Chaplain's Letters to Shipmates
Seven years ago today the 23 September 1937 this ship the U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA was put into commission. Congress had authorized her building 16 June 1933. For four years the task of construction went on at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her keel was laid on 28 May 1935 and she was launched on 17 November 1936. She was the first vessel of her type to enter the water.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, let all hands know that ships celebrate in a special manner, the anniversary of their launching. In our case that date is 17 November. You will recall that we observed that anniversary last November en route home to a well deserved rest after the campaigns of Southern Sicily, Northern Sicily, and Salerno.
Our own ship is the fifth vessel to bear the prod name U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA. The preceding four vessels had glorious careers. In a humble way we can say our own history does not pale into insignificance when compared to theirs.
The first PHILADELPHIA was a gondola, not much larger than a ? foot motor launch. She was sunk in the Battle of Lake Champlain 11 October 1776. She was one of the tiny fleet built by General B. Arnold to contain General Burgoyne in Canada and prevented his penetration into northern New York State. So well did that little fleet do its job that when Burgoyne finally did break thru into the colonies the patriots were prepared and at Saratoga forced his surrender. It was the greatest humiliation inflicted on British Arms in the New World.
The second U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA was built in the old Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1779 and was one of the most powerful vessels of her time. On her third and last cruise in the fall of 1803 she ran aground on unchartered rocks in the harbor of Tripoli. She had been engaged in blockage duty against the Barbary Pirates. Seized by them her guns were turned against the Yankee fleet until one dark night she was attacked, captured and burned by a force of seventy men led by Stephen Decatur.
Another vessel bearing the name of PHILADELPHIA was the ironside wheeler which was transferred to the Navy during the Civil War and which operated in the Potomac and against Charleston.
The fourth ship of this name was also built in Philadelphia and commissioned in 1890, and became the flagship of the North Atlantic Station. During the Spanish American War it operated against the Matafa rebels in Samoa.
The fifth PHILADELPHIA today is the heir of rich traditions and a proud name. The history just read to you was written not by guns, nor powder, nor steel. It was written by Americans like you men who manned four ships of the line called the U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA. The fifth PHILADELPHIA has written its history on the sands of Safi, the scarred beach of Porto Empodocle. From Palermo to Messina it supported two gun Patton and his 36th and 45th divisions, those long hot weeks of August 1943. Names like Cefalu, Capo Orlando, Agropoli, Salerno, Anzio, Formia, and latterly Tropez, Pouquetolles, Toulon, Marseilles, names like these will tell other men of a future generation that a tradition was observed and a faith was kept.
D. J. Burke