With Covid restrictions finally lifted, the Naval Historical Foundation hosted its third annual Mess Night on Saturday, November 5 at the National Museum of the United States Navy. As with previous Five Star Mess Nights, the event was built around a theme and this year’s centennial of U.S. naval aircraft carriers provided the appropriate occasion for the event. Although the USS Langley (CV 1) had been placed in commission in March of 1922, it was not until the autumn of that year that the converted collier got underway to conduct the first launches and traps of “aeroplanes” from Langley’s “flying deck.”
The Five Star Mess Night opened with the traditional parading of the colors parading of the colors by personnel from Naval District Washington’s Ceremonial Color Guard, a stirring rendition of the national anthem by Miss Xepher Winkler of West Potomac High School, and the parading of the Beef after which Adm. William J. Fallon USN (Ret.) declared it “fit for human consumption.”
With a century of flight operations from ever increasingly sophisticated platforms and aircraft now behind us, the Guest of Honor, Director of Aviation Warfare Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, spoke on what the next hundred years of aircraft carrier operations might entail, noting that the floating airfield mobility remains the platform’s strongest asset, adding that the capability of aircraft embarked is the true X-factor to consider when deciding defense expenditures. To illustrate his case, Rear Admiral Loiselle discussed the capabilities of the first air wing assigned to Enterprise back in 1962 versus the air wing that finally detached from that legendary ship upon her decommissioning a decade ago. Loiselle’s remarks were well-received in a room that featured a number of “Wings of Gold” on formal attire lapels.
Following Rear Admiral Loiselle’s presentation, the NHF Chairman publicly announced that he had been in conversation with a number of naval heritage organizations with the objective of furthering the naval heritage outreach mission. He also noted that a better funded Naval History and Heritage Command was now performing many functions once the purview of the NHF. Lamenting declining NHF membership and revenue streams, Admiral Fallon concluded that naval history could be better served if some of the recognition programs and assets of the NHF were turned over to the organization that launched NHF in 1926 with Dudley Knox’s “Our Vanishing History” article and $10,000 in seed money — the U.S. Naval Institute. The Boards of both organizations have approved the move, with talks and the merger set to conclude at the end of this year.
Having been made aware of Admiral Fallon’s initiative beforehand, the Director of Naval History Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox (USN (Ret.) cited his prerogative as an Echelon II commander to bestow the Department of the Navy Meritorious Public Service Award to former NHF Executive Director Capt. Charles (Todd) Creekman, USN (Ret.); current staff historian Cdr. David F. Winkler, USN (Ret.); current Executive Director Edward (Sonny) Masso, USN (Ret.); and Office Manager/Executive Assistant Gunnery Sergeant of Marines Harold Bryant, USMC (Ret.). In the citation that came with the award, the quartet were recognized for their work to make possible the opening of a Cold War Gallery in 2012, their digitization for easy access thousands of Naval Documents of the American Revolution, their initiative to launch numerous recognition programs for outstanding scholarship in the field of naval history, their ongoing outreach to the American public and academic communities, and their support for the NHHC and Navy Museum through critical IT hardware and programmatic support.
Following the award presentation, the tradition formal and informal toasts were given beginning with “To the Commander in Chief” and ending with “To the United States Navy.” In between, Mr. Vice – Rear Admiral Sonny Masso – took the opportunity to note infractions of Mess Rules that were published in the evening program. Members of the Mess happily acknowledged their errors and dropped contributions to the Navy Museum donation box to support Navy Museum projects and programs.
Overall, this proved to be a most memorable Five Star Mess Night with great appreciation given to the two major corporate sponsors, Huntington Ingalls Industries and Enterprise Holdings. Much thanks also go to the Honorable William L. Ball II and Rising Sky for their support for the event.