Navy Serves Thanksgiving Feast for Those Who Serve

Capt. Sean Bailey, commanding officer of the USS Arlington, cuts the ship's ceremonial turkey (USN, 2015)

By The Maritime Executive 11-23-2016 07:23:45

The U.S. Navy is preparing a Thanksgiving feast for its sailors near and far. Based on last year's numbers, the Navy will serve up over 90 tons of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and fixings for servicemembers, including dinners for the 70,000 personnel who will be at sea or overseas on Thanksgiving day. 

"Our Navy culinarians take great pride in providing the annual Thanksgiving meal and seeing the smiles on Sailors' and Marines' faces," said the Navy's food service director, Cmdr. Keith Capper. "We know it's hard being away from family and friends for our deployed shipmates, and that's why [we] go the extra mile in providing a quality meal."

Several of the 40-plus Navy vessels at sea this year are deployed in combat operations. The 5,000 crewmembers of the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower will be celebrating their second Thanksgiving at sea, and the carrier's aviators will be rotating through the galley in between bombing sorties against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

"It's not going to stop us from having a great Thanksgiving meal," said Capt. Paul C. Spedero, Jr., speaking to Fox News. "We're going to watch football when we can. It'll probably be a little bit time-delayed but we're going to do all the things that we can do and what we can expect to do with our families back home."

Giving thanks for Navy servicemembers

Thanksgiving is also an important time to give thanks for sailors' service to their country and for the service of those who have gone before. 

Thursday marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Cape St. George, in which five destroyers under the command of then-Captain Arleigh Burke sank three Japanese warships on the "Tokyo Express" supply route – with no American casualties. 

Burke's squadron of five destroyers were tasked with locating a Japanese convoy near Bougainville, and they made contact by radar in the early hours of Thanksgiving day. Burke launched a surprise attack against two destroyers on the convoy's flank, the Makinami and the Onami, sinking both with salvos of torpedoes and cannonfire. Shortly thereafter, Burke made contact with the remaining ships of the convoy, and pursued and sank the destroyer Y?giri as well.

Miraculously, none of Burke's destroyers were damaged in the exchange: a Japanese torpedo struck the USS Converse but failed to go off, and others missed the mark and exploded in the squadron's wake. 

As dawn approached, Burke ordered his ships to withdraw, and he radioed a message ahead to the commander of the base at Purvis Bay: “Please arrange Thanksgiving services for all hands on arrival.” 

In an essay published in Parade Magazine after the war, Burke recalled the sense of relief and gratitude his men felt upon their safe return. "I’ll always remember that Thanksgiving Day in that beautiful, tropical harbor: battle-scarred ships nested together in a quiet anchorage, battle-weary crews giving thanks to God for their victory—and for their deliverance."