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DID YOU KNOW, October 2023

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

October 2nd - U.S. Navy Birthday on October 13th

October 13th will mark the 248th birthday of the US Navy. It began as the Continental Navy on that date in 1775, when General George Washington spoke to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, telling its members what he had done thus far to protect American colonists from British ships and urging them to form an official navy. Congress voted to do so.

In 1972, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of Naval Operations, designated October 13th as the official birthday and saw its celebration as an opportunity to “enhance appreciation of our Navy heritage” and reinforce “pride and professionalism in the Naval Service.”

Although the US Navy is the only one of the six military branches that does not have an official motto, it stands by the ideals of the unofficial mottos “Semper Fortis” (always courageous) and “Non sibi, sed patriae” (Not self, but country).

Its unofficial song, “Anchors Aweigh,” composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmerman, Naval Academy Bandmaster and Music Director, with lyrics by Midshipman Alfred H. Miles, was first performed publicly at that year’s Army-Navy football game. A third verse was added in 1926, and the lyrics were revised in 1997.

We are thankful to the US Navy and its contractors for their service in defending our country.

Image: Official emblem of the US Navy

October 9th - James H. Ward: The Link between the Naval Academy and the Museum

Last week we mentioned that the Navy’s unofficial song, “Anchors Aweigh,” was composed by a U.S. Naval Academy bandmaster/music director. Tomorrow, October 10th, is the academy’s official birthday.

The museum’s connection to the Navy itself becomes readily apparent with a quick perusal of our website. “But what,” you might ask yourself, “is the possible link between the museum and the Naval Academy?”

In 1845, then Lieutenant James Harmon Ward was one of the academy’s five founders, serving as executive officer and teaching gunnery and steam engineering to young midshipmen. Considered “one of the most scholarly officers of the Navy of his day,” his classes led to the creation of two textbooks, An Elementary Course of Instruction in Ordnance and Gunnery and A Manual of Naval Tactics. He also wrote Steam for the Million: A Popular Treatise on Steam and its Application to the Useful Arts, Especially to Navigation.

Signage on the grounds of the museum tells us about the last day of then Commander Ward's life.

On June 27, 1861, as part of his charge to keep the river open to shipping to Washington, D.C., he led the Potomac Flotilla during the Battle of Mathias Point. Ward was mortally wounded, becoming the first U.S. Navy officer killed during the Civil War.

We hope that you will stop by the museum to read more of the story for yourself and come inside Wednesday-Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm, to learn so much more history!

Caption One:
Commander James H. Ward (NH 119396 courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command)

Caption Two:
Commander James H. Ward was aboard the steam tug USS Thomas Freeborn (left) at Mathias Point on June 27, 1861. (NH 59242 courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.)

October 16th - Dahlgren's Anniversary & A Working Model of the First Gun Fired There

Today is the 105th anniversary of the October 16, 1918, opening of the Dahlgren naval base. On that day, Marines supervised by Lieutenant Commander H. K. Lewis successfully test fired an Army 7” / 45 tractor-mounted gun, the first shot ever fired at Dahlgren.

To learn more about the man for whom the base was named, read our first featured Now You Know article for October, “So, Who Was John Dahlgren Anyway?” by Dr. Rob Gates, at .

Tim Carsola, one of Dahlgren Heritage Museum’s members and docents and an expert cannon model maker, made a model of that first gun fired at Dahlgren, which is on display in the museum. This Saturday, during our open house in honor of the museum’s 10th anniversary, he will fire it and two other models he made. We hope that you will join us for his discussion and demonstration, as well as the other open house activities.

Image: Tim Carsola and his working model of the 7” tractor gun.

October 23rd - Dahlgren Heritage Museum Celebrated 10th Anniversary on October 14th

October 14th marked the 10th anniversary of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum being open to the public in our location at the former King George welcome center off U.S. 301 at the foot of the Nice/Middleton bridge. Although we still offer visitor information and a rest area for those traveling along the 301 corridor, there is so much more to see.

The museum features exhibits about the history of the Dahlgren base since its opening in 1918, focusing on both the technology and the people involved in the work there. We currently have a special temporary exhibit about Dr. Charles Cohen, whose accomplishments included creating a missile flight simulation, bringing computers to Dahlgren, and studying the “pear-shaped” gravitational field of the earth.

We hope that you will join us for the various events we will offer during this, our anniversary year. Keep an eye on our events calendar at, or sign up at the bottom of our home page ( to have notices about events and other news emailed to you.

Image (L-R): Naval Support Activity South Potomac Capt. Peter Nette, King George County Board of Supervisors (KG BOS) Dahlgren District representative Ruby Brabo, Dahlgren Heritage Foundation (DHF) President Ed Jones, DHF Vice President Rob Gates, KG BOS Vice Chairman John LoBuglio, and KG BOS Chairman Dale Sisson cut the ribbon to open the Dahlgren Heritage Museum in October of 2013. US Navy photo by Andrew Revelos.

October 30th - First WAVES Reported to Dahlgren October 11, 1943

October is certainly a month for Navy-related anniversaries: the U.S. Navy, the Naval Academy, the Dahlgren base, and the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. As such, it is also a month of firsts. About eighty years ago, on October 11, 1943, the first WAVES contingent reported to the Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground.

President Franklin Roosevelt had signed Public Law 689 on July 30, 1942, which created a women’s reserve for the navy known as Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. Before its formation, women could serve only as nurses in the navy. Now they could fill a wide range of support positions, from clerical positions to aviation instructors and engineers. Many at Dahlgren were computers before the base had computers, computing ballistic tables for guns and recording data at the gun range. Members were given full military status – unlike those who joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps – which meant that they enjoyed full benefits. Over 100,000 women served as WAVES during World War II.

To learn more about some women of Dahlgren, please visit the UMW Dahlgren Campus and see the display “Extraordinary Careers, Unique Possibilities.” Although their usual business hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, their hours are contingent upon the academic and event schedule. You can verify the hours for the day of your visit by calling (540) 663-4030. Please be mindful that classes may be in session during your visit.

Caption One: First contingent of WAVES at the Dahlgren base, on the parade field in front of Building 193. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Caption Two: Image of poster courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command. (Accession # 81-156-L)

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