FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 27, 2021
Release #2101 Point of Contact—Jeffrey Prater (401) 832-2039
RI governor gives key address at NUWC Division Newport Memorial Day ceremony
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee spoke with solemn reverence to a crowd of more than 100 people at a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony held May 27 at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport.
“On Memorial Day this year, I ask all Rhode Islanders to take the time and reflect. It’s my responsibility as an elected official and I think it’s everybody’s responsibility that lives in Rhode Island to remember,” McKee said. “Take a moment to pause during the day and truly take stock of what Memorial Day means. Appreciate the sacrifice and service. Find a way to show that gratitude.”
In quoting the late President Ronald Reagan, McKee spoke of the tremendous cost of freedom and the reverberations created by those American patriots that have made the ultimate sacrifice. This was further driven home for the governor on May 26, he said, during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Garden of Heroes on the State House lawn in Providence. There, he had the opportunity to speak with some of Rhode Island’s Gold Star families.
“These families, who’ll be marking Memorial Day with an empty chair this year and have been for so many years, they carry a heavy burden on Memorial Day and every day,” McKee said. “We know that we are a better state and a better nation because of the service of their loved ones. Those who gave their lives in the name of freedom — husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers — we can never lose sight of that.
“When they heard the call, whether it was at our country’s founding or through our war on terrorism and all those wars and service in between, they answered that call. They were valiant and heroic. They gave their lives and, for that, we can never truly thank them enough.”
After McKee finished speaking, he joined Division Newport Technical Director Ron Vien to lay a wreath at the base of a monument that honors the 34 men who died in service to their country while working at NUWC’s predecessor organizations. These include the Naval Torpedo Station, Naval Underwater Ordnance Station, and Naval Underwater Weapons Research and Engineering Station.
The ceremony closed with a rendition of “Taps” by Musician Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fredrick on the bugle.
“For 152 years, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport has been providing the United States Navy with undersea superiority,” Vien said. “This monument is etched with the names of 34 brave Americans, our predecessors, who gave their lives in service of our nation.
“Without their sacrifice and commitment, and the sacrifice of many others, NUWC Division Newport wouldn't have evolved into the center of excellence for undersea warfare it is today. The United States would not be the great nation we are today.”
Division Newport Executive Officer Cmdr. Michael Kendel opened the ceremony by discussing NUWC’s history and the monument honoring those 34 individuals who lost their lives while in service to this installation.
The monument was initially erected in 1930 at Government Landing in downtown Newport under the auspices of the Newport Metal Trades Council, but was relocated in 1966 to its current location, where Thursday’s ceremony was held.
“On May 27, 1966, a ceremony, with Frank Smith, president of the Local 119, International Association of Machinists presiding, marked the relocation of the station’s memorial from Government Landing to this flagpole area on what is now the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport,” Kendel said.
Division Newport began as the Naval Torpedo Station on Newport's Goat Island on July 29, 1869 with the mission of testing and developing both torpedoes and the parts required for production. One of the components was an explosive called gun cotton.
Tests conducted in Newport found this substance to be a suitable replacement for gun powder in torpedo warheads, yet it was highly volatile and the substance cost Patrick H. Cremin his life in 1874.
Two more American patriots, Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Long Edes and Lt. Lyman G. Spalding, lost their lives in the line of duty on Aug. 29, 1881, when a torpedo exploded because of mismanagement of an electrical switch.
In 1882, the station was ordered to manufacture gun cotton for the Navy, and by 1884 a staff of five had produced about 10,000 pounds of the material. The factory was wiped out on July 3, 1893, however, by an explosion caused by a fire that originated in the picked-cotton room.
A foreign object in the cotton struck the teeth of the picker, resulting in a spark that ignited the cotton. This fire spread through the wire netting in the top half of the door to loose cotton in the hallway, then to neighboring rooms and ignited a tank of dry gun cotton.
Jeremiah Harrington, Franklin Loughlin and Michael O’Reagan were killed by the explosion while attempting to fight the fire in the north end of the building. Ten other men were also injured in the blast.
When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare policy made development of antisubmarine warfare countermeasures the highest priority at the station. Torpedo research and development virtually ceased, while production of depth charges, aerial bombs and mines soared.
During this production process, though, an explosion occurred in the No. 2 workroom in January 1918. The affected area contained the daily allotment of detonators to be filled with fulminate of mercury.
Joe C. Andre, William G. Caswell, John H. Connolly, Timothy F. Fitzgerald, Joseph Frazier, George L. Giblin, Joseph G. Moitozo, John F. Murphy, Horace A. Pelletier, George H. Spooner, David J. Sullivan and Frank E. Wyatt were killed in the blast and six more were injured. James Mahoney survived the explosion but later died as a result of his injuries.
Reginal S. King and Patrick F. Shea were killed in another explosion in May 1918, while James E. Babcock, Frank Mazzulla, Arthur M. Gardner, Ralph A. St. Denis, Alexander C. MacLellan and Fidele Arsenault all died while serving their country through the years.
On Tuesday, April 26, 1955, there was a “tremendous explosion … with a shattering impact” at the Naval Underwater Ordnance Station in Building 115. The blast occurred at about 11 a.m. in the Dynamometer Test Room, and is believed to have been caused by a high-pressure airline rupture while testing a high-energy monopropellant fuel, called normal propyl nitrate, in a modified Mark 16 Mod 3 torpedo.
Peter J. Lada, John R. Lavender, Howard E. Staats Jr., Daniel J. Sullivan and Anthony Zimon were killed in the explosion that also injured five others.
In 1968, Randall J. Whitaker was nearing the end of a 33-year career as a mechanical engineer in the Engineering Assurance Branch, Design Approval Department, when the plane carrying him home from an assignment to Washington, D.C., crashed. Whitaker was killed in the accident.
Also listed on the monument is electrician’s mate (EM1) L.W. Fletcher, who died in the line of duty but no date is listed.
“These men fulfilled our vision to provide undersea superiority and we owe them and their families a great debt of gratitude,” Vien said. “To me, Memorial Day is our most important and solemn holiday. We pause and pay tribute to our American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our nation and our ideals.”
More information on those who died in the line of duty can be found here. [link – https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/Who-We-Are/History/In-Memoriam/]
A comprehensive history of the first 150 years of NUWC Division Newport is available here: https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Portals/103/Documents/NUWC_Newport/NUWCNewport150thYearbook.pdf?ver=2020-06-04-143639-243
“Our job here at Division Newport is to support the warfighter by achieving undersea superiority and prevent this loss of life,” Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings told the workforce in a message this week. “We work to enable the warfighter, to help to keep our Sailors out of harm's way. Your work for our warfighters helps to ensure they are never in a fair fight, and they continue to expand their advantage.”
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.