Saturday, November 19, 2005


Remembering the USS Boston


Milford Daily News
By Bernie Smith
November 16, 2005

Their ship's name stretches back to the American Revolution, and today crewmates who manned the guns or stood countless hours of watch aboard the USS Boston in war and peace have an ally in their bid to keep a piece of U.S. history alive.

The veterans -- from World War II to Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War -- all served on a ship called the USS Boston, although there have been seven ships that have gone by that name.

The first one was commissioned in 1776, from a 53-foot long, three-cannon sloop that fought the British during the American Revolution. The latest, a nuclear submarine, was decommissioned six years ago.

"We're not a political organization, but we have so much history," said Millis resident Charlie Higgins, who is a member of the USS Boston Shipmates organization.

Since 1776, when a small, 53-foot, three-cannon "gondola" on Lake Champlain helped block the Redcoats from entering the Hudson River and preserved Gen. George Washington's campaign in Trenton, N.J., a USS Boston has served its country continuously up until 1999, when a nuclear submarine by that name was decommissioned.

Veterans of the vessel, including many from the Milford area, said they would like the Navy to name a new ship the USS Boston to carry on the tradition, and are lobbying for a permanent memorabilia room where the ship's contributions to American history can be chronicled. The display area also will house artifacts from the ship's previous incarnations.

"I've been trying for eight years" to get a permanent memorabilia room established, Higgins said. "In 1990, we originally started (petitioning) when the new Navy Yard in Charlestown was inaugurated."

Higgins said his group had received strong backing from the late Rep. Joseph Moakley, but after his death in 2001, the Shipmates' organization had not had much success lobbying members of Congress.

But state Rep. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, elected to the Legislature last November, has picked up the Shipmates' cause. Yesterday, he sponsored an event at the State House, where paintings depicting each of the seven USS Bostons were on display. Veterans were given the chance to talk about the contribution the ship has made in American military history, and why they want to see another ship given the name the USS Boston.

"It's to carry on the tradition of the Boston. We've had a ship since day one," said Medway resident Stanley Misiuk, who served on the USS Boston during the waning days of World War II. "We'd like to keep that tradition in the limelight."

Franklin resident Normand B. Hamel has an especially close attachment to the ship. He served on the USS Boston in 1969 and 1970, during the Vietnam War, and was a member of its decommissioning crew. His father, Normand O. Hamel, was a member of that USS Boston's original commissioning crew in 1943.

"It's a long tradition, and it's a fantastic tradition that it has been named after the capital of Massachusetts," said Hamel. "It's more about the crewmen than the name itself, but you're always proud to say you were on the USS Boston."

During yesterday's events at the State House, Ross also read a resolution signed by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini recognizing the group's service and calling on the members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation for their assistance. Later, Ross said Sen. John Kerry has contacted him about the group's requests.

"Rep. Ross has done a wonderful job to bring this to the attention of the people of Massachusetts, what this ship has accomplished," Higgins said.

According to the group, the USS Boston has fought in some of the most important battles in this country's history -- from the Revolutionary War to the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, and squaring off against the Japanese at Iwo Jima and Saipan in World War II.

The sixth incarnation of the USS Boston was a CA69 -- a heavy cruiser -- built in Quincy and commissioned in 1943, and was later converted in 1955 into CAG1, the world's first guided missile cruiser. As a guided missile cruiser, it served three tours in Vietnam and earned five battle stars.

The last USS Boston, a nuclear submarine, was decommissioned in 1999 after 17 years of service. Its operations are still classified as secret.

For more information, visit the USS Boston Shipmates Web site at


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