By Mr. David Wedemeyer (Natick)June 10, 2019
Boston, Mass. (Jun. 10, 2019) -- "We will accept nothing less than full victory."
On Jun. 6, 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower made this pledge as American land and sea forces stood together as part of more than 160,000 Allied troops who landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy. With that, more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion, the largest amphibious attack and military airdrop in history. Operation Overlord and the subsequent, hard-fought Allied breakout from the beachhead into the formidable, Axis-occupied France set the stage for the liberation of Western Europe.
But that victory would come with a cost: more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day. However high the stakes, the lives of those brave men were not lost in vain.
Seventy five years later, on Jun. 7, the United States Army and Navy stood together again, not in battle, but in memory of those who came before them. Soldiers from the Natick Soldier Systems Center, or NSSC, commemorated the anniversary of D-Day with the officers and crew of USS Constitution during the first-ever, Army/Navy underway cruise in Boston Harbor.
Among the more than 350 guests aboard were six World War II veterans, including Douglas Bryant.
"This is one of the best things that has happened to me in my entire life," said Bryant, who served in the Navy. "I am so honored to be here aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy and to be surrounded by so many shipmates and veterans. I am at a loss for words. I am so grateful to be aboard Constitution today with all of these patriotic people."
That patriotic and collaborative spirit of the land and sea servicemembers and civilians resonated throughout the decks of America's Ship of State.
"The heroes across the beaches of Normandy and those who traversed the map of Europe during World War II embodied the shared Army and Navy values of honor and courage," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and senior commander of NSSC. "The invasion of Normandy was a joint operation with thousands of ships, thousands of aircraft, Sailors, paratroopers--all branches of the service were involved. Since then, the Army continues to collaborate with the Navy and always will."
NSSC Soldiers, including those from the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or CCDC SC, and U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine, or USARIEM, had the opportunity to participate in shipboard activities that Constitution Sailors would have experienced during the 19th-century, including climbing the ship's rigging and boarding pike drills.
"I was able to lead the Soldiers that were aboard today in pike drills and it was a great experience," said Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Charles Hardmon, assigned to USS Constitution. "The partnership between the Army and the Navy now is filled with friendly rivalry and, on a day like today, I am glad we are able to come together with a common goal: to honor the events that happened on D-Day."
"One of the Sailors brought us into the bottom most part of the ship and showed us two original pieces of the ship which are 221-years-old," said Pfc. Paige Zinderman of USARIEM. "It was also very interesting to see the front force versus back of the line during the 19th century and comparing today's M16s to their muskets and boarding pikes. Also, it was great to see the style of uniforms that Constitution Sailors would have worn over two hundred years ago."
"I had the opportunity to climb all three mast," said Sgt. First Class Thomas Plummer also from USARIEM. "It was a pretty cool experience to be up there while the ship was underway and watching the 21-gun salutes. It was amazing to see the size of the ship and its crew and what they would have had to endure while out at sea. It also surprised me to see how slow the reload time was of the cannons compared to today's modern technology."
"I think it was awesome that we had Army Soldiers aboard today," said Constitution Seaman Ashley Watson. "I come from an Army family and I am the odd person out because I joined the Navy. I experience the friendly rivalry every time I go home. However, days like today bring us all back to the mentality that we are on one team and there is only one fight and I think that is great."
During the underway, Constitution fired a 21-gun salute toward Fort Independence on Castle Island. The 101st Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard returned the salute. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defensive position for Boston Harbor from 1634 to 1962.
The ship also fired an additional 17 rounds as it passed the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Boston, the site of Edmund Hartt's shipyard which built Constitution. Each round of this salute honored the 16 states that comprised the United States in 1797 when the ship launched and one in honor of the ship itself.
USS Constitution was a technological marvel of her time: being heavily-built, well-armed, and fast. Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides," is the perfect example of American ingenuity. That ingenuity and innovation continues throughout the history and success of the U.S. military.
World War II was a period of innovation and development of military equipment and weaponry. The United States developed new technologies that aided in the success of the Normandy invasion against Axis defenses including off-shore mines, concrete antitank barriers and ditches, minefields, and heavy artillery.
In the late 1930s, the threat of air attack stimulated work on radar technology, and research groups in at least eight countries--France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States--independently developed radar. Before the outbreak of war, Britain had built an air-defense radar system called Chain Home. In the United States, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Rad Lab and the U.S Naval Research Laboratory also hurried to develop radar.
In 1938, the U.S. Army developed the prototype SCR--268 radar set. This first mobile version proved effective in field tests at detecting the location of aircraft, and also led to an unanticipated new use of ground radar -- to direct air traffic now used by air traffic controllers (ATCs).
The Signal Corps built the first production SCR--268 in December 1940, just three months after Germany invaded Poland and initiated World War II. By the time the United States entered the war the Army possessed more than 350 sets. This device, with periodic enhancements, would be the primary radar system for antiaircraft batteries of the Army and Marine Corps through 1944.
The United States also developed the Waco CG-13, a military transport glider aircraft that was first used in the invasion of Sicily in 1943. These gliders delivered troops, supplies, equipment, weapons, and ammunition. On D-Day, 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted behind enemy lines.
Stateside Americans of every race and gender did their part in building the weapons and vehicles for servicemembers abroad. Higgins Industries employed more than 30,000 people in New Orleans for an integrated workforce, which included African Americans and women (known collectively as Rosie the Riveter). This unified force mass-produced the Higgins Landing Craft, Vehicle, and Personnel (LCVP) Boat--one of the most crucial pieces of American technology developed and critical to the success of Normandy.
"Joint operations between the United States Army and Navy, including transportation and fire and close air support, have and continue to be integral to the United States winning its wars," said Malone. "The victories of World War II were a precursor to those that would come with our nation's future wars because of integration between our land and sea forces."
Malone joined Cmdr. Nathaniel Shick, 75th commanding officer of USS Constitution, the ship's crew, and NSSC Soldiers paid tribute to the fallen heroes of WWII with a wreath-laying toward the World War II-era, Fletcher-class destroyer USS Cassin Young (DD 793). The shipboard ceremony concluded with members of the 1812 Marine Guard Riflemen firing a 3-gun volley followed by the playing of taps.
"The Navy has enjoyed a close and cooperative relationship with the Army since the days of the American Revolution, when men from Marblehead and Gloucester ferried General Washington's troops across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve so they could conduct the raids on Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey," said Shick. "Since then, in every conflict that the United States has been in, the Navy has been there side-by-side with the Army, making sure the Army has the logistics and firepower needed to stay wherever they need to be until the job is done. Today, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, we honor that cooperation by having our Sailors and Soldiers aboard USS Constitution, America's Ship of State."
The cooperation and innovation between the two service branches were also on full display with exhibits from Natick's CCDC SC, which featured Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) and Soldier Protection System (SPS), Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility, which is based at NSSC and has developed USS Constitution's 1813 uniforms, the Naval History and Heritage Command, and the USS Constitution Museum.
There is no doubt that technology is a combat multiplier, but it is the warfighter who ensures victory on the battlefield. Throughout history and especially true today, successful American operations like Operation Overlord, are joint operations.
"Just as we have in the past, whether in war and in peace, the U.S. Army and Navy will continue to build on our all-American ingenuity and innovation so that we can win our nation's wars," said Malone.
"We are the standard bearers of honor and courage, just like those that we commemorate today. Let us never forget our oath and let us carry it with us throughout our military and professional lives. Let it be a reminder that we, whether Soldier or Sailor, carry the burden so that these United States, and all who call her home, continue to be safe and continue to be free."