JULY 20, 2001

Art Hebert

Historian, USS BOSTON Shipmates

Good morning.

As you rode in the gate this morning, I know you were marking the differences between what you saw today, and your memories from thirty years ago and even fifty five years ago. From City Square to Scollay Square; from the Blue Mirror to the Old Howard... all gone. Ah, but the memories—the history—in this shipyard.

Some of us are here today because we’ve attended previous gatherings of the BOSTON crew. Many of you are here today because just this year, 2001, you learned that BOSTON men feel the tug of the bonds of camaraderie and pride, and announce to the world the history of our ships. We are all here to commemorate the long, rich history of all BOSTON crews, and because of our pride in what we accomplished as BOSTON crew members.

Think of it: 225 years of service by BOSTON crews. Each successive crew learning from the one before, and inheriting the spirit and soul that drives the finest men to the finest deeds. What a history. For each of us, what memories.

Arthur M. Schlesinger said,

"History is to the nation ... as memory is to the individual. An individual deprived of memory becomes disoriented and lost, not knowing where he has been or where he is going, so a nation denied a conception of its past will be disabled in dealing with its present and future."

We know our past.

Two hundred and twenty five years ago this month, in July of 1776, Hundreds of patriotic Americans walked through the northeast forests to Philip Skenes’ sawmill at the foot of Lake Champlain. There they assembled and toiled under the charismatic leadership of George Washington’s most valued young officer. Their mission was to stop the British from establishing a line from Canada to New York City; a strategy that the Redcoats were confident would divide the colonies and ultimately cool the boiling rebellion.

Those men battled heat, swamps, swarms of mosquitoes, and shortages of every kind of supplies. With only the barest of carpentry knowledge they spiked and bolted and tarred the fresh-sawn planks and built a small fleet of fifteen vessels. They named many of the ships after their homes; names like Philadelphia; New York; Jersey; Providence; New Haven; —and BOSTON. In a matter of weeks these boats and their crews would be put to the test. Over a three-day running battle in October of 1776 this small fleet would indeed effectively deter the British and cause them to withdraw to Canada. The unity of the colonies was preserved, and the rebels won time to gather strength and resources to successfully prosecute the American Revolution.

Thus lived the first BOSTON to fight: fifty four feet of wooden boat and 45 brave, dedicated BOSTON Sailors. Every subsequent BOSTON served—and fought, when necessary—with valor, honor, and pride. In World War II the CA69 was called "The Miracle Ship." She fought in ten fierce sea battles without losing a man. The CAG1 was known far and wide as the world's first and finest guided missile cruiser. We literally went "where no man has gone before" long before Star Trek was conceived. The SSN703 was the ship to which the Admirals turned when special tasks were at hand. They knew that BOSTON would come through—as all BOSTONs have, leaders always.

There were three BOSTONs in the Eighteenth Century: the Gundalow and two Frigates. Two BOSTONs in the Nineteenth Century: the Sloop of War, which was built right here in this shipyard, and the Protected Cruiser. Three BOSTONs in the Twentieth Century: the CA69, CAG1, and SSN703. Today, in the first year of the Twenty First Century, in the fourth century since the men of the Gundalow BOSTON fought for freedom and liberty, we gather here today to commemorate and memorialize 225 years of sweat, blood, and tears—and pride—of the men and families of BOSTON crew in service to America.

George Santayana said:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Well, we remember—and honor—the past, with the full knowledge and confidence that in this, the 21st century—and in the centuries to come—there will be another BOSTON.

We stand here in view of our ship’s namesake: Boston, the cradle of liberty, the capital city of Massachusetts, on whose flag is the motto "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." For 225 years BOSTONs have wielded that sword, and the next BOSTON will wield that sword again.

Daniel Webster said:

"God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it."

There will always be BOSTONs, because the need to carry the sword to preserve freedom and liberty will never go away. From this seminal certainty confidently springs our declaration, "BOSTON—FROM 1776 TO TOMORROW."

President John F. Kennedy, speaking of service in the United States Navy, said:

"...any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worth while, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.’"

In this new century, with the greatest amount of pride and satisfaction I can say, and you can say, "I served aboard the BOSTON."

Thank you.