National Parks of Boston hosted a commemorative service and a wreath-laying ceremony at the USS Constitution Museum and on the World War II-era destroyer USS Cassin Young to remember and honor those who perished in the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The free three-part public program on Wednesday, December 7, was held in Charlestown Navy Yard, followed by an outdoor ceremony beside USS Cassin Young, and a return to the Museum for refreshments, generously sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Services.
Participating in the ceremony was National Parks of Boston Superintendent Michael Creasey, USS Constitution Museum President & CEO Anne Grimes Rand, USS Constitution Commander Billie J. Farrell, USN, Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Affairs Cheryl Poppe, Boston Commissioner of Veterans’ Services Robert Santiago, and other special guests including Kay Van Valkenburgh, great grandson of Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh of USS Arizona. The program will include the USN Color Guard and rifle and cannon salutes from both Cassin Young and Constitution. The public will also be invited to participate in the Museum’s “50,000 Letters of Gratitude” initiative to send letters of appreciation to veterans, active service members, and their families.
USS Cassin Young was named for U.S. Navy Commander Cassin Young, recipient of the Medal of Honor for his distinguished and heroic actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, which initiated the United States’ entry into World War II. As commanding officer of USS Vestal, which was moored to USS Arizona, Comdr. Young took personal command of his ship’s three-inch antiaircraft gun at the beginning of the attack. When the forward magazine of Arizona was hit, Cmdr. Young was thrown overboard and incredibly swam back to his ship amidst burning oil on the water between the two ships. Despite the subsequent bombing of Vestral, Comdr. Young moved his ship away from Arizona to save the ship and countless lives.
Cassin Young has similarly served the country with distinction. It was built in San Pedro, California, typical of the many Fletcher-class destroyers constructed in the Charlestown Navy Yard during World War II.The ship was commissioned at the end of 1943 and first saw action in the Pacific Theatre in 1944. It took part in the landings in the Philippines, rescued survivors from the stricken carrier USS Princeton, screened the American force that sank four Japanese carriers in the battle of Cape Engano, and survived two separate kamikaze hits, one of which killed 21 crew members. No stranger to Charlestown, the ship was recalled to service in 1951 and underwent modernization at the shipyard on several occasions during the next decade before finally hauling down her commissioning pennant in 1960.“It is fitting that we remember this day aside Cassin Young at Charlestown Navy Yard, one of the first of six Navy Yards in the country,” said National Parks of Boston Superintendent Michael Creasey. “The National Park Service protects the Cassin Young and provides a home base for USS Constitution, to honor the service people of the United States Navy past and present, and provide current and future generations the opportunity to forge meaningful connections to these national treasures and iconic cornerstones of the American story.”
The National Parks of Boston is a collection of three National Park Service sites – Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site, and Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. Established by individual legislation and for designated purposes, the three units have come together under a unified organizational umbrella to collaborate in ways that celebrate our cultural heritage, reconnect people to history and nature, and provide outdoor recreation opportunities on land and on the water. For more information, visit: nps.gov/bost, nps.gov/boaf, and bostonharborislands.org.
The USS Constitution Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of USS Constitution by offering award-winning exhibits where all ages can have fun while learning and exploring history together. The Museum’s mission is to engage visitors in the story of Constitution to spark excitement about maritime heritage, naval service, and the American experience. The Museum is open seven days a week with a pay-what-you-wish admission policy, and the Virtual Museum is open 24/7. The USS Constitution Museum is a 2022 winner in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice in the “Best History Museum” category and Boston Parents Paper’s Family Favorites in the “Historic Sites & Tours” and “Museums & Attractions” categories. For more information, visit usscm.org.
USS Constitution, America’s Ship of State, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, actively defending sea lanes from 1797 to 1855. USS Constitution was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opponents. The ship earned the nickname of Old Ironsides during the War of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull. The active-duty Sailors stationed aboard USS Constitution provide free tours and offer public visitation as they support the ship’s mission of promoting the Navy’s history and maritime heritage and raising awareness of the importance of a sustained naval presence. For information, visit www.navy.mil/uss-constitution/.