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September 2002

USS England DE-625 Reunion Report
In San Francisco from September 25 to 26, 2002 the officers and crew of USS England DE-635 gathered for their reunion.  We were able to attend part of the reunion and were honored to be a part of the event. The group met each day in the Hospitality Room for great discussion. My wife and I were welcomed, as was Dennis Vied, from DLG-22, and his wife who attended the banquet.

San Francisco is a great town! There are plenty of excellent restaurants, beautiful hotels and historic places to tour. It was also were USS England DE-635 was built at Bethlehem Steel at 20th and Illinois Street. After launching she also spent time at Mare Island were some of the crew met her for sea trials in 1943. That this was the ship’s birthplace made San Francisco an excellent location for the reunion!

Dwight DeHaven organized this event and I must say it was flawless! Robert McCleary writes the DE-635 newsletter and has been wonderfully helpful keeping me in the loop for their events. Thank you to them both and to all the attendees who made us feel completely at home!

Some of the most interesting information came directly from Captain Williamson, who attended. Among the many topics he discussed were the submarine runs that resulted in the six enemy submarines sunk and the kamikaze attack during the Okinawa campaign. He indicated he is in the process of writing a book! He gave an eloquent speech at the banquet about the importance of teamwork. He said that the success of USS England was because of the excellent teamwork and knowledge that was beyond what the other ships had.  He also presented the importance of history to our country’s future. He explained that what is often taught in schools today is not “history as we know it.” We must make an effort to preserve the truth and teach that to subsequent generations so they understand our country’s contribution to freedom and liberty around the world.

In my opinion part of this responsibly falls upon us. We are responsible to carry forward the thread of history that connects John Charles England, USS England DE-635 and USS England DLG/CG-22 as well as all that surrounds them. This means ensuring we have a new ship carry the England name to sea for our country and ensuring its crew and officers are completely versed in our history. It also means ensuring our children and grandchildren learn the true history of our nation and the sacrifices that have brought to them the great gift of freedom. We can do this by encouraging them to read history, by taking them to historic places and to events where history can be passed directly by the participants. The later would include our own reunions!

The concept of teamwork it something we all know well from our time on USS England DLG/CG-22. The example of DE-635, their wartime success, in carrying on, promoting their history and bonding their group is one from which we can all learn.

Needless to say the USS England DE-635 was an inspirational event. These men and their families are a part of our collective England family. I have formally invited them to attend our reunion in 2003 and all of those in the future. Our events would be greatly enhanced with them there and I hope we see them in San Diego, June 12-15, 2002!

Saving The USS England
A few have written about their interest in saving the USS England CG-22 as a museum.  This has been brought up and investigated to some extent in the past. Currently USS England is in the reserve fleet, MARAD, Suisun Bay. This is near Benicia, California. She is scheduled for scrapping, though she might be used as a target. Scrapping ships is not as profitable as it once was and the government is having a hard time finding companies that can complete the task, even when paying them to do so. From what I have heard 2005 will be USS England’s end.

As you know there are many efforts to save ships and some successful museums. On the west coast USS Hornet is berthed at the former NAS Alameda. USS Midway will soon be on display in San Diego and there are efforts to make USS Sterett a museum in Eureka, California. USS England was in excellent condition when I boarded her in 2000. She was in better shape than the other CGs and was the ship the Navy initially recommended to the Eureka group because of her condition. The Eureka group selected Sterett partially because of her aft gun mount being interesting to potential visitors.

Navy is very open to the concept of museums of this type. They will essentially give the ship away provided there is a location for her, a plan to maintain her and funds to accomplish the effort. The two major stumbling blocks are finding a location and funds, which can be as high as 4 million dollars just to move and place the ship in a museum location.

To acquire the ship and to maintain her we’d need a tremendous team effort. We need to form a group to handle the project from beginning to end. That group would need to act very quickly to find a location willing to assist and establish the museum. They’d also need to secure funding and complete the necessary processes with the Navy to place the ship on donation hold and then to have her transferred.

Is it possible to acquire the ship? I’d say it is a long shot at best. However, Disney had looked at adding a Naval vessel to the Queen Mary location. Perhaps there would be some similar possibility for USS England.  A group of very dedicated individuals would be necessary. If you are interested, please let me know and I’ll put the group in touch with each other. This is likely our last chance to consider this.

History In Your Backyard
While in Northern California we also took a trip over to the former NAS Alameda and the USS Hornet Museum.

On the afternoon of October 27, 1942 off Santa Cruz Island near Guadalcanal, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet CV-8 was sunk by Japanese forces. At that time on Slipway Number 8 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, the same slipway that USS Hornet, CV-8 had been built less than two years before and from which USS Essex, CV-9 had just been launched, the keel and frame of hull number 395, USS Kearsarge, was quickly being constructed. On January 21, 1943 Hull Number 395 was renamed USS Hornet, CV-12. USS Hornet would participate in every major action in the Pacific for the remainder of the war and do so without ever being hit. She spent 16 continuous months in action. She participated in the sinking of the battleship Yamato on April 7, 1945. According to her cruise book, She fired 534,549 rounds of ammunition from her decks, her aircraft fired 4,878,793 more along with 18,034 bombs, 132 torpedoes and 5,790 rockets. She sunk 73 ships with 37 probable sinkings and damaged 413 others. She destroyed 1,411 aircraft both in the air and on land. She went on to serve in Vietnam and the Cold War. She was placed in mothballs in 1970 and stricken in 1989.

Today she is a museum and you can visit her, climb through her various spaces and out on the flight deck. What a great way to learn about carrier operations and World War II!

It was also a great way to relive a little Navy life with that oil-metal smell that only a sailor can love, hatches, scuttles and ladders . . . it is a lot of fun!

Reunion 2003
As has been repeated here often, our reunion is June 12-15, 2003 in wonderful San Diego, California. It will be at the Handlery Hotel and Resort. Pricing will be in the ballpark of the previous reunion, maybe slightly higher and you’ll need to make you own flight arrangements. There will be plenty of events and things to do along with a great banquet the final evening. A few have written about the desire to get in some golf. If you’d be interested in this, please let me know. If you’ve not done so already, please fill out and mail your reunion survey.

We’ll also be having a meeting again this year to make plans for our future. This includes future reunion times and locations. As for locations I have a few in mind for which I’ll gather information. To be involved in the process of selecting the location, you must attend the reunion. If you have ideas for locations, dates and activities, please send them to me. I’d like to keep a Navy theme to the reunions, keeping them in locations with Naval history nearby. You may have different ideas and an open discussion is encouraged. Consider using the USS England On Line Forum for this.

The USS England Forum was retired on 02/03/07.

What’s Next?
The next newsletter will be near the end of October, spooky huh? I’ll try to keep the “History In Your Backyard” going in each newsletter with either a look at a place’s history or its current status. Does it matter if it is Navy related? 

 If you have stories to contribute, please send them ASAP. These would be very helpful.