Kayak / canoe rentals at Stoddard Park ALL Summer!

Old Ironsides Commemorates D-Day

by Paul Deschenes
June 15, 2019

Photos courtesy of Tom Blair

On Friday, June 7th, hundreds of active duty military and veterans were invited to be aboard the USS Constitution for a turn around in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. A handful of members from Holliston's American Legion Post #47 were fortunate enough to be among those in attendance.

Old Ironsides

Perhaps you saw it on the local evening newscasts last Friday night. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) set sail (actually, towed by tugboat) from its berth in Charlestown Navy Yard to Castle Island where it delivered a twenty-one gun salute in front of Fort Independence. Among the veterans and active duty military personnel guests on board were a handful of members of Holliston’s Charles F. Duford American Legion Post #47. And among them was Richard Finn, who was interviewed for this piece. Also of note, at Sunday’s Food Truck Festival, Steve Bradford, Commander of Post 47, told me the executive officer of the Constitution is Holliston resident Commander John Benda, who will take command of the vessel in the coming months. Steve, a Navy veteran, explained to me, an Army vet, that the rank of commander is equivalent to that of lieutenant colonel.

Rich Finn (on the right above) said he has sailed on some New England schooners over the years, but those excursions paled in comparison to this experience, which turned out to be an historical event: the Navy had invited Natick Soldiers Systems Center (NSSC) commanding officer Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone and soldiers from Natick Labs, all in full uniform, making this, as noted by the Natick Labs website, “the first-ever, Army/Navy underway cruise in Boston Harbor.”

Those fortunate enough to be aboard were treated to an exhibition of rope climbing by members of the ship’s crew on the vessel’s rigging and a close order routine by a crack drill team with period equipment pieces, such as flintlocks and pikes used for boarding other vessels during battles.

A 21-gun salute was made by “Old Ironsides” in front of Castle Island and Fort Independence, whose history goes back to a primitive 1634 fortification, called “The Castle.” After being destroyed by fire in 1692 it was rebuilt and called Castle William, which the British destroyed during the Revolutionary War before evacuating Boston on March 17, 1776. The Americans rebuilt it during the war, first as Fort Adams and then as Fort Independence. The present structure was erected between 1833 and 1851.

On her return to Charlestown, the world’s oldest commissioned warship made a 17-gun salute as it passed U.S. Coast Guard Sector Boston, the site where she was built and launched in October, 1797. She was retired from active service in 1881 and became a museum ship in 1907. With a full complement of 450, back “in her day” she was a sleek, heavy, strong, 44 gun frigate. When her three masts were set under full sail she could reach a speed of 13 knots (15 mph), which was faster than her competition of the time. Cannonballs would bounce off her oaken sides (hence, “Old Ironsides”). Today, she has an active duty crew of 60.  Finn said prior to this trip he was not aware of how big of a boat Constitution is.  At 304 feet, she’s a tad longer than a football field. The only signs of current times he noted aboard were porta-potties and its diesel engine.

Rich Finn brought home a souvenir, a flag that was flown on board as the ship sailed. It came with a certificate of verification that also identified him as an honorary crew member. Let’s tip our “Dixie Cups” (look it up) in thanks to the men and women serving and who have stood in service to our country.

Photos courtesy of Tom Blair

 

E-mail This Article

Comments (1)

This is such an exciting annual event. So happy for you, Ron Turcott and Rich Finn. How lucky to be included in this very special happening. Wow! Only one time I was able to watch the 21 gun salute and as it was taking place I cried. So impressive. Great article.

- Shirley Chipman | 6/15/19 12:56 PM

Advertisement

Advertisement

Recent Articles by Paul Deschenes:

VFW Scout of the Year Candidate

Continue ...

Black Box Theater

A Black Box theater was mentioned by Dr. Jackson, Superintendent of Schools, as something Holliston High School is currently lacking. What exactly is a Black Box theater?

2

Continue ...

Theatre 370: Six One-Act Plays

Theatre 370 presented six student-directed one act plays at Holliston High School on February 8th and 9th. I'm glad I went.

Continue ...

Holliston VFW Post 8507 Patriot's Pen Youth Essay Contest

Holliston’s VFW Post 8507 hosted a “Pizza Party” at the Senior Center to acknowledge the efforts of and thank ten Robert Adams Middle School students who submitted entries to the VFW’s annual Patriot’s Pen youth written essay contest.

Continue ...

Best Veterans Service District of the Year in Massachusetts Award Goes to Metrowest

Holliston's Metrowest Veterans Service District was chosen Best Veterans Service District of the Year in Massachusetts and received a trophy to that effect last month at the annual conference for Veterans Service Districts. The Metrowest district also serves veterans in Medway, Hopkinton and Ashland. Veterans' Service Officers Sarah Batemen and John Givner were on hand to accept the award.

1

Continue ...

Advertisement

Recent Articles in Local Lore:

Police Log for Week of July 7 - 13, 2019

by Paul Saulnier

Look on the bright side: some days loose dogs are a bigger problem in Holliston than drugs.

1

Continue ...

Civics Sunday: A Holliston Tradition

by The Publishers

Today's Civics Sunday installment features a Holliston tradition that has been rekindled thanks to the efforts of three energetic women.

Continue ...

Library Exhibits Senior Artists’ Watercolors

by Yvette Cain

Calling all friends, neighbors, and family! Artwork from Holliston Senior Center’s watercolor class is being exhibited in the downstairs meeting room of the Library now through August.

Continue ...

Holliston In Bloom's Second Floral Display Award

by Paul Saulnier

Marie Elena Rich stands next to one of her two potted Mandevilla plants which frame the entrance to her home on Westfield Drive in Holliston.

1

Continue ...

Police Log for Week of June 30 - July 6, 2019

by Paul Saulnier

Nine crashes last week, including two unusual hit & runs (or hits and run).

Continue ...

Advertisement