DECOMMISSIONING THE USS GUAM -- HON. ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD (Extension of Remarks - August 05, 1998)
HON. ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD
in the House of Representatives
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1998
- Mr. UNDERWOOD. Mr. Speaker, the USS Guam is slated for decommissioning this coming August 25. The soon to be decommissioned ship is the third to bear the name of my home island. The original USS Guam was a 159-foot river gunboat launched in 1928. She carried five officers and a crew of forty-four with a mission of protecting American interests on the inland and coastal waters of China in the period preceding World War II. Renamed the USS Wake, the gunboat was captured by the Japanese in Shanghai on December 7, 1941.
- The second USS Guam was authorized by Congress on November 21, 1943. The second largest cruiser in the American fleet, the ship was manned by over 2,000 men. She entered the war in January, 1945 and earned two Battle Stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Area Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, and the China Service Medal.
- The current Guam was commissioned on January 1965. An amphibious assault ship designated LPH-9, she is designed to transform more than 2,000 Marine assault troops to combat areas and land them by helicopter at designated inland points. During the ship's distinguished service, she was assigned as prime recovery vessel for the Gemini XI mission. Among others, she also recovered a rocket designed to study atmospheric conditions during a solar eclipse, transported marines during several Caribbean deployments, performed humanitarian services in Peru, became part of the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force in the Middle East, and assisted in the rescue of 200 American citizens in Grenada. The third ship to be designated USS Guam received the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, and two Humanitarian Service Medals.
- After being decommissioned, we can only speculate whether this vessel would ever again be called to be of service to our nation or as they say, `just fadeaway.' Although we on Guam somehow feel sadness about the decommissioning of our island's namesake, we look forward to the return of several articles.
- Back when the gunboat Guam was still sailing the Yangtze River in 1927, the people of Guam learned that the ship had no bell. Although ship's bells are considered obsolete nowadays, prior to the advent of our modern communication systems, bells used to sound when the ship is anchored in a fog, mist, falling snow, or heavy rainstorm. Further, the ship's bell was rung to indicate the time. In light of the situation, the chamber of commerce raised money by urging Guam's school children to contribute a penny a piece. By December, 1928 over $700 had been raised and a bell and a plague was presented to LtComdr R.K. Autry, who was then the ship's commanding officer.
- Details as to what happened to these items after the first ship's capture but they somehow ended up at the Marine Corps Barracks on Guam. In 1954, the bell and plaque was presented to the governor of Guam who decided to have it displayed at the Nieves Flores Memorial Library where the people of the island could see it. In 1985, Mr. Bill Banning, a retired marine, was able to arrange for the bell and plaque to be loaned to the current USS Guam.
- On August 25, I will be joining a number of Guam residents in witnessing a solemn ceremony wherein the United States flag and the commissioning pennant will be lowered. As the crew marches off, the United States Ship will be transformed into a mere hull of steel. This is the passing of an era, a truly emotional moment for those who had the privilege to serve and to the people who hail from the island the vessel was named after. On behalf of the people of Guam, the Guam Society of America, and the Guam community of Norfolk, Virginia, I would like to commend the officers and sailors who have made great contributions and focused attention to the good name of our home island by serving on the USS Guam. I also thank the ship's commanding officer, Capital Bill Luti, USN, and his crew for allowing us the honor to attend the ceremony. Si Yu'os Ma'ase.