The Spokane Trophy is awarded by Commander United States Pacific Fleet on a cycle basis to the surface combatant ship considered to be the most proficient in overall combat systems readiness and warfare operations. The nomination will be submitted by the type commander based on the recommendations of the ISIC (Immediate Superior In Charge). Because the award is to recognize demonstrated ability to fully conduct, on a sustained basis, simultaneous and coordinated air warfare, surface warfare, and undersea warfare operations with all installed equipment, no check-off list of particular criteria is appropriate nor can a ship explicitly work for nomination for the award other than by routinely striving for the highest levels of combat systems training and material excellence. The actual Spokane Trophy is made of 400 ounces of silver and is valued at $4 million.
The award was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to recognize naval warfighting proficiency. The trophy was originally donated by the Spokane, Washington, Navy League and is now kept on display at Naval Surface Forces headquarters in San Diego. The trophy depicts areas of Spokane, Washington, and the silver mining community. The trophy also bears the names of the last 96 ships that have won it, including USS Arizona (BB-39) and USS West Virginia (BB-48). It is normally kept under armed guard and is viewed only once per year for the presentation ceremony.
In 1907, the Spokane Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the city’s United Spanish War Veterans wanted to honor Spokane sailors, its “Sons in the Navy,” by offering a silver cup as an annual award to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet for marksmanship. Donated by the city and citizens of Spokane, the Spokane Trophy would become the most sought after award in the U.S. Navy and many, for a time, would forget it existed.
The city was desirous to honor its sailors and President Theodore Roosevelt’s “man behind the gun.” With the memory of Spokane’s own John Robert Monaghan, a sailor who sacrificed his own life to save a fellow officer in a “skirmish with the natives” in Samoa in 1899, Spokane was proud of our country’s navy and wanted to honor “the men who wear the blue.” Originally intended to be awarded to the best ship in the Atlantic Fleet for excellence in great-gun marksmanship in the annual target practice, Secretary of the Navy Victor H. Metcalf, suggested instead that the trophy be awarded to the battleship or armored cruiser of either fleet who exhibited the highest final record of merit with all her turret guns. Metcalf pointed out that “President [Roosevelt] interested himself personally in the question of trophies for excellence in great-gun marksmanship, and directed that the vessels of the Navy be divided into four classes, namely battleships, cruisers, gunboats, and torpedo craft and that a trophy be assigned to each.”
The Spokane Trophy was designed to embody the spirit of Spokane and its pride in the navy. In bas-relief on the trophy are eight memorial panels or scenes depicting President Roosevelt, the Secretary of the Navy Victor H. Metcalf, the Spokane Falls, Mount Spokane, the newly built Spokane Federal Building (old Post Office), the last of the great chiefs, Chief Garry of the Spokanes, Fort George Wright, and a replica of the monument to Ensign John Monaghan, Spokane’s own naval hero. Standing approximately 28-inches high and 16-inches wide at the handles, made of 400-ounces of sterling silver and lined with gold, the Spokane Trophy was crafted by Leo M. Dornberg & Co., a local jeweler, at the request of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce for $1,500 in 1907. Mounted on a rosewood base, the trophy is flanked by two miniature solid silver navy gunners training 10-inch long silver guns mounted on gold wheels. A feminine figure on the trophy represents Spokane presenting a laurel wreath to the navy gunners whose hands are outstretched to receive it. An American eagle clutches a naval target on the opposite side of the trophy and the handles represent weighed anchors.
In 1908, the U.S.S. Tennessee became the first winner of the trophy. The trophy was formally presented to the officers and sailors of the ship in the navy yard in Puget Sound, Washington on August 12, 1908. Spokane Chamber of Commerce vice-president David T. Ham spoke, as did representatives on behalf of the Spanish War Veterans. According to an account at the time, the trophy was received positively:
The cup was covered with the Admiral’s colors as it was borne from the captain’s cabin to a raised platform on the main deck, where Captain [Bradley A.] Fiske, in his speech of acceptance, referred in eloquent terms motive which prompted the giving of the Spokane Trophy cup and of the great benefit that would ultimately result in the future efficiency of naval gunnery, and said that was a standing cause for wonder and surprise to the entire Navy that the inland city of Spokane should be the first to do honor to the men behind the gun and thus create that pride in individual effort and in the efficiency of general service that must and would build a greater Navy…
The pomp and ceremony that followed the trophy through its first award presentation, resulted in some playful animosity from the officers and crew of the U.S.S. Washington, of which the commanding officer was present:
Captain Austin M. Knight, of the cruiser Washington, invited the Spokane party to visit his ship and accept some hospitality in deference to the grand state for which the ship was named. Captain Knight and his officers were greatly chagrined that the cruiser Washington did not win the Spokane Trophy, and said that Spokane will be honored by the Washington winning the cup the next year if they have to blow up every turret and gun in the ship.
The trophy was awarded annually to ships in the Pacific and Atlantic Fleet until it was retired in 1941, prior to World War II, and placed on display for many years at the Naval Museum in Washington D.C. before being moved to the Naval Historical Center in the Washington Naval Yard in 1977. In 1984, the Spokane Trophy was reactivated and sent to the U.S. Pacific Force Headquarters in San Diego. In keeping with historic tradition, the trophy, now worth nearly $4 million, is annually awarded to the Pacific Fleet surface ship that demonstrates overall excellence in combat systems and warfare readiness. The trophy has been awarded forty-two times to thirty-one different ships. In 2007 the trophy was awarded to the USS Chafee (DDG-90), an Arleigh Burke Class Aegis Destroyer homeported in Hawaii. USS Hopper (DDG-70) is the 2008 Spokane Awardee once again homeported in Pearl Harbor Hawaii. This prestigious honor was awarded in 2013 to USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), homeported in San Diego, CA, current home of this rare trophy. The trophy was awarded in 2014 to the USS Preble (DDG-88), homeported in San Diego, CA.
The Spokane Trophy, with the help of the Spokane Council of the Navy League of the United States and Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Spokane, returned home to Spokane, Washington in the spring of 2008 for its 100th anniversary.
- "Surface Force Training Manual". United States Navy Training Manual. Federation of American Scientists (republishing USN training manual). Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- "The Spokane Trophy". U.S. Navy NewsStand. United States Navy. May 3, 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- Journalist 2nd Class David Van Scoy, Navy Compass (May 12, 3004). "Princeton Earns Coveted Spokane Trophy". U.S. Navy NewsStand. U.S. Navy. Retrieved 2008-03-11. Check date values in:
- Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Paula M. Ludwick, Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs (May 10, 2007). "USS Bunker Hill Receives Spokane Trophy". GlobalSecurity.org (republishing U.S. Navy press release NNS070510-15). Retrieved 2008-03-11.
The Spokane Naval Trophy was gifted to the Navy by the City of Spokane.
The Spokane Navy League gives a plaque to the ship which has a picture of the Trophy, the name of the ship and the date the Trophy was awarded.
USS Hopper (DDG-70) is the 2008 Spokane Awardee. Again, homeported in Pearl Harbor Hawaii.