Chair, Program Planning Committee
Along the Freedom Trail and docked at the old Boston Naval Shipyard in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the USS Constitution is my favorite “go see and don’t miss” in Boston. Authorized by George Washington in 1794, she was built with timbers felled from Maine to Georgia, copper fasteners provided by Paul Revere, and armed with cannon cast in Rhode Island. Launched in Boston on October 21, 1797, she was first put to sea in 1798. Having remained a part of the U.S. Navy since that day, Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat.
Having read about her in school and having written a paper on her defeat of France’s HMS Guerriere as she scored her first in a grand succession of victories in the War of 1812, I became personally associated with her in the mid 1970’s as a young Navy Lieutenant engaged in closing of the Naval Hospital in Chelsea and attempting to plan for the health care of her crew who would remain stationed in Boston. I recall walking her decks and engaging the crew who serve with honor aboard her leading tours and providing ceremonial units for special occasions.
In July 1997, the USS Constitution was placed “under sail” on a cruise to Marblehead, Massachusetts to mark her 200th birthday. I led a very small medical contingent placed aboard to provide emergency care to the crew and distinguished guests including Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy and Walter Cronkite. When I retired from the Navy that August I was privileged to have my retirement ceremony on her foredeck and the ship’s bos’n “piped me ashore.” The lid of my retirement sea chest is held in place with 13 wooden plugs cut from scrap removed during that overhaul.
So while you are in Boston please don’t miss the chance to be part of history!