It's hard to imagine Lake Erie being the setting for a major naval battle in the current day, but that's just what happened toward the War of 1812's close nearly two centuries ago.
The Battle of Lake Erie's role in the United States' national and naval history, plus a desire by today's Navy to promote its current mission, made Toledo a natural place to schedule a Navy Week this summer, a top naval officer said during a news conference Monday at Promenade Park.
"This is special this year, because it is a commemoration of an event that is special in our heritage," Rear Adm. Gregory Nosal, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, based in Norfolk, Va., said in Promenade Park. Afterward, he toured docks and facilities to be used when a flotilla of five vessels calls on Toledo from Aug. 23 through Aug. 26 for tours and special events.
The War of 1812 is generally undertaught in American history classes, the admiral said, and was a key point in history when the United States established itself as a strong and prosperous nation. The Battle of Lake Erie was pivotal to the war's outcome and represented "a rebirth of the United States Navy," he said.
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's command "Don't Give Up the Ship" remains a Navy motto, Admiral Nosal noted, and one of the two Navy vessels to participate in the Great Lakes tour, the frigate USS DeWert, is from the Oliver Hazard Perry Class of ships.
"The War of 1812 was pivotal not only in the development of this region, but ultimately cleared the way for Toledo to become a city in 1837," Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said while introducing the admiral at the news conference.
Also scheduled to visit Toledo are the USS Hurricane, a Navy coastal patrol boat, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay, the historic replica U.S. brig Niagara, and the Royal Canadian Navy's HMCS Ville de Quebec.
Events will be held throughout Toledo to mark the occasion, starting Aug. 20, three days before the ships' ceremonial procession into Toledo Harbor. The ships are to depart for Cleveland the morning of Aug. 27.
Navy Band and Marine Corps Band concerts are scheduled throughout the week, and sailors are to participate in a variety of public presentations and charitable projects, such as building a ramp at the Ability Center of Greater Toledo to benefit a disabled Navy veteran, serving meals at the Cherry Street Mission, and visiting with children at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.
"A great deal of planning has gone into ensuring this summer's commemorative events are successful, that they represent our region well, and that they provide an opportunity for our citizens to fully access the assets that the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Royal Canadian Navy will share with us in our own port and on this beautiful downtown riverfront," Mr. Crothers said.
To the Navy's knowledge, Admiral Nosal said, no Navy Week has ever been held before in Toledo.
"The Navy hasn't operated in the Great Lakes for many, many years -- there hasn't been a need to," the admiral said.
Navy Week presents the opportunity for citizens "who have never seen the Navy" to visit aboard ships and meet young men and women who sail in the United States' fleet, he said.
"Here's what your United States Navy is doing every day that you may not know about," Admiral Nosal said.
While the Army and Marine Corps have suffered greater casualties during the United States' 10 years of war in the Middle East, the admiral said in a later interview with The Blade's editorial board, "a good number of Navy sailors have died on the ground" during those conflicts.
Even so, he said, "a lot of people don't know what we do," nor is the general public aware of technological advances that have improved the Navy's effectiveness even as its fleet has been halved over the past 30 years.
The Navy's primary missions are "to keep the sea lanes open" to protect the rights of sailors and free trade and to deter aggression, the admiral said.
"And if deterrence fails, it's to win our nation's wars," he said.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.