WASHINGTON (NNS) -- One of the most numerous and symbolic artifacts in the Navy Historical Center's (NHC) collection are the more than 2,000 ship bells.
Started before WWI, this collection is also one of the most utilized, with the bells being found on display or in use in many interesting places.
The NHC's Curator Branch preserves the bells, one of the many artifacts removed from decommissioned ships. They may be provided on loan to new namesake ships; naval commands with a historical mission or functional connection; and to museums and other institutions that are interpreting specific historical themes and displays of naval history.
However, the bells remain the permanent property of the U.S. Government and the Department of the Navy.
Bells have been lent out to a diverse array of organizations, such as USS Shangri-La's (CV 38) bell, which is housed at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego; USS Wisconsin's (BB 64) bell, currently residing aboard the preserved ship moored outside the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, Va.; and even USS Richard B. Russell's (SSN 687) bell, located in West Mason High school, Albuquerque, N.M.
Recently, the bell from USS Worden (DD 352) was dedicated at the Carderock Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, in West Bethesda, Md.
Initially commissioned in January 1935, and considered at the time the "best sea boat", it was wrecked in a 1943 storm. Its bell, however, had been taken off previously to lighten the ship. Fitted to a new USS Worden (DLG 18) in 1963, the bell continued in service until 1993.
Robert J. Cressman, head of the NHC's Ship History Branch, made the dedication speech at Carderock. He recounted the history of the ship and its loss, and quoted one of the original captain's description that Worden was "the product of years of technological development and skilled labor, but only a ship's hull until manned by a trained and dedicated crew. Worden is the assembly of nearly 400 men who operate the complex systems installed to make Worden an effective unit in our country's desire to preserve the peace."
Cressman concluded his remarks by saying, "We honor those officers and men who made Worden the ship she was, and particularly those 14 men who perished in the ship's battle with the elements on that sad day 60 years ago. We salute them today, and those who sailed with them."
Today, historic ships bells serve to inspire and to remind our naval forces and personnel of honor, courage, and commitment to the defense of our nation, and will continue to do so in the future.
For related news, visit the Naval Historical Center Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/navhist.