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Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington were joined by director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Rear Adm. (ret) Jay A. DeLoach in announcing the official kick-off of the Navy's three-year commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, during a ceremony held at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., March 13.

"The War of 1812 that we celebrate is in many ways overlooked and least-remembered in our nation's history and yet it had a lasting impact on our nation and on the world," said Mabus. "It gave us the Star-Spangled Banner. It gave us numerous heroes, Andrew Jackson, Oliver Hazard Perry, Dolly Madison and James Lawrence whose last command 'Don't give up the ship!' has guided the United States Navy and the United States since that day."

Beginning in April and continuing through 2015, the U.S. Navy, The U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard will commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner" with a series of public events in 16 cities across the nation, including New Orleans, New York, Baltimore, Norfolk, Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Toledo, Buffalo, and Cleveland.

New Orleans was chosen as the host city for the opening events marking the 200th anniversary of what has been referred to as "America's Second War of Independence." The three-year commemoration will also end in New Orleans where the last battle of the war was fought.

The Navy has partnered with Canada, the United Kingdom, the International Council of Air Shows, the Navy League, the Naval Historical Foundation, and Operation Sail (OpSail) to create events around the country including Navy ship and tall ship port visits, Blue Angels air shows, international athletic competitions, conferences, seminars, teaching events, and observances in many of the venues that were crucial to the outcome of the conflict.

"In 1800, we had only 17 sea-worthy vessels and 5,000 men carrying 1,447 guns, and our Navy was expected to patrol 2000 coastal miles," said Billington. "In comparison, the Royal Navy had 1,048 ships, 27,800 guns, and 150,500 men. As a result, the American Navy began to take its place among the great navies of the world."

The commemoration recalls the re-emergence of the U.S. Navy in 1812, when Sailors and the Navy proved that keeping the sea free was essential to protecting the nation's economy, way of life and independence. Two hundred years later, the U.S. Navy continues those missions and serves as "A Global Force for Good," protecting the free flow of international commerce, enforcing trade laws and ensuring freedom of the seas.

"The War of 1812 was fought primarily over the idea of freedom of the seas. That is exactly what the United States Navy does today," Mabus said. "For 236 years, the Navy has gone from sail, to steam, to nuclear. From the USS Constitution to the USS Carl Vinson, our maritime warriors have upheld a proud heritage, protected our nation, projected our power, and protected our freedom of the seas. Not just for ourselves, but for all nations who travel the oceans of the world."

Celebrations in 2013 will commemorate the Battles of Lake Erie and Lake Champlain. In 2014 events will center around the bicentennial of the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 2015 recognition will be given to the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. Local civic committees in each city are organizing the events in which the Navy will participate.

For more information about the Navy's Bicentennial Commemoration activities, visit www.ourflagwasstill