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Admiral Michelle J. Howard Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

14 Nov 2023

Admiral Michelle J. Howard Featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery recently premiered portraits of three women who broke barriers in the U.S. military, including APB speaker and the First Female U.S. Navy Four-Star Admiral (Retired) Michelle J. Howard. Also featured are General (Retired) Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody, who made history as the first woman to become a four-star general in the U.S. military; and General (Retired) Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who became the first woman to achieve a four-star general rank in the U.S. Air Force. The portraits were shot by Photographer An-My Lê.

The National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the nation’s story.

A ground-breaking leader during her 35-year career in the U.S. Navy, Admiral Howard was also the first woman to be appointed to the position of vice chief of naval operations (the second highest rank in the Navy). She was also the first African-American woman to reach the rank of three-star and four-star in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and the first African-American woman to command a ship in the Navy.

A veteran of operations that included NATO peacekeeping, Indonesia tsunami relief, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, Admiral Howard was thrust into the international spotlight in 2009 as leader of the counter-piracy task force that rescued civilian Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates. The rescue was later depicted in the film Captain Phillips.

Admiral Howard led Sailors and Marines multiple times in her career as the commander of a ship, an expeditionary task force and a naval theater. This culminated in her final post as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa, in which she simultaneously led NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples with oversight of missions from the Western Balkans to Iraq. Admiral Howard is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. She is the first woman graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to become an admiral.

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