FORT BELVOIR, Virginia, Oct. 11, 2019 —
The U.S. Navy has come a long way since its humble beginning as a single ship of sailors cruising for three months to a worldwide fleet that protects America’s freedoms and safeguards allies every day, a Defense Threat Reduction Agency official told McNamara Headquarters Complex employees in a Navy birthday ceremony Oct. 10.
“Today, over 30% of our ships are at sea sailing waterways throughout the world. Whenever I’m at a gathering of sailors like this, I think if I walked around and interviewed these folks what a diverse set of experiences we’d have,” said Navy Rear Adm. John Spencer, director of DTRA’s Nuclear Enterprise Directorate.
The theme of the Navy’s 244th birthday is “No Higher Honor,” taken from quote by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert Copeland, commanding officer of USS Samuel B. Roberts during a three-day battle in the Leyte Gulf in World War II. From Oct. 23 to Oct. 25, the Navy struggled to retake the Philippines from Japan and secure the Pacific theater. On the final morning, Roberts and a small group of destroyer escorts collectively code-named “Taffy 3” became outnumbered by Japanese battleships.
“The entire Taffy 3 group was decimated; all the ships were lost,” Spencer said. “But in this brave battle they held off the [Japanese] battleship guns from affecting the amphibious landing of our Marines.”
Ground troops therefore achieved victory and retook the Philippines. Copeland later said there was “no higher honor” than serving with his crew in that battle on that particular day.
Spencer challenged sailors present to remain ready to fight increasingly capable adversaries while assigned to support agencies at the HQC.
“Make sure that you have the courage and commitment that our predecessors in World War II were able to demonstrate,” he said.
The event included a performance by the U.S. Navy Drill Team and a cake cutting with the oldest and youngest sailors present, Spencer and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Erica Doenes from DTRA, respectively.