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Why Navy History Matters to Illinois

By Alexis Cutler, Intern
Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

Illinois’ Navy Ship History

Did you know the second Navy vessel to bear the name USS Illinois is planned to enter the Fleet in 2016? Illinois’ first Navy ship was the battleship USS Illinois (BB-7). Commissioned on September 15, the ship’s best known for her role in the “Great White Fleet.” In December 1907 USS Illinois steamed out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, to begin the first leg of the World Cruise, a voyage around South America.

The second vessel, USS Illinois (SSN-786), will be a Virginia-class submarine and has not yet been commissioned. Once it enters the Fleet, USS Illinois will represent her state proudly with several innovations that significantly enhance its warfighting capabilities and an emphasis on littoral operations.

120621-N-ZZ999-002 WASHINGTON (June 21, 2012) An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey/Released)
120621-N-ZZ999-002
WASHINGTON (June 21, 2012) An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey/Released)Three ships and one sub have been named after the famous city of Chicago:

Three ships and one sub have been named after the famous city of Chicago:

  • The first of the four is the USS Chicago a protected cruiser. Launched on December 5th, 1885 and commissioned on April 17, 1889.
  • The second is the USS Chicago (CA-29), a heavy cruiser. Launched on April 10th, 1930 and commissioned March 9, 1931.
  • The third is  USS Chicago (CA-136). Launched on August 20th, 1944 and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on January 10th, 1945.
  • The fourth vessel is submarine, USS Chicago (SSN-721). It was commissioned on September 27, 1986 as the first submarine to test the virtual periscope allowing submarines to see things on land while still underwater. It is still in use today.
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The Navy’s Great Lakes Presence:

Great Lakes is home to the Naval Reserve Training Station, better known as the Navy’s only bootcamp for new Sailors. After the Spanish-American War, Navy leaders believed many of the best Sailors came from the Midwest, so President Theodore Roosevelt established the Naval Station Great Lakes in May 1905. The gates opened on July 1, 1911. From then on, the number of recruits has increased with the more international affairs the United States becomes involved in. The station was sometimes known as “The 12th Regiment” and “The Fighting Tradesmen” which was made up of Sailors that helped build housing and training facilities while others were at war. These Sailors later became known as Seabees. The Naval Reserve Training Station’s objectives is to train civilians to become top-quality Sailors for the fleet in a short period of time. In addition, the station also provides support for families of the Sailors who are at sea or war.

At the Naval Reserve Training Station, there is also a museum where visitors can learn more about their Navy’s history and heritage. The museum has recently changed names from The Great Lakes Naval Museum to the National Museum of the American Sailor. The change in name represents the change in mission as the museum goes from a having a regional historical focus to providing visitors with a full-scale history of our American Sailors.

Make sure you check out some of the events hosted by our Sailors while they are in Rockford, Illinois from June 1-7.

Illinois Infographic

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