CLEVELAND (NNS) -- The crew of USS Cleveland (LPD 7) retired their special battle flag in a ceremony here Aug. 30 before the start of the Major League Baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays.
Cleveland's Commanding Officer, Capt. Frank McCulloch, presented the 10 foot by 16 foot flag emblazoned with the Indians "Chief Wahoo" logo to former Indian pitcher, Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, and World War II Navy veteran Bob Feller, as part of Cleveland Navy Week.
Unfortunately, the exact timeframe and circumstances of when the flag-- which had previously flown in center field at Cleveland Memorial Stadium-- was presented to the ship is unknown. But what is known is that it served as the battle flag for the Cleveland for nearly a decade.
"This flag was flown when we delivered Marines to Iraq, when we conducted operations off the coast of Somalia, when we supplied relief efforts following the earthquakes in Pakistan," said McCulloch. "It has flown in war and in peacetime, and now we have an opportunity to retire it in its home in Cleveland. Bob Feller has played an important role in both Navy and Cleveland Indians history, and it's fitting that he is here to receive it."
Feller began his career as a pitcher for the Indians in 1936. He left his career as a professional ball player and enlisted in the Navy only two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Dec. 7, 1941. During the war, he served the Navy as a gunner's mate aboard USS Alabama (BB 60). And despite missing nearly four full seasons while serving his country, Feller returned to the Indians to pitch a handful of games at the end of the 1945 season in the 1946 season. He retired from baseball in 1956, and was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1962.
Feller accepted the flag on behalf of the City of Cleveland and the entire Indians' organization. He welcomed the Cleveland Sailors, remarking on how pleased he was to be a part of the return of Chief Wahoo.
"Thank you for coming," Feller told the Sailors. "Good luck to the Navy and smooth seas throughout the world." He went on to talk about his time in the service and to express his pride in that service as well as the service of today's Sailors.
In gratitude for returning Chief Wahoo to Cleveland, Feller presented McCulloch and the Cleveland crew with a new Indians flag. The new flag will also be flown from the mast aboard Cleveland, and will remain for her Sailors a symbol of home.
The Cleveland Sailors came to town bringing Chief Wahoo with them to help celebrate Cleveland Navy Week. Designated as the period Aug. 28-Sept. 4 by proclamation of Mayor Frank G. Jackson, Cleveland Navy Week highlights participation by the Navy in community events ranging from a Cleveland Browns pre-season National Football League game to performances by the Blue Angels at the Cleveland National Air Show.
Twenty-six such Navy Weeks are being conducted throughout the country this year by the Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO) in an effort to increase awareness of the Navy's mission to areas like Cleveland with limited exposure to the fleet.
For related news, visit the NAVCO Cleveland Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/navcocleveland/.