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NEWS | Oct. 16, 2019

Dahlgren Sailors and Civilians Celebrate Navy's 244th Birthday

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

DAHLGREN, Va. – Sailors and civilians celebrated the U.S. Navy's 244th anniversary with prime rib, shrimp, a birthday cake and speeches, Oct. 16.

The birthday lunch featured speeches by Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew and Naval Support Activity South Potomac Commanding Officer Capt. Michael O’Leary.

The event coincided with the 101st birthday of NSWCDD. Plew recounted the World War I era seven-inch 45 caliber tractor mounted gun that was test fired at Dahlgren on Oct. 16, 1918. A detachment of Marines hoisted the colors to officially open the new proving ground on that day.

The Naval Proving Grounds Lower Station was later named after Rear Adm. John Adolphus Dahlgren, who is considered the "Father of Modern Naval Ordnance".

The gun and its mount, originally requested from the Navy by the artillery strapped U.S. Army was one of 20 that the Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD) had earmarked for the new 10th Marine Artillery Regiment, then in training at Quantico, Va., for service on the World War I Western Front. BUORD described the weapon in 1920 as, "the heaviest and hardest hitting gun for which a mobile field mount of this kind had ever been requested by any nation or army." The gun represented the ancestor of self-propelled artillery that was to play a major role in later wars.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s birthday message to the Navy stressed this year’s birthday celebration theme “No Higher Honor,” which commemorates the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in modern history.

Spencer’s message can be seen on the Navy’s official blog:

O’Leary – in his speech at Gray's Landing on the Potomac Restaurant at Dahlgren – recalled the sacrifices of the “tin can Sailors” who manned U.S. Navy destroyers while fighting in the naval engagements of Oct. 23-26, 1944, known collectively as the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The battle used every known weapon of naval war, except mines, and in sheer destruction it has no rival in naval history.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was noteworthy in another sense in that it saw the first attacks by kamikaze planes, when on Oct. 25, five planes swooped down upon escort carriers on the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The kamikazes might justifiably be considered the forerunners of modern cruise missiles and, therefore, form the historic rationale for anti-air missile systems. Thus, the genesis of the Aegis Weapon System -- has its roots in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The Aegis Weapon System is a centralized, automated, command-and-control and weapons control system that was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill. The heart of the system is an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar. This high-powered radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with a track capacity of more than 100 targets.

NSWC Dahlgren Division has been responsible for research, development, test and evaluation for the Aegis Weapon System, and later the Aegis Combat System – the centerpiece of the Navy’s surface Fleet for 50-plus years.

The Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) – a tenant command along with NSWCDD at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren – provides Sailors with the knowledge, ability, and skill to operate and maintain the Aegis Combat System through timely, effective, and integrated training delivered across their careers. ATRC provides officers the knowledge, ability, and skill to operate, employ, and assess the readiness of the Ship Self-Defense System and Aegis combat systems aboard surface warships.

NSWCDD has evolved with the changing missions of the warfighter and advances in technology since its establishment in 1918 as a naval proving ground for testing gun weapons systems.

Today, the mission of NSWCDD is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, analysis, systems engineering, integration and certification of complex naval warfare systems related to surface warfare, strategic systems, combat and weapons systems associated with surface warfare. The command provides system integration and certification for weapons, combat systems and warfare systems.