By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

On Friday, January 29, 1999, exactly 55 years from the day she was launched at the New York Navy Yard, the USS Missouri officially became the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In between those years, she served the nation well in peace and war.

The huge ship is perhaps best known as the site where the Japanese surrender document was signed on September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay, thus ending the long struggle of WWII — which began for most Americans with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Having performed valiantly in that war, as well as in the Korean and Persian Gulf wars, the Missouri now has a permanent home in the waters near the memorial for the USS Arizona, sunk during that infamous attack. Together they are the American symbol of the Alpha and Omega of WWII.

Honolulu executive Ed Carter, retired Admiral Ron Hays and Navy veteran Harold Estes founded the USS Missouri Memorial Association in 1994, to bring the ship to the most logical location - Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor - instead of the other vying cities of Bremerton, Wash, San Francisco or Long Beach, Calif. Two years later, the Navy agreed.

Backed by funds raised through memberships, personal and corporate donations, pledges from the Navy League and a consortium of local banks, and support from the State of Hawaii, the groundwork was laid to tow the 887-foot, 45,000-ton vessel from the West Coast to its new home.

It was 1998 before this could be accomplished. By then the ship was rusted and deteriorated from six years in mothballs at the Navy's Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Bremerton. The cracked and damaged teakwood decks, scraped hull, peeling faded paint and other problems presented a more costly and formidable renewal task than the Association had first anticipated. The Navy had stripped all useable interior and exterior equipment when mothballing it in 1992.

These flaws weren't noticeable from Honolulu's parks, lookouts and waterfront on June 22, where huge crowds gathered to cheer Big Mo's arrival. She looked as magnificent from that distance, though not as dressed-out as when she last visited Pearl Harbor for the 1991 celebration of the 50th anniversary of WWII.

When the problems became public knowledge, people began asking what they could do to help. Before long, about 5,000 volunteers were working at various hours. Those I interviewed this day happened to be Navy, but all levels and branches of the service and civilian life are represented.

Not every volunteer is a skilled craftsman, but it's the desire that counts and practically all of the refurbishing has been attributed to this diverse group. They gave generously of their time, polishing brass works, painting about four acres of steel, repairing some 53,000 square feet of teakwood decks, replacing 25,000 deck plugs, cleaning, swabbing decks, and doing anything else they could to make the Mighty Mo ready for public viewing. Some say they will continue as long as needed.

Captain Don Hess, Navy retired, serves as the Association's vice president of operations, who oversees the work. “Never in our wildest dreams did we foresee receiving this much help from the public, he exclaimed. These people are incredible! I would estimate that they have given us a minimum of 25,000 hours of work. This represents countless savings for our non-profit organization.”

A Librarian at St. Theresa's School in Honolulu, Sister Mary Dugar said she volunteered “because I wanted to be a part of it. I majored in Social Studies in college and I appreciate this important piece of history. I served in the Navy ten years doing optical repair, so I feel right at home. So far they've had me swabbing decks, scrubbing the wardroom, and now I'm a member of the painting detail.”

Garey Lester is responsible for painting all the white trim throughout the ship and his wife put in some time polishing brass. “As a former Navy man, I know what this ship represents, he explained, “and I volunteered because I wanted to be a part of it. Just coming aboard makes me proud to be an American. This ship represents peace.”

Volunteers are motivated for various reasons, but mainly because they or a relative or friend once served on the Missouri or because of reverence for her as a “ship of peace.” It is a remarkable example of community spirit and patriotism.

One of the seven permanent maintenance people is Robert Sanchez, of Gary, Indiana. This former Navy Chief Electrician explained how a friend told him about the job opening for a staff electrician on the day of his retirement ceremony. “So I applied for the job and was soon coordinating volunteers and doing what I've always done and loved. Is that a great transition, or what? And for such a worthy and interesting cause!”

Two hours before the scheduled public grand opening, the Association held a special ceremony to dedicate the Memorial and pay tribute to the membership, donors, financial backers, public figures, staff and volunteers. The keynote speaker for this ceremony the USS Missouri's last commanding officer, Captain Lee Kaiss. Association Staff members and volunteers manned the rails, in the tradition of a regular ship's crew at a commissioning ceremony.

Association president Robert Kihune is a native Hawaiian and a retired Vice Admiral. He beamed with pride when asked about the work force. “What the staff and volunteers have accomplished in just six short months since the ship's arrival is astounding! The Missouri looks beautiful and they deserve all the credit for making this project such a success.”

iVisitors reach Pier F-5 by trolley from the Battleship Missouri Visitors Center on Kamehameha Highway. To put them in the spirit of history during the seven-minute ride via the Ford Island Bridge, the trolley plays taped music and news clips that turn back the clock to September 20, 1945, the day the USS Missouri returned to Pearl Harbor, following the surrender.

Exhibits and WWII artifacts on the pier continue this brief journey through history along the way to the gangway. A ship's store offers USS Missouri memorabilia.

Once on board the battleship, the options are to join a group for a personalized tour filled with facts, figures and stories about the ship's record of service — or to explore it on their own.

Inside, the wardroom has been converted into a museum with exhibits, artifacts, displays, and a short video highlight of the Missouri's career. They see the officer's quarters and get a sense of life at sea.

Outside, a winding tour of the ship takes them from bow to stern and from the main deck up ladders and around upper decks to the flying bridge, where they can enjoy a panoramic view of Pearl Harbor and see the USS Arizona Memorial beyond the Missouri's bow. It is a special treat to walk the decks and hear, touch and learn about this floating fortress. Armaments like the enormous 16-inch gun turrets, 5-inch gun mounts, and the Tomahawk launchers, are described in detail.

Guides are stationed throughout the ship to provide information and stories as diverse as a dramatic kamikaze crashing into the starboard side, and anecdotes about President Harry Truman's affection for the ship named after his home state.

One of the highlight of the visit is the “Surrender Deck,” to stand in the same spot where General Douglas MacArthur addressed the world, see the plaques that mark the ceremony, and hear a recounting of the actual events.


She was the last battleship ever built, and the most formidable. Her protective steel armor plating on the hull, turrets, gun mounts, citadel and conning tower, varies from 13-inches to 17.3-inches thick.

Her height from keel to mast equals that of a 21-story building. Her length, if stood on end, would be 33 stories higher than the Washington Monument.

Each of her 16-inch guns is 65 feet long, weighs about 119 tons, and can accurately fire a 2,700-pound shell 23 miles.

Three million man-days were expended during her three-year construction period.

The Navy designated the USS Missouri as Battleship 63. USS Arizona is Battleship 39. Together, the numbers 6339 are used as the post office box number for the USS Missouri Memorial Association.

Contact: USS Missouri Memorial Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 6339
Honolulu, HI 96818.
FAX: (808) 423-0700.

E-Mail: []
Web Site: []


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

The battleship Texas, a dreadnought that steamed thousands of miles during her naval service during two world wars, recently logged a few more for the first time in 40 years. Getting started was not easy, however.

She had been on public display at the San Jacinto Battleship Park since April 1948. Sitting in the Houston channel silt four decades had mired her to the bottom as if it were concrete. It took six commercial tugboats more than five hours to break the ship free and pull her into the main channel in one piece.

Once out of her berth, the only hindrance was an unmovable rudder, frozen 15 degrees to starboard. That malfunction required a tedious nine hour tugboat journey to the Todd Shipyards in Galveston, 40 miles away.

A $5.1 million facelift funded by the the Texas Parks and Wild Life Department will restore the Texas to her previous war-time condition. The “Mighty T” will then return to her original berth, at Battleship Park.

The Battleship Texas Advisory Board is requesting donations of old Navy uniforms to outfit the volunteer crew that will man the ship when she returns. If you wish to contribute a WWI or WWII Navy dress or working uniform for this purpose, send it to: Uniforms for the Texas, 3527 Battleground Road, La Porte, Texas 77571.


See photo [ ]

In the early 1990’s a Vietnam Veteran, Warrant Officer Ralph Fries, happened upon the Vietnam “Traveling Wall” while trucking through Colorado. This traveling wall displayed the names of those who died in Vietnam in the same manner as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., with row on row of names only.

This Veteran developed the concept that a memorial which listed not only the names of the individuals, but their date of passing and the unit to which they were attached would provide additional meaning to a display. On his own, he set out to develop the design and concept of such a memorial. The location and funding were yet to be addressed.

In the mid 1990’s a PBR (Patrol Boat River) had been put on display at CISM (Counseil International du Sport Militare) Field at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, along with an obelisk, which displayed the names of those Navy men who died in support of Gamewarden operations in the rivers and deltas of Vietnam.

In 1997 the son of a Vietnam Veteran, LCDR Robert N. Geis happened to spot a PCF (Patrol Craft Fast-PCF 104)) in a salvage yard at the Naval Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington. He recognized the boat as the same type his father, LCDR Neil Geis had served with in 1969/1970 on the staff of Coastal Squadron One. Within two weeks, Neil had taken pictures of the find and presented them for use during the PCF-104 procurement efforts.

Efforts were then undertaken to procure the boat and move it to San Diego where it could serve as a monument to those who served on them. Still, without an approved location for such a monument, the veterans moved forward to save PCF-104 from salvage while negotiating for a place to put it in San Diego.

About this same time, members of the Mobile Riverine Force Association (MRFA) were trying to save a Command Communications Boat (CCB) which was in disrepair in a failing patrol boat museum in the San Francisco Bay area. At different points in time the Swift Boat memorial came together with the existing PBR Memorial and the Unit Memorial Monument concept. The overall memorial was joined by the support of the Swift Boat Sailors Association; the Mobile Riverine Force Association and the Gamewardens of Vietnam. A unified concept was submitted to the Navy and ultimately approved in a Memorandum of Understanding in June 1999.

Procurement, movement and restoration of the boats in the small boat display are stories unto themselves. They currently rest in a location reminiscent of coordinated close-in river operations, pointing toward the memorial wall.

In the summer of 2000, the existing PBR and obelisk were moved to their current site. The CISM Field site was dedicated in November 2000 as was PCF 104. Preceding this dedication there was extensive work done by the veterans to excavate and pour pads for the resting places of the three boats. Also, the two-foot deep foundation for the yet-to-be-built Monument Wall was formed, reinforced and poured.

The CCB was moved to San Diego in January 2001 and was dedicated in MRFA ceremony in June 2002. Work commenced on erecting the Memorial Wall in December 2001 and the final pour completed in April 2002.

The Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument Fund was incorporated in December 2002.

In July 2004, twenty six stainless steel panels were installed on the Wall bearing the names of the 2,564 sailors who died supporting Naval operations in Vietnam.

The Memorial was dedicated in formal ceremony 21 May 2005


Black veterans long overlooked by history books finally got some deserved recognition this summer when General Colin Powell dedicated a memorial to “Buffalo Soldiers” at Ft. Leavenworth.

Unveiling a 13-foot statue of a black soldier, rifle in hand, riding along an avenue leading to the base, Gen. Powell said, “This monument is magnificent and we have waited many, many years for the recognition it bestows.”

Noted black sculptor Eddie Dixon, of Lubbock, Tex., spent two and one-half years producing it. He said: “This statue is symbolic of all the unsung heroes of our time. Blacks have played as much a role in the development of America as anyone.”


By Journalist 2nd Class Devin Wright, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — Navy Chief Petty Officers aboard the USS Frank Cable (AS 40) donated more than $1,000 to the USS Missouri Memorial Association April 15. The purpose of the donation is to help fund the Chief Petty Officers Legacy Center, currently being designed and developed at the memorial. The center will give visitors an opportunity to walk through the history of chief petty officers.

The Chief Petty Officers Legacy Center is scheduled to be completed later this year.

“The focus of the new center is to show visitors that the chief petty officer is the backbone of the Navy,” said retired Navy Captain Donald Hess, chief operating officer and president of USS Missouri Memorial Association. “In many ways, Navy Chief Petty Officers make our ships go, and we want to make sure that people understand that. This center is our accolade to the chief petty officer and a way of saying ‘you’re the ones that make it happen.”

The Frank Cable chiefs raised the money by holding raffles and selling t-shirts. They also donated a memorial plaque to be displayed at the center.

“This center is a great opportunity for the public to learn about the chief community,” said Chief Interior Communications Electrician (SW) Barry Muller, assigned to the Frank Cable. “To my knowledge, this is the first time Frank Cable has visited Hawaii, and we thought it would be a nice gesture to make a donation to a project we believe in.”


District of Columbia's Council has announced plans to establish a Civil War memorial honoring the 185,000 black soldiers who fought with the Union Army.

According to council member Frank Smith, “This will be the only memorial in the country dedicated to all the black freedom fighters from the Civil War, and the first to include every soldier from every regiment in the Union Army.”

The design will be a freestanding statue and 70 granite slabs engraved with names of soldiers by regiment. The site selected will be at a metro stop on U Street.

Cost of the memorial will be approximately $200,000, half of which has been budgeted by the council and the remainder in private donations for research at Howard University to certify and authenticate the names to be inscribed.

The memorial has already received donations in excess of $50,000 from private sources.

D-DAY - BEDFORD, VA (2001)

By Jug Varner

Bedford, Virginia, with a population of only 3,200 in 1944, was the home of Army Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, whose members (shown above) participated in WWII Operation Overlord (on D-Day, June 6, 1944). Of the regiment's 170 soldiers who went ashore in the first assault wave, 91 died, 64 were wounded, and only 15 were able to continue fighting. Of 35 Bedford soldiers, 19 died in the invasion's first fifteen minutes and two more died later that day.

Historians say the 21 deaths from the Town of Bedford were the highest per-capita loss from any single community in our country. Recognizing the sacrifice of families and communities across the United States, the home of the highest per-capita loss is a fitting location for the tribute to more than 6,000 Americans killed along the Normandy coast on that fateful day.

Artist's rendering of the Overlord Arch and plaza
of the National D-Day Memorial, scheduled for
dedication at Bedford on D-Day's 57th anniversary,
June 6, 2001.

website []

Several thousand veterans, families and friends arrived at the 88-acre hilltop site near Bedford on May 28, 2000, to participate in the unveiling of the partially completed National D-Day Memorial - some two and one-half years after groundbreaking. Plans for the dedication of the completed Memorial Complex, including the Overlord monument and plaza, education center, amphitheater and ten sculptures, are set for June 6, 2001. The Education Center that will serve as an international repository for materials and literature related to D-Day and provide space for permanent and temporary exhibits.

The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is a group of veterans and volunteers organized as a 501©(3) non-profit corporation and warranted by the U.S. Congress to build and maintain a memorial to Allied Forces who invaded the Normandy coast of France on June 6, 1944. It is charged with the design, construction and operation of the memorial provide a place of reverence and solemnity honoring those who sacrificed so much. It is committed to educating citizens of the world, especially young people, about the scope of the invasion; the role of individual American service men and women; the sacrifices made by the families and communities on the home front; and the critical importance and significance of D-Day.

The site is adjacent to the intersection of Virginia 122 and U.S. 460 bypass in the City of Bedford (in Southwest Virginia, approximately 25 miles east of Roanoke and 25 miles west of Lynchburg).


By Jug Varner
If one picture is worth a thousand words, this photo by Gary Sheets, NOLA Live, says it all for the great many D-Day veterans who rode in the New Orleans parade that preceded the official Dedication Day of the National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000.

You can see this and many more great photos and stories about all the festivities and background by clicking here [] or here []. For more about how it came to be, see the New Orleans University website [].

Veterans who saw the ceremonies live, or on C-SPAN, can testify to what a “tear-jerker” it was at times — as well as to say how appreciative they are for permanent recognition that may rekindle patriotism in current and future generations.

A diverse group of Americans took part in this stirring tribute at the New Orleans Arena. On hand were several WWII Medal of Honor recipients, Defense Secretary William Cohen, master of ceremonies Tom Brokaw, film star Tom Hanks, producer-director Steven Spielberg, Miss America, historian Dr. Stephen Ambrose (who conceived the museum idea and contributed considerable funds and endless work), Dr. Gordon Mueller (museum chairman), and thousands of WWII veterans, their families and friends.

Keeping APAce visited the museum later in June to bring you this first-hand report for those who may want to see it at some future date.


“A love song to democracy ” was the phrase Dr. Gordon Mueller used to describe the official ceremonies dedicating New Orleans' new National D-Day Museum on June 6, 2000. Watching this emotional event on C-SPAN gave me the urge to go see it for myself.

Certain dates of major events in one's experience remain for a lifetime. For me, two of these are Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 — the beginning of WWII for America — and D-Day on June 6, 1944 — the beginning of the end for the Axis powers of Italy, Germany and Japan.

There are other dates as well, but I was a teenager at the time of Pearl Harbor and knew I would be going to war when old enough. The fear of the unknown was strong, particularly with many early losses by our forces in the Pacific. But that fear was overcome by the exhilaration of patriotism to serve my country that beckoned me to join the Navy at my first opportunity.

Fifteen months later, I began training to become a Navy pilot, and on June 6, 1944, had started my first day in the final six-week phase. On that morning the blare of hangar loudspeakers announced the news that allied forces had started landing on Normandy's shores hours earlier. There was no TV in those days and radio and newspaper stories were censored, so it was a slow and excruciating wait for word of success or failure of that dramatic event.

By mid-July I was ready for action in the war. Little did we know then that the war would be over in just 15 months. We knew nothing about a secret bomb that would end it well ahead of the predicted drawn-out siege of the Japanese homeland. In fact, none but a highly select few knew about it. Even those in training to drop it didn't know what it was…what an awesome thing they would carry.

While everyone in that war was fated to be in certain places around the world at given times, and millions died, suffered injury, or were imprisoned along the way, no sacrifice of human life was any greater than another - yet, the utter sacrifices of D-Day typified war in its most bloody form and served as the turning point in the long-march back from near annihilation of American forces in the early days of 1942. It is a lesson in unpreparedness that our congress and current administration do not seem to remember very well. Nor do many young students in our high schools and colleges know or appreciate this history. And that's why a museum of this type is important.

Why New Orleans as the site for a D-Day museum? Primarily because that is where Andrew Higgins established a boat building company that expanded to some 30,000 workers during WWII, and supplied practically all of the landing craft that took part in the D-Day invasion, as well as other allied offensives in the Pacific.

One of the features of the museum is the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the dramatic entrance hall for that state's tribute to veterans and citizens on the homefront who secured the Allied victory. The museum's centerpiece is an authentic reproduction of a Higgins Boat (LCVP) built by volunteers, some of whom worked at the now defunct boat company.

The museum is still a work in progress, containing American and German artifacts from the Normandy invasion including jeeps, a half-track, two German officer staff cars and a motorcycle, and two sentry boxes that were part of Hitler's “Atlantic Wall” defense system in France.

There are many static and audio-visual displays that tell the story of the Normandy invasion - the mobilization of the American war effort, the military preparations for the invasion, the air and sea assault that led the way, the invasion itself and the beaches of Normandy, the path to victory in Europe, and the Higgins boatyard. Eventually there will be nine galleries, including a 5,000 sq. ft. Pacific exhibit scheduled to open on the 59th anniversary of D-Day at Guadalcanal, August 7, 2001.

Located at the corner of Howard and Magazine Streets in the Warehouse District some ten blocks south of Canal Street, ths National D-Day Museum has steadily drawn large crowds of all ages since its opening day. When you go, see the film presentation in the main theater before proceeding to the various exhibits.

A gift shop and food facilities are available on site, and elevators are provided for those unable to climb stairs. Helpful docents, many of whom are veterans of D-Day, offer directions and information about the museum. Some will share their personal war experiences if asked.

If you served in WWII, lived during that era, or have friends or relatives who did, visiting this special place will bring back many memories of those times and experiences and increase your appreciation for whatever part you or they played in this greatest event of the 20th Century.

For the current and future generations, it will serve as a well-documented lesson in history and close-up look at a special culture that is gradually fading from the American scene. Tom Brokaw was absolutely right - this was the “greatest generation.


On June 4, 1984, at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France, President Ronald Reagan gave an inspirational tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the patriots who stormed these rugged cliffs on D-Day 1944. Here, these veterans gathered around to hear his stirring words that brought tears to their eyes and touched the heart of our nation. He reminded us that the price of freedom sometimes requires sacrifices like these so nobly performed by “the Boys at Pointe du Hoc.” that day.

Photo courtesy of The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.


By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2006 – Momentum continues to build as 48 U.S. cities — a number that continues to grow — prepare to sponsor America Supports You Freedom Walks to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks.

The first Freedom Walk, inaugurated Sept. 11, 2005, in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 15,000 participants, including family members who lost loved ones in the attacks.

The walk proved to be so meaningful to those involved that Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, hopes to make it a nationwide observance.

“We knew that it would be a powerful moment when civilians from all walks of life and family members who lost loved ones and (Department of Defense) employees who lost coworkers came together and simply said, ‘We won’t forget,’” Barber said.

But the synergy that occurred when 15,000 people who began the walk at the Pentagon crash site met up with family members of the victims just leaving a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery took even Barber by surprise.

Read the rest of the story [ ].


By Jug Varner

To those of us involved, raising $50,000 to build a granite monument for our little community seemed like a huge challenge in 1995, particularly when so few residents seemed interested in our idea – at first.

The Lakeway (Texas) Historical Society wanted to do something of lasting historic significance for both our nation and our community, so we designed and constructed a memorial to hometown veterans.

A World War Two monument was the centerpiece around which we later added a wall for Korean veterans, a wall for Vietnam veterans, and a fountain honoring those on the home front who contributed to the wars. Above the entry gateway was engraved the name we selected for the memorial, “The Spirit of Freedom,” and on the reverse side, we added the motto: “Freedom is not Free.”

Three flagpoles centered behind the monument display the United States, Texas, and Lakeway flags. Spotlights timed for sunrise and sunset allow them to fly 24-hours a day, symbolizing the vigilance and readiness of our act ive and reserve military personnel.

The remaining elements of the memorial include: An entry path from the parking area, a pentagon shaped 25' concrete viewing walk around the center monument, benches, landscaping, and six chrome guard stanchions connected by chains as an entry to the viewing walk.

Our $50,000 paled by comparison to the millions of dollars various organizations sought for memorials in Washington, D.C. Most of them are still struggling to meet their indebtedness and operational costs. I dare say their grand scale is no more impressive than our smaller design turned out to be — and ours was paid for when it was dedicated.

lakeway.jpgThe 16-foot, five-sided WWII center monument shown at left signifies the five services, the five years of that war, and the five-sided Pentagon in Arlington, Va. — the nation's major military symbol.

Atop the obelisk rests a five-sided stainless steel star symbolizing the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Gold Star Mothers whose sons were killed in the war, the star of each state in our national flag, and the Lone Star of Texas.

Engraved on each side of the obelisk is the seal of each branch of the five services. Below each seal on the five-sided plinth are the names of those who served in that branch, inscribed alphabetically without rank. There are more than 500 veterans listed.

Each side of the base is inscribed with the years from 1941 to 1945. Above the dates is this message: “A tribute to the Lakeway residents who served in World War II. Dedicated Sept. 2, 1995, the 50th anniversary of its ending.”

We unveiled the completed memorial in just 70 days, on Veterans Day, 1995. It was a beautiful, emotional, and heart warming event that included the local high school band, a color guard, a fly-over of vintage WWII aircraft, and participation of military veterans. I don't believe there was a dry eye during these ceremonies.

It was my special privilege to be a part of it from beginning to end. To me it is truly a special monument to both Lakeway and the nation, and I just wanted to share this special event with you — especially now, at a time of renewed patriotism and appreciation for our armed services and the millions of veterans who have given so much to our country.

Lakeway is about 18 miles WNW of Austin, along Ranch Road 620. The memorial site is located near the intersection of Lohman's Crossing Rd and Hurst Creek Rd.


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

So you think those of the older generation can't cut it anymore, huh? Well, let me introduce you to Jim Manzolillo, a human dynamo whose exploits could put most young modern day “wannabes” to shame

Jim's establishment of his new Houston Maritime Museum is typical of how he has operated most of his life during an adventurous worldwide career that included a lot of things — except slowing down! That's something he can't seem to do.

He was a member of the Merchant Marine in WWII, a naval architect, maritime engineer, ship builder, patented inventor, world traveler, lecturer — to name a few. His latest adventure is as the self-appointed creator and curator of Houston's newest cultural and tourist attraction. He says it “fills a void for a city that boasts the second largest port in the United States but had no maritime museum.” Until now, that is.

One of the amazing things was how quickly he accomplished it. In April 2000, he purchased a 60-year old house at 2204 Dorrington, between Holcomb and Main, not far from the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. Then he set about complying with all the zoning and planning red tape, drawing up plans for a complete remodeling inside and out, adding extra rooms, hiring and firing tradesmen working under his demanding supervision, decorating, furnishing — then fine-tuning the finished product in time to open the 4,000 square feet museum in late November of that year.

“I first offered all my collection to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and they sent a representative out to talk about it,” Jim explained, “but I never heard back from them. Time was essence to me, so I decided to do it myself. I've conquered challenges much greater than this, so I knew I could do it.” It wasn't easy, but he did it right and at his own expense.

Over the years, Manzolillo visited more than 100 countries and collected objects as both a hobby and a byproduct of his work. When he operated his shipyards people would bring items and ask him to find buyers for them. Often Jim ended up as the “buyer” if the relic was worthwhile and reasonable enough. Many are now of great value.

Jim Manzolillo shows two of his prized relics,
a flintlock gun, and a shark's tooth
more than two million years old. KA photo.

Houston Maritime Museum
He is quite proud of all of them, especially a 180-year old diving helmet, a 1570 era flintlock gun used on sailing ships, a megledon (tooth of a 60-foot whale-eating shark that lived 2.65 million years ago), a pair of 16th Century Spanish stirrups, a lump of coal recovered from the Titanic, a walrus tusk decorated with scrimshaw in 1830, antique prints and charts, shipboard relics and several dozen historic ship models.

Since the opening of the museum, several visitors donated or loaned their private collections for display here and others plan to do so in the near future.

Approaching the Museum for the first time, one gets the immediate impression it is nautical, even before reading the signage. Its gray and white exterior and shipshape appearance looks like a well-trimmed vessel ready to set sail. It is a preview of coming attractions. Inside, every display gallery is well lighted and tastefully arranged for maximum enjoyment of varied and interesting objects.

Louis XIV Galley, from an island in the
Indian Ocean. KA photo

Partial view of the Houston Maritime Museum
entry Gallery. KA photo

One of more than 50 models displayed is the
15th Century Santa Maria, left center. KA photo.

“Off limits” to visitors is a workroom designated as the “Shipyard.” It is the special domain of professional Historic Ship Builder and Cuban refugee Reinaldo F (Rey) Berre, 59, who volunteers his talent to this worthy cause four days a week. And what a talent!

Following authentic plans, he patiently builds intricate models of historic vessels, carefully connecting timbers, decking and hulls of mahogany and other special woods with miniature brass nails. He doesn't like or use balsa wood other model makers use.

Reinaldo Berre at work in the “Shipyard”
on a model of a Spanish Galleon. KA photo.

Detailed decking and hand-made accessories
shown on Berre's English sloop model
of a bygone era. KA photo.

Partial view of the well-stocked gift shop.
KA photo.

Rey creatively fashions every detail of the many miniaturized accessories such as ports, hatches, ladders, helms, sails, rigging, nets, etc. He even braids miniature lines and hawsers for the realistic look.

Like most great artists, he applies “tricks of the trade,” learned through years of experience, to enhance the detailed beauty of the finished product. (See also Berre story, SMALL BOAT TO FREEDOM [].)

Jim has thought of every need. One room is for scouts and other youth groups. Here, they can learn to tie seaman's knots similar to those displayed on the chart shown above, with line for their use attached to a bar below the chart. Also, there are books and displays about ships and the sea. In addition to the galleries, is a large room for meetings, lectures and slide presentations for all age groups.

A special feature of the museum is its high quality, but reasonably priced gifts and souvenirs.

None of the stereotyped, mass-produced, items found at most shops of this sort are here. Instead, one can take home something of substance and consider it to be a comparatively true bargain.

The metal ship shown at bottom right is a good example. This and numerous other brass and copper items such as diving bells, clocks, lighthouses, etc., are lower in price but better quality than those made of plastic or composition materials sold elsewhere. Jim's stated concept is: “I buy them at a reasonable cost, so why shouldn't I sell them the same way?”

Owning and operating shipyards in Mexico from the 1950s to the 1980s, Jim Manzolillo built 240 work vessels of various types for 30 foreign countries. Among those he designed and built was the world's first ship with quarter-inch copper plating for its hull. In 1981, he got what he says was “one of those offers I couldn't refuse” to purchase his business. After the sale he decided to retire in Houston. “This is a great city with a seaport and the kinds of activity that suit my temperament.”

His love for the sea soon prompted him to start cruising again. “I've been on about 95 cruises, seven of them around-the-world types.” He collected much of his memorabilia while cruising, including many of his models. “It was almost like gathering items for a museum, without realizing it,” he reminisced.

During these journeys, he gave many lectures and slide presentations about naval architecture, ship building and harnessing the energy of ocean waves to generate electricity. “We're soon going to run out of fossil fuel,” he warns, “and it is important to seek other means.” He still gives lectures and is in demand on the local and national guest speaking circuit, but has to decline them more and more frequently because of commitments to his beloved museum.

The adage “If you want something done, give it to a busy man” describes Jim quite well. He's both a “thinker” and a “doer” and the Houston Maritime Museum is a great testament to that fact!

Despite its seeming completeness, the museum is in its fledgling state, and Jim Manzolillo hasn't even started to run out of ideas for improving it. A new computer has been installed and, hopefully, a Web site will be forthcoming. Learn more by:

  • Visiting the Museum Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Address (click here for map & directions. []):
       Houston Maritime Museum
       2204 Dorrington St.
       Houston, TX
  • E-mail Jim Manzolillo []
  • Calling: 713-666-1910 (he will return your call if not available)
  • Send a FAX to 713-838-8557


I had two brief meetings with Ronald Reagan plus I was intrigued with his management style, his genuine regard for the American public and his resolve to best the communist “Evil Empire.” I admired the talent that he exhibited as the Great Communicator and was pleased to learn over the years from various sources that although he had good speech writers, it was Ronald Reagan speaking - a superb politician with the heart of a Midwestern boy. He left his mark. I share my remembrance of “The Gipper” with you - Bill Thompson.

I Remember Ronald Reagan
By Bill Thompson, June 2004.
   Rear Admiral William Thompson, U.S. Navy (Ret) is a former Navy Chief of Information, and current President Emeritus of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, Washington, D.C. - for which he was the principal catalyst for its fund raising, founding and guidance through its initial years of development and growth.

I remember Ronald Reagan - Admiral E. R. (Bud) Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, Governor Reagan, his aide and myself (then serving as Chief of Information for the Navy Department).

After some pleasantries, the governor asked the CNO how the current U.S. Navy stacked up with the Soviet navy, Admiral Zumwalt's favorite subject. The “Z” presented his usual outstanding descriptions of the two navies. He pointed out the rapid increase in the strength of the Soviet Navy. Their ships, aircraft and submarines were good and formidable and they are far ahead of us in cruise missiles. Our ships are being run ragged in the Vietnam War. He concluded that if the two were ever stood up face to face in a war at sea, the USN would have a less than 50% chance of winning.

Reagan was startled and said that was a strong statement coming from the CNO. Why hadn't he ever heard that before? Bud Zumwalt turned to me and said, “Bill, you are on stage.” That was also a surprise but I explained that Admiral Zumwalt was answering a question and that we thought in his situation, his position, he should reply honestly. Whenever we included such information in a speech, the Defense Department deleted it in the clearance process. When I asked for a reason, it was always, “That's policy.” When pressed farther, it was revealed that “The White House dictates that policy.”

I added that it was not for me to question the President and for various reasons, did not want to provoke a public discussion of the matter. However, we felt that is something the public should know about.

The luncheon ended with the governor being rather quiet but thanking ADM Zumwalt for the lunch and the disturbing information.

I remember Ronald Reagan - Heritage Center that we named The Presidents Room.

At the time, during the 80s and his tenure in the White House, six of the last seven US Presidents had been naval officers, a fact I liked to point out anytime I talked of the Presidents¹ Room. The room honors eight presidents who had been Assistant Secretaries of the Navy: JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and George Bush (41). I often recited the “6 of last 7” parable and added that President Reagan, who, although having served in the Army Air Corps, acted in so many Navy related movies that he may have thought of himself as a Navy veteran. He deployed naval forces at Grenada in 1983 and at Libya in 1986 and was listed as one of the many U.S. Presidents whose first response to a national alert was “Where are the carriers?”

I remember Ronald Reagan - Actions as the country¹s First Administrative Officer.

He surrounded himself with competent, dedicated and loyal people and delegated authority and responsibility, and was confident that they would perform. That freed him to roam the White House and have two, sometimes, three-hour luncheons with California or Hollywood friends. This gave some media personnel something to comment about on slow news days.

I remember Ronald Reagan - Usually directed to his good humor and optimistic outlook.

John Cosgrove, our Chairman of the Navy Memorial dedication committee and I called on President Reagan in 1987 to present him with a 24-inch replica of the Lone Sailor statue, the principal piece of statuary at the Navy Memorial. At the presentation, I stated that the Lone Sailor represents all Navy veterans, officer and enlisted, male or female for the past 210 years of US naval history. The president thanked me and said, “It is always nice to know someone older than I am.”

That statue continues to reside in the White House, stationed at the entrance to the White House Mess (dinning rooms). The Navy provides the personnel who operate the White House Mess.

Finally, I remember Ronald Reagan - Letters he personally responded, each in his own hand writing, to the many who wrote to him.

He was truly The Great Communicator. He believed strongly in the values of freedom and the standards to which our country’s fathers ascribed our Revolution and founding years. I admired his resolve and fortitude in identifying the benefits garnered by our country in the process of détente. His assessment was that it was “Advantage Soviet Union.”

His identification of the USSR as the “Evil Empire” was not only gutsy but also profound. His speech in 1987 in Berlin beseeching the Soviet Union’s leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” was daring and prophetic.

Success founds many fathers and in the case of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the symbolic crumbling of the Wall in 1989 warrants multi-fatherhood, but Ronald Reagan should be identified with the distinction of the event.

The U.S. Navy saw fit to name a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS RONALD W. REAGAN (CVN 76) which will serve as a source of pride and motivation to those personnel who serve in it as well as with it in its Battle Group.

USS REAGAN should serve at least another 40-50 years and be a resource radiating the resolve of our nation..


(From a 1996 Keeping APAce Article by Jug Varner)

Veterans of the Korean War were memorialized in 1995 with a monument near the Lincoln Memorial. It is located across the Washington Mall Reflecting Pool, about 1,000 feet south of the Vietnam Wall.

In stark contrast to the Vietnam Wall of names — a display that evokes emotions of that war's bitterness and shabby treatment of its returning veterans by an American public torn apart by anti-war hysteria — the Korean Monument gives one an eerie sense, as though a firefight may break out at any moment.

The larger-than-life bronze platoon, warily ascending a “Korean rise” in search of an elusive enemy, is a realistic and haunting scene — especially to anyone who has been in a combat zone.

And, unlike the Marine Corps' Mount Suribachi flag raising monument that signifies victory at a high cost, those in the Korean War fought and died for no real victory — merely a truce, at best — with little sense of true accomplishment or closure. It was the beginning of U. S. participation in winless wars that has continued over the past half-Century.

The memorial's unusual and realistic setting, its arty granite walls, its bronze tablets that offer surprising facts and figures, its reflection pool, and its meditation fountain area, all combine for a brief history of what our government in the 1950s called “a conflict” instead of a war. For those who fought and died there, it was in truth a war and its memorial is worthy of a visit during your next trip to the nation's capital.


By Adam Kelly (1924-1990)
Kelly, author of The Country Editor column for the Tyler Star News, Sistersville, WV, wrote this for Memorial Day 1960.
Forwarded by Bill Fiest via p38bob

Sometimes on one of those late spring days when Memorial Day comes, you can see them, marching, marching onward, the legion of forgotten dead.

In the soft stillness and solitude of a country graveyard in the evening hush, occasionally you can hear the muffled beat of a drum as the endless ranks of that forgotten legion slip by, file after file, in ghostly procession, never ending.

They materialize somehow, these war dead whom we honor Memorial Day, when the eye wanders idly across old grave markers to halt at a small obelisk with worn carvings making the words almost indecipherable: Died at Andersonville, Dec 13, 1864. A rusted metal emblem droops over the ground. Once shiney and new, it then bore proudly the inscription of the Grand Army of the Republic. Once flowers were strewn upon it to honor this grave of a lad of 18 who marched proudly away to war in 1863, and died so miserably in a Georgia prison camp just before Christmas.

And now he keeps step with his comrades, forever, as the legion of the forgotten dead marches by

Hear the whispered cadence. On they come.

The ranks are silent now. Those ragged fellows there at the front were at Valley Forge. See their bloody, bare feet, which left such grim footprints in the howling Pennsylvania snow. They died for freedom. And they march past.

Dirty gray coats, butternut trousers, mingle now with uniforms of blue in the still columns filing past. The passions which set men from north and south at each other's throats are erased now by the chill of death. All are still, now. Little remembered are Antietam, Shiloh, obscure place names are made immortal because of the bravery of valiant opponents who died there, convinced that theirs was the only right. They step silently along, slouching, yet moving with deceptive swiftness. They march eternally for they are the forgotten legion of the dead.

Others move up. Quiet now, listen… isn't that the chorus of “Over There,” so softly you can barely hear the words that “The Yanks Are Coming, The Yanks Are Coming?” Seems you can hear them singing it softly as they step along. “And we won't be back 'til it's over, over there.” These came back, in metal boxes.

Somehow it makes the march seem shorter if the men can sing. Any military man knows that, and so we hear the faint chorus as they move by with their round helmets and brown puttees, the wide-eyed innocence with which they approached the grim tasks of war erased by the stark reality of the Argonne and Soissons.

Then, in a more sentimental age, a buddy never was “killed” in Flanders mud, young life cut short by an impersonal artillery shell flung into the air from miles distant. He had “gone West or bought the farm.” But no matter what the term employed, they did die, did American men by the thousands, in France to make the world safe for democracy. And so the silent ranks of the legion of the forgotten dead were swollen with those who march forever in World War I garb of drab khaki.

The next uniform seems more familiar. Isn't that a flight jacket? And those men aren't keeping in step. Oh, that explains it. Army Air Corps. They should have flown by, but in the legion of the forgotten dead, all must walk in ghostly procession in their final encampment. Other place names recognized: Ploesti, Schweinfurt, Regensburg.

Red walks by, an apparition. Who now recalls a tiny Italian town named Roverto up there in the Brenner Pass, or remembers a boy named Red crouched in the waist of a B-25?

What ghastly remembrance of things past is this which intrudes on a happy, carefree holiday, with picnics and ball games? Why think now of Red with body crumpled and his head sliced off from a burst of flak from a German 88 far below? Red's mother put a little gold star in the front window of her home, a little Pennsylvania town, and on Memorial Day the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars put a flag and flowers on his grave. Is this remembrance? Red marches on with the legion, the legion of the forgotten dead. With him in awesome numbers are the sailors from Pearl Harbor and Okinawa and all the vast
expanse of the seas where death came so swiftly; with him the GIs whose blood made the cold gray ocean on the beach called Omaha dull, rusty red; who fell in Italy and France and Germany and nameless islands in the Pacific.

They trudge along so quietly now; the Marines who died in the sands of Iwo Jima and in the caves on Okinawa. There are many of them, so very, very many… see them march by? Finally they pass. No such euphemism as “going West” for these. Their comrades said simply: They “got it”. All these got it. They are the legion of the forgotten dead. They are the reason the Stars and Stripes flies over the Capitol instead of a Nazi Emblem or the Rising Sun.

Here come other along. The numbers of silent marchers are fewer now. There's a group of Marines dragging sleds loaded with comrades, frozen, grotesque caricatures of men lashed in layers. They fell in Korea at a place called Chosin Reservoir, and the Marines vowed to fight their way out and take their dead with them.

They did, and now they pull those sleds along forever in the ranks of the forgotten legion. There are GIs in the group from Pork Chop Hill and Pusan; those whose families received the ominous telegrams with the introduction: “The War Department regrets to inform you… “

On they march. They are almost past, now. This last group of marchers is looking off to one side, as if they are unsure of their reception. Hear the whispers from the Navy pilots and Marines and GIs of Vietnam.

They're by, now, finally, all of them. And the legion of the forgotten dead has disappeared once more, shrouded in the mist of antiquity.

The backbone of every American should stiffen in salute this day to the legion of the war dead of our country; that forgotten army whose sacrifices mean that we live in freedom.

Is it too much to ask to remember them, honor them, on this one day, this legion of the forgotten dead, who have died for America and thus for you and me?

March on, brave legions. For some remember and solemnly resolve: Your march for freedom has not been in vain.

Red “got it.”


A recent e-mail from the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation advised me that the article describing my brief visit several years ago is woefully inadequate to do justice to the wonders of this outstanding attraction. And after reading all the follow-up literature I received from their PR Director Deej Kiely, I must admit they are right. So much has happened in those intervening years that I truly need to do a rewrite.

However, before I do that, I want to personally visit the Museum again at the earliest opportunity and see all the changes for myself.

In the meantime, I have erased my initial article and recommend that you click on NavAir [ ]. It will make you want to see it if you haven't been there, or return for another look if you have.


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Nay (RET)

With the completion of its Visitors Center earlier this year, the U.S. Navy Memorial, Washington D.C., became a shining tribute to naval history, traditions, and millions of past, present, and future Navy personnel.

Authorized by Congress in 1980, but financed totally through private donations, the Navy Memorial Foundation dedicated the huge Memorial Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1987. Now, workers have completed the interior of the Memorial's 24,000 square feet Visitors Center, and it is open to the public free of charge. It is designated as an educational heritage awareness and support facility.

The Memorial is located across from the National Archives building, midway between the Capitol and the White House, and is adjacent to a Metro terminal for easy access by public transportation. It is fast becoming one of Washington's more popular tourist attractions.

Approaching the Memorial from Pennsylvania Avenue, one sees two white masts — with Old Glory flying from one and the Navy Flag from the other. Colorful signal flags stream down from both yardarms, forming an entryway into the 100-foot circular granite Plaza that replicates a world map.

Standing on this largest granite map in the world is Stanley Bleifield's seven-foot bronze sculpture, The Lone Sailor, a larger-than-life representation of all those who have served or will serve in the Navy. It is the hallmark of the Memorial. Two granite sculpture walls offer the largest art project of its kind ever attempted in the nation, with 22 bronze relief panels depicting historical events in various branches of the naval service. Fountains and waterfalls flank the Plaza, with a concert stage for performances by military bands from all military services.

Inside the street level entrance of the Visitors Center is the Quarterdeck, where another Bleifield sculpture, The Homecoming, portrays the joyous reunion of a Navy family. The area is bounded by a wave wall of illuminated glass panels etched with outlines of ships dating back to the beginning of the U.S. Navy. These glass panels lead the way down a spiral marble staircase to the spacious Gallery Deck.

On the Gallery Deck, electronic kiosks with finger touch controls allow visitors to see video displays of Navy ships, aircraft, and historical events. This level features the Ship's Store, Navy Memorial Log Room, Presidents Room, Burke Theater, and offices of the Navy Memorial Foundation. Its carpet design and color gives the illusion of ocean waves.

A computerized data record of present and former Navy personnel is contained in the Navy Memorial Log Room. Their names and photographs have been entered into the Log for a $25 tax-deductible donation to the Memorial Fund. Log entries scroll continuously on video screens in the Log Room, or are selected by name for individual display. It is the only place in the world where these names are written for future generations to see.

The U.S. Presidents Room honors eight American Presidents who have served the Navy. Original oil paintings of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush are displayed on the walls of this teleconference room.

A 250-seat Burke Theater honors the famed WWII destroyer skipper who later became the Chief of Naval Operations, Arliegh Burke and his wife Roberta. Its 18'x56' screen features the award-winning half-hour film At Sea, which features the excitement and adventure of Navy life.

The Ship's Store is filled with nautical treasures and mementos relating to the maritime theme of the Memorial and is the only shop of its kind in the nation's capital.

Since its opening, the Navy Memorial has become a popular site for Navy honors, ceremonies, reenlistments, reunions, etc., as well as wreath laying by ship and squadron associations.

Rear Admiral William Thompson, U.S. Navy (Retired), is the Foundation's first president and has been the prime catalyst in the success of the Memorial since its inception in 1978. He estimated there are 50,000 Navy veterans living in America today. Here are a few excerpts from his recent interview in Washington, D.C., for this article:

“Far too many Navy people are not yet aware of their Memorial. We need their awareness and, frankly, their financial help to pay for the Memorial and Visitors Center.

“We have about 190,000 people listed in the Memorial Log. Their names are enshrined here forever as a tribute to their naval service and their support for the Memorial. We need to add more names to expand the Logs historic value.

“I see the reaction of these Navy veterans when they display their name and photo on a Log Room screen. Their emotions break out like salt water across the deck — joy, pride, and sometimes sadness, particularly from survivors or next of kin. It is sometimes overwhelming. And out come the sea stories, especially when a couple of old sea dogs are together. Our Log Room attendants get an ear full!”

If you are active or former Navy and would like to record your name and photo, or that of a friend or loved one, contact the U.S. Navy Memorial toll free at 800-821-8892. Then visit the Memorial the next time you are in the nation's capital. It is well worth your time and experience.


By Jug Varner

The National Museum of Naval Aviation Foundation at Pensacola, FL, has raised $30 million of its $36 million goal for its planned National Flight Academy - a long-range program to attract youth of America and stimulate their interest in math and sciences through the proposed flight academy's classes.

Using flight simulators and other devices, the National Flight Academy will teach aerodynamics, communications, navigation, and the sensation of flight to 7th through 12th-grade students interested in participating.

In addition to a recent $2 million donation from the Boeing Company, contract manufactures of the Navy's FA-18 Hornet jet fighter and many other weapons, contributions large and small have come from a variety of companies and individual supporters, many of whom served in the Navy and Marine Corps. Two of the larger gifts have been $10 million from an anonymous donor (a former active duty Marine), and $12 million from Jack Taylor, founder of the St. Louis based Enterprise Car Rental System - who named it after the aircraft carrier Taylor flew from as a WWI Navy pilot.

Retired Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman, foundation president and chief executive, officer stated, “Within a year we should have the money on the table to start construction.”

Officials have set 2006 as the estimated start date for the first academy class.

For full information about the Museum, click [].


A Japanese two-man submarine, captured the day after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, is displayed at the Admiral Nimitz Museum and State Historical Park in Fredericksburg, Tex.

That small German heritage community was the hometown of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific area during WWII.

The 78-foot, 18-ton submarine is the focal point of a year-long 50th anniversary commemoration of the Pearl Harbor attack, a grim reminder of a nation unprepared
for war.

Five of these midget subs took part in the attack. Two were sunk during the raid, one is on display in Guam and another in Japan. This boat has been at Key West, Fla., since 1947.

In 1943, it toured the nation on a large trailer as part of a U.S. Savings Bond drive to help finance the war. One of these stops was in Fredericksburg. Purchase of a “war bond” or the smaller denomination “war stamps” was the price of admission to climb upon and look inside of the unusual craft and see mannequins dressed as Japanese crewmen.

The museum will spend $60,000 restoring the boat during the next two years. After that, it will go on permanent display at Pearl Harbor.

Nimitz Museum is one of the nation's most interesting and complete displays of its kind, depicting only the Pacific theater of operation. It is partially housed in a large wooden hotel building once operated by the Nimitz family.


By Jug Varner

A visit to historic Charleston, SC, would be incomplete without taking the short ride across the bay bridge to Mt. Pleasant and a fascinating tour of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and other ships and special displays at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

It is the world's largest of its kind, with five ships, twenty aircraft and numerous exhibits and memorials that provide an enlightening and enjoyable experience for the entire family. One can spend endless hours here and many do. Some four million people visit each year, making it one of South Carolina's most popular attractions.

In addition to the Yorktown are the destroyer Laffey, submarine Clamagore, Coast Guard cutter Ingham, nuclear merchant ship Savannah and a Vietnam Support Base.

The carrier is the namesake of the old Yorktown sunk at the Battle of Midway in 1942. Commissioned in 1943, the new ship earned her nickname “Fighting Lady” in WWII battles at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Philippines, Truk and the Marianas. She also served in the 7th Fleet during the Korean war and continued in service until decommissioned in 1970. She was the first ship at Patriot Point.

Yorktown exhibits include: the National Congressional Medal of Honor Museum; Halsey-Doolittle Raid; Test Pilot Hall of Fame; Carrier Aviation Memorial; Stover Memorial Theater; Battle of Midway; WWII Fast Carrier Group; Imperial Japanese Navy; Japanese surrender table and documents from the battleship USS Missouri; Super Carriers; restored WWII and later model aircraft. Various tours take visitors through the ship from engine room to bridge, flight deck, hangar deck and numerous working and living spaces.

The destroyer Laffey participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. In 1945 off Okinawa, she endured a 79 minute attack by 22 Japanese planes. Although struck by five Kamikazes and three bombs, the crew managed to shoot down 11 aircraft. With later service in Korean and the Atlantic Fleet, Laffey was decommissioned in 1975.

Submarine Clamagore patrolled exclusive in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas from 1945 until 1975 sad was one of the last diesel-powered submarines in the Navy.

The Savannah was the first nuclear powered merchant ship in the world, with a fuel load that could have taken her 300,000 miles.

Coast Guard cutter Ingham battled through the “Bloody Winter” of 1942-43 in the North Atlantic. She is credited with sinking the German U-boat 626.

The Vietnam Naval Support Base exhibit is a true-to-scale creation of an actual base, showing living and operational areas used by those who served in Vietnam.

All ships at Patriots Point have been designated National Historic Landmarks. The Museum opens daily at 9 a.m., and visitors can purchase and array of quality mementos.


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

Ask any American who was alive and of age on December 7, 1941, what he or she was doing when they heard the news about Japan's sneak attack against Pearl Harbor. They can remember every vivid detail of that particular day and the tragedy that altered the lives of every American.

Few of them had any idea what or where Pearl Harbor was and even fewer had ever visited the Hawaiian Islands, then a U. S. territory.

In less than two hours the Japanese crippled the main force of the U. S. Fleet, sinking or badly damaging seven battleships, three cruisers, two destroyers and four auxiliary vessels. They also eliminated the island's air defenses, destroying 347 aircraft - most of them on the ground. A total of 2,403 sailors, soldiers, marines and civilians were killed and 1,178 were wounded.

Amid the twisted wreckage of burning ships, wounded personnel and unrecognizable corpses, came the sudden realization of how woefully unprepared the country was for war.

On the following day, a fearful population listened intently to a nationwide radio broadcast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to a joint session of Congress, when he said, in part:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” The president described the loss of American lives and terrible damage at Pearl Harbor, and reported that the Japanese also had attacked Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippines, Wake and Midway.

“Hostilities exist,” he said. “I ask that Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire. We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.”

December 7, 1991 marks the 50th anniversary of that date which will live in infamy. Huge crowds are expected to be on hand to honor those dead heroes, some of whom are still entombed inside the hull of the sunken USS Arizona, and to reverently celebrate Roosevelt's prophetic inevitable triumph that he did not live to see.

The National Park Service and the Navy conducts regular tours of the USS Arizona Memorial, and Pearl Harbor. Shuttle boats leave the visitor's center on 15-minute intervals throughout daylight hours, following a brief film presentation about Pearl Harbor.

Special Events in December include:

Dec. 4 - Hawaiian Remembrance Day honors civilians killed during the attack.

Dec. 5 - Survivors Day.

Dec. 6 - Reflections Day. Special speakers.

Dec. 7 - Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies on board the USS Arizona by special invitation only. Others can view it on TV monitors at the Visitors Center. During the first three days, 100 seats of each shuttle boat will be allocated for survivors and relatives of those who died in the attack. The shuttles will not run on December 7th.


Forwarded by JayPMarine

With Flag Day just over, and several other patriotic holidays in the offing, here is an important message to America from the Red, White and Blue!

CLICK HERE [ ], and listen carefully to what needs to be said!


By Michael Fechter, Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Ten months of talk boiled down to a three-hour sales pitch recently for a group eager to take a mothballed aircraft carrier and turn it into a waterfront museum.

A 10-member contingent, including local organizers, business representatives and consultants, made the presentation to the Naval Sea Systems Command outside Washington, D.C.

“It went very well,” said the Tampa group's Jack Martin.

The group wants to turn the 1,086-foot USS Forrestal into a museum north of the Florida Aquarium on Ybor Channel that features fighter planes, flight simulators and tributes to sailors who served on the ship during its service from 1954-1993.

Navy officials requested more information on a ship maintenance plan but generally accepted the proposal as offered, Martin said.

The meeting triggers a six- month clock for other communities to submit applications. After that, the naval command recommends a site to the Navy secretary, who then makes a recommendation to Congress. Congress can't vote on a custody award until it has met in 60 days of continual session. If that schedule holds up, a decision on the Forrestal could be made around March.

Confident that will happen, the Tampa group plans to launch a new fundraising drive and start seeking permits needed to dredge the channel and fix the port slip they want to lease, Martin said.

International Ship Repair & Marine Services holds a lease on that slip through February 2001. The Tampa Port Authority has made it clear that it won't trigger a cancellation clause in that lease to make room for the Forrestal. And the port also wants a plan to remove the carrier from Tampa in case the museum venture fails, said port authority spokeswoman Lori Rafter. The two sides are making progress on the issue, she said.

Baltimore is one likely competitor for the carrier. City officials have appeared before the naval command and will complete their application package in about two months, said the group's chairman, Frank Eurice. His advisory board has two former Forrestal commanding officers, including Rear Adm. John Beling, who was in charge during a 1967 fire in which 134 sailors died, and Capt. Tim Thomassy, who commanded the carrier from 1989-90 and now works for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., which built the Forrestal.

“I'm on the Baltimore team, but my biggest concern is that the ship be preserved and maintained somewhere as a museum,” Thomassy said. He would not object if that museum turns out to be in Tampa.

Michael Fechter can be reached at (813) 259-7621 or E-Mail [mailto:mfechter@tampa ]


By Jug Varner

Unless you are a Marine, or are familiar with the area around Harlingen, Texas, you may be surprised to know that the Iwo Jima Monument in Washington D.C. has a twin — located some 1,700 miles southwest, in the Rio Grande Valley. It is situated in a unique and fitting atmosphere that you also may not have known about until now.

Publication of Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising in February 1945, had such a moving effect on sculptor Felix W. de Weldon (then on active duty with the Navy) that he constructed a scale model of it within 48-hours of seeing the picture. His model became the symbol for the seventh and final War Bond drive to raise money for WWII.

After the war, Dr. de Weldon felt that the inspiring event should be depicted on a massive scale in our nation's capital. Over a nine-year period he labored to prepare a working model from molding plaster. The three surviving flag raisers posed for the sculptor, who modeled their faces in clay. Then, using available photos and physical characteristics of the three others who were killed at Iwo Jima before the end of the battle, he made clay models of their faces. Once the statue was completed, de Weldon carefully disassembled and trucked it to Brooklyn, NY, for the three-year bronze casting process before the finished product could be erected near Arlington Cemetery. He stored the working model at his studio in Newport, Rhode Island.

On November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially dedicated the beautiful bronze memorial to all Marines who had fought and died for their country since 1775.

Nine years later, rancher and retired Marine Corps Captain William A. Gary founded the Marine Military Academy at Harlingen. He believed that the Marine Corps concepts of leadership and discipline were adaptable to preparatory school education and two years later he and a group for former and retired Marines opened the school, which has since grown in size and stature and fulfilled the high standards set from the beginning. Among its many accomplishments was establishment of the first Marine Corps Junior ROTC unit in the nation. Its finest tribute came in 1981, when Dr. de Weldon gave his Iwo Jima working model to the Academy to stand as an inspiration to young Cadets.

He liked the fairly constant temperature and humidity of the area for the preservation of the molding plaster figures, the fact that the street facing the memorial was named Iwo Jima Blvd, and the Academy is the only place outside Washington, D.C. where proper honors can be rendered with battalion-size dress blue parades. Also, a chapel faces the east side of the memorial, the Marine who placed the flagpole into the ground was Corporal Harlan H. Block from nearby Weslaco, and the famous quote at the base was spoken by a native of Fredericksburg, Texas, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

The Admiral said of those fighting men at Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

While this working model monument takes nothing away from the official memorial in Washington, it commands the same feeling of reverent respect for those who have fought and died for our freedom, and has become a noted attraction in the local region. No public funds were used to pay for this project. All proceeds were from donations.

For additional information about the Marine Military Academy visit [].


By Jug Varner

The 429 Navy men who died aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor received their own special tribute in a special ceremony in Honolulu on the 63rd anniversary of that infamous attack.

Next to the USS Arizona 1,177 personnel losses, the Oklahoma’s 429 were the next highest number of any ship’s casualties in the harbor on that that fateful morning in 1941. Officials honored these heroes December 7, 2004 with a new photo-artifacts-oral history exhibit.

Special guests included USS Oklahoma Survivors Association president Paul Goodyear and five other Oklahoma shipmates, all now in their 80s, along with U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK). Goodyear spearheaded arrangements for the long-overdue tribute to the fighting men of this gallant ship “before the last of the remaining survivors were deceased.”

Simultaneous ceremonies were held for the USS Oklahoma on shore at the National Park Service Visitors Center and on board the USS Arizona Memorial. Each featured a silent pause at 7:55 a.m. - the minute the attack started. The Japanese Navy launched this surprise attack against Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu from their undetected aircraft carriers far North of the Islands. It lasted two hours.

According to the National Park Service which maintains the Arizona Memorial, the attack destroyed or heavily damaged 22 ships, 322 aircraft, killed some 2,390 people and wounded another 1,178. Anchored next to the USS Maryland in battleship Row off Ford Island, the Oklahoma took the brunt of Japanese torpedoes, leaving the Maryland relatively intact.

The Navy floated the sunken ship in 1945 and sold it for scrap, but it sunk in deep Pacific waters during its tow on course to California.


By Jug Varner

Listening was the first step in the creation of Frederick E. Hart's Vietnam Memorial sculpture, The Three Soldiers.

Ten years ago he began the project by sitting around tables in hundreds of veterans' homes, hearing tales of camaraderie, dreadful sorrows and small, ordinary events turned unforgettable because of where and when they happened. He observed that a minute detail held enormous significance to veterans. Then he thought about ways that these stories fit into the history of human struggles.

“Until I became involved with this sculpture, Hart said, I was like many Americans at the time - completely ignorant of the kinds of experiences the Vietnam veteran had undergone, both in that country and returning home.

“As I developed my idea for the sculpture, I came to know many veterans who shared their experience with me and I came to understand their story as well as any non-veteran could.”

Hart said he developed a profound respect for their willing sacrifices on behalf of their fellow countrymen and felt a deep and passionate conviction that these sacrifices be understood and honorably acknowledged.

He has donated his entire share of this sculpture's reproduction copyright royalties to The Friends of the Vietnam Memorial, in Arlington, Va.

On June 25, the Blinded American Veterans Foundation presented Hart with the George Alexander Volunteer Award for his ongoing efforts in behalf veterans, particularly those with sensory disability.

Many of his works can be seen in the capital area, including the renowned Creation sculptures at the Washington, National Cathedral, where he once created gargoyles while learning his trade. In addition to traditional sculpture, Hart has patented a new method of working with Lucite and has sculpted twelve Lucite works called The Age of Light.


By Jug Varner

The newest memorial in the nation's capital is the Women in Military Service Memorial, sat the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. It opened on Saturday, October 18, 1997. Active, retired and former service women came from around the world to take part in the unique occasion — what they considered to be ” recognition, at last.”

The cemetery is the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, President John F. Kennedy's Eternal Flame, and other monuments of lesser renown, and is one of the major tourist attraction in this city of unrivaled attractions.

One-half mile north stands the Marine Corps Memorial, better known as the Iwo Jima monument, and just across the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam Memorial, and Korean War Memorial.

Second newest is the Memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, opened mid-1997 in the same general area, near the Tidal Basin.

One can't go far in Washington without seeing interesting and varied monuments to people and historical events. The city's beautiful design of parks, plazas, circles, squares, malls, lakes, broad avenues, boulevards and wide expanses provide an environment for statuary like no other city in the nation. But sites for large memorials are becoming scarce.

The U.S. Navy Memorial chose a downtown renovation site on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the National Archives and on the Metro Line, when it opened a few years ago.

With 154 memorials in the capital region, some of its residents think its time to call a halt to this “monument mania,” but there are more on the drawing board. At least 11 are in the planning stages, including memorials to George Mason and Thomas Paine, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Japanese-American patriots, and black soldiers of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

A recent National Planning Commission Study suggests that the government should find sites for at least 10 new museums and 60 new monuments and memorials in the years ahead. A site has been dedicated on the Mall at Independence Avenue and 3rd Street for the National Museum of the American Indian.

Most controversial are the sites of the planned WWII Memorial and the Air Force Star structure. Both have been approved and are in the fund-raising stages. Confrontation between the Marine Corps Memorial supporters and those pushing to erect a modernistic star structure too close to the Iwo Jima Memorial has led to litigation and pleas to Congress to pass laws limiting such encroachment.

The Marine contingent claims the Air Force structure's design and close proximity will detract from the traditional monument hallowed by Marines and their families, and that placing them so close together will impair the beauty, meaning and effectiveness of both monuments. Air Force supporters say their memorial will enhance, rather than intrude upon the Marine's most sacred shrine.

Critics of the WWII Memorial site location, near the end of the reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, say it will interfere with the vistas of the Mall and should be relocated. The Commission of Fine Arts and the National Planning Commission have required a redesign of the original plans, but so far, nothing has been done about the site.


By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service


ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va, 3/29/2005 (AFPN) - Faces of the Fallen, an exhibition at the Women in Military Service to America Memorial here, features more than 1,300 portraits of service members who have died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The faces remind us of what we have lost.

Hundreds of family members came to see portraits of their loved ones - portraits painted from photos. More than 200 artists participated in this “labor of love,” said Annette Polan, the co-chair and one of the artists for the project.

“To say this is a moving exhibit would be a serious understatement,” said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Words always fall short when we try to describe our respect, sympathy and profound gratitude to those who have sacrificed everything in the service to our nation. The lesson here today is the artists have succeeded where our words have failed”

The various artists used different media and styles to portray the fallen. Some worked from photos taken in Iraq or Afghanistan, depicting a young man or woman peering out of the portrait wearing full battle dress.

Other portraits are taken from the enlistment photos where young men and women try to look older and tougher than they feel. The men and women in the portraits sport new military haircuts, military-issue glasses and big ears that longer hair covered.

Still other portraits came from graduation, wedding or family reunion photos. All the portraits say something about those who have died.

“You have captured the spirit of those who have given their lives and really the spirit of all the brave men and women who serve,” General Myers said. “A spirit that has lived in so many generations of Americans, a spirit of belief that freedom and justice for themselves, for their fellow Americans and for people around the world are more important than personal safety or comfort.”

Families crowd into the education hall of the memorial, many seeing the portraits of their loved ones for the first time. “They really caught John’s goofy grin,” one mother said. Another family group hugged each other in front of the portrait of their son. Tears flowed. “It’s still too raw for us,” the father said.

One family took a picture of the portrait, so they could take it home to the grandmother. “She couldn’t face this,” the father said. “But she would want to know he is honored.”

General Myers said the portraits represent “the very best America has to offer. When I looked at the faces in this exhibit, what I saw was the faces of men and women who made very noble decisions: to serve the cause of freedom. They could have chosen another profession that was safer or less demanding or more profitable. But at this critical time in our nation’s history, when terrorists threaten to replace our way of life with intolerance and tyranny, hatred and fear, these selfless men and women raised their right hands and swore to defend liberty. The fallen are heroes not because they died, but because they lived their lives in service to their country.”

He told the families that the country will continue the fight in which their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters died. “The war will be long, it will be hard, and the stakes could not be higher. Failure is not an option. And we won’t fail, because the spirits of the fallen live on in the men and women that serve today, and they are doing a tremendous job.”


By Eric Cramer , Army News Service, 5/9/05


WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 9, 2005) – America recognized the military men and women who won the Second World War in a ceremony May 8 commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe.

Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey welcomed former senator and World War II veteran Bob Dole and retired Gen. Frederick Kroesen, also a veteran of the conflict, and R. James Nicholson, secretary of veterans’ affairs, as speakers at the VE Day event held near the National World War II Memorial. In attendance were veterans of that conflict, many family members and other guests.

Harvey said 16 million Americans served in uniform during World War II. “Over 400,000 made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “They ensured victory over defeat, democracy over fascism and good over evil. So too will today’s generation, the grandsons and grand-daughters of the greatest generation, win the Global War on Terrorism.”

Harvey described Dole’s service as a lieutenant with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy during World War II, where he received severe injuries; and the service of Kroesen, who earned the Combat Infantry Badge three times, for service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“I have visited with many of the brave young men and women serving today,” Harvey said. “Like Maj. Tammy Duckworth, a Black Hawk pilot in the Illinois National Guard. Maj. Duckworth and her co-pilot received injuries while flying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They landed their helicopter and saved the lives of her crew. Despite having lost both legs, she wants to remain on active duty. ‘No Iraqi guy with an RPG is going to dictate how I live my life,’ she told me.”

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H. Mansfield said the GI Bill of Rights introduced at the end of World War II was a major “change agent” in American Society that made much of the success of 20th-century America possible. He said the VA is today the nation’s largest health-care provider, and remains a home-buying and educational resource for veterans.

Dole asked all present to imagine the consequences of having lost in World War II. “Think if we had not prevailed, where we would be today,” he said. “What language would we be speaking? What sort of government would we have?”

He said he has little memory of the first VE Day. “On May 8, 1945, I lay in a hospital bed in Italy, barely aware of my surroundings. I got hit, I still don’t know by what, and I lost a kidney, the use of my right arm, most of the use of my left arm, and three years of my life.”

He said a pioneering surgeon helped him with his recovery. “The most important thing he did was tell me ‘You’ve got to grow up and get on with your life. You’ve got to do the best you can with what you have.’”

Dole said that of the 16 million who served in World War II, there are now only about 4.5 million left alive, and they are dying at an estimated 1,500 per day. “We’ve gone from the greatest generation to the disappearing generation. But now, after 60 years, our generation can pass the mantle of the greatest generation to another generation – the current generation.”

Gen. Kroesen said the National World War II Memorial commemorates more than the memory of those who fought in the war. “It recognizes something more – we all went to war. Not just the 16 million in the military, but the 130 million in the country. Our industrial might, our scientific community and our medical professionals … It was a nation that was attacked and it was our generation who responded to the grizzly task of going to war.”

“I reserve my principle homage for those who gave their lives,” he said. “This memorial is our guarantee that those who gave their lives before VE Day will not be among those who perished as if they’d never been born.”


National Monument Honors WW II’s Fading Veterans
By Jug Varner

Almost six decades have passed since World War II - the greatest conflict civilization has ever known - came to an end with the signing of those historical documents aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan. In addition to other such military sites across the nation, that great ship is now a floating memorial at the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, a short distance from the shrine of the battleship USS Arizona, sunk there during the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack that brought the United States into the war.

During that span of time, monuments to Korean War veterans, Vietnam War veterans, Iwo Jima veterans, Women Veterans, and other types of military remembrance flourished in Washington. DC, and in cities across the nation as well.

Finally, after an eleven year fund raising effort and four years of construction - and at a time when WWII veterans are passing at such a high rate as to soon become an extinct species - a long-overdue World War II memorial to the so-called “greatest generation” will culminate in our nation’s capitol on Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 29, 2004.

Plans for the official four day dedication celebration include:
* WWII-themed reunion exhibition on the National Mall, staged in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage;
* Service of celebration at the Washington National Cathedral; and
* Entertainment salute to WWII veterans from military performing units.

Plans also include related activities in cultural venues throughout the city.

Get complete information on this special military event by clicking on []