Washington DC — January 4, 2018In early December, just a few days before Pearl Harbor Day, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer along with nine former Secretaries of the Navy assembled at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington DC to honor 6 Navy Veterans who served in the Pacific during World War II and who served on Landing Craft Support ships that played a crucial role at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other pacific battles.  Those sailors were all in their 90’s but still strong and steady…. and proud of their service to our nation.

There was one additional Navy Veteran who was honored at the event who was the “missing man” due to his having passed away just five days before the event at the naval museum.  That sailor was former President of the United States George Bush who was the youngest naval aviator ever to receive his pilot wings and a hero who flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific War before he had reached his 21st birthday.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three air medals for heroism.

Secretary Spencer said that President Bush’s service to our nation “…was, to paraphrase his own words, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”  He said that President Bush was, at heart, a Navy man, whose dedicated service during World War II links him forever with Secretary Middendorf and all of the brave LCS veterans we honor here tonight.”

The event was sponsored by the Naval Historical Foundation and the Landing Craft Support Museum Foundation for the dual purpose of honoring the navy veterans and also to raise funds for the preservation of a historic U.S. Navy ship that saw lots of combat action in the Pacific in 1944 and 1945. 

The LCS 102 is the last remaining ship of its class and is serving today as a floating naval museum at the former Mare Island Naval Base in Vallejo, California.  The ship was a heavily armed gunboat that was designed to provide close-in gunfire support for Marines and Army troops as they went ashore on Japanese-held islands in the western pacific.

Secretary Spence highlighted the important mission of the Landing Craft Support ships.  He said that these small but powerful ships contributed in a very significant way to the victory over the Empire of Japan by providing close-in gunfire support for our Marines and Army troops going ashore but also were highly effective in blunting the effect of the Japanese Kamikaze suicide planes attacking our Navy’s ships.  He said that the Landing Craft Support ships “… saved countless American lives and he asked:

“How many Marines made it up the beach because the lethal Japanese guns above them were silenced by these ships?  How many sailors survived because a kamikaze never hit their carrier deck?  How many children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are alive today because another pacific war veteran made it home.”

Two of those six World War II veterans in attendance had the good fortune to serve decades later in the Navy’s most senior leadership position…Secretary of the Navy.  John Warner served as Under Secretary and then Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974 and William Middendorf served as Under Secretary and then Secretary of the Navy from 1074 to 1977Even.   

As a part of the evening, former Secretary of the Navy Middendorf was given a special award for his service aboard LCS 53 by the Landing Craft Support Museum Foundation.  To quote from the award:

As engineer and navigator on USS LCS(L) 53, he was soon sent into the thick of battle as a part of the island-hopping campaign across the Pacific …with an invasion of the home islands of Japan as the ultimate destination.

His ship was “in the fight” supporting the assault on Iwo Jima in February of 1945, the invasion of Okinawa in April, and was then involved in radar picket duty defending the American fleet from kamikaze attacks for many weeks while the battle for Okinawa raged.

Secretary Spencer ended his remarks by thanking the Landing Craft Support Museum Foundation for saving the last LCS ship in the world and making it a naval museum ship where “… future generations will be able to walk the narrow deck of a Landing Craft Support ship; to see the heavy guns – and the light armor; to try and picture what it must have been like to keep firing at the blazing guns of Iwo Jima  and the diving menace of the kamikazes; to run their hands along the cold steel rails of LCS 102.  I am sure it will give them a renewed perspective on the pacific war, and the price of freedom.”

For more information: http://www.usslcs102.org/history.html

Contact: Christopher Lehman 703-585-1598 or clehman@commonwealthconsulting.comJ