was destroyed. After the attack, The Pickerel was ordered to patrol the coast of the islands. It was during her second war patrol that she sank the Japanese vessel Kanko Maru in the Gulf of Davao off Mindanao. Ramirez de Arellano would participate in five war patrols on the Pickerel, which led the effort to rescue five Navy pilots and one enlisted gunner off Wake Island. He was then reassigned to the USS Skate where he would serve on three war patrols and contributed to the sinking of the Japanese light cruiser Agano. In April of 1944, Ramirez de Arellano was named Commanding Officer of the USS Balao, becoming the first Hispanic submarine commanding officer. He would participate in the boat’s fifth, sixth, and seventh war patrols.

Figure 4 Receiving his Silver Star in 1942

On July 5, 1944, he lead the rescue of three downed Navy pilots in the Palau area, and in January 1945 sunk the Japanese cargo ship Daigo Maru. In 1946, Ramirez de Arellano was named Commanding Officer of Submarine Base Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Except for two ship commands from 1952-1954 and 1954-1955, Marion held various administrative and teaching positions for the rest of his Navy carrier. He retired from the Navy on July 1, 1961. Captain Marion F. Ramirez de Arellano died in 1980 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

These are only two of the many stories of Hispanic Contributions to the Navy over the years. The panels in honor of these men and many others will be on display at the museum till October 15, 2017.

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