December 11, 2023
Secretary of the Navy Speaks at Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
BOSTON – United States Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and U.S. Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Freeman Johnson joined the National Parks of Boston yesterday, December 7, for a gathering of remembrance in the Charlestown Navy Yard. The program included a speaking program at the USS Constitution Museum and wreath-laying ceremony on the World War II-era destroyer USS Cassin Young to honor those who perished in the December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. USS Cassin Young was named in honor of U.S. Naval Commander Cassin Young, who received honors for his actions during the Pearl Harbor attack. December marks the 80th anniversary of the commissioning of the USS Cassin Young.
Secretary Del Toro gave the keynote address during the speaking program. He discussed the history of the Pearl Harbor attack, shared the story of Commander Cassin Young and USS Vestal, and reflected on the value of service.
“Our nation is built upon millions of individual acts of valor and courage, at home and overseas, throughout our history,” said Secretary Del Toro. He continued, “Each of us serving today carries the legacy of those who served before us. We remain ready to defend freedom and democracy around the world alongside our allies and partners.”
National Parks of Boston Superintendent Michael Creasey spoke to the history and significance of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and how it is inextricably linked to service and sacrifice.
“The Charlestown Navy Yard—overlooking Boston Harbor in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Monument—is both a site of war and a place that symbolizes the daring of America’s character,” said Superintendent Creasey. He continued, “During World War II, more than 50,000 civilians came to work each day, 303 vessels were launched, and another 120 ships were commissioned. We gather in this historic landscape today, alongside the USS Cassin Young, to remember, to recognize, and pay our respects to the many people who gave the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor and in World War II.”
Among the attendees was Machinist’s Mate First Class Freeman Johnson, a 103-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor, who was stationed aboard USS St. Louis during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ceremony speakers also included USS Constitution Commander Billie J. Farrell, USS Constitution Museum President & CEO Anne Grimes Rand, Massachusetts Executive Office of Veterans Services Secretary Jon Santiago, and Boston Commissioner of Veterans’ Services Robert Santiago.
Secretary Santiago and Commissioner Santiago transported the wreath to Secretary Del Toro and Superintendent Creasey, who tossed it into Boston Harbor. The program included the USS Constitution and Flying Leatherneck Honor Society Color Guards, a water salute provided by the Boston Fire Department, and rifle and cannon salutes from both USS Cassin Young and USS Constitution.
State and local officials and service members from many branches of service were among the guests. Veterans, USS Cassin Young volunteers, and community members whose relatives served at Pearl Harbor also attended the program.
USS Cassin Young was named for U.S. Navy Commander Cassin Young, recipient of the Medal of Honor for his distinguished and heroic actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor, which initiated the United States’ entry into World War II. As commanding officer of USS Vestal, which was moored to USS Arizona, Cmdr. Young took personal command of his ship’s three-inch antiaircraft gun at the beginning of the attack. When the forward magazine of Arizona was hit, Cmdr. Young was thrown overboard and incredibly swam back to his ship amidst burning oil on the water between the two ships. Despite the subsequent bombing of Vestal, Cmdr. Young moved his ship away from Arizona to save the ship and countless lives.
Lunch was provided by the Mayor’s Office for Veterans’ Services and Boston Harbor Now sponsored warm beverages.
About the National Parks of Boston
The National Parks of Boston is a collection of three National Park Service sites – Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site, and Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. Established by individual legislation and for designated purposes, the three units have come together under a unified organizational umbrella to collaborate in ways that celebrate our cultural heritage, reconnect people to history and nature, and provide outdoor recreation opportunities on land and on the water. For more information, visit: www.nps.gov/bost, www.nps.gov/boaf, and www.bostonharborislands.org.
About USS Constitution
The USS Constitution, America’s Ship of State, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat and played a crucial role in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, actively defending sea lanes from 1797 to 1855. USS Constitution was undefeated in battle and destroyed or captured 33 opponents. The ship earned the nickname of Old Ironsides during the War of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s wooden hull. The active-duty Sailors stationed aboard USS Constitution provide free tours and offer public visitation as they support the ship’s mission of promoting the Navy’s history and maritime heritage and raising awareness of the importance of a sustained naval presence. For information, visit www.navy.mil/uss-constitution/.
About the USS Constitution Museum
The USS Constitution Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of USS Constitution by offering award-winning exhibits where all ages can have fun while learning and exploring history together. The Museum’s mission is to engage visitors in the story of Constitution to spark excitement about maritime heritage, naval service, and the American experience. The Museum is open seven days a week with a pay-what-you-wish admission policy, and the Virtual Museum is open 24/7. The USS Constitution Museum is a 2022 winner in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice in the “Best History Museum” category and a 2023 winner of Boston Parents Paper’s Family Favorites in the “Historic Sites & Tours” and “Museums & Attractions” categories. For more information, visit usscm.org.
Photo Credit: David Patenaude/NPS Photo