|U.S.S. Allen M. Sumner DD-692|
|Memorial Service at The U.S.
Navy Memorial, Washington, DC|
Saturday, September 23, 2000
Remarks by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark
"Thank you very much. It is a distinct honor to be here with all of you today. Chief Gall, thank you for those very kind remarks. Bobby Moore, thank you for your efforts as the President of this association.
It's great to be here, and I think it is a legitimate question why I am here. I don't want this to sound like self- aggrandizement, but the staff gets dozens of invitations each week and you can imagine that most of them are regretted. When this one came along I immediately said "yes" and the staff looked at me somewhat in surprise. I said yes to this exactly for the reason that Chief Gall indicated, and that is because the Allen M. Sumner is the class leader, the first ship of the class that I was ever allowed to have the privilege of serving on in our Navy, and I just wasn't going to miss this day.
The Navy first and foremost is a family, and I know that's why all of you are here, too. I'm proud to be the Chief of Naval Operations. I'm humbled by the task. I'm the CNO for 372,000 people that are on active duty. But I want it to be very clear to all of you here today that I'm the CNO of all the veterans that have ever served in the Navy and all the retired folks that have ever served in the Navy too. I salute you for your contribution to our Navy and for being the kind of examples that have brought our Navy to the point where we are today. This is the greatest Navy in the history of man and it is a privilege to lead our young people today.
I feel a special kinship for destroyers. As
the chief indicated, I started on USS JOHN W. WEEKS. My first boss was a chief
petty officer. I was an ensign, but I knew who my real boss was, and he was a
guy just about like Bobby Moore.
I started as the Main Propulsion Assistant on the USS JOHN WEEKS and then later became the Chief Engineer. I went to the USS GEARING and then had a tour on the destroyer escort USS McCLOY. The USS GEARING was a class leader just like the ALLEN M. SUMNER, and there's something special about being on a class leader, isn't there? I later had the privilege to command the newest of a class of straight-stick destroyers we had, called the USS SPRUANCE. I also commanded two squadrons of destroyers, Squadron 5 and Squadron 17.
I've spent much of my life as a destroyer-man. That's really why I'm here today. I thought I'd share a line out of a book written about destroyers in World War II. All of us who've served know that we call destroyers "tin cans." Roscoe talks about the fact that "tin can" was shortened to "can," a noun. That was what you called the ship. He also makes the point that the "can" also turned into a verb, turned into action. Can was all about "can do." Destroyer-men always knew that, even though the task was demanding and tough, there was a way to get it done and it started with courage -- It started with toughness. It started with a fighting spirit, and it started with men who were dedicated to serving their shipmates, their Navy and each other.
Admiral Ainsworth, who was the commander of destroyers in the Pacific Fleet wrote, "When at grips with the enemy on the sea, under the sea, or in the air, no taskforce commander ever had enough destroyers. They were indispensable in every operation, a lance to thrust forward, a shield."
Well, destroyers are in my blood too. I know that they're in your blood. You wonder sometimes what makes these guys want to come back to events like this. John McCain in his recent book, "Faith of our Fathers" talks about faith in our shipmates, faith in our Navy, faith in one another. I know that when you come back to an event like this, you come back here remembering the faith that you had in one another, that special bond and the service, the thing that bound you together, service to one another and to our nation. Why are we all collectively here? It's been stated. We're here to pay tribute to and recognize those who gave their lives. This book is full of stories about you.
I read about the battle damage that was sustained by the ALLEN M. SUMNER. I read your sea stories. I am in awe of the greatest generation, and sometimes I think we are quick to forget that 406,000 Americans gave their lives in World War II. That is a number that is so large. It doesn't count the men and women who were wounded. We're here to honor a few of them from ALLEN M. SUMNER, people who laid down their lives for their country -- mind-boggling numbers -- it's hard to comprehend.
Since I've been CNO, and yesterday I completed my ninth week, I write a letter to every wife, to every husband, every mom or dad who loses their son or daughter or a family member while they're serving -- not in combat, but they're serving. I'm surprised by the numbers. I'm beginning to understand it even more clearly. I have two sons of my own. When I sign the letters, I feel it right here.
We understand the price of freedom. As we lay this wreath today in memory of those who have given their lives, we pay tribute to fallen shipmates and toll the bell to mark their passing.
What we are doing here today is so right. At sea, when the wind is blowing the surface of the ocean the waves are tossed. When the wind is up you see the froth as the waves tip over and foam on the sea. There's no place there to establish a memorial to the men and women who have given their lives to their Navy, to their nation and to their shipmates. This is so right for you to commit part of this reunion to pay tribute to your fallen shipmates. It's so right especially at this place, the Navy memorial, the center of our Navy's memories. Our history and our memory about those who gave their lives is concentrated right here where you sit -- in the capitol of the nation that we have all chosen to defend.
The ancient philosophers said, "The brave are found where the brave are honored." With that thought in mind I take renewed faith and pride in the greatness and the nobility of our nation, our country, the United States of America and the men and women who serve her.
As I conclude my remarks, I want to say to you how appreciative I am of the example that you have set for the young men and women who serve our Navy and our nation today. I want you to know that you would be so proud of your successors. They are wonderful young men and women. I have learned in my 31 years that we expect so much of our young people. When they look at you and they look at what this setting means to you and what your shipmates mean to you today, that example is a powerful example to them of what service is all about.
You're truly wonderful. That's why I'm here today. I'm proud to be leading the Navy that you served, where you set the example of what we would be. Thank you and God bless you."
Admiral Vern Clark USN
Chief of Naval Operations
Portions of this address may be seen and heard in our 2000 Memorial PBS film
CNO praises Navy veterans at memorial service
By JOC(SW) Mike Perron
CNO Public Affairs
The CNO's Public Affairs Office produced an article about the Memorial Service for publication in Navy newspapers around the world. Also, they have sent the article to various service-related publications, including those produced by the American Legion, DAV, Fleet Reserve Association, etc. A brief story about the service was also included in the Navy's weekly half-hour news show, "Navy-Marine Corps News."
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Vern Clark praised the legacy of Navy veterans during a service recently at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial service was part of a reunion of USS Allen M. Sumner (DD-692) Sailors, honoring shipmates killed in action during World War II.
Sumner was commissioned in 1944 as the lead ship of its class. It served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and participated in the blockade of Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.
In January, 1945, Sumner was operating off the Philippines when it was attacked by Japanese "kamikaze" aircraft. One managed to break through the ship's anti-aircraft fire, and struck it near the after stack. The ensuing explosion and fires killed 16 crewmembers and wounded 27 others.
Though badly damaged, the ship remained in action for another eight days before sailing for repairs. It was patched up and returned to service, and later accompanied USS Missouri (BB-63) into Tokyo Bay to accept the Japanese surrender.
Sumner was decommissioned in 1973, after nearly 30 years of service.
"This is something that I really wanted to do. I am in awe of 'the Greatest Generation,'" said Admiral Clark. "We're here to honor a few of them from Allen M. Sumner, people who laid down their lives for their country."
Adm. Clark explained that there was a direct connection between their record of service aboard Sumner and today's Sailors.
"I want to say to you how appreciative I am of the example that you have set for the young men and women who serve our nation and our Navy today," Clark said. "We expect so much from our young people. When they look at you, and they look at what your shipmates mean to you today, that is a powerful example of what service is all about," he explained.
Adm. Clark described the value of Sumner's legacy to the Navy. "It started with courage, it started with toughness, it started with a fighting spirit, and it started with those who were dedicated to serving their shipmates, their Navy and each other," said Clark. "I'm proud to be leading the Navy that you served, where you set the example of what we would be."
Adm. Clark also said that the veterans' service had earned them his continued commitment.
"I want it to be very clear to all of you here today that I'm the CNO of all the veterans that have ever served in the Navy. I salute you for your contribution to our Navy and for being the kind of examples that have brought our Navy to where it is today," Clark said.
Admiral Clark called the Navy Memorial the perfect place to honor their shipmates.
"What we are doing here today is so right. Especially in this place... The Navy Memorial, the center of our Navy's memories," Clark said. "Our history and our memory of those who've given their lives is concentrated right here where you sit. The Navy Memorial, in the capital of the nation that we have all chosen to defend."
Admiral Clark's service has included duty aboard three destroyers, including the Sumner-class USS John W. Weeks (DD-701). He also commanded two destroyer squadrons. Admiral Clark assumed duties as Chief of Naval Operations on July 21 of this year.
The memorial service was held Saturday, September 23. More information about USS Allen M. Sumner and its crewmembers can be accessed on the ship's World-Wide Web pages at http://www.dd-692.com. Information about the U.S. Navy Memorial is available at http://www.lonesailor.org.