Navy Day 1945 16 Historic Images from the Truman Library's Photography Collection


“New York joins the rest of the Nation in paying honor and tribute to the four million fighting Americans of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—and to the ships which carried them to victory.” – President Truman

Fifty years before October 13 was declared the official birthday of the U.S. Navy, the Navy League of the United States designated October 27 as an annual celebration of the Navy. When Navy Day was first formally observed in 1922, a New York City reporter described the grand scene: “warships in the river, the brasses of each like gold, their coats of grey tint like satin robes.”

On October 27, 1945, however, Navy Day served as a monumental WWII victory lap, a mere 10 weeks after VJ Day. More than 150 ships were berthed at 56 various ports in the States and Territories. In New York City, five million citizens filled the waterfront to welcome the American armada home from World War II. The Hudson River was filled with tugboats and U.S. Navy warships, including the anchored heavy cruisers Augusta, Helena, and Macon; carriers Midway and Enterprise; and battleships Missouri and New York. It was the greatest display of military might the nation had ever witnessed.

President Truman presided over the events and delivered a foreign policy address in Central Park that afternoon. In his opening remarks, the president celebrated the Allied victory in World War Two:

“On opposite sides of the world, across two oceans, our Navy opened a highway for the armies and air forces of the United States. They landed our gallant men, millions of them, on the beachheads of final triumph. Fighting from Murmansk, the English Channel and the Tyrrhenian Sea, to Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa—they won the greatest naval victories in history. Together with their brothers in arms in the Army and Air Force, and with the men of the Merchant Marine, they have helped to win for mankind all over the world a new opportunity to live in peace and dignity—and we hope, in security.”

New York City Navy Day Parade

Victory Jubilee

Crowds line the street as President Truman’s motorcade moves down the street during Navy Day ceremonies in New York City.

President Truman waves from the backseat of an open car to the crowds gathered for the Navy Day parade in New York City.

Battleships on the Hudson

Heroes’ Homecoming

Ships take part in the celebrations held on Navy Day in New York Harbor. Five million Americans celebrate from the shoreline and palisades.

First Lady Bess Truman joins President Truman on the Renshaw to review the greatest parade in U.S. naval history. In the background, the USS Missouri has just fired a salute to the commander in chief. Earlier that year, the USS Renshaw was struck by an enemy torpedo in the Mindanao Sea. Although 19 men were killed and 20 were injured, the destroyer powered its way to safety and continued to serve the naval force.

Aerial view of the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt. To her crew, she was known as “Swanky Franky,” “Foo-De-Roo,” or “Rosie.” The Franklin Roosevelt was the first carrier named after a U.S. President, upon an order given by President Harry S. Truman.

President Truman steps aboard the USS Missouri for a Navy Day luncheon and as part of the naval fleet review on the Hudson River.

Aboard the USS Missouri, President Truman (far left), Admiral Jonas H. Ingram (second from left), and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (third from left) view a plaque commemorating the surrender of Japan, just weeks earlier. The signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender took place on the Missouri. In a letter dated September 11, 1945—nine days after the ceremony took place—Admiral Nimitz requested that the plaque be placed onboard the battleship, in recognition of its historic role in the conclusion of World War II.

Following a luncheon on the USS Missouri, President Truman descends steps ahead of Commodore James. K. Vardaman and behind Admiral Jonas H. Ingram.

Admiral Jonas Ingram (right) looks on during a friendly exchange between New York Governor Thomas Dewey (left) and his future political adversary, Harry S. Truman.

As part of the presidential party, Margaret Truman signs the ship’s log on the USS Missouri. Friends and naval personnel look on.

President Truman delivers a commissioning address from the deck of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt and declares, “One of the pleasant duties in the exacting life of a President is to award honors to our fighting men for courage and valor in war. In the commissioning of this ship, the American people are honoring a stalwart hero of this war who gave his life in the service of his country. His name is engraved on this great carrier, as it is in the hearts of men and women of good will the world over—Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Read President Truman’s full address.

In 1945, Navy Day was celebrated across the country and in American harbors, ports and naval yards. In Philadelphia, sailors posed for a jubilant photo atop a 16-inch gun on the forward turret of the USS Washington, a 25,000-ton battlewagon was docked at Philadelphia for the celebrations.


Central Park Celebration

A President Looks toward Peace

Crowds gather in New York City’s Central Park to hear President Truman’s Navy Day Address. Sworn into office only six months earlier, Truman used the occasion to lay out foreign policy pillars for a lasting peace. The President spoke at 1:43 p.m. from a stand at the south end of the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. The address was carried over all radio networks. Read President Truman’s 1945 Navy Day address. To listen to the audio recording, click here.

President Harry S. Truman with New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. George Drescher, Chief of the White House Secret Service, is pictured behind the President.

The Empire State Building and New York City skyline are silhouetted as United States Navy planes fly overhead.


President Truman smiles aboard the USS Renshaw during the Navy Day Fleet Review in New York Harbor. The USS Missouri is in the background, and Navy planes are flying in formation overhead.

All images featured in this post are part of the extensive online photography collection of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, part of the National Archives and Records Administration.

More curated experiences from the Truman Library’s photography collection:
Ceremonial Surrender of Japan
Margaret Truman Returns to The White House / Look Magazine
The Passing of a President