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Below is a transcript of the remarks as delivered:
Good morning. Distinguished guests, our Embassy Team, our Royal Navy partners, and our United States shipmates, welcome to the dedication of the USS Osprey bell.
As I reflect on the special relationship the United States shares with the United Kingdom, I think about John Adams, who was our second President, to my right, the first name on the wall… he was our first U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He charged future generations with the sacred task of remembering those who gave their life for our posterity. Adams wrote, and I quote, “You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, today we answer Adams’ call by commemorating those who served aboard the USS Osprey to preserve our freedom.
The Osprey was a Raven-class minesweeper laid down in 1939 in Norfolk, Virginia. It was commissioned about 18 months later in December of 1940. It was just over 200 feet long, about the size of those yachts right now that are currently – that used to belong to Russian oligarchs – but are now sitting stagnant across the continent, and had a max speed of 18 knots. It had a crew of about 105.
In 1941 and 1942, Osprey performed anti-submarine warfare duties along the United States east coast and in the Caribbean. In March of 1942, the American tanker Naeco was attacked by a German U-boat about 65 nautical miles southeast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Osprey and its crew rescued some of those survivors.
Later that same year, Osprey’s duties extended across the Atlantic, and it was in November of that year [that] it supported Operation Torch – the Allied invasion of French North Africa. During that operation, Osprey was part of the Western Task Force to help direct and protect the landing craft that seized the beaches in Morocco.
In 1944, Osprey arrived in England to support Operation Overlord – the invasion of Normandy. On the 5th of June, 1944 – the evening before the D-Day landings – Osprey and other ships of Mine Squadron 7 headed into the English Channel to clear the seas for the invasion force. One can only imagine the stress that they felt that night.
While en route, at about five in the evening, Osprey struck an enemy mine. The crew fought valiantly to save the ship … but the damage was just too severe. About an hour later they were forced to abandon it.
Most of Osprey’s crew survived, but six perished. They were among the very first casualties of the D-Day operations.
I’d like to recite the names of those who gave their lives: LTJG Van Hamilton, Fireman 1st Class Walter O'Bryan, Quartermaster 2nd Class Emery Parichy, Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Vanasky, Motor Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Cleo Whitschell, and Seaman 2nd Class John Medvic.
This is a roll-call of honor. These are the Sailors who cleared the seas. These are the Sailors who led the way. These are the heroes who helped end the war.
The legacy of these six men, and all those who served aboard the Osprey, lives on. I would also mention the families that support them play a critical role. It lives on in memorials and research projects. It lives on in the relatives who carry their namesake. And it lives on in generations of family members inspired by their story to serve our country.
The preservation of their legacy would not be possible without taking care of precious assets like the Osprey bell. All those who had a hand in its recovery and return deserve our thanks.
And to the U.K.’s Receiver of Wreck and to the U.S. Navy’s History and Heritage Command, thank you. Thank you for your combined efforts to safeguard not just this bell but also our many cultural resources beneath the waves.
In closing, I call to mind this morning another bell … a bell in Philadelphia … our Liberty Bell.
That bell, so central to our Nation’s history, tolled at the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It tolled again upon the ratification of the Constitution. It tolled once more at the inauguration of John Adams … and it tolled again at his death.
Today, the Osprey bell also echoes with history. We can hear it ring at Osprey’s commissioning. We can hear it ring to sound general quarters. We can hear it ring to abandon ship.
And today it rings again, proclaiming the honor, courage, and the commitment of those who served so nobly at sea. Thanks to their service and sacrifice … like the Liberty Bell … this bell too proclaims freedom.
So let us be strengthened by the courage of Osprey’s Sailors, let us be heartened by their valor, and let us be inspired by their memory to preserve our freedom.
Adm. Mike Gilday
18 August 2022
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